272. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Richard Helms, Director, Central Intelligence Agency
  • Thomas Karamessines, Central Intelligence Agency
  • David Packard, Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Warren Nutter, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
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  • Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, Acting Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • General Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • General John A. Vogt, USAF
  • Ambassador U. Alexis Johnson, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Marshall Green, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Brigadier General, Alexander Haig, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Colonel Richard T. Kennedy, NSC Staff


  • Cambodia

[The meeting began with General Haig in the chair.]2

[All agree on the need to put the traffic on the existing operations in front channels. Wheeler is sending a message implementing.]

Helms: It is okay to go with one 1,000-man pack. We will see how this goes and what they can do with them. A man will go along to work with the Defense Attaché. It will be ordered today. Johnson will alert Phnom Penh.

Johnson: We should bring Bunker and Habib back. This should be well publicized. They are scheduled to arrive Washington on the 6th.

Packard: I agree.

Green: I suggest he might come back a day early.

[All agree we can wait and see how to play this.]

Haig: About the speech.3 The speech will be at 9:00. There will be a briefing for Congressional leadership and Cabinet at 8:00 p.m. with the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State and General Wheeler. Dr. Kissinger will brief the press. Concurrently, there will be a briefing on the Hill at 8:30 by Packard and Richardson.

Have there been any reactions from the others?

Helms: TASS raised hell about escalation of the war.4

Johnson: The Chinese said that the Indochinese war entered a new phase, but the rhetoric was not strong. The British made a good statement. Lon Nol made a good statement. The Indonesian reaction was good. Malik understands our actions. He probably will ship equipment after the conference and will go ahead with the conference on the 15th and 16th of May.

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Packard: We are shipping about as much as they can handle.

Wheeler: We are sending a signal officer to Phnom Penh to survey communications requirements. Ambassador Johnson will advise Rives.

Haig: Dr. Kissinger and the President are concerned that statements not cast aspersions on South Vietnam. Also he wants information out quickly.

Packard: We have pictures. What about the scenario?

Haig: We will get a scenario to Ziegler and recommend that Ziegler, Henkin, and McCloskey have a meeting.

Johnson: We want a transcript of Henry’s briefing and a summary of the speech to get to the posts quickly. It should have the key points. We will do special letters to Schuman and Stewart from the Secretary.

Haig: How about Thant?

Johnson: Treat him like the other posts. Yost will see him hopefully before the speech.

Haig: Lon Nol?

Johnson: He needs to be given the general lines of the speech.

Haig: We will get a summary of the speech to all of you.

[At 1530, Mr. Ziegler arrives. He reviews Packard’s game plan. He will contact Henkin and McCloskey.]

Wheeler: We need a psy war operation to get the Viet Cong defectors.

[All agree.]

Helms: Should we think about a senior negotiator? To give them the idea we are willing to talk?

Johnson: I don’t think it is time. If they evidence any interest, then we can consider it.

Packard: I agree with Alex.

Johnson: We will send Habib back with instructions to take a firm line. Then see what their reaction is.

[Dr. Kissinger arrived at 1545.]

Kissinger: This is the speech. We are going into Vietnamese occupied territory in Cambodia for purpose of protecting American lives. Their concentration of main force units is in the base areas while their guerrillas are operating in South Vietnam. We are committed to Cambodian neutrality.

The speech describes the sanctuaries and points out what is in them. He says that recently they have taken guerrilla actions and their concentration is in the base areas. There is one contiguous base area which could be supplied from the sea.

We had three choices: One is to do nothing. This is an unacceptable risk after the next troop withdrawal. The second choice is massive [Page 917] military assistance. That would be too late to do any good. We shall do our best in concert with others. The third option was to clean out the major sanctuaries.

Therefore, in cooperation with South Vietnam, attacks are being launched to clean out the major base areas. We are going into Parrot’s Beak. In the other areas it’s a joint operation. We have no intention of staying in these areas.

He will say he has warned Hanoi. He has done everything—cut forces, reduced air attacks—and has warned them. This situation is intolerable. We are willing to negotiate. All our offers stand and the channels are open. He warns again.

There will be no more briefing after the speech for 24 hours.

  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. All brackets in the source text.
  3. Nixon’s Address to the Nation on Southeast Asia, April 30; for text, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 405–410.
  4. The Soviet Chargé handed Kissinger a protest note on April 29 stating in part: “Moscow would like President Nixon to be clear about our definitely negative attitude towards United States interference into the internal affairs of Cambodia.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 507, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. IV, 24 April 1970–7 May 1970)