215. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- B–52 Operations in Cambodia
In response to your request for an examination of the usefulness of B–52 strikes against base camps used by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong in Cambodia,2 Secretary Laird has provided a report (Tab A)3 based on three assessments made by the Joint Chiefs of Staff since August 1969 when weekly B–52 strikes were commenced. In their evaluations the Joint Chiefs and MACV have strongly affirmed the value of the strikes and stated that B–52 raids in Cambodia:
- —continue to produce extensive damage to enemy facilities and losses of enemy troops and matériel.
- —have resulted in a decrease in North Vietnamese and Viet Cong activity levels in the immediate strike areas.
- —are an essential and logical ingredient in the overall interdiction campaign applied against the enemy.
- —have preempted and reduced enemy operations.
- —have a direct bearing on the success of Vietnamization.
- —may have played a significant role in the recent political changes in Cambodia.
- —are sustainable in spite of operating costs and political risks.
Although mindful of some political risks involved, Secretary Laird concurs with the assessment of the Joint Chiefs and MACV that these operations are effective. He points out that during his recent trip to Vietnam both Ambassador Bunker and General Abrams told him that these raids have been “one of the most telling operations in the entire war.”[Page 742]
Secretary Laird expects to have a more detailed report in the not-too-distant future.4
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 104, Vietnam Subject Files, Menu Strikes, November. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent for information.↩
- On a February 18 routine briefing memorandum on results of B–52 strikes in Cambodia from Kissinger, Nixon wrote: “Do we need to examine the usefulness of continued strikes?” On March 3 Kissinger asked Laird for an analysis of the menu bombing and whether it should continue. (Both ibid.)↩
- Tab A, a March 24 memorandum from Laird to the President, is attached but not printed.↩
- On March 27 Kissinger sent the President a report that COSVN reportedly had issued orders to place military forces on alert and evacuate ordnance, food, and medicine to Vietnam to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Cambodian military. Units were to remain stationary and avoid clashes with Cambodian troops. Also included was the fact that there was no evidence of wholesale movement of units from Cambodian sanctuaries into South Vietnam. In fact, the border area remained quiet. Nixon wrote the following note: “K. Step up menu series immediately (no appeal).” There is a note in an unknown handwriting that this was “Done.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 104, Vietnam Subject Files, Menu Strikes, November)↩