30. Memorandum From John D. Negroponte of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • The Enemy’s Dry Season Campaign

The Saigon Station Chief has sent us his appraisal of the enemy’s winter–spring campaign (Tab A)2 which is summarized below.

The current level of enemy activity is still far below what we believe the VC/NVA are capable of mounting. ARVN spoiling attacks and U.S. airstrikes may be partly responsible for slowing down the enemy timetable. In any case, his plans are flexible (unlike 1968). His offensive is proceeding in a deliberate and cautious manner and will probably unfold in stages, moving from small to larger attacks as he probes for exploitable opportunities. He will keep his options open and will try to avoid the disaster he suffered in 1968.

The enemy probably wants to strike what is primarily a psychological blow. His main targets are pacification and Vietnamization. He [Page 112] hopes that spectacular military action in Vietnam between now and the U.S. elections will bring new pressure to bear on the Administration to end the U.S. role in the war once and for all.

The next weeks should bring a noisy mix of ground attacks on lightly defended outposts and resettlement villages, terrorist activity, attacks by fire against urban areas and sapper strikes or rocket attacks on GVN and U.S. installations. Heavy action could also begin in MR–I with little warning, probably coordinated with attacks in the B–3 Front. Major actions could, however, be spaced over a longer period to ensure maximum political impact by demonstrating that the war could drag on forever.

The ARVN will pass the tests just ahead and by the end of the dry season will be in a position to move forward once again, but not so decisively as to preclude enemy efforts to create disruptions intended to influence the U.S. election in November.

Comment: The Station Chief’s appraisal closely parallels one we prepared for John Holdridge on the eve of the Peking trip (Tab B).3 We indicated that there would probably be no large offensive during the Peking trip, and we also speculated that the enemy has been less secretive about offensive plans because extreme secrecy caused him problems in 1968.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 158, Vietnam Country Files, Vietnam, Jan–Feb 1972. Secret. Sent for information. Lord initialed for Negroponte. Kissinger initialed the memorandum.
  2. Attached but not printed; dated February 24.
  3. Attached but not printed is a February 16 memorandum from Steadman to Holdridge.