Nixon announced his plan to intensify aggression against North Vietnam to force them to agree to a peace plan. He made the televised speech on May 8, 1972.photo: NARA
After Nixon's May 8 1972 speech to the nation about his decision to mine Hanoi and Haiphong Harbors, Nixon met with White House aides to check the nationwide reaction and take a few congratulatory phone calls. The president was desperate for the military to deliver the blow that would force Hanoi to offer more at the bargaining table, and to show that he had the guts to prolong the attack for as long as this took. He was not at all sure the military had the same determination.
Nixon's post-speech calls reveal a man determined to fight - and win. He pushed Defense Secretary Melvin Laird to be more hawkish, ordering specific military targets to hit. Note that "POL" is a military acronym for Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants.
Melvin Laird: But gee, you did a fine job tonight!
President Nixon: Let me say that, I know this is a tough one, and you know as I told the Cabinet, we can call it either way. Let me tell you that the thing here, because one thing about it, you know, you can scare a few people-I. Bill at the Cabinet meeting was saying, "Look fellas, this is not a blockade." Uh, I think you ought to take a little different line. I'd say we're going to do what is necessary, we don't- you know what I mean?
RMN: I don't want to indicate what the hell it isn't. You see what I mean? Now incidentally, on the other hand, Mansfield raises the point about how near do we get to China? Now, obviously we're not going to jeopardize the Chinese relationship, but we'll simply say that this is not directed against any other country and we'll take the necessary precautions, but we'll do what's necessary to stop the flow. See?
RMN: But, I think the more, if you could be, if I could urge you to be a little more hawkish even than I am--
ML: I will.
RMN: And say you're urging the president, you know. And uh that'll help us a hell of a lot.
Later that night Nixon coached Ambassador to Germany Ken Rush on how to defend the counter-offensive during an appearance on a morning talk show.
President Nixon: Let me say, you're going on in the morning-
Ken Rush: Yes, sir
RMN: --and if I could give you just a couple of thoughts.
KR: Thank you.
RMN: Bill Rogers -in talking to the Cabinet-- was sort of saying that this is not a blockade. Don't take that line.
KR: All right.
RMN: Take the line that, "Well, the words are actually not that important here. What it is that the President is going to do whatever is necessary to stop all sea-borne deliveries to South Vietnam, to North Vietnam."
KR: Yes, sir.
RMN: "And it will be done, and we will do whatever is necessary."
KR: Yes, sir.
RMN: Don't you agree?
KR: I agree 100%, Mr. President, and that is exactly what I think you should do.
RMN: Don't worry, now that we crossed the Rubicon, we are going to kick those bastards and we're going to do even more, you know--
KR: Yes, I know.
RMN: So take a very strong line: "We are going to do what's necessary." And you can say, "The president's crossed the Rubicon and now is going" --but also emphasize that we've made a forthcoming peace offer--
The next day, Nixon warned Thomas Moorer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the military had no excuse for failure.
President Nixon: Well I just wanted to tell you that now we depend on you to see that we don't flub this one.
Thomas Moorer: Yes sir.
RN: Particularly zero in, zero in. Don't go to these secondary targets. We got to get those rail lines. We've got to get the P.O.L., and in secondary place the power plants and the airfields. But there is no damned excuse now, because you have what the military has claimed it has never had before. You've got the authority to do it.
TM: Yes sir. And we are going to do it, Mr. President....