118. Message From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Abrams) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer) and the Commander in Chief, Pacific (McCain)1

88748. Deliver during duty hours. Subject: Frame Glory (U). References: A. COMUSMACV 031204 May 72 (TS/Specat). B. CINCPAC 030402Z May 72 (TS/Specat). C. CJCS 022232Z May 72 (TS/Specat).2

(TS) Reference A is my special assessment of the situation in RVN as of 2 May and actions being taken by President Thieu to get things under better control. References B and C direct planning for execution of Frame Glory on 6 and 7 May 1972.
(TS) The situation in RVN at this moment and for the next several days will not permit the diversion of B–52s and 7AF assets to Frame Glory on 6 and 7 May.3 We have elements of two enemy divisions in the DMZ with good evidence that they are moving south into RVN.Kontum is expected to come under attack at any moment. The defenses protecting Hue are under attack by fire and ground attack could begin at any time. The command and control problems in MR1 remain critical. President Thieu has attacked the command and control problem by making key command changes. Gen. Truong took command of I Corps yesterday and we have got to pour the air support to him, both [Page 414] to sustain his already strong will and to hold the main enemy forces off of him with air and buy time while he regains control in MR1. President Thieu’s strategic concept includes clearing up An Loc immediately and releasing the Airborne Division (-)4 for movement to the critical MR1 area. To help accomplish this disengagement of the Airborne Division (-), President Thieu has asked me to give top priority on air support to MR3 for the next three days. I have already issued the necessary guidance to accomplish this. I feel that President Thieu has taken the correct decisions and that we must give him our full support. In this situation we are dealing with the central problem of will to fight and any interruption in our support to the key RVNAF commanders is reflected in their will and determination. We must stay with them at this critical time and apply the air power where the immediate effect is greatest.
(TS) If Frame Glory must be executed for reasons not known to us here, the solution that would have the least effect on in-country operations would be to employ the carrier force, leaving the B–52 and 7AF effort for in-country use.5
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman, Records of Thomas Moorer, Box 62, COMUSMACV General Service Messages, March 1972. Top Secret; Flash; Specat; Exclusive. When he attended the WSAG meeting at the White House the morning of May 4, Moorer brought Abrams’s and McCain’s messages with him (the latter’s message is cited in footnote 2). In an 11:28 a.m. conversation with Rush he said: “While we were away those two messages I showed you from Abrams and McCain? Pursley came down and ordered my Exec not to send them over to the White House. Of course, I had already taken them over. My orders from the President are all evaluations from the Field Commanders are to be sent to the White House. I did not see anything extraordinary about it but Pursley said that the SecDef is pleased with the messages because he did not think strikes should go anyway but did not want them to go to the White House. I am probably going to get a blast but I don’t care.” (Moorer Diary, May 4; National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman)
  2. All ibid., Records of Thomas Moorer, Box 62, COMUSMACV General Service Messages, March 1972.
  3. Later in the day, McCain wrote to Moorer: “General Abrams and I are in full agreement that Frame Glory should not be executed at this particular time. The situation in MR–1 and MR–2 requires that maximum Tacair and Arc Light support be provided to the ARVN ground forces. In addition, President Thieu has requested General Abrams to give MR–3 a higher priority for Tacair and B–52s in order to expedite clearing up the situation on Route 13 and around An Loc.” (Message 89204, May 4, 0805Z; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 46, Geopolitical File, Vietnam, Military Assessments, Apr.–Dec. 1972)
  4. The minus sign indicates that the Division would be sent without some of its units.
  5. Although eventually deferring to Abrams, the White House was at first adamantly against giving up the B–52 strikes. In a conversation with Nixon on May 2, Haig said: “Admiral Moorer and Rush are sorting out the timing on the B–52s and the strike for Friday [May 5]. It probably will take place on Friday afternoon our time. The first would be, and that’ll be very early morning Saturday time, with B–52s the first wave. I told him to get very heavy on the B–52s, to tell Abrams right now—” Nixon interrupted in agreement, and Haig continued: “—that, by God, he’s going to have to count on losing those assets.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation 717–10)