73. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1

    • Military Alerts

Attached is a memorandum from Defense2 which outlines a series of concept actions which could be executed as early as October 13th in order to convey the impression of increased U.S. readiness to the Soviets. There are seven conceptual operations suggested which include:

Implementation of a period of radio and communication silence in selected commands.
48–hour stand-down of strategic and combat aircraft in selected commands.
Increased surveillance of Soviet ships enroute 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 and Air Defense aircraft to their military dispersal bases.
Alert or dispatch to sea of nuclear submarines currently in port.

Of the above proposals, I would recommend that we implement, starting next week and phased appropriately through the week, the measures listed above as follows: 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6.

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That you approve the implementation of the readiness measures listed above, starting as early as October 13th, and to be completed on October 25.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 352, Subject Files, Schedule of Significant Military Exercises, Vol. I [Feb. 69–Oct. 70]. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. See the attachment to Document 72.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears no indication whether the President approved or disapproved the recommended measures. During a telephone conversation with Laird held at 12:40 p.m. on October 10, Kissinger assured Laird that Nixon had approved. A transcript of the conversation reads in part: “Concerning the exercises that are to laid on for October 13 and 14 and running through that week, L[aird] understood one thing—all of these had been approved by the President last night. K said yes, the President went over them last night. L said there is no DEFCON business involved in this—we will not be contacting our allies (Canada or NATO) on any of these? K said that is what we want. We were worried about getting the allies involved. All of these activities will get some sort of signal—they will get the word but there will be no DEFCON. There is no military significance to this, and it won’t cost much money, per Laird.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)