William Conrad Gibbons, Dogged Writer Who Chronicled Vietnam War, Dies at 88

Historians in the News
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William Conrad Gibbons, a foreign policy expert at the Library of Congress whose multivolume account of the relationship between Congress and the executive branch during the Vietnam War has served as a cornerstone of historical writing on the war ever since its first volume was published in 1984, died on July 4 at his farm in Monroe, Va. He was 88.

The cause was complications of a stroke, said his wife, Patricia McAdams Gibbons. Dr. Gibbons had nearly completed the fifth and final volume when he died.

In the late 1970s, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, seeking to map the road that had led to the morass of the Vietnam War, directed the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress to prepare a dispassionate, purely factual account of the period from 1945 to 1975.

“Only by examining those decisions can we gain from this bitter experience the full understanding needed to act more wisely in the future,” Senator Charles H. Percy, Republican of Illinois, wrote in the foreword to the first volume of the work, “The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War: Executive and Legislative Roles and Relationships,” published by the Government Printing Office.

The task fell to Dr. Gibbons, a historian by training who in 1972 had begun working as a senior analyst for the foreign affairs division at the library. ...

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