Scope and Contents
The papers of the Michigan State University Vietnam Project comprise a voluminous record. They cover a seven-year period and comprise thousands of individual documents contained in 71 boxes and approximately 4,000 folders. The papers are arranged according to the three major areas into which the project was divided: Michigan State University Administration of the Project, Public Administration, and Police Administration. Though the division of the project's papers was suggested by the actual operation of the project itself, the subdivisions of particularly the first two were not. As a result of the very disorganized condition in which the papers relating to the administration of the project and public administration arrived at the archives, the processor was forced, because of the limitations of time available for processing and the need to provide some sort of logical organization, to use his best judgment as to the correct arrangement of the materials. For this reason, particularly in the first two major sections, the arrangement may not be that which existed at the time that the project was in operation.
The first section, extending from Box 627, folder 1 to box 659, folder 55 and including folders 13 through 86 in box 677, includes all that material relating to the administration of the project, both in Saigon and East Lansing, and other material of a general nature that could not be included in any other section. Its organization, like that of the Public Administration material, is not necessarily that which it had during the time that the project was in operation. Of particular interest to the researcher are the materials in this section containing cable (both incoming and outgoing), contract information, general correspondence (including memoranda)1, financial materials, histories of the project, personnel2, press and public relations, reports3, and material relating to United States government agencies.
The second section, extending from box 660, folder 1 to box 676 folder 12 and including folders 87 to 106 in box 677 and folders 1 to 70 in box 678 deals with Public Administration activities of the project or, more specifically, the dealings that the project and it personnel had with the civil agencies of the South Vietnamese government. Of particular interest will be those sections concerned with agrarian reform, civic action, Department of Finances4, Department of the Treasury, General information on the Government of Vietnam (GVN)5, Interior Department, of the National Economy, National Institute of Administration6, participant training program, Office of the Presidency7, province reports8, Refugee Commission9, Reports and publications, and the tribal administration study10.
The third section, extending from box 679, folder 1 to box 694, folder 46, deals with Police Administration or, more specifically, the activities of the project and its personnel in regard to the civil police agencies of South Vietnam. The activities of the MSU mission constituted the most controversial part of the project and, in terms of research, is the best organized. The material arrived at the archives, after the other two sections had been largely organized, in good condition, with the result that portions of it have been cross-indexed with the material contained in the other two sections and is organized in essentially the same way that it was during the actual operation of the project. The latter was possible because of the index numbers appearing on most of the original folders and which appear both on the new folders and the description sheets11. The major categories of interest to the researcher are administration12, civil guard, municipal police, Vietnamese Bureau of Investigation (VBI), Traffic, VBI internal security section, research and training, Communications, articles-reviews-publications13; counterpart and foreign aid materials, Vietnamese people and agencies14, and training. Finally, two things should be noted and understood by anyone doing research in the papers of the Vietnam Project. First, the papers do constitute a very valuable source of information about South Vietnam and the conditions existing in it during the period before the massive American intervention began and which are unlikely to be available from any other source in the near future. Second, while the project has been controversial because of its activities and the events that have transpired since its end, the researcher should not expect to find masses of controversial or incriminating material. The project and its personnel were, almost entirely, concerned with the relatively mundane activities that surrounds any foreign aid project of this kind and the materials largely reflect this state of affairs.
1Correspondence: This material, while obviously divided according to subject, person, number, etc., should be consulted, because of the general nature of the material contained within it, in addition to the more specific correspondence that might be included under a particular topic in this or either of the other two sections. Both time and the condition in which the materials were found conspired against a more exact arrangement of the mass of correspondence.
2Personnel: In regard to the material dealing with personnel matters, extending from box 648, folder 88 to box 656 folder 70, those folders dealing with specific people, box 654, folder 35 to box 653 folder 105, will not be open to the researcher, but those that deal with policies or general administrative matters will be.
3Reports: Reports contained in this section are those published by the project, dealing with its progress or necessary for the administration of it such as to satisfy a specific contractual obligation. Reports dealing with a specific topic, such as “Tribal Administration,” will be found under specific topic.
4Throughout the period of the project the terms “department” and “ministry” were used almost interchangeably. However, since the project personnel tended to use “department” more frequently when referring to a government agency than they did “ministry,” the former has been used in the processing and organizing of the material.
5General information on the Government of Vietnam: This section contains a large amount of information that, while not specifically pertaining to a particular activity undertaken by the project, never the less gives an indication of conditions as they existed in Vietnam between 1955 and 1962.
6National Institute of Administration: This institution, which was to train Vietnamese civil servants in modern administrative techniques. Indeed, it was to be the means by which the progress made by the project personnel in the reorganization of the project could be measured. For this reason, the materials relating to the institute, extending from box 663, folder 35, to box 666, folder 79, constitute the largest mass of documents in the public administration section.
7Office of the Presidency: The Presidency was the most important part of the Vietnamese government. It was the place where the decisions were made. In particular should be noted the portions relating specifically to President Diem and the efforts of the project personnel in the area of budget reform.
8Province Reports: These reports, which are very complete for the period 1955-1959, contain material, gathered from interviews and field trips, that relates specifically to local conditions in the various provinces of Vietnam during the period noted.
9Refugee commission: The first major project of the MSU mission was undertaken in regard to this agency in the summer of 1955. It arose from the need to bring order to Vietnamese attempts to deal with the influx of refugees from the north that threatened to overwhelm the limited capabilities of the Vietnamese government.
10Tribal Administration Study: When this project was finished and its report published, it constituted the most complete existing examination of the Montenyard tribesmen of the central highlands.
11It should be noted that some of the folders did not have index numbers, either because one was never assigned or it had been lost or destroyed. In such cases the processor used his best judgment as to the proper location of the materials and assigned it a corresponding number.
12Administration: This section contains many materials, such as police administration division meetings and other administrative materials that would have, had the administration materials not arrived so late in the processing, been included under MSU Administration of the Project.
13Articles-Reviews-Publications: This sub-section includes a variety of topics such as magazines and reports that could not be placed under a specific topic.
14Vietnamese: This sub-section includes correspondence and records of meetings with Vietnamese police officials undertaken in the course of the project.
The electronic resource, "Michigan State University in Vietnam, 1956," is digitized film footage of Dr. Edward Weidner and Dr. Ralph Smuckler discussing MSU's involvement with police training in the then newly created Republic of Vietnam. The film shows Weidner and Smuckler talking as well as footage of training in Vietnam.
- 1954 - 1961
- From the Record Group: Michigan State University. Vietnam Project (Organization)
Language of Materials
Materials primarily in English, with some publications in French and Vietnamese.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research. There are RESTRICTED personnel files.
From the Record Group: 71 Cubic Feet
Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US