160. Memorandum From President Nixon to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

While we are in Moscow it is vitally important that our bombing activity continue, at least at its present level and if possible above the present level in the event that the other carrier or other squadrons arrive on the scene and are available for use. The only restriction is that we do not want to hit in the Hanoi area as you are aware. However, it is particularly important that strikes in North Vietnam and around the area of Hanoi and Haiphong, except for the small area of Hanoi itself, be kept up at their present level so that there can be no charge at home that we have let up on our strikes, and also so that the enemy will not get any impression that because of our Moscow trip we let up on our strikes.

Due to the fact that we did restrain our military activities in the period before, during and after the Chinese trip there will be an expectation that we will reduce our efforts at this point. Under no circumstances must we make that mistake.

When we return, assuming that there has been no progress on the negotiating front, I want Abrams and Vogt to have for my consideration a major B–52 strike in the Hanoi–Haiphong area. One obvious target is the power plant in the center of Hanoi which, of course, is off limits at this point. In addition to that however, there must be some pretty good areas where B–52s would clean up where the smaller planes have already done some damage. A B–52 strike could have major [Page 585] psychological effect at that time and we want to get it in while we still have the public support for this kind of activity. The only excuse for not authorizing such a strike, which I will consider, other than progress on the negotiating front, is Abrams’judgment that he continues to need all the B–52s on the battlefront. That, of course, would have to take priority.2 But by that time it is my judgment that he would be able to spare half his B–52s and I would prefer around 50 of them for this kind of a strike. Get the planning at least under way so that I can have something on my desk on the 2nd or 3rd, or whatever the day is when we return.

On the propaganda front I think one theme that should be hit among the North Vietnamese forces in the South is a story to the effect that two Marine divisions from Japan and Okinawa have been ordered to North Vietnam and will be landing in the Hanoi–Haiphong area between the 1st and 15th of June. Another line that might be very effective would be to indicate that all women and children are being evacuated from Hanoi and that riots are occurring in Hanoi and in other cities in the North, and urging the soldiers to go home to defend their families against the expected attacks.

I hold no brief for either of these ideas, but they at least do give you an impression of the kind of broadcast that we should have been making long ago but that now is imperative. It will also give you an impression of the total lack of imagination we have from our own intelligence forces, both in the military and in CIA in coming up with ideas like this. I want you to really stir that pot and force them to give you some other ideas of this type that could be effective. The psychological offensive could prove to be more important at this point than the military offensive although, of course, it would not have a chance if the military offensive were to fail. Let’s be sure that we get some creative thinking going on the psychological offensive immediately. I know that I have hit this theme over and over again in other conversations and memos to you and Henry, but I am totally unsatisfied with the results that we have had so far from the Departments, and I want you to call in the main leaders and boot them hard to get some action.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 341, Subject Files, HAK/President Memos, 1971. Top Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. Abrams had made such an argument in an earlier message. See Document 157.