54. Memorandum for the Record by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer)1

CJCS M–18–72


  • Meeting with President Nixon, Monday, 3 April 1972, White House
Following the WSAG Meeting, Doctor Kissinger asked DepSecDef Rush and me to accompany him for a visit with the President.
The President was clearly in a very unhappy mood.2 He was frustrated over the news reports and the fact that he was convinced that SecDef was deliberately withholding information from him. He was particularly critical of Gen Abrams and inquired as to where were Gen Abrams’ recommendations for action to counter the enemy’s attack in Military Region 1. He said he would take no excuses and he wanted forces augmented and action taken against the enemy without delay.3 He was particularly irritated by the fact that a request for a briefing, submitted by the White House for 0745, was not fulfilled until about 0900. This was due to the fact that SecDef had scheduled his review of the same briefing at 0745 and, obviously, the Briefers couldn’t be in both places at the same time.
I told the President that I was making no excuses—that the SecDef had issued an order that he, or his Executive Assistant, would [Page 186] pass on all information given to the White House and that if the President would simply publish written instructions to the contrary he would get the information directly and immediately. Furthermore, after he had instructed me to reprimand the Briefing Officer who was late arriving at the White House, I told him I was not in charge of the briefings—they were handled by SecDef and, if he wanted the briefings on time and at the time specified, all he had to do was give me the task of providing the briefings direct and the Briefer would there. I also told the President that, in all fairness to Gen Abrams, I had to point out that he, as well as Adm McCain backed up by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had repeatedly requested authority to take actions designed to prevent the very thing that had happened; namely, the build-up of NVN forces including missile forces, just north of the DMZ. (The chronology of recent requests is outlined in my MFR M–17–72). The President has apparently forgotten that on Saturday, 18 March, he had personally signed a paper turning down the authorities after some rather weak positions taken by the SecDef.4 (I told him that specifically I had turned in a very urgent request on Thursday, 9 March5 and that it was finally turned down the latter part of March). H seemed surprised at this and directed HAK to investigate. He reiterated what he told me before—he was an elected official and the SecDef was appointed and, as he put it, was only a “procurement officer.”
That afternoon, after DepSecDef Rush and I had informed SecDef of what had happened and the fact that the President was convinced SecDef was withholding information from him, SecDef endeavored to get an appointment with the President but the President as DepSecDef Rush described it was taking a “strategic nap.” I have now been informed that SecDef has seen the President and the situation is cooled off considerably. In any event, the net effect has been to at least partially clear the air and I hope decrease the very heavy influence that MG Pursley exercises over SecDef Laird.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman, Moorer Diary, July 1970–July 1974. Top Secret; Sensitive. The memorandum is attached to Admiral Moorer’s April 3 Diary entry.
  2. H.R. Haldeman characterized Nixon’s frustration with the military, especially the Air Force, in these terms: “He really banged Moorer around yesterday on the Air Force’s inability to get moving. Problem is they keep saying that the weather is such that they can’t bomb. The P’s massing a huge attack force, Naval ships for gunning from the sea, tremendous number of additional bombers, and he’s going to start using B–52s for the first time to bomb North Vietnam as soon as the weather clears. He’ll base the bombing on the violation of the DMZ and move in hard. He feels that this will give us a fairly good chance of negotiations, which he has never really felt we’ve had up to now, but thinks they’re doing this as a desperation move and then will go to negotiate. Henry has the same view.” ( Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition, April 4)
  3. To this end, Moorer cabled the following to McCain and Abrams the next day: “I request that each of you give this air offensive your personal and continuous attention and fully utilize every opportunity to effect a massive impact on the enemy. The President has clearly stated that he expects imaginative, aggressive and continuous attention to be focused on the current crisis throughout the unified command system. Request you advise me immediately of any additional authorities and resources which you require.” (Telegram 6826 from Moorer to McCain and Abrams, April 4; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1016, Alexander M. Haig Special File, General Haig’s Visit to Vietnam, April 14, 1972)
  4. See footnote 7, Document 44.
  5. See footnote 3, Document 35.
  6. Moorer initialed “M” above his typed signature.