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Omar and Chris' Vietnam War Site

Pentagon Papers
About us
Works Cited

The Pentagon Papers are a 7,000-page, top-secret United States Department of Defense history of the United States involvement in the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1971. These basically detailed executive orders given by Nixon that ordered soldiers to go back to Vietnam, when he had promised the people that he would bring the soldiers home and gradually end the war.

The Pentagon Papers were leaked in 1971 by Department of Defense worker Daniel Ellsberg.  Excerpts were published as a series of articles in The New York Times beginning June 13. On June 29, U.S. Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska entered 4,100 pages of the Papers into the record of his subcommittee on Buildings and Grounds. These portions of the Papers were subsequently published by Beacon Press.

The document increased belief in the credibility gap, hurting the war effort. This helped to confirm public suspicion that there was a significant "gap" between the administration's declarations of controlled military and political resolution, and the reality.

When the Times began publishing the series, President Nixon was incensed.  The next day, Attorney General John Mitchell talked Nixon into getting a federal court injunction to cease publication of the documents. This was the first time in U.S. history that any executive successfully obtained a judicial prior restraint against publication for national security reasons.

On June 18th, the Washington Post began publishing the Papers. That day the Post received a call from the Assistant Attorney General, William Rehnquist, asking them to stop publishing the documents. When the Post refused, the Justice Department sought another injunction. That court refused, and the government appealed. The Times also appealed the injunction that was issued, and on June 26 the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to take both cases, merging them into the case New York Times Co. v. U.S. The Supreme Court held in a 6-3 decision that the injunctions were unconstitutional prior restraints and that the government had not met its burden of proof. The justices wrote nine separate opinions, disagreeing on significant substantive issues. While it was a victory for the First Amendment, many felt it was a lukewarm victory at best, offering little protection for future publishers when claims of national security are at stake.


This image is representative of Nixon's two side attitude of his government. How he so carelessly told people that he would take soldiers out of the war and secretly bringing more soldiers to Vietnam. He obviously had no problems lying to the American people, for this was not the first time, as we would later see with the Watergate Scandal.