255. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • David Packard, Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • U. Alexis Johnson, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Richard Helms, Director, CIA
  • Marshall Green, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Richard T. Kennedy, NSC Staff
  • Brig. Gen. John A. Vogt, Jr., USAF, Joint Staff, Director for Operations


  • WSAG Meeting (Principals)

Dr. Kissinger: I have spoken with the President. There must be no leaks. All the departments will be held responsible. There should be a list of people who get Nodis cables on this subject.

[Page 870]

The decision memo reflects the President’s views.2 If Cambodia becomes a Communist base, Vietnamization becomes impossible. The psychological blow will be terrific. We require implementation of the NSDM quickly.

Helms: [gives a briefing.]3 There is no attack in the city but they are trying to surround it, terrorize it, and then send in a delegation to negotiate. There is a report that VC terrorists are in the city. Encircling is a more effective tactic in terrorizing than taking the city.

The Cambodian Army took back Saang.

I can show you the location of the sanctuaries. The big ones are near Takeo and Loc Ninh.

Packard: Pour heat into the sanctuaries.

Moorer: We have a plan to execute the Parrot’s Beak operation. It’s a division-plus size operation on two sites. Next is the plan for the COSVN area. We started the cross-border operations last night. We have no U.S. tac air now in Cambodia. The VNAF does it except for part.

Abrams has an order to look at all possible operations and plan them.

Kissinger: Have we moved troops to the border since the President ordered them?

Moorer: Some elements of the 25th have moved, but not in the last 24 hours.

Kissinger: The President ordered it. It must be done. He wants specific units moved to the border in the vicinity of the base areas. He wants a written statement by the close of business stating what units have been moved to the base areas.

What is opposite COSVN?

Moorer: Primarily U.S. forces—the 1st Cavalry. They can be moved closer. We will move them immediately and notify you by close of business.

We also will cover the areas which the South Vietnamese cover.

The NVA may move their forces but they can’t move the caches.

Johnson: What do they have in there?

Moorer: A small force—one regiment in the Parrot’s Beak.

Johnson: Why is the first operation in the Parrot’s Beak?

Moorer: Because the South Vietnamese can handle it and succeed.

Johnson: What does that include?

[Page 871]

Moorer: South Vietnamese tac air and artillery. They’ll have U.S. artillery and tac air support—if needed. There is no constraint on U.S. tac air. The recce we’ll leave to MACV.

Kissinger: If MACV requests it, we approve.

Johnson: Do we tell Lon Nol?

Kissinger: Yes, but about the time we launch it.

Green: Lon Nol should request it. If we put to him he might agree.

Kissinger: Tell him shortly before.

Johnson: We will have the messages ready.

Moorer: We’ll go from both sides.

Kissinger: Will the VC turn around—will it force them back?

Helms: North Vietnam calculated we wouldn’t do this; it will jolt them.

Johnson: The problem is we don’t want to push them deeper into Cambodia.

Moorer: If we get at the caches, they have a logistics problem.

Helms: One report is that they have enough supplies in the bases to keep the war going a long time.

Kissinger: Can we keep this going next week?

Moorer: We can keep this one going but not another major operation.

Packard: It’s a feint against COSVN and then they attack Parrot’s Beak.

Helms: It’s near Saigon; thus it’s a good move for the rear in South Vietnam. It will have a psychological effect.

Green: Is there any U.S. involvement?

Kissinger: No Americans go into Cambodia.

You will have plans for U.S. tac air—but request from Washington.

You will have plans for the other operation. The one against the COSVN headquarters is a feint.

Moorer: Yes.

Kissinger: Can’t we stop the press from going in the area?

Packard: We can stop them for a while—they will see what we can do.

Kissinger: I want the press policy of MACV to close it off and let it leak out. If this is worth doing, we want the message to get to the other side.

Packard: We must act as though we’re serious.

Johnson: MACV handled it as an operational announcement.

Kissinger: We must take the responsibility to impress Hanoi.

[Page 872]

Johnson: In the approach to Lon Nol, we have a scenario for what he says.

Kissinger: You prepare a scenario for the diplomatic and public relations aspects: what do we say, where we say it.

Packard: We should approach the Thai to assure Lon Nol they will protect the borders.

Johnson: We should do this. We will notify Unger.4

Moorer: What about Thieu? He should be on board.

Johnson: We will want Thieu to assure Lon Nol they have no intention to occupy Cambodia. We’ll give Moorer a paragraph for a cable to Abrams.5

Kissinger: Can we let Lon Nol know help is on the way?

Johnson: He has been told that the rest of the AK–47s will be delivered this week. We have a draft letter for a response to the Lon Nol letter.

Kissinger: Get it today. Make it as forthcoming as possible.

Helms: Lowenstein and Moose are going to Cambodia Tuesday.6

Johnson: We will get instructions to Rives. We also will beef up Rives—he will get additional officers.

Helms: I will see Mansfield today at 4:00, per your instruction.

Kissinger: I will see Fulbright this afternoon.7

Green: Should we press on UN actions?

Kissinger: No.

We will meet at 4:00 to discuss the military, political scenario and public relations scenario. We need a Presidential statement.

The President wants a major diplomatic effort to get others to do something—Japanese, Indonesia. The President will promise to replace [Page 873] the stocks if they need it. He wants a proposal within 24 hours for the maximum encouragement to other countries.

Green: Regarding Indonesia: Malik wants to hold back military assistance until after a diplomatic conference. The others in the government want to go ahead with military assistance. How do we do this without alienating Malik?

The Australian is too pallid. We bucked him up. We sent another message to the Japanese.8

Kissinger: Let’s do a memo to the President—what we have done, what we can do for each country.9

Johnson: The UK is a lost cause.

Green: He will delay his trip to Europe.

Kissinger: The 3,500 Khmer—are they moving?

Moorer: Abrams was contacted. He’s working up a plan now. Some are already across the border. 1,100. We plan to use South Vietnamese aircraft for the rest.

Johnson: What about relations between Song Ngoc Trang and Lon Nol?

Moorer: There’s close cooperation politically on the reception in Phnom Penh.

Johnson: We should work out the clearance in Phnom Penh as soon as we can know the arrival time.

Do we continue to pay them?

Kissinger: Yes.

Johnson: We should get a South Vietnamese mission into Phnom Penh soon. We’re working on it.

Moorer: We will get all the information available before the 7:00 o’clock meeting.

Kissinger: Military assistance takes a long time to be effective. Can we handle the 1,000-man packs through the GVN?

Helms: Yes. We will work it out. We would agree to turn it over to the GVN now for this purpose.

Kissinger: The Chiefs want to send M–1s from the self-defense forces.

Moorer: Yes. We have them and ammo and the Cambodians already have some.

[Page 874]

Helms: It would be helpful if a man could go in to help them for a few days with the packs.

Kissinger: I see no problem. I will raise this with the President.

Packard: How about communications equipment? They need it. We should include some with delivery of the packs.

Packard: How about Intelligence? Should we go deeper with COMINT?

Moorer: I’ll take a reading on this.

Kissinger: How many M–1’s can we give them? I want a recommendation on this this evening.

Johnson: I like the packs as a first step.

Helms: We will have details on the packs tonight.

Moorer: I will look to see that the Attaché group is adequate to handle the incoming shipments.

Johnson: Shouldn’t we beef up the Attaché group?

Moorer: I agree. We’ll get it underway.

Packard: How about the waterway? We need protection there. It’s an international waterway.

Moorer: We would use South Vietnamese boats to escort them. We have developed plans.

Packard: We can use the river to get a third day’s supplies of oil, etc.

Kissinger: Should we have air delivery of all things?

[All agree.]

Packard: We have 14,000 M–1s and M–14’s that could be delivered within 14 days.

Kissinger: Let’s have a plan by this evening to deliver the weapons and radios. We need an estimate.

Johnson: How much can they use effectively?

Helms: We need some people in to help them organize. We’ll have this for later.

Johnson: The question is, are we going the Lao route?

Helms: These are the basic questions.

Kissinger: Compared to the Cambodian Government, Laos looks good.

Packard: We have a package for a 30,000-man force with ammo for the operation—it’ll cost $30 million. It’s too early to decide. We have some radios that could be available in one to fourteen days.

Kissinger: We will confirm that the arms were delivered by South Vietnam. It was not an answer to the arms request. It was done with our knowledge and approval.

[Page 875]

[At 11:50, General Vogt briefed on the plan.]

Vogt: As early as Sunday night EST, with elements of two divisions, 10,000 men. They’ll be there ten days. They face 5,800 enemy troops. The Task Group of the US 25th Division will apply pressure on the border area around Parrot’s Beak. The 1st Cavalry will move up against the border in the north near COSVN headquarters. We’ll give tac air, gunship and medical evacuation, and aerial resupply and evacuation assistance as required.

Kissinger: That is to be approved here.

Vogt: We want advisors along for control of the US tac air and gun ships in case they are needed. We could helo in but we’d prefer to go along.

Kissinger: I will take it up with the President.

Vogt: They will withdraw at the end of the operation.

Johnson: We tell Lon Nol they will withdraw.

[All agree, but with a caveat.]

Moorer: I will explain to Abrams the problem of Cambodian civilians in the area.10 I suggest a letter to Thieu that we are aware of the operation, we are supporting it, and we want to be sure Cambodian casualties are kept to a minimum.

Kissinger: We want to be sure.

Moorer: We will put out the execute order now.

Kissinger: I approve the letter.

[The meeting ended.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–114, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1969–1970. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See Document 249.
  3. All brackets in the source text.
  4. This was apparently already done; see footnote 2, Document 252.
  5. Not found.
  6. April 28. Richard Moose and James Lowenstein were staff investigators for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
  7. No record of Helms’ meeting with Mansfield on April 24 has been found. Helms met with Mansfield at 2:45 p.m. on April 23. In an April 23 memorandum to Rogers with a copy to Kissinger, Helms stated that he “informed him [Mansfield] that [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] was being sent to Cambodia. I briefed him along the lines the President and you indicated to me. Senator Mansfield’s reaction was, ‘I can have no objection [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. In fact, it is legitimate, desirable, and should be done.’” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 506, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. III, 10 April 1970–23 April 1970) No record of Kissinger’s discussion with Fulbright has been found, although Kissinger recounts that at the President’s request he met with Chairman of the Armed Services Committee Senator John Stennis; see Document 256.
  8. Not found.
  9. Reference is to an April 25 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, the first in a series of daily briefings for the President on actions in Cambodia. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 570, Cambodian Operations (1970), Actions on Cambodia, Vol. I)
  10. In telegram 6347 from Saigon, April 26, 0832Z, Bunker reported that he fully discussed the problem of avoiding casualties among Cambodian civilians, and Thieu himself was aware of the importance. Bunker reported: “Vietnamese forces have been and are under very strict instructions in regard to treatment of Cambodian population and avoidance of civilian casualties.” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL CAMB/KHMER) The letter was therefore apparently not needed.