93. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Abrams Assessment of Current Situation

The following is a summary of General Abrams’ personal assessment of the military situation in Southeast Asia (Tab A).2

General Current Situation

The enemy has not taken the vital areas of Quang Tri Province. He has been unable to open Route 547 and reach Hue. He has not taken Kontum Province although the situation there is serious and unresolved as of this moment. He has not taken An Loc and has suffered heavy casualties in his attempts to do so. His objectives in the Delta are less clear than in other areas and his achievements there to date have not been of decisive proportions. One of the most significant features of the current general situation is the absence of any widespread uprising throughout the Republic by local force guerrillas.3 Overall the South Vietnamese have fought well under extremely difficult circumstances.4 There has been a mixture of effective and ineffective performance, as in any combat situation, but on the whole the effective far outweighs the ineffective. Thus far the South Vietnamese have prevented the enemy from achieving his major objectives.5 U.S. and VNAF air power in combination with determined resistance on the ground have been one of the decisive elements in achieving the relatively favorable situation that now exists.

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Military Region 1

Enemy offensive has been stopped in Quang Tri Province, and ARVN forces are slowly expanding their defensive positions westward. Stubborn ARVN defense of Fire Support Base Bastogne has prevented the movement of enemy tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft and heavy equipment over Route 547 for attacks on Hue. Also enemy attempts to move eastward in the Quang Nam and Quang Tin border area have been successfully blocked. Quang Nam Province (in the southern part of MR–1) has experienced harassing and terrorist attacks and pacification has been set back, but no decisive actions have occurred in the province. South Vietnamese leadership in MR–1 is outstanding, aggressive and competent.6 The enemy is still capable of launching a new offensive with reinforcements from the 325th Division (which is still in North Vietnam).

Military Region 2

As of this date (April 24) the enemy has not launched the coordinated all-out offensive in MR–2 of which he is capable. An attack which began against the 22nd ARVN Division headquarters at Tan Canh this morning may be such an offensive [Tan Canh has subsequently fallen to the enemy]. It is too early to tell. Thus far the enemy has conducted heavy attacks against individual ARVN units and positions, but these have been local rather than general. The presence of the enemy on Rocket Ridge (now abandoned by friendly forces) jeopardizes the security of Route 14 which is now interdicted in 3 places. The Joint General Staff has ordered ARVN forces north of Kontum to redeploy to defensive positions immediately north of Kontum City. This redeployment will be greatly complicated by present enemy attacks in the area. The situation in Binh Dinh Province continues to be difficult and Route 19, the key line of communication to the Pleiku/Kontum area, is still interdicted in the An Khe Pass area.

South Vietnamese military leadership in MR–2 is neither strong nor aggressive. The 22nd and 23rd Divisions in MR–2 both have new commanders. But the performance of the 22nd Division commander has been inadequate.7

Military Region 3

The battle for An Loc has been costly for the enemy but he continues to launch daily attacks. ARVN forces in the town have done an outstanding job. Their morale is high and they are determined to hold the city. Enemy ground attacks and attacks by fire against An Loc have [Page 310] gradually diminished in intensity since April 16. Enemy activity throughout the remainder of MR–3 is low level and of little significance. But the pressure on Dau Tieng has been increasing in the last several days. The leadership in MR–3 is steady and dependable but not aggressive.8 The outcome of the battle in MR–3 should be in favor of the South Vietnamese.9

Military Region 4

The overall situation in MR–4 is more difficult to assess than in the other regions. Enemy attacks have been primarily widespread low level attacks against outposts, national police, small ARVN units, and communications routes. The enemy main force effort is expected to continue to concentrate on Chuong Thien Province and he has made significant efforts to take over Kien Tuong Province. While the situation in Kampong Trach (just over the border in Cambodia) continues unchanged and the situation looks unfavorable, major elements of the 1st North Vietnamese Division have been tied down and have taken heavy casualties.

MR–4 has probably the most capable regional commander but he has a large geographical area to control and must reply primarily on RF and PF units.


The situation in Laos seems to have changed very little since the beginning of the enemy offensive against South Vietnam.


In Cambodia the enemy has increased pressure on the Mekong River convoys and has interdicted Route 1.10 The opportunity exists for the conduct of FANK operations to complicate the enemy situation in Vietnam, but to date no effective action has been take; however, plans are being made for FANK operations along Route 1.11

Performance and Problems of Friendly Forces

South Vietnamese forces (RVNAF) would not have had sufficient mobility without U.S. airlift support. Their logistics system has however functioned effectively in the current situation.

  • —President Thieu has provided sound guidance to the Joint General Staff and has made prompt decisions and timely visits to combat areas.
  • —The integration of air, armor, artillery and infantry elements has been outstanding.12
  • —The Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) has provided outstanding support for ground forces. ARVN artillery is very good.
  • —There has been a minimum of command bickering and no known instances of high level commanders refusing to carry out their orders.
  • —U.S. air, naval, advisory and airlift13 support has played a key, if not decisive, role thus far.
  • —Korean units have concentrated primarily on security operations in their fixed areas and work relatively independently of RVNAF. They will have little impact on the outcome of the current situation because of their inflexibility and reluctance to become deeply involved in high threat areas.

Enemy Intentions

The enemy has neither lost his resolve nor changed his aims and will probably continue to initiate new actions through at least mid-May.14 A maximum effort has still not been attempted in the B–3 Front (MR–2).

A recent COSVN directive (51) reportedly indicates that the enemy’s attack in Quang Tri Province was designed to draw ARVN reinforcements to the north whereupon the enemy would then attack in MR–3 in order to further reduce ARVN reserves and launch sapper and rocket attacks against key government installations in Saigon. Once these attacks had widely spread the ARVN forces and reduced their reserves, the enemy would then demand a ceasefire in place and attempt to install a coalition government. The enemy is apparently attempting to force the ARVN to accept a piece-meal defeat or to withdraw to concentrated positions thus abandoning a substantial percentage of the rural population and obviating pacification success. (The enemy continues to heavily attack pacification targets in all 4 military regions.)15

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Vietnam Subject Files, Box 130, HAK/PRES Memos (NVA) Situation in Vietnam (Apr 72). Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. Haig initialed for Kissinger. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. All brackets are in the original.
  2. Tab A, Abrams’s personal assessment of the situation in Vietnam as of April 24, is not attached but a copy is in the Abrams Papers, Historical Resources Branch, U.S. Army Center of Military History. On April 23, Laird directed Abrams to prepare the paper as soon as possible and an additional one by 0800 EST, April 26. Laird’s message is in the National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman, Records of Thomas Moorer, Box 69, JCS Out, Eyes Only Messages (1 Jan–31 July 72). Haig also sent the President a memorandum on April 24 analyzing Abrams’ paper. A note on that memorandum indicates that the President saw it. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Vietnam Subject Files, Box 130, HAK/PRES Memos (NVA) Situation in Vietnam (Apr 72))
  3. Nixon underlined “absence of any widespread uprising throughout the Republic by local force guerrillas.”
  4. Nixon underlined “South Vietnamese have fought well under extremely difficult circumstances.”
  5. Nixon underlined this sentence.
  6. Nixon underlined this sentence.
  7. Nixon underlined most of this paragraph.
  8. Nixon underlined most of this sentence.
  9. Nixon underlined this sentence.
  10. Nixon underlined “Mekong River” and “interdicted Route 1.”
  11. Nixon underlined “exists for the conduct of FANK” and “to complicate” in this sentence.
  12. Nixon underlined this sentence.
  13. Nixon underlined this phrase.
  14. Nixon underlined “his aims and will probably continue to initiate new actions through at least mid-May” in this sentence.
  15. Nixon underlined the last three sentences of this paragraph.