232. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Helms to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Delivery of Arms and Ammunition to the Cambodian Government
This memorandum responds to a request from General Haig for a plan for the delivery of arms and ammunition to the Cambodian Government. In the light of decisions taken at the WSAG Meeting of 14 April2 to supply captured AK–47 weapons, we are outlining below alternative plans which might be implemented if the captured AK–47 route proves not adequate or feasible.

The Cambodian Army and its Weapons Supply:

The Cambodian Army (FARK) has a troop strength of 50,000 men including 10,000 reservists who were recalled to active duty in March 1970. The Army is organized into 55 infantry and commando battalions with the average strength of 380 men in each battalion. The Army has in addition nine one-half brigades (Demi-Brigade) of various sizes.

This regular Army is supplemented by an estimated 50,000 militia which includes 30,000 home guards, 15,000 provincial guards, 6,000 [Page 816] police and 5,000 members of the National Youth Movement. This militia is under the command control of the Cambodian Army.
The Cambodian Army has been supplied military aid by both Communist and non-Communist countries. In recent years it has attempted to equip the standard Cambodian infantry battalion with the 7.62mm Communist-manufactured family of weapons. This round is not compatible with the 7.62mm bullet used in NATO equipment. Moreover, the ammunition clip is not interchangeable. The basic weapon of each battalion is the AK–47 assault rifle. The battalion generally has 150 rifles. In addition, each battalion has 40 pistols, 120 carbines, 18 light machine-guns, 3 heavy machine-guns, 5 mortars, 3 recoilless rifles and 7 rocket launchers.
We have sensitive documentary intelligence listing the inventory of Communist-supplied weapons currently held in Cambodian warehouses under FARK control. (See Attachment A)3 This currently stored equipment could equip almost 43 Cambodian Army infantry battalions. The Cambodians have also received weapons and ammunition from the Free World. This equipment was supplied by the United States until 1963 and by the French who have continued a military assistance program. Attachment B4 lists such matériel currently in Cambodian warehouses. We have, however, no idea of its condition. If in good condition, this matériel would equip up to 30 Cambodian Army battalions. A major problem facing the Cambodians is the continued supply of ammunition for either of its family of weapons. Cambodia has no capability to manufacture ammunition. On the basis of our current information, however, it would seem that the Cambodian Army is capable of considerable expansion simply by the use of stocks of weapons held in their warehouses.

Alternative Means of Covertly Supplying Weapons to the Cambodian Army:

If the United States wishes to supply covertly weapons and ammunition to the Cambodians in addition to what can be provided by use of captured Communist weapons, there appear to be two immediate options open to us. These are to work out an arrangement with the Indonesian Government to supply the Communist family of weapons drawn from Indonesian stocks or to provide direct covert support from Free World weapons drawn from American stockpiles.

We believe the Indonesian Government currently has 10 to 15,000 AK–47’s. We do not know the condition of this equipment or whether there is available a continuing supply of ammunition and clips. The Indonesian Government is thinking of assisting the Cambodians.5 The Cambodian Government has asked for arms assistance from Indonesia. The Indonesians would like to see the Cambodian Government maintain its public neutral stance and would want to supply arms to Cambodia covertly. The Indonesians have sufficient civil and military airlift to make an initial delivery of weapons to Cambodia. Subsequent weapons deliveries could be made by ship. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] feels that the Indonesian Government would like to undertake this assistance program to Cambodia but in all probability would expect the United States to replace these arms probably with NATO-type weapons. CIA could undertake immediately to negotiate with the Indonesian Government on a covert basis for delivery of such weapons to Cambodia.
The most promising alternative to the Indonesian proposal is the covert supply of weapons to Cambodia through CIA facilities. Such weaponry is now being made available to the Laotian Government. If our storage facilities [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] were used, CIA could stage the weapons delivery without enlarging current facilities. The Agency has 1,000 man weapons-pack in which the basic weapon is the U.S. M–2 carbine. We can make 10 such weapons packs available within the next three weeks and transport them [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] if given sufficient airlift priority. Each pack could equip three Cambodian battalions. [1½ lines of source text not declassified] We also believe CIA could move the equipment covertly to Cambodia using CIA-controlled aircraft. A continuing supply of ammunition and clips is insured with this equipment.
Before either of these alternatives is considered we recommend that further talks be held with the Cambodians to determine the extent to which they really need military aid. We believe they should be encouraged to survey the equipment now available to them in storage. If desired, however, we stand ready to move ahead with either or both of the alternatives outlined above.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 506, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. III, 10 April 1970–23 April 1970. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. See Document 230.
  3. Attachment A, entitled “Cambodia: Inventory of Communist-Supplied Weapons and Ammunition, 1969,” is attached but not printed.
  4. Attachment B, entitled “Cambodia: Inventory of Selected Free World-Supplied Weapons and Ammunition,” is attached but not printed.
  5. In telegrams 2631 and 2645 from Djakarta, both April 15, the Embassy reported that Suharto indicated readiness to assist Cambodia with small arms if the United States would replenish Cambodia’s stocks. (Both are in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 CAMB)