91. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer) to Secretary of Defense Schlesinger 1



  • US Support of the Government of the Khmer Republic (GKR) (U)
(TS) Current plans call for cessation of US combat air efforts in the Khmer Republic effective 15 August 1973. Our objective between now and 15 August is to weaken enemy matériel and personnel strengths and leave the GKR in the strongest possible position relative to the insurgents when our operations cease.
(TS) The requirement for an increase in sorties is a military response to a military situation which has emerged in Cambodia. The weather has been unusually good facilitating tactical reconnaissance and permitting us to build up an unusually large target base. Insurgent strategy has changed in the past 2 to 3 weeks. The enemy has begun to close in on Phnom Penh, leading to increasing concern for security of the city itself as well as the LOC. Finally, the enemy has moved to a “scorched earth” policy. We believe that an increase of B–52 sorties to about 60 sorties per day to include daylight strikes, and additional TACAIR sorties are required as a proper military response in this situation. We recognize that the worsening of weather with the advent of the monsoon season may make it impossible to effectively employ the desired increase in sortie level.

(TS) The above increase will serve to enhance LOC security and at the same time improve the situation in the vicinity of the capital itself and improve civilian morale. The enemy accelerated campaign since January 1973 has been designed to collapse the Cambodian Government by sealing off all key LOC leading into Phnom Penh. The key LOC in order of priority are:

Mekong River corridor (bulk POL and ammunition).
Route 4 (MAP and general cargo—except ammunition and POL).
Route 5 (rice and foodstuffs from the Battambang area).

FANK forces are primarily committed to secure these routes and associated population centers. Other secondary LOC provide for the [Page 370]movement of internally produced foodstuffs. US air support at the present level has allowed the FANK to be marginally successful in countering enemy LOC blockage, but the constant shifting of the FANK General Reserve and harassment of territorial forces has not permitted the institution of recently approved security measures. The enemy has increased his interdiction efforts in the last month against the LOC north and northeast of Phnom Penh while his actions against Route 4 to the south have closed to within 12 miles of Phnom Penh. The “scorched earth” campaign around Phnom Penh is part of a concerted effort to eliminate government influence and control in the Phnom Penh area. According to COMUSSAG, since the recent surge of fighting began in early June, photography has revealed that a total of 26 villages have been burned out in this area.

(S) Current MAP and GKR programs for the FANK should significantly improve its capabilities in the near future. Increased US support should serve to relieve enemy pressure on the FANK, thus facilitating the progress of these programs and allowing the FANK increased time to regroup throughout.
(TS) Specifically, an increased weight of US air effort will:
Materially assist a FANK operation to secure the west bank of the Mekong, leading eventually to an acceptable level of corridor security, while maintaining at least the same level of support to forces deployed in other areas.
Take advantage of recently increased US reconnaissance and targeting to reduce enemy will and capability to continue the struggle.
Aid FANK implementation of Route 4 security plan while providing added air support to current convoy efforts.
Support FANK efforts to repair bridges and establish adequate security measures on Route 5 so as to insure continued flow of rice and other critical foodstuffs.
Decrease the enemy capability to threaten the LOC north and northeast of Phnom Penh in order to reduce the need for diffusion of critical FANK manpower. This will allow the GKR to improve its position along key LOC.
(TS) Should a deterioration of the military or political situation bring about a collapse of the present government and result in a communist-dominated coalition, the enemy could obtain complete sanctuary status in Cambodia to include use of Kompong Som Port for entry of war matériel. This would:
Enhance immeasurably the threat to the Republic of Vietnam.
Erode the Royal Laotian Government resolve to resist.
Expose the Thai border to communist forces which could escalate present Thai insurgency beyond manageable proportions. This could result in an increased demand for US assistance, or a Thai accommodation with the Communists, which in turn would precipitate the loss of US bases in Thailand.
(TS) Cambodia is an essential element in the overall DRV scheme for domination of SEAsia. The objective of this essential increase in US support will be to preclude such domination by weakening the insurgents and strengthening the GKR to the greatest extent possible in the time remaining.
T. H. Moorer
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Chairman, Records of Thomas Moorer, Box 091, Cambodia, June–December 1973. A handwritten notation at the top of the memorandum reads: “Original hand carried to Gen. Wickham by Mr. K, 5 July–1220.”