84. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Helms to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Interim Report on Covert Disinformation Program Against North Vietnam
We took prompt steps to implement your 5 April request for a covert disinformation program2 leading the North Vietnamese to conclude that the United States is prepared to mine the port of Haiphong if current NVA attacks in South Vietnam continue.3
The following is a brief interim report of the covert actions which have been taken in conjunction with this program:
[5½ lines not declassified] he was reluctant to proceed because he had heard that the Americans were planning direct military action against the port of Haiphong [3 lines not declassified]. The Vietnamese official stated that the information could possibly be important and was most effusive in expressing his appreciation for the information. [3 lines not declassified] When the subject of a possible raid on Haiphong was broached, the Vietnamese official’s facial expression and demeanor changed visibly and he became very serious and spoke in a low voice. The Vietnamese official [less than 1 line not declassified] and said that he would appreciate any additional information on this subject and asked him to go back to the source and obtain additional details. [5½ lines not declassified]

[2½ lines not declassified]

Mines for Haiphong Harbor? 9 April (Olangapo City Special) Reports from Olangapo City indicate that Subic Naval Base personnel have recently been involved in the workup and shipboard loading of aerial mining weapons for possible use in combat air operations off the coast of North Vietnam. Filipino personnel working on the base claim that these weapons are designed for harbor and shipping lane use and are detonated by either acoustic or magnetic field change actuations.

These same Filipino sources reported the recent loading of these weapons aboard U.S. Navy replenishment ships which daily resupply U.S. aircraft carriers presently operating against North Vietnam forces and their supply lines. In addition to the mining weapons special racks which are used by aircraft launching them are also being loaded simultaneously on the replenishment ships.

According to competent observers there is only one harbor in North Vietnam where these mining weapons can be used—Haiphong.

The Manila Chronicle Radio Station, DZMN, broadcast the entire PNS release on its 0700 hours newscast 11 April. The release was published on the front page of the Manila Evening News on 12 April. The Manila Times carried the entire release as part of its 13 April news coverage of Vietnam developments. The 13 April Daily Mirror also headlined the same story. On the evening of 12 April the Agence France Presse representative in Manila telephoned to the Subic Naval Base Public Information Officer in an effort to verify the information in the PNS news release.

[7½ lines not declassified] he had learned that the Americans were planning to mine Haiphong harbor [7 lines not declassified].
[10½ lines not declassified] discussed the ostensible request for detailed information on Haiphong harbor, the DRV official became visibly agitated and his hand began shaking as he took detailed notes of [Page 281] the conversation. [6 lines not declassified] In the course of their discussion, the DRV official stated that the situation in the battle areas of Vietnam is very serious and that the DRV Embassy has an urgent requirement to determine:
How far north the Americans will bomb, particularly in DRV Military Region 4. The DRV official commented inter alia that B–52 strikes had been made in Thanh Hoa Province at 0240 hours, 13 April, and that the DRV anticipates additional strikes in the same area.

The capability of South Vietnamese troops to withstand North Vietnamese Army attacks both with, and without, American air and naval fire support.

The North Vietnamese official concluded the conversation by reiterating that the situation is very serious and that American escalation of bombing of the DRV is a critical factor in determining success or failure.

In addition, another element in the scenario is being conveyed to a [1 line not declassified]. That action and any reactions to this operation will be reported.
Richard Helms 4
  1. Source: National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, Subject Files, Vietnam, 17 Jan 72–2 Oct 73. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. According to handwritten note on the first page, Richard T. Kennedy of the NSC staff passed the memorandum directly to Kissinger.
  2. The April 5 request from Kissinger has not been found. Helms, however, responded on April 7, setting forth a number of steps he intended to take to implement the disinformation program. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 418, Backchannel, Covert Operations in North Vietnam)
  3. A week earlier the disinformation program’s objective became momentarily crossed with the real possibility of mining the harbor. On April 10, Carver talked with Pursley, who “raised matter that Admiral Moorer was strongly pushing the mining of Haiphong and apparently was indicating that the SecDef concurred in this thought. I asked if Moorer was really serious or if he was just lending a hand to deception operation that Kissinger had asked us to undertake. Pursley said that Moorer was serious, that he had misinterpreted Laird’s joking remarks to Kissinger about the ‘advisability’ of closing the rail lines at the China border points and mining the port of Haiphong. Moorer apparently believed that the Secretary was in a momentarily hawkish phase of which the Chiefs intended to take full advantage.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Files of the Deputy Director for Intelligence, Job 80–R01720R, Box 4, GAC [George A. Carver] Daily Log 1970–1973)
  4. Helms signed “Dick” above his typed signature.