67. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • SEA Contingency Planning

The following is a suggested program of steps needed to develop an operational plan for further actions against North Vietnam should the current enemy offensive continue unchecked.

Objectives. The objectives of this intense military effort against NVN would be:

  • —To force NVN to halt the current offensive and withdraw forces from territory recently occupied in MR–1.
  • —To force NVN to negotiate seriously on the basis of our peace proposals.

Assumptions. The primary assumptions underlying this concept are as follows:

  • —South Vietnam has failed to stop the current offensive in MR–1 and considerable territory has been lost. The situation in MR–2 (and possibly western MR–3) is also deteriorating.
  • —The conduct of U.S. air and naval actions authorized to date and under active consideration has failed to alter the situation.
  • —The President accepts the domestic and diplomatic price of an expanded air and naval effort against NVN, including the risk of cancellation of the Soviet summit.
  • —The effort should achieve objectives quickly and have a major impact well before the planned Moscow trip.

A more detailed list of assumptions is at Tab A.2

Military Concept. Following a buildup of forces to the maximum extent possible within time constraints, an intense no-holds barred air and naval campaign against the North is envisaged. This would include:

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  • —Bombing of all areas of NVN (except a buffer zone along the PRC border), including the Haiphong port area and military targets in Hanoi. The strikes would be as intense as possible within the constraints of aircraft availability and concentrated on areas likely to produce the maximum psychological and military effect. Rules of engagement and target selection would be liberal.
  • —A companion naval campaign with shore bombardment all along the coast, the mining of Haiphong and other lesser ports, blockade of ports and interdiction of coastal shipping.
  • —A parallel psychological campaign against the NVN people and the leadership. All possible diplomatic actions would be taken to pressure NVN to stop the aggression and negotiate.

An illustrative simplified diplomatic and military scenario is at Tab B.


In addition to the political and diplomatic implications of these steps, there are important military considerations. The assets available to implement the plan are likely to be about half those used in 1968 during the major bombing campaign, and there are difficult time constraints on initiating actions likely to cause heavy military and psychological damage to NVN prior the Summit. Unless we are willing to begin the operation piecemeal, nearly three weeks will be needed to plan and position forces. Thus, even if you give an early go-ahead for contingency planning, it is likely to be near the end of April before the attacks commence. This would be less than one month before the Moscow trip.

In this timeframe it is problematical whether these measures would achieve the objective of forcing the DRV to the bargaining table. There is, however, a greater likelihood that they would force the enemy to halt his offensive and facilitate an ARVN counteroffensive. In any event, these measures would enhance U.S. credibility in light of earlier warnings and the extreme provocation by the DRV.

A simplified game plan illustrating the planning time constraints is at Tab C.


Given the need to start detailed contingency planning promptly, I recommend you seek the President’s approval of the draft directive to Secretary Laird at Tab D.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 57, Geopolitical File, Vietnam, Trips, Haig Alexander M., April 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Haig did not initial the memorandum. In his unsigned covering memorandum to Kissinger, Haig wrote: “Attached is the Contingency Plan we discussed. The conceptual parameters, I think, are responsive to the realities of the political-military situation. You may wish to review this with the President, with the view toward getting an all-out planning effort underway as soon as possible.”
  2. Tabs A–D are attached but not printed.