199. Backchannel Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

106. Arrived Saigon on schedule this a.m. and spent morning in discussions with Ambassador Bunker, CAS Chief Polgar, General Vogt and General Weyand. Reviewed with Bunker the proposed discussions with Thieu. He agreed completely with scenario and is confident Thieu will easily agree with two months proviso and anticipates 3 or even 4 months would be acceptable to Thieu. He also feels Thieu will volunteer without reference from me to decline to run under provision of modified January 27 proposal.2 Bunker agrees with possible outcomes we discussed prior to my departure and would favor either but anticipates Thieu would balk at ceasefire in place given current enemy positions. Thieu followed President’s press conference with statement of his own here in South Vietnam. He stated to populace he would not [Page 698] accept ceasefire in place and would demand withdrawal of all foreign troops from GVN soil. I anticipate some problem on this if situation were to arise but also believe it would be manageable depending on precise circumstances. I will not raise this as direct proposal to Thieu however and will hold strictly to talking points you outlined.

I discussed bombing scenario with Vogt as outlined in your msg to me.3 He will comply. I also discussed with him your philosophy on Hanoi and other targets. He understands completely. We reviewed all of his targeting and I am very impressed with post-strike photos of targeting in Hanoi area where smart bombs are being used exclusively. He is most anxious to concentrate on vehicle repair facilities as the best method to affect truck traffic from China. He insists buffer restrictions make it impossible to effectively prevent truck resupply from reaching Hanoi due to multiplicity of routes south of buffer. He could not however offer much better prospect for effective interdiction if buffer were removed. I told him to propose specific lucrative targets within buffer when they occur. He is carefully watching the pipeline and is confident that the best counter is to strike pump stations now under construction. He believes this will be effective at least initially. He is now aware of need to hold down press crowing to avoid needless emotion at home. There are still plenty of good targets in Hanoi area which are well clear of the center of the city. Vogt does urge that the power station and the railroad center in Hanoi be cleared since he is confident they can be surgically neutralized with a few smart weapons. He is also confident and displays photo proof that bombing in North has been devastating. Each of the two RR lines north to China has been cut in over 12 places. No rail traffic is moving and thus situation can be maintained with ease.

Weyand understands completely the game in D.C. and will employ Bunker channel where needed.4 He expressed voluntarily his concerns to me about any ceasefire in place which he believes would pose unacceptable risks given the present enemy dispositions. I did not pursue matter. He also explained that all are aware that counter offensive in MR–I involves some risks due to enemy’s ability to hit flank of [Page 699] Marines and Airborne from west. He insists however that the risks are manageable given our firepower and desirability of getting enemy to commit himself.

Spent PM in MR–III where it is evident that enemy losses in the An Loc battle have been staggering. I worked over Minh on the need to open Route 13 but he’s not the man to do the job. My fear is that ARVN here is resting on its laurels except for our adviser Hollingsworth who is a diamond in the rough and a key factor in successes thus far. I do not believe that the enemy is capable of serious new offensive threats in this area. He is apparently fighting a delaying effort and is now moving some of his units (5th, 9th Divisions) to Parrots Beak area with view toward seeking some success in northern MR–IV areas bordering MR–III. However, his units have been so badly mauled that it doesn’t seem likely that he can achieve any real gains.

Tomorrow I’ll visit MR–I and provide a first hand report on ARVN offensive there which appears to be making very great gains. There is a sense of considerable confidence evident thus far, however, I also sense a degree of weariness which confirms the desirability of seeking early settlement if opportunity presents itself. This is especially evident in Bunker’s thinking. I’ll provide more detailed assessment following tomorrow’s MR–I visit. All here send best wishes and compliments on recent diplomatic achievements. President’s press conference was superb and great source of encouragement here.5 Warm regards.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 44, Geopolitical File, Cables, 24 June–29 August 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Immediate. An undated report by Haig on his trip to Indochina is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1016, Alexander M. Haig Special File, Haig Trip to Vietnam, June 29–July 4, 1972. According to Kissinger’s memoirs, Haig was in Saigon “to assess the war and to consult with Thieu about the positions we proposed to take” in the impending Paris talks. (White House Years, p. 1309)
  2. For the January 27 proposal, see Document 8.
  3. In backchannel message Hakto 2 to Haig, July 1, Kissinger instructed: “Reference Hakto 1, in your conversation with General Vogt be sure to make it clear that we feel it is important to keep the bombing pressure up while diplomatic negotiations are in progress.” (Message WHS 2082/Hakto 2; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1016, Alexander M. Haig Special File, Haig Trip to Vietnam, June 29–July 4, 1972)
  4. Special backchannel communication channel that allowed Weyand to send messages directly to and receive messages directly from Kissinger at the White House. General Weyand replaced General Abrams as Commander, MACV on June 29.
  5. Reference is to the June 29 press conference; see Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 705–718.