151. Editorial Note

On the eve of President Richard M. Nixon’s trip to the Soviet Union, the White House staff became concerned with when and where Air Force and Navy aircraft could bomb in the Hanoi area during the time that Nixon was actually in the Soviet Union and Poland, which he was also scheduled to visit. Nixon, Henry A. Kissinger, his Assistant for National Security Affairs, and Major General Alexander M. Haig, his Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs, feared the ill effects that large numbers of civilian casualties might have on the Moscow Summit and so wanted the bombing temporarily, but only locally, restricted. This requirement set off many telephone calls and meetings in the Pentagon. The conversations and meetings are recorded in the Moorer Diary, May 15, 1972; National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman.

According to a transcript of their May 15 conversation, when Kissinger called Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at 7:44 p.m., they had the following exchange:

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HAK: I understand there has been again some hanky-panky going on just have to know what restrictions are over here. We can’t deal with everybody like a group of politicians. I thought there was authority to hit military targets? I did not know there was 10 NM circle.

CJCS: I think somebody gave you the wrong information. They have got authority to hit any target outside of 10 NM inside we validate targets. We have 18 targets they can hit any time they want to, it is just up to Laird to get additional targets so they do not have to go to Laird.

HAK: Don’t have to go every time to hit a target?

CJCS: Furthermore, any target outside that circle in south can hit any time they want to.

HAK: Haig thinks you are not authorized to hit that bridge. I don’t think President could be more explicit in his instructions to hit the bridge.

CJCS: Laird told me you said between now and Friday [May 19]we were to restrict our activity between 5–10 NM?

HAK: Only because he was coming back to me, just let me make absolutely clear you can hit between now and Friday any military target on the authorized list.

CJCS: That was my understanding.

HAK: Plus any other targets in the 5–10 NM circle anything remaining authorized.

CJCS: That was what we expected.

HAK: That is what you are going to get.

CJCS: He came back to me . . .

HAK: I will handle that!

CJCS: Any target already authorized in addition hit any other military target in the 5–10 NM circle except we do not want civilian casualties.

HAK: As long as you keep an eye on civilian casualties we will not get into the military targeting business.

CJCS: You shouldn’t.

HAK: We do not want to.

CJCS: I just want you to understand 10 NM only comes into play when we add another target. The ones you authorized.

HAK: They can hit any time day or night. I want to take Pursley out of the targeting business.

CJCS: He fuzzes up everything we try to do.

HAK: We understand each other.

CJCS: I have already put out message which said balls out until Saturday laid off until 2 June and then 5 June all restrictions lifted.

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HAK: We may extend 2 June to 5 June too much confusion on balls out. Tom, I just want to make sure don’t put 200 planes in Hanoi area.

CJCS: They don’t have them to put in there.

HAK: Don’t make them have it look like an escalation.

CJCS: I understand.

HAK: You have to use your judgment. I don’t want to tell you how many to put in there. Fly north in 20s trip the weight a little in that direction.

CJCS: I will talk to Vogt and you will not have any problem.

HAK: Between you and telephoning, we’re in one hell of a time.

CJCS: I do most of my business by telephone out to Vogt.

HAK: You are our good strong arm over there, Tom.

CJCS: Thank you.” (Moorer Diary, May 15; ibid.)

In the telegram spelling out the restrictions to Admiral John S. McCain, Commander in Chief, Pacific, which, as Moorer informed Kissinger, he had already sent, Moorer addressed what should be done before the restrictions were in place:

“In view of the above temporary restriction, from now through Friday, 19 May Saigon time, you should, consistent with other priority requirements and weather limitations, concentrate air strikes inside the 10-NM radius of Hanoi against those targets authorized for strikes and which you consider would most contribute to success of our interdiction program.” (Message 6177 from Moorer to McCain, May 15; ibid., Records of Thomas Moorer, Box 68, JCS Out General Service Messages, 16–31 May 1972)