210. Memorandum From William Smyser of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1

SUBJECT

  • Options on Military Aid to Vietnam or Military Reinvolvement

Having read the Weyand report,2 I think we have five options with regard to military aid and/or possible U.S. military reinvolvement. The first four options run from the lowest to highest; the fifth deals specifically with how to help refugees.

1. Go for $300 million supplemental immediately and say you may need more later.

The principal advantage of this option is that it involves the least struggle with the Congress; its principal disadvantage is that it will barely sustain stocks and will not permit outfitting of additional South Vietnamese forces.

2. Ask for $722 million immediately.

This will have more trouble getting through the Congress, though it may still be manageable. If we get the money, we could outfit the forces immediately. But our chances of getting it are even less than the $300 million.

3. Ask for $300 million supplemental and add $722 million in new request.

The purpose of this would be to try to use the old supplemental to build up stocks and the new money to concentrate entirely on building new forces and giving them all the supplies they need. (I am still not clear, from reading the Weyand report, whether the munitions figure of $198 million included in his $722 million total is taken from the original supplemental or is supposed to be new money.) However, this would put our total military aid request above $1 billion and would have very rough sledding on the Hill and perhaps in the country.

4. Reinvolve U.S. forces in two ways: B–52’s and mining of all ports used by the North Vietnamese.

The principal advantage of this course is that, with the North Vietnamese now fighting advanced modern tank warfare, they are more [Page 760]dependent than ever on the kinds of troop concentration and of logistic lines that are vulnerable to B–52 strikes and mining. The principal disadvantage would be the negative Congressional and probably popular reaction in this country, which would be reinforced by the fact that our losses would be disproportionately higher than in similar operations in the past.

5. Reinvolving U.S. forces to help get refugees out.

The advantage of this would be that we could secure a perimeter behind which Vietnamese who want to flee communism would be permitted to make their escape to the U.S. or elsewhere. The disadvantages are that it would involve at least three U.S. divisions, considerable casualties, and some uncertainty about where the refugees would go. Both Vietnams might oppose this.

One might remark, as a final irony, that it may take more U.S. military effort to save Vietnamese refugees than to try to turn the war around. In fact, the principal argument that can be made for negotiations is that they might open the way to peaceful departure of refugees; however, I doubt that the North Vietnamese would agree to that.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for East Asia and the Pacific, Box 19, Vietnam (17). Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Urgent; Sent for information. Scowcroft wrote on the top of the first page: “Thanks, BS.”
  2. See Document 208.