71. Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker)1

WH90690. Reference your Saigon 616, DTG 210800Z, May 1969,2 President believes we could meet Thieu’s views by making announcement at conclusion of Midway meeting to the effect President Thieu has informed U.S. Government that the first ARVN division is ready to replace the Third U.S. Marine Division and that therefore the President has ordered the withdrawal of the Third Marine Division from South Vietnam commencing during the month of July.3 President [Page 226] considers such an announcement would: (1) dampen growing speculation on troop withdrawals which if it continues much longer will deprive us of impact of troop withdrawal decision; (2) would greatly strengthen Thieu’s image here (doves appear to be building case that Thieu and GVN are preparing to commence bickering campaign over political conditions for settlement with a view toward delaying progress); (3) would break the stride of those elements here who have been pressing for large and immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces.

In order to achieve maximum benefit from this tactic, President believes it essential that there be absolutely no leakage or discussion of troop withdrawal issue as a result of speculation which will surround preparation for meeting. Public attention on preparatory work in Saigon and Washington should be channeled toward preparations to: (1) finalize respective U.S.-GVN positions on negotiating strategy in Paris; (2) the formulation of details related to President’s speech proposals.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 65, Vietnam Subject Files, 8–A, All Backchannel. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Document 70.
  3. Kissinger also informed Rogers, who was in Bangkok at the SEATO meeting, of this decision in WH90693, May 22. Kissinger wrote: “Thought you might like to know President is thinking of announcing withdrawal of third U.S. Marine division at conclusion of Midway Meeting June 9 (1st ARVN division would replace third U.S. Marine division (22,000 men) commencing in July). Bunker currently exploring this proposal with Thieu and has been cautioned on its extremely close nature. President considers it desirable that public speculation prior to meeting focus on U.S.–GVN efforts to coordinate respective positions on President’s speech and associated Paris negotiating positions. From here your trip looks like great success. Best regards, Henry A. Kissinger.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 65, Vietnam Subject Files, 8–A, All Backchannel)