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Mendenhall (Joseph Abraham) papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Use
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Title: Joseph Abraham Mendenhall papers
    Date (inclusive): 1927-2011
    Collection Number: 2011C52
    Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Library and Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 18 manuscript boxes (7.5 Linear Feet)
    Abstract: Correspondence, speeches and writings, printed matter, personal documents, and photographs relating to American foreign relations and to the Vietnam War.
    Creator: Mendenhall, Joseph Abraham, 1920-
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Library & Archives


    The collection is open for research; materials must be requested in advance via our reservation system. If there are audiovisual or digital media material in the collection, they must be reformatted before providing access.


    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired by the Hoover Institution Library & Archives in 2011.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Joseph Abraham Mendenhall papers, [Box no., Folder no. or title], Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    1920 Born, Calvert, Maryland
    1940 B.A., University of Delaware
    1941-1946 U.S. Army service, attained rank of captain
    1946-1975 U.S. Foreign Service officer
    1946-1949 Vice Consul, Istanbul, Turkey
    1949-1951 Assistant Chief, Economic Cooperation Administration Mission to Iceland
    1952-1955 Second Secretary of Embassy, Switzerland
    1955-1959 Department of State Bureau of Southeast Asian Affairs officer, Washington, D.C.
    1959-1962 Counselor of Embassy, South Vietnam
    1962-1963 U.S. National War College student
    1963-1964 Director, Department of State Vietnam Working Group, Washington, D.C.
    1964-1965 Director, Department of State Office of Far Eastern Regional Affairs, Washington, D.C.
    1965-1968 Director, U.S. Agency for International Development Mission to Laos
    1968-1970 Deputy and acting Assistant Administrator for Vietnam, U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington, D.C.
    1970-1972 U.S. Foreign Service inspector
    1972-1975 Ambassador to Madagascar
    1975 Retired and took up residence in Italy
    1992 Returned to the United States

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Joseph A. Mendenhall's career as a U.S. Foreign Service officer was highlighted by specialization in Southeast Asian affairs during the Vietnam War era. Both on the ground in Vietnam (1959-1962) and Laos (1965-1968) and in senior Department of State positions in Washington, D.C., including that of Director of the Department's Office of Far Eastern Regional Affairs, he was intimately involved in the formulation and execution of American foreign policy in the area. The U.S. Foreign Service File in his papers presents only a partial record of his government service, as most of the official documents that passed through his hands remain in possession of the United States government. However, the file does include the texts and outline notes of many speeches at public functions and of presentations at many internal staff meetings and in-house Department of State conferences and briefing sessions. These afford an inside view of foreign policy formation.
    After his retirement in 1975, Mendenhall devoted much thought to retrospective analysis of the Vietnam War, a war that he continued to believe could and should have been won. He also maintained a lively interest in new issues in American foreign policy. His views on these matters are expressed in letters in the Retirement Formal Correspondence file and in writings, published and unpublished, in the Retirement Speeches and Writings file.
    A Personal Correspondence file accounts for a large portion of the collection. This consists of informal correspondence with family and friends over the whole of Mendenhall's life, and also includes the correspondence of his wife Leone. Many letters are from the Mendenhalls to their respective parents. This series is noteworthy for its unusually complete and detailed description of the life of a Foreign Service family frequently stationed abroad. It also reflects subjective reactions to local and world events. Chronological arrangement facilitates correlation with Mendenhall's various career postings.
    Ambassador Mendenhall donated his papers to the Hoover Institution Library & Archives in 2011.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Vietnam War, 1961-1975
    United States -- Foreign relations -- Laos
    Laos -- Foreign relations -- United States
    United States -- Foreign relations -- Vietnam
    Vietnam -- Foreign relations -- United States
    Diplomats -- United States
    United States -- Foreign relations -- Madagascar
    Madagascar -- Foreign relations -- United States
    United States. Department of State
    United States. Agency for International Development