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Today is June 24th, 1997, and this is an interview with John Oakes. My name is Mary
Marshall Clark, and this interview is for the Oral History Collection at Columbia
University. I wanted to talk to you today about the New York Times' editorial positions on
Vietnam. In just doing some general reading, it's interesting, for example, I came across a
letter to the editor that you had written in response to Arthur [M.] Schlesinger [Jr.]'s
review of a book on Vietnam in which the Times was described, in Schlesinger's words, as
“rather hawkish,” early on. I found that in contradiction to some of the early articles that I
was reading as early as early 1963, when the Times began to question -- one of the articles
was “What's Wrong in Vietnam?” There were a series of articles early in '63 on the
Buddhist dilemma, the internal conflict in Vietnam. I would just like for you to
characterize your thinking in that period on Vietnam and how your thinking was formed.
Right. We're talking about 1963.
Yes. But you can go back before that if you like.
To go back even -- after all, I only became editor of the page in '61. I would say that
in the period in the early '60s I felt, as the paper felt, I felt very uncomfortable about the
original position, basic position of the United States adamantly opposing the recognition of
China, the admission of China to the UN. This is related, really, to the subsequent
development in Vietnam. One of the first things I did when I became editor was succeed in
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