41. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Options to Counter North Vietnamese Violations

As promised, Admiral Moorer has provided you with two books concerning military options for dealing with North Vietnamese violations of the ceasefire agreement.2 In the smaller book, which has been prepared by Admiral Weinel and himself, Admiral Moorer considers a number of possible options and recommends a scenario which includes the following steps:

  • —Concentrated air strikes in Laos for three days.
  • —Mining of principal North Vietnamese ports (includes coastal anchorages used by Chinese).
  • —Air strikes to isolate Hanoi and destroy military targets there.

His conclusions concerning each of the options considered are of interest:

  • —U.S. air support should be given to South Vietnamese units only when necessary to prevent a major/local military defeat (e.g., an attempt to capture Hue).
  • —U.S. air strikes against Khe Sanh/MR–1 military targets would be worthwhile only as a weak signal of things to come.
  • —Concentrated all-out air effort against LOCs in Laos would be an excellent signal to Hanoi and an ideal precursor of stronger measures.
  • —Destruction of the port of Haiphong would have very high psychological impact and could be accomplished using standoff weapons.
  • —Mining of principal ports would produce the largest military and psychological returns for the smallest investment. Loss of life on both sides would be an absolute minimum.
  • —Isolation of Hanoi and destruction of its war-making facilities should be held out as the ultimate option. It should not be used until the mining option has failed to produce desired results.

The more comprehensive plan in the larger book has been prepared by a group of more junior officers and considers eight options in a framework of varying objectives and circumstances. The options considered include:

  • —Ceasing mine-clearing operations.
  • —Increasing aid to South Vietnam.
  • —Unconventional warfare operations in Indochina (except North Vietnam) and short duration air strikes in South Vietnam.
  • —Air and naval actions in South Vietnam and Laos.
  • —Mining key North Vietnamese ports and seeding fields in selected coastal areas.
  • —Standoff attacks against North Vietnam using naval gunfire and extended range guided weapons.
  • —Tac Air campaign against North Vietnam.
  • —Tac Air and B–52 campaign against North Vietnam.

Largely driven by domestic/political considerations, the plan recommends resort to the last two options, which would produce a POW situation, only if the survival of South Vietnam is threatened and it is desired to maintain the South Vietnamese right of self-determination until political stability is realized or intervention by North Vietnamese ceases.

The document includes several interesting assessments concerning the current situation: [Page 188]

  • —Available evidence indicates that Hanoi’s intention is to maintain a politically oriented strategy through the remainder of 1973. It is unlikely to be able to launch a coordinated major offensive prior to October 1973.
  • —The South Vietnamese should be able to contain the North Vietnamese threat if leadership, will, judgment, and other intangibles are strong.

There are several nuggets of information buried in the document, which suggest areas we should investigate if we are to properly prepare for possible contingencies:

  • —A production decision is needed now to be able to produce 540 guided bombs per month by January 1974. The rate would increase to approximately 1200 bombs per month by April 1974. Reprogramming of funds is necessary to accomplish necessary production rates and would require Congressional approval.
  • —The B–52D force has wing strength problems and no models of this type are available to replace losses during the December air campaign or anticipated losses in a new campaign.

I suggest you authorize me to check on both of these issues unless you are personally going to follow up with Admiral Moorer.3

A standoff capability provides unique advantages in reducing POW losses. Even though Hanoi could not be reached by present weapons from the safe haven of coastal waters outside of SAM range, a large area of North Vietnam is within range of these 40–55 NM weapons. We should check on current inventories of these weapons and current constraints on their production.

The D model is the high bomb capacity B–52 which has been modified for additional conventional ordnance. We should determine the facts of structural weaknesses and current inventories and may want to consider converting more G models to Ds.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1334, Un-filed Materials, NSC Unfiled Materials, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Both books, including cover memorandum CJCS M–35–73, April 10, attached but not printed.
  3. Kissinger did not mark either the Approve or Disapprove option.