121. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to Secretary of Defense Laird 1

The President has directed that the Department of Defense should undertake immediately a program to accomplish the following actions with respect to Laos:

—Provide M–16s. (Of a Lao request for 20,000, some 4,000 have been supplied. Provision of the remainder should have a major effect on Lao military effectiveness and morale.)2

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  • —Provide T–28s for the Lao by shifting them from the Thai and replacing those given up by the Thai. Check the number of qualified Lao pilots and see whether immediate input of more trainees is necessary. If so, initiate an expanded training program in Thailand or elsewhere. Consider the utility of other fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters.
  • —Ascertain whether more C–47 and C–130 gunships could usefully be deployed.
  • —See whether logistic and ammunition support to Lao army is adequate, and effect improvement if not. If more pay and allowances would make the Lao fight better, this, too, should be provided.
  • —Increase artillery support for key points in Laos. Reintroduce a Thai battery or single pieces where they would be able to provide training and also have military value, or institute immediate training for the Lao and prepare to turn over 105’s—whichever is better tactically, or even a mix of all. Some artillery support is obviously better than no artillery support, as is now the case.
  • —Implement better reconnaissance capability and ARDF support on lines of communications into Northern Laos, if lack of information is a limiting factor in our ability to cope. (This may not be so important, with Meo spotters in much of the area.)

The President has asked that you report periodically on the progress of this action program.

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 545, Country Files, Far East, Laos, Vol. I, to 31 July 1969. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusive; Eyes Only. Copies were sent to Rogers and Helms.
  2. On September 16 at 2:30 p.m., Laird and Kissinger talked on the telephone. Laird mentioned the inability of the Lao forces to absorb weapons and the fact that they were ending up in the Philippines and elsewhere. Kissinger stated “the President was eager to do the maximum possible. He has been putting heat on me.” The President complained that he wanted to do something in Laos, but “everyone tells him he can’t do it.” Laird suggested sending the rifles in increments of 1 or 2 thousand at a time. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 360, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File) In a September 26 memorandum to Laird, Kissinger revised the provision of M–16 rifles as follows: “Provision of 16,000 additional M–16 rifles should be carried out at a rate contingent on the ability of the Lao forces to utilize them effectively. Steps should be taken to expedite the training of the Lao forces in this regard. A monthly report of progress should be made.” In an attached memorandum to Nixon, September 19, Kissinger explained: “Mel maintains that such an immediate input [of 16,000 additional M–16s to the Lao forces] would exceed the Lao military’s ability to absorb due to lack of training, require prolonged in-country storage and risk unauthorized diversions or pilferage of the weapons.” (Both National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 545, Country Files, Far East, Laos, Vol. I, to 31 July 1969)

    On March 7, 1970, Laird reported to the President on longer term actions developed by the JCS as part of a comprehensive plan to improve the Lao Government’s armed forces. (Ibid., Box 546, Vol. VI, February 1970–31 March 1970)