Kay Boyle papers relating to the Citizens' Mission to Cambodia
Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Kay Boyle's concern over the potential expansion of the Vietnam War prompted her to accept the invitation of the organization "Americans Want to Know" and embark on a two-week fact finding mission to the area bordering Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Boyle and six others -- Floyd B. McKissick, National Director for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); Rabbi Israel Dresner; Donald Duncan, military editor of Ramparts magazine and ex-Green Beret; Russell Johnson of American Friends Service Committee; publicity director Marc Stone; and New York businessman Norman Eisner -- comprised the Citizens' Mission to Cambodia. The Mission departed for Phnom Penh on July 25, 1966 to investigate U.S. allegations that Cambodia was being used as a training area and staging ground for Viet Cong incursions into South Vietnam.
Americans Want to Know, the Mission's sponsoring organization, formed in 1965 "to gather facts and report them to the American people in any situation where our country seems likely to become embroiled in foreign adventures." They observed such a situation in Cambodia where accusations of misconduct were being made on both sides.
The United States government charged the Cambodian government with creating a "Viet Cong sanctuary," establishing the Sihanouk Trail to augment the Ho Chi Minh Trail by providing arms and food, and accepting arms and food shipments into the port at Sihanoukville. Meanwhile, in addition to denying these charges, Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia claimed the U.S. was violating his nation's vowed territorial neutrality by conducting bombing raids on Cambodian villages. Prince Sihanouk asked for stricter border observations from the International Control Commission and broke off diplomatic relations with the U.S. over the incidents just prior to the delegation's arrival.
During the mission, the delegation visited several spots along the Cambodia/Vietnam border as well as the Cambodia/Laos border where they inspected the site of a recent U.S. attack on the village of Thloc Trach. The delegates personally examined the alleged Sihanouk Trail and the Ho Chi Minh Trail for signs of a Viet Cong presence. In addition, the Mission members boarded and examined ships docking at Sihanoukville looking for arms or food shipments. Finally, the delegation met with Sihanouk and discussed his views on the border violations. The Mission members could find no indications of wrongdoing on the part of the Cambodian government.
Upon their return to the United States, the delegates reported on the Mission's findings through a series of articles, interviews, and lectures around the country.
The collection indicates that Kay Boyle continued her political activism and her interest in the plight of Cambodia well into the decade of the 1970s and probably through to her death on December 27, 1992.
"Kay Boyle, 90, Writer of Novels and Stories, Dies." The New York Times. December 29, 1992.Much of the biographical data is derived from material contained in the collection.
The Kay Boyle papers relating to the Citizens' Mission to Cambodia, spanning from 1960-1979, consists of diaries, correspondence, books, periodicals, news clippings, reports, speeches, audio recording tapes, a photograph, and poems.
The bulk of the material surveys the controversial aspects of the ground war in Vietnam and its possible expansion into Cambodia through the recorded thoughts and actions of Kay Boyle and the Citizens' Mission to Cambodia. Additional items capture the evolution of political Cambodia well into the 1970s through various publications and articles. Included in the collection are two unrelated items: a letter and poems sent to a San Francisco public school class, and a speech and poem dedicated to San Francisco Mayor George Moscone following his assassination in 1978.
The collection provides insight into the specifics of the Citizens' Mission examination of the Cambodian border conflict. In addition to the Mission reports, the collection provides opposing opinions, details on living in Cambodia, and reflections on Prince Sihanouk's actions and beliefs. The collection is further highlighted by Kay Boyle's diaries of the journey and by articles of the late 1970s discussing the political situation in Cambodia. Unfortunately there is a gap in the collection between 1966 and 1979 which prevents the researcher from following the actions of Kay Boyle and Americans Want to Know through to their culmination.
The collection is organized topically into four series. Series I, The Citizens' Mission to Cambodia, relates specifically to the events and immediate results of the Citizens' Mission. Spanning 1965-1966, this series is the collection's most extensive, including Kay Boyle's diaries from Cambodia, various Mission publications, review articles written by delegation members, and correspondence regarding Mission activities. Series II, Official Statements and Press Releases, provides a context for the outward aims of the key actors in the controversy over Cambodia. Series III, Collected Newspaper Articles, Publications, and Productions, is a reference collection of published articles, books, and tapes giving background to the conflict in South East Asia as well as the Mission. Series IV, Unrelated, consists of two items unrelated to Boyle's mission in Cambodia.
- Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
- Removals: Shelved in SPEC Media Audio reels
Processed by Paul Dziewisz, 1993. Finding aid encoded in ArchivesSpace by John Caldwell, December 2017.
- University of Delaware Library Special Collections
- Finding Aid Author
- University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
- Finding Aid Date
- 2017 December 21
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research.
This collection contains audiovisual media that has been reformatted. Please contact manuscripts staff for access.
- Use Restrictions
Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library, https://library.udel.edu/static/purl.php?askspec
This series contains material directly related to the Citizens' Mission. Included are Kay Boyle's diaries, in original and corrected draft form; correspondence about and drafts of subsequent publications of the Mission; articles published by delegation members; and correspondence among Mission members.
This subseries contains journal notebooks, typed drafts, and critiques of drafts for Kay Boyle's Mission diaries. A photograph is also included. The diary of Kay Boyle's mission experiences was to be published soon after 1966 but was never printed in full. The subseries is arranged in stages beginning with on-site journals. These are followed by drafts for publication and commentary on those drafts.
A further note is required to explain the comprehensive diary (found in F6 below) which is a compilation of the smaller diaries. Upon acquisition it was filled with a large quantity of related letters and notes placed loosely between its pages. To clarify the order of the diary, all pages, including the loose inserts, were numbered consecutively from beginning to end. The loose pages were then removed and placed in the adjoining folders (F6a, F6b, and F6c).
A compilation of the above notebooks. All loose inserts have been numbered and removed. They can be found in the following three folders.
This subseries contains material related to two Mission publications, "Findings of Fact on Cambodia's Border" and "The Final Report." Included are various drafts of the publications and correspondence among the Mission members regarding the publications.
This subseries is concerned with events of the Mission as conveyed through the plans, statements, and writings collected by Kay Boyle.
This subseries contains letters to the editor from Kay Boyle, correspondence with the Cambodian government, and letters among Mission members and between Mission members and sponsoring organizations. Note that letters between Mission members may also be found under other, more specific series.
This series consists of official organizational statements, press releases, and publications of the various policies, observations, and opinions about Cambodia-U.S. relations. It is broken down into four subseries focusing on each government or major organization.
Consists of statements from Americans Want to Know, the Missions organizer and sponsor, announcing the Mission and defining their policy on the Cambodian issue.
Consists of U.S. documents and memorandums defining the U.S. position on Cambodian assistance to the Viet Cong.
Contains press bulletins, letters to the U.N. Secretary General, and Publications of the Cambodian Government in relation to the border controversy.
The Beheiren (Japan "Peace for Vietnam!") Committee conducted discussions on solutions to the Vietnam War in August of 1966. This subseries contains statements from that organization as well as a copy of the Geneva Agreement of 1954 which divided Vietnam into North and South.
This series consists of numerous newspaper clippings, books, magazine articles, and an audio tape dealing with the political situation between the U.S. and Cambodian Governments. Several of the articles are from publications of the late 1970s and contain information related to that time frame.
This subseries contains articles and publications dealing with the Citizens' Mission and Cambodia.
The Winter Soldier Investigations were three days of panel discussions sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in response to the war crimes conviction of Lt. Col. William Calley following the My Lai Massacre. The discussions were designed to examine the widespread acts of violence by American soldiers against the Vietnamese and display to the United States public that Calley's actions were not an aberration but an everyday reality.
One reel-to-reel tape of the 25th Infantry Panel discussing incursions into Laos and Cambodia, 120 minutes.
The items in this series were accessioned along with the Cambodia papers. They are, however, unrelated to Cambodia as well as unrelated to one another.