148. Memorandum for the President’s Files by the President’s Military Assistant (Scowcroft)1
- Meeting with Representatives of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, May 15, 1972 at 10:30 a.m.
- Mrs. Sybil E. Stockdale (wife of Captain James B. Stockdale, USN)
- Mrs. Phyllis E. Galanti (wife of Lt. Commander Paul E. Galanti, USN)
- Mrs. Maureen A. Dunn (wife of Lieutenant Joseph P. Dunn, USN)
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
- Brigadier General Brent Scowcroft
Following the introduction of the representatives of the National League of Families to the President, the President asked that all be seated for a photo opportunity.
After the photo opportunity, Mrs. Stockdale indicated that she was the principal spokesman for the group and had several questions which were of concern to the League members. The first question Mrs. Stockdale asked was when the Prisoners would be released. The President replied that the successful completion of a negotiating process required the cooperation of both negotiating parties. The issue of the POW/MIAs has been and will continue to be discussed on every foreign trip. The President added that North Vietnam had indicated that the prisoners could be released only when we agreed to assist in the imposition of a Communist government in South Vietnam, a condition to which we would never agree. The President explained that the actions he announced on May 8 have now given us the leverage to obtain the release of the POWs. The blockade will work now, whereas it would not have worked in 1968 because of the availability of supplies through Cambodia.
Mrs. Stockdale then asked what plans had been made to provide for an accounting for the missing. The President responded that one of the best sources of information would be our returned prisoners. He stressed that we would do everything possible to get a complete accounting for the missing, to include investigating teams from third countries in the event U.S. teams were not permitted in Communist held areas of Southeast Asia.[Page 550]
Mrs. Galanti observed that she had in the past opposed the President’s policies but that she now fully supported him. The President asked what those who opposed current U.S. policy would propose as an alternative. Mrs. Galanti replied that most of them would simply have the U.S. withdraw from Southeast Asia. The President responded that the Communists, under those conditions, would never release the prisoners.
Mrs. Galanti wondered what we would do in the event we reached some agreements with the Soviet Union—arrangements for increased trade, for example—and the U.S.S.R. still refused to help us on the POW/MIA issue. The President pointed out that we must separate U.S.–U.S.S.R. relationships from the Vietnam conflict. Attempting to apply pressure to the Soviet Union on the Vietnam issue would serve principally to make it come to the aid of its North Vietnam ally.
Mrs. Dunn then asked whether we had ever offered to North Vietnam a withdrawal of U.S. forces in return for release of the POWs. The President replied that, on May 31, 1971, we had offered a U.S. withdrawal from South Vietnam in exchange for a cease fire and release of the POWs.
Mrs. Dunn was concerned about who on the Communist side would be in a position to negotiate for the prisoners held in South Vietnam; and whether or not we had contacts with Communist groups such as the Pathet Lao. The President replied in the affirmative to the latter question and observed that North Vietnam would be expected to negotiate for the prisoners in the South.
Following a short exchange over public opinion on the POW issue, the President concluded the meeting by stating that he had the responsibility to obtain the release of our POWs and to protect the U.S. forces remaining in South Vietnam. The President then gave each of the ladies a compact, escorted them to the door, and bade them farewell.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office File, Box 88, Memoranda for the President, Beginning May 14, 1972. No classification marking.↩