269. Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Ambassador to Vietnam (Martin)1
WH50773. 1. The judgment of all agencies at the WSAG this morning2 was that we could have as little as one to three days before a military collapse and Tan Son Nhut becomes unusable. This, of course, is at some variance with your 757.3
2. Our present thinking is that if the above estimate is accurate, we should attempt to evacuate DAO on the last C–130’s before Tan Son Nhut closes, whenever that is. General Smith would make the recommendation regarding the danger to Tan Son Nhut. This would give you a chance to give your views at that end. When Tan Son Nhut closes, the refugee handling function of DAO would be terminated and our justification for keeping them in place would be very weak. We are prepared to listen to any counter-arguments you may wish to advance but that is the tentative decision at this point.
3. When Tan Son Nhut closes, we will then be faced with the question of the residual personnel strength we wish to maintain at the Embassy. It is my feeling that Minh will be pushed fairly rapidly into giving in to a pro-Communist or Communist-dominated government and our people could end up as hostages. The question then arises how long we should maintain any significant presence at all. I do not believe we should maintain a large presence under a Communist-dominated government. Neither do I believe that the Embassy should automatically undertake relief operations without being formally requested. If we are to engage in relief and rehabilitation, it should be incidental to negotiating our reentry and at the specific request of the new Saigon government.