Learn about the beta
[Page 1014]

238. Memorandum for the Record1

SUBJECT

  • Conversation with Mrs. Shih

As instructed, I called Mrs. Shih and informed her that because of the urgency and seriousness of the matter concerned we would like them to take a message by telephone and assist us in transmitting it as fast as possible to another party. The reason for the urgency and our concern would become obvious from the text of the message.

We were also asking our regular contact to inform the North Vietnamese but we were not confident that our man would be able to get through or be received. We were asking their assistance because of the time sensitivity. I then read the following text which we were asking be transmitted to the North Vietnamese.

Begin Text:

“We have learned from absolutely trustworthy battlefield reports that the 284th Artillery Regiment of the North Vietnamese Armed Forces operating in Quang Tri Province of South Vietnam has been ordered to execute 10 American prisoners on July 8. The U.S. Government urgently demands that this order be immediately countermanded. NVA field commanders must be ordered to escort these and any other American prisoners to safe areas and treat them humanely, as required by international law and as promised by the DRV. The Hanoi authorities and NVA commanders will be held responsible for the execution or mistreatment of these or any other American prisoners.”

End Text.

I emphasized the date and the matter of lives as being the factors requiring immediate transmission of the message. I also stated that we were not making this matter public because of our desire not to do anything that would impede progress in negotiations in Paris. Mrs. Shih insured that she had transcribed the text properly and stated that they [Page 1015]would transmit our message to their government and then we would see what would happen.2

JT Howe
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 850, President’s File—China Trip, China Exchanges. Secret; Eyes Only. Prepared by Howe.
  2. A note in the files dated July 8, 8:30 p.m. reads in its entirety: “The matter alleged in the U.S. telephone message of July 7 is a matter which involves the Vietnamese and U.S. sides. The Chinese position in such affairs is total non-interference. Therefore, the Chinese side will not undertake to convey the U.S. message.” A notation at the bottom of the note reads: “(Rec’d in San Clemente via Secure Voice phone from Howe, 7/9/72, 10:10 a.m.)” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 110 Geopolitical Files, China, Chronological Files)