99. Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting1


  • Vietnam


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • U Alexis Johnson
  • William Sullivan
  • Defense
  • Kenneth Rush
  • Armistead Selden
  • Maj. Gen. Fred Karhos
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas Moorer
  • CIA
  • Richard Helms
  • [name not declassified] (only for Mr. Helms’ briefing)
  • [George Carver]
  • NSC
  • Maj. Gen. Alexander Haig
  • John Negroponte
  • Mark Wandler

[Omitted here is the Summary of Conclusions and a detailed discussion of the military situation in Vietnam.]

Mr. Kissinger: As I understand it, there are two factors which may cause the North Vietnamese to slow down their attacks; (1) the rainy season and (2) attrition due to combat.

Mr. Carver: That’s true, but there is a parallel relationship between those two factors. Operations won’t necessarily have to stop because of one of them. For example, they have pre–positioned men and supplies, in the hope that they won’t have to break off contact when the rainy season begins. I think the two factors are timed to end at more or less the same time.

Mr. Kissinger: Would you say in about six weeks—starting two weeks ago?

[Page 312]

Mr. Carver: You can figure on the end of May.

Mr. Kissinger: Do you think the enemy is bloody–minded enough to carry through while we are at the Summit in Moscow?

Mr. Carver: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: You think the Russians will let them do that?

Mr. Carver: The Russians, I don’t think, have any way of stopping them right now. Perhaps they can do it later on—by cutting off the POL flow, or something like that.

Mr. Sullivan: The North Vietnamese have shown before that they are sensitive about POL.

Mr. Carver: There’s quite a bit of lead time involved with cutting of the POL. If the flow stopped tomorrow, they would still have enough to carry through the offensive in MR 3. It would be a different story, of course, in the next campaign cycle.

Mr. Helms: The Communists have everything they need down there.

Adm. Moorer: The Russians have stepped up the flow of fuel to Haiphong in recent months. If I recall correctly, the increase in recent months has been around 30 percent.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Helms) Can you give us a rundown of the Soviet supply effort to North Vietnam in the last year?

Adm. Moorer: I can give you that. It’s been higher than 200,000 tons a month during recent months. Fuel used to be one–sixth of the total tonnage, but in recent months it has been about one–fourth of the total.

Mr. Kissinger: How does the 200,000 tons compare to earlier times?

Adm. Moorer: It’s higher. The figures used to be about 160,000 or 175,000 tons a month.

Mr. Helms: (to Mr. Kissinger) I will do a paper for you. We were just talking about this at the Agency, and I understand that it is more difficult than you would think to come up with the correct figures. For one thing, you have to rate the different kinds of equipment.

Mr. Kissinger: Do the paper.2 We want to get some kind of a judgment on whether the Soviets knew they were increasing the offensive capability of the North Vietnamese. They may just have been continuing the flow of supplies at the normal—or a slightly increased—rate. On the other hand, they may have known that the requests for additional supplies would result in increased offensive capabilities.

[Page 313]

Mr. Sullivan: You may be aware that the Soviets and North Vietnamese recently concluded a supplementary aid agreement which included such things as POL and food.

Adm. Moorer: I’m positive the increased POL shipments are even above what the North Vietnamese requested.

Mr. Kissinger: How do you know that?

Adm. Moorer: I believe that was the way it was worded in the intelligence reports. I’ll have to go back and check on it.

Mr. Kissinger: We can say the Soviet supply effort was one of three things. First, it may have been a plot which was designed to weaken us. Second, it may not have been a plot. But they should have known, anyway, that the increased aid would give the North Vietnamese greater capabilities. It’s sort of like a loaded revolver. Third, it may have been that the guy in the Politburo in charge of Vietnamese accounts decided for some reason just to keep on going—and no one paid any attention to what was going on.

Adm. Moorer: Are you saying the Soviets have no better control over their aid program than we have over our own?

Mr. Kissinger: It’s not inconceivable to me that someone in the Politburo was anxious to goose us because of the China initiative and, without thinking, increased the aid to North Vietnam. If the aid to North Vietnam has increased 30 percent, it is due to criminal negligence or total irresponsibility.

Adm. Moorer: We certainly knew about the increase in POL shipments.

Mr. Kissinger: Were we able to deduce that the offensive was coming?

Adm. Moorer: I connected the POL increase with the movements of the various North Vietnamese divisions.

Mr. Carver: There’s no doubt that the timing of the offensive was thrown off. It should have started in January or February—and been over before the Summit. By the time you went to Moscow, the North Vietnamese wanted to have defeated the South Vietnamese. They wanted the situation to still be in peril, but they wanted the major fighting to have ended.

[Omitted here is detailed discussion of the military situation in Vietnam.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–116, WSAG Minutes, Originals. Top Secret; Sensitive. No drafting information appears on the minutes. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Document 117.