55. Telephone Conversation Between President Nixon and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer)1

Moorer: Good morning, Mr. President.

Nixon: Hi, how are you? I noticed that you only got off 126 missions yesterday, which I understand because of weather. Now I ask—

Moorer: No, we actually, that’s—

Nixon: Oh, you got six more, huh? 132, is that right—?

Moorer: It’s over 200, sir.

Nixon: Yeah. Well, let me ask you a question. I don’t want them to fly in bad weather, but what, where is that report that I was supposed to have here at 9:15 with regard to whether or not you could not, and without having those planes just sit on the deck, hit in the B–3 area, where they have that immense concentration? What about that?

Moorer: Well, they have been hitting, sir, in the B–3 area, and—

Nixon: Well, how about—how about taking everything that flies, while this weather is bad, and socking it in there for awhile again, giving them a massive punch? Is there—is—you see, you’ve got the planes sitting on the deck now.

Moorer: No, sir. The planes are operating. I think we had about 500 sorties over the last 24 hours, sir. They’re operating in the, along the Ho Chi Minh trail, in the B–3 Front, and along the—down in Military Region 3. And we actually had over 200 in Military Region 1 and just across the DMZ.

Nixon: Yeah.

Moorer: As you know, some of them got through a hole and destroyed the bridge over the Ben Hai River, and then came down the road and knocked out three tanks.

Nixon: I saw that. Uh-huh—

Moorer: By visible, but I think—

Nixon: That’s good. Good.

Moorer: I think that he’s made—the report that they made, sir, over there of 100 and—that was cut off at a certain time.

Nixon: Yeah.

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Moorer: And I telephoned out there.

Nixon: Yeah.

Moorer: I sent your instructions yesterday.

Nixon: Yeah. Right. Right. Right—

Moorer: That you wanted a maximum effort.

Nixon: Yeah. Understand, I don’t want anybody to fly in bad weather and just to drop it out in the boondocks. But my point is, if you can’t hit there then hit—you know, from reading the morning report, you say that you expect that the next blow is going to come in the B–3 area. Is that not correct?

Moorer: That’s right. Yes, sir. And they are working hard there—

Nixon: Are we working that as hard as we can?

Moorer: Yes, sir.

Nixon: There’s nothing more we can do—?

Moorer: Yes, sir. We don’t have any aircraft on the deck—

Nixon: Um-hmm. Yeah—

Moorer: Let me assure you.

Nixon: Now, point two. Have you carried out the order that I gave last night—12 hours ago—with regard to using naval gunfire on the road above the DMZ in North Vietnam?

Moorer: Yes, sir. I did that right away—

Nixon: Now, is there—does that, can the naval gunfire reach that road?

Moorer: Yes, sir.

Nixon: It can?

Moorer: Yes, sir.

Nixon: All right. Have you—and—and that’s—that will be done? Now—

Moorer: Yes, sir.

Nixon: Now, what additional ships are available to get out there? I mean, do you have a few that you could—

Moorer: Yes, sir—

Nixon: —send from Singapore and other places?

Moorer: Yes, sir. We, we’ve sent four additional destroyers and I’ve sent in a cruiser—

Nixon: Um-hmm. Well, have you got any? How long would it take anything to get from Pearl? Is that where most of them are?

Moorer: What I think we can use are the ones in the Western Pacific, sir. In fact, they’re already there. I had, I started this action as soon as I—

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Nixon: How many? How many could you get there, Tom? How many? I mean, could you get a significant number? Because I have a more important assignment that I’ll have Henry give to you orally.

Moorer: Yes, sir. We could get, certainly get more there from the Seventh Fleet. It would take, you know—

Nixon: Great.

Moorer: —about eight days or so to get them—

Nixon: Eight days?

Moorer: —from Pearl. But from the Seventh Fleet, we can get them within—

Nixon: Yeah.

Moorer: —anywhere from four hours—

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Moorer: —to four days.

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. And that includes what? Cruisers? Destroyers?

Moorer: Yes, sir.

Nixon: Um-hmm. Um-hmm. Um-hmm—

Moorer: But right as of this moment, there are eight—

Nixon: Yeah.

Moorer: —on the line, sir.

Nixon: Yeah—

Moorer: I told them to put four south of the DMZ and four north.

Nixon: And they are, but you can’t get—couldn’t you get more than that—?

Moorer: Yes, sir. We can get [unclear] a few—

Nixon: Well, order every, every—order everything that is used. Incidentally, forget the SIOP and all that crap—

Moorer: We have, sir—

Nixon: That doesn’t mean anything anyway. And get all the cruisers and destroyers in the Seventh Fleet in that area. We have another purpose for ’em. And get ’em there as fast as you can. And give me—give Henry a report by 10 o’clock,2 because I have a reason I have to have them there. Okay? And he’ll let you know. Okay?

Moorer: Yes, sir. Thank you.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, White House Telephone, Conversation 22–73. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon and Moorer spoke on the phone from 9:24 to 9:28 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. Moorer called Kissinger at 9:54 a.m. to tell him he had the list the President requested and could bring it over then or at 10:45 when the WSAG meeting convened. Kissinger said 10:45 would be fine and, as Moorer recorded in his diary: “And they want Abrams to understand that we are not going to lose this one no matter what it costs. He also wants every commander to give us the maximum without restraint. I said I had already told them that, and for them to let me know if they needed any additional authorities or resources.” (Moorer Diary, April 4, 9:54 a.m.; Ibid., RG 218, Records of the Chairman)