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


  • Troop Replacements
[Page 472]

Attached at Tab A is a report from Ambassador Bunker2 of his conversations with President Thieu on troop replacements:3

Thieu made the following points, inter alia:

  • —South Vietnamese defense leaders believe that without changing draft laws there are adequate manpower resources to replace about 150,000 US troops next year.
  • —In order to replace 150,000 US troops, the Vietnamese force strength planned for the end of 1970 would have to be increased to 1,100,000.
  • —Any new replacements should not be made until March or April 1970.
  • —Announcing US intentions to pull out the bulk of its combat troops would not have adverse political or morale effects in South Vietnam but the timing of reductions should be kept secret.
  • —Modern weaponry supplied by the US is essential if the morale and effectiveness of the People’s Self Defense Force is to be improved.

Mr. Bunker offered, inter alia, the following preliminary observations:

  • —We should encourage Thieu to proceed with planning for an expanded strength of 1,100,000.
  • —Before fixing next year’s schedule, we should evaluate enemy plans for increased military effort.
  • —The announcement of an overall replacement goal of 150,000 might have adverse effects on the morale of our own troops, as well as those of the ARVN.
  • —If the timing of replacement plans became known, it would give considerable military advantages to the enemy.
  • Thieu’s approach to troop replacements, economic improvements, and pacification is impressive.
  • —On many counts the new government is already turning in a more effective performance than its predecessor.

Unless there is a major enemy offensive in the interim, I believe the next replacement increment should be announced in early December [Page 473] before the pressure surrounding December 15 has had a chance to build. The period for accomplishing the next replacement probably should cover a longer time interval and thus encompass a larger withdrawal increment.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1320, Unfiled Material, 1969, 6 of 19. Top Secret; Eyes Only. At the bottom of the first page are the following handwritten notes by Nixon: “1. Mel should increase the V. Nam weapons & training program. I still think the military is foot dragging. 2. Ask Bunker to pass a sanitized version of this assessment through channels to State.”
  2. Tab A, attached but not printed, is a retyped version of backchannel message 226 from Saigon, October 25, sent from Bunker to Kissinger. The original message is ibid., NSC Files, Box 65, Vietnam Subject Files, 8–A, All Backchannel, Vol. II, 10/69.
  3. An earlier discussion between Bunker and Thieu on October 17, regarding Vietnamization, manpower issues, infiltration, a cease-fire, land reform, Thieu’s image in the United States, Thieu’s political base, pacification, and the economic situation is in telegram 20975 from Saigon, October 18. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S)