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

Nixon: Yeah?

Haig: Yes, Mr. President.

Nixon: Oh, Al, I got you in a meeting, have I?

Haig: No, sir. As a matter of fact I’m in the sauna bath.

Nixon: Oh, good. Good, good, good. Well, that’s good. I hope you’re fine. I was just going to check, is there anything new? I was looking at the paper and they were talking about the panic in Hue and [Page 397] that sort of a thing, but that—there’s nothing new that we have from your morning report, is there?

Haig: No, we have two reports on the Hue situation. One is that there’s an extreme nationalism that’s very high, with people wanting to be armed and to kill the enemy if they come.

Nixon: Yeah.

Haig: Which is—

Nixon: I hope we can get a little of that reported.

Haig: Yes, sir. Some of it’s bravado, of course, ’cause they haven’t gotten close enough yet.

Nixon: Yeah.

Haig: And the other is that there are many, many officials moving their families south on the roads, and that there’s some 4,000 on the roads south of Hue.

Nixon: Well, that’s expected isn’t it?

Haig: Yes, sir. They, they—

Nixon: Let me ask you this for you to consider before we meet: why don’t we, frankly, just make a command decision that you don’t fart around any more in the Kontum area? You know what I mean? Do—well give it enough so that they fight there but really concentrate the air power in the—where the real battle is to be fought. Put it there. In other words, the enemy concentrates, maybe we better concentrate where it counts.

Haig: That’s right, sir. I think the problem in Kontum is if they, if they move the few forces that are in there out—

Nixon: Yeah?

Haig: —they’ll get ambushed on the road—

Nixon: But you—right—

Haig: And that’ll be the end of them.

Nixon: Yeah.

Haig: I think they feel that the best thing to do—

Nixon: Well, maybe as you say they fight very well when they’re—

Haig: When they’re cornered, they fight—

Nixon: Yeah. Fine.

Haig: —which is a bad—

Nixon: But you have no information on Hue except that we—you still have that good division there? Right?

Haig: The good division’s there and we know that some of the units out of Quang Tri have joined.

Nixon: Some have gotten through?

Haig: Yes, sir. We don’t have precise unit identification, but they—the last report we had is that they’re trying to—

[Page 398]

Nixon: You see, if they start shelling Hue, the city, then the holds, the bars are off with regards to bombing the dikes, right?2

Haig: Yes, sir.

Nixon: Don’t you agree?

Haig: Yes, I do.

Nixon: Okay. Bye.

Haig: Bye.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation 23–114. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portion of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. Intricate centuries-old system of dikes that controlled irrigation in the low-lying areas of the Red River Delta of North Vietnam and protected those who lived and worked there.