Book Review of The Vietnam War Files: Uncovering the Secret History of Nixon-Era Strategy by Jeffrey Kimball. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004
Wirtz, James J.
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Strange as this may sound to the uninitiated, archival research can be exciting. As one pores over box after box of dusty documents, one not only gets a rich sense of the trials and tribulations suffered by policymakers but also a thrill at reading someone else’s “mail.” Occasionally, one stumbles across a critical decision-memorandum with much sought-after marginalia that gives additional insights into what was on the minds of high-level ofªcials. Often documents of truly historic importance are mixed haphazardly with the minutiae of everyday life as ofªce assistants close out the daily ªle for some future archive. Sometimes policymakers even plant evidence intended to throw the future researcher off track, or include a few jokes, or even deliberately leave behind information that supports their version of events. Archives, of course, also contain much information that former policymakers probably regret was preserved in the ªrst place. Yet, despite the exciting detective work that goes into archival research, the vast majority of historians end up writing history; they do not just let the documents speak for themselves.
Book Review by James J. Wirtz of Jeffrey Kimball, The Vietnam War Files: Uncovering the Secret History of Nixon-Era Strategy. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004. 352 pp. $34.95.