9. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Vietnam Planning


  • Chairman
  • Henry Kissinger
  • State
  • Kenneth Rush
  • William Porter
  • Marshall Green
  • William Sullivan
  • Defense
  • William Clements
  • R/Adm. Daniel Murphy
  • JCS
  • V/Adm. John Weinel
  • CIA
  • James Schlesinger
  • George Carver
  • William Newton
  • NSC
  • B/Gen. Brent Scowcroft
  • Richard Kennedy
  • John Holdridge
  • James Hackett


It was agreed that:

  • —State will cable Saigon instructing Ambassador Bunker to raise with the South Vietnamese the issue of legal ports of entry for South Vietnam. Ambassador Bunker should urge the South Vietnamese to propose without further delay the ports they wish designated for the importation of military supplies and equipment into South Vietnam, and report their reaction ASAP. Any developments in this matter should be reported to Mr. Kissinger at once.
  • —State will cable Vientiane instructing Ambassador Godley to press Souvanna Phouma to agree to an early ceasefire.2 The cable should also stress our desire to avoid losing additional territory in Laos.
  • CIA will prepare for Mr. Kissinger by February 9 an assessment of enemy intentions over the next three to six months.3
  • DOD will prepare contingency plans providing military and political/diplomatic options for possible U.S. responses to enemy [Page 29]ceasefire violations, both during the 60 day troop withdrawal period and after that period.4 A WSAG meeting to review the contingency plans will be scheduled shortly after Mr. Kissinger’s return from his trip.
  • —Anything the WSAG participants believe should be raised by Mr. Kissinger in either Hanoi or Peking should be sent to General Scowcroft for transmittal no later than February 9 and 12, respectively.

Mr. Kissinger: Jim (Schlesinger), do you want to let us know where we stand today?

Mr. Schlesinger read a prepared statement (copy attached).5

Mr. Kissinger: Have the North Vietnamese gained anything?

Adm. Weinel: They have cut Route 14.

Mr. Carver: They’ve cut both Routes 14 and 1.

Mr. Kissinger: Is that significant?

Mr. Carver: It will be if they can hold them. They have to get about ten miles of roadway in the form of a saddle and then hold onto it. If they can do that, it will be a real problem for the South Vietnamese.

Mr. Schlesinger: That’s right. The cities in the highlands are cut off.

Mr. Kissinger: What cities?

Mr. Carver: Pleiku, and also Kontum. The roadblocks continue to be a problem.

Mr. Kissinger: You mean Route 9 is cut?

Adm. Weinel: Route 9 is in MR–I, but it is cut. I think you mean Route 19, which is the road from the coast to Pleiku. It’s not cut, but the roads to the south of Pleiku as well as those to the north, to Kontum, are blocked.

Mr. Kissinger: Does the South Vietnamese commander in MR–II carry out orders to open blocked roads?

Mr. Carver: He does a lot better than the commander in MR–III.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s saying absolutely nothing. The one in MR–III was ordered a number of times to open Route 13, but he did nothing.

Mr. Porter: Maybe he was ordered to do nothing.

Mr. Kissinger: I only know what we were told. It’s almost like the SRG meetings! With this increase in enemy activity in Laos, how many sorties are we flying there?

[Page 30]

Mr. Schlesinger: About 300 a day.

Mr. Kissinger: Including B–52s?

Adm. Weinel: We flew 49 B–52 sorties there yesterday. Keep in mind that figure is in sorties and there are more than one aircraft per sortie.

Mr. Kissinger: Who controls the insurgents in Cambodia?

Mr. Carver: They are essentially controlled by North Vietnam, but there is a lot of finagling and fooling around by the Chinese and others. Various groups are frying their own fish in Cambodia.

Mr. Kissinger: What fish are the Chinese frying there?

Mr. Carver: It’s reasonable to believe that many members of the Khmer Rouge have been members of the Chinese Communist Party rather than the Communist parties of Cambodia or North Vietnam, and therefore their loyalties may lie more in that direction.

Mr. Kissinger: What I want to know is what the Chinese want the Cambodian Communists to do. Are they in favor of a ceasefire in Cambodia or not?

Mr. Carver: We don’t know.

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t care who they are loyal to, I just want to know who is for what in Cambodia.

Mr. Carver: I’m afraid we really don’t know.

Mr. Kissinger: This situation in Cambodia is difficult to get on top of. Who is going to influence whom?

Mr. Schlesinger: The old Khmer Rouge have the greatest influence among the various groups.

Mr. Carver: The anti-Sihanouk element in the Khmer Rouge is most likely controlled by North Vietnam.

Mr. Sullivan: That’s not necessarily true.

Adm. Murphy: I’m not sure they are.

Mr. Schlesinger: We have evidence that the insurgents view with considerable concern any meeting we might have with Sihanouk.

Mr. Kissinger: I’m not surprised. I have found no constituency anywhere for me to meet with Sihanouk. Neither the Russians nor the Chinese are interested in that. Do the Joint Chiefs have anything to add?

Adm. Weinel: There has been a decided downfall in the number of incidents in South Vietnam. The statistics show they are down about 70%, but in reality it may be better than appearances indicate because all of the incidents are not being reported.

Mr. Rush: I don’t understand that. If they are not being reported, why would the situation be better than appearances? You mean the reverse, don’t you?

Mr. Sullivan: I don’t understand it, either.

[Page 31]

Adm. Weinel: I am talking about the incidents initiated by the South Vietnamese. They probably aren’t reporting the incidents they initiate, so our position may be better than it looks.

Mr. Kissinger: How is it better if there are more incidents than are reported?

Adm. Weinel: I take back my comment. I’ll just say that incidents are down substantially.

Mr. Kissinger: Of course, that doesn’t preclude their husbanding their forces for a push after we are out.

Mr. Carver: Or a last minute push just before the ICCS teams arrive on the scene.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s right.

Mr. Porter: Do we know where the upper crust of the PRG leadership is located?

Mr. Carver: Perhaps in Loc Ninh (northern Binh Long Province).

Mr. Sullivan: They have been reported in the rubber plantations around Loc Ninh.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we get an assessment of their intentions?

Mr. Carver: For what period of time, and when do you want it?

Mr. Kissinger: Say from three to six months, and I will need it by Friday6 night for use in Hanoi and by next Wednesday for use in China.7

Mr. Carver: O.K.

Mr. Kissinger: What’s the status of the Laos negotiations?

Mr. Sullivan: The Pathet Lao have agreed to an immediate ceasefire.

Mr. Kissinger: Did you send out that cable we discussed last night?

Mr. Sullivan: Yes, it went last night.

Mr. Kissinger: What’s (Ambassador) Godley’s view?

Mr. Sullivan: He would still like to hang on awhile longer, but he hasn’t answered the cable yet.

Mr. Kissinger: If he hangs on we will lose more ground in Laos, won’t we?

Mr. Sullivan: Sure, we may even lose the Bolovens Plateau.

Mr. Kissinger: Then what’s his rationale?

Mr. Sullivan: Souvanna has been anxious to enhance the ICC in Laos or perhaps to get some better members on it, or to get the North Vietnamese to withdraw behind the old 1962 ceasefire line. He thinks [Page 32]he can improve his position by continuing the fighting, but actually his forces keep losing. Souvanna has been talking with the King and should be returning just about now, so we may have a decision soon.

Mr. Kissinger: We’d better get some word to Godley in a hurry.

Mr. Sullivan: The cable we sent last night was as clear as possible.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we send him another message? Tell him I’m not coming out there with anything that will change the situation. Make it clear that we don’t want them to lose any more territory.

Mr. Sullivan: All right.

Mr. Carver: Souvanna wants two things, first, to make a strong pitch for the 1962 partition line and second, to beef up the ICC mechanism, which was a farce in 1962. I don’t blame him for trying to do that. If he can get agreement on the 1962 line, any losses he takes now won’t matter.

Mr. Schlesinger: We have information that he expects the ceasefire in Laos to be signed on February 12 or 13, which means another week of losses.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s exactly what we agreed on. Have we heard anything about the ICC in Cambodia?

Mr. Sullivan: The Indians have been dragging their feet. They are reluctant to call the ICC back into session unless all of the participants are agreeable. What they really mean is that they don’t want to act unless Sihanouk and the Chinese show some support for it. I’m sure the Indians will act quickly if the Chinese show a positive attitude.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s the sort of thing I can take up in China. What about the ICC in Laos?

Mr. Sullivan: There’s no problem there.

Mr. Kissinger: If there is anything that any of you think I should take up in China, please get it to General Scowcroft by Monday (February 12). We have good communications and he will get it out to me. How is the minesweeping going?

Adm. Weinel: We began at 2 p.m. GMT yesterday (February 5).

Mr. Kissinger: Doing what?

Adm. Weinel: Minesweeping. We began work on clearing the channel and moving our vessels into position.

Mr. Kissinger: Do I have the paper I asked for that explains all this?

Adm. Weinel: Yes, sir, we sent it to you.

Mr. Kennedy: Yes, we have it.

Adm. Murphy: I have some maps related to the minesweeping here.

Mr. Kissinger: Can I take the maps to Hanoi?

[Page 33]

Adm. Murphy: Sure, I’ll leave them with you.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Kennedy) Be sure to bring the maps and minesweeping report with you. I want to drag my feet on the first day and spend it discussing things like this.

Mr. Kennedy: Yes, sir.

Mr. Sullivan: I will also have a chart and lists of POWs and MIAs that we can raise with them that first day.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s good.

Adm. Weinel: The chief of the minesweeping effort, Admiral McCauley is already in Haiphong directing the operation.

Mr. Kissinger: Just be sure you don’t remove too many. I want to tie it to the release of the POWs.

Adm. Weinel: We understand.

Mr. Kissinger: Do we have a schedule for the release of the POWs yet?

Mr. Sullivan: They have told us they plan to release some 27 POWs held by the PRG on February 12 at An Loc. We expect to receive the schedule of planned releases by the North Vietnamese tomorrow (February 7). Indications are that they may release the first group on February 10.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s the day I arrive in Hanoi! I don’t want them at the Hanoi airport when I arrive.

Mr. Clements: I’ll bet that’s what they plan to do.

Mr. Sullivan: We have no indication they intend to tie the release to your arrival, and we have made it clear that there is to be no connection.

Mr. Kissinger: So long as it’s clear. (to Admiral Murphy) Are you in a position to stop the troop withdrawals if we have any problem on release of the POWs?

Adm. Murphy: Oh, yes. We can do that, easy.

Mr. Kissinger: What about the MIAs?

Mr. Sullivan: I’m taking a list along to go over with the North Vietnamese.

Mr. Kissinger: Is the Defense Department doing any contingency planning on what we should do about ceasefire violations?

Mr. Clements: Yes, we’re working on it.

Mr. Kissinger: I want to schedule an early WSAG when I return to consider the contingency plans. We have to be ready for any massive violations they may pull. Are you including a political/diplomatic scenario in addition to the military planning?

Adm. Murphy: Yes, we’re setting it up both ways, so there will be different courses of action that can be taken.

[Page 34]

Mr. Kissinger: And you’re doing it to consider violations both within and after sixty days?

Adm. Murphy: That’s right.

Mr. Schlesinger: All indications are that they plan to lie low for sixty days.

Mr. Carver: Our main concern for the first sixty days is not outbreaks of fighting but the movement south of supplies and personnel. I doubt they plan any major attacks during the sixty day period, but it could bode ill for us if they keep moving in men and equipment, building up for later assaults. The last personnel were seen entering the pipeline on January 16, but trucks are still on the trail.

Mr. Kissinger: They are still moving in supplies?

Mr. Carver: Yes. New lines of trucks have entered the trail twice since the ceasefire, most recently on February 2. Of course, we have no proof that they are going to South Vietnam. Some of the trucks they put in the pipeline before the ceasefire have been receiving orders to divert to Cambodia.

Mr. Kissinger: Dick (Kennedy), make sure that is reflected in the paper the boys are doing for us, will you?

Mr. Kennedy: Right.

Mr. Kissinger: What about the ports of entry?

Adm. Murphy: They haven’t been established yet.

Mr. Kissinger: If they are putting things in the pipeline they should see us bringing stuff in, too. When are we going to get those ports of entry designated?

Mr. Carver: The South Vietnamese haven’t raised it yet.

Mr. Kissinger: But that’s ridiculous. We can’t have the Government of Vietnam without legal ports of entry to bring supplies into the country. If the South Vietnamese can’t agree on what ports they want, we’ll designate some for them. Why haven’t they raised it in the Four Power meetings?

Mr. Sullivan: They don’t want to raise it. They think it hurts the other fellow more than it hurts them.

Mr. Kissinger: It doesn’t hurt the North Vietnamese if they are moving stuff down the trail!

Mr. Sullivan: Do we know for sure that they are?

Mr. Carver: Well, the trucks haven’t actually gone into South Vietnam yet, but they are moving that way.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we get some kind of word to the GVN on this matter? We have to get our ships into South Vietnam. We can’t let the agreement result in a blockade of our own ally. The only thing any Vietnamese understands is outright brutality. They never respond to expressions [Page 35]of good will, but they don’t hold a grudge when you brutalize them. Can we get an answer from the South Vietnamese on this before I go to Hanoi, so I will know whether I have to threaten them and what I have to threaten them with?

Mr. Sullivan: I’ll see what we can do.

Adm. Murphy: We have ships enroute to South Vietnam now.

Mr. Kissinger: Don’t divert any ships!

Mr. Clements: No, we won’t do that.

Adm. Murphy: We want to get that ammunition in to replace the stocks the South Vietnamese have been drawing down. We also have shipments of food underway.

Mr. Sullivan: The food is no problem; it can enter anyway.

Mr. Kissinger: I also have Congress to worry about. If we don’t send anything in for a couple of weeks they will think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Then when we do send in a ship with munitions Mansfield will be out there climbing all over the ship. The resupply effort should be regular and routine; we don’t want it to appear that we are stopping something and then starting it up again.

Mr. Sullivan: According to the agreement, resupply should be routine but on a periodic basis.

Mr. Kissinger: We can make it periodic every day.

Adm. Murphy: We can handle that requirement.

Mr. Kissinger: My nightmare is that we will find ourselves with no legal ports of entry and then this will get confused with our regular resupply of ARVN and an effort will be made to cut off our assistance. Let’s get a message out to (Ambassador) Bunker telling him to get the South Vietnamese moving on this or get a reason from them why they don’t want to move. We can’t let the North Vietnamese blockade South Vietnam by refusing to designate a legal port of entry. If the PRG won’t agree on a port, we’ll designate one ourselves. If we designate Saigon today we will be in violation of the agreement, but if we propose it and they drag their feet, then we will be able to act. Get off a cable to Bunker tonight and tell him to take the issue up as soon as possible with the South Vietnamese and let me know their answer. They have a million other things to worry about in Saigon and I suspect they just haven’t focussed on the significance of this issue. When will the field teams be in place?

Mr. Sullivan: In about 15 days. The Four Party teams, at least the U.S. and South Vietnamese elements, are pretty much in place already. We thought we’d better get them out to their positions without waiting for the PRG and DRV units. They can catch up later.

Mr. Kissinger: Is it true that some of the team members just learned to drive? A friend told me he saw that reported on television.

Mr. Sullivan: Could be.

[Page 36]

Adm. Weinel: One of the ICCS teams had its first combat experience. A group left Hue to scout for quarters in Quang Tri City but never got there. They ran into a barrage of fire that looked like 130s.

Mr. Kissinger: Was anyone hurt?

Adm. Weinel: No.

Mr. Kissinger: Well, if there is anything you feel I should know, get it to General Scowcroft. As I say, we have good communications and he will get it to me.

Mr. Carver: Are you leaving Friday?

Mr. Kissinger: No, tomorrow (February 7).

Mr. Carver: But you want me to get the papers on our assessment of enemy intentions to you on Friday?

Mr. Kissinger: Yes, for my meetings in Hanoi. Also, if the ports issue is raised, I want to know about it. They may get nervous when they see U.S. supplies going in, but if they are moving trucks down the trail it will be beneficial for them to see our supplies.

Mr. Porter: They’ll tell you their trucks are going down to pick up their men and bring them out. I hope they don’t pull the old “serious intent” line on you. That’s all I heard for over a year in Paris, that they were demonstrating their “serious intent.”

Mr. Kissinger: That won’t get them anywhere.

Mr. Schlesinger: Do you plan to raise in Hanoi the issue of the diversion of their units from South Vietnam to Laos?

Mr. Kissinger: How many units are involved?

Mr. Carver: We have indications that three regiments have moved across the border into Laos.

Adm. Weinel: The 308th and 88th Regiments are now in Laos. I don’t know about the third one.

Mr. Kissinger: They can’t legally go back into South Vietnam. They may have violated the spirit of the agreement by going into Laos, but the important point is now that they are outside South Vietnam they can’t go back in without being in flagrant violation of the agreement. Have they sent any new units into Laos?

Mr. Kennedy: Yes, they have, into the North of Laos.

Mr. Sullivan: They have moved an anti-aircraft unit from the southern panhandle into the Ho Chi Minh trail area, but we don’t know yet where it’s going from there.

Mr. Kennedy: The reports I have seen indicate a major logistical push into North Laos. It’s the biggest thing up there since 1968.

Mr. Clements: Is that a violation?

Mr. Kissinger: No, but it is hardly a demonstration of good will and serious intentions.

[Page 37]

Mr. Porter: They’ll have an interesting set of answers for you when you raise these questions.

Mr. Kissinger: I have an advantage. Since I’m the guest, I speak first.

Mr. Carver: We have a report from our station chief in Laos that the F–111s diverted from South Vietnam were very effective at Bouam Long. That city was under siege and we had trouble with air strikes because of bad weather, but apparently the F–111s did a very good job there.

Mr. Kissinger: You mean the F–111s hit something? What is the importance of Bouam Long?

Mr. Carver: If they took it, it would be a threat to our rear.

Mr. Kissinger: Are your planes getting enough targets in Laos?

Mr. Carver: Right now they have all the targets they can hit.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–117, WSAG Meeting Minutes, Originals, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Instructions to Godley were sent in telegram 22116 to Vientiane, February 6. (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 30, HAK Trip Files, February 7–20, 1973)
  3. Scowcroft sent CIA Intelligence Memorandum, “Hanoi’s Intentions Over the Next Three to Six Months,” to Kissinger in Hanoi in WH30381/Tohak 62, February 10. (Ibid., Box 29, HAK Trip Files, February 7–20, 1973)
  4. Richardson sent the Department of Defense Contingency Plan to Kissinger under a covering memorandum, February 26. (Ibid., Box 232, Agency Files, Defense, January–April 1973)
  5. Schlesinger’s briefing, “The Situation in Indochina,” February 6, attached but not printed.
  6. February 9.
  7. February 14. Kissinger visited Beijing after leaving Saigon on February 15.