258. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

P: Are you still in your meeting?2

K: We are on the verge of winding it up. [In response to the President’s query],3 I am in my office.

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P: I want a report because I have to take off. We were very lucky— the weather was miserable all the way up. We broke through the clouds here, and the weather is beautiful. How’s the meeting going? Are the boys in good spirits?

K: There’s nothing like a spanking to make them behave.

P: Do they see it’s a big deal?

K: Wheeler said he never thought he’d live to see the day he could do one of these operations.

P: He’s even pleased with COSVN! This one is a hell of a thing— this pincer thing. It’s a small version of the Bulge—and Calais(?). You must have been there.

K: Yes, I was …

P: How about getting the guy to set up the communications equipment?

K: I talked to Helms, and its on the way. With regard to the monsoon, it begins on May 15 and by June 1, everything is inundated.

P: Then our last day of ordering it would be May 5?

K: That is pretty late. I would say May 1.

P: Then we have one week.

K: My own judgment is to follow as closely as possible… [The President interrupted to say he understood.]4

K: From May 1 to 3, you can handle it. They have a proposal from Abrams along the lines of your thinking to start tac air all along the Cambodian frontier which would include COSVN Headquarters, but not pay particular attention to it. It would hit every base area.

P: He thought of it independently? Do it! Do it! And Laird is to follow this up. Tell Wheeler, no crap now. I don’t want to order tac air unless it is done. Damn it, they don’t do these things. You are in charge. If it isn’t done, it’s your ass. (to which K laughed)

P: Wheeler does understand? Do you have someone over there? You have the Admiral who could keep you informed. Pass a message to Abrams back-channel that I have ordered it. When will tac air begin?

K: We will leave it up to Abrams, but no later than when the operation in the Parrot’s Beak occurs.

P: The point is it will divert them—bombardment before invasion.

K: And to keep them pinned down. These guys want to move the carrier down from Korea.

P: Do that.

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K: I think it’s a good idea.

P: We have moved the mining crew in. On November 3, [1969] we said all that and didn’t do anything. This time they won’t be expecting [it.]

K: They are passing some messages in the clear.

P: They are. We will look at it on Sunday.5

K: Do you want me to set the meeting definitely?

P: No, but you think about it. The problem is the left-wing is setting us up for a real fall here on the ground that poor little Cambodia—4,000,000 of them—asked for our help. We didn’t give them help and they went Communist. They will forget that Kennedy lost Cuba by the Bay of Pigs. The other side is, if we don’t do it now, we may have to do it later. If they take Phnom Penh later, we could move on COSVN. The third point that worries me is I don’t think we will have a real shot at North Vietnam.

K: I agree with all these things.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 363, Telephone Records, 1969–1976, Telephone Conversations, Chronological Files, 19–26 April 1970. No classification marking. The President arrived at 4 p.m. at Camp David with his friend Bebe Rebozo; Kissinger was in Washington.
  2. The WSAG meeting; see Document 257.
  3. Brackets in the source text.
  4. Brackets in the source text.
  5. April 26.