April 28, 1975, 7:23 pm
Contextual Information (from
President Ford's memoirs)
Photographs of the Meeting
Graham Martin Cable to Henry
This is an excerpt from Gerald R. Ford, A Time To Heal: The
Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford, New York: Harper & Row
Publishers, 1979, page 256:
The final siege of Saigon began on April 25. Kissinger was on
the telephone to U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin several times a
day, and his reports convinced me that the country was going to
collapse momentarily. In the late afternoon of April 28, I was
chairing a meeting of my economic and energy advisers in the
Cabinet Room when Brent Scowcroft entered and handed me a note. A
message had just come in to the Situation Room downstairs. Our
Air Force, it said, had been forced to halt evacuation flights
from Saigon because Communist rockets and artillery shells were
blasting the runways at Tan Son Nhut. A C-130 transport plane had
been destroyed and several U.S. Marines killed. Nearly a thousand
Americans still remained in Saigon, and we had to carry out our
plans to evacuate them.
Leaving the Cabinet Room, I stepped into the Oval Office and
discussed the crisis with Kissinger and Rockefeller. Then I
convened a meeting of the NSC in the Roosevelt Room. It was 7:30
P.M. in Washington, almost dawn in Saigon.
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A4234-11A. President Ford presides over a meeting of the
National Security Council on the situation on Vietnam. April 28,
1975. (clockwise, left to right) William Colby, Director, CIA;
Robert S. Ingersoll, Deputy Secretary of State; Henry Kissinger;
GRF, James Schlesinger, Defense Secretary; William Clements,
Deputy Secretary of Defense; Vice President Rockefeller; and
General George S. Brown, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
on image to view full size (Image size: 290K)
A4238-4A. President Ford presides over an evening meeting of the
National Security Council to discuss the evacuation of Saigon.
April 28, 1975. (clockwise, l-r: Robert S. Ingersoll, Deputy
Secretary of State; Henry Kissinger; President Ford; James
Schlesinger, Defense Secretary; and General George S. Brown,
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Not shown: William Colby,
Director, CIA; William Clements, Deputy Secretary of Defense; and
Vice President Nelson Rockefeller.)
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A4238-15A. Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller and General
George S. Brown, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attend an
evening meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the
evacuation of Saigon. April 28, 1975.
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A4238-26A. Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller listens
intently to the discussion of the evacuation of Saigon during an
evening meeting of the National Security Council. April 28, 1975.
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A4238-30A. President Ford, smoking a pipe, looks thoughtful
at an evening meeting of the National Security Council. April 28,
Graham Martin Cable to
image to view full size (Image size: 505K)
Selected pages from an April 28th, 1975, cable from Graham
Martin, United States Ambassador to South Vietnam, to Secretary
of State Henry Kissinger
For the text of the cable see below:
** DECLASSIFIED **
SECRET/SENSITIVE 28 12:15 APRIL 1975 VIA MARTIN
SAIGON 0757 IMMEDIATE
APRIL 28, 1975
TO: HENRY A. KISSINGER
FROM: AMBASSADOR GRAHAM MARTIN
REF: WH 50768
- It seems to me your views in reftel again assure the
"worst case" development, and the time frame is
far more rapid than one should expect in Asia.
- I still think they will opt to follow the scenario (their
interpretation, of course) laid down in the Paris
Agreements. There is a curious compulsion to prove they
have fully intended to comply all along.
- Minh and Vu Van Mau who will be his Prime Minister and
Foreign Minister are thinking of quickly recognizing the
"PRG" as a legitimate government. If this
occurs, we will have the reality of three Viet-Nams - DRV,
- The immediate task is the negotiation of a "cease-fire".
This will cause enormous pressure to do away with the
American military presence, and to emasculate the RVNAF
into an ineffective force. Minh seems to recognize that
both are bargaining chips, at least the speed with which
he agrees to do this may become so. Both these are being
rapidly accomplished, the first by our rapid drawdown,
the second by the lack of prospect for future military
aid, and the rapid departure of many senior officers.
Today, Hanoi's domestic service in Vietnamese said that:
QUOTE Yesterday, 27 April, the U. S. Defense Attache
Office in Saigon announced that it would close in 36
hours, putting an end to the system of U. S. military
advisers which has lasted for as long as 25 years in
South Viet-Nam. UNQUOTE
- After the cease-fire and area delimitation can come the
formation of the NCNRC. My guess is that it will take at
least three months to get to this point. My further guess
is that it will not necessarily be a "two/thirds
communist". I would expect more a 60-40 lineup in
some months with the 40 percent or even less on the
communist side. They are simply not in that much of a
- The first concentration is going to be on formation of
local administrations that can begin to get the
countryside under control. After all this is accomplished
- a year or more - they may begin to tighten the screws
on the administration of Saigon. Even here, I would judge,
they will wish to show a gentle face for a while.
- Now all this provides time. The new administration will
be counting on us, I think, to help them buy a little
more time. The withdrawal of our presence in an immediate
or precipitate way would almost certainly finally pull
out the rug.
- Where does the U. S. interest lie? My own emotional
inclination is to close down. But I don't really think
that course will really serve U. S. national interests as
well as playing it cool for a while longer. While this is
not true, it saves face for Hanoi and permits them to
permit a more slow liquidation by announcing it has
already taken place.
- Phong, the GVN negotiator in Paris, said today he had
received by telex from Paris the following four
conditions from the PRG:
- The GVN must be entirely of new composition.
There must be no holdovers.
- Policy of new government must be one of
reconciliation and concord.
- All American military personnel, or those
camouflaged as military personnel, must be
removed from country.
- All "political prisoners" must be
released and civil liberties restored.
- The first two and the fourth are easy. We are helping
them achieve the third before it can be a bargaining
- So there should be little ban to commencement of serious
negotiations. The French apparently agree with you that
Paris is the preferred spot. The first item after the
cease-fire may well be delimitation of areas. It would
not surprise me to see a Nha Trang-Dalat-Tay Ninh line,
although they may well be more harsh in their terms.
- One important point to remember is that the way the
transition was managed leaves us no sticky problem of
recognition. There has been only a change in the Chief of
State. We have no more technical, legal problem than when
Huong succeeded Thieu. Even Nhan Dan this morning
referred to Minh as President of the Republic of Viet-Nam.
- Minh has sent word this morning that he does not intend
to interfere with the current pace of our evacuation for
a while. At five o'clock he made a very simple speech of
acceptance of the powers of the Presidency. There were no
anti-American overtones and twice the Paris Agreements
were invoked providing the frame for "political
solution" and for the spirit of reconciliation.
Obviously, this airlift cannot go on forever. It is still
illegal for any Vietnamese citizen to leave without
official government permission. Yet we keep rubbing their
noses in it a hundred times a day by comments made in
Washington. I think we can simmer it down after a while
and keep the airlift running for quite a while.
- While we still have a functioning Republic of Viet-Nam,
and will for quite a while, I think, I see no U. S.
policy interests to be served in either leaving in pique
or trying to create condi- tions that would force our
- If we do so, then there would seem to be some
semblance to the oft repeated distortion that we were
only interested in supporting Thieu, and that, as soon as
he left, we said the hell with the people of Viet-Nam.
- We should provide a modicum of relief and rehabilitation,
not to the new government, but because the people of Viet-Nam
need it just now.
- As of now, we have 825 people assigned to the Mission. Of
these 478 are in wholly security, air transport,
communications, and functions, leaving only about 349 to
carry on the substantive work of the Mission. To carry a
minimum relief effort, and satisfy the GAO that the
liquidation of previous programs was properly done, and a
modicum of reporting, we cannot do with any and no less
at all as long as the airlift continues.
- There isn't much in here that I haven't said before. You
see, I don't give you anything but a considered judgement
in the first place.
- You can take this advice or that of your WSAG colleagues
who have not, it seems to me, crystal balls of the first
quality. Neither do I but I do think about the questions
you raise and I don't get spooked by SAM 2s, definitely
identified, which turned out to be trucks loaded with
- Warm regards. MARTIN
February 11, 1994 **
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