52. Editorial Note

In February 1970, North Vietnam began an offensive in Laos which caused great concern to both the Thai and U.S. Governments. The Washington Special Actions Group (WSAG) began a series of meetings on the crisis in Laos in March 1970 that are covered in depth in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume VI, Documents 203, 204, 207, 209, and 211 213.

One of the key issues discussed by the WSAG was the question of whether Thai troops should reinforce friendly troops in the Long Tieng and other areas of Laos. In the March 19 WSAG meeting, the CIA’s briefing officer, [name not declassified], noted that “the recently deployed Sierra Romeo IX Thai artillery battalion” was among friendly forces at Long Tieng facing severe North Vietnamese pressure. Assistant to the President Henry Kissinger wondered about the consequences if any of the Thai were captured by the North Vietnamese. The CIA Deputy Director for Plans, Thomas H. Karamessines, said [text not declassified], “but that there certainly might be problems if some of them were captured.” In response to Kissinger’s question about what further forces could be put into the defense of Long Tieng, U. Alexis Johnson mentioned a Thai regimental combat team (RCT) that had been advocated by the Ambassador to Laos, G. McMurtrie Godley. However, Johnson noted that neither the Thai nor the Lao Governments had yet approached the United States about that step. Assistant Secretary Green pointed out that the RCT in question was the one designated in the Taksin Plan, “and its employment might raise the question of US action under the plan. He noted that Ambassador Unger thought that the RCT would not be suitable for anti-guerilla operations.” In response to Kissinger’s asking whether anyone favored using Thai troops, Admiral Nels Johnson said that the JCS thought that the possibility should be explored. Green said that the North Vietnamese might retaliate against the Thais if the Thais became more involved in Laos. When Kissinger asked if the introduction of Thai troops at this time would restrain the North Vietnamese, Green replied that on the contrary, the [Page 117]North Vietnamese “would very much like to give the Thais a beating, and Karamessines agreed.” When Admiral Johnson circulated a draft JCS cable calling for the transfer of the 13th RCT and the Thai unit in South Vietnam to Laos, Green objected that the Thai unit in South Vietnam was made up of volunteers who were entitled to discharge if withdrawn from Vietnam. Green added that it was “highly important to maintain the multinational character provided by TCC units in South Vietnam.” Johnson raised the question of briefing Congress about the Sierra Romeo operation, but Kissinger said that this should not be done yet. Kissinger cautioned that the United States did not want a Thai debacle at Long Tieng. His final comment was that he would discuss the use of additional Thai forces with the President. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–114, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1969–1970)