An Introduction to the Pentagon Papers

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Certain events are so impactful that they define the period they occur in and reverberate for years to come. Events like the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers have the power to challenge a society's ideals, actions, and philosophies. Click here to learn more about the person responsible for bringing them into the public eye.

Today’s blog will introduce you to the significance of the Pentagon Papers and how they flipped public opinion about the Vietnam War on its head.

What Were the Pentagon Papers?

The Pentagon Papers were a study regarding our country’s political and military involvement in the Vietnam War between 1945–1967.

Commissioned by the US Department of Defense, these top-secret Papers were brought to light in March 1971 by Daniel Ellsberg, a defense analyst who risked his safety and career by making copies of the report and disseminating it to several news publications.

These classified documents unearthed a trail of decisions, strategies, and motivations that had steered the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War for decades.

Did the Papers Meet Their Goals?

The then-Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, commissioned the Pentagon Papers to analyze America’s role in the Saigon conflict. The report was meant to trace back the decisions and policies that led to the divisive public image of the conflict. However, it only ended up unraveling a tale of concealment and manipulation.

The 7000-page report traced our country’s journey through the war. The internal analysis included incriminating facts about the half-truths and misinformation campaigns that administrations had spun to keep the public on their side.

From President Truman first dipping his toes in Saigon to President Johnson declaring a complete escalation, the Papers confirmed what the critics were saying: A systemic effort was at play to manipulate public opinion to continue military operations that lost their moral foundation the second they resulted in civilian casualties.

Nixon and South Vietnamese President


The Enduring Legacy of the Pentagon Papers

Defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg’s courage and perseverance led to the publication of the Papers in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other newspapers.

The reveal marked a watershed moment in American history, shaking the public’s faith in their leaders and the institutions they governed. The anti-war sentiments were no more divisive but an eye-opener for those who favored military involvement in Vietnam.

It’s been over half a century since these Papers were published. Still, its echoes remain in the form of the accountability and transparency we continue to demand from those who we choose to represent our principles and politics.

Learn More About the Biggest Coverups in US History

By leaving no stone unturned regarding the Vietnam War, the Pentagon Papers shed light on other scandals, forcing people to second-guess official accounts whether or not they were the truth.

The assassination of John F. Kennedy is one such scandal whose official account and alleged killer Lee Harvey Oswald has been debunked several times. Follow our platform as we stick to the facts in our struggle to bring the truth behind the JFK assassination to light.

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