65. Diary Entry by the Assistant to the President (Haldeman)1

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]

He [the President] feels we’ve really got to hit Kennedy hard on his Vietnam line.2 We need to get out the record on the peace talks again, try to get Rogers to do this. We’ve got to decide on whether to have a press conference Wednesday, but decide on Tuesday, whether to have it. It is a problem, too risky because of the Vietnam thing.

He then had me stay in when Henry brought General Vogt in to discuss his show.3 The background of this is that in a briefing the other day,4

Vogt mentioned to Henry that he was terribly distressed with the way the military and particularly the Air Force were handling the Vietnam situation, particularly their failure to carry out the Presidential orders and an even worse failure to come up with any ideas of their own on how things ought to be handled. Vogt made the comment to K that he would like to give up his 4th star that he was about to get for going over to NATO and be assigned to Vietnam and get the thing straightened out. As a result of this, K suggested exactly that to the P and he bought the idea. Vogt is being transferred to Vietnam, although he’s still getting his 4th star and he’s going to go out there this weekend.

The P called him and really laid it to him, saying that he was making this change because it had to be done and that he was very upset with the military, things weren’t being handled right out there, that he expected Vogt to step in and take it over. He then made quite a dramatic point of the fact that this may very well be the last battle that will be fought by the United States Air Force, since this kind of war probably will never happen again, and that it would be a tragic thing if this great service would end its active battle participation in a disgraceful operation that this Vietnam offensive is turning out to be. Problem being, of course, that the Air Force is relying on weather problems [Page 222] as an excuse for not moving in on the attacks that the P has ordered. Vogt said he understood what the P was saying loud and clear and that he’d move in and get it solved. The P told him to bypass Abrams, that he did not have confidence in Abrams, that he’d been a great commander in W.W.II, but that he was over the hill now and that Vogt was to get things done. If he had any problems he was to let the P know, not just let the thing simmer.

Vogt then raised the point that his hand would be greatly strengthened if he were made Deputy Commander out there instead of just Air Commander and the P said that is to be done and ordered Henry to get it done. It was quite a dramatic meeting, and I think undoubtedly had a dramatic effect on General Vogt.5

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]

  1. Source: Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition.
  2. The following had appeared that morning in The New York Times: “Also today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, linked the enemy offensive with Mr. Nixon’s suspension of the Paris peace talks and said it ‘brutally demonstrates the moral and military bankruptcy of the President’s policy in Vietnam.’” The article concluded: “Mr. Kennedy urged the President to call publicly for an immediate cease-fire at the border area and to return to the Paris talks ‘tomorrow, to seek an immediate end to the war.’” (The New York Times, April 6, 1972)
  3. According to the President’s Daily Diary, General Vogt met with the President from 9:26 to 9:55 a.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files)
  4. Not further identified.
  5. On April 10, General Vogt was named Commander, 7th Air Force, and Deputy Commander, MACV.