176. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer) and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1

CJCS—Just what exactly did we get authorized by the Portuguese?

MG [Scowcroft]—We were authorized just about anything we wanted. I have not yet seen the cable.2

CJCS—Okay, we got 15 C141s and 3 C5s loaded and ready to go. The problem right now is that we have very severe crosswinds but by dark they should be satisfactory, and so we have (no one is dragging their feet) do have a weather problem with a 60° crosswind but we’ll catch up. One other thing (which I haven’t told the Secretary this yet) but the C141s have heavy loads on them which need a special unloading device and so we are going to put in an airplane, of course, the point is there that there is going to be some crewmen working on the ground loading the Israeli aircraft because the Israelis can’t manipulate this piece of machine but they can haul it away but there will be US people working around the plane. This thing tilts and it is a big sophisticated forklift is what it is but, if you are going to have any kind of steady flow or peak that we can make with the C5 I think with the flatbeds, this is the only way with the heavy loads on some of the C141s.

MG—I don’t see that we have any choice.

CJCS—They will be in civilian clothes.

MG—I was going to say and, maybe, in civilian clothes they’ll look like Israelis.

CJCS—I don’t think there is any choice if you are going to use the C141s. The other thing is that you could take the 141s as far as the Azores and then transfer.

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MG—We’ll probably want to do both for awhile now, anyway.

CJCS—We got, it’s like being “a little bit pregnant” once the first ones go in it is partly . . . it is a matter of whether you call it heavy airlift, constant resupply, . . .

MG—You’re right, it’s like being a little big pregnant.

CJCS—I think if we are going to do this we have had so much information; first we could only get there at night; and a lot of orders and counter-orders about how far we could go and what time it was supposed to arrive and whether to use C5s, etc.

MG—The trouble is all those first orders were desirable but when nothing happens we’ve got to throw that away one after another and as a precaution and that is what we are going through now.

CJCS—You’ve got to realize that MAC works like an airline and once they get . . . you have crew rest time . . . and they don’t operate like the Israelis do up in the Golan Heights; but anyway we’re about to get it on track. We have had a hard time keeping up with what is wanted, frankly.

MG—I understand that.

CJCS—I think we are going to have to let those people go over initially, at least, or otherwise, we’d have to hold this up.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of Admiral Thomas Moorer, Diary, October 1973. Top Secret. The original is an entry in Moorer’s Diary.
  2. Telegram 203651 to Lisbon, October 13, 0352Z, transmitted a personal letter from Prime Minister Caetano to President Nixon, October 13, stating that the Government of Portugal had authorized the United States “the transit of American aircraft, relying on your word that my country will not remain defenseless should this decision bring about grave consequences. (Ibid.) In a conversation with Stoessel, October 13, Portuguese Ambassador Themido emphasized that allowing the United States use of Lajes as a transit point in the resupply operation for Israel was the largest risk in their history and had only been agreed upon in response to President Nixon’s direct appeal to Prime Minister Caetano. Themido also stressed that the Portuguese were going to expect “greater understanding and more friendly attitude on part of the United States,” including shipments of surface-to-air missiles. (Ibid.) Telegram 3782 from Lisbon, October 13, 2053Z, reported Prime Minister Caetano’s agreement. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)