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282. Memorandum of Conversation1

WSAG MEETING

PARTICIPANTS

  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Richard Helms, Director of Central Intelligence
[Page 945]
  • Lt. Gen. Robert E. Cushman, Jr., Deputy Director, CIA
  • David Packard, Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • Warren Nutter, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
  • Gen. Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman, JCS
  • Gen. 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
  • Col. Richard T. Kennedy, NSC Staff

SUBJECT

  • Cambodia

Wheeler: We have a cable from Abrams saying the ARVN has shown a good performance and plans.2

Are we operating on a 21 mile limit or 30 kilometers?

Kissinger: 21 miles.

The operations should be good for ARVN morale.

Wheeler: Yes.

Packard: There may be trouble in Saigon—some infiltration.

Johnson: There's a spate of stories on the riverine operation from Saigon. They referred to a river operation to Phnom Penh.

Kissinger: We told Ziegler to say we don't comment on operations that aren't taking place, and the rules of engagement and depth rules still apply.

Wheeler: This is the plan for the river operations on 9 May: They would go up to the ferry sight which is 20 nautical miles from the closest point on the South Vietnamese border. Only four American ships and 75 ARVN ships—with 75 US advisors on the boats—with 12 choppers supporting, under U.S. command.

Johnson: Did Abrams recommend using more Khmer?

Wheeler: Abrams recommends using Khmer with US and GVN advisors until 30 June in Parrot's Beak. There are about 2,000 Khmer now in the program. They would turn it over to the Cambodian Army on 30 June and withdraw all advisors then.

[All agree this is a good idea.]3

Kissinger: Can't we get the Khmer out of Phnom Penh?

Wheeler: They were sent out as an assault force.

Kissinger: How about overflights of Cambodia?

Wheeler: Abrams does not see a need for it at this time. If he needs it he'll ask again.

[Page 946]

Kissinger: How about rules of engagement for Market Time?

Vogt: We are working on these. They have been oriented entirely to infiltration. We will have them tomorrow. We'll clear them with Johnson.

Johnson: What's the PR plan for the river operation?

Wheeler: MACV will make a low-key announcement, that it's predominantly ARVN after the operation begins.

Kissinger: We should wrap Market Time into the same announcement.

What about American civilians in Cambodia?

Johnson: I saw that cable.4

Kissinger: I don't think we should have them.

[All agree.]

Kissinger: How about the Thieu statement on the Khmer?

[All agree to a message to Thieu on the Khmer. Johnson will send.]

Johnson: About the press conference. What do we say about Paris? Should the President say we are going back?

Kissinger: Yes. Please send over some Q's and A's for press conference.5

What about the uniforms?

Wheeler: We have no reply from Rives yet.

Kissinger: The aircraft maintenance problem?

Vogt: Abrams is putting a parts package together. They will fly from Saigon to Phnom Penh. The air attaché believes they can support and maintain a squadron of 20 airplanes, T–28 and A–1.

Kissinger: Can we get a fix on the best mix?

Packard: It is illegal to give them. We can get planes. We would take some T–28s from Navy and try to replace. We want to get together with Alex Johnson to see how we can do it.

Johnson: We will be in touch. I will put people on it.

Helms: The third Thai battalion will be in place on line on 10 May.

[Page 947]

Johnson: What about the message on Laos? There are possibilities of Chinese intervention.

Kissinger: How about a retired officer?

Packard: We can't do it legally, but we could have him work for a contractor.

Johnson: But this might be disclosed if we paid any part of the cost.

Kissinger: Why not as an advisor to Rives?

Johnson: We said we weren't going to have advisors and take on responsibilities.

Green: Can't we try the MACV Liaison Officer route for a while?

[All agree this should be tried.]

Kissinger: Thai battalion support. Should we discuss this today.

Green: We are drafting a reply.6

Kissinger: Then let's discuss it tomorrow.

  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. Not found.
  3. All brackets in the source text.
  4. In telegram 582 from Phnom Penh, April 21, Rives recommended consideration of evacuation of the Embassy staff or reduction of staff and dependents in light of the fear that the capital would fall. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–073, WSAG Meeting, Cambodia, 4/24/70) Johnson is either referring to this cable or a subsequent one in which Rives recommended evacuation of U.S. civilians.
  5. Nixon's press conference of May 8, in which he responded to a question about pursuing the Paris Peace Talks with as equal fervor as the Cambodia operation, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, p. 421. The full text of the conference is ibid., pp. 413–423.
  6. In a separate summary of conclusions, May 6, the following decisions were noted: “1. It would be a good idea to turn the Parrot's Beak operation over to the Cambodian Army on June 30 and withdraw all US and GVN advisers at that time. 2. We should not have American civilians in Cambodia. 3. A message should be sent to Thieu regarding Khmer participation. 4. The President should say we are going back to Paris. 5. We should send a MACV liaison Officer to Phnom Penh to advise our Embassy and the Cambodians.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–073, WSAG Meeting, Cambodia, May 4–8, 1970)