273. Telegram From the Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (McCain), and the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Abrams)1

C6037. Subj: Attack of Additional Base Areas in Cambodia.

The President met with the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff this morning to outline his objectives for the next 30 days.2 It is his desire to employ maximum feasible military strength against the remaining base areas in Cambodia which you consider important to enemy operations and which can be attacked with available US and RVNAF forces. He desires that this program be carried out [Page 918] through a bold and aggressive approach. The objective is to hit the enemy the hardest blow possible and to destroy as much of the enemy’s base areas in Cambodia as is militarily feasible.
While he desires the operations to be conducted initially within 30 kilometers of the border, he will consider further extensions if you consider this necessary or desirable. He considers these Cambodian base area operations to be the number one priority now for our operations in Southeast Asia. You are authorized to prepare the plans without restrictions on the use of U.S. or ARVN forces, including air assets, for this purpose. You are requested to use your judgment in allocating resources and to advise higher authority if our forces in South Vietnam are jeopardized in any way by this guidance.
In order to maintain the initiative, higher authority desires an outline plan for attack of an additional base area as soon as you can submit it, but, hopefully, no later than 2400 Z, 2 May. I am aware that you have done additional planning with the RVNAF, and that other operations have been planned. You are requested to complete arrangements for an attack into one additional base area, either with RVNAF forces, or with combined forces, to begin the earliest possible time next week. Please advise when this planning has been completed and submit your proposed date for initiation of operations.
In accordance with the desire of higher authority to attack effectively as many base areas as is militarily feasible within the next 30 days, you are further requested to provide a plan ASAP for operations into additional base areas of your choice. This plan should provide for as much of the destruction of the remaining enemy base structure as is possible within your resources and capabilities. Again, in your planning for these operations you are to consider all resources available to you. This outline plan for remaining operations is desired ASAP, but in any case in time to insure that there is no major break in operations following the next operation scheduled in accordance with paragraph 3 above.
As I have indicated above, higher authority desires a hard hitting campaign to be carried out using imagination and boldness. The enemy should receive the hardest blow we are capable of inflicting in his Cambodian sanctuary areas. If you need increased air assets for the next 30 days, let me know immediately. Warm regards.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 590, Cambodian Operations, Chronology, Vol. III, Nodis/Khmer, HAK. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Drafted by Paul Kearney, Administrative Assistant to the Chairman of the JCS.
  2. Nixon, accompanied by Kissinger and Ziegler, met with the Joint Chiefs, Laird, Packard, and other JCS and Department of Defense officials from 8:41 to 10:25 a.m. at the Pentagon. (Ibid., White House Central Files, Daily Diary) After leaving the meeting, Nixon engaged in an informal conversation with Pentagon employees which was taped by a reporter. The President said: “You see those kids out there [troops in Vietnam]. I say ‘kids.’ I have seen them. They are the greatest. You see bums, you know, blowing up the campuses. Listen, the boys on the college campuses today are the luckiest people in the world, going to great universities, and here they are burning books, I mean storming around this issue—I mean you name it—get rid of war; there will be another one. Out there [Vietnam] we’ve got kids who are just doing their duty. I have seen them. They stand tall….” (Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, p. 417)