Learn about the beta

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

SUBJECT

  • B–52 Strikes Against Targets in Cambodia

At Tab A is the Joint Chiefs of Staff plan providing for the Cambodian B–52 strikes with specific targets in the Fish Hook area previously struck and two additional targets in the Tri-Border area with Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.2 The plan would provide:

1.
Breakfast Bravo 48 sorties against targets in the Fish Hook area with 12 cover sorties on South Vietnam. Time over target (TOT) between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 24 Saigon time (1:00 p.m. Wednesday local time).
2.
Breakfast COCO Restrike of Fish Hook with 20 sorties plus 4 cover sorties. TOT between 8:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Thursday night, April 24 Saigon time (7:00 a.m.–8:30 a.m. Thursday April 24 local time).
3.
Operation Lunch 32 sorties against targets in the Tri-Border area and 4 cover sorties. TOT between 2:00 a.m. and 4:15 a.m. Friday morning April 25 Saigon time (1:00 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Thursday afternoon local time).

At Tab B is a summary of the intelligence on the target area which indicates that military considerations favor the Fish Hook target complex at being the higher priority.3

[Page 206]
1.
Post-strike analysis of the Fish Hook target area (COSVN) following the earlier strike indicates that there is a large North Vietnamese force in the area which has not moved.
2.
Intelligence indicates that the two target complexes in the Tri-Border area contain elements of a major North Vietnamese logistics complex.

General Wheeler advises that the countermand order for authorizing all strikes should precede TOTs by eight hours; thus countermand for the operation should be prior to 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning local time.

At Tab C is a draft instruction on the public affairs treatment of the plan.4

Pros and Cons of Plan
Pros Cons
1. Strong military blow as manifestation of U.S. resolve to end conflict. Could result in public outcry if strikes “blow.”
2. Signals to Soviets and North Vietnam that EC–121 incident did not divert U.S. attention from Vietnam conflict. Could prove counter-productive to on-going actions leading toward re-establishment of relations with Cambodia.
3. Timely and effective followup to Kissinger/Dobrynin conversation.
4. Could complement Presidents' Peace Plan. Could result in more North Vietnamese intransigence in Paris and even walkout.

On balance, I favor strike primarily because it represents a forceful U.S. action in wake of EC–121 incident and the message it conveys to the Soviets. It is probable that Laird and Wheeler will support plan on military grounds and that Rogers will oppose on political grounds.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 505, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. 1, 8–69. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Haig on April 22. The memorandum is not initialed, but handwritten notes on the first page indicate it was hand carried to the President and approved on April 22.
  2. Tab A, CM–4130–69, is a memorandum from Wheeler to Laird, entitled “B–52 Strikes Against Targets in Cambodia,” April 21; attached but not printed.
  3. Tab B, CM–4101–69, is a memorandum from Wheeler to Laird, entitled “Authority for B–52 Strikes Against Targets in Cambodia,” April 11; attached but not printed.
  4. Tab C is an undated telegram from Wheeler to Abrams, McCain, and Holloway; attached but not printed.