William Conrad Gibbons, one of the most respected historians of the Vietnam War, died July 4. He was 88 years old.
Bill Gibbons was the author of the monumental work, The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War , a four-volume, exhaustively researched and beautifully written book published by the Government Printing Office and Princeton University Press beginning in 1984. The GPO co-published the book because Gibbons wrote what would become his life’s work at the request of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1978 while he was working as a foreign policy expert at the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service.
The four volumes—covering some 2, 000 pages—tell the inside story of Vietnam War policy making from 1945-68. The first volume covered the years 1945-60. The subsequent books dealt with 1961-64, 1965-66, and 1967-68. Gibbons, a World War II veteran who earned a PhD in politics from Princeton University, had been working on the fifth volume when he died following a stroke at his farm in Virginia.
Gibbons was a “first-rate scholar, ” the Vietnam War military historian Lewis Sorley said. “Nowhere else has anyone assembled so much material from so many sources so authoritatively, accurately and of great utility to scholars.” Gibbons “demonstrated even-handedness, scholarly integrity and diligence of the highest order. He was an archivist. He was a collector. He was an archaeologist of information on the Vietnam War.”