267. Memorandum of Conversation1
- President Ford
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for NSC
- Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for NSC
President: Did the A–37’s do major damage?
Kissinger: No. They hit the Vietnamese Air Force side.
President: How many are out now?
Kissinger: 35–40,000. It’s remarkable.
President: It really has been magnificently done.
Kissinger: The PRG asked to meet us in Paris, then they stalled, then they demanded we go to their office. We have little capability left and they seemed to be toughening up. Congress hasn’t acted.
President: What does Martin think?
Kissinger: He thinks it will take a long time to have a transition and he wants to turn it into relief and rehabilitation for Minh.2 But I think they will dominate Minh soon and then we will be hostage. Also the JGS control over the forces will decline. Later this week we may be faced with the need to evacuate. When Smith decides Tan Son Nhut can’t be used, we pull out the people doing the processing. Then the helicopter operation would be only at one site. But they keep changing the numbers which can be lifted.
President: Are the G–2’s protected?
Kissinger: One is the MACV compound, the other . . . Graham would keep the DAO there after the refugees stop so Minh can trade for them. I sympathize, but the way the Pentagon has operated, I don’t think we can defend domestically leaving them.
President: I think when their function is gone, I don’t think you can defend domestically leaving them.
Kissinger: Their function is advising ARVN, so their leaving would further deteriorate the situation and depress the GVN. You don’t need to decide now, but the situation will keep unravelling—our friends will be leaving. I think we should watch the Minh Government very raptly and when it changes composition we may want to cut back very quickly or pull out. We have an obligation to make the transition as humane [Page 922]as possible, but I don’t agree with Martin that we have a large embassy there for relief; we should negotiate it separately.
President: Keep a close watch on it. How many are left?
Kissinger: There are 150 or so unofficial Americans. They have all been warned, and I am not so worried about that. The official Americans are our problem.
[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Vietnam.]