138. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Washington Special Action Group’s Recommendations for Providing Military Assistance to Laos

The Washington Special Action Group has developed a plan for providing military assistance to the Lao Government forces.2 This plan lists actions which are already under way, and also contains agreed recommendations on further actions for your approval. The actions already taken include providing the regular and irregular Lao Government forces with M–16s and more artillery, giving the Air Force additional T–28s, improving and maintaining US aerial reconnaissance capability and tactical air operations, increasing Thai training and support of the Lao forces, and supporting political moves by Prince Souvanna Phouma to improve his posture as a genuine neutralist.

Actions for which your approval is requested are:3

Working out with our Embassies in Vientiane and Bangkok the introduction of a small Thai fire-control element into Laos to assist Meo gun crews, phasing the Thai out when Meo have been adequately [Page 467] trained to replace them. The assumption is that immediate reintroduction of the full Thai artillery battery which was withdrawn earlier (“Sierra Romeo VIII”) might reveal the Thai presence and leave Thailand vulnerable to charges of violating the 1962 Geneva Accords.
Continue studying with Embassies Vientiane and Bangkok the possible utilization of “Sierra Romeo VIII” elsewhere in Laos where it can be both effective and not readily visible or vulnerable. Defense believes that this battery is a useful asset; Ambassador Unger wants it to show the Thai that US interests continue in maintaining a military balance in Laos.
Consider via our Ambassadors in Bangkok and Vientiane giving specialized and intensive training to Thai forces for possible future operations against the North Vietnamese in Laos. Although the Thai forces would not necessarily be committed, their extra capabilities would be available in the event that their help becomes needed.
Once a North Vietnamese offensive begins and suitable targets are identified, implementing B–52 reconnaissance to develop strike information and possibly to give Hanoi a signal. This action would be withheld for the present, however, to give us an opportunity to study countermeasures for dealing with the risks involved and to provide for necessary advanced planning.
If an enemy offensive assumes a size indicating an intention of going beyond the previous pattern of attacks, giving commanders in the field authority to increase manned tactical reconnaissance activities over North Vietnam and the Lao border area below 19 degrees north and initiate tactical reconnaissance in the border area above 19 degrees north. Such activity would enhance intelligence collection capability, provide target data for possible future actions, serve as a signal to the DRV that we might bomb portions of North Vietnam, and possibly cause the DRV to disperse supplies and reconsider plans for an offensive.
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 64, Memoranda to the President, 1969 October. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. Drafted by Holdridge on October 16, and sent to Kissinger under a covering memorandum of the same date.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 131.
  3. Nixon initialed the approve option for all 5 recommendations. In an October 23 memorandum to Rogers, Laird, and Helms, Kissinger directed them to undertake these five actions. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 1, Chronological File, 1969 October–November)