Conversation between President Nixon and White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig. May 17, 1972
Richard Nixon: Hello
Alexander Haig: Yes, sir.
RMN: What's the evening report, anything new?
AH: No, sir, it's been weirdly quiet today. An Loc is-- We still haven't gotten word that they linked up, but they're on the verge of it and the attacks have broken off completely there.
RMN: Mmm hmm. But we're continuing to hit them there though, are we?
AH: Yes, sir, today they did get the sorties, at 12:60.
RMN: And they're hitting the Kontum area hard too, are they?
AH: Yes, in the Kontum area, it look like--From all indications that the attack should break within the next 48 hours. 'Course we've been saying that for a week, but Abrams says that the units are all in position now.
RMN: Well, why doesn't he put the whole 1,200 in that place, I mean, if that's where he is--or isn't his intelligence that accurate? He doesn't feel that he could really give that a wallop, if they know they're in place, does he know where they are?
AH: No, I don't think that he knows-- other than they know that the communications are such that they anticipate that.
RMN: Well, he must have it all in mind, at any event.
AH: Yes, sir. I think they're doing quite well. Now we had a report that the Air Force general we sent out there, told the Chairman this morning that he feels that the tide is just turning. I sensed that about 3 days ago.
RMN: Yes, I know, you told me that.
AH: He has now confirmed it himself. He said that they are getting the general appearances is that they've been hurt very badly.
RMN: What is? The one part, Al, that I am going to write a little memorandum on, but I really wish you'd follow up-- I just don't think that Helms' outfit, and that means, of course, even that we all are probably not doing the maximum that what we should in terms of propaganda --in North Vietnam and in South Vietnam with the enemy. Now are we are doing anything like, for a example, saying that, pointing out 'more B-52s are coming' and 'come on over - you're losing', every kind of a thing, I mean, it was commonplace in WWII, but has Helms' outfit come up with anything? I remember I wrote him a memorandum on that a week ago.
AH: Yes, sir, this is not all Helms' people, this is this interdepartmental group, with the State--
RMN: Right, well, For Christ-sake, State doesn't know anything about that sort of thing.
AH: Well, people that do the job are SINPAC and MACV - and they've had millions of leaflets dropped both in the South and in the North.
RMN: Right, but are they, are they playing, I mean frankly, playing the dirty tricks game? That's what you have to do, Al, as you know, you've got to mislead them, you don't tell them the truth, you tell them what's not true and scare the hell out of them.
AH: Right. And also now CIA has got that, they've got the Black Broadcast, which is threatening invasion and misleading them.
RMN: I think one point that should be made is that to-- Now to make a major effort to get prisoners to come over. Just say 'look it's all over, your homeland is finished and that you'll be treated well', and you know.
AH: I think that's exactly right, sir. Because I got a report from a Frenchman in Hanoi, who is a very reliable guy, and he said that while the control is still quite good, that there are real signs of shortages already. That the people have been bringing the bodies into, that have been bringing the bodies of those killed in our air strikes to the City Hall in Hanoi in outrage and are very upset at what the government has gotten them into.
RMN: Hmm, where would have these people been killed? You mean killed up in the north?
AH: Yes, in the Hanoi area, from the air strikes -and he said that the port is in a very bad shape already and that the strikes have been much more brutal than they had ever experienced before.
RMN: Of course, the ports--you mean apart from the mining?
AH: Apart from the mining, the air strikes.
RMN: Yeh, good, good, good.
AH: So there are signs--and this is a pretty reliable guy. (He a guy that Godley know and relies on.) He says that they are still in firm control, but there is a stronger disillusionment than he's ever sensed there before.
RMN: Mmm hmm. They're getting word to the north too, about the reverses in the south, in the battlefield.
AH: They're concerned about their families The families are concerned about what's happened to the young. This is the kind of thing we are trying to stress in this theme of the leaflets they are dropping up north, that these guys are being totally devastated by B-52s, and they'll never see them again, they're being chained to their weapons in some cases and-
RMN: Yeh, and I would just indicate that, if could tell Helms to indicate that the President has ordered doubling the number of B-52s and that they are on the way. Let's put that out.
AH: All right.
RMN: That the number is, 'Now we have a 100 and the President has ordered another 100 to come in from Europe.' Put that out.
AH: Fine, sir.
RMN: Let them get a little frightened. Anything else you can think of? I just want them to have some imagination, Al, I don't--We don't do anything from the NSC group and that's one place that we have been terribly weak throughout this whole damned miserable war, on the propaganda side, just because it is in too many hands. Christ, State doesn't understand that, they are thinking the usual, you know what's true and all that crap - this is war. Remember George Creel in WWI and, you know, even that silly OSS did pretty well at times. My point is, I really feel that this is the time now, if the propaganda - if the tide of battle is turning, that's the time to pour in the propaganda, don't you think so?
AH: Yes, I do, sir. I think it's very important that we do up north especially, and in the areas where there have been heavy losses. I think we may see some increased sapper activity and terrorist activity here, starting Friday.
RMN: Because that's Ho Chi Minh's birthday?
AH: Right, sir. That'll probably show itself in the delta and around III Corps area…
RMN: Well, I suppose all of our guys, the Americans, are certainly alert to that now, aren't they?
AH: Oh, yes, they're on full alert for it.
RMN: The other thing. It seems to me, remember you told me about that. Look, tell them to do one thing: that C1 or C5 -that plane carrying ammunition that they knocked off, you know that plane with munitions that killed seven guys--
AH: Oh, yeh, this morning in Kontum--
RMN: Why not just put 20 B-52s in the general area there, just to show them that Goddamnit, that if they pull this sort of thing, they are going to be hit, or has that been done? You know, I really feel, that when--what was it, a rocket attack?
AH: We don't know whether this was artillery, or mortar or rocket. It was just a lucky hit on the damn plane, and two South Vietnamese planes were hit too. That airfield at Kontum is now under pretty heavy fire.
RMN: Well, but Abrams is hitting that area and around it, isn't he?
AH: Very heavily. They broke up an attack yesterday with B-52s, and another one landed right by the attacking unit and the attack broke off, but the attacks by fire are continuing.
RMN: I see. Well, I guess we are just doing everything we can. Just keep the feet to the fire. And on the propaganda side, just tell them that, you can pass this word that I am disappointed that I haven't had any ideas from the Helms' outfit and none from the other outfits, and I want to see some. I really want to see some Friday noon before I leave. What the hell are their new ideas on the propaganda front? Can you do that? Tell them I expect some. I don't want a long paper and I don't want a long report, but what new things can they suggest doing at this time, having in mind the fact that the tide of battle may be changing and that we really want to pour terror into the hearts of the enemy.
AH: Right. I did have a memo being prepared right now to tell you what we have done very briefly.
RMN: But I want some new ideas. Just tell them to work all night, that I expect it. You know, they can do that. It's not a routine business. Those poor guys in that plane and now seven of them dead - let these bastards that we have over here work overnight for a change, tell them to get off their ass and think of something.
AH: Fine, sir. We'll are going to get on that right away and think of some new programs here.
RMN: Good. Apparently Boat (?) is doing a good job, isn't he?
AH: He's doing a superb job, and the Chairman has great reliance on him.
RMN: Good. That was a good move. OK, Al, thank you.