Pentagon Papers - Preface

Pentagon Papers (Illustration) Biographies Famous Historical Events Government History Social Studies The Kennedys American Presidents Famous People Law and Politics Trials American History

The official portrait of Associate Justice Hugo Black, painted by his grandson John Black, from a print created by Yousuf Karsh. Maintained by the Supreme Court Historical Society, The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


In revealing the workings of government
that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers
nobly did precisely that which the Founders
hoped and trusted they would do.

Justice Hugo Black 
New York Times Co. v. United States 
June 30, 1971

It should have been a good day for President Nixon. His daughter's picture was on the front page of the New York Times. But Tricia Nixon's wedding was not the only significant story reported in the June 13, 1971 edition of the Times. There, for all the world to see, was the first of a planned series of stories sure to anger the American public.

Years earlier, Robert McNamara (Secretary of Defense for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson) had commissioned a top-secret study on American involvement in Vietnam. Documents from that study had found their way into a reporter’s hands.

Those hands belonged to Neil Sheehan who had crafted a story destined to embarrass every Administration from Eisenhower on. The most damaging papers related to the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations.

There was only one solution to the government’s problem: Get an injunction to prevent the press from publishing any future stories. Nixon's Administration lost that battle, however.

The documents were made public. Many paint a picture of government and military arrogance, lies and deception. Collectively, they are known as "The Pentagon Papers."

At the time of the first story, however, President Nixon thought so little of the article, he didn't bother to read it.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Sep 01, 2005

Updated Last Revision: Jan 19, 2018

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