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Sully, Fran├žois, 1927-1971 : Papers and photographs, 1958-1983 (Bulk, 1963-1971)


6 cartons, 1/2 file box, 1 carton of slides, 2 file boxes of photographs, 14 boxes of negatives


The François Sully Collection is part of the archives of Vietnam: A Television History that was purchased from WGBH Educational Foundation, a public broadcasting station, by the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 1985. After Sully's death in 1971, his colleague Kevin Buckley boxed and sent the papers to Newsweek which transferred the collection to WGBH in 1979. WGBH used the papers as "raw material" while researching the thirteen part documentary.

View digital collection here


Photojournalist François Sully, born in 1927 or 1928 in France, fought against the Nazis in the French Resistance as a teenager. He later joined the French Army which assigned him to Vietnam. After choosing to be discharged in Saigon in 1947, Sully became a correspondent for both Vietnamese and French publications including the French magazine Southeast Asia. By 1959, Sully was working for UPI. He wrote articles for Time and his photographs were carried by Black Star until Newsweek hired him in early 1961.

In September 1962, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem expelled Sully. Unofficially, Diem intended the expulsion to serve as a warning to all journalists reporting the failings of his U.S.-assisted war against the Viet Cong. Sully worked in bordering countries until Diem's November 1963 assasination, when he returned to Vietnam.

Although Newsweek was Sully's primary employer until his death in a helicopter crash in March 1971, he also wrote for a number of other newsmagazines including The Nation and The New Republic. In 1967 and 1968, Sully wrote articles for McGraw-Hill's business-reporting service World News which distributed them to Business Week, Medical World News, Engineering News Record, and other publications. In addition to writing news stories and taking photographs, Sully wrote Age of the Guerilla: the New Warfare (New York: Parent's Magazine Press, 1968; reprinted by Avon, 1970) and compiled and edited We the Vietnamese: Voices from Vietnam (New York: Praeger, 1971).

For context, see Francis D. Faulkner's Bao Chi: The American News Media in Vietnam, 1960-1975 (Dissertation: University of Massachusetts, 1981; Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International, 1981). For more biographical information, see Newsweek September 17, 1962, page 68, or March 8, 1971, page 75.

Scope and Content

Although the Sully Collection's passage through a number of hands makes it difficult to determine who established its order, the series and order within each series maintained before its arrival at UMB have been largely preserved. For lists of the order WGBH Vietnam Project production secretary Karan Sheldon either created or inventoried, see folder #245.

As instructed by Newsweek, Sully's former roommate and colleague Kevin Buckley purged this collection of all personal and confidential material before its transfer to WGBH. Although Sully's personal concerns sometimes are evident in his telegrams to Newsweek editors, this collection does not document his personal life.

The Sully Collection is divided into four series and several subseries:
I. Writings
    A: Newsmagazines (#1-70)
    B: Newsweek, Photograph submission sheets (#71-75)
    C: Writings--We the Vietnamese (#76-98)
II. Subject files
    A: United States (#99-133)
    B: Vietnam (#134-196)
    C: United States and Vietnam (#197-221)
    D: Other countries (#222-241)
III. WGBH, files (#245-248)

IV. Photographs

    A: Contact sheets
    B: Negatives,
    C: Prints (miscellaneous)
    D: Slides

Series I documents a photojournalist's written perspective of Vietnam, contemporary Vietnamese culture, and the war, and his relationship with several newsmagazines, primarily Newsweek, between 1960 and 1971. Series II documents what information the U.S. military made available to reporters, contemporary Vietnamese culture, North and South Vietnam, and U.S. involvement in the war; perhaps most valuable is the material published in Vietnam, some of which is in Vietnamese or French. Series III provides some evidence of WGBH's use of this collection and their other work in preparing the documentary. Series IV provides a photographic perspective of South Vietnam, neighboring countries, the war, and U.S. and other military officers and government officials between 1963 and 1970. Overall, this collection contains information which would be difficult to assemble from other sources, particularly the material published in Vietnam.

SERIES I: Writings, contains articles and books written by Sully, some articles written by others, and descriptions of film rolls Sully sent to Newsweek. Folders #1-3 contain articles in French which Sully may have intended to publish as a book.

Subseries IA: Newsmagazines, #1-70, consists of files containing telegrams, copies of telegrams, and carbon copies of documents Sully sent to Newsweek, Businessweek, Medical World News, and World News. The files include newstories, personal observations, and, occasionally, descriptions of the contents of film rolls (also see Subseries IB), correspondence, and notes from interviews. The files contain some correspondence and newstories to the newsmagazines from Sully's colleagues, including Everett G. Martin, John Nance, General Phan Trong Chinh, Bill? Cook, ? Chuan, and ? Norman. Files entitled "mailers" and "updaters" do not appear to differ in content from other files.

Most newstory folders contain a file which was originally stapled together. Folder headings were usually adapted from the title page of each file. Since few datelines include the year, however, each heading's veracity can only be confirmed by examining the contents of each document. Most files are in chronological or reverse chronological order. Folder headings inside quotation marks were taken directly from the existing folder and may have little or no bearing on the contents.

Correspondence and newstories sent to the newsmagazines by Sully and his colleagues may also be found interspersed throughout Series II in folders #105, 110, 127, 135, 139, 151, 158, 162-63, 174, 184, 194-96, 215-16, 219, 222-224, and 231. This list is not exhaustive.

Subseries IB: Newsweek, Photograph submission sheets, #71-75, contains a fairly complete set of submission sheets, in chronological order, which describe the contents of film rolls Sully sent to Newsweek and contain several of the numbering systems that WGBH applied to the accompanying contact sheets (see Subseries IVA). WGBH marked some sheets "missing" to indicate missing contact sheets or negatives. Most submission sheets were removed from a black notebook marked "François Sully Newsweek Submission Sheets." Others were gathered from the notebooks of contact sheets which appear in Subseries IVA. There are a few sheets from Lawrence R. Kurland. Some sheets from Sully credit other photographers. Some sheets note the amount of Newsweek's payment or reimbursement.

Subseries IC: We the Vietnamese, #76-98, consists of clippings and articles in French, Vietnamese, and English, and manuscript drafts. Sully selected some of the clippings and articles about past and contemporary Vietnamese culture for the compilation that he originally called the Viet Nam Reader, then entitled A Viet Nam Sampler and was finally published posthumously as We the Vietnamese: Voices from Vietnam. Sully apparently also used the material in this series as background for the introductory and other passages he wrote for the book.

SERIES II: Subject files, #99-244, is comprised of files containing printed and reprinted articles and clippings published in the U.S. and both North and South Vietnam; U.S., South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese government and military press releases and printed speeches; and some notes and interviews by Sully, correspondence (mostly from Newsweek to Sully), travel information, stories by Sully and others, U.S. military publicity photographs, maps, and North Vietnamese captured documents and radio transcripts (presumably translated and published by the U.S. military). Some material is in French or Vietnamese. Copies of newstories by others that Newsweek sent to Sully for information purposes are scattered throughout. Folders containing those written by Sully and his colleagues (usually sent to Newsweek, as were those in Series I), are noted in the description of Series I above.

Although Sully undoubtedly used these files as background information for his newstories (and probably also for his books), it is not clear who organized them. It appears that Sully gathered the material and organized it into the larger headings (now the categories within each subseries), and that WGBH then subdivided the files and/or devised auxiliary headings. Apparently WGBH sometimes also arranged the actual documents. Although occasionally WGBH obviously created folders of material culled from several of Sully's headings, it is difficult to speculate about the frequency with which WGBH moved material from heading to heading or created entirely new headings.

The current subseries are based on the broad topical order described in WGBH's lists (see #245). Series II has four subseries: United States, Vietnam, United States and Vietnam, and Other Countries. Headings that were clearly created by Sully are preceded by "Sully:" Headings that were clearly created by WGBH are preceded by "WGBH:" All material in labeled hanging files or manila folders remain together. Most of the categories within each subseries (see outline of Series II below) were taken from existing headings of unknown origin. Quotation marks were used around headings that repeat previous headings and denote material originally in one large folder. Quotation marks also were used to indicate that the contents of the folder bears little relation to its contents. Some new folder headings were devised to describe subdivisions of existing folders and new folders created from loose material at the end of the series.

Outline of Series II: Subject files
A. United States
    1. Military
      a. Air Force, 99-101
      b. Affairs, 102-105
      c. Army, 106-109
      d. Eye Corps, 110-113
      e. General, 114-124
      f. Navy, 125-127
    2. Other
      a. U.S. Mission, 128-130
      b. Statements, 131-132
      c. Civil Rights, 133
B. Vietnam
    1. Both Vietnams (mostly South Vietnam)
      a. Background/histories, 134
      b. Economies, 135-138
      c. Futures, 139
      d. Maps/travel information, 140-141
      e. Political, religious, ethnic, and labor groups and activities
        (1) Buddhism, 142-144
        (2) Cao Dai/Hoa Hoa, 145
        (3) Catholics, 146-147
        (4) Labor unions, 148
        (5) Montagnards, 149-151
        (6) National Liberation Front (NLF), 151-153
        (7) NLF, COSVN, Viet Cong, 154-156
        (8) Political parties, 157-60
        (9) Tet, 161
    2. North Vietnam: governments and people. Includes others against U.S.-backed South Vietnam government
      a. General, 162-63
      b. Hanoi, Liberation, etc. Radio, 164-69
      c. Stamps, 170
    3. South Vietnam
      a. Cities
        (1) Hue, 171-173
        (2) Saigon, 174-177
      b. Government
        (1) General, 178-183
        (2) Thieu, Ky, and Kiem, 184-188
        (3) U.S.A.I.D., 189
      c. Infiltration, 190-191
      d. Land reform, 192-193
      e. Military, 194-196
C. U.S. and Vietnam
    1. Biographies, 197-201

    2. War

      a. Chronologies, 202
      b. Negotiations, 203-205
      c. Neutralists and pacifists, 206
      d. Order of battle, 207

    3. Miscellaneous and general
      a. Articles, 208-212
      b. Other, 213-221
D. Other countries
    1. Cambodia, 222-225

    2. China/Tibet, 226

    3. France, 227

    4. Laos, 228

    5. Other flags, 235-241

SERIES III: WGBH, #245-248, consists of correspondence, lists, and notes that the producers kept about the Sully Collection or that pertain to the making of the documentary but were not created or collected by Sully.

SERIES IV: Photographs consists of black and white contact sheets, photographs and negatives, and color slides. Most were taken by Sully. Sully sent most of the black and white images to Newsweek or other newsmagazines as documentation for his news stories.

The contact sheets were originally housed in large notebooks and marked with a tri-part numbering system; the accompanying negatives were taped to the back of each contact sheet. Although the contact sheets and negatives are now filed separately, the numbering system linking them has been maintained. That numbering system includes unique contact sheet numbers (A1 through I41) and story numbers (15A, 246G, etc.) that WGBH created, and film roll numbers that were usually created by Sully. The contact sheets and negatives are cataloged by contact sheet number; to access the photographs by date, follow the roll numbers, or see Sully's submission sheets in Subseries IB. Most of the contact sheets include a brief description of their contents on the back. Descriptions of many of the contact sheets and accompanying negatives may be found in the submission sheets in Subseries IB or interspersed throughout Subseries IA.

Although the subjects of many of the color slides are similar to those of the black and white images, some are of Sully and his friends.