168. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Further Reports from Foreign Diplomats in Hanoi

Two further reports covering the situation in Hanoi since the bombing and mining of the North have been passed on to us by [Page 616] Indonesian and British sources in Vientiane. Although brief, the reports tend to corroborate the information we gained via Vientiane from the French representative in Hanoi which I passed to you on May 17.2

According to [less than 1 line not declassified]in Vientiane, Indonesian representatives in Hanoi have been reporting that:

  • —There is considerable unrest in Hanoi as a result of U.S. air strikes and the mining of North Vietnamese ports.
  • —The prices of basic commodities have doubled or tripled and a black market has come into existence which the DRV authorities appear unable to eliminate. There are stories going around about executions of black marketeers.
  • —In paying a farewell call on Giap, a departing Indonesian found him morose and taciturn, in contrast to his “usual self-confidence.”

The British [less than 1 line not declassified] in Hanoi, in a sensitive report made available by the British intelligence representative in Vientiane, noted that:

  • —The Paul Doumer Bridge in Hanoi (the main highway and railway link between Hanoi and China) was out as of May 10, with one span severed completely 20 yards from the northwest abutment. As of May 16, no repair work was in progress, although a one-way pontoon bridge had been constructed alongside which was in use.
  • —North Vietnamese citizens listen to BBC news broadcasts and accept straightforward reporting as true, but information accredited to a particular source such as “a military spokesman in Saigon” is often not accepted. An NVA colonel had heard on the BBC that the Thanh Hoa Bridge was down, and passed this word as confirmed to visiting New York Times reporter Anthony Lewis.
  • —Morale has stiffened under the bombing attacks. Following the raids, work is immediately resumed and no fuss is made of the interruption.

You will recall that like the Indonesians, the French representative in Hanoi mentioned black marketing, high food prices, and widespread popular knowledge of the cutting of communications lines and the downing of bridges. The British [less than 1 line not declassified] report also underscores popular knowledge of what has been happening. There is a discrepancy between the Indonesian and the French descriptions of the people’s attitude and that of the British, with the former two tending to speak of the populace being disturbed and the latter telling of stiffening morale. However, the outward responses of a disciplined, stoic people as seen by [less than 1 line not declassified] may [Page 617] differ considerably from what they actually think, and the Indonesian and French reports are probably closer to the mark.

The hard information contained in all these reports is being incorporated in our intensified psychological warfare campaign directed against the North Vietnamese people and armed forces. There would definitely appear to be receptivity in North Vietnam to such information.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 160, Vietnam Country Files, Vietnam, May 1972. Top Secret. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. On the first page of the memorandum Nixon wrote in the margin: “Haig—get these out to press without compromising the sources.”
  2. See footnote 2, Document 155.