158. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1

267. Subject: US Reaction to North Vietnamese Offensive in South Vietnam. Ref: A. Saigon 0221, B. Saigon 0231.2

With the fall on January 7 of Phuoc Long Province and its capital to North Vietnamese troops we have arrived at a turning point in the history of the Paris Agreement. What has so long been clear to us within the government and to perceptive observers outside is now clear beyond any possible doubt to the whole world: in the cynical belief that no one outside South Vietnam really cares, North Vietnam in open defiance of the Agreement is determined to use whatever military force is required to gain its objective of conquering SVN. The US reaction to the North Vietnamese conquest of Phuoc Long Province is thus of critical importance for the success or failure of our policy in Indochina.
The GVN firmly believes that we are in a new situation which calls for a stronger, better organized diplomatic and public relations response than in the past to Hanoi challenges and we have been in close consultation as to how we can improve our joint efforts. The GVN declaration of January 8 which was read to the Diplomatic Corps and briefed to the press (ref A) and the GVN appeal for relief assistance to UN agencies (ref B) are the first in a series of moves under consideration. We will report further as their plans take shape.
As for steps which the US should take, we urge first of all that a statement be made from a high level, from the White House if possible, emphasizing the gravity with which the US views North Vietnamese actions. While Ambassador Anderson’s comments January 33 were helpful so far as they went, we are now in a situation in which an entire province together with its capital has been seized. Anything short of a high level official statement of the United States position would appear here and at home as virtual connivance in North Vietnam’s actions. (We heard in Saigon this morning on Dao Radio relay [Page 597]of a broadcast by Marvin Kalb saying that peace never came to Vietnam; that this was only another of Nixon’s lies; and that the Paris Agreement was a contrived lull to get American forces out and to allow for a decent interval before the North Vietnamese take over. Kalb went on to say that although Washington makes perfunctory statements, no senior official has spoken out and that in the State Department officials are actually relieved that Congress has imposed restraints. Net result, said Kalb, is that, while a lot of people are yet to die, a Communist take-over is inevitable. This all is of course a gross misinterpretation of our government’s position, but this kind of talk is bound to be increasingly heard unless rpt unless we make declarations and take actions which palpably demonstrate that we view Hanoi’s challenge for what it is—a deliberate effort to destroy that for which so many Americans sacrificed so much—the right of the South Vietnamese to freely choose their own form of government.
Second. We must circularize a note to the parties to the Act of the Paris Conference, which we would also make public, in which we note that we take the gravest view of Hanoi’s violations of the Paris Agreement over the past two years.4 We believe Hanoi must cease its offensive actions, disgorge its captured territories, and tell its southern branch, the “PRG”, to return to the negotiating table in Paris and Saigon. We would ask each recipient to make a public statement supporting our position and a démarche to Hanoi asking it to cease its military offensive and abide by the Paris Agreement. We also recommend that we ask all friendly governments having diplomatic relations with Hanoi (such as Australia, Holland, India, Indonesia, Sweden) to make a similar approach to the DRV.
But most important of all the things which must be done is for the Department to mount a campaign to bring the whole truth to the American people about the current realities in Vietnam. Only by such a concerted effort can we overcome the deliberate organized campaign of lies and distortions about Vietnam which Don Luce, Fred Branfman and their colleagues in the Indochina Resources Center are conducting to discredit our Vietnam policy and persuade the Congress to reject it. For this purpose we believe there must be set up within the Department a task force under a leader with the sole mandate to get out to the American people the whole truth about Vietnam. The Department has ample resources to accomplish this. Among the more obvious actions that we should now be taking is an organized speakers program (directed to important fora to ensure media play) to ensure that our policy and the [Page 598]situation on which it is based is explained by ranking Department officials to the public. This is to be followed up by lower ranking officers visiting college campuses, schools, churches, foreign affairs oriented clubs and institutions, and anywhere people interested in foreign affairs get together. (Some notion of how to start could be gained by looking at the itinerary of Indochina Resources Center speakers.) The Department itself is of course well aware of the many capabilities at its disposal which could be used in this work.
We must set the above actions in motion soon and especially we must launch our campaign of truth about Vietnam as soon as possible in order to pre-empt the plan of Don Luce and company to stage a propaganda carnival in commemoration of the January 27 second anniversary of the Paris Agreement.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Secret; Immediate.
  2. Telegram 221 from Saigon, January 8, contained the text of the South Vietnamese declaration on the fall of Phuoc Long. (Ibid.) Telegram 231 from Saigon, January 8, contained the text of the South Vietnamese note to the ICRC, UNHCR, UNICEF, and the League of Red Cross Societies requesting assistance for the humanitarian emergency in Phuoc Long Province. (Ibid.)
  3. Department of State spokesman Robert Anderson condemned the attack during a press briefing, January 4. (The New York Times, January 5, 1975)
  4. See footnote 5, Document 156. The Department of State released the text of the note on January 13. (The New York Times, January 14, 1975)