278. Memorandum of Conversation1



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


  • Cambodia
[Page 932]

Kissinger: [Briefed the group on the meeting of the President with the Armed Services Committees this morning.]2

We will get a sheet showing a summary of the results to date to the Secretary of State today at 1300.

Can we complete the Parrot’s Beak operation by the middle of next week?

Wheeler: I will ask Abrams.

Kissinger: How about 704?

Wheeler: That will begin on 9 May.

Kissinger: Has it affected any other operations?

Wheeler: No.

Johnson: Will the 704 be done by ARVN?

Wheeler: Mostly ARVN.

Johnson: The Riverine?

Wheeler: Mostly ARVN.

Kissinger: Johnson to be informed five hours in advance.

Vogt: The procedure is all arranged.

Kissinger: How about the Khmer? [He reads the Saigon cable.]3

Johnson: I think we should turn over the pay problem to Helms. We take the position that they are off our payroll—they resigned and we paid off—and the Cambodians are now responsible.

Helms: O.K. We need the funds to be transferred from DOD.

Packard: We will work it out.

Helms: We will work out the arrangements.

[Page 933]

Johnson: About Phnom Penh 750,4 I suggest we have a MACV officer in civilian clothes to Phnom Penh to get with the Attachés and Cambodians to brief them on what we are doing and find out what they are doing. They’ll be there to establish operational liaison, but not as advisors.

Kissinger: If all agree, we’ll do as quickly as possible.

[All agree.]

Wheeler: We will get out the message.

Green: We must remember the French advisors and the position of our own military attaché.

Helms: Another aspect of the problem is: we send things but nothing happens. There is no organization in the Cambodian government. They keep asking for more. How are we going to handle this? Lon Nol seems to have no idea of what’s going on and what he needs. Someone who knows what is needed should be sent to get to Lon Nol and help them.

Wheeler: An officer?

Kissinger: How about an Ambassador?

Johnson: We can’t do it overnight. We need to give clear guidance to Rives and the attachés what we are and are not willing to do.

Kissinger: General Wheeler, can you get the name of an officer?

Wheeler: Yes. I will call this afternoon.

Kissinger: It would help if we had someone there who could tell them that the requests don’t make military sense.

Johnson: Yes, but the Embassy needs guidance.

Helms: We should determine that here.

Johnson: We will draft a general guidance message.

[All agree this is a good idea—we will consider it tomorrow.]

Johnson: We haven’t heard from Saigon or the UN yet. Phnom Penh is O.K.

Kissinger: The Indonesian Ambassador asked yesterday whether we still support neutral buffer states. We agreed yes, Suharto will not embarrass us. We will provide the Memcon to Johnson.

Wheeler: Can Johnson query Rives? What is Lon Nol doing with the Khmer and the equipment?

[Page 934]

Johnson: The man from MACV can get information and have a dialogue.

Kissinger: The cable should reflect the dialogue idea, and don’t send a man until Moose and Lowenstein leave.

Johnson: The Thai battalion—Souvanna has been told. Godley says they probably have to stay indefinitely. This points up Unger’s view that the Thai may come to us for more training and equipment.

Kissinger: Do we need to take any action about the Moose–Lowenstein report?

Johnson and Packard: It’s not too bad a report.

[All agree no action is needed.]

Kissinger: How about A–1s and T–28s?

Vogt: They’re not available.

Packard: Could we divert them from VNAF? We have 120—they only need 10 for Cambodia. T–28s are not available.

Kissinger: How about 10 A–1s?

Wheeler: We will have to short the Vietnamese.

Vogt: There is some doubt they could use them or maintain them.

Wheeler: We’ll ask Phnom Penh Attaché to look into it.

Kissinger: Uniforms. Can we do this, and how many?

Packard: Probably we could divert them from Saigon.

Kissinger: Let’s find out from Rives what he has in mind.

Johnson: We’ll ask Rives. Caution him against any figure like 200,000.

Wheeler: A 1000-man pack will have uniforms.

Packard: We will determine what we can do.5

Kissinger: We’ll meet again tomorrow.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–114, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1969–1970, 5/5/70. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. All brackets in the source text. The President and his staff briefed the House and Senate Armed Services Committees during breakfast and then the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 5 p.m. According to The Haldeman Diaries, p. 160, these briefings covered military progress and emphasized the material captured. (“P. really pushing to get this out.”) Haldeman wrote that Nixon answered questions, many of them hostile, and while he did not change many minds, “at least he told his story.”
  3. Reference is to telegram 6853 from Saigon, May 5, received 6:28 a.m. Washington time. In it Berger and Abrams stated that their guiding principle was that Khmer troops in Vietnam would join the Cambodian Army and would no longer be supported by MACV (except for ammunition, weapons, and some spare parts). As volunteers they were free to leave the CIDG program any time and South Vietnam would not accept them into ARVN. All Khmers leaving South Vietnam for Cambodia were paid off in full plus bonuses prior to their departure. Their dependent families were either melting into South Vietnam or returning to Cambodia, so funding of dependents was impossible. Berger and Abrams realized that Cambodia was short of money, but if they did not pay the Khmer troops they would not fight. Abrams and Berger suggested paying the Khmer Krom troops by reallocating CIDG funds as directed by the OSD. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 CAMB/KHMER)
  4. In telegram 750 from Phnom Penh, May 5, Rives passed on a suggestion from the Cambodian military that MACV send an officer to Cambodia to coordinate military policy in the Parrot’s Beak and Fish Hook operations. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 146, Vietnam Country Files, Vietnam, May 1, 1970.)
  5. In a separate summary of conclusions, May 5, the following decisions were noted: “1. A summary of the results to date would be delivered to the Secretary of State by 1300 today. 2. The 704 operation conducted primarily by ARVN would begin 9 May. Johnson was to be informed five hours in advance. 3. The funds to pay the Khmer Krom should be transferred from DOD to CIA. 4. In executing Phnom Penh 750, a MACV officer in civilian clothes would brief the attachés and Cambodians in Phnom Penh. They [attachés?] would act as operational liaison, not as advisers. 5. A general guidance message indicating what we were and were not willing to do should be sent to Rives and attachés. A draft message will be considered tomorrow. 6. No action was needed on the Moose–Lowenstein report.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–073, WSAG Meeting, Cambodia, May 4–8, 1970)