195. Memorandum From President Nixon to his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Bill Rogers raised a very pertinent point when he asked why it is that those forces trained by Communists seem to have a will to fight whereas those that are trained by the United States usually are pretty sad.

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Of course, there are exceptions to this proposition. The UAR pilots are pitiful and the South Koreans turned out to be rather effective. On the other hand, I wonder if our whole training program doesn’t need to be examined. This brings me back to the fundamental concern I have with regard to Vietnamization. I feel that Abrams et al are putting too much emphasis on building the image of the U.S. division with a huge division slice rather than building it as the North Vietnamese have built theirs, lean and strong and effective. I want a study made of this situation and I do not want simply a rationalization and defense from those involved.2 I think we have to get to the heart of this proposition if we can.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 144, Vietnam Country Files, Vietnam, March 1970. Confidential. The memorandum is unsigned.
  2. In a March 3 covering memorandum to Kissinger, Haig stated that “attached is one of those extremely troublesome memos from the President.” Haig was “especially disturbed at the President’s misunderstanding of General Abrams’ concepts and style. Of all the generals that I have observed, he has the best grasp of how to conduct guerrilla warfare and hopefully how to structure the force to do so.” Haig suggested that the study Nixon asked for “is the kind DOD has conducted wholesale over the past eight years under the Democratic Administration.” Haig also suggested that the President should know that Vietnamization emphasized the development of RF/PF and PS/DF rather than additional ARVN conventional forces. (Ibid.) Haig asked Lynn to task Defense with the study, but warned that Lynn would have to make sure that the report was responsive to the President and not just DOD “rationalizations.” (Memorandum from Haig to Lynn, March 6; ibid.)
  3. In a March 3 memorandum to Nixon, Kissinger responded to a request from the President about the truth of a CBS report on February 15 that ARVN was “cursed” privately and “patronized” publicly by U.S. forces. While admitting that there was some substance to the charge, Kissinger suggested it was a distortion to say it held true for all relations between U.S. forces and ARVN. Good relations were seldom newsworthy. Kissinger reported that Defense was studying ARVN pay and support for dependents as a factor in motivation and desertion rates. Nixon wrote the following note: “K. Let’s watch this closely—we cannot let a failure in this area to cause us to lose the game.”