Vietnam Project Archives


MSU’s Vietnam collections—the archives of the Michigan State University Vietnam Advisory Group (MSUG) itself as well as related personal paper collections and library holdings—contain unique materials that shed valuable light on South Vietnam at a critical moment in that nation’s history. MSU’s programs in rural development generated vast statistical information about land tenure, crop yields, and regional market structures in South Vietnam’s individual provinces at a level of detail unseen in any other materials from the period. MSU’s training programs for new administrators produced hundreds of detailed biographical files on people in positions of power in South Vietnam, with information about their geographic origins, socioeconomic backgrounds, and educational histories that would permit the first meaningful portrait of the political elite of the new state. Similarly, archives of MSU’s police training programs contain detailed material about the nature and activities of the various forms of political opposition facing the new regime. Apart from the many published manuals and reports that MSU produced, the collections also contain a deep sample of early U.S. government reports on South Vietnam as well as a number of published materials, including newspapers, from the era.

The largest single collection is the archive of the MSU Vietnam Project itself (Collection UA—7 cubic feet of material deposited in the MSU Archives by MSU's International Studies and Programs, which administered the MSUG. Covering the seven-year period from 1954 to 1961, thousands of individual documents are contained in 71 boxes, including approximately 4,000 folders. Much of the material focuses on rural economy and society in South Vietnam and the organization and operations of the new South Vietnamese state. This material is qualitative and quantitative, representing both detailed observations and analyses of professional technicians, as well as a large body of statistical material that their projects generated. The MSUG archive also contains rare photographic material from the 1950s and 1960s. Of particular interest are the extensive photographs of police training, ceremonies, and inspection tours, as well as a number of photographs of Michigan State employees with political notables of the South Vietnamese regime. A few audio recordings and films also are included in the collections.

MSU’s Vietnam collections at University Archives & Historical Collections also include personal papers and other types of material of some individuals involved in the MSUG. The most significant personal archives pertaining to the Vietnam Project are from the following:

  • Wesley Fishel, an MSU assistant professor of political science, was one of the MSUG’s most prominent figures and a close confidant of the South Vietnamese ruling family. The Fishel collection contains at least 2 cubic feet of papers and several dozen of photographs from the Vietnam Project; other papers and speeches document Fishel’s involvement in Vietnam before and after the project. (Collection UA 17.95)
  • John Hannah was president of MSU from 1941 to 1969, and he also served as the U.S. assistant secretary of defense from 1953 to 1954. Hannah’s close relationship with President Eisenhower was instrumental in obtaining the federal contracts that funded MSU’s programs in South Vietnam. Hannah’s papers contain material relevant to this relationship, as well as color maps of Vietnam provinces, at least eight folders of photographs from Vietnam, and various other papers about both the MSUG and U.S. government in Vietnam. His papers also include correspondence and rebuttals of later criticisms of the MSUG, notably an April 1966 Ramparts article that alleged that MSU had operated as a front for the Central Intelligence Agency. Letters from MSU staff and members of the public are included, with Hannah’s responses and reactions. (Collection UA 2.1.12)
  • Ralph F. Turner was an MSU professor of criminal justice who served as the chief police adviser to the Police and Security Services of South Vietnam under the auspices of the MSUG. He donated a voluminous collection of personal materials that includes materials that reflect his role in the Vietnam Project. (Collection UA 17.149)

The MSU Archives & Historical Collections holds personal papers from other people involved in the MSUG that contain smaller amounts of material about the Vietnam Project.  These include:

  • Richard Lindholm, an MSU professor of economics, delivered numerous lectures at the National Institute of Administration in Saigon, including a nine-part lecture series on economics of finance and money and banking. Included are five folders of materials pertaining to the Vietnam Project from Lindholm as well as three volumes of lectures by him and some Vietnamese project staff. (Collection UA 17.233)
  • John Merlin Hunter, an MSU economist, donated 11 folders about the Vietnam Project and the American Friends of Vietnam, a private association that lobbied for American support of South Vietnam. (Collection UA 17.169)
  • Ralph Smuckler became the acting chief adviser of the project following Wesley Fishel and was later MSU dean of International Studies and Programs. At least five folders of materials in Smuckler’s personal collection contain information about the MSUG. (Collection UA 17.234)
  • Other MSU faculty and administrators involved with the MSUG with personal paper collections at the MSU Archives are Stanley Andrews (Collection UA 17.268), Harry Kimber (Collection UA 17.27), Floyd Reeves (Collection UA, and Walter Adams (Collection UA 2.1.13).

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