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

CJCS M–23–72


  • North Vietnamese Offensive, April 1972 (U)
Situation. Midnight, Thursday, 13 April land battle underway in South Vietnam. Major action taking place due to enemy effort to capture An Loc. As many as 160 Tacair sorties and 18–21 B52 sorties per day allocated to the battle. The 5th, 7th, and 9th NVA Divisions engaged.
Background. Upon directions received from the White House orders were issued to CINCPAC to prepare for a heavy attack against Haiphong to be conducted by B52s and Tacair. The President and HAK are in Canada today without adequate secure communications—MG Haig preparing to visit Saigon to advise Gen Abrams of the President’s desires with respect to the current activity in Southeast Asia.
In a telephone conversation with Gen Vogt (7AF) I learned that Abrams was preparing a message requesting cancellation of the strikes in NVN. At about 0130 I received a telephone call from CINCPAC stating he had received MACV message and which he had read.2 CINCPAC followed up with a message agreeing with Abrams.
At the request of Abrams, Ambassador Bunker, at the same time, sent a message to the President pointing out the requirements for Tacair and B52s in SVN and requested delay of the proposed strike in Hanoi/Haiphong.
Later I learned from Haig that this message simply drove the President up the bulkhead and that it confirms his suspicions that Abrams is receiving instructions from Laird contrary to the instructions issued by the President.3
At shortly before 0700 I reported to the Office of the SecDef for the normal briefing and to advise him of Abrams’ message and my recommended reply. Initially Laird brought up the fact that I had sent a message to McCain/Abrams telling them that Haig was visiting Saigon with “full Presidential authority.” Laird was very upset and, among other things, related this to the Johnson/Goldwater campaign stating, in effect, that I had given authority to Haig to drop nuclear weapons. I did not tell Laird that this message was sent at the direction of the President and that my message was a direct quote of my instructions received via a telephone conversation with HAK of which I have a verbatim transcript.4 I simply said that I had made a mistake and that I would correct the message. The real problem is that Laird wants Abrams to think that he, Laird, is sending Haig out to Saigon rather than the President. The real purpose of Haig’s visit is to get across to Abrams what the President really wants. So far, Abrams has looked inward and confined his efforts to the land action inside SVN. Since the President has directed the augmentation of US forces in Indo China amounting to about 3 aircraft carriers—16 destroyers—2 cruisers—3 Air Force tactical squadrons—and 3 Marine tactical squadrons—without receiving a single request from Abrams, he does not understand why Abrams needs all of the forces in-country regardless of how many forces are sent out there. The strike on Haiphong is part of a progressive and heavy escalation being made for political purposes in an effort to negotiate the war.
I related my experiences with Laird over this message to Ken Rush who thoroughly understood my predicament, since he had been caught the same way. I told him that the President had said that he and Laird have different fish to fry and said that I understood this perfectly, but I do not particularly enjoy the fact that they both fry their fish in my pan!
In our discussions DepSecDef said that he had been advised of this situation prior to taking the job and that he understood the problem thoroughly. He pointed out that Laird frequently telephones Abrams, particularly with respect to the Withdrawal Program, which he has been pushing so hard (This, of course, is well known to me). Among other things, DepSecDef stated that his Aide, Ray Furlong, had been instructed by MG Pursley to, in effect, “spy” on the DepSecDef and [Page 253] keep SecDef advised of his activities. Ken became aware of this little activity and took rather positive action to correct it. It is just one more example of the disruptive influence of Pursley.
I prepared a message turning down Abrams’ request to cancel the strike which Laird finally approved and which satisfied the President.5 I also called Abrams and McCain so, at this moment, no one is happy—but everyone is satisfied!
T.H. Moorer 6
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman, Moorer Diary, July 1970–July 1974. Sensitive—Hold Close.
  2. What Abrams requested in this message, dated April 14, 0545Z, was not cancellation but postponement of the Freedom Porch strikes until April 21 or 22. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1016, Alexander M. Haig Special File, General Haig’s Visit to Vietnam, April 14, 1972)
  3. In a telephone conversation the next day, Kissinger characterized the President’s reaction in this manner: “Well, I can tell you when I showed the President Abrams’ message he practically went into orbit.” (Moorer Diary, April 15; ibid., RG 218, Records of the Chairman)
  4. In his diary entry on April 13, Moorer recorded his 11:49 a.m. telephone conversation with Kissinger: “He has been talking to the President and wants me to send a message to Abrams making it clear that Haig is coming out there with full Presidential Authority and that he is to be given full cooperation, that he is carrying personal instructions from the President. I said I have already sent out the itinerary and I will send this right away. HAK asked if there was anything else I needed to get it into Abrams’ head that the party was over.” (Ibid.)
  5. In message 9098, April 14, Moorer explained the decision to McCain and Abrams in the following terms: “It is recognized that under present tactical circumstances in-country that 200 Tacair strike sorties and 36 B–52 sorties will not fully meet the requirements of MACV to support the land battle. However, there are other very high level considerations which dictate a firm requirement for a heavy air strike in the Hanoi/Haiphong area during the coming weekend.” (National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman, Records of Thomas Moorer, Box 68, JCS Out General Service Messages, 1–15 April 1972) The heart of these considerations was that Nixon and Kissinger, on the eve of Kissinger’s departure for Moscow to discuss the upcoming summit, wanted to send a message to the Soviets about American determination in Vietnam. (Kissinger, Ending the Vietnam War, p. 254) Nixon later wrote: “Any sign of weakness on our part might encourage the Soviets to provide more arms in hopes of giving the North Vietnamese a military advantage.” ( RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, p. 588)
  6. Printed from a copy with this typed signature.