North Vietnamese Decision-Making, 1973-1975: An Update

Fall of Saigon, April 1975

Six additional sources on the end of the Vietnam War added to DigitalArchive.org

While compiling the document collection for CWIHP Working Paper #84, “The Return to War: North Vietnamese Decision-Making, 1973-1975,” we discovered that, in 2008, the Vietnamese had published a second edition of a very significant primary source: the Historical Chronicle of the Cochin China Party Committee and the Central Office for South Vietnam, 1954-1975 (Lich Su Bien Nien Xu Uy Nam Bo va Trung Uong Cục Mien Nam [1954-1975]), or the “COSVN Chronicle.”

Although the Van Kien Dang (Collected Party Documents) and the Lich Su Khang Chien Chong My, Cuu Nuoc 1954-1975 (History of the Resistance War Against the Americans to Save the Nation, 1954-1975) remain, respectively, the most vital primary and secondary series, the COSVN Chronicle is undoubtedly the most important single volume communist primary document collection available.

Shortly after publication of “Return to War,” we acquired a copy of the second edition from Vietnam. Upon review, we discovered that the revised volume—a massive 1,500 pages—included over 300 new documents not included in the original work published in 2002. The introduction to the 2008 edition says that the following changes were made:

Sources of information on events were corrected or made more precise and a number of events were eliminated. These new entries were the result of new information that was found in the archives of the Party Central Committee, the Ministry of Defense’s Central Archives, the archives of the Party History Institute, and the archives of the Military History Institute of Vietnam.

These changes include the deletion of multiple documents in the new edition that were in the first volume. In several cases the new edition provided different dates, mostly differences of one day, but in one case the difference is exactly one month, suggesting that perhaps the date given in the earlier edition was a misprint.

Moreover, several paragraphs in an entry in the old edition have been omitted, and there were slight changes in summaries and in the titles of some entries. Unfortunately, researchers will probably have to acquire both volumes to ensure no changes to a specific document were made from one volume to the next.

We’ve translated and edited six additional documents from the second edition for the 1973-1974 timeframe. The notations at the end of each translation refer to the filing locations for each folder containing the released document. The documents are now accessible at DigitalArchive.org in the collection “North Vietnamese Decision-making, 1973-1975,” along with the 80 files from our earlier Working Paper.

Oddly, there were no new noteworthy documents from 1975. For that year, virtually the only additions for the second edition are from the 1975 volume of Collected Party Documents series.  

Additionally, the second edition contains three new appendixes. We did not include them here, but scholars may wish to know that they include:

  • The COSVN table of organization.
  • Code names of organizations, locations, and individuals.
  • Summary bios of the Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of COSVN and of the Cochin China Party Committee.
     

We hope these new documents add insights into Vietnamese Communist planning and decision-making during this crucial timeframe:

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George J. Veith is the author of three books on the Vietnam War, including Code Name Bright Light: The Untold Story of U.S. POW Rescue Efforts during the Vietnam War (1998) and Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam, 1973-1975 (2013).
More posts by George J. Veith
Merle Pribbenow is a former CIA officer who served in Vietnam from April 1970 to April 1975, and is the translator of Volume 2 of the history of the People’s Army of Vietnam, which was published by the University of Kansas Press as Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People’s Army of Vietnam, 1954-1975 (2002).
More posts by Merle Pribbenow