238. Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Ambassador to Vietnam (Martin)1

WH50718. I have discussed your Saigon 710 with the President. There is no objection to your proceeding as you indicate in paragraph 9.2

You will soon be receiving a full report on today’s WSAG with further instructions on a variety of questions.3

In the meantime, I want you to know that in the unanimous view of the agencies represented, the situation in Viet-Nam is rapidly and irretrievably approaching the worst case. It is clear to me—and the WSAG confirmed it—that as a result, interagency pressure for immediate evacation of U.S. personnel has now become irresistible. Without exception the view of those at the meeting is that we must evacuate our people—and do so as soon as possible.

This conclusion, I do not doubt, will shortly leak. The President, of course, will then be blamed directly for being indifferent to the saving of American lives. In short, we are faced with a very nasty problem.

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Given the political dimensions of this problem at home and the realities of the battlefield in Viet-Nam, it is also beginning increasingly to appear that drastic action will be required if we are to have any chance of providing for those Vietnamese who have relied on us. I therefore would appreciate your judgment on the wisdom and feasibility of our initiating discussions with the Soviet Union and the PRC in order to work out some arrangement which would permit the departure of substantial numbers of Vietnamese who would be endangered and to whom we are most deeply obliged.

With respect to the vote in Congress, I think we will be able to ensure that there will not be a negative decision before Monday4 at the earliest.

You are doing a fantastic job.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Backchannel Messages, Box 3, Martin Channel, April 1975, Outgoing (1). Secret; Sensitive; Flash; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. Martin sent a lengthy appraisal of the situation in Vietnam to Kissinger in backchannel message 710, April 17. In paragraph 9, the Ambassador wrote: “If there is a negative vote, Thieu will be finished. I am seeing Bui Diem tomorrow. He and Don, now Minister of Defense, are most eager to get the negotiation process started. I shall still say that any change is their business but that it seems to me that the essential process of negotiations cannot be started with Thieu in power. I shall then, unless instructed to the contrary, go to Thieu and tell him the same thing, making it absolutely crystal clear that I am speaking only for myself, that I am speaking as a friend who has always told him the whole truth, and that is my conclusion, arrived at most reluctantly, that his place in history would be better assured with the recording of all the truly significant things he has actually accomplished, if he does not, by staying too long, be remembered for failing to permit the attempt to be made to save what is left of Vietnam as a reasonably free state. I will say that it is my dispassionate and objective conclusion that if he does not do this, his generals will force him to depart. I would say that it would seem to most of the world a much more honorable way to go, if his departure was at his own volition, telling his country he did so to preserve the legitimacy of the Constitution and the successor administration which would help them negotiate from a greater position of strength to preserve a free Vietnam. I would say it would be an act which could only be taken by a man of great courage who placed his country’s interest first and foremost. I would make it quite clear several times that I was giving him only my personal assessment of the situation, that I had not been instructed to do so by either the President or the Secretary of State, who, I assumed, would continue to support the Government and the people of Vietnam to the best of their ability.” (Ibid., Incoming, 1)
  3. Kissinger relayed a brief account of the April 17 WSAG meeting (see Document 236) to Martin in telegram 88999, April 18; ibid., Presidential Country Files for East Asia and the Pacific, Box 21, Vietnam, State Department Telegrams, From SECSTATE, Nodis (3).
  4. April 21.