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279. Memorandum From the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Proposal for Attacks on Additional Base Areas in Cambodia

In order to destroy other areas which provide logistic support essential to enemy attacks in South Vietnam, MACV has proposed six additional operations against enemy base camps in Cambodia (Tab C).2 The plan exploits the momentum generated by operations now underway in the Parrot's Beak and Fish Hook areas and the operation which began in Base Area 702 at 10:00 p.m. (Washington time) on May 4. MACV has proposed the following additional operations over the next 30 days.3

Base Area Location Date Commences Forces Duration
350 III Corps 6 May Combined 5–7 days
354 III Corps 8 May Combined 7–10 days
351 III Corps 8 May Combined Until weather forces termination
Mekong River IV Corps 10 May* Combined Throughout period
704 & Nui O Mountain IV Corps 12 May* ARVN (US support) 7–10 days
701 II Corps Timing as forces become available
*May be one to three days earlier. [Footnote in the source text.]
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A brief precis of each of these operations is at Tab A. A map indicating the locations of the base areas is at Tab B.4

In proposing these operations, General Abrams commented that:

  • —maximum pressure on the enemy in South Vietnam will be maintained throughout the campaign. Since security of the areas in South Vietnam vacated by forces operating in Cambodia will be decreased, some compensatory adjustments will be necessary and greater responsibilities given to territorial forces. This, however, is an acceptable calculated short-term risk.
  • —the principal risk attached to the plan is a possible major enemy attack in I Corps which could require the curtailment of operations.
  • —weather is a crucial factor bearing on the success of the plan and has figured heavily in the selection of areas to attack. Weather may well force termination of operations before attacks on all base areas selected can be completed.
  • —the South Vietnamese general staff concurs in the plan and detailed planning is proceeding on an urgent basis.

General Abrams also requested:

  • —authority for overflight of Cambodia, including Thai-based aircraft, in order to insure optimum use of available aircraft.
  • —selected release of some war readiness matériel, especially ground and air munitions, for use if necessary, and the maintaining of a capability to provide 81 additional transport aircraft in order to insure maximum logistics supporting capability and flexibility.

Operations in the Parrot's Beak and Fish Hook will continue until base areas in these regions are destroyed. MACV estimates that on about 20 May certain units assigned to these operations will be available for redeployment into some of the base areas listed below. The operation against Base Area 702 is scheduled to commence at 10:00 p.m. (Washington time) on May 4. The following details pertain to that operation:

  • Base Area Description. Base Area 702 is a major logistical and troop staging area for enemy units operating in South Vietnam. It is contiguous to Kontum Province in II Corps. The headquarters of the 24th NVN Regiment is believed to be in this area, as well as an enemy reconnaissance battalion. Total estimated enemy strength in the area is 600 to 900.
  • Concept. Ground attacks would be preceded by B–52 and tactical air strikes.
  • Friendly Forces. The US 4th Infantry Division and one ARVN infantry regiment will be utilized.
  • Duration. The estimated duration for the operation is 7 to 10 days.

The following information pertains to operations proposed by MACV.

I. Base Area 350.

  • Description of Base Area. This area, which is located in III Corps, serves as a logistics storage area and sanctuary for enemy troops. Trafficability is marginal during the next 30 days in the higher elevations and may become impassable if heavy rains occur in mid-May. Troop movement will be extremely difficult except along established trails due to the dense undergrowth. The northern portion of the area is mostly multiple canopy forest; the southwestern portion of the area has some open areas. It is believed that elements of the 7th NVA Division and Rear Service Group 70 are located in this area. Total estimated enemy strength is 1500 to 1700.
  • Time of Commencement. 6 May.
  • Concept. A combined attack will be led by the US 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, augmented by ARVN units. The direction of attack will be along the axis of Base Area 352, north along Route 7, east along Route 13 and into Base Area 350.
  • Friendly Forces. The US 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and ARVN units which have not yet been designated will be involved in this combined operation under the command of the Commanding General of II Field Forces Vietnam.
  • Duration. Estimated duration is 5 to 7 days.

II. Base Area 354.

  • Description of Base Area. This area, which is located in III Corps, is a training center, personnel infiltration point and sanctuary. The northern two-thirds of the area is covered with dense undergrowth which would hinder the movement of tracked vehicles. The southern area is mainly under cultivation and the rice fields are currently passable. Civilian population in the area is relatively light. It is believed that units of the Headquarters 9th VC Division and the 95C NVA Regiment are located in this area. Estimated enemy strength is 1200.
  • Time of Commencement. About 8 May.
  • Concept. The base will be entered from the east by elements of the US 25th Infantry Division and ARVN units.
  • Friendly Forces. Units of the US 25th Infantry Division and ARVN units yet to be designated will participate under the command of the Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division.
  • Duration. Estimated duration is 7 to 10 days.
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III. Base Area 351.

  • Description of Base Area. This base area, which is in III Corps, is a supply complex which provides logistical support and personnel infiltration to War Zone D and supports operations of the 5th VC Division in northern Phuoc Long Province. Large-scale munitions shipments have been noted in the area, which is characterized by dense vegetation and steep slopes which will impede traffic considerably. Thundershowers could cause flooding over much of this area within the next 30 days. It is believed that the following enemy units are in the area: Rear Service Group 86; the 174th Regiment of the 5th VC Division; and a number of units of enemy Military Region 10. Total estimated enemy strength is 2500.
  • Time of commencement. About 8 May.
  • Concept. A combined attack will be initiated into the base area and the region to the northeast with elements of the US First Cavalry Division and ARVN units.
  • Friendly Forces. Elements of the 1st Cavalry Division and ARVN units still to be designated will participate under the command of the Commanding General II Field Forces Vietnam.
  • Duration. This operation will last until the weather forces termination.

IV. Mekong River Operation.

  • Objective. The Riverine force is to interdict enemy use of the Mekong River; seize a suspected enemy transhipment point at the junction at Highway 1 and the Mekong River, provide transportation for refugees, protect Cambodian merchant shipping, and assist in keeping Route 1 open.
  • Concept. The Riverine Force, consisting of a South Vietnamese amphibious force and supported by several US vessels and helicopters will proceed up the Mekong River from South Vietnam to an area in the vicinity of a ferry at the juncture of Highway 1 and the Mekong River.
  • Time of Commencement. About May 10. (MACV is trying to move this date up from one to three days.)
  • Friendly Forces. The Riverine Force will consist of South Vietnamese Amphibious Task Force 211, one South Vietnamese Marine Corps brigade and one Ranger battalion; and five US vessels, all under the command of Commander Task Group 94 (a US Naval officer).
  • Duration. Throughout the campaign.

V. Base Area 704 and Nui O Mountain.

  • Description of Base Area. Within Base Area 704 are 12 base camps, or training sites, 4 hospitals or dispensaries, 6 storage areas, one prisoner [Page 939]of war compound, 2 triangular strongpoints, and 11 other unidentified installations. The area, which is characterized by swamps, open areas and rice paddies, is generally unfit for vehicular traffic by mid-May and subject to inundation in June/July. The following enemy units are estimated to be within the base area: the 511th and 512D Local Force Battalion, elements of Military Region 2, and the 295 Main Force Infantry Battalion. Total strength is estimated to be 700 to 1000.
  • Nui O Mountain. This area is a secondary sanctuary and storage area for units operating in the Seven Mountains and possibly for units of Military Region 3. It is surrounded by low, flat areas subject to inundation. The following units are believed to be located in the general area: elements of the 95th North Vietnamese Regiment and the 1st North Vietnamese Division, and the 196th Transportation Battalion. Estimated enemy strength is 1000.
  • Date of Commencement. On about 12 May. (MACV is trying to move this date up from one to three days.)
  • Concept. Four South Vietnamese Cavalry squadrons will attack from the western part of Base Area 704 southwest to the Nui O Mountain area.
  • Friendly Forces. The four South Vietnamese Cavalry squadrons will be supported by US Air Cavalry, air mobile support for troop insertions and troop support for supplies and artillery.
  • Duration. Seven to ten days.

VI. Base Area 701.

  • Description of Base Area. This area, which is located in II Corps, is a major logistic and troop staging site with excellent lines of communication into South Vietnam. Enemy activity has always been at a relatively high level. The jungle canopy provides concealment for the enemy base camps and storage areas. It is believed that the following enemy forces are in the area: units of the Hq 66 NVA Regiment; Hq of the 250th Transportation Regiment; the Binh Tran South (B-3 Front), and the K 1st North Vietnamese Infantry Battalion of the 95B Infantry Regiment. Total estimated enemy strength is 2450.
  • Commencement Date. The operation will commence when forces become available.
  • Concept. A combined attack will be initiated into Base Area 701 as a follow-on to the attack on Base Area 702. The base area will be entered generally from the north and the east.
  • Friendly Forces. The Commanding General of the 1 Field Forces Vietnam and the Commanding General of II Corps will be in command. Specific units have not yet been designated.
  • Duration. To be determined.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 507, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. IV, 4/24/70–5/7/70. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. A notation on the memorandum reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. Tab C is a retyped copy of MACV telegram MAC 5996, May 4, Abrams to Wheeler and McCain, attached but not printed.
  3. In a May 5 memorandum to Kissinger, Haig reported that he had spoken to Wheeler who informed him that Abrams had authorized the first three of these operations (against bases 350, 351, and 354) under authority already granted previously. Wheeler was concerned because there was no formal approval and it was too late to stop the operations. Henceforth, Wheeler asked Abrams to obtain approval for future operations.
  4. The map was attached but is not reproduced. The base areas cited in this map correspond to those in the map in Kissinger, White House Years, p. 248.