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The Pentagon Papers:
William Bundy’s Annotated Copy
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William Bundy’s 5-volume set of the “Senator Gravel Edition” of the Pentagon Papers, with annotations, marginal notes, and two legal-size pages with handwritten notes arranged chronologically.

[VIETNAM WAR]. Books. The Pentagon Papers. Boston: Beacon Press, 1971-1972. First Editions. Five paperback books, volumes I-IV in green printed covers, volume V in orange. 5¾ x 9 inches each. Pages varies by volume. Volume V (Critical Essays, edited by Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn) has a Beacon Press review copy slip taped to the half-title and an address label paperclipped to the same page. The label is addressed to Bundy as editor of Foreign Affairs and has a handwritten date, “9/25/72.”

Inventory #21291       Price: $3,500

Historical Background

Defense Secretary Robert McNamara commissioned a massive study, later called the Pentagon Papers, in 1967 and appointed Pentagon arms control director Leslie Gelb as the project’s supervisor. Gelb hired 36 military officers, civilian policy experts, and historians to write the study’s monographs. The Pentagon Papers included 4,000 pages of actual documents from the years 1945–67. Daniel Ellsberg, with the aid of his friend Anthony Russo, leaked most of the Pentagon Papers to New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan, who began publishing excerpts on June 13, 1971. Ellsberg later said that the documents “demonstrated unconstitutional behavior by a succession of presidents, the violation of their oath and the violation of the oath of every one of their subordinates.” Portions of the “Papers” were subsequently published by Beacon Press. The present copy is William Bundy’s set of that edition.

The Pentagon Papers revealed steps the Johnson and Nixon administrations had taken to escalate the war in Vietnam without informing the public. President Nixon argued that Ellsberg was guilty of felony treason (under the 1917 Espionage Act) because he had no authority to publish classified documents. Though the Times had been advised not to publish, they did so claiming the First Amendment right to publish information essential to citizens’ understanding of their government. Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, obtained a federal court injunction forcing the Times to cease publication. After the Times appealed, the case reached the Supreme Court. A separate case involving the Washington Post’s publication of articles based on Ellsberg’s leaks also reached the highest court. In June, 1971, the Supreme Court ruled (6-3) that the injunctions were unconstitutional. As Senator Mike Gravel writes in the introduction, “We were told that we had to fight on the continent of Asia so that we would not have to battle on the shores of America. One can accept these arguments only if he has failed to read the Pentagon Papers.”

William Putnam Bundy (1917-2000) graduated from Yale University and worked as an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1950s. He had a long, distinguished service government in the CIA and in the Defense Department. He was appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs in March 1964. His brother McGeorge Bundy was Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to Kennedy and Johnson from 1961-1966. Both are considered primary architects of America’s involvement in Vietnam. In The Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam stated that during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, William Bundy’s name “would probably be on more pieces of paper dealing with Vietnam over a seven-year period than anyone else’s.” The publication of The Pentagon Papers represented something of a personal defeat for Bundy, who at the time had a 1,100-page unfinished manuscript in which he selectively paraphrased from classified papers in his possession. The manuscript was rendered unpublishable by the appearance of these volumes.

McGeorge Bundy (1919-1996), brother of William Bundy, was one of President Kennedy’s closest advisors on national security, and he continued to fill that role for President Johnson during the period of escalation of the Vietnam War. He left government service in 1966 to head the Ford Foundation, and then returned to university teaching and writing in 1979.


Very Good. Some wear to covers.

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