INT: Was the reaction of some sections of the American public, particularly the student anti-war protesters, shock, particularly [to] the events surrounding Kent State, for example? Was that a shock to you?
ML: Well, I think it was brought about, though, somewhat by the secrecy under which we operated on the bombing in Cambodia and some of the other operations over there. I always felt that you were better off to go to the Congress and tell them exactly what you're doing, and through the Congress to the American people. I kept my committees advised, and the ranking members of the Armed Services committees of both the House and the Senate and the Appropriations Committee of both the House and the Senate; those ranking members - I never had any secrets from them.
INT: Why do you think President Nixon and also Henry Kissinger were so bad at doing that?
ML: Well, I've often wondered about that. I think Henry felt that you could do better if you were a little more secretive on some of these things. He felt that way about the Paris peace talks, he felt that way about many of the things that were going on. He never had any secrets from me. Whether it be China or the Paris peace talks, I was well informed at all occasions on those operations. For one thing, the assets that were used to go to China and the assets that were used to go back and forth to Paris were my assets as Secretary of Defense, and also I had other ways of keeping well informed on what was going on.
INT: How well informed was Secretary of State William Rogers?
ML: Well, I'm not sure exactly whether he was fully informed or not. Sometimes I think they did not inform him; and I had the assets to be kept informed, and they always knew it.
INT: Air power was obviously going to be used by President Nixon as a way of keeping the situation in Vietnam on the right side, let's say. What thoughts did you have about the efficacy of using B-52s particularly as an instrument of, let's say, naked diplomacy? I'm thinking of two episodes: May 1972, and also December 1972...
ML: Well, I think that the B-52s are a very effective weapon. You have to be careful of how your targeting is approved with the B-52s, because it is not pinpointed bombing, as some people might think it is; so I was always very careful as far as target approvals were concerned, and discussed them on a regular basis with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, every day.
INT: To what extent was Vietnamization prompted by fears that the US Army in Vietnam would not be able to function as a fighting force? There were obviously problems with people in the draft, problems with perhaps drug taking, problems of sustaining morale and motivation among the fighting troops there.
ML: No, Vietnamization was not devised as a means of a morale-builder for American troops. Vietnamization was devised as a means of extricating the United States from a large over-commitment in that area of the world. President Eisenhower, you know, said at the time the French failed in Vietnam, back in the Fifties: "This is not the place to get engaged in a ground warfare." I always supported President Eisenhower in that approach, but that was changed after Ike left. In the Kennedy and the Johnson Administration we went into a combat force in Vietnam, and it was a much different mission than the mission that Eisenhower saw after the French failure.
INT: Was the behavior and the conduct of certain elements of the forces in Vietnam a concern to you, was that something that really sort of bothered you and the military authorities?
ML: It did not bother me, because I went to Vietnam on many occasions and the men and women that were stationed in Vietnam did an extraordinary job under very difficult circumstances. I am so proud of those people that served in Vietnam. They didn't have the support back home that sometimes was needed and necessary; they were a draft army, and I just can't say enough about their morale. Vietnamization, though, was not to build their morale, although it had the effect of building their morale because they could see a way out, they could see a problem that they were going to disengage; but that was not the purpose of Vietnamization. The purpose of Vietnamization was to get America out of that bloody war in Southeast Asia.
INT: What concerns did your NATO allies pass on to at this time?
ML: Well, (Overlap) there were many questions, as you know. I had long visits with Helmut Schmidt at the time - he was the Defense Minister; with Dennis Healey and with Lord Carrington. I think I almost got them convinced that we were going to Vietnamization work and that we would stop robbing NATO, because we'd been robbing NATO for a good many years. As a matter of fact, the policy under McNamara was to fight now and pay later, borrow supplies from all over the world and not pay for them at the time, because they didn't want the Congress to know how much that war was costing.
INT: Détente assumed greater East-West trade. Were you as Defense Secretary particularly concerned how that trade might develop in terms of strategic assets being...?
ML: We were, and we set up a very tight shop over in the Department of Defense to monitor that trade program. We had a lot of fights on that trade program, because there were many things in the area of technology that were being transferred that shouldn't have been transferred. We stopped a lot of them. I had a great Deputy Secretary of Defense, David Packard, who was the CO of Hubert Packard, and he understood that technology problem, and we set up a great review force over there. We won some of our battles, we lost some, but I think we won far more than we lost.
INT: Which ones did you lose?
ML: Well, we lost a few on computers, some of the sophisticated computers that I felt should not have been sold as rapidly as they were during that period of time; particularly when the Soviet Union was not supporting the Paris Accord as they should have supported it, and was pouring more and more money into North Vietnam.
INT: Did you approve of the concept that Kissinger had on linkage?
ML: Well, yes, I think you have to have linkage in this whole area. No, I have great respect for Henry Kissinger, and I think he was a fine National Security Adviser, he was a great Secretary of State, and I have nothing but good things to say about Henry Kissinger. He was very supportive of me. So was Secretary of State Bill Rogers, and the President of the United States. I lost a few, but I didn't lose too many.
INT: What did you think of the first SALT agreement?
ML: I very much supported the SALT agreement, and if it wouldn't have been for the Department of Defense there wouldn't have been a first SALT agreement, because we were the ones that really led that operation; we got the ABM approved as far as the Congress was concerned, although in the Senate it was only by one vote. We did win on those issues, and that made it possible for us to negotiate with the Soviet Union.
INT: Could you tell me what an ABM is? I know what it is, but if you could explain.
ML: Well, it's an anti-ballistic missile, a missile that will take out other missiles. It's a protective shield; and the Soviets were building, and had completed, an ABM system, an anti-ballistic missile system, around Moscow; and in order to get into any negotiations, you had to have something moving here. Mr. McNamara, Secretary McNamara, had an ABM system that he was fighting for to protect the United States against the Chinese threat. Now I didn't think the Chinese threat was that viable a threat back in 1968. It could be maybe in the year 2020, but it wasn't at that time, so I redirected that along with Secretary Packard and myself, and that made possible the negotiations that led to SALT.
INT: I'm going to take you back to the question of the use of B-52s, specifically in May 1972 and in December 1972. Were these to you sort of quantitative increases in the use of these weapons over Vietnam?
ML: Well, the use of the B-52s was really a psychological weapon that was used. The targeting was very carefully picked, and it was a weapon that was used to see that negotiations were resumed.
INT: How did you view their military effectiveness under these circumstances?
ML: Well, you know, I'm all for air power, but you can't rely on air power alone. The man on the ground, the woman on the ground, the navy ships, are all very important. You can't rely on air power alone, and there are some people that seem to think you can, but that just isn't a viable choice as far as war is concerned.
INT: Do you think President Nixon had undue belief in the efficacy of the B-52?
ML: I think there were many people that did; there were some even in the Air Force, there were some that questioned it in the Air Force too, but... that they were calling on the B-52s for too much.
INT: Do you think that the bombing of Haiphong and Hanoi gave the North Vietnamese a propaganda weapon?
ML: It gave them a propaganda weapon, but I believe it also was necessary in order to get them back to Paris and have meaningful discussions and negotiations.