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

    • Items to Discuss with the President, October 9

1. Discuss Soviet contact made by Sullivan with Tcherniakov. Reporting telegram received last night from State is at Tab A.2 (While you may have been aware of this initiative which obviously did not come about by the happenstance suggested in the reporting telegram, I was not. I personally believe that we would have had to ferret out the meaning of the lowered activity in Vietnam before the first of November. However, professional poker players play their cards with far greater finesse. Certainly our cards should have been played after October 15 [Page 258]unless we believed serious upheavals were going to come on the 15th here at home.3 I do not believe this and would have far preferred our playing the game at least to the 25th of October. Obviously the fat is now in the fire and the game has started but our chips are already considerably lower than they might have been.)

[Omitted here are points 2 and 3, dealing with Israel and Biafra respectively.]

4. Discuss with the President the specific alert measures which Defense can implement starting on the 13th4 or soon thereafter as possible (Tab D). I have checked in pencil what I consider to be the acceptable options of those offered by Defense. They are preparing a detailed paper on each of these options as indicated in the Pursley memo. Basically, I would implement Items “a” and “b” in the attached memo for a period of 48 hours each. This would involve radio silence and a stand down of all combat aircraft in CONAD and EUCOM. I would also implement item “e” which involves ground alert of SAC bombers and tankers but preferably item “f” with dispersal of CONAD forces. This would involve movement to military DOB’s but not to civilian DOB’s and would involve both SAC aircraft and Air Defense aircraft.

Tab D

Memorandum From the Secretary of Defense’s Military Assistant (Pursley) to the Senior Military Assistant, National Security Council Staff (Haig)5

    • Significant Military Actions

In response to your request, a number of concepts for military actions are outlined below which would, in our judgment, be considered by the Soviets as unusual and significant. The following criteria were employed in developing these potential actions:

Ease of detection by the Soviet Union.
High possibility of being considered unusual and significant.
Low public exposure in the United States.
Feasible of execution as early as 13 October, or as soon thereafter as possible.
Lasting sufficiently long to be convincing.

Concepts meeting these criteria would include:6

Implementation of radio and/or other communications silence in selected areas or commands, e.g., in SAC and Polaris forces.
Stand-down of flying of combat aircraft in selected areas or commands, e.g., for 48 hours in SAC and EUCOM.
Increased surveillance of Soviet ships en route to North Vietnam.
Increased reconnaissance sorties around the periphery of the Soviet Union.
Increased ground alert rate of SAC bombers and tankers.
Dispersal of SAC aircraft with nuclear weapons to only military dispersal bases, with or without dispersal of CONAD forces.
Alerting or sending to sea of SSBNs currently in port or by tender.

Modification of the Snow Time 70–2–E joint SAC/NORAD exercise has been considered, but does not appear to qualify under the given criteria.

The significance of the costs and risks entailed by the military actions outlined above must be related to the over-all effect desired, which is not known at this time. In absolute terms, neither the costs nor the risks seem to be high.

Robert E. Pursley7

Colonel, USAF
Military Assistant
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 334, Subject Files, Items to Discuss with the President 8/13–12/30/69. Top Secret; Sensitive; Nodis.
  2. Tab A was not found attached and is not further identified. The references are to Yuri N. Tcherniakov, Minister Counselor of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, and, presumably, to William H. Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
  3. On October 15, approximately 250,000 protesters marched in Washington during a nationwide Vietnam moratorium.
  4. Monday, October 13.
  5. Secret.
  6. Haig placed checkmarks next to options a, b, c, e, and f.
  7. The original bears Pursley’s typed signature. A signed copy of this memorandum includes the following postscript that Pursley addressed to Haig: “This is bare-bones stuff tonight. I have asked the Joint Staff to amplify each of the alternatives listed above and provide me a follow-on paper in the morning [Thursday, October 10].” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 352, Subject Files, Schedule of Significant Military Exercises, Vol. 1 [Feb. 69–Oct. 70])