213. Memorandum From William Smyser of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger 1

SUBJECT

  • Review of Cambodian Evacuation Schedule

In response to my memorandum informing you of Prince Sihanouk’s cable to Cyrus Eaton (Tab A),2 you asked me to review our Cambodian evacuation schedule on the basis of that telegram. I see several options, outlined below. We should also get in touch with Sihanouk ourselves, on another matter, to see if he repeats the message directly to us.

You may recall that, in this telegram, Sihanouk told Mr. Eaton that the U.S. should evacuate its personnel and the Phnom Penh “traitors” while Pochentong was still open and that the GRUNK takeover of the airport was being delayed to give us that opportunity.

Sihanouk’s cable may just be designed to increase the pressure on us to leave and to pull down the Cambodian Government. It could, however, also reflect his real views. I am confident that he would prefer to avoid a battle for Phnom Penh. If we want to work along his lines, we should cooperate.

It seems to me that we have four options. The first three involve evacuating Phnom Penh via Pochentong over the next three nights, before or after the President’s speech; the fourth involves remaining as long as possible even if the airport is closed.

You had directed earlier that Ambassador Dean should not evacuate until after the President’s speech Thursday3 evening. If you choose to change this, our mission would have to evacuate on Wednesday night, Washington time (Thursday in Phnom Penh) which would still give time for the President to take account of this in his speech. If, however, we wished to ask Dean to evacuate after the President’s speech, and as soon as possible, our choices would be Thursday night (Washington time), which might be too soon in terms of your desire to sustain [Page 781]our position until after the President’s speech, or Friday night (Washington time) which would be the earliest time compatible with your instructions.

We must recognize that events may well force our hand. The airport could fall at any time and may well not hold out the three or four days required.

There is a way for us to check this out, to see if Sihanouk says the same thing to us that he said to Eaton. We have just received the Sihanouk recordings of Cambodian songs that he promised to send President Ford. I think it would be good to instruct USLO Peking to get in touch with Sihanouk’s aide, Mr. Phung, to tell him that the President has received the records and thank the Prince, and that we would be interested in any further messages the Prince may have for us. If Sihanouk’s message to Eaton is serious, he could repeat it to us directly.

Based on the above discussion, I have one recommendation on approaching Sihanouk, and I see four options for evacuation:

Recommendation

a. That you authorize USLO to get in touch with Prince Sihanouk’s intermediary to tell him that the President appreciates the records and that we would be interested in any further messages the Prince may have for us.4

Options on Evacuation

a.
Instruct Dean to evacuate Wednesday night (Washington time), before the President’s speech.
b.
Instruct Dean to evacuate Thursday night (Washington time) immediately after the President’s speech.
c.
Instruct Dean to evacuate Friday night (Washington time) with somewhat more leeway after the President’s speech.
d.
Leave Dean’s instructions as at present, which means he will not initiate evacuation except on instruction but can evacuate in an extreme situation if he feels American lives would be jeopardized by further delay.5
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Backchannel Messages, Box 6, Voyager Channel, April 1975, Outgoing. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent for immediate action. According to the attached correspondence profile, Kissinger reviewed this memorandum on April 11.
  2. Memorandum, “Call from Mrs. Cyrus Eaton re Telegram from Prince Sihanouk,” April 7, prepared by Smyser, attached but not printed.
  3. April 10.
  4. Kissinger initialed his approval.
  5. Kissinger did not mark any of the options.