283. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Rogers and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

R: Two things I wanted to mention. One, a couple of projected plans they have I think would be dangerous from a public relations view. One is the incursion into Takeo by South Vietnamese forces at the request of Lon Nol. I am afraid it would be quite contrary to what the public understands.

[Page 948]

K: No Americans are going beyond the line the President gave.

R: If we do anything at the moment to respond to the request by Lon Nol it would be inconsistent to what we said. Takeo has been so clearly defined in the public mind with Cambodia. Another thing is the amphibious landings.

K: I called Mel. I had never heard of the thing and nothing could be done without the President’s approval.

R: They have it on their desks. I told Mel don’t do anything that is inconsistent with what we said we were going to do. Just that simple.

K: I am not even aware of these plans. It is an impossible situation for the military to organize pressures on the White House of proposals that haven’t even reached the White House.

R: I expressed my view to him.

K: I talked to the President this morning. No American will go beyond the limit he set—20 miles [21 miles/30 kilometers] or whatever it is. Secondly, no operation can be started without Presidential approval.

R: Good. The other is pretty well except for this riverine thing, pretty well underway. This is the last one. Another one that they haven’t projected. Near the border a hill area in a sanctuary. I don’t see anything wrong with that. But Takeo and the amphibious landing I think would be very serious mistakes. I am not being bureaucratic. I want to touch every base so it doesn’t fall between the chairs.

K: It isn’t that the White House has cooked up something you haven’t heard about.

R: I am worried about when the President goes over and he tells the military something and they take it and run with the ball and they tell Mel that’s what the President indicated.2 I want to be sure the damn thing is directed by one person and that is the President.

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K: I will make sure nothing of this sort happens without all the Cabinet being consulted.

R: I think once we finish the riverine we should clean up and get out as soon as we can in consideration of the safety.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 363, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File. No classification marking.
  2. On May 7 at 7:45 a.m., Laird called Kissinger and stated: “you know that the President has really come over here and given the military the greatest license they have ever had and I am going to step in on a few things because if we let this get out of hand, they will use all American troops. We have got to keep the pressure on them to use South Vietnamese troops. The next thing they will be doing is requesting more Americans in South Vietnam. McCain would like to put the Marines back. We can’t do that.” Kissinger agreed. Laird continued: “They have the idea that they have carte blanche and I have got to be a son-of-a-bitch to keep some pressure on them.” Kissinger responded: “There is no argument here. There is no question on principle in putting in new troops into Vietnam. There is no question at all.” Laird suggested that “If we are to keep maintaining the President’s credibility, we must insure withdrawal.” Kissinger again assured him there “was no thought of authorizing more troops.” Laird stated that the military “have the idea that the President will probably allow it if they really need it.” Kissinger asked “what do you want them not to do?” Laird answered, “What I want to do is keep the pressure on to use South Vietnamese forces and it is going in the other direction now and I am trying to turn it the other way.” (Ibid.)