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


  • Covert Operations to Undermine Enemy Morale in Vietnam

Recently you requested information about over-all U.S. programs designed to reduce morale in North Vietnam and among the Viet Cong, the adequacy of such programs and what might be done to improve them.2

For security reasons I have separated my response into two sections and attach hereto a summary of CIA-sponsored covert operations directed at undermining enemy morale in both North and South Vietnam and related activity targeted against the North Vietnamese in Laos.3

[1 paragraph (4 lines of source text) not declassified]

These are:

[4 paragraphs (12 lines of source text) not declassified]

Despite the formidable difficulty of measuring the effectiveness of covert operations in denied areas, there is tangible evidence that these efforts have had some impact on North Vietnamese and Viet Cong morale.

[Page 510]

On page 4 of the attached summary, CIA proposes that consideration be given to the following suggestions for strengthening the effort to undermine enemy morale:

Re-examination of the total allied broadcasting effort reaching the enemy in South Vietnam to determine if it is adequate. It is possible that some transmitter assets now being directed at North Vietnam should be reoriented to the enemy in South Vietnam.
Reintroduction of leaflets into North Vietnam using wind drift insertion from aircraft flying over international waters or third countries adjacent to North Vietnam.
Utilization of Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army ralliers within the South Vietnam psychological warfare organizations.
Intensification of efforts to improve thematic guidance and selective targeting through better utilization of intelligence.


That you authorize me to explore further through the 303 Committee, and other channels as appropriate, the suggestions enumerated above for improvement of our efforts to erode enemy morale.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 960, Haig Chronological Files, December 9–16, 1969 [1 of 2]. Secret; Eyes Only. Sent for action.
  2. In a November 24 memorandum to Kissinger, Nixon wrote: “Are we doing everything we can with regard to trying to disrupt morale in North Vietnam and among the VC? On several of my visits to Vietnam people told me that there could be programs which would be effective in reducing morale in those areas. I know that CIA, of course, is a miserable flop in this field, but will you give me a report as to whether our program, if any, is adequate.” (Ibid.)
  3. Reference is to an attached 4-page undated memorandum entitled “Covert Operations To Undermine Enemy Morale.” In a December 15 memorandum to the President, Kissinger listed overt programs to reduce North Vietnamese and VC morale. Within South Vietnam these included: U.S. Mission-sponsored radio programs estimated to reach 70 percent of the population, a 1.3 million 2-page newspaper air dropped fortnightly over contested areas, special mass circulation of important documents such as Nixon’s speech of November 3, the Chieu Hoi program, and U.S. Army psywar leaflet drops from B–52’s in South Vietnam and Laos. The only psywar operation against North Vietnam was a radio service called the “Voice of Freedom,” broadcast from Hue but unreliable in reaching Hanoi or the Red River Delta during the day. After discussions with his staff and people involved in these programs, Kissinger suggested that the programs in South Vietnam were adequate, but radio output to North Vietnam should be improved and leaflet drops on North Vietnam should be renewed. Nixon approved asking Defense and USIA for a formal assessment of psywar operations, especially against North Vietnam. (Ibid., Box 141, Vietnam Country Files, Vietnam, Vol. XIII–2, 11–31 December 1969)
  4. Nixon checked the approve option and wrote: “Step up this activity to the maximum extent possible.” On December 11 Kissinger informed Frank Chapin that Nixon had approved this memorandum and instructed that the issue be placed on the 303 Committee agenda for consideration at an early date.