29. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
- Washington Special Action Group’s Recommendations for Providing Military Assistance to Laos
The Washington Special Action Group has developed a plan for providing military assistance to the Lao Government forces.2 This plan lists actions which are already under way, and also contains agreed recommendations on further actions for your approval. The actions already taken include providing the regular and irregular Lao Government forces with M–16s and more artillery, giving the Air Force additional T–28s, improving and maintaining US aerial reconnaissance capability and tactical air operations, increasing Thai training and support of the Lao forces, and supporting political moves by Prince Souvanna Phouma to improve his posture as a genuine neutralist.
Actions for which your approval is requested are:3
- Working out with our Embassies in Vientiane and Bangkok the introduction of a small Thai fire-control element into Laos to assist Meo [Page 66] gun crews, phasing the Thai out when Meo have been adequately trained to replace them. The assumption is that immediate reintroduction of the full Thai artillery battery which was withdrawn earlier (“Sierra Romeo VIII”) might reveal the Thai presence and leave Thailand vulnerable to charges of violating the 1962 Geneva Accords.
- Continue studying with Embassies Vientiane and Bangkok the possible utilization of “Sierra Romeo VIII” elsewhere in Laos where it can be both effective and not readily visible or vulnerable. Defense believes that this battery is a useful asset; Ambassador Unger wants it to show the Thai that US interests continue in maintaining a military balance in Laos.
- Consider via our Ambassadors in Bangkok and Vientiane giving specialized and intensive training to Thai forces for possible future operations against the North Vietnamese in Laos. Although the Thai forces would not necessarily be committed, their extra capabilities would be available in the event that their help becomes needed.
- Once a North Vietnamese offensive begins and suitable targets are identified, implementing B–52 reconnaissance to develop strike information and possibly to give Hanoi a signal. This action would be withheld for the present, however, to give us an opportunity to study countermeasures for dealing with the risks involved and to provide for necessary advanced planning.
- If an enemy offensive assumes a size indicating an intention of going beyond the previous pattern of attacks, giving commanders in the field authority to increase manned tactical reconnaissance activities over North Vietnam and the Lao border area below 19 degrees north and initiate tactical reconnaissance in the border area above 19 degrees north. Such activity would enhance intelligence collection capability, provide target data for possible future actions, serve as a signal to the DRV that we might bomb portions of North Vietnam, and possibly cause the DRV to disperse supplies and reconsider plans for an offensive.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–071, WSAG Meeting 10/6/69 Laos. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. Drafted by Holdridge. According to a handwritten and stamped notation, the memorandum was returned from the President on October 22.↩
- The record of the October 6 WSAG meeting, and attached documents, are in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. VI, Document 131. The minutes of this meeting also mention two other items related to Thailand: T–28 aircraft and 155 mm. howitzers. U. Alexis Johnson “brought up the matter of T–28 aircraft for the RLAF and the Thais, stating that the provision of additional aircraft is a high priority action. Kissinger was strong on the point that T–28s should not be taken from the Thais to be given to the RLAF. Vice Admiral Nels C. Johnson agreed,” and reported that the JCS would probably recommend getting 22 aircraft from the VNAF and giving them to the RLAF. There followed a lengthy discussion of artillery support. It was reported that Thai Prime Minister Thanom had recommended introducing a Thai artillery unit equipped with 155s into Laos. It was noted that at “the present time Thai volunteers are training the Meo in the use of 155s. This gun is not particularly suited for operations in Laos. Moving them about from mountain to mountain by helicopter is an awkward task. Nevertheless, field recommendations favor introduction of Thai 155s with a combat defense force of about 300 troops. CINCPAC recommends a return of the Sierra Romeo 8 package to train the Meo, and then move it back out of country.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-071, WSAG Meeting 10/6/69 Laos.↩
- The President initialed his approval of all recommendations. In an October 23 memorandum, Kissinger directed the Secretaries of State and Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence to implement the five approved recommendations. Kissinger noted that he “would appreciate regular reports on the progress which is being made to implement the President’s directive.” (Ibid.)↩