Daniel Ellsburg

Daniel Ellsberg served in the Marine Corps for three years, from 1954-’57, as a rifle platoon leader, operations officer, and rifle company commander. He extended his service for six months to serve in the U.S. 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean during the 1956 Suez Crisis in Egypt.

While employed by the RAND Corporation, Ellsburg precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret history of the United States’ political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The papers were first brought to the attention of the public by The New York Times in 1971. A 1996 article in The New York Times said that the Pentagon Papers had demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress”.

More specifically, the papers revealed that the U.S. had secretly enlarged the scope of its actions in the Vietnam War with the bombings of nearby Cambodia and Laos, coastal raids on North Vietnam, and Marine Corps attacks, none of which were reported in the mainstream media.

For his disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg was initially charged with conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property, but the charges were later dismissed after prosecutors investigating the Watergate scandal discovered that the staff members in the Nixon White House had ordered the so-called White House Plumbers to engage in unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg.

Recently Medic wrote to the National Archives, requesting a summary of Ellsburg’s military service. Below is NARA’s response.