58. Memorandum From the Senior Military Assistant, National Security Council Staff (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

  • SUBJECT
    • Memorandum from Secretary Laird Enclosing Preliminary Draft of Potential Military Actions re Vietnam
  • —At Tab A is a memorandum from Secretary Laird enclosing the initial, albeit unsanctioned, plans prepared by the JCS in response to your request of January 27 for such a scenario.2
  • —At Tab B is a proposed reply to Secretary Laird for your signature with some suggestions for modifications which might be considered.3

The JCS plans, which have been forwarded, are I believe more extensive than the type you and the President visualized as acceptable signals of U.S. intent to escalate military operations in Vietnam in the face of continued enemy intransigence in Paris. Furthermore, any such [Page 229]plans should be forwarded with the views of the Chairman and the Secretary included. If implemented, they would require some level of coordination at State. The draft plan, in fact, recommends (Page 6 of the draft JCS memorandum)4 that an appropriate interagency Task Force be formed to refine each of the scenarios which have been developed.

In brief, the plans provide:

1.
Actual or feigned airborne/amphibious operations against several objectives in NVN (Appendix A).5
2.
An actual or feigned airborne/airmobile expedition in force against enemy LOCs in Laos and Cambodia (Appendix B).
3.
Actual or feigned renewed and expanded air and naval operations against NVN (Appendix C).
4.
Actual or feigned subversion of the population and preparation for active resistance by the people against the Hanoi regime. (Appendix D).
5.
A plan for actual or feigned technical escalation of war against North (nuclear) (Appendix E).6

Recommend

You sign the memorandum at Tab B to Secretary Laird which:

1.
Expresses your gratitude for the excellent draft plan.
2.
Requests additional refinement to include lower level actions.
3.
Requests resubmission in final form by March 15, 1969.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1023, Presidential/HAK Memcons, The President and General DeGaulle, Feb. 28–March 2, 1969. Top Secret; Sensitive. Printed from an uninitialed copy.
  2. Tab A, attached but not printed, is a covering memorandum from Laird to Kissinger, February 21, with an undated twenty-page draft paper including appendices prepared by the JCS. According to Laird’s covering memorandum, during a luncheon held in the Secretary of Defense’s dining room on January 27, he, Wheeler, and Kissinger had “discussed the possibility of working out a program of potential military actions which might jar the North Vietnamese into being more forthcoming at the Paris talks.” Laird also emphasized the preliminary nature of the attached paper, which had not been fully considered by the JCS or OSD. The paper’s introduction begins as follows: “To preclude prolonged stalling tactics by the communists in Paris, a program of military, political, and psychological activities can be employed by the United States to create fear in the Hanoi leadership that the United States is preparing to undertake new highly damaging military actions against North Vietnamese (NVN) territory, installations, and interests.”
  3. Kissinger’s signed March 3 memorandum to Laird, attached but not printed, is at Tab B. In it, Kissinger expressed concern “that the ‘realities’ of the current domestic and international environment do not lend themselves to an acceptance of these risks at this time. There may be, however, some less elaborate actions which could be initiated which although more subtle in nature, might be undertaken with reduced risks of news media recognition or domestic turbulence.” He asked Laird “to flesh-out the plans with a spectrum of lower profiled actions” and be prepared to discuss the resulting proposals with Nixon by March 15.
  4. The appropriate portion of page 6 of the JCS draft paper reads as follows: “If the concept of applying psychological pressure to change [North Vietnamese] negotiating tactics is approved, it is recommended that an appropriate interagency task force be formed to refine each of the attached scenarios and to prepare detailed plans for their implementation.”
  5. Appendices A through E are attached to Tab A but not printed.
  6. According to Appendix E, a “technical escalation” translated as the threatened use of nuclear or chemical weapons. The JCS recommended 11 actions to implement the threatened escalation, including a public statement by a high U.S. military official that the United States was examining the use of “new and more modern weapons” in Vietnam and a visit by a “team of Pentagon technical experts in atomic and chemical warfare” to the Pacific.