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

SUBJECT

  • Possible Intensified North Vietnamese Military Activity

There are now appearing a number of indicators pointing to the possibility of increased offensive action by the North Vietnamese, perhaps beginning as early as December. It would be useful, in your talks with Brezhnev,2 to indicate your concern over these developments.

Among the more substantial indicators are the following:

  • —The overall physical support structure (e.g., LOC’s, supply stockpiles, POL, etc.) for a major offensive is largely in place.
  • —A major North Vietnamese logistics push to the south began on a “crash” basis in mid-November.
  • —The MR 559 transportation directorate, a major NVA HQ, has moved from southern NVN into SVN (Cam Lo) for the first time.
  • NVN, in mid-October, began its second conscription drive within four months. On the basis of past patterns this represents an extra drive in 1974.
  • —Preliminary information on infiltration shows that over 9,000 men probably are bound for COSVN in November/December, double the number detected during the same period last year.
  • —Over the past two months, an unidentified (possibly 338th) division has been detected subordinate to NVA I Corps, raising the number of NVA strategic reserve divisions in NVN to seven (from six). Additionally, an intelligence report indicates that the NVA 968th Division, carried in the Lao panhandle (and, in effect, an eighth “reserve” division), might be employed in the central highlands of SVN.
  • —A number of communist troop realignments, such as movement of NVA 5th Division elements into MR–4 and restructuring of MR–3 forces, can be read as preparatory to an offensive. Reassignment of NVA 75th Artillery Division assets in MR–3 from general to direct support of NVA divisions in region is strong indicator of preparations for major offensive.

These and numerous signs point to the strong possibility of substantially heavier fighting in SVN in near future, but at levels less than [Page 578]all out offensive which would require committing major portion of strategic reserve.

In your discussion with Brezhnev, you could make the following points:

  • —We have received reliable information that North Vietnam has recently taken a number of steps which clearly point to a major escalation of North Vietnamese military action in South Vietnam during the current dry season.
  • —We have, for example, hard evidence of an explicit North Vietnamese plan for greatly increased military activity to begin in December in South Vietnam.
  • —There has also been a major and sudden increase in the infiltration of men and equipment into the south. This latter action represents a major violation of the Paris accords.
  • —I am compelled to call these disturbing reports to the Chairman’s attention. The United States as well as the Republic of Vietnam continue to lend full support to the Paris accords. We assume that similarly the Soviet Union maintains its support of the Paris agreement. Thus, we urge the Soviet Union to take immediate steps to deter North Vietnam from pursuing its plan to escalate the war and to adopt a policy of reason. The continuation of the actions which North Vietnam is now setting in train can only result in grave consequences.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for East Asia and the Pacific, Box 18, Vietnam (3). Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent for information.
  2. Ford met with Brezhnev in Vladivostok on November 23 and 24.