98. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • General Abrams Personal Assessment

Ambassador Bunker has sent you a copy of General Abrams personal assessment of the situation in South Vietnam which is expected to be forwarded through Defense channels.2 In his appraisal, General Abrams makes the following significant points:

  • —The clear purpose of the North Vietnamese invasion is to destroy the Armed Forces of South Vietnam, to seize, occupy and hold territory in South Vietnam, control as many South Vietnamese citizens by military force as possible, and cause the downfall of the present South Vietnamese Government.
  • —The decision to undertake this decision was made many, many months ago.3 The enemy has abandoned the tactics of the past and with modern, sophisticated equipment has elected to try to overcome South Vietnam by conventional warfare4 where his doctrine of protracted warfare has failed in the past. He has committed himself to a make or break campaign for 1972.
  • —No important citadel has been given up to the enemy. Some 200,000 South Vietnamese citizens have been forced to flee their homes in the face of the invasion.5
  • —On the whole, heroic performances by the South Vietnamese stand out as the trademark of this battle to the death. Most units have fought bravely. The young South Vietnamese Air Forces have flown hard and the South Vietnamese Navy has continued to protect coastal areas effectively. Some of the most heroic actions of this war have been those of the people and their militia fighting for their homes and [Page 330] families. This is a battle between the defenders of South Vietnam and the invaders from the North.
  • —Ten times the U.S. air power could not have done the job if the armed forces of South Vietnam had not stood and fought.6
  • —In eleven of the 44 provinces important fighting has gone on and continues. In the remaining 33 provinces the government and population continue to function in a normal way with a quiet confidence that their government and armed forces have the strength and will to endure. The South Vietnamese Government and its armed forces and its people are holding together in this crisis.
  • —We can anticipate more heavy fighting and additional hardships for the people of South Vietnam, but the fabric of what the South Vietnamese have built with our assistance has survived its severest test. The qualities demonstrated by the South Vietnamese people assure that they will continue to hold.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Personal Files, Box 75, May 8, 1972 Vietnam Speech. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only.
  2. Attached but not printed is the April 26 assessment. In transmitting the assessment Bunker noted that Nixon’s guidance to Abrams in drafting the assessment was to make it suitable for use in his speech to the nation that evening.
  3. Nixon underlined this sentence.
  4. Nixon underlined “elected to try to overcome South Vietnam by conventional warfare” in this sentence.
  5. Nixon underlined “Some 200,000 South Vietnamese citizens have” in this sentence.
  6. Nixon underlined this sentence.