131. Memorandum for the Record1

SUBJECT

  • WSAG Meeting on Indochina

PARTICIPANTS

  • Dr. Kissinger/NSC
  • Mr. Ingersoll/State
  • Mr. Clements/OSD
  • Mr. Colby/CIA
  • Mr. Stearns/State
  • Mr. Ellsworth/OSD
  • Ambassador Martin/State
  • Mr. Stoddert/State
  • Mr. Vest/State
  • Mr. Lord/State
  • General Brown/CJCS
  • LG Pauly/JCS
  • Mr. Shackley/CIA
  • Mr. Kennedy/NSC
  • Mr. Smyser/NSC
  • Mr. Stearman/NSC
  • RAdm Bigley/OSD

Mr. Colby gave a briefing on the Indochina situation including an assessment on Lao Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma’s medical condition. Following this, Dr. Kissinger stated that the purpose of getting everyone together on Indochina was to again state that the basic U.S. policy is to preserve South Vietnam and to implore all agencies to fully support this policy, not just token support—we must do everything we can to assist.2 Dr. Kissinger said that the survival of Vietnam is vital to the other things we are doing in the foreign policy field throughout the world. He went on to say that we cannot have lost 50,000 men in a country and write it off. Secretary Ingersoll interjected that our problem is on the Hill (Capitol) with funding support. Dr. Kissinger said we all must do what we can in that regard and he will do whatever he can to gain support from the Hill.

Dr. Kissinger asked Mr. Colby how many North Vietnamese had been killed this past year in South Vietnam and what his assessment was of the ability of the North Vietnamese to “knock over” South Vietnam [Page 532]Mr. Colby said the North Vietnamese had lost approximately 40,000 killed in South Vietnam this past year and using a figure of 3 to 1 for wounded vs killed, he estimated a little over 100,000 total casualties had been incurred by the North Vietnamese. Dr. Kissinger interjected that 40,000 killed in a country of 20 million population was equivalent to 400,000 casualties for the U.S. He mused that he did not understand how they could sustain these high casualties. Mr. Colby agreed and said that they had lost one million men in the past nine to ten years and that they needed some young fellow in Hanoi about 45 years of age, to convince them that they are on a “no win” policy. In Mr. Colby’s view, North Vietnam is not capable of “knocking over” South Vietnam. He said there may be increased levels of fighting but in view of the strength, both political and military, of South Vietnam, and the limits on outside support to North Vietnam, he felt there was no way that the North could be successful as long as the United States maintained its current level of support. Dr. Kissinger made the statement that the only thing that could cause the demise of the South was the lack of American support.

The discussion then went to various “signals” which could be given to Hanoi should they launch any kind of an offensive in South Vietnam. The possibility of deploying a carrier back in the Tonkin Gulf was suggested by Dr. Kissinger and concurred in by General Brown. Dr. Kissinger told Ambassador Martin that he would await Martin’s signal to determine when would be a proper time to make such a deployment. Dr. Kissinger then made the statement that he was speaking for the President as well as himself when he said that our policy regarding South Vietnam was serious.

Mr. Clements brought up the subject of the F5E program for South Vietnam and the reasons for having to deobligate the monies in FY74 which were earmarked for F5E procurement. (This issue has been a source of contention between Ambassador Martin and DOD in recent days and Mr. Clements obviously brought it up to clarify DOD’s position with Ambassador Martin.) Dr. Kissinger interjected in a humorous vein that we have a tough ambassador here so don’t treat him like an ordinary ambassador. Ambassador Martin said his concern was not the F5E’s per se, but was rather the psychological impact that this issue would have on the South Vietnamese. Ambassador Martin went on to say that we need to establish confidence in U.S. support in the eyes of the South Vietnamese.3

[Page 533]

The discussion then turned to Thailand. Mr. Colby brought up the subject of NSSM 249,4 which is currently under review concerning force levels in Thailand. Mr. Colby stated that he did not concur with the proposed option to draw down the U.S. forces in Thailand to 7,000, or to 3,000 which was another option. General Brown indicated that this was all under review and that he was not up-to-speed on the exact numbers or the force levels which are under consideration. Dr. Kissinger indicated some concern in this matter and stated he was not in favor of a rapid draw-down in Thailand because of the “signal” it might give Hanoi, and that he was opposed to going below a 27,000 level in Thailand. (A Presidential decision has already been made to draw-down to 24,500 by the end of FY75.)

Mr. Colby then brought up the subject of the contingency study “North Vietnamese Strategy in Indochina—Proposed Counter Strategy” which had been authored primarily by CIA. The paper concludes that North Vietnam continues to pursue a strategy designed to secure eventual hegemony over all of Indochina, but with changed tactics since the direct U.S. military role has been reduced. The study recommends certain actions which encompass a campaign of propaganda and covert actions against the continued presence of NVA forces in Laos, and proposed to accomplish by covert and overt means splits between the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese. There was a very brief discussion on the paper and Dr. Kissinger asked if there were any objections to it and in the absence of such objections he approved the concept.

Dr. Kissinger chided Mr. Colby over his dire predictions of a year ago on the ability of Cambodia to survive this past year. Colby replied that he was mistaken and that Dr. Kissinger had a good memory. Dr. Kissinger kidded that you can never get into trouble making mistakes like that. (Dr. Kissinger is obviously pleased with the recent military successes of the Khmer government.)

The discussion then turned to the P3 reconnaissance flights from U-Tapao and the recent Thai request to Ambassador Kintner to terminate such flights.5 A brief discussion followed as to how this situation came about and what we could do to get the flights reinstituted. Ambassador Martin stated that he was sure that we could get these reconnaissance flights reinstituted, but that we may have to stand-down for a short period of time (3–4 weeks). Dr. Kissinger was clearly in favor of having these flights reinstituted but agreed to wait for further word from Ambassador Kintner as to what actions the latter was taking to get the Thai decision reversed.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–78–0010, Viet 092, 1974. Top Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. Prepared by T. J. Bigley on July 19. No minutes of this meeting were found.
  2. In a memorandum to Kissinger, July 18, Smyser wrote: “At some point the North Vietnamese must try to reverse the flow of events in South Vietnam. Nobody can predict when or how they will try, partly because it depends on developments in other areas of Indochina and in several major capitals. I suspect it must be within the next one to three years, and we are kidding ourselves if we think that any ‘decent’ interval will be persuasive to our electorate or others. If Hanoi so chooses, it will probably have to be a fight. In the meantime, we have little choice but to arm our friends for what is coming and hope perhaps to stop it.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1338, Unfiled Material, NSC Unfiled Material, 1974, 3)
  3. Martin was in the United States for consultations.
  4. Colby was referring to NSDM 249, “U.S. Deployments in Thailand,” March 23; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–245, NSDM Files, NSDM 249.
  5. The Thai request was transmitted in telegram 11379 from Bangkok, July 12; ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files.