General Introduction


Faceted navigation & interactive charts




Some notable speakers

About the Presidential Recordings Digital Edition

Marc J. Selverstone

“MR. PRESIDENT, I wish you’d install a tape recorder on your end.”

It was a request made only half in jest, as Russell B. Long, the Democratic senator from Louisiana, sought help in crafting an argument against Senate critics of U.S. policy in Vietnam. As he put it to President Lyndon B. Johnson in a February 1966 telephone conversation, “I wish we had this on tape, because I would like to say it exactly the way you say it, and I’m not sure I could recall it all that way, but I’ll do my best.”

As it turns out, President Johnson did have their exchange on tape, though he would not admit it to Long, for Johnson secretly recorded many of his conversations in the Oval Office. So, too, did his four immediate predecessors, as did his immediate successor. The resulting 5,000 hours of telephone and meeting tape that Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt through Richard M. Nixon recorded during their time in the White House capture some of the most significant moments in modern American political history. From Birmingham to Berlin, from Medicare to My Lai, from Selma to SALT, and from Watts to Watergate, the presidential recordings offer a unique window into the shaping of U.S. domestic and foreign policy.

PRDE Editors


  • Marc J. Selverstone, general editor
  • David G. Coleman
  • Kent B. Germany
  • Ken Hughes
  • Guian A. McKee


Linked e-books from UVA Press and the Miller Center Presidential Recordings Program

Miller Center Studies on the Presidency is a new series of original works authored by some of the top scholars working today. One facet of the series are essay-length, ebook originals. Drawing on, and linking to, conversations in the acclaimed Presidential Recordings Program, these works will commemorate and shed new light on significant anniversaries in modern American history. Beginning with the debut publication, The War Bells Have Rung: The LBJ Tapes and the Americanization of the Vietnam War, all titles in this series will be included in the Presidential Recordings Digital Edition.

The War Bells Have Rung

The LBJ Tapes and the Americanization of the Vietnam War

George C. Herring

In the summer of 1965, President Johnson faced an agonizing decision. General Westmoreland had come to him with a "bombshell" request for 150,000 more troops in Vietnam. LBJ, who wished to be remembered as a great reformer, not as a war president, saw the proposed escalation for what it was—the turning point for American involvement in Vietnam. This is one of the most discussed chapters in modern presidential history, but George Herring, the acknowledged dean of Vietnam War historians, has found a fascinating new way to tell this story—through the remarkable legacy of LBJ’s taped telephone conversations. A concise, inside look at seven critical weeks in 1965—presented as a Rotunda ebook linking to transcripts and audio files of the original presidential tapes— The War Bells Have Rung offers both student and scholar a vivid and accessible look at a decision on which LBJ’s presidency would pivot and that would change modern American history.

Chasing Shadows

The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate

Ken Hughes

The break-in at Watergate and the cover-up that followed brought about the resignation of Richard Nixon, creating a political shockwave that reverberates to this day. But Ken Hughes's unparalleled investigation of secret presidential tapes has allowed him to unearth a pattern of actions by Nixon going back long before 1972, to the final months of the Johnson administration. Hughes identifies a clear narrative line that begins during the 1968 campaign, when Nixon, concerned about the impact on his presidential bid of the Paris peace talks with the Vietnamese, secretly undermined the negotiations through a Republican fundraiser named Anna Chennault, and the story goes far beyond what we think we know about Watergate.

Fatal Politics

The Nixon Tapes, the Vietnam War, and the Casualties of Reelection

Ken Hughes

In Fatal Politics, presidential tapes expert Ken Hughes turns to the final years of the war and Nixon's reelection bid of 1972 to expose the president's darkest secret. While publicly Nixon promised to keep American troops in Vietnam only until the South Vietnamese could take their place, in private he agreed with his advisers that Saigon could never survive without American boots on the ground. Putting his reelection above the lives of American soldiers, however, Nixon kept America in the war into the fourth year of his presidency. At the same time, he secretly negotiated a decent interval deal with the Communists. Fatal Politics tells a story of political manipulation and betrayal that will change how Americans remember Vietnam.