Contents and Arrangement

Taken by Don Oberdorfer, circa 1966

1 box

Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection is mostly composed of Oberdorfer's notebooks that chronicle his assignments with the Washington Post and his work post-retirement. Especially noteworthy are Oberdorfer's notes and insights into his overseas travels as the Post's diplomatic correspondent, including his many trips with Secretary of State George P. Shultz. The notebooks also document Oberdorfer's continued interest in foreign affairs after his retirement, particularly in Asia.

Additionally, the collection contains transcripts of interviews conducted by Oberdorfer with both Soviet and American foreign policy officials about events occurring between 1983 and 1990, as well as records detailing those events. Topics discussed include the four summit meetings between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (Geneva in 1985, Reykjavik in 1986, Washington in 1987, and Moscow in 1988); the downing of Korean Airlines passenger jet KAL 007; the zero ballistic missiles option raised at Reykjavik; the Strategic Defense Initiative and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty's reinterpretation in connection with it; the Daniloff spy-swap affair; diplomatic missions of George Shultz and Andrei Gromyko; and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The interviews also detail American and Soviet foreign policy administration and personalities, including Gorbachev's predecessors, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko.

Also included in the collection are typescript drafts of Oberdorfer's unpublished autobiography "Beyond the First Taxi Zone: Adventures of a Cold War Correspondent," which include excerpts from Oberdorfer's notebooks. Oberdorfer's general files of research materials and writings, often compiled in the course of conducting research for his autobiography, also contain excerpts from the notebooks. These files mostly relate to the political climate in Japan and Korea or to U.S. foreign relations under the Ronald Reagan administration. Other files pertain to Oberdorfer's biography of Senator Mike Mansfield.

Collection History

Archival Appraisal Information:

No materials were separated from Series 1 and 2. For Series 3, clippings from widely available newspapers and periodicals, unless annotated, were removed from the collection.

From the January 2015 accession, one folder of Mr. Oberdorfer's correspondence with the Mudd Library regarding his 1994 donation was separated to the Mudd Library's internal collection files.

Digital files consisting of drafts and detailed outlines of Mr. Oberdorfer's published works from the September 2015 accession were not retained. Approximately one linear feet of business cards, personal materials, copies of Mr. Oberdorfer's published books, and a copy of his Princeton senior thesis were also removed from this series.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, any copyright vested in the donor has passed to Princeton University and researchers are free to move forward with use of materials without anything further from Mudd Library. For materials not created by the donor, where the copyright is not held by the University, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. In these instances, researchers do not need anything further from the Mudd Library to move forward with their use. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Credit this material:

Taken by Don Oberdorfer; Don Oberdorfer Papers, MC162, Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 18