211. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

President: How is Eagle Pull coming?

Kissinger: It’s down to 50 Americans.2

President: How long will they stay?

[Page 761]

Kissinger: Until your speech at least. If there’s no action by the Congress by Monday or Tuesday,3 pull them out.

It is a disgrace. In all justice, I should tell you what Ron Nessen says—that you should lead the way out.

President: That is not the way I am. I couldn’t do it. If I were to go to the Hill, we should wipe our hands of it. I can’t do it.

I will ask for the $700 million, economic aid and a deadline of May. We need authority from the Congress to evacuate.

Kissinger: We have two nutty Ambassadors. Dean wants to bug out. Martin wants a new version of the Easter Rebellion. He is supporting Thieu too strongly.

President: Supposing Ike, Kennedy, Johnson or Nixon were President, what would they have done?

Kissinger: Kennedy would have ratted out. Nixon may have bombed—he was vicious in these things. The Pentagon have continuously put some distance between you and them.

President: How about Johnson?

Kissinger: He wouldn’t have bugged out. His advisers would have tried to bug out . . .

President: Without appearing to do so, Kennedy probably would have bugged out—with some famous statements which would disguise it.

Kissinger: I must say it would be popular to say we have done enough, give only humanitarian aid, negotiate with North Vietnam to take out those who want to go, and say if the North won’t agree, we will do it by force. You could couple it with a statement saying it was a bad defeat, and we need a bigger defense budget because it’s a dangerous world, and we need the Turkey money.

President: It goes against my grain.

Kissinger: Mine too. As Secretary of State, I am against it. As Assistant to the President, I am presenting all the options.

President: I don’t feel I can do it.

Kissinger: Then say in the speech that you considered it, and you don’t know how we can withdraw the aid from those who know the odds more than us and still want to go on fighting.

President: If the Congress want to vote this way, then the efforts of five Presidents, 55,000 dead, and five Congressional efforts are in vain.

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Kissinger: We should put the withdrawal option before the NSC—10 minutes by Weyand, and 10 minutes by Colby. Then I will present the withdrawal option, $300 million in humanitarian aid, and the $722 million. Then various evacuation options. On these, Martin is a gutsy guy, but he is heading for a debacle. He won’t give us any planning. We have got to go in by the end of the week to Thieu and say frankly we may not get the aid and we now must be prepared.

On gifts—I think this is tawdry. The whole approach is wrong.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 10, 4/8/1975. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. Dean was authorized on April 3 to reduce the number of personnel for whom he was responsible to the minimum necessary to administer aid shipments. (Telgram 75058 to Phnom Penh, April 3; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  3. April 14 or 15.