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257. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • WSAG Principals Meeting
[Page 879]

PARTICIPANTS

  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Richard Helms, Director, Central Intelligence Agency
  • David Packard, Under Secretary of Defense
  • General Earle Wheeler, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Admiral Thomas Moorer
  • U. Alexis Johnson, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Marshall Green, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Richard Kennedy, NSC Staff

Kissinger: What is the monsoon situation?

Wheeler: It will begin to switch in mid-May; by June the area will be impassable in the Parrot's Beak area except on roads. It will last five months. The NVA put supplies on platforms with stilts.

Kissinger: Are there any issues remaining?

Johnson: 2,500 more AK–47s (above the 1,300) will be ready 1800 Saigon time tomorrow. Saigon and Phnom Penh are working it out between them.2 We may have to use SAC C–123s.

[All agree.]3

Johnson: We have a new message from Lon Nol about the Khmer.4

Kissinger: Tell Lon Nol what we have done and tell him we agree to the movement of the Khmer Serai. 1,000 have already moved. Alex [Johnson] will get word to Lon Nol today, if necessary, telling him only that we agree and are making plans.5

[Page 880]

The President is prepared to send M–1s.

Wheeler: MACV can get 15,000 M–1 carbines from RVNAF. We can get them moving about 1,000 per day beginning 29 April. Ammo accompanies it. M–1 rifles could be substituted but that would take longer.

Johnson: Tell Lon Nol now we are working with the GVN to get the 15,000 carbines and ammo.6

Kissinger: Do we want to go ahead with the 1,000-man packs?

Helms: It's better to wait until the Defense Attaché office is beefed up.

Wheeler: We'll get attachés there from Thailand now.

Kissinger: I will tell the President we'll hold them up until the attachés are ready to receive it.

Johnson: Laos has a request for assistance from Lon Nol.7

Kissinger: Now Laos is giving military assistance? [Laughter]

He has a message from Souvanna.

Johnson: We should instruct Godley.

Kissinger: We should give him the message that the U.S. is behind Lon Nol which he can repeat to Lon Nol.

Green: We could stop rice shipments from Southern Laos.

Kissinger: Galbraith can't see Suharto till later?

Green: Right. We really can't expect Indonesia to help until the Pan-Asian meeting.

Kissinger: How about the COMINT?

Moorer: The COMINT is adequate.

Kissinger: Thieu has been approached?

Moorer: We sent a message to Abrams.8

Wheeler: Abrams briefed Bunker and Berger. Then he saw Thieu with Ambassador Bunker and briefed Thieu. He has not reported the reaction.

Johnson: A joint cable called for urging Thieu to do all possible to protect civilians in the area. The Secretary of State wants further exhortation [Page 881]on this. [All agree.] A message will go to Bunker through the military channel.9

We have a letter from Gorton.10 We'll send a message filling the Australians in on what assistance we are giving.

Kissinger: How about the press in South Vietnam?

Moorer: Abrams has been asked to see how we can keep exposure to a minimum.

Wheeler: The ARVN keeps them away.

Kissinger: Can the ARVN hack it?

Wheeler and Packard: Yes, with support.

Kissinger: Did Unger get any reply?

Helms: Thanat thinks it's fine.

Green: Rives thought it was a good idea.

Johnson: Thanat says he's telling Lon Nol not to worry.11

Kissinger: How far in will they be after 24 hours?

Wheeler: Just a few miles. It's a pincer movement.

Kissinger: Then it's still shallow then.

When will the press know it's a large operation?

Wheeler/Packard: The first day, maybe the second day.

Wheeler: There may be lag of 24–48 hours after the northern press begins before the southern move begins.

Kissinger: When will we begin to get flak?

All: Tuesday.12

Johnson: Fulbright will be angry that the Secretary didn't tell him.13

Packard: Let's go back to the tac air question. You asked how extensive tac have we been doing in Patio. Abrams says he can extend Patio activity to cover areas of high enemy density: 350, 331, 201, 202, 609, 740. He can't do it in the South. Abrams wants to do it when he can. The question is whether it's advisable to open up tac air at the same time.

[Page 882]

Kissinger: The President is eager to do it.

Wheeler: The sorties are limited. We can't do it.

Packard: Transfer some out of Steel Tiger for a time.

Wheeler: OK, but leave it to him.

If we move a CVA from the Sea of Japan, we could put in another 100 sorties a day.

Packard: We should do as much as we can now.

Johnson: OK.

Moorer: So we recommend a CVA and tac air starting Sunday night.

Johnson: I'm worried about taking a CVA away from Korea. We have removed the 106's and told Park of the force cut.

Moorer: Just during the month of May.

Green: We could explain to Park later if we need to.

Kissinger: I will check with the President on the CVA and tac air.

Johnson: Should we tell the TCC countries and Japan after the operation starts? How do we handle the TCC's in Saigon? Can they be briefed there? I planned to do it in the capitals.

Kissinger: Shouldn't the GVN do it?

Packard: I think the GVN should do it.

Kissinger: I agree.

Wheeler: The GVN could call in the Ambassadors in Saigon and tell them. Abrams wouldn't normally cut them in on a GVN/US operation.

Kissinger: Brief them only after it begins to surface.

Johnson: Please raise with the President the Lowenstein-Moose question. The Secretary is concerned.

[At 5:05 Dr. Kissinger leaves to see the President. At 5:17 he returns.]

Kissinger: The President approves the carrier and tac air.

Wheeler: We should let Abrams pick the time to start it for the maximum impact. It may be best to do it all at once.

Kissinger: O.K.

Wheeler: The order of priority now is: (1) South Vietnam, (2) Steel Tiger, (3) Barrel Roll. It will now be: (1) Cambodia, (2) South Vietnam, (3) Barrell Roll and (4) Steel Tiger. [All agree.]

Johnson: Should we tell Lon Nol?

Wheeler/Packard: No.

Johnson: The helicopters never came up?

[Page 883]

Wheeler: It never comes out and never from South Vietnam, Cambodia or North Vietnam.

Johnson: What about Lowenstein and Moose?

Helms: Is it better that they go sooner than later?

Johnson: They'll be going all over.

Packard: They won't be in Phnom Penh until the operation is well underway. It's from 4 June–11 June.

Green: What do we show them?

Kissinger: Do they ask for classified information?

All: Yes.

Green: We can give the same instructions as we gave for Pincus and Paul.14

Johnson: It's probably as good a time as any.

Kissinger: When does the operation go?

Moorer: At the earliest, on the 27th.

Kissinger: Alex, you do a draft on a press statement for White House approval. Just the operative paragraph. [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. In telegram 062631 to Saigon and Phnom Penh, April 25, 1910Z, the Department asked Bunker to resolve a problem that arose over the second shipment of AK–47s from South Vietnam to Cambodia. Thieu was reportedly concerned about public acknowledgement of the shipments and Cambodian violence against South Vietnamese in Cambodia. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 CAMB/KHMER) In telegram 6395 from Saigon, April 27, Bunker reported that he saw Thieu who agreed immediately to the shipment even though Cambodia had made no formal request. As Thieu put it, “if a neighbor's house is burning, you don't wait to be asked to provide help.” Thieu insisted on the following conditions for future assistance: “indiscriminate killing of Vietnamese stop, voluntary repatriation of Vietnamese be allowed and facilitated, and there be no publicity about the shipment.” (Ibid.)
  3. All brackets in the source text.
  4. In an April 24 letter to Nixon, Lon Nol reported that the situation in Cambodia was deteriorating rapidly. He wrote: “I have the honor to beg your excellency and the USG to be kind enough to examine the possibility of sending Special Forces composed of Khmer Kroms (Cambodians of South Vietnam) and Montagnards of Mondulkiri to Snuol (Kratie), to Mimot (Machai Mea), to Svay Rieng, to Kandal, to Takeo and to Kampot.” This was the only way, Lon Nol continued, Cambodia could hold on until it could rearm its forces with U.S. assistance. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 CAMB/KHMER) On April 23 journalist William Beecher of The New York Times reported that the United States was providing secretly to Cambodia AK–47 rifles captured in South Vietnam. Kissinger recounts the President's reaction to this leak in White House Years, pp. 494–495.
  5. Transmitted in telegram 062423 to Phnom Penh, April 25, 0021Z. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 CAMB/KHMER)
  6. Transmitted in telegram 062422 to Phnom Penh, April 25, 0019Z. (Ibid.)
  7. Reference is to a request from Lon Nol to Souvanna for a light battalion of 600 men, as reported in telegram 2893 from Vientiane, April 24, 1128Z. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–073, Cambodia, 4/23/70, a.m. and p.m.)
  8. JCS telegram 5689 from Moorer to Abrams, April 24. (JCS Files, OCJCS File 091, Cambodia, Ground Strikes Against Base Areas in Cambodia, 27 Mar–27 Apr 70, as cited in Historical Division, JCS, The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the War in Vietnam, 1969–1970, p. 253)
  9. For Bunker's response, see footnote 10, Document 255.
  10. Not found.
  11. Apparent reference to telegram 4977 from Bangkok, April 24, 1135Z, in which Unger reported that Thanat assured him that Cambodia could withdraw its forces from the western border with Thailand without anxiety and that he had passed the word to Cambodia that Thailand “wished to be of help.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 CAMB/KHMER)
  12. April 28.
  13. Rogers was scheduled to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 27.
  14. Walter Pincus and Roland Paul, chief staff investigators for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.