213. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Laos


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • Alexis Johnson
  • Marshall Green
  • CIA
  • Lt. Gen. Robert E. Cushman, Jr.
  • Thomas H. Karamessines
  • William Nelson
  • Defense
  • G. Warren Nutter
  • Lt. Col. Gerald H. Britten
  • JCS
  • Gen. Earle G. Wheeler
[Page 737]
  • NSC Staff
  • Gen. Haig
  • Col. Kennedy
  • Col. Behr
  • Mr. Holdridge
  • Mr. Guthrie

Summary of Conclusions

The WSAG was informed of the President’s decision to move a Thai battalion, on an unacknowledged basis, to Long Tieng as soon as possible in response to the requests received from Thanat and Souvanna.2
CIA will have responsibility for making arrangements to move the Thai battalion to Long Tieng. In carrying out the operation, it should be understood clearly that an orderly retreat from Long Tieng, if necessary, is considered preferable to encirclement.
The State Department will prepare and submit to Dr. Kissinger draft messages to Thanat and Souvanna informing them of the President’s decision.3
The message to Thanat will take the form of a letter from Mr. Kissinger and will be delivered to Thanat by Ambassador Unger. The letter should include a statement to the effect that we consider it would be a prudent measure that a regimental combat team be assembled. We will not make any U.S. commitment to provide support for this regimental combat team or for its employment.
The message to Souvanna will take the form of a letter from the President. It will note the need for Souvanna to make a formal request to the Thai Government for the battalion. However, preparations to move the battalion will not be delayed awaiting confirmation that a Lao request has been transmitted to the Thais.
Our public position, on an if-asked basis, will be the same as that already taken on Sierra Romeo, namely, that reports of movement of Thai troops to Laos are exaggerated and that the question is one for the Thai and Lao Governments, to whom inquiries should be directed. We will ask the Thai and Lao Governments to adopt a position of no comment in response to inquiries. We will urge the Thai and Lao Governments not to deny that additional Thai troops have been sent to Laos.
It was the consensus of the WSAG that the Administration should take the initiative in informing the Senate Foreign Relations [Page 738] Committee of the movement of the Thai battalion to Laos. The WSAG recommended that the Committee be told that in response to requests from the Governments of Thailand and Laos, we are assisting with the movement of a few hundred more Thai troops to Laos. The new movement should be explained as an extension of the Sierra Romeo program about which the Committee has already been informed. Mr. Kissinger will seek the views of Bryce Harlow and will ask the President’s approval of the WSAG proposal.
All operational communications involving the movement of the Thai battalion are to be handled through CIA channels. Other communications are to be transmitted through the most secure channels. Knowledge of the movement is to be restricted within each agency.
The letters which the President has already approved to signatories of the Geneva Convention other than Great Britain and the Soviet Union are to be dispatched.4
The WSAG and Laos Working Groups will revise their contingency plans to take into account the President’s decision to move a Thai battalion to Laos.5

[Omitted here are the minutes of the meeting.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–114, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1969–1970. Top Secret; Sensitive. Colonel Behr sent this record and the minutes of six other WSAG meetings on Laos and Cambodia to Kissinger on March 31. A note on Behr’s transmittal memorandum reads: “HAK has seen. 4/6.” The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. On March 28, 800 Thai troops were airlifted from Udorn to Long Tieng and took up positions in the Long Tieng defensive perimeter. (Memorandum from Karamessines to Kissinger, March 28; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 101, Vietnam Subject Files, Sensitive, Souvanna Phouma/Long Tieng)
  3. See Document 214 and footnote 6 thereto.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 204.
  5. Kissinger talked on the telephone with Nixon who was in Key Biscayne, Florida, at 5:10 p.m. on March 26. The portion of the conversation dealing with Laos follows: “P: And the Thai battalion, are we going to get them in there? K: That’s done also. P: And there’s going to be no announcement. We are just going to do it. We don’t have to explain it. The Thais are defending their own country. Hell, I would do that, wouldn’t you Henry? K: I had a long talk with Alex Johnson and he feels the same way. P: He’s a nice guy.” (Memorandum of telephone conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, March 26; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1007, Haig Special File, Vietnam Files, Vol. V [2 of 2])