190. Editorial Note

At 5:26 p.m., December 17, 1972, President Richard M. Nixon called Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas H. Moorer. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the President, at Camp David, talked long distance with Moorer from 5:26 to 5:27 p.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, While House Central Files)

After the conversation, Moorer drafted a memorandum for the record:

“The President called me at home on Sunday afternoon, 17 December, to emphasize that he considered Linebacker II as being ‘the last chance for the Air Force and Navy to put forth a maximum effort against NVN.’ He said he recognized there have been occasions in the past when there has been competition between the Navy and Air Force but he did not want any such thing at this time. He emphasized that ‘the strikes must come off’ and that he did not expect any excuses. I carefully explained to the President the weather situation and assured [Page 726] him that the all-weather strikes would go off and this included the B52s. Furthermore, I said as soon as the weather gave us an opportunity we would move forward with the visual bombing. I pointed out that we were constrained in the selection of targets and tactics because of the weather, since we were, at the same time, making every effort to avoid injury to civilians—when possible.” (Memorandum for the record, December 17, CJCS M–73–72; ibid., RG 218, Records of the Chairman, Moorer Diary, July 1970–July 1974)

On December 18, 0015Z (7:15 p.m. Washington time), Moorer sent message 5829 to Admiral Noel A.M. Gayler, Commander in Chief, Pacific, with information copies to all senior commanders in the Pacific and Southeast Asia as well as to General John C. Meyer, Commander, Strategic Air Command. The message reads:

“I am sure you realize that Line Backer II offers last opportunity in Southeast Asia for USAF and USN to clearly demonstrate the full professionalism, skill, and cooperation so necessary to achieve the required success in the forthcoming strikes in NVN.

“You will be watched on a real-time basis at the highest levels here in Washington. We are counting on all hands to put forth a maximum, repeat maximum, effort in the conduct of this crucial operation.

“Good luck to all.” (Ibid., Records of Thomas Moorer, Box 71, Linebacker II Messages, December 1972)

In his diary, Nixon commented: “I have called Moorer to be sure to stiffen his back with regard to the need to follow through on these attacks. I suppose that we may be pressing him too hard, but I fear that the Air Force and Navy may in carrying out orders have been too cautious at times in the past, and that our political objectives have not been achieved because of too much caution on the military side. We simply have to take losses if we are going to accomplish our objectives.” ( RN, pages 734–735)