113. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Middle East, Vietnam and Cambodia


  • Chairman Henry A. Kissinger
  • State Kenneth Rush
  • **Joseph Sisco
  • *Arthur Hummel
  • Robert McCloskey
  • Defense
  • William Clements
  • Robert C. Hill
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
  • V/Adm. John P. Weinel
  • CIA
  • William Colby
  • **Samuel Hoskinson
  • *William Christison
  • NSC
  • Gen. Brent Scowcroft
  • **Harold Saunders
  • *William Stearman
  • *Lt. Col. Stukel
  • Jeanne W. Davis

*Attended only portion on Vietnam

**Attended only portion on Middle East

(See separate Summaries of Conclusions for Middle East and for Vietnam and Cambodia)

[Omitted here are conclusions unrelated to Vietnam and Cambodia.]

[Page 453]


Vietnam and Cambodia

It was agreed that:

. . . a note will be prepared from Secretary Kissinger to Le Duc Tho on apparent preparations in North Vietnam for a new offensive against the South;

. . . SR–71 mission should be flown over North Vietnam after the note has been sent but before the Secretary’s trip to China;2

. . . preparations should be made for a U.S. carrier to go in the Gulf of Tonkin and come back out after the Secretary has left China.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Vietnam and Cambodia.]

Vietnam and Cambodia

(Messrs Sisco, Hoskinson and Saunders left the meeting. Messrs. Hummel, Christison, Stearman and Col. Stuckel joined the meeting.)

Mr. Colby briefed from the text at Tab B.3

Secretary Kissinger: (referring to a news story which had been handed into the meeting) How did George Sherman know there was a WSAG on Vietnam today? That must have come from Defense. This isn’t helpful.

Secretary Kissinger: (referring to a report in the briefing that the SVN 1st Division Commander had been replaced) Wasn’t the 1st Division fellow pretty good?

Mr. Colby: He was their star.

Adm. Moorer: General Pham Quoc Thuan, who is replacing your friend General Minh, has been the senior SVN man on the Two-Party group.

Mr. Colby: He hasn’t had a combat command since 1969—they thought he was no good.

Secretary Kissinger: Isn’t that standard in the 3rd Corps? You have to be no good or corrupt.

Mr. Colby: You have to be able to fight a good defensive battle around Saigon and not be able to take over the government.

Secretary Kissinger: He has to be incompetent or so corruptible as to be impeachable. (to Mr. Hummel, referring to the departure from Cambodia of the Queen Mother.) Has the old lady left?

Mr. Hummel: She leaves tomorrow, November 3.

[Page 454]

Secretary Kissinger: (referring to a message handed into the meeting) Did (Australian Prime Minister) Whitlam offer aid to Sihanouk?

Mr. Hummel: It’s rumored so.

Adm. Moorer: We’d like to see ammunition, POL and rice provided now in Cambodia during the time the (Mekong) river is clear—so we won’t have to divert resources to fight their way up the river.

Secretary Kissinger: What’s stopping you?

Adm. Moorer: Nothing really, but we are having some money troubles.

Secretary Kissinger: Doesn’t every agency understand that we want a maximum effort in Cambodia?

Mr. Hummel: I don’t think money is the problem for AID.

Secretary Kissinger: What about the rice?

Adm. Moorer: We’re in pretty good shape now. Also there has been some Cambodian improvement in the air. They have almost doubled their sorties. They’re flying the same old T–28s but they’re flying 70 or 80 sorties a day. Also they’re getting better in controlling from the ground. But the recruiting program isn’t moving fast enough and they still have fundamental problems of leadership and coordination. I think the first thing the insurgents will do is try to open up northwest Cambodia sometime in December to try to get that rice. Then they will try what they did last time—to surround and cut off Phnom Penh.

Secretary Kissinger: We have the problem of scaring off Hanoi. We should have a look at some readiness measures. How about a SR–71 flight?

Mr. Colby: We would like a lot more coverage of North Vietnam.4

Secretary Kissinger: Could you do it before I get to China?

Adm. Moorer: Sure. We are standing down all perimeter reconnaissance while you are there.

Secretary Kissinger: Do you want to fly one now or after I get back?

Mr. Colby: We’d like both.

Secretary Kissinger: I want to send a note to Le Duc Tho. (to Bill Stearman) Will you draft me a nasty note. Then we can fly the SR–71. Do we have carriers in the area?

Adm. Moorer: Two.

[Page 455]

Mr. Clements: They’re not on Yankee Station, though.

Secretary Kissinger: Is the Hancock heading for the Persian Gulf?

Adm. Moorer: Yes, but it’s not entering the Gulf. We have ample tactical air in Thailand.

Secretary Kissinger: They will notice it if we violate the understanding not to put a carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin. Could we have one go in and come out again? They will notice it and will scream.

Adm. Moorer: We’ll take a look at it.

Mr. Clements: When would you want this?

Secretary Kissinger: How about next week? No, you had better defer it until I have left China.

Adm. Moorer: Okay.

Secretary Kissinger: The SR–71 can go anytime after they get my note.

Mr. Clements: Tom (Moorer), do you want to give them that DIA assessment?

Adm. Moorer: It’s just that they feel they’re not getting enough over North Vietnam.

Secretary Kissinger: What else can we do?

Mr. Colby: Given the ban on overflights—particularly if that extends to Laos.

Secretary Kissinger: Who’s pushing to ban overflights of Laos? We won’t stop overflying until they move their forces out. And we won’t know whether they are moving their forces out unless we overfly.

Mr. Hummel: Another contingency might be the formation of a new government in Laos.

Secretary Kissinger: We have to try to scare them off.

Mr. Colby: The results of your trip to China will scare them better than anything else, particularly if they think you have made a deal.

Secretary Kissinger: What sort of deal?

Mr. Colby: To restrain the North Vietnamese, or at least the image of that.

Mr. Hummel: There is a reported South Vietnamese initiative in Paris to talk to the PRC, which is not exactly an expression of their firm resolve.

Secretary Kissinger: Leave that alone. If we tell them not to do it, they will be sure we are making a deal at their expense. Under no circumstances will the Chinese talk to the South Vietnamese. This will abort. They’re not that eager to have Hanoi win.

Mr. Colby: There could be an advantage if the South Vietnamese are trying to leapfrog Hanoi.

[Page 456]

Mr. Clements: (to Secretary Kissinger) Don’t you think the North Vietnamese may take the opportunity to put pressure on South Vietnam?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, from January on I expect an offensive. The South Vietnamese aren’t short of equipment, are they? They’re just short of competence.

Adm. Moorer: That’s right.

Secretary Kissinger: How can the South Vietnamese withstand an offensive that we couldn’t defeat with massive US air?

Mr. Colby: They will take a beating in the 1st and 3rd Corps.

Secretary Kissinger: Enough to topple Thieu?

Mr. Colby: No.

Adm. Moorer: The North Vietnamese are slowly increasing their capability in South Vietnam. They have those airfields right next to the DMZ and they have the highest number of tanks they have ever had in South Vietnam.

Secretary Kissinger: Will there be heavy North Vietnamese losses?

Mr. Colby: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: There’s nothing we can do. We can’t get US air committed again.

Adm. Moorer: They will probably move in Cambodia after Christmas.

Secretary Kissinger: We can try to bluff them. That’s our only hope.

Mr. Colby: We might get the Soviets and the Chinese to bring pressure on them.

Secretary Kissinger: You can’t have happen what has happened in this country without paying a price somewhere. If we had been able to do what we wanted to in April, we could have solved the problem. Can we speed up military deliveries to the GVN?

Mr. Clements: We’re running out of soap.

Adm. Moorer: They’re not hurting for equipment.

Secretary Kissinger: I’m not too worried about the one-for-one replacement.

Adm. Moorer: South Vietnam has no shortages.

Mr. Clements: I’m talking about Cambodia.

Adm. Moorer: The aid program situation is a disaster. We have broken promises all over the world.

Secretary Kissinger: For a great nation to have gotten itself in these straits is unbelievable. People just won’t be able to believe that we could do this to ourselves while our adversaries are pouring money out.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Vietnam and Cambodia.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–117, WSAG Meeting Minutes, Originals, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Codeword. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Kissinger traveled to China November 10–14.
  3. Colby’s briefing, “Vietnam,” November 2, attached but not printed.
  4. During a brief discussion of Vietnam on November 6, the WSAG decided that SR–71 missions over North Vietnam should resume immediately. Minutes of that meeting are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–117, WSAG Meeting Minutes, Originals, 1973.