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Vietnam War Resources at the BPL

A guide to finding and using resources relating to the Vietnam War at the Boston Public Library.

Newspapers and Magazines

The BPL offers access to partial runs of two mostly English-language Vietnamese newspapers published by entities opposed to the United States. These offer a valuable alternative perspective of and counterpoint to official U.S. accounts of the course of the conflict and its underlying causes and objectives.

South Viet Nam in Struggle

South Viet  Nam in Struggle, published in Hanoi by the National Liberation Front of South Viet Nam (better known in the US as the Viet Cong), provides an account of that entity's actions against U.S. occupation in South Vietnam.

It includes descriptions of military actions against U.S. and Republic of Vietnam (RVN) forces by the People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam, articles relating the South Vietnamese struggle to broader anti-colonial and anti-imperalist struggles worldwide, and discussions of events internationally, including in the United States, as they relate to support for the cause of South Vietnamese liberation. Some articles are in French.

The BPL has scattered print volumes of this publication, which may be requested from the Archival Center for in-library use at any library location using the call number PER DS557.A69S68. The BPL also has this publication on microfilm covering Dec. 1968- Dec. 1972 (with some gaps), which may be requested from the Research Services desk in the Washington room on the second floor of the McKim building at the Central Library for viewing using the call number DS557.A69S68

At right is the front page from February 1, 1969. The photograph caption reads: "Ho Thien Nga, one of the eleven girls of Hue city 'iron squad' which has put to flight a US battalion after wiping out 120 GI's."


Vietnam Courier

Where South Viet Nam in Struggle covered the conflict with the US in the south, the Hanoi-published Vietnam Courier was the corresponding English-language publication for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, generally referred to in the US as North Vietnam.

As with the publication above, the Vietnam Courier provides a valuable alternative perspective on the course of US military action against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the ultimate motivations behind that action. 

The BPL has bound volumes of the Vietnam Courier covering 1968-1976, though the 1973-1976 volume is described as "incomplete." These volumes are held at the Archival Center under the call number PER DS557.A7A28.

At right, a front page from August 12, 1968 details victories against U.S. forces, "satellite mercenaries," and the "puppet administration," and provides the latest count of US aircraft shot down over the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. 


The Observer was published in Saigon "for the U.S. forces in Viet Nam." It provides a U.S. military perspective on the ongoing conflict in the region, including morale-boosting articles and coverage alleging the positive impact the presence of U.S. forces was having on the civilian population of the Republic of Vietnam. 

The MAAG/MACV designation refers to the changing official name of the U.S. military presence in Vietnam. The Military Assistance Advisory Group was the  name given to U.S. forces that arrived in 1950 to assist the French in the First Indochina War. As U.S. military involvement intensified, the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam was created in 1962, and it ultimately absorbed MAAG Vietnam in 1964.

The BPL has the Observer on microfilm from August 1962 to January 1973; it may be requested from the Research Services desk in the Washington room on the second floor of the McKim building at the Central Library for viewing using the call number DS557 .O27x (L-692).

At right, the front page of the June 27, 1964 issue includes a photograph of three captured members of the People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam.

In addition to the BPL’s general collections of US Newspapers, many of which will include coverage from the years of the war and which are covered in detail in the corresponding Newspapers @ the BPL guide, there are a couple of special microfilm newspaper sets that are likely to be especially useful as primary sources relating to the political polarization associated with US military involvement in Vietnam.

These sets include the 476-reel Underground Newspaper Collection (and Hoover Institution Supplement) and the 9-reel University of Missouri-Columbia Library Underground Newspaper Collection.

Printed guides to both collections are available on request from the Research Services desk in the Washington room on the second floor of the Central Library. The indexes list newspapers by title and location, indicate dates of coverage, and refer to the appropriate reel numbers within each set.

Unfortunately there is no subject index for these sets, but the UMC set does include brief summaries of topics covered by each title, and in some cases relevant content can be predicted using titles alone: the Underground Newspaper Collection includes issues of  such publications as AWOL, Antiwarrior, Viet Report, Vietnam GI, Vietnam News & Reports, and Indochina Chronicle

Also useful for working with these sets may be Voices from the Underground, a 2-volume reference guide to the Vietnam War era underground press, available for in-library use only from the Delivery Desk at the Central Library. 

At right is a cover from a 1968 issue of the draft-resister publication Counterdraft.

While most of the titles in these collections have an antiwar stance, a full spectrum of political views is represented, including content from such diverse titles as American Communist and the anti-Communist newsletter Counterattack.

Magazines were an important part of the publishing world during the Vietnam War era, and were essential in providing US residents with an accurate understanding of the nature of the war, in some cases publishing accounts of events that major newspapers declined to report upon.

For example, at right is the first page of Normand Poirier's article "An American Atrocity" from the August 1969 issue of Esquire, which reported on the rape of a Vietnamese woman and the murder of her and her family by a group of US Marines in Xuan Ngoc.

The BPL has extensive collections of magazines from the Vietnam War period in print and on microfilm. For more information on identifying what magazines the BPL has, see the Journals and Magazines at the BPL guide.

A useful resource for finding relevant content in contemporary magazines is Reader's Guide Retrospective, which indexes the contents of a wide range of magazines and other periodicals published during this period. It is accessible remotely (with a valid BPL card or eCard number and PIN) using the link below:

US Government Document Sets

CIA Research Reports

This microfilm set and its supplement consist of a collection of intelligence reports produced by the Central Intelligence Agency regarding events in Southeast Asia (primarily Vietnam) from 1946-1979. The documents include cables, memos, weekly reports, and biographic reports on key individuals, providing a useful sense of the chronological development of the information gathered by the US intelligence community over a large swathe of time.

The printed guides for the first set and the supplement are essential for effective use of the microfilm sets. Both guides are kept in the government documents collection and may be requested along with the sets themselves from the Research Services desk in the Washington room on the second floor of the McKim building at the Central Library.

Each guide includes two indexes. First is a reel index reflecting the organization of the documents by region, starting with documents covering all of Southeast Asia followed by documents on individual countries, with documents appearing chronologically within each geographic unit. Following the reel index is a subject index, which allows for easy identification of documents relevant to specific subjects, such as Civilian casualties, Coups d'etat, and the Phoenix Program. The guides to the initial set and the supplement are also available online. 

Vietnam and Southeast Asia, Special Studies, 1960-1980

This 13-reel microfilm set includes a variety of reports, ranging from 15 to over 300 pages in length, on a variety of military, strategic, and geopolitical subjects relating to Southeast Asia and primarily Vietnam from 1960 to 1980.

Most of the documents are from military and Defense Department sources, but the set also includes a variety of think tank reports, including many by the Rand Corporation

As with the CIA Research Reports, the accompanying printed guide is essential for effective use of this collection, and is organized similarly: a regional index in which reports are listed chronologically is followed by a subject index for easy location of relevant documents on subjects such as Chemical warfare, Military psychology, Morale, and Strategic bombing. The guide has also been made available online

Vietnam, the Media, and Public Support for the War: Selections from the Holdings of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library

The contents of this 11-reel microfilm set are rather well summarized by the title. The printed guide, which has also been digitized and made available online, states that the set "documents relations between the White House and the media during the Vietnam War era, revealing how the White House attempted to create and control a favorable perception of the war by the media and the public"

As with all microfilm sets, this set may be requested for viewing at the Research Services area in the Washington room on the second floor of the McKim building at the Central Library

The War in Vietnam: Classified Histories by the National Security Council

This 8-reel microfilm set actually covers only1964-1968 and is derived from a compilation of then-classified correspondence and military, intelligence, and diplomatic documents.

Topics covered include the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the increase of US military presence in Vietnam, the Tet Offensive, and a huge range of other material.

The somewhat confusing printed guide to the set (which, despite the catalog record, should actually be requested from the Government Documents collection using the call number DS557.4.V58 1981x) has also been made available online

The Vietnam War and its aftermath have resulted in the creation of a voluminous quantity of Congressional debates, hearings, reports, and other documents.

Relevant items in the collections of the BPL include the Congressional Record, accessible online and remotely using your valid BPL card or eCard number and PIN through ProQuest Congressional.

The BPL also has a large collection of Congressional hearings, which are variously available in print, on microfiche, and in digitized form. As a reminder, many hearings not digitized by the BPL have been digitized by other institutions and may be found in HathiTrust and/or the Internet Archive

Please see the Congress portion of the Government Information guide for more information about finding and using additional types of Congressional documents and information. 

The Foreign Relations of the United States series, produced by the Office of the Historian at the U.S. Department of State, "presents the official documentary historical record of U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity," and draws together documents from a variety of U.S. departments and agencies. 

The portions of the series relevant to the Vietnamese conflict are described in the Guide to Sources on Vietnam, 1969-1975.

The BPL has some volumes of this series in print and on microfiche, but most if not all of the materials relating to the Vietnamese conflict are also available in electronic format through the Office of the Historian's website above.

Other Document Sets

The BPL has a 12-reel microfilm set containing transcripts and other documents from the peace negotiations that led to the signing of the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Viet-Nam. The associated documents consist primarily of handouts alleging commission of war crimes by various parties involved in the conflict.

The guide to the set, which is also available online, includes a chronological listing of transcripts and documents as well as a subject index indicating which issues were raised by which side and identifying the sessions at which those topics were discussed. 

Additional details regarding the military's implementation of the peace agreement may be found in Walter Scott Dillard's Sixty Days to Peace (also available online at Hathitrust). 

The photo at right depicts the signing of the peace agreement on January 27, 1973.

This full title of this aptly named 9-reel microfilm set is Miscellaneous Vietnam Pamphlets in the South Asia Section, Orientalia Division. It contains a variety of documents on such diverse topics as agriculture, education, diplomacy, and oceanography, and "represents the holdings of the Library of Congress Southern Asia Section as of April 1970" (1). 

Most content seems to be in English but there are also some items in French and Vietnamese. Unfortunately an index to this set does not appear to exist. Below are examples of just a couple of the documents in this set: a 1956 report on "Achievements of the Campaign of Denunciation of Communist Subversive Activities (First Phase)" and an issue of the Vietnam Bulletin published by the Office of Cultural Affairs & Information of the Embassy of [The Republic of] Vietnam in the United States. 

This set may be requested from the Research Services desk in the Washington room on the second floor of the McKim building at the Central Library using the call number DS557 .A5A3.

Images and Video

Published Photograph Collections

The Boston Public Library has a variety of books consisting significantly or primarily of photographs of the Vietnam War. A list of these titles, described as 'Pictorial works,' may be found here. A recent example is below.

AP Images

This resource includes thousands of photographs taken during the war both in Vietnam and in the United States. The advanced search feature can be used to limit searches to specific locations and time ranges to precisely locate relevant portions of the collection.

Remote access to this resource is available using your valid BPL card or eCard number and PIN. 

BPL Collections - Domestic Events

A variety of photographs of pro- and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the Boston area from the BPL's Print Department have been digitized, and may be viewed in Digital Commonwealth, which also contains digitized photographs and other material from a variety of other institutions in Massachusetts.

Local News Footage

The Boston TV News Digital Library, to which the BPL contributed its WHDH film collection, includes some footage of local events relating to the Vietnam War, such as pro and anti-war demonstrations and interviews with academic and political figures.

Documentary Films

To the extent that they reproduce original footage captured during the conflict, documentary films can be a source of primary source material. A list of documentary films relating to the Vietnam War and accessible through the BPL may be found here