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Pentagon Papers reveal Canadian aspects of the Vietnam War

The Story


The sensational 1971 leak of confidential Pentagon documents sheds light on Canada's position on, and activities in, Vietnam. A McGill University professor has obtained portions of the Pentagon Papers that he says prove Canada's complicity in the war. On CBC Radio's Sunday Magazine, Senator Paul Martin and two university professors weigh in on the matter.

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Magazine
Broadcast Date: July 15, 1973
Guests: Paul Martin Sr., Sam Noumoff, David Van Praagh
Host: Frank Herbert, Bob Oxley
Duration: 5:11

Did You know?


• The Pentagon Papers were based on a secret study of U.S. decision-making about Vietnam since the end of World War II. The study, led by U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara, was completed in 1969.

• The study was leaked to the press by Daniel Ellsberg in June 1971. Ellsberg was an employee of the Rand Corporation, a company that did considerable work for the American military. Ellsberg, an ex-marine, worked as the special assistant to assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Affairs from 1964-67.

• Sam Noumoff, a McGill University professor, went to Los Angeles and petitioned a judge to release the Canadian aspects of the Pentagon Papers.

• The other interviewees in this clip are Paul Martin Sr., who was secretary of state for external affairs from 1963 to 1968, and Carleton University professor David Van Praagh, a specialist on Canadian foreign policy in the 1960s.

• The sections of the Pentagon Papers that were applicable to Canada were published in the Globe and Mail in July 1973.

• One of the events revealed by the Pentagon Papers is a secret meeting in May 1964 between President Lyndon Johnson and Prime Minister Lester Pearson in which they discussed the possibility of bombing North Vietnam. The telegram exposed by the Pentagon Papers referred to their cryptic discussion of "carrots and sticks," and the "nature of sticks."

• Many considered the release of the Pentagon Papers a courageous move on the part of the New York Times and the Washington Post. Shortly after the leak some were predicting the information exposed would hasten the end of the war.

• Globe and Mail foreign affairs writer Charles Taylor, author of Snowjob: Canada, the United States and Vietnam, suggested that not only was the Canadian government kept in the dark by the U.S. government, but the Canadian people were kept in the dark by their government. Barbara Frum talked with Mr. Taylor about these contentious views in 1974.


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