24. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to Laos (Godley) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

732. Ref My 731.2

Since dispatching reftel Prime Minister called to say he had Vang Pao in the office and Vang Pao was seeking U.S. air support. Prime Minister asked that we receive Vang Pao and listen to his problem and if we felt air support was required we should take such a request as coming from him, the Prime Minister.
Subsequently Vang Pao called at Embassy and in rational terms discussed the situation of GM 28, which is located a few kilometers due south southwest and southeast of Xiengkouangville in high grounds overlooking Route 4. These forces were in these positions at the time of the ceasefire but since then have been under continuous enemy artillery fire and ground pressure. Some of these forces have been pushed back and the friendly situation in the area is, as of this moment, fluid.
I told Vang Pao that I was extremely reluctant to seek U.S. air support unless it was absolutely essential for it was in everyone’s interest for us to do what we could to maintain the ceasefire no matter how fragile it might be. I asked Vang Pao if he could not withdraw his troops a bit to the south and if there were not some other positions on which they could establish a defense. Vang Pao, CAS COS and I went carefully over the maps and it was quite apparent that there are no defensive positions to which they could withdraw except one about 20 kilometers south. Such a retreat, according to Vang Pao, would mean surrendering land dear to his people.
Vang Pao agreed wholeheartedly to the basic point of minimizing U.S. air at this time. He also agreed that his intelligence on GM 28’s situation is currently poor. (Vang Pao left Long Tieng early yesterday morning and is currently out of date.) He spoke of using F–111’s but I suggested rather B–52’s be used for they have a greater signal [Page 140] carrying capacity than F–111’s and I was reluctant to see small jets reintroduced to the Lao air space. Vang Pao accepted this. (Vang Pao observed that TACAIR other than F–111’s is relatively ineffective now due to the dense ground haze and smoke.)
Situation is therefore that Vang Pao will assess with CAS personnel the situation of GM 28 and if necessary will submit about three boxes to support that unit if it is still under enemy attack.
I subsequently spoke to the Prime Minister, who is leaving Vientiane at 1300 today for Luang Prabang where he will remain until Monday. I told Prime Minister of my conversation with Vang Pao and he agreed with our conclusions but reiterated that the air reaction should be “moderate” and essentially of the message carrying variety.
The foregoing is not repeat not a request for air. It is merely to alert you and General Vogt of the situation. If we do need the air, I would hope it can be forthcoming as soon as possible. General Vogt might therefore wish to alert his higher headquarters.
General Vogt informed me this morning that TACAIR is limited due to other activities. He might wish to comment to me on the availability of B–52’s.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 411, Backchannel Messages, Southeast Asia, 1973. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only; Priority. Repeated Eyes Only Priority to Bangkok for General Vogt.
  2. In backchannel message 731 from Vientiane, February 24, Godley wrote: “We are watching local situation as carefully as possible with a view to U.S. air support. Our position is that we should endeavor to avoid using U.S. air support except in instances where enemy clearly violates ceasefire and U.S. air would be truly effective. If such instances develop we will ask for air and I shall certainly inform you.” (Ibid.)