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


  • General Abrams’ Assessment of the Situation in Vietnam

Attached at Tab A is General Abrams’ personal assessment of the situation in South Vietnam which apparently was made before the fall of Quang Tri City today.2 He makes the following points of particular significance:

  • —The present enemy power tactics will continue for several weeks.
  • —The South Vietnamese capability to turn back the offensive is a function of two intangibles: (1) resolve and will to fight, and (2) damage that has been done to the enemy.
  • —Command and control problems in Quang Tri were very serious and the poor display of will to fight by the 22nd ARVN Division in MR 2 was discouraging.
  • —As the battle has become brutal, the senior leadership has begun to bend and in some cases to break. With the exception of the 1st Division and IV Corps Commanders, the leadership cannot be depended upon to take the measures necessary to stand and fight.3
  • —If the South Vietnamese leaders can spark the necessary will to fight, the offensive can be defeated.
  • —The battle for Hue is about to begin and the battle for Kontum is imminent. In light of the leadership problem there is no confidence that Hue or Kontum will be held.
  • —It is imperative that MR 1 be reinforced as quickly as possible. If An Loc and Route 13 are cleared in MR 3 two airborne brigades will be available.
  • —In-country use of air assets should have first priority over requirements outside the battle zone.

General Abrams indicates that he will give his assessment to President Thieu in a meeting at 8:00 p.m. Washington time tonight. He feels that in light of present circumstances, he should not have a backgrounder with the press.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 130, Vietnam Subject Files, HAK/Pres Memos (NVA) Situation in Vietnam (May 72). Top Secret; Sensitive. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. Haig initialed for Kissinger.
  2. Not attached. Abrams’s cable containing his assessment is ibid., White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Box 75, May 8, 1972 Vietnam Speech [1 of 2].
  3. Near the end of his report, Abrams wrote: “In summary of all that has happened here since 30 March 1972, I must report that as the pressure has mounted and the battle has become brutal the senior military leadership has begun to bend and in some cases to break. In adversity it is losing its will and cannot be depended on to take the measures necessary to stand and fight.” Kissinger took this memorandum in to the President and began to read it aloud to him. According to Haldeman: “Henry hedged around before getting to that part of the Abrams report, but the P kept telling him to get to the point of the summary. Henry finally did. Then the P took the report, read it himself, and we spent quite a little time just talking over the various questions of how the Vietnamese have fallen apart.” ( Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition, May 1)