18. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Availability of Weapons and Ammunition for the Cambodian Armed Forces

In response to your request,2 we have queried Mr. Fred Ladd in Phnom Penh as to his estimate of the availability of weapons and [Page 38] ammunition for the Cambodian Armed Forces. Mr. Ladd has reported (Tab A)3 that the Cambodian Armed Forces presently have on hand a total of 270,500 rifles, carbines, and assault rifles. This includes weapons which we have given the Cambodians since March 18 and captured weapons from the sanctuaries. In addition, the arrival is projected of 23,000 M–1 rifles and 17,200 M–2 carbines, which when added to the present inventory will make a grand total of 310,700 weapons. (This figure does not include the 15,000 AK–47s from Indonesia, of which the Embassy is not yet aware.)

The Embassy points out that the Cambodians are planning to establish a first-line force level of 65,000 men in calendar 1970, and that 86,000 M–2 carbines, AK–47 type weapons, and M–16s will be available for these first-line troops. (Again, this does not include the AK–47s from Indonesia.) The remaining weapons in the inventory will go the secondary or provincial forces, with the most modern types going to priority units in these secondary forces. Spares will also be maintained for combat losses.

It had appeared earlier that ammunition supply for AK–47s might be a problem. Defense has now let a contract to produce 25 million AK–47 rounds in the U.S. at the Lake City Ordnance Plant, with production to begin in 90 days. This should take care of future needs. In addition, a contract has been let for 3 million rounds from foreign sources, and the Indonesian AK–47s are to be accompanied by 300 rounds per weapon. These actions, together with stocks on hand in Phnom Penh, should adequately meet Cambodian needs until the Lake City Ordnance Plant’s production is available.

According to Ladd in Phnom Penh deliveries of equipment are being made to Cambodia in the quantities needed (Tab B).4 At the critical locations, weapons for individuals are not the primary problem. Rather, the problem now is developing the means of delivering supplies to the troops, since the Cambodian Forces simply do not have the means to deliver what they have on hand to all of the places that need help. Ladd observes, though, that troop morale is remarkably high, and that if the Cambodians are hanging on by a shoestring, it is a stronger shoestring than might be assumed.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 510, Country Files, Far East, Cambodia, Vol. IX. Secret. Sent for information. At the top of the memorandum, the President wrote, “Excellent report.”
  2. In an August 4 memorandum to Kissinger, Haig recommended that he clear a backchannel message to Ladd requesting the assessment. (Ibid.)
  3. Attached but not printed is message 233 from Ladd, August 7, in which he commented that he was handling the job well without a MAAG. The President wrote, “right,” in the margin. Ladd also commented that “with the required kind of assistance (timely tactical air support for threatened garrisons, responsive post-attack logistical and medical evacuation assistance, and a reliable ammunition supply) the Cambodians are capable of keeping the enemy from achieving their objective.” In the margin, the President wrote, “Good.”
  4. Attached, but not printed, is message 1886 from Phnom Penh, August 7.