115. Minutes of a Meeting of the Senior Washington Special Actions Group1


  • Southeast Asia Dry Season Campaign


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • Marshall Green
  • Defense
    • David Packard
  • CIA
    • Richard Helms
  • JCS
    • Admiral Thomas Moorer
  • NSC Staff
    • Brig. Gen. Alexander M. Haig
    • Colonel Richard T. Kennedy

[Omitted here is discussion of the diplomatic, Congressional, and public notification plan for both the Chup and Tchepone operations.]

Mr. Kissinger: [To Moorer] Would you brief us on the enemy order of battle?

Admiral Moorer: I briefed on the current situation in Phase I before you arrived. In summary, the operation is completely on schedule and there have been no U.S. casualties. The enemy can reinforce from North Vietnam, from his forces in South Vietnam, from the Tchepone area, and from elsewhere in Laos. They have moved some forces west to react against Silver Buckle operation. They have forces in the DMZ area and these could move toward Tchepone. They could move them back to the east. Forces stationed in Southern NVN and in the SVN II Corps area also could be brought up against the Route 9 attack.

Mr. Kissinger: Are they moving anything now?

Admiral Moorer: Yes, they have moved one regiment from Ban Karai pass area.

Mr. Kissinger: Then are they setting a trap to move in behind ARVN?

[Page 337]

Admiral Moorer: No, they haven’t the mobility.

Mr. Packard: Maybe a month from now they could, but we could intercept them and hurt them badly.

Mr. Green: What kind of anti-aircraft will the choppers expect?

Admiral Moorer: We have information on where their defenses are. Most of the choppers will fly from Khe Sanh which will be a short flight. The defenses are on the high ground in the vicinity of major roads, truck park and supply areas. The choppers will avoid them and will use suppression fires.

Mr. Green: But we will expect some losses?

Admiral Moorer: Yes, some, but they will not be excessive.

Mr. Packard: I see that there has been a Soviet reaction to the embargo and the Washington statement.2

Mr. Kissinger: We are not eager to reassure the Russians.

Mr. Green: We can respond that it is outrageous that NVA is in South Laos with Soviet help.

Mr. Kissinger: Do we assume that even with the tipoffs they have had, the North Vietnamese can’t get more forces into the area?

Admiral Moorer: No, they can’t because of the lack of mobility and because there will be considerable confusion for some time as to what the operation intends.

Mr. Packard: It will not be an easy operation. The NVA have to stand and fight because this is a vital area to them. This is a strong argument for the operation.

Mr. Green: Unfortunately with the leaks that have occurred our punch is telegraphed.

Mr. Packard: The enemy knows what is going on without reading papers.

Mr. Green: We have to anticipate trouble though.

Mr. Packard: It is a disaster that we can’t hold a thing like this. But this is no reason not to go ahead.

Admiral Moorer: If Abrams thought the operation was not prudent, he’d say so. He plans now to go on the 8th at 0800 AM Saigon Monday, 7:00 PM EST Sunday. He will embargo.

Mr. Kissinger: We should let Abrams release the news as planned.

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Mr. Packard: Yes. If we do Chup will look like diversion or this operation will be seen as a diversion for Chup.

Mr. Kissinger: Can’t we get our people not to talk to newspapers on the scene?

Mr. Packard: We’ll try but it is always difficult. The press is close by them in their base areas.

Mr. Helms: I wanted to mention a few facts on enemy logistics movements. The sharp increase in supply movement continued through January. It averaged 140 tons daily—twice the level of December. There will be a major supply movement campaign beginning about 28 January.

Mr. Kissinger: Do you conclude that most of the supplies are now south of Tchepone?

Mr. Helms: No. We estimate that the bulk will arrive in the Tchepone area about mid-February.

Admiral Moorer: There are heavy concentrations of supplies in Southern North Vietnam.

Mr. Helms: Intelligence supports the estimate that they are making an effort to move supplies south at the rate of at least 140 tons daily and that they will try to move even greater quantities with a surge effort.

Mr. Packard: We are getting some of the supplies by air strikes and they are consuming some.

Admiral Moorer: They are moving increasing quantities of ammo, spare parts, and supplies.

Mr. Kissinger: Up to 4500 tons a month?

Mr. Helms: Yes, we believe this estimate is not exaggerated.

Mr. Kissinger: Do we think we can block them and they can’t go around to the west?

Mr. Helms: If we cut the road network it would stop most of the movement.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Green) Are you calling in the diplomatic side on the Chup operation tomorrow?

Mr. Green: Yes, I’ll see the Australian, New Zealander, and the British.

Mr. Kissinger: I take it that we agree that we will let Defense handle Congress. I will have one of our Congressional people get in touch.

Admiral Moorer: Should I tell Abrams OK on the briefing plan? [All agree that Abrams should be given the OK.]

[Omitted here is additional discussion of the diplomatic, Congressional, and public notification plan for both the Chup and Tchepone operations.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–115, WSAG Meetings Minutes, Originals, 1971. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Situation Room of the White House. The meeting ended at 12:56 p.m. according to a chronology attached to a February 9 memorandum from Howe to Haig. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 84, Vietnam Subject Files, Special Operations File, Vol. IV) All brackets are in the original with the exception of those indicating omitted material.
  2. According to The New York Times, February 1, unnamed officials in Washington reported that a “major new allied operation involving thousands of South Vietnamese and American troops was underway in the northwest corner of South Vietnam.” Both Soviet Premier Kosygin and Tass attacked the new military action as an “outrageous invasion” of southern Laos.