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Nixon’s Nuclear Specter Receives Award from the U.S. Military History Group

June 21, 2017

Nixon’s Nuclear Specter – The Secret Alert of 1969, Madman Diplomacy, and the Vietnam War.

The U.S. Military History Group awarded Nixon’s Nuclear Specter: The Secret Alert of 1969, Madman Diplomacy, and the Vietnam War, with an Honorable Mention for the 2016 Captain Richard Lukaszewick Memorial Book Award. The award recognizes “outstanding” books on US military history from 1945 through 2001.

The members of the award selection committee agreed that Nixon’s Nuclear Specter, co-authored by the National Security Archive’s Dr. William Burr and Miami University professor emeritus Jeffrey Kimball, stood out from the submissions, and praise for the book from the selection committee members includes:

“Security analyst William Burr and historian Jeffery P. Kimball examine the use of military force and coercive diplomacy by President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during 1969 in an effort to reach a negotiated peace ‘with honor’ to end the Vietnam War. This goal became a near obsession, with virtually every action taken by Nixon weighed against its potential impact on China, the Soviet Union, and North Vietnam, going so far as initiating a global nuclear alert intended to coerce the Soviets into pressuring Hanoi to come to terms. Extensively researched and making use of newly declassified material, Nixon’s Nuclear Specter sheds new light on the Nixon administration and its efforts to extract the United States from its Vietnam quagmire.” – Peter Kindsvatter

“Though Vietnam War historians are generally familiar with the broad sketches of Nixon’s ‘Madman Diplomacy’ in Vietnam, this book sheds new light on the president’s specific plans, up to and including the threat of nuclear escalation. Burr and Kimball have an exceptional feel for Nixon’s decision-making tendencies and the president’s interplay with Henry Kissinger, an alter ego of sorts. This volume is essential reading for anyone who hopes to understand American military and diplomatic policy during the second half of the Vietnam War.” – John C. McManus

The authors filed exhaustive mandatory declassification review and FOIA requests with the Defense Department and other government agencies, conducted research at presidential libraries, and examined documents in diverse U.S. government archives as well as international sources in researching the book.

The cover page to the Navy’s Duck Hook plan for mining Haiphong Harbor, developed in July 1969 at the request of President Nixon and national security adviser Kissinger.

Highlights from the declassified documents include:

  • The Navy’s plan for mining Haiphong Harbor, code-named DUCK HOOK, prepared secretly for Nixon and Kissinger in July 1969.
  • A March 1969 memorandum from Nixon to Kissinger about the need to make the Soviets see risks in not helping Washington in the Vietnam negotiations: “we must worry the Soviets about the possibility that we are losing our patience and may get out of control.”
  • The Navy’s plan in April 1969 for a mine readiness test designed to create a “state of indecision” among the North Vietnam leadership whether Washington intended to launch mining operations.
  • Kissinger’s statement to Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin in May 1969 that Nixon was so flexible about the Vietnam War outcome that he was “was prepared to accept any political system in South Vietnam, provided there is a fairly reasonable interval between conclusion of an agreement and [the establishment of] such a system.”

Nixon’s Nuclear Specter is available here.

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