104. Transcript of a Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

P: Hi Al.

H: Yes Sir.

P: How are you?

H: Fine sir.

P: Fine. I’m calling to get the morning report. Have to leave in half an hour.

H: Situation in I Corps, M.R. 1, is still very hairy and tenuous. Last report is that Quang Tri City is in a critical state. Abrams has pulled out U.S. advisors from Quang Tri, some 122 of them. It doesn’t look good there.

P: Pulled them out by helicopter?

H: Yes, that’s the way I understand it. The enemy has put tanks into the city and there’s not much really viable resistance there. Attacks on Hue are building up but haven’t made much headway yet.

P: We got a good division there?

H: Yes, it remains to be seen. They will have to cut it there.

P: Is Abrams getting enough air in there?

H: There were over 300 sorties in there alone, 342 together with 35 (?) B–52s. One of the problems is these guys aren’t targeting properly. They have this problem when they get under this kind of pressure.

P: On the ground they aren’t getting the targeting we need? You say Quang Tri looks like it’s going to go?

H: Yes, if it hasn’t gone already.

P: Be gone by today?

H: Yes.

P: I trust everybody has handled it in such a way that . . . giving a briefing to show its lack of significance.

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H: That’s what we anticipate, although it isn’t good to pooh-pooh it too much. Say that it’s not critical but it’s serious.

P: But that the situation is not unanticipated.

H: That’s right, it’s not unanticipated, and it’s still an activity that bears on two percent of the population and only two provinces out of 44 are in trouble.

P: That’s a good way to put it.

H: The situation in III Corps continues to improve. All but destroyed first regiment of enemy in Tay Ninh—about ______ percent wiped out according to the prisoners. An Loc is quiet—they are sending in forces to link up there. No heavy enemy activity. It looks better there.

P: Good.

H: In II Corps the enemy has not attacked at the Kon Tum perimeter. But it will be tough when it drops.

P: The slow-down that Henry predicted—has it occurred?

H: Not in I Corps at all.

P: That’s what I gathered.

H: We don’t know whether the 325th2 is in there or not.

P: But we are still using maximum air power we can and are attempting to do more adequate briefings?

H: That’s right. There will be a briefing today—tomorrow Saigon time—from MACV.

P: What do you hear about the morale generally?

H: We have a report coming in for you today from General Abrams. There are lots of reports that Third ARVN has not held up, but the marines have fought well. There will be a lot of bad stories out of Quang Tri. That’s the kind of thing that happens when the situation deteriorates. The next fight will be in Hue. This will be important in my view.

P: When will that come?

P: I think our air is so inadequate that my recommendation—that Henry rejected—should be reconsidered, that we need air if the battle(?) should be taken. Could they lay on a strike on the Hanoi–Haiphong area if we ordered it?

H: They could do it with 48 hours, yes. They would need 48 hours though their planning is all done.

P: But our air has been effective there. We may as well sock it to them in places where it will hurt in the long run since we can’t do a lot in the short run.

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H: I think air has had to have had an effect.

P: I agree. But I don’t see that two days in Hanoi–Haiphong . . . I think it could have an enormous psychological lift. Anyway, when Henry gets out of the meeting, tell him I think it should go off sooner, when he is in Paris. This is something I don’t think he understands. He is going to go in there in a weak bargaining position.

H: That’s right. I think they have peaked off . . .

P: What was that?

H: I think they have peaked off for this meeting.

P: That’s right. We couldn’t get anything off in 24 hours?

H: It would be difficult; it wouldn’t be the kind of thing you would want.

P: What’s really required is to hit that area. I get to the airport at 10:15 your time. The problem is that he is so desperate . . . anxious about the talks. He doesn’t want to hurt them. He doesn’t realize that what hurts us most is to appear like little puppy dogs when they are launching these attacks. What really gets to them is to hit in the Hanoi–Haiphong area. That gets at the heartland. I think we made a mistake not doing it sooner and more. We may have to update that strike. There’s a good reason to do it for American public opinion. I feel there is much to be said for hitting them now. You are to ride herd to see that we get all the positive things out of this we can.

H: They’re doing quite well in III Corps.

P: And the situation in II Corps hasn’t yet developed?

H: No, and I don’t think it will be good in the critical stages.

P: ARVN doesn’t have a lot in there?

H: No, and they’re not very good.

P: How can the enemy have it every place?

H: It has it focused in three places—that’s the problem.

P: And you tell Henry I think we have got to step these up and to hell with the negotiations, and he may have to reconsider going there at all.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 998, Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files, Haig Telcons 1972 [2 of 2]. No classification marking. The President was in Floresville, Texas, visiting Connally; Haig was in Washington. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) All blank underscores are omissions in the original.
  2. North Vietnamese division.