By Rachel Hally, ProQuest Product Manager
While December 7 marked the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which launched the United States into World War II, we should also acknowledge efforts to end other 20th-century world conflicts. Henry Kissinger’s secret negotiations to end the Vietnam War, and The Paris Peace Conference in 1919, coordinated to negotiate peace terms after World War I, are both covered in ProQuest Congressional and ProQuest History Vault.
Beginning in January 1919, representatives from more than 30 countries around the world met outside Paris to discuss the terms of peace following the end of hostilities in World War I. Such negotiations are never simple, it took months to finalize the terms of peace. As allies in the war, Great Britain, France, and Italy all wanted forceful and punitive measures meted out against Germany. Many of the disagreements during the negotiations centered around possible redistribution of territory in the post-war period. In the end, agreements were made and conference participants arrived at peace terms, enumerated in the Treaty of Versailles.
Perhaps the most significant outcome of the Paris Peace Conference was the formation of the League of Nations, first proposed by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points, a collection of recommendations he put before Congress in 1918. The last of the Fourteen Points called for the formation of “general association of nations… formed on the basis of covenants designed to create mutual guarantees of the political independence and territorial integrity of States, large and small equally.” Although the United States never joined the League of Nations, it partnered with the League over the years on topics of peace from 1920 through 1946, when the League was replaced by the United Nations. Numerous documents in ProQuest Congressional detail the United States’ role in cooperating with the League of Nations.
Also outside Paris, but nearly six decades later, U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger attempted to bring to an end the devastating Vietnam War. Beginning in February 1970, Kissinger met secretly with North Vietnamese representative Le Duc Tho to try to come to terms for a mutual surrender. There was fundamental disagreement, however. Kissinger called for a mutual withdrawal of military forces along with the neutralization of Cambodia, and free and fair elections in South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese rejected all of these requests and called for unilateral U.S. withdrawal. Subsequent meetings were held later that year, and through 1972, including discussions on release of prisoners of war, but the war continued unabated.
Kissinger’s efforts to bring the war to an end are chronicled extensively in ProQuest History Vault’s module, entitled Vietnam War and American Foreign Policy, 1960-1975.
[Image: Cable from Kissinger to his deputy, Gen. Alexander Haig, detailing the outcome of a round of negotiations. Source: “Richard M. Nixon National Security Files, 1969-1974, Kissinger’s Secret Vietnam Negotiations,” from the History Vault module “Vietnam War and American Foreign Policy, 1960-1975.”]
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