193. Backchannel Message From the Deputy Chief of Mission in Vietnam (Lehmann) to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1

677. 1. Foreign Minister Bac has just given me the following letter dated Saigon, March 25, 1975, from President Thieu to President Ford. The Foreign Minister and I agreed that it was of the utmost importance that the letter be held completely confidential and that there be no leak. As to the second point in the letter—“to urgently provide us with necessary means to contain and repel the offensive”—we have learned that the JGS has compiled a shopping list of about $380 million.

2. Begin text:

Dear Mr. President:

I wish to thank you and your kind letter of March 22nd, 1975.2

As I am writing to you, the military situation in South Viet-Nam is very grave and is growing worse by the hour.

The serious disequilibrium in the balance of forces in favor of the North Vietnamese as well as their strategic advantages, accumulated over the past two years, have led to the present critical situation, especially in MR I and II, as you have already known. Heavy pressures [Page 698]are also being exerted on all the rest of our national territory, and Saigon itself is threatened.

It has become evident that it would be extremely difficult for us to contain the advance of the Communist forces and to hold the line in order to push back the invaders.

Hanoi’s intention to use the Paris Agreement for a military take over of South Viet-Nam was well known to us at the very time of negotiating the Paris Agreement. You may recall that we signed it, not because we credulously believed in the enemy’s goodwill, but because we were certain of the common resolution of our two governments to make the agreement work.

As evidence of that resolution, firm pledges were then given to us that the United States will retaliate swiftly and vigorously to any violation of the agreement by the enemy and will provide the Republic of Viet-Nam with adequate military and economic assistance.

We consider those pledges the most important guarantees of the Paris Agreement; those pledges have now become the most crucial ones to our survival.

Mr. President, at this critical hour when the fate of the free South-Viet-Nam is at stake and when the horror of the enemy’s offensive is descending upon the entire population of South Viet-Nam, I earnestly request that you take two following necessary actions:

  • —To immediately order a brief but intensive B–52 air strike against enemy’s concentration of forces and logistic bases within South Viet-Nam, with intensity comparable to what was done in the most critical hour of 1972, and
  • —To urgently provide us with necessary means to contain and repel the offensive.

Only with these two actions can we stop North Viet-Nam from conquering South Viet-Nam by force in defiance of the Paris Agreement; only with these two actions can we prevent them from confronting us with an irreparable situation and a fait accompli.

Mr. President, once again, I wish to appeal to you, to the credibility of American foreign policy, and especially to the conscience of America.

I am heartened that upon assuming the Presidency, you were prompt to renew to us the assurance of the continuity of American foreign policy and the validity of its existing commitments.3 I am gratified for your determination to honor these commitments in full in your administration. As you so rightly noted, these assurances are particularly relevant to the Republic of Viet-Nam.

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Generations of South Vietnamese who will be living free from the horror of North Viet-Nam’s domination will be indebted to your prompt actions, and to the steadfastness of the great people of America.

(Signed) Nguyen Van Thieu

End text.

Lehmann
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for East Asia and the Pacific, Box 19, Vietnam (12). Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only; Immediate.
  2. On March 22, Ford wrote Thieu: “The current North Vietnamese offensive against your country is profoundly disturbing and personally anguishing. It is my view that Hanoi’s attack represents nothing less than an abrogation by force of the Paris agreement.” Ford added: “With regard to the provision of adequate military assistance to your armed forces, you can be sure that I shall bend every effort to meet your material needs on the battlefield.” (Ibid., Correspondence with Foreign Leaders, Box 5, Vietnam, President Nguyen Van Thieu)
  3. See footnote 2, Document 134.