2. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Vietnam Planning


  • Chairman
  • Henry Kissinger
  • State
  • U. Alexis Johnson
  • William Porter
  • Marshall Green
  • Defense
  • Lawrence Eagleburger
  • R/Adm. Daniel Murphy
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas Moorer
  • V/Adm. John Weinel
  • CIA
  • Richard Helms
  • George Carver
  • William Newton
  • AEC
  • James Schlesinger
  • NSC
  • B/Gen. Brent Scowcroft
  • Richard Kennedy
  • John Holdridge
  • James Hackett


It was agreed that:

  • —The JCS will provide Mr. Kissinger with a list of the most serious ceasefire violations.
  • —State will prepare a draft statement on the ceasefire violations for possible use by Mr. Ziegler.
  • —An effort should be made to destroy some of the mines by February 10 to prevent the North Vietnamese from alleging U.S. delays in the minesweeping as a possible excuse to delay ceasefires in Laos and Cambodia.
  • —State will instruct General Woodward to propose the Canadian Red Cross as our candidate to inspect the POW camps.
  • —The daily sitreps on Indochina will be prepared as of 8 p.m. Saigon time the preceding day.

Mr. Kissinger: Dick (Helms), do you want to give us a rundown on the situation?

Mr. Helms read a prepared statement (copy attached).2

[Page 4]

Mr. Kissinger: Who is starting the new incidents?

Mr. Helms: As I pointed out, the North Vietnamese are putting plenty of heat on Tay Ninh, hoping to get it for the PRG’s capital. On the other hand, the South Vietnamese are maintaining pressure in MR–1 by attacking across the Cua Viet River north of Quang Tri City. Also, the enemy has set up road blocks around the country and the South Vietnamese are busy clearing them and reopening the roads.

Mr. Kissinger: What sort of forces do we know they have around Tay Ninh?

Adm. Moorer: One regiment of the Seventh North Vietnamese Division is attacking Tay Ninh. They have been very heavy attacks but (General) Weyand says the South Vietnamese are holding well. We have intercepts that indicate the Seventh Division has been ordered to continue on the offensive in MR–3. There have been 140 separate efforts by the North Vietnamese to occupy hamlets since the ceasefire, but the South Vietnamese have held or recovered all but fourteen of them as of this morning.

Mr. Kissinger: All of this just in MR–3?

Adm. Moorer: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: What’s your estimate, George (Carver)?

Mr. Carver: Their instructions are to continue fighting until the ICCS teams arrive on the scene. They want badly to seize a provincial capital for the PRG. The Viet Cong don’t want to raise their flag in some lousy swamp. It would make them look pretty bad with the whole world looking on.

Adm. Moorer: The South Vietnamese have increased their tactical air sorties by almost a hundred, up to 260 a day. (General) Weyand says he believes the South Vietnamese can handle the situation. There are no major problems and if they can clean up a few areas they will be in good shape. We have reports of a large number of small cargo ships heading for North Vietnam and Soviet cargo planes coming in to Hanoi, presumably bringing in high priority items. The rate of infiltration is holding steady, but to put it in perspective, this time last year it was two and a half times what it is now.

Mr. Johnson: Is there any evidence of communist movement out of Cambodia?

Mr. Carver: No, not yet.

Mr. Johnson: I saw a press report that indicated there was.

Mr. Carver: We have no confirmation of that.

Mr. Kissinger: So, what do you think they are up to?

Mr. Helms: They apparently thought they could grab Tay Ninh with a good bash right after the ceasefire, while everything is in disarray, [Page 5] but they have been surprised. The South Vietnamese army has given a good account of itself.

Mr. Carver: They have fought better than the North Vietnamese expected.

Mr. Kissinger: The key question is how long will they keep it up?

Mr. Helms: It’s obvious they thought they could get what they want quickly. Since their effort has failed, I suspect they are now assessing the situation and will make the decision shortly on what to do next.

Mr. Carver: They’ll probably keep the pressure on Tay Ninh until the ICCS team arrives on the scene.

Mr. Kissinger: Should we say something very sharp about this?

Mr. Johnson: I think we should. We can make a statement at State if you wish.

Mr. Kissinger: We could say something to the effect that we are declaring a one day moratorium on the ICCS because of the continuing fighting.

Mr. Johnson: You mean adopt that posture publicly?

Mr. Kissinger: Yes. Is Bob McCloskey still available for briefings? He’s the best briefer you’ve got at State. He did an excellent job the other day.

Mr. Johnson: Yes, McCloskey is still available.

Mr. Kissinger: Perhaps we can have him make a statement that some confusion in the early stages of a ceasefire is understandable, but that the ceasefire has to be observed and we fully expect the other side to live up to its commitment to do so. Or perhaps it would be better to have Ziegler do it. What do you think?

Mr. Johnson: It may be better for Ziegler to do it.

Mr. Kissinger: O.K., we’ll have him do it. Can you get a draft statement ready for Ziegler to use?

Mr. Johnson: Sure, right away.

Mr. Helms: I agree. I think a White House release is the best approach.

Mr. Johnson: There are three possible ways that we can get this message to them. We can do it by means of a public statement here, have (Heyward) Isham do it in Paris or have General Woodward do it in Vietnam.

Mr. Kissinger: If we do it in Paris, we should do it through our channel. But I think it would be better to do it in the White House.

Mr. Johnson: O.K., we’ll prepare a contingency statement for Ziegler’s use.

Adm. Moorer: According to the latest report we have received, there have been no new ceasefire violations in recent hours.

[Page 6]

Mr. Kissinger: But the old ones are continuing?

Adm. Moorer: That’s right.

Mr. Kissinger: Can you send me in the next couple of hours a list of the most serious violations thus far?

Adm. Moorer: Sure.

Mr. Johnson: My impression is that things are going just about as we expected, isn’t that right?

Mr. Kissinger: Sure, but we should say something about these violations. We don’t want to just ignore them. George (Carver), what do you think?

Mr. Carver: I think they’re trying to slice the baloney as thin as possible. They’ll do everything they think they can get away with, and they want something better than a swamp for the VC capital.

Adm. Moorer: We have reports that they have lost 1,700 men since the ceasefire.

Mr. Kissinger: With a total of two broken legs on the South Vietnamese side?

Adm. Moorer: They’ve taken some losses, too. They lost eight tanks in the last two days.

Mr. Kissinger: That means we now have something to replace. Do we have teams out there to work on providing replacement equipment for the South Vietnamese?

Adm. Moorer: Sure, that’s taken care of.

Mr. Kissinger: What about Laos?

Mr. Green: Souvanna Phouma is going to New Delhi.

Mr. Kissinger: What for?

Mr. Green: To ask the Indians to reinstate the ICC.

Mr. Johnson: I would like to get a decision on Paris as the site for the International Conference. We want to send a cable to Paris today and try to get a reply from the French by tomorrow. I have no formal reply as yet from any of the countries being invited.

Mr. Kissinger: But we have sent word to them?

Mr. Johnson: Oh, yes.

Mr. Kissinger: I want to wait until Bill (Sullivan) returns before getting too deeply into the International Conference questions.

Mr. Johnson: Yes, we’ll do that, but we want to get ready.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s O.K., they’re going to approach people about the conference and we will, too.

Mr. Johnson: Are you going to make an announcement tomorrow?

Mr. Kissinger: No, it’s too early.

Mr. Johnson: I’m looking forward to disappointing Fulbright. He’ll be very disappointed if everything works out.

[Page 7]

Mr. Kissinger: So will three-quarters of the press. What about the ICCS? Is the PRG delegation still sitting in the airplane in Saigon?

Adm. Moorer: Actually, there were two separate flights. The delegation on the ICC plane from Hanoi came in O.K., it was the advance party that came from Paris via Bangkok that refused to disembark.

Mr. Johnson: Are they off the plane?

Adm. Moorer: Not yet. They’re still sitting in the C–130s at Saigon.

Mr. Johnson: Our C–130s?

Adm. Moorer: That’s right.

Mr. Johnson: Our planes went into Hanoi?

Adm. Moorer: Well, these came from Bangkok, but there was a flight that did go into Hanoi.

Mr. Johnson: How did you arrange for the C–130s to enter Hanoi?

Adm. Moorer: Oh, we set it all up directly with the North Vietnamese. Our man, Gen. Wickham, worked out the technical details directly with them and it was all handled very quickly. There were no problems at all.

Mr. Kissinger: Did they fly into Hanoi over the sea?

Adm. Moorer: Right. There were no problems.

Mr. Kissinger: Where did they land, at Gia Lam?

Adm. Moorer: Yes, they did.

Mr. Kissinger: How does it look?

Adm. Moorer: They said it was pretty beat up, but operational. These people who are sitting in the plane at Saigon refused to sign landing cards. There is a meeting of the deputy chiefs of delegations scheduled for tomorrow, but the PRG and DRV representatives are still on the plane.

Mr. Porter: The PRG representatives offered to fill out blank sheets of paper with all the information the GVN requires, after which the GVN could fill in the headings, but the GVN rejected that proposal.

Mr. Kissinger: The GVN rejected it?

Mr. Porter: That’s right.

Mr. Johnson: (referring to cable)3 Here is the GVN position on the matter. It is a very reasonable statement.

Adm. Moorer: But that was put out at 11 p.m. last night. It’s now 11 a.m. and they’re still sitting in the airplane. We’ve put portable toilets on for them.

[Page 8]

Mr. Kissinger: Why did you do that? If they have no toilets they’ll reach agreement sooner.

Mr. Porter: We’re likely to have the same problem when the South Vietnamese go to North Vietnam. I’d be surprised if the North Vietnamese didn’t do the same thing to them.

Mr. Kissinger: So would I. Now when the Four Party Military Commission phases out it will leave behind a team responsible for tracing the missing in action. That team will stay behind in North Vietnam. I don’t know if Le Duc Tho ever focussed on that. I doubt that he did.

Adm. Moorer: I would just like to report that the U.S. element of the Military Commission is fully prepared and ready to go.

Mr. Kissinger: I appreciate your efficiency.

Mr. Schlesinger: There won’t be any deactivation of the mines until the Tay Ninh problem is over, will there?

Adm. Moorer: It will take some time to deactivate all the mines.

Mr. Schlesinger: I just want to make the point that we may want to use the mines as a trump card.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s right, but at the same time I would like to see some of them deactivated before the 10th of February so they can’t use that as an excuse to delay the ceasefires in Laos or Cambodia.

Mr. Johnson: Have we discussed the list of prisoners in Laos with them?

Mr. Kissinger: They tell us they have it in Hanoi and we will receive it in two days, but we don’t want to say that publicly.

Mr. Johnson: What should we tell the wives? We’re getting a lot of calls from them.

Mr. Kissinger: Just say they have promised to provide it and we fully expect to receive it.

Adm. Moorer: It was as of yesterday that they promised to deliver it in two days.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s right, we should have it in another day or two. Were there any surprises in the list of POWs in North Vietnam?

Adm. Moorer: It was pretty close to what we expected. We’re hoping for forty more on the list of those in Laos.

Mr. Eagleburger: Our list had 591 and the one they gave us consisted of 555, plus 55 who died in captivity. Some of the 555 were not on our list, although not many. There remain 56 who were previously carried as POWs but are not on either of the lists they gave us.

Mr. Kissinger: What percentage of the POWs died in the camps?

Adm. Moorer: Of the 55 they have listed, the percentages are about 30% of the Army prisoners, 30% of the Marines and approximately 9% of the airmen.

[Page 9]

Mr. Kissinger: What were the totals?

Adm. Moorer: 555 POWs and 55 dead.

Adm. Murphy: The information they have given us about prisoners in North Vietnam is quite accurate. We don’t know what we will get from Laos. We have only six known prisoners in Laos, although we hope there may be forty or forty-one. We have known very little about the caves where they keep the prisoners in Laos. We just got the first photos of those caves recently and our impression is that they are pretty big. We think they are holding a lot more than six prisoners there.

Mr. Johnson: We expect none from Cambodia?

Adm. Moorer: They said there are none in Cambodia, and we have no record of any there.

Mr. Johnson: The Japanese have asked us about several of their newsmen who were captured in Cambodia while working for American news agencies, and there are also some other third national civilians believed to be prisoners there. I assume we should tell any countries interested in possible prisoners of theirs in Cambodia to pursue that matter directly with the North Vietnamese?

Mr. Kissinger: They claim there are no foreign prisoners in Cambodia.

Adm. Murphy: I think what they say is that there are no American prisoners there.

Mr. Kissinger: Perhaps that’s right.

Adm. Moorer: I’ve been told that the North Vietnamese may want to use our planes to send 318 more of their people from Hanoi to Saigon. Is there any problem with that?

Mr. Kissinger: It’s a lot better than having their planes flying into Saigon. If they let you fly in over the Gulf, it seems probable that you will be able to take the prisoners out on direct flights to Clark.

Adm. Moorer: That’s not important.

Mr. Kissinger: What about the ICCS? When can we get them out to the field?

Mr. Johnson: They’ve had their first meeting and the reports indicate that they are working pretty well together.

Mr. Kissinger: They’re supposed to be in the field shortly. I notice in the cables that our friend Blinky (DRV Deputy Representative Luu Van Loi) is going to be with the DRV delegation. He’s that pain in the neck who gave us a lot of trouble in Paris. He wears smoked glasses and blinks all the time. Lam (SVN Foreign Minister Tran Van Lam) says he is trying to tie things up as much as possible.

Mr. Porter: Is he that DRV colonel named Loi?

[Page 10]

Mr. Kissinger: No, the one I’m referring to is the permanent head of the DRV Foreign Ministry. That colonel may be his brother. Do we know when they will get out into the field?

Mr. Johnson: I’ll find out. There are 150 in-country already.

Mr. Kissinger: Are you getting your FSOs out to the field?

Mr. Porter: They’re all on the way.

Mr. Kissinger: I knew Alex (Johnson) would get that all done before leaving.

Mr. Johnson: I’m sending my own son back to Vietnam so I can find out what is going on there.

Mr. Kissinger: What is the Four Power Commission doing?

Adm. Moorer: They have held their first meeting, but the DRV and PRG delegations were not at the table, so General Wickham proposed an adjournment. The DRV and PRG delegations are still sitting at Tan Son Nhut Airport.

Mr. Kissinger: I would say they have not yet achieved national reconciliation and concord. What about the Long Binh idea?

Adm. Moorer: I don’t know. I’ll look into it.

Mr. Kissinger: We will have to have some discussions about the International Conference when Sullivan gets back.

Mr. Johnson: The agreement provides for the International Red Cross to inspect the POW camps, but it is vague about letting any Red Cross members other than those of the U.S. or North Vietnam do it.

Mr. Kissinger: The Four Power Commission should determine which Red Cross will handle it.

Mr. Johnson: We want to move quickly on getting the Red Cross into the picture. I assume we don’t want the DRV Red Cross in South Vietnam, so we don’t want to propose the U.S. Red Cross for inspections in the North. The Canadian Red Cross would be a good solution, since the Canadians have planes going out there anyway. We can propose the Canadian Red Cross through General Woodward and I assume they will nominate the Polish or Hungarian Red Cross.

Mr. Kissinger: I think that’s all right.

Mr. Johnson: (to Marshall Green) Do you want to get out a cable on that?

Mr. Green: To General Woodward?

Mr. Johnson: That’s right.

Mr. Helms: I have to go say farewell to Senator Fulbright. I saw him the other day and he told me he wants to send a letter to the President on the reconstruction of Vietnam. He expressed the view that it would be easier to arrange it through the Congress and I think he may be right. The indications from the Hill are that Congress is very unhappy [Page 11] about the idea and we may have real problems getting the votes we need for it.

Adm. Moorer: We sure may! Senator McLellan is adamantly opposed.

Mr. Kissinger: Well, Mansfield is for it but McLellan is strongly against it. He asked me if Congress approves the funds, how do they know we won’t impound them.

Adm. Moorer: You asked for daily reports on the situation in Indochina and we are getting reports in for this purpose from the military regions. We suggested they submit their reports as of 8 p.m. Saigon time. That will be 7 a.m. here. So if you agree, we will report each morning as of 8 p.m. Saigon time the day before.

Mr. Carver: As I understand it there are to be three separate reports, from State, Defense and CIA. There is bound to be some overlap in those reports.

Adm. Moorer: There will be some overlap, but that’s no problem. I just want to get agreement on a cut off time so that all the reports will cover the same time period.

Mr. Helms: That’s absolutely essential if they are to be meaningful.

Mr. Kissinger: 8 p.m. Saigon time is O.K. with me.

Mr. Eagleburger: I have a cable from (Ambassador) Swank reporting that Fernandez (Gen. Sosthene Fernandez, Cambodian Army Chief of Staff) is asking for support.

Mr. Johnson: Yes, I have it right here. He wants U.S. support on Routes 4 and 5, and the same on the Mekong River. He also wants guidance on what to say publicly. We are preparing a draft reply and will have it over here in thirty minutes.

Mr. Kissinger: Are we generally sympathetic to his request?

Mr. Johnson: Yes, we are.

Adm. Moorer: We have the capability to assist him, but we can’t do it after the fact. If he wants units escorted along Routes 4 and 5, it has to be arranged before they get attacked. They should be escorted from the outset. Will we (JCS) get a copy of your reply to Swank?

Mr. Johnson: Oh, yes.

  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. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Helms’s briefing, “The Situation in Indochina,” January 29, attached but not printed.
  3. Telegram 1155 from Saigon, January 28; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–90, Southeast Asia WSAG Meeting, 1/29/73.