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


  • North Vietnam Contingency Plan

The President has requested that a contingency plan be prepared for the conduct of a three-day, retaliatory air and naval campaign against North Vietnam. This plan would be in addition to those now in preparation as a result of the President’s meeting with you and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on October 11, 1969.2

The objective of the attack would be to impose maximum damage against remunerative military and war-supporting targets within a [Page 471] short time in order to demonstrate the ability and willingness of the United States to resume full-scale air and naval operations against North Vietnam. The following additional guidance is provided:

Operations against NVN will be in response to enemy provocation, and will apply the maximum feasible level of effort.
Initial launch of aircraft will be within 72 hours following a Presidential decision.
The plan should emphasize primarily attacks against enemy military targets, including stockpiles in the Haiphong Port area, and secondarily against high value economic targets.
Risk of civilian casualties should be minimized.
Naval surface forces will support the retaliatory attack to the extent feasible.
Mining operations will not be authorized.

In addition to the above, it is requested that the President be provided with an estimate of U.S. aircraft losses under two conditions:

Concentrated attack against the enemy air and air defense system, such as envisioned in the Pruning Knife plan.
More limited attacks against the enemy air and air defense targets necessary to provide minimum essential protection to the strike forces.

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 1, Chronological File, 1969 October–November. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. See Document 136.