128. Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Ambassador to South Vietnam (Bunker)1

WHS2066. 1. President Nixon is tentatively planning to announce Monday evening EST, May 8, the closing of DRV ports by mining and blockade, intensified naval bombardment of the DRV coast and intensified air interdiction throughout the DRV.

2. You should not inform President Thieu of the foregoing at this time. We will, however, provide you with text of a Presidential message to Thieu to convey to him two hours prior to mining of DRV ports.

3. The President wants you and General Abrams to know that he visualizes this operation as a maximum effort designed not only to [Page 479] close off sources of sea supply but to interdict internal DRV logistics routes and above all, through early and massive application of firepower against rail lines, to preclude or at least severely complicate development of rail from China as a compensating source of supply.

4. To put it in the bluntest terms, we are not interested in half-measures; we want to demonstrate to Hanoi that we really mean business; and we want to strike in a fashion that maximizes their difficulties in sorting out what their priorities should be in responding to these retaliatory actions.

5. There should be no question in either your or General Abrams’ mind that we want to devote the necessary assets to this action. If in your judgment the assets required for operations in the North lead you to conclude that more air is needed to meet tactical exigencies in the South, then that air should be promptly requested and we will get it to you.

6. Concurrent with these actions, we will be counting heavily on you to impress upon President Thieu and his entire military leadership the need to energize RVNAF to the utmost of their abilities. With the United States having taken such steps, there can be no remaining doubt about the steadfastness of our purpose, our willingness to do everything within our power and our determination to do everything we can to help SVN defend itself.

7. But having taken these measures, which we can only assume will have overwhelmingly favorable impact in SVN, it is incumbent upon the RVNAF and the entire GVN political apparatus to follow-up aggressively on the ground regaining the initiative against the NVA wherever they pose a challenge and recouping pacification losses wherever they may have occurred.

8. The President’s message to Thieu will cover some of the points in paragraph 7 above; but we cannot overemphasize importance of point that steps we plan to take must be accompanied by absolutely maximum GVN effort in days and weeks ahead to turn back NVA offensive. With the dramatic new U.S. measures contemplated we believe this can be accomplished.

9. In view of above we need SVN civilian casualty figures resulting from offensive requested yesterday in State channels on urgent basis for possible use in Presidential speech. Do not hesitate to give us ball-park figures and we will not object if they incline towards the high side.

10. Warm regards.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 241, Geopolitical File, Vietnam, Cables, January 1970–December 1974. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Drafted on May 6.