141. Summary of Conclusions of a Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Vietnam


  • Chairman
  • Mr. Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • Mr. U. Alexis Johnson
  • Mr. William Sullivan
  • DOD
  • Mr. Kenneth Rush
  • Mr. G. Warren Nutter
  • Rear Adm. William Flanagan
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
  • Captain Kinnard McKee
  • CIA
  • Mr. Richard Helms
  • Mr. George Carver
  • Mr. William Newton (only stayed for Mr. Helms’ briefing)
  • NSC Staff
  • Major Gen. Alexander Haig
  • Mr. Richard T. Kennedy
  • Mr. John Negroponte
  • Mr. Mark Wandler


It was agreed that:

  • —The Defense Department should make sure that we stay away from Chinese ships when interdicting supplies being brought to North Vietnamese harbors.
  • —The Defense Department should set up a photographic system in order to note all ship movements in North Vietnamese harbors.
  • —We should say in press briefings—on an if asked basis—that we are not prepared to comment on the report that UN Secretary General Waldheim has offered his good services to all the parties in this crisis.
  • —We should bring out in press briefings all the statements of support from foreign leaders for our current actions.
  • —The new rules of engagement should be held very closely.2
  • —The Defense Department should have the results of its study on air interdiction efforts beyond the 25-mile buffer zone ready for consideration at tomorrow’s meeting.
  • —The message to Ambassador Unger on the reopening of Takli airbase should be coordinated and sent out today.
  • —The State Department should send the transcript of Mr. Kissinger’s press conference to key posts and circulate it in the Department.3 It should also send out the list of neutral ships hit by mines in South Vietnamese waters.
  • —The State Department should prepare by tomorrow a check list of possible Soviet actions.

[Omitted here are the minutes of the meeting.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–116, Washington Special Actions Group, WSAG Minutes (Originals) 1–3–72 to 7–24–72. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. As discussed in the minutes of this WSAG meeting, the rules of engagement stated that United States naval vessels and military aircraft could take action against a ship outside the harbor and beyond the 12-mile territorial waters claimed by North Vietnam as it was being off-loaded if Washington gave permission. In addition, if the ship was within the 12-mile limit, the vessel to which cargo was being transferred could be attacked. Escort ships and aircraft were to be treated the same as merchant vessels. On May 13, the Navy and Air Force received permission to attack North Vietnamese vessels engaged in, suspected of, or configured for carrying out mine-clearing operations. (Message 4545 from JCS to Pacific Command, May 13; National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman, Records of Thomas Moorer, Box 68, JCS Out General Service Messages, 1–15 May 1972)
  3. For Kissinger’s news conference, see The New York Times, May 10, 1972, p. 18.