120. Minutes of National Security Council Meeting1


  • Vietnam
[Page 391]

The meeting began with a briefing by Director Helms.2

He showed the Council photographs of the collective leadership, including Vice President Thang, Le Duan, Truong Chinh, Pham van Dong and Vo Nguyen Giap.

Director Helms: They decided on this leadership as an interim solution before Ho’s death. The dominant personalities will be: (1) Le Duan and Truong Chinh. Le Duan is the First Secretary. He is 62 years old. He was a Viet Minh leader in the early 50’s. He has been listed as the second most important hero. [(2)] Truong Chinh is the party theoretician. He is a propagandist and has been First Secretary. Since 1960 he has been the No. 3 man. He is a doctrinaire fanatic. (3) Pham van Dong. He is 63 and a close associate of Ho. He became premier in 1955. (4) Defense Minister Vo Nguyen Giap.

Le Duan may be on the decline. Giap and Truong Chinh may form a cabal. All will seek to show their allegiance to Ho.

The September campaign consists of shelling and limited local ground assaults. High points were on August 11–12 and September 4–5. We expect no marked departure from economy of force tactics, which have been forced by losses on the battlefield.

In Paris, they may seek to reestablish private contacts. Ho’s death may permit them to shift their position.

The bombing halt may test the new leadership. There is a question of how long Ho’s death will have an impact. It will not:

  • —change North Vietnam’s goals
  • —change North Vietnam’s neutral stance in the Sino-Soviet dispute
  • —end the leadership struggle.

The nationalist appeal will fade and they will put greater stress on Marxist doctrine.

[Page 392]

They will not go to higher levels of combat.

The President: Any questions?

Mr. Kissinger: A brief statement on Hanoi’s thinking: There was a question of military versus political, and they are trying to get political. (?)

The President: General Abrams will speak next.

General Abrams: The framework is that infiltration is low. Truck traffic in Laos is at an all time low. If you lay it out in a cyclic pattern of years, we are now at a regular low ebb. But there is a lower total of 96,000 this year.

North Vietnamese imports of trucks since January have been higher than during the same period last year. POL imports are high.

The 559th transportation group in Laos had moved out cadre. They have now come back—1900 of them. Within the past few weeks we found a POL pipeline in Laos, along the DMZ.

It is clear to me that Hanoi has prepared itself for the dry season to use the Laotian corridor as in the past.

Enemy total strength at the beginning of 1969 was 257,000. It is now 230,000.

Since January 1, 1968 they have added 90 battalions. They now have 344 battalions. The bulk of expansion is North Vietnamese. The average strength of the battalions is smaller, from 390 to 240.

They have expanded the structure at the expense of the party. We think this suggests intensified and more pervasive political warfare. And this structure also could accommodate a surge of manpower.

In South Vietnam the threats are:

To the DMZ area. They have made no major effort to date. There has been harassment by fire and small units. But the enemy’s presence is at its maximum today with a total of 16 infantry battalions and five artillery battalions in the DMZ area alone and below the river. There are more units further North. We are entering the rainy season in the DMZ now. It dries out in January 1970.
In the III Corps Saigon area. There are four enemy divisions in the area. A division has been added in recent weeks, with two regiments, artillery and sappers.
Two regiments have moved to IV corps from III corps—one NVA and one VC (75% NVA fillers). Both have moved into the Delta. They thus may be strengthening their position in response to a deteriorating situation for them. The North Vietnamese soldiers don’t get along with the Southerners and are having some problems. (?) heavy unit (?) for the balance of the year seeking high points followed by periods of rehabilitation. An important time will be the (?) early 1970 situation.

[Page 393]

Also, ARVN continues to improve modestly but steadily. On balance, troop reduction so far has had a good effect on the ARVN—at least for the bulk of them. It has strengthened their determination and confidence. This effect is not overwhelming but our troop reduction has at least had a positive effect on the South Vietnamese military.

The President: (? [asked a question about a GVN operation])

General Abrams: It had a good effect. Two regiments moved South. Duc Lap is now under South Vietnamese control. I hope in a way that the battle develops.

Mr. Kissinger: In the next 9 months can one see a possibility of the NVA ([beating?]) up an ARVN unit to show that Vietnamization is[n’t] working?

Ambassador Bunker: Thieu believes this.

Secretary Laird: Ben Het did.

General Abrams: They don’t know, however. They hit Kontum heavily six months ago. I thought they believed it would be at the Fourth Division. There was no public knowledge that Kontum was a GVN or ARVN responsibility. The real purpose was casualties against the U.S. 4th division.

General Wheeler: In that area in the past they went to Cambodia. This time they reinforced, and then (?).

The President: What is the type of ([infiltration?]) of (?) in October, November and December?

General Abrams: At the end of each calendar year it has dropped off. The cycle is the same, although not the degree.

The President: And what about these months?

General Abrams: It declined in October, November and December.

The President: There is a necessity of a political decision. This is a political necessity.

The President: I don’t buy the lull consensus. It is what we want to see. Do you think our casualties will be lower in November, December and January?

General Abrams: Right. They will build in January, February and March and April.

The President: What is your report today on the situation with regard to the effect of troop withdrawal on the morale of U.S. forces?

General Abrams: I have seen none.

The President: What about the refusal situation?

General Abrams: This has happened before.

The President: Any grumbling?

General Abrams: So far, no discernable effect.

[Page 394]

The President: I address this question to General Abrams and Director Helms: What is morale like in Hanoi? I saw last month’s report. As a result, the quality of their forces recedes.

Director Helms: It is about the same. There has been no change.

The President: We hear that troop withdrawal has encouraged some Vietnamese and has discouraged others. Are the North Vietnamese bothered by withdrawals?

Director Helms: I think they want us out.

The President: What about the quality of the North Vietnamese Army?

General Abrams: There are two categories. In III Corps their quality has dropped due to casualties. But in the DMZ area and Ashau area they have time to train hard. They always do very well there. They can go back North. In the South, their deterioration is real.

The President: There has been a change in infiltration totals. 45 percent of (?). Do you see significance in this?

General Abrams: There has been a change in tactics towards small unit attacks to conserve manpower. Something (?) was good this year and they won’t need as many men.

The President: Why?

General Abrams: We are not sure if it is a necessity with (them?) or if it is a conscious decision.

The President: All this bears on the interpretation of what have been lower casualties by the North—whether because of political change or because of necessity.

My point is that in October, November, and December infiltration will be important. It could be for Paris. You think it is going to be low in the next three months?

General Abrams: Yes. But they are targeted against U.S. casualties. 50 percent of the total effort is to try (?). The ([gap?]) between U.S. casualties this year and last year is significant. It has not succeeded.

The President: Back to infiltration: you believe that infiltration is designed to support their tactics, but they have missed, and their casualties have been greater. How do our casualties compare in the first 8 months of 1969 with those of the first 8 months of 1968?

General Abrams: They are below, but not much. (The figures then listed in the notes are clearly inaccurate.)

General Wheeler: The enemy is losing more than he figured. The enemy thought he would save more but he hasn’t.

The President: I think we are not seeing a real lull. This situation is consistent with a change in tactics, etc. Except that infiltration will have to be stepped up. We must get moving then. (?)

[Page 395]

Mr. Kissinger: Are there any changes we are not picking up?

General Abrams: This is possible but we have just started.

Mr. Kissinger: Why did we not pick that up?

General Wheeler: Since the bombing halt, we have seen the railroad go down to the south of Vinh. They move now by ([rail?]) and barge. This bypasses the ([trail?]). We receive fewer reports.

Mr. Kissinger: Does this mean we may (?)

Secretary Rogers: My view is on the figures which are combined; in March it started to drop. May, June and July were all the same. We have had five months drop. This was much different from (?) I think this is significant. So does the intelligence community.

The President: They did this last year too. But 148,000 (?) in 1968 versus 50,000 in 1969 is different.

Secretary Laird: The figures are OK but the interpretation is not.

Secretary Rogers: Assuming the new intelligence is correct, will they be able to conduct the same kind of war with fewer men?

General Abrams: I think they can.

The President: In 1969, 200,000 North Vietnamese were killed and only 50,000 out of the pipeline. So they are in for trouble. It will hurt.

General Abrams: Considering the DMZ units and (?), they get replacements we don’t count. We must add these to the infiltration figures.

The President: We must watch October, November and December.

General Abrams: I would like to say that they have problems. Saigon was a target in 1969. They put in ten new regiments through March. They wanted Saigon. Then Tay Ninh. Now they are at Loc Minhs in the (?) and rubber plantations. On our side their structure is thinly manned and they can take more people.

Secretary Laird: There is no question about the intelligence figures.

Secretary Rogers: It would seem that enemy forces have dropped more than ours. They can reinforce but …

The President: We have to look at the figures in the next 3 months.

Ambassador Bunker: In Thieu’s statement on July 1 he went as far as he could go. It caused uneasiness. He has been several months ahead. Your July 30 visit dispelled this. You said he had gone as far as he would or should go.

The next push was the troop reduction line. This has been constructive but can go either way depending on (?) and the rate. So far this, is so. (?) If it is too fast it will cause a collapse. If done by your criteria, it would be a constructive development.

With regard to Phase II of pacification, Thieu wants to expedite it in intensity and in area covered. It has gotten off to a good start and [Page 396] has moved ahead of schedule. The year-end goals will be met by October 31. Fifty percent of Hamlets were A or B by the end of July. General Abrams’s support has been extremely potent. Less and less of the population is under the VC—86% are relatively secure, 5% are under the VC and 7% are in contested areas. (AH: [Al Haig] This adds up to 98%.)

Thieu is conscious of the need for the political contest to come.

I will next speak about the government reorganization. Thieu had 3 objectives:

  • —to achieve a majority in both houses and improve relations with the army.
  • —to improve the effectiveness of the government.
  • —to broaden its base.

The first has been done; there has been progress in the second; but only partial success in the third. Some Buddhists declined to cooperate, as did Tran van Don. But the cabinet is better than the press indicates and the base is broader. The Vice President was a 1969 candidate. Two parties are represented in the government, as (?) in the Deputy Prime Minister. In general it is an improvement. The problem was in finding a successor to (?) that he tried to get a civilian but couldn’t find one. Thieu was told that he would be criticized but he went ahead with the military man anyway. The new Prime Minister, Khiem, is a Southern Buddhist and a good man.

With regard to enemy intentions, the lull is more a political act but has been (?) by our actions. Losses are up for June, July and August. Defections are up. They have suffered 65,000 losses.

(There was then an interruption in note taking.)

Secretary Rogers: (?) (?) think he will have to when he does it.

The President: Will Thieu expand his base further?

Secretary Rogers: Not for a while.

The President: He is inhibited by these factors.

Secretary Rogers: We bring in the opposition. Why can’t he? Even as advisers.

Ambassador Bunker: He will do this.

Secretary Rogers: Big Minh.

Ambassador Bunker: (?)

Mr. Kissinger: To what degree is their failure to enter the government due to a fear of joining till they know it is a winner?

Ambassador Bunker: To some degree. They also (?) (?) jobs open.

The President: This was also true in the United Kingdom with Churchill.

[Page 397]

What did Thieu and his colleagues think about this lull business? For five years we have been kidding ourselves. The statistics have been wrong. It is to our interest for the U.S. to say there has been a lull in reaction to our initiatives. I know this. But the point is we have got to grapple with the facts, the real world. I am impressed with the drop in infiltration. This means something. Director Helms says that morale is down. There are more reports than ever of this.

There were inaccurate reports in 1965 and 1966 that ARVN was good. But the point now is has there been a change? Our program (?) has not changed very much. The bombing will have been stopped for a year in November. They have done nothing unless these figures mean something. What about this?

Ambassador Bunker: A change in tactics is (?) (?). They need to conserve their forces, but there has been no change in their ultimate objectives. They will try to encourage us to withdraw and then come back when we are down from higher levels.

The President: What about General Abrams?

General Abrams: I have the same view.

The President: I don’t see there is any argument. But how do we use this change? There are three wars—on the battlefield, the Saigon political war, and U.S. politics. At home here it would be great to lower the level of forces and reduce casualties because I am doing it in (?). We can use this but we must know what we are doing. We shouldn’t confuse our policy with the U.S. political dialogue. Can we survive (?) I am not criticizing—there has been a change.

Mr. Habib: I can’t report real progress. There have been 30 plenary and 10 private significant meetings. The character of the plenary meetings is quite clear. They push the 10 points and strongly demand that we get out and overthrow the GVN. The 10 points can be drawn down to U.S. unconditional withdrawal and a coalition government. We have emphasized our May 14 propositions and July 11 statement.

At the private meetings there has been no give at all. The style is different. They stress the 10 points, especially the 2 above.

They continue to refuse to deal with the GVN. We have offered bilateral and quadrilateral but they have refused these. They have not reacted to our probes. They have adopted a strategy of waiting us out. They might do this even if they were willing to negotiate. We have probed the lull but have gotten no reply.

The President: When?

Mr. Habib: Two and one half months ago, and it has been repeated. We have never had an answer.

The President: Do you think they are hung up on face?

[Page 398]

Mr. Habib: No. They are interested in the facts only. We gave a signal in December.

The President: I had a talk with Rusk months ago. He spoke strongly on the understanding. He said (?).

Secretary Rogers: There was no agreement. We find no proof.

The President: We got nothing but talk. Rusk said they knew.

Mr. Habib: They understood but didn’t agree.

Secretary Rogers: There was no agreement just an understanding. They are probing our position. No (?) issues have narrowed.

We believe the fundamental issue is that if they go for a political settlement withdrawal is then solved. They want to prejudice Saigon’s response.

They want to continue the Paris plenary and private meetings.

The President: Why?

Secretary Rogers: They don’t want to seem to be in bad faith before world opinion, and they get advantages in Paris with our press— Kraft, etc., with regard to their own propaganda.

The President: Do they want a settlement?

Mr. Habib: If they get what they want. And then a ceasefire …

Mr. Kissinger: Also in your technical meetings, they were rigid.

Mr. Habib: We have put forward reasonable positions. The talks give us direct communications.

Secretary Rogers: Also, because our position is reasonable, they see it and the world sees it. Our image is much better.

Mr. Habib: Exactly. Our willingness to negotiate and settle is creditable.

Secretary Laird: This was true with the President’s and Thieu’s speech, not at Paris.

Secretary Rogers: Suppose they hit the cities, etc. Could we raid the North successfully? Would it mean much?

General Abrams: Any operation shorter than a couple of weeks would not be favorable.

The President: Suppose it was in new terms, with all targets open. One third of their supplies are in Haiphong.

General Abrams: In terms of their supplies, they have got lots and can get more. It would not be an overwhelming disaster, even if we knock out their powerplants.

The President: The dykes?

Mr. Kissinger: There is nothing that can hurt them?

General Abrams: They can carry on.

[Page 399]

General Wheeler: There would be no fatal blow through seeking a no-holds-barred solution in a couple of weeks. Before the halt Haiphong was a base. Now they are revetted. The port works well. It would take time and good weather to inflict a blow which could do the job. The powerplants are back revetted, walled, etc.

The President: Would you have stopped the bombing if you had to do it again?

General Abrams: No.

The President: Why?

General Abrams: The pressures would have mounted in Hanoi. They were in real trouble. They pulled units out because they couldn’t support them.

The President: Dick, do you think they were in trouble?

Director Helms: Yes, but we can’t determine what would have happened if the bombing had continued.

Mr. Habib: It was our view that they were focused on our domestic problem.

The President: Habib suggested that we talk about ceasefire. Bunker has been concerned about how we could do this. When we met with Thieu on his July statement we promised no more moves without give from the other side. Could Thieu take this talk?

Mr. Habib: We think we should begin to discuss this with the GVN. Then we looked at the possibility of offering a ceasefire.

Ambassador Lodge thinks it may be of value depending on your plans and in the light of pressures this fall. You must judge this. (?) seems you would have gone (?) the road toward peace.

It is in this framework in which (?).

We think it should be a general offer, providing we later accept the details in negotiating (?).

With regard to the question of whether it should be a public or private offer, Ambassador Lodge thinks it should be public. Then there are those who believe it should be private and then public.

The President: Ambassador Bunker, what do you think? I believe we should talk about the pros and cons.

Let’s get to what Habib says. Since November 1 the enemy has done nothing. We have given up the bombing for nothing. We gave our May 15 offer, and what have we gotten? What would Thieu say? Be candid. The Kalb story—he was in contact with the enemy. Let’s have the ([real?]) answer, with no diplomatic language.

Ambassador Bunker: I believe it would depend on the character of a ceasefire. Without enemy withdrawal it would be impossible. I would do nothing but restate our offers. Ambassador Lodge wants [Page 400] to go further. Thieu can’t go along with that unless we get firm conditions:

  • —mutual withdrawal
  • —no enemy capital on Vietnam territory
  • —no suspension of pacification
  • —rights to GVN movement
  • —means to deal with terrorism
  • —cessation of infiltration
  • —the people can move freely
  • —restoration of the status of the DMZ.

The President: You have already done that, haven’t you?

Mr. Habib: In double talk.

The President: I understand. Lodge wants a simple statement. Then they say yes, then what?

Secretary Rogers: If you assume they say no, then you get a public opinion advantage. We shouldn’t propose it but we should talk about it.

Ambassador Bunker: Especially if the enemy (?). We must have an agreed position. We could then look into the pros and cons of a preemptive ceasefire, then get an agreed position.

Secretary Rogers: (?) we have done last (?). We should think it through. We should not do it now. We should talk to Thieu in his own terms.

Mr. Habib: Our position in Paris is that (?) have conditions— preemptive or responsive. Their Foreign Minister raised this question. They are concerned we are up to something.

The President: General Abrams?

General Abrams: I find it a very difficult thing to contemplate, Mr. President. I feel I know the situation in South Vietnam but not elsewhere. Where we are in South Vietnam is due to the application of raw power. That is why the enemy is where he is, why pacification has moved. Why all (?). When you turn off the power you have got an entirely new ball game.

The President: But with the conditions.

Secretary Laird: Why not accept the enemy’s offer and then negotiate and prolong them.

The President: (?)

General Wheeler: If we had a frontal war we could do so. In this war where the enemy is pock-marked in the countryside, unless you have verified withdrawal plus other factors, you are giving the enemy the ultimate advantage. To get me to support a ceasefire we must have stringent (?).

The President: You say that a ceasefire and then negotiations is wrong.

General Wheeler: Disastrous.

[Page 401]

Secretary Rogers: Why is it more advantageous to North Vietnam than South Vietnam?

General Wheeler: Because they won’t live up to it.

Secretary Rogers: Then you are not talking about a ceasefire.

The President: Also, what is the line between fighting and terrorism? 35%?

Director Helms: Also, they are in our ball park.

The President: (?). Now, with regard to Vietnamization, as you know, a case can be made from our public opinion for a complete announcement. There could be a strong case on this. This is the Clifford position—to set a time and then announce it.

The other way is to make it non-automatic, to keep the plans secret, but not the commitment to it. We won’t execute it without diplomatic and military progress. (?). Both are key factors but they are different. Mel, what is your appraisal on this? Has there been a change since December? (?).

Secretary Laird: No. We (?) only in March.

The President: Have we given the Chiefs what they want?

We can discuss the military side and it is controversial. We can agree on our residual force 18–24 months from now. It visualizes ultimately no U.S. forces in Vietnam.

Any residual of 240,000 men in 18–24–42 months from now doesn’t mean the end of the war. I am concerned about our consultations with the TCC’s until our game plan is worked out. We must keep the heat on them to keep giving.

We have a problem here of a U.S. and Congress confident that we are moving forward. I have talked to over 100. They are all asked from their districts when we are going. Paris is not reliable. Announcing this plan is what gives confidence. General Abrams is moving forward rapidly.

The President: What do you suggest? An announcement of the whole program?

Secretary Laird: We all read statistics differently. This must stop. We must all read them the same way.

I am concerned about a 36-hour halt—this is the kind of thing which concerns me. It gives the impression we are drifting.

The President: How long will it take publicly.

Secretary Laird: We have a plan to turn over on (?) percent. Announcements would be based on the success of this plan. It is a plan but no figures. Figures would be a mistake.

We must say we have a program. It would have been better without an August date. (?) We are going forward and will stay with it. Paris is not involved.

[Page 402]

Ambassador Bunker: I agree with Secretary Laird. It would be a great mistake to set a timetable. It plays into the other fellow’s hands. They could sit tight and wait us out.

Admiral ([McCain]): We have four plans.

Mr. Kissinger: If we go down to 250,000 men in support units, would the combat units be out?

General Abrams: Yes, as long as we have some combat support— air and infantry—to protect it.

Secretary Laird: We have some time but we can’t wait until the home front erupts. It can’t help but get (?) from Congress.

The President: How about the next package. We buy time with troop withdrawal announcements.

Secretary Laird: We will get criticism of the next package.

Mr. Kissinger: General Abrams, when will these withdrawals start to reduce our casualties? If casualties decline, this makes sense. If not, this makes no sense.

General Abrams: This is tough to predict.

Secretary Rogers: During the bombing pause, South Vietnamese casualties were up and ours were down.

The Vice President: Withdrawals can be regarded (?) confidence or weakening in resolve. Is there something hard-nosed we can do to show this is Vietnamization and not a bug out?

The President: Not really, but, it would be necessary to hit the North. I know there is another side too. We have been taking the tough position but…

The Vice President: What about the public if not reality?

The President: I disagree with Mel on (?) critics. The May 14 speech and Thieu’s statement opened everything. I doubt it—they will never be satisfied. Next we give a ceasefire, then it could be dump Thieu. We will only lose the war on the third front—at home.

The war is going better. Pacification is proceeding.

At home we have had a lull. First as a new administration, then after the May 14 speech, then with the July meeting. Then there will be the next (?) which won’t be enough. There have been too many leaks. The 75,000–100,000 story was a deliberate leak.

Bill, what do you think?

Secretary Rogers: If we are talking about the New York Times and the Washington Post

The President: You can’t separate them from Congress, they are largely the same.

Secretary Rogers: I have never seen 40% or more opposed to the Administration. If we confuse that with public opinion, it is a mistake. [Page 403] Most of the public agree with our moves so far. We get heckled but not too bad. We must convince the people we have a program we will follow. If we go ahead with reductions, we will get public support. But if it looks like a public relations program, they will distrust us.

We haven’t much in the way of choices. If they think we are going for a military victory the public will leave us. They must know we have a program. We must be able to move ahead quickly and not be held up each time.

The President: You could make the case. Ike had 55 to 60 percent popularity at his best. Johnson had violent opposition from critics and the press who disagreed with the war. He had opposition within his own party. But he had public support until Tet. The President ([withdrew?]). McCarthy dropped to 30% (?), which had a great effect on his decision not to run again.

We expect opposition from columnists.

We have done very well for the last 8 months. But on the other hand, once they get you on the run, it will move fast against us. Then we lose our position with North Vietnam and the confidence of the GVN. What I am saying is, you either favor or oppose the President’s conduct of the war. I think you can buy time.

About Hanoi’s sensitivity to a new initiative for peace—when will they be able to take over? (?)

General Abrams: We must have a base out before hitting the GVN on this. We have talked about schedules of troop withdrawals and residual forces. The exchanges have gone well. They talk realistically. I don’t think we are bugging out.

The President: Everyone is interested in this. I want total security. We should say it was “a general view of the Vietnam situation.” I want no discussion of ceasefire. If asked if it was discussed, we should say “we are not going to discuss that.” There should be no comment on troop withdrawal. We are not going to discuss what we discussed. A number of decisions will be announced when they are made.

If asked when an announcement is made, we are going to follow a policy which will not reveal when the next announcement is coming.

This requires discipline. I want the maximum impact geared to Paris, Saigon and elsewhere. It will be (?) based on the criteria people.

There will be a written statement on this.

We must cut out the numbers game, cut out (?), and cut out speculation. There will be no discussion of ceasefire at all.

If there is to be progress on this front we must have Bunker talk to Thieu. Premature discussion would kill it.

In the future we must look at casualty and (?) figures. It may be we will want to take advantage of it.

[Page 404]

General Mitchell: I agree with Bill and Mel on the domestic front. But I think they are more concerned about drifting. Uncertainty is what hurts. We should say we have a plan and can do it.

The President: We must read the critics knowing what they are after, but we must watch the deeper theme of the people. I personally think Johnson asked for some of his problems, with the bombing halt and overreaction to the critics.

Secretary Rogers: I don’t think we should say anything. Later we should say yes, we have a plan and will tell you when it is ready to be announced.

Secretary Laird: I agree with Bill.

The Vice President: Using the three criteria counters the argument for a timetable.

Mr. Kissinger: We need a plan to end the war, not only to withdraw troops. This is what is on peoples’ minds.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–109, NSC Minutes, Originals, 1969. No classification marking. No drafting information appears on the minutes. An aside in the text indicates that this account was probably based on notes by Haig. The minutes contain incomplete sentences, which are noted by question marks within parentheses. Occasionally the editors have suggested possible text within brackets when it seemed logical and plausible. No other record of this meeting has been found. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the following attended this NSC meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House from 9:24 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.: Nixon, Agnew, Rogers, Laird, Mitchell, Wheeler, Helms, Bunker, Abrams, McCain, Habib, Kissinger, and Haig. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. In a September 11 memorandum to Nixon, Kissinger stated that “a series of ten to fifteen-minute briefings” had been prepared, and that he recommended that he open the meeting by introducing the briefers in the following order: “1. Dick Helms (situation in North Vietnam in the wake of Ho’s death). 2. General Abrams (military situation). 3. Ambassador Bunker (political situation). 4. Phil Habib (status of Paris negotiations).” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 139, Vietnam Country Files, Vietnam, Vol. X, September 1969) In another memorandum to the President on September 12, Kissinger suggested yet more definitive topics for the NSC meeting later that day. Kissinger wrote that in addition to the briefings, he thought the meeting “should be comprised of a far-ranging discussion on Vietnam” and that two specific issues, “the second replacement increment under the Vietnamization Program and the general topic of ceasefire” ought to be covered. Regarding the cease-fire, Kissinger wrote: “I believe we should encourage full, frank, and open exchange of views” and that “regardless of your intentions with respect to this subject, I recommend that you do not make a decision at this meeting so that you will maintain flexibility and control.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–024, Special NSC Meeting, 9/12/69, Vietnam)