112. Memorandum From John D. Negroponte of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- Some Quick, Concrete, Confidence Building Steps for ARVN
Here are some thoughts on what we can do to bolster ARVN which I think will have salutary effects on the JGS and Thieu as symbols of our commitment to their long term survival. Their short term symbolic impact will be favorable as well, taken in conjunction with the cancellation of plenaries, which will have a strongly favorable psychological impact.
1. A High Level Mission to Saigon à la Batitsky:
I recommended this to you a few weeks ago.2 You said it was a good idea but should be held in reserve. This should be done immediately. Send the Secretary of Air Force or Army immediately accompanied by [Page 394] Armor, Air and Artillery experts. It should be a crack team and highly touted. They will be welcome in Saigon and the signal will not be lost on Hanoi or Moscow.3
We will have answered the Batitsky mission; but only after having tried the diplomatic route first.
2. Authorize Formation of a New ARVN Division Immediately Above the Present Personnel Ceiling:
This also can be done immediately. Thieu seems to want it; ARVN needs it. It will only increase the ceiling by whatever number of spaces a division is—a piddling 15–18,000.
The idea of elevating some RF to division status instead of forming a new ARVN division has some serious pitfalls: It would further denude the countryside and expose the people to the VC which is one of the principal aims of this communist offensive—e.g. suck regular units into isolated areas and away from populated ones.
Again, let’s do this decisively, despite the inevitable bleats from the Pentagon.
3. Systematically Step Up the Military Pressure on the DRV but in a Fashion Sustainable Over the Long Haul:
This means hitting hard short of Hanoi/Haiphong, concentrating on significant military targets POL for tanks, logistics movements, other key transshipment points, e.g. Thanh Hoa and Vinh.
4. More Air Resources for Use in the Trail Area:
If at all possible we should get enough air out there to bomb the Trail more. They are in a major logistics push at the moment; moving trucks down the trail by daylight and meanwhile because of other urgent tactical concerns our interdiction campaign has fallen off sharply.
5. Energize the Lao, Thai, and Cambodians a Bit More:
- Laos. This is a theatre wide effort; that’s the way the DRV sees it. Vang Pao should harass retreating NVA forces if he still has it in him. We shouldn’t discourage moves to press back towards the PDJ.
Cambodia. Be more responsive to Lon Nol’s appeals for help. He has just written a letter asking for support in equipping more men. We haven’t replied yet and State/DOD will doubtless throw cold water on it to stay within our $341 million ceiling. Eventually the Cambodians [Page 395] will use our reticence as an excuse for an elegant or not so elegant bug-out.
We shouldn’t let the ceiling deter us and besides the political choice of punching the Lao or Cambodian ceiling in FY–73 is far less onerous than some of the other choices facing us.
- Get the Thai to fly more sorties in Laos and Cambodia. Now is the time to put the arm on them and show this is an Indochina-wide effort. Minor added costs; if any, be damned.
- Be more responsive to Indonesian and ROK indications of interest in helping train Cambodians. See if the Aussies can do more to help us there.
In short go on a sort of politico/military offensive to show our earnest and determination rather than simply meeting tactical emergencies as they arise.
- Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 23, Chronological File, 22 Apr.–31 May 1972. Secret; Sensitive. The memorandum is on White House stationery but both Negroponte and Kissinger were in Paris.↩
- Negroponte’s earlier recommendation, to send to Saigon a U.S. equivalent of the Soviet military mission to Hanoi, is in his April 10 memorandum on which Kissinger wrote: “Agree—but a little later.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1135, Jon Howe, Trip Files, John Negroponte Negotiations File, 1972–1973)↩
- On May 2, Kissinger sent a message to Bunker informing him that Nixon had decided to send a high-level team to Saigon the following evening: “Its mission will be to assess on an urgent basis equipment replacement and modernization needs for the Vietnamese armed forces.” (Ibid., Box 869, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Camp David Cables, January 1–July 31, 1972)↩