1961-1963, Volume III, Vietnam, January-August 1963|
Released by the Office of the Historian
III. Beginning of the Buddhist Crisis, May 9-June 16, 1963: 112. Telegram From the Consulate at Hue to the Department of State/1/ Hue, May 9, 1963, 3 p.m. /1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 25 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate. Received at 8:33 a.m. 4. Buddha Birthday Celebration Hue May 8 erupted into large-scale demonstration at Hue Radio Station between 2000 hours local and 2330 hours. At 2245 hours estimated 3,000 crowd assembled and guarded by 8 armored cars, one Company CG, one Company minus ARVN, police armored cars and some carbines fired into air to disperse mob which apparently not unruly but perhaps deemed menacing by authorities. Grenade explosion on radio station porch killed four children, one woman. Other incidents, possibly some resulting from panic, claimed two more children plus one person age unknown killed. Total casualties for evening 8 killed, 4 wounded./2/ /2/At 7 p.m. the Embassy in Saigon sent a second report of the incident to Washington, listing seven dead and seven injured. The Embassy noted that Vietnamese Government troops may have fired into the crowd, but most of the casualties resulted, the Embassy reported, from a bomb, a concussion grenade, or "from general melee''. The Embassy observed that although there had been no indication of Viet Cong activity in connection with the incident, the Viet Cong could be expected to exploit future demonstrations. (Telegram 1005 from Saigon, May 9; ibid., SOC 14-1 S VIET) Subsequent accounts of the May 8 incident in Hue have generally listed the casualties as nine killed and fourteen wounded. (United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 3, p. 5; Hilsman, To Move a Nation, p. 468; Mecklin, Mission in Torment, p. 153) In a detailed assessment of the Buddhist demonstrations in Hue May 8-10, Consul Helble reported that seven people died on the evening of May 8, and one of those injured subsequently died. He noted that approximately 15 additional demonstrators were injured, but added that exact figures were difficult to determine. Two of those killed, both children, died from being crushed by armored vehicles. (Airgram A-20 from Hue, June 3; Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET) Background this incident started May 7 when police attempted enforce law that no flags other than Viet-Namese to be flown./3/ Police apparently encountered popular resistance to enforcement of law as thousands Buddhist flags publicly displayed. At police request evening May 7 Province Chief Dang reportedly rescinded order. Morning May 8 demonstration at large Tu Dam Pagoda resulted in speech by Chief Bonze in presence Buddhist Dang criticizing GVN suppression freedom religion, favoritism of Catholics. Parade banners during day anti-GVN orientated. Translations of same will be forwarded when available. /3/The law limiting the use of religious flags was established by Decree 189/BNV/ NA/P5, which became effective on May 12, 1958. According to the law, religious sect flags could be flown only on religious holidays at places of worship or private homes with the permission of the local authorities. In airgram A-20, cited in footnote 2 above, Helble noted that the law was "never observed'' until the attempt to enforce it, apparently on orders from President Diem, at Hue on the most important Buddhist holiday of the year. (The text of the regulations outlined in Decree 189 is contained in a communique issued by the Mayor of Danang on April 8,1963, which was transmitted to Washington as enclosure 6 to airgram A-20) Evening May 8 crowd gathered at radio station where Head Bonze scheduled broadcast speech. Permission refused at last minute by GVN. Bonzes on scene urged people remain peaceful. GVN fire hoses and exhortations of Province Chief unsuccessful in dispersing crowd. Troops arrived and ordered dispersal. Bonzes said stand still, do not fight, GVN claims some threw rocks at radio station, although indications are this not true. Firing then broke out. 1100 hours May 9, Province Chief addressed estimated 800 youth, demonstrators, explained crowd actions spurred by oppositionist agitators had necessitated troop action to maintain order. Head Bonze requested crowd disperse peacefully and turn in flags. Some of crowd heard chanting "down with Catholicism''. At moment Hue quiet. Population controls and unusual troop deployment not observed. However, situation very fluid and reports of Buddhist demonstration to occur afternoon May 9 flowing in. Buddhists very upset. American community on Emergency Phase II Alert but no threat to Americans apparent at present. Helble 113. Minutes of a Meeting of the Special Group for Counterinsurgency/1/
III. Beginning of the Buddhist Crisis, May 9-June 16, 1963:
112. Telegram From the Consulate at Hue to the Department of State/1/
Hue, May 9, 1963, 3 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 25 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate. Received at 8:33 a.m.
4. Buddha Birthday Celebration Hue May 8 erupted into large-scale demonstration at Hue Radio Station between 2000 hours local and 2330 hours. At 2245 hours estimated 3,000 crowd assembled and guarded by 8 armored cars, one Company CG, one Company minus ARVN, police armored cars and some carbines fired into air to disperse mob which apparently not unruly but perhaps deemed menacing by authorities. Grenade explosion on radio station porch killed four children, one woman. Other incidents, possibly some resulting from panic, claimed two more children plus one person age unknown killed. Total casualties for evening 8 killed, 4 wounded./2/
/2/At 7 p.m. the Embassy in Saigon sent a second report of the incident to Washington, listing seven dead and seven injured. The Embassy noted that Vietnamese Government troops may have fired into the crowd, but most of the casualties resulted, the Embassy reported, from a bomb, a concussion grenade, or "from general melee''. The Embassy observed that although there had been no indication of Viet Cong activity in connection with the incident, the Viet Cong could be expected to exploit future demonstrations. (Telegram 1005 from Saigon, May 9; ibid., SOC 14-1 S VIET) Subsequent accounts of the May 8 incident in Hue have generally listed the casualties as nine killed and fourteen wounded. (United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 3, p. 5; Hilsman, To Move a Nation, p. 468; Mecklin, Mission in Torment, p. 153) In a detailed assessment of the Buddhist demonstrations in Hue May 8-10, Consul Helble reported that seven people died on the evening of May 8, and one of those injured subsequently died. He noted that approximately 15 additional demonstrators were injured, but added that exact figures were difficult to determine. Two of those killed, both children, died from being crushed by armored vehicles. (Airgram A-20 from Hue, June 3; Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET)
Background this incident started May 7 when police attempted enforce law that no flags other than Viet-Namese to be flown./3/ Police apparently encountered popular resistance to enforcement of law as thousands Buddhist flags publicly displayed. At police request evening May 7 Province Chief Dang reportedly rescinded order. Morning May 8 demonstration at large Tu Dam Pagoda resulted in speech by Chief Bonze in presence Buddhist Dang criticizing GVN suppression freedom religion, favoritism of Catholics. Parade banners during day anti-GVN orientated. Translations of same will be forwarded when available.
/3/The law limiting the use of religious flags was established by Decree 189/BNV/ NA/P5, which became effective on May 12, 1958. According to the law, religious sect flags could be flown only on religious holidays at places of worship or private homes with the permission of the local authorities. In airgram A-20, cited in footnote 2 above, Helble noted that the law was "never observed'' until the attempt to enforce it, apparently on orders from President Diem, at Hue on the most important Buddhist holiday of the year. (The text of the regulations outlined in Decree 189 is contained in a communique issued by the Mayor of Danang on April 8,1963, which was transmitted to Washington as enclosure 6 to airgram A-20)
Evening May 8 crowd gathered at radio station where Head Bonze scheduled broadcast speech. Permission refused at last minute by GVN. Bonzes on scene urged people remain peaceful. GVN fire hoses and exhortations of Province Chief unsuccessful in dispersing crowd. Troops arrived and ordered dispersal.
Bonzes said stand still, do not fight, GVN claims some threw rocks at radio station, although indications are this not true. Firing then broke out.
1100 hours May 9, Province Chief addressed estimated 800 youth, demonstrators, explained crowd actions spurred by oppositionist agitators had necessitated troop action to maintain order. Head Bonze requested crowd disperse peacefully and turn in flags. Some of crowd heard chanting "down with Catholicism''.
At moment Hue quiet. Population controls and unusual troop deployment not observed. However, situation very fluid and reports of Buddhist demonstration to occur afternoon May 9 flowing in. Buddhists very upset. American community on Emergency Phase II Alert but no threat to Americans apparent at present.
113. Minutes of a Meeting of the Special Group for Counterinsurgency/1/
Washington, May 9, 1963, 2 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Special Group Counterinsurgency Files: Lot 68 D 451, Special Group (CI). Secret. Drafted by Dingeman who is not listed among the participants.
Item 1. Southeast Asia
[Here follows discussion of part a, "Southeast Asia Status Report,'' which included a brief discussion of the proposed agreement with the Diem government on the joint counterinsurgency fund. Koren noted that the agreement in significantly reduce U.S. control over the funds, and Bell observed that AID personnel in the field were concerned that the Vietnamese would not push counterinsurgency programs with sufficient vigor.]
b. Report on the Honolulu Conference
General Krulak presented a summary review of the Secretary of Defense's recent Honolulu Conference bringing out the following points: General Harkins cited indicators that identify favorable trends in the situation in Viet-Nam. Ambassador Nolting stated that the Vietnamese confidence in the U.S. is not as good as it was some months ago, but recent speeches by senior Government officials have somewhat restored lost ground.
Other items mentioned by General Krulak included: The USOM effort is now geared to counterinsurgency; revised rules for border operations should assist in actions against the Viet-Cong; border patrol operations are moving forward but will not seal off the border; planning is going forward on a contingency basis for future MAP and force structure adjustments; air interdiction is being applied under stringent rules and is achieving good results.
At the request of the Chairman, Mr. Colby agreed to look into recent developments in the Laos/South Viet-Nam border area.
The Group discussed the problem of reconciling differences of opinion on the situation in Viet-Nam as between officials on the scene and the U.S. press. Mr. Wilson commented that our military in Viet-Nam should take the press more into their confidence. Mr. Bell suggested that we should explore sending opinion leaders other than the press out to Viet-Nam.
The Group agreed that Mr. Bell should make a recommendation as to when it would be advisable to have General Harkins return for appearances before various Congressional committees. General Taylor indicated that he sees no problem in having General Harkins return for this purpose.
[Here follow part c, "Man-Pack Jungle Radio;'' item 2, "Venezuela;'' and a general discussion of developments in the Middle East.]
James W. Dingeman
114. Memorandum From the Deputy Director of the Vietnam Working Group (Heavner) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)/1/
Washington, May 9, 1963.
/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, AID-7, CIR Secret. Drafted by Heavner and Montgomery and sent to Hilsman through Robert W. Barnett.
1. CI Funding
We are pressing the GVN to pick up the piaster costs of the CI program and other AID projects which until now have been financed by our $10 million piaster purchase of last year and by counterpart funds. It is our best estimate that the GVN can undertake the amount of deficit spending required without incurring dangerous inflationary pressures. In the past the GVN has resisted deficit financing, clinging to very conservative fiscal policies.
GVN resistance to deficit spending for the CI programs has not up until now however been couched in fiscal terms. Their objection to our proposed joint counterinsurgency fund was political. Diem and Nhu apparently feel that to share control of a fund predominantly made up of "their'' monies would be an unacceptable infringement on Vietnamese sovereignty and their control of the levers of power.
We have taken a very firm line on this issue. We have insisted that economic and social CI projects undertaken in support of the strategic hamlet program are essential to winning the war. We have further insisted that the GVN is obligated to finance them after our piaster purchase funds are exhausted. These funds will run out about the end of September.
The outcome of these negotiations will not be known for quite a while. The GVN has agreed to finance all of these projects up to the total amount of 2.3 billion piasters which we requested. However, these projects will be subject to GVN control and in most cases will have to be negotiated, project by project, with the USOM. A slowdown and curtailment of the whole AID effort is therefore likely.
We will have to evaluate the effect of this possible slowdown and curtailment on the overall program and on the total war effort as the program continues under the new ground rules. We will need to keep up a steady pressure on the GVN to maintain the necessary momentum. And if after we have given this arrangement a fair trial, it appears that the GVN effort is inadequate, we may be compelled to make some very hard decisions.
2. The Commercial Import Program (CIP)
As we approach the end of the fiscal year, Saigon states that orderly licensing and procurement under the Commercial Import Program will be seriously disrupted if more money is not made available. Saigon estimates that they need additional new obligational authority (NOA) of $15 million for FY63.
The amount of aid extended under the Commercial Import Program has varied from year to year. The import targets have in the past been set, for psychological reasons, higher than we really expected the Vietnamese importers to realize. This was done both to ensure an orderly flow of commodities and to reassure the GVN that the largest possible amount of counterpart funds would be available for essential war programs. This year's import demand, however, apparently exceeds our estimates.
A. Economic Considerations
The economic justification for an increase in new obligational authority for the CIP is questionable. It would probably be possible for the GVN to maintain the present level of imports by drawing down its own foreign exchange reserves, which are quite substantial. It may also be--although this is not at all clear--that inventories in Viet-Nam are now so large that a curtailment of commercial import licensing would not seriously affect the situation. Imports could perhaps be halted, and the resulting cut in counterpart piaster resources made up by deficit spending, without any disastrous economic results.
It is also possible that an increase in CIP funds would result in a rise in GVN foreign exchange reserves or in an increase in luxury imports. It appears, moreover, that the GVN may be deliberately pumping up present import demand. The GVN has pursued an easy credit policy, and last month business borrowing reached an all-time high. Much of this borrowed money is apparently being used to purchase CIP goods.
Finally, general U.S. policy toward CIP's worldwide is that they must be based on balance of payments considerations rather than serving as budgetary support. We should recognize that this requested increase leans toward the budgetary support approach.
B. Political Considerations
The political justification for an increase is as strong as the economic justification is weak. In the vital area of piaster resources for the war effort, it is clear that GVN willingness and ability to finance the CI programs depends to a large degree on counterpart piasters generated by the commercial import program. For us to disrupt licensing under the commercial import program at this time would make it doubly difficult, if not impossible, for us to persuade the GVN to carry out those CI economic and social projects which we deem so essential in winning the war.
The war is entering a critical stage. Economic programs have been launched which support the military effort and which we believe are essential to any permanent restoration of security. To keep up this momentum we must have GVN confidence and cooperation, and we must retain maximum influence in the direction of the war effort.
The funds involved are not large by comparison with our total effort, but failure to provide them might well reopen the whole "crisis of confidence'' problem so recently skirted.
I am told that the only source which we could tap to make up the commercial import shortfall is the President's contingency fund. I recognize the difficulties of tapping this fund, but given the importance of the Viet-Nam situation, I recommend the following:
A. We should continue to press the GVN to pick up the piaster costs of CI projects, undertaking whatever degree of deficit spending is required to accomplish this.
B. To support this effort we should take every step to avoid disrupting commercial import licensing.
C. We should request that funds be made available from the President's contingency fund to cover the necessary imports.
D. Attached for your approval is a Memorandum to Assistant Administrator Janow/2/ recommending on political grounds that we maintain orderly CIP licensing by using contingency funds if necessary./3/
/2/Not printed. The draft memorandum from Hilsman to Janow is not initialed and may have been revised before being sent. No copy of the final version has been found, but a May 15 letter from William Bundy to Janow indicates that Hilsman did send a memorandum to Janow on May 9 dealing with the Vietnam Commercial Import Program. The thrust of Hilsman's memorandum to Janow apparently accorded with the conclusions outlined in Heavner's memorandum in light of Bundy's supporting remarks in his letter to Janow:
''I agree with Roger Hilsman that the application of strict economic criteria is not feasible at this fume. Our Government should make every reasonable effort to sustain the current momentum of the GVN's military drive.'' (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Vietnam Task Force Files: FRC 75-163, Chron FilesVietnam-1963)
/3/Further documentation on a proposed increase in the Commercial Import Program for fiscal year 1963 is in Department of State, Central Files, AID (US) S VIET
115. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, May 9, 1963, 3:24 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate. Drafted by Heavner and cleared by Rice. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.
1066. Hue 4 to Dept./2/ At your discretion suggest you urge GVN take no repressive measures against Buddhists, offer sympathy and funeral expenses to families of demonstration victims, make any other appropriate gestures toward restoration of order and amity between religious groups.
116. Telegram From the Consulate at Hue to the Department of State/1/
Hue, May 10,1963, 2 a.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate. Also sent to Saigon.
5. Early AM May 10 Hue quiet. 9 PM curfew now in effect. May 9 crowd of 3,000 gathered radio station 1700 hours local. Chief Bonze Central Vietnam Tri Quang called on people disperse quietly. He promised call meeting later date. His request obeyed. Quang has now demonstrated on at least three occasions his ability handle his followers. He apparently respected as independent, non-GVN Bonze. GVN mobile loudspeakers roamed streets evening May 9 calling on population stay calm, avoid public assemblies, respect curfew.
NRM sponsored public meeting at 1500 hours May 9 for purpose condemnation "Viet Cong terrorist act evening May 8'' drew no audience whatsoever and speeches never came off. Large group mostly youths, reported to have marched around old citadel part of Hue several hours early 9th until 0400 hours chanting down with Diem government.
Theme Buddhist banners May 8 reported earlier called for equality of religion. Protested order take religious flags down, urged no refusal sacrifice for Buddhist cause. USIS BPAO forwarding photographs same.
Bonze Quang has reportedly called upon all Buddhist followers in Central Vietnam who can come to Hue May 10 do so for mass funeral victims evening May 8. Reportedly he also has ordered meetings of Buddhists in all provinces. At noon May 8, prior killings, he reportedly sent telegrams to President Diem and Buddhist organization Rangoon protesting order take down flags. This order here known as Decree Number 10/2/ issued by Minister Interior Saigon last year.
/2/The correct reference is to Decree 189; see footnote 3, Document 112. Decree 10, which became a central issue in the Buddhist crisis, was issued by Emperor Bao Dai at Vichy, France on August 6, 1950. It established regulations governing the creation and functioning of associations in Vietnam. As interpreted by the Diem government, the law governed the functioning of the Buddhist religion, as well as political parties, trade unions, and sports associations. The law provided, however, that "a special status shall be prescribed later for Catholic and Protestant missions and for Chinese congregations''. (For text, see Journal officiel de la Republique du Viet-Nam, No. 34, August 26, 1950, pp. 434-437; the English language text, as amended by Ordinance No. 6 of April 3, 1954, is printed as Annex XV to U.N. doe. A/5630, December 7, 1963.)
Nung battalion paratroops arrived Hue May 9. All evidence indicates ARVN present incident evening 8th refused take action against population, CG under Deputy Province Chief Major Sy unit which fired. Little question now that one of these threw grenade. Province Chief Dang apparently has gained stature during developments, Sy being considered villain. Brother of President, Ngo Dinh Can, reportedly informed of all developments, but not clear as to his feelings re situation.
Mass funeral May 10 probably will be peaceful, although VC have had sufficient time to react and may attempt touch off something following funerals which likely be attended by thousands. Government offices in Hue ordered now by government delegate CVN lowlands to have all personnel remain in office 24 hours a day to "prevent VC infiltration'' and have available all possible weapons. May aggravate situation.
Population must be judged as tense. Duration and intensity of crisis unusual in view generally passive nature Vietnamese in terms public demonstrations. People seem to have taken seriously Bonze speech morning 8th "now is time to fight''. While word fight perhaps overemphatic, desire of people seems to be to have some sort of showdown following years of frustration for Buddhists. Student banner morning 9th "please kill us''. Man on street expressing great desire for world to know of killings on 8th. While GVN line is VC responsible, no credibility this among population.
117. Telegram From the Consulate at Hue to Department of State/1/
Hue, May 10, 1963, 3 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate. Also sent to Saigon.
6. May 10 meeting 10:30 hours local at Tu Dam Pagoda attended by estimated five or six thousand Buddhists. Crowd orderly. ARVN troops and police in area. Province Chief Dang present. Numerous banners displayed "kill us, ready sacrifice blood, Buddhists and Catholics equal. Cancel Decree Number 10, request stop of arrests and kidnapping; a Buddhist flag will never go down''. Ex-chief Bonze Tri Quang urged all be peaceful. Carry no weapons, be prepared die. Be alert to VC efforts agitate people, follow Gandhi policies. Quang asked people agree to follow him and crowd roared assent.
Buddhist leader [less than 1 line not declassified] told crowd this regime is a good govt. Bonze Quang told people fly flags and he would take responsibility. Letter addressed to GVN/2/ given to Province Chief related peaceful history Buddhists, even despite many arrests and kidnappings recent years. Some bad men in govt responsible for this. Themes of banners embodied in letter which signed by Quang and other high Buddhists and organizations. Chairman GVN Buddhist Association Mat Nguyen called on GVN pay families of May 8th victims. Nguyen told crowd all Buddhist temples in Vietnam will always remember incident on Buddha's birthday. Nguyen called on GVN punish man who ordered open fire evening May 8th.
/2/An apparent reference to Document 118.
Province Chief thanked Buddhists for opportunity address meeting, expressed sorrow for those dead, stated GVN ready help families of victims and guarantees payments to families. Crowd cheered him enthusiastically./3/
/3/A marginal comment in an unknown hand reads, at this point, "Great''.
Final of hour long session was official placing of blame for Decree Number 10 re no flags on former Emperor Bao Dai who allegedly issued original order. Meeting ended peacefully.
Believe crisis nearing end. Although mass funeral which may be held although not now confirmed could still cause difficulties. Population seems quiet, but long term hard feelings will clearly persist. Pacifist direction of Buddhist leadership has avoided additional bloodshed and crystallization of conflict. Catholics here appear almost unanimously sympathetic to Buddhists' situation.
Arriving aspects whole incident: 1) Relatively bold natural language in banners and addresses May 8 of Bonze; 2) Duration of tension highlighted by 5 major demonstrations [of] over 50 [in] one hour; 3) Total failure NRM scheduled meeting May 9 which was to have blamed deaths on VC; 4) Inability or unwillingness GVN to quell overt large scale protest albeit peaceful at early stages; 5) Willingness of people to congregate and demonstrate in face of police and military; 6) Evident grounds will rock roots popularity of cause which not frequently witnessed in Vietnam.
Believe Embassy Saigon and Dept should anticipate some international reaction to incident, particularly in view Bonze Quang telegram to Rangoon. Would seem Communists almost certain to give incident big propaganda play as example GVN suppression freedom of religion and slaughter of innocent people.
118. Manifesto of Vietnamese Buddhist Clergy and Faithful/1/
Hue, May 10, 1963.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 13-6 S VIET. Unclassified; Translation. Transmitted as attachment A to airgram A-781 from Saigon, June 10. A slightly variant translation of this manifesto was transmitted as enclosure 5 to airgram A-20 from Hue, June 3. (Ibid., SOC 14-1 S VIET) The manifesto was issued at a mass meeting of Buddhist clergy and faithful at Tu Dam Pagoda in Hue on May 10. The five demands put forward in this declaration are those which have been described in some of the memoir accounts dealing with the Buddhist crisis as having been addressed to the Diem government on May 13. (Hilsman, To Move a Nation, p. 469; Mecklin, Mission in Torment, p. 154)
For many thousands of years the Buddhist clergy and faithful throughout the world as well as within the country have been loyal to the principles of benevolence, altruism and honesty espoused by Buddha. Because of this, Buddhism has gradually evolved an atmosphere of tranquillity. History has clearly proven this point. Thus, for many years Buddhists have been terrorized and repressed everywhere. Because of our conscience, we are still resigned, although not cowardly so, in the face of the suffering and mourning of our present national circumstances. But our sorrow has been taken advantage of by the authorities to cause untold mourning among the Buddhist clergy and faithful in the country. Buddhism has been condemned in a manner unjust to a religion which has existed in the country for thousands of years. From these actions we can perceive the bad intention of the authorities. They even have smashed the most sacred symbol of the Buddhists by taking down the International Buddhist flag. This decision is contrary to the Constitution and brazenly violates the freedom of religious worship. In the face of these unjust actions, the monks and faithful throughout our country must rise up and struggle for their ideals.
The incident which occurred three days ago really affected morale. Blood flowed and human lives were once again sacrificed, so we are now determined to place our hopes before the government and to request the following points:
1. To request that the Government of the Republic of Vietnam permanently retract the official cable repressing the Buddhist religious flag.
2. To request that Buddhists be allowed to enjoy a special regime such as that allowed to Catholics according to Decree 10./2/
/2/See footnote 2, Document 116.
3. To request the government to stop arrests and terrorization of Buddhist followers.
4. To request that Buddhist bonzes and faithful be allowed freedom to preach and observe their religion.
5. To request that the government make worthwhile compensation for those innocent persons who were killed, and mete out proper punishment to the instigators of the murders.
The points mentioned above express the most ardent hopes of Buddhist bonzes and followers in the entire country. We are prepared to make sacrifices until such time as the reasonable aspirations mentioned above are realized./3/
/3/On May 13 a representative of the Diem government met in Hue with a delegation of Buddhist leaders to consider the demands outlined in the May 10 declaration. The government official suggested that most of the Buddhist concerns were groundless, but indicated that the government would consider them. He added, however, that the Buddhist declaration was extreme in language and appeared to be an ultimatum. Such an approach, he indicated, was a mistake. A memorandum of the discussion between an unnamed Vietnamese Government official and the Buddhist delegation was transmitted as enclosure 1 to airgram A-20 from Hue. On May 15 a delegation of Buddhist leaders took up the Buddhist demands with President Diem in a meeting with him at the Presidential Palace in Saigon. For a report of that meeting, see Document 129.
Buddhist Year 2307
Bonze Tuong Van
Bonze Mat Nguyen
Bonze Mat Hien
Bonze Tri Quang
Bonze Thien Sieu
119. Letter From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Nolting) to Secretary of State at the Presidency and Assistant Secretary of State for National Defense Thuan/1/
Saigon, May 10,1963.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26-1 S VIET. Confidential. Drafted by Nolting and Trueheart and transmitted as enclosure 2 to airgram A-718 from Saigon, May 16.
Dear Mr. Secretary: I refer to President Ngo Dinh Diem's letter to me of April 23/2/ regarding the funding of counterinsurgency activities and to our discussion the following day concerning the procedures to be followed in the administration of these funds.
/2/A copy of the April 23 letter was transmitted as enclosure 1 to airgram A-718. The letter is summarized in Document 101.
As I understand the position, during the calendar year 1963 the Government of Viet-Nam is prepared to supplement the U.S.-owned and counterpart piastre contributions with its own funds up to a limit of 2.3 billion piastres, to carry forward the mutually agreed projects described in broad terms in the attachment to my letter to you of March 18, 1963./3/ (As of January 1, 1963 it was predicted that the U.S. owned and counterpart piastres would amount to VN$900,000,000, which would leave a remainder of VN$1,4000,000,000 to be provided by the Government of Viet-Nam.) I understand that the Government of Viet-Nam is not prepared, however, to have its own funds administered under the procedures followed for the "purchased piastres''. Your government nevertheless wishes to maintain the functions of and the existing relationship between the Vietnamese Interministerial Committee for Strategic Hamlets and the U.S. Committee on Province Rehabilitation. It is also the desire of your government that the activities of the Vietnamese authorities in the rural areas continue to be coordinated with those of the American agencies.
To give effect to these principles, it is my understanding that your government proposes that funds to be administered by the provinces (generally funds for those projects enumerated in Section A1 of the attachment to my letter of March 18) shall continue to be paid into a central account at the Treasury, as required, and disbursed from this account directly to the province chief as needed to carry out approved programs.
It is also my understanding that these provincial programs will, as in the past, be reviewed and approved by the Interministerial Committee and by the Committee on Province Rehabilitation. At the province level, however, the power to disburse Government of Viet-Nam funds within the approved programs will rest with the province chief. In view of the U.S. contributions to these programs, the province chief shall nevertheless consult with the U.S. representatives concerning his plans and proposed actions so that related U.S. and Vietnamese programs can be properly developed and executed. The province chief and the U.S. advisors will keep each other informed of all aspects of their respective activities in the execution of the approved programs.
With regard to those programs administered by national agencies (generally those projects enumerated in Sections A2, B, C, and D of the attachment to my letter of March 18) no special fund will be involved. The funds will in general be administered in accordance with customary procedures for the use of counterpart funds, i.e., on the basis of appropriate understandings between the Director General of Budget and Foreign Aid and the U.S. Operations Mission.
Finally, it is my understanding that your government undertakes, as in the past, to provide piastre support for necessary operations of the U.S. Operations Mission. It is estimated that such support will amount to VN$173,000,000 during 1963.
I believe that the undertaking of your government with respect to funding of counterinsurgency activities and the procedures described above will provide a reasonable basis for carrying forward the strategic hamlet program, a program which has already contributed so much to the security and well-being of the rural population and which holds out the promise of final liquidation of the Communist insurgency and of revitalization of rural society in Viet-Nam. I should be obliged if you would confirm that this letter correctly states the position of your government./4/
/4/The joint communique issued on May 17 announced agreement of funding for counterinsurgency; see Document 127.
Accept, Mr. Secretary, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.
Frederick E. Nolting, Jr.
Concur: Nguyen Dinh Thuan/5/
/5/Printed from a copy that bears these typed signatures.
120. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President/1/
Washington, May 10, 1963.
/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 4/ 63-5/63. Secret.
Roger Hilsman asked me to show you the attached memorandum/2/ from him to me. I also attach an airgram/3/ from Fritz Nolting also on the subject of interdiction of air strikes against the Viet Cong. The issue resolves to whether or not the United States and Vietnamese military are effectively carrying out our policy of treating the war in South Vietnam as essentially a political battle.
/2/In the attached May 4 memorandum, Hilsman indicated that the officer whom Forrestal had sent to see him, who is identified as a major recently returned from 10 months service in Vietnam, had made a number of points which Hilsman felt merited consideration:
"1. That simply killing Viet Cong was not the way to win in South Viet-Nam,
Hilsman also asked about the effect of the bombing campaign on the loyalty of the people of South Vietnam. The major expressed "considerable skepticism'' about the findings of a recent study which indicated that the use of air power in Vietnam was under tight control.
I don't think that the problem raised by Roger's memorandum can be effectively handled from Washington. What we need is fresh leadership in the field. In this connection, State has still not come up with a replacement for Fritz Nolting who is returning on home leave late this month, although several candidates have been suggested.
121. Memorandum From the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Felt) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff/1/
CINCPAC 3010. Ser. 00447-63
Honolulu, May 11, 1963.
/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 69 A 3131, Vietnam 091.3 MAR. Secret. A marginal note on the source text indicates that a copy was sent to Secretary McNamara and he saw it.
/2/See footnote 4, Document 111.
/3/In CINCPAC telegram 102246Z to RUEAHQ/HQ USAF, May 10, CINCPAC surveyed programs designed to build up the capabilities of South Vietnamese forces to permit the early release of U.S. units from Vietnam. These programs included helicopter training and liaison pilot training. (Washington National Records Center, RG 319, U.S. Army Message Center Microfilm, Reel 11331)
/5/In CINCPAC telegram 110017Z to RUEAHQ/HQ USAF, May 11, CINCPAC instructed the Air Force command to prevent an anticipated "slippage'' in the training program for South Vietnamese pilots. (Washington National Records Center, RG 319, U.S. Army Message Center Microfilm, Reel 11331)
1. Pursuant to directives by the Secretary of Defense during the conference held in Honolulu on 6 May 1963 and guidance in reference (a), an outline revised plan has been prepared. The details of the plan will be developed within the guidelines of a force structure that the RVN budget can support with minimum U.S. MAP assistance, acceleration of RVNAF training for earlier takeover of U.S. equipment and functions, a realistic demobilization program to prevent economic chaos, and minimum forces necessary to cope with reinsurgency and permit timely introduction of U.S. forces in the event of overt aggression.
a. The insurgency can be controlled by the end of CY 1965 (mid-FY 66). Note: In my view, it is overly optimistic to assume that insurgency can be controlled as early as FY 65 as hopefully expressed in reference (a).
b. The necessary training aircraft (9 additional UH-19's and 25 Cessna 185's) and supporting U.S. training personnel will be available in RVN no later than 1 July 1963 to improve the in-country training capability.
c. The USAF and/or USN will provide 44 spaces during FY 63 for training T-28 pilots rather than slipping this program to FY 64 as proposed in reference (c). Reference (d) requested that USAF take necessary action in this regard.
d. Equipment required by RVNAF, such as AC&W, troposcatter, USMC helicopters, C-123 aircraft, and liaison aircraft, including spare parts and supporting equipment for operation of these items, will be turned over in place without cost to MAP as U.S. forces withdraw.
e. The Secretary of Defense will ensure that sufficient ammunition is provided on a timely basis from other than MAP resources as necessary to cover reductions which have been made in ammunition funding requests in compliance with SecDef directive. This situation applies also to other categories of supply such as expendables/consumables.
f. Operational support of the troposcatter system (funded, installed and currently operated by the U.S. military services) will be assumed by AID in FY 66.
g. The Civil Guard and Self Defense Corps will revert to the Minister of Interior once the insurgency is under control.
h. A bilateral defense agreement will be made between the U.S. and the RVN to permit the reduction of RVN forces on the scale outlined in enclosure (1).
3. The primary limiting factor affecting early withdrawal of U.S. special military assistance is the capability of RVN to provide sufficient personnel during FY 64-65 with required aptitudes for training as pilots, and technicians to operate and maintain equipment turned over to RVNAF.
4. Plans for development and support of a National Police Force should be formulated now by AID for utilization of Civil Guard and Self Defense Corps assets to assure an orderly transition from martial to civil law. Paragraph 2g. is valid only if this is accomplished on a timely basis.
5. The FY 64-69 force structure and priority list for FY 64 were developed in consultation with COMUSMACV and CHMAAG Vietnam. The costing data was developed by representatives of CHMAAG Vietnam in coordination with my staff.
6. It is recommended that the Outline Revised Plan for Republic of Vietnam be approved as the basis for the refinement of the FY 64-69 MAP.
H. D. Felt/6/
/6/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
[Here follows an 18-page enclosure giving statistical projections dealing with fiscal year 1964 operating costs, a priority investment list for fiscal year 1964, South Vietnamese force structure objectives through fiscal year 1969, and the cost of the military assistance program for South Vietnam for fiscal years 1965 through 1969.]
122. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, May 13, 1963, 6:36 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 6 US. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Heavner and cleared by Hilsman, Rice, Koren and in DOD/ISA by Heinz. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.
1084. Believe public reopening of issue American presence and mutual confidence by Ngo Dinh Nhu in interview with Warren Unna/2/ cannot be ignored. Unless you perceive objection, request you seek interview with Diem to protest Nhu action and clarify GVN intentions. You may state you speaking under instructions.
/2/On Sunday, May 12, the front page of The Washington Post featured an interview by Warren Unna with Ngo Dinh Nhu, in which Unna quoted Nhu as saying that "South Viet Nam would like to see half of the 12,000 to 13,000 American military stationed here leave the country''. Unna described Nhu as the power behind the throne and wrote that Nhu told U.S. authorities 5 months earlier that it was possible to withdraw one half of the American forces, and that the presence of unnecessary American forces lent credence to Communist propaganda. Unna reported that Nhu and Diem distrusted Americans working at local levels in Vietnam and that Nhu felt that many American advisers were only intelligence gatherers. Referring to American impatience, Nhu said that the time was not ripe for a general counter-offensive. He added, according to Unna, that "many of our American friends who died here are cases of soldiers who exposed themselves too readily''.
You may draw on following at your discretion:
1. We are aware of propaganda Communists generate as result US military presence SVN. We also very much aware of US casualties and dollar costs resulting from assistance we supplying GVN at GVN request. It is in our interest to reduce our military commitment in SVN as fast as VC threat effectively reduced and this has always been our policy.
2. We do not believe that time has yet arrived when Viet Cong threat so reduced and GVN military capabilities so improved that we can safely undertake large reduction US military presence. It is our understanding that this view shared by GVN. (This connection we note Nhu considers even amnesty program premature.) We hope that a cut of perhaps 1,000 men may be possible later this year but that would depend on progress made and would come only after private discussion with GVN.
3. When time does arrive to reduce US forces, best procedure is obviously joint announcement by both governments that in light progress made against VC, cuts in order. We would hope to work it out in that fashion.
4. Public call for cut in US forces by high official like Nhu likely generate new and reinforce already existing US domestic pressures for complete withdrawal from SVN.
5. Statement that some American casualties incurred because our advisors are daredevils and expose themselves needlessly likely to have very bad effect on morale US forces. To be effective, advisors must often be at or near scene of battle. We believe, as President Kennedy said in his State of Union message,/3/ that our casualties suffered in Viet-Nam were incurred in defense of Free World. It will not be well taken by US public or by US forces in Viet-Nam to be told our casualties were needless.
/3/For text of President Kennedy's State of the Union message, January 14, 1963, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 11-19.
6. As GVN well aware, Americans were not behind attempted 1960 coup and our actions at that time were correct and in accordance with international practice. To suggest we were behind coup can only serve Communist cause.
7. If GVN has any evidence of US plotting as alleged in Unna interview we would like to see it. Our policy has been full support for Diem government in fight against Viet Cong and efforts provide better life for Vietnamese people.
If Diem indicates he agrees our forces should not be subject large cut at this time, you should suggest a public statement to this effect. You may say it will be difficult for us to justify to Congress greater U.S. forces than GVN apparently wishes and that public statement GVN position therefore important./4/
/4/Heinz and Hilsman faced sharp questioning from the House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 14 as a result of the Nhu interview, and Hilsman cabled Nolting on May 16 to reemphasize the need to persuade Diem to restrain Nhu in his public remarks: "Reactions to Nhu interview very strong on Capitol Hill. Foresee considerable domestic criticism and opposition our Viet-Nam policy as direct result. My own feeling is that Nhu's action incomprehensible and I wonder whether he will not repeat performance if not brought up sharply and immediately. If you have not already seen Diem, you should be sure to couch your protest in strongest possible language.'' (Telegram 1098 to Saigon, May 16; Department of State. Central Files. DEF 6 US)
If on contrary Diem agrees with Nhu that large cut in order or in general associates himself with Nhu position as reported by Unna, you should seek at your discretion to clarify exact GVN position and intentions on these issues. If it seems useful to you, you may state until further progress against VC achieved, we believe war can be won only by maintaining something like present level US forces SVN. If it appears useful tactic, you may also request list of activities which GVN believes could be cut.
Believe above points should also be made to Nhu in manner you deem appropriate.
123. Letter From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins) to President Diem/1/
Saigon, May 15, 1963.
/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 334, MAC/V Files: FRC 69 A 702, 204-58 Command Reporting (1963). Secret.
Dear Mr. President: As you well know, for over a year the Government of the United States has been backing an intensified program for aid and assistance to the Government of the Republic of Vietnam. You are conversant with our many and varied programs, particularly those in the military, economic, social, and psychological fields. Last week Ambassador Nolting and I, with selected personnel from our staffs, met in Hawaii with Secretary of Defense McNamara and representatives of other Washington offices to review the status of these U.S. programs. In my short conversations with you during the past few days, I have mentioned certain aspects of this meeting and the various U.S. programs. However, I think it timely to present for your consideration a review of the progress made in certain areas to date, therefore this letter. In this review I will confine my remarks only to the military programs.
Our combined, intensified effort really began in late 1961 and early 1962 and has continued to the present, at which time I can report practically all military programs have been completed or are well on the way to completion.
What has been accomplished? The results are indicated below:
Intelligence: A significant effort to improve the intelligence advisory capabilities was initiated in January 1962. The new U.S. Intelligence advisors were all in place by May 1962. These advisors working side-by-side with their Vietnamese counterparts have made a commendable improvement in reporting and editing intelligence data. The improvement has been apparent in the success of the Vietnamese actions in the field. On the U.S. side, and because of the one-year assignment of most personnel, practically all of the original advisors now have been replaced. The new group have been hand-picked, given special schooling in both intelligence matters and language training and, all-in-all, should further improve our joint intelligence efforts.
Communications: A year ago a reliable military communications system did not exist. Since September 1962, there has been a tremendous improvement in communications throughout the country and within the tactical units of the Vietnamese Armed Forces. The tropospheric scatter system, recently completed in the northern part of the RVN, is now being extended into the Delta region. All divisions and major units are now connected by telephone switchboards and other improvements are being made daily.
Mobility: There are now seven U.S. Army helicopter companies and one U.S. Marine helicopter squadron in the country to provide troop transport and escort capability for ARVN. These units plus the two VNAF squadrons provide a formidable mobile force for rapid reaction against the Viet Cong.
With improved intelligence, widespread and rapid communications, and a constantly available mobile force, actions of the RVNAF have improved tremendously and should improve even more in the future. While I believe that these are the primary improvements, much more has been accomplished.
New Divisions: The Ninth and Twenty-Fifth Divisions have been added to the "Front Line'' combat troops in the past year. Both have given outstanding accounts of themselves in recent actions.
Paratroops: The training of the Parachute Brigade has been completed and the ARVN now has six battalions, all combat tested and proven in battle. They are very fine soldiers and create a fine impression wherever they go.
Marines: The four Marine battalions, like the paratroopers, are outstanding soldiers. They, too, have been combat tested and also give an outstanding performance when they confront the enemy.
Rangers: 86 Ranger Companies have been processed through the training schools. Many have seen combat and are used in small-scale operations constantly. I think greater and more effective use should be gained from them in the future.
Civil Guards: As you know, last year over 375 Civil Guard companies were trained. The Civil Guard Program continues to increase in strength, and this year's program calls for training and equipping new companies while retraining some of the old companies where necessary.
Self-Defense Corps: Last year over 1,700 SDC platoons were trained in some 35 camps. Like the Civil Guard, the Self-Defense Corps is being increased, equipped, trained, and retrained in 1963. I am sure you know as well as I that the Civil Guard and the Self-Defense Corps share a tremendous burden in the complex war against the Viet Cong.
Civilian Irregular Defense Groups: U.S. and RVN Special Forces have trained approximately 40,000 members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group. These are the mountain scouts, the commandos, the strike force, and the village militias. The program continues and becomes even more important as RVN control moves into those areas where the Viet Cong have controlled the population for many years in the past,
M-113's: One-hundred forty-seven of the M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers are now used extensively in combat. These have proven invaluable and have operated faithfully under extremely difficult conditions in the war against the Viet Cong. I think these vehicles will be used to greater advantage as the unit commanders and soldiers gain experience in the use and capabilities of these very fine fighting machines.
M-114: This is a new armored vehicle, not yet fully tested in combat. However, the four companies organized with the 95 vehicles now in the country are trained and should be in action before the end of this month.
Caribou, C-123's, Otters: There is one Caribou company in the country partially serving the most remote of the outlying bases, and also two C-123 squadrons which carry the brunt of the load in the air transportation of men and supplies. There is also one Otter company, a small passenger vehicle with limited military cargo capability, operating in the corps and division forward areas. The performance of these aircraft has been outstanding.
Air Force: The sortie rate for the Air Force rose from 150 sorties a month in January 1962, to over 1,500 in April 1963. The pilots are becoming more experienced, and many of the night operations are now performed by the VNAF. The Air Force is being dispersed in small tactical units throughout the country so that their reaction time will be even more rapid than it is today. This should greatly increase the damage it can do to the Viet Cong.
Navy: The Junk Fleet of 644 junks now has 28 divisions patrolling the coast. The Sea Force has taken over patrol along the 17th Parallel and in the Gulf of Siam, while the River Force is supporting operations in the Delta area.
Strategic Hamlet Program: As you are aware, there are over 6,000 strategic hamlets now completed in the country, with practically 8,000,000 people securely tucked away behind their fences. I believe this program, more than any other, has served to isolate the Viet Cong from the people. As it nears its completion in the coming months, it should prove one of the turning points in the war. Many of the combat units are involved in "clearing and holding'' operations in support of the strategic hamlets. While I think this is vital, I believe that at the same time we must continue to have other operations which search and clear the Viet Cong bases that can be located.
With all of these accomplishments, the major prospective courses should be to: organize, train, and develop the new units-re-organize, refine, and retrain the old units. Besides continuing to carry the war to the enemy, training in all branches of the service and all its various aspects continues to be one of the most vital features of any future program.
The RVNAF operations continue to increase and improve in scope and effectiveness; however, there are still areas for refinement. I feel many military plans are too grandiose, employing too many large units. Although these are necessary in some instances such as the operation in the Do Xa area, I think they should be the exception. A review of the records will show that the smaller operations, of battalion-size or less, contributed more than 70% in the Viet Cong casualties. Small unit actions must be continually stressed. I am also concerned that too often once contact with the enemy has been established it is lost too quickly, the enemy fades away, and the operation is called to a halt. Nothing will hurt the Viet Cong more than relentless pursuit. The units must stay out longer, and once contact is gained, continue to retain it until the Viet Cong are eliminated.
Although I have said the intelligence has improved, there is still room for further improvement. Too many operations are still based on faulty or incomplete intelligence and end with no real contact being established--as though we were fighting ghosts.
The Viet Cong are still with us, but for the most part are not so bothersome. His logistics support (principally food and medicine) has been severely disrupted by the RVNAF operations, and his own operations have been cut in half. However, he is still a wily enemy and apparently is dedicated to his cause because he continues to put up a very stiff fight under pressure. As the RVNAF presses him harder, I am sure we will continue to find him an even more stubborn enemy because he is gradually getting to be like a rat caught in a trap with no place to go and being constantly annoyed. He is becoming a "foreign legion'' in a foreign country without support from the local population.
All in all, the past year has been one of remarkable effort and remarkable progress. All the programs listed above have been carried to a successful conclusion on the one hand while fighting the war continues on the other. Few people realize this, but to me it makes the accomplishment of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam even more impressive. The Army, Air Force, and Navy of the Republic of Vietnam have come into their own by carrying the fight to the enemy. Daily they gain more and more confidence, and many units have won their spurs. We might call 1962 the year of the "building the base''. I am confident that 1963 shall be called the year of victory. From the military point of view I know that this can be true if we continue to maintain constant pressure on the enemy, even more so than we have in the past six months. The equipment is on hand, the units are trained, the morale is high, and from all I can ascertain, the determination and the will are present.
Though I note your brother, Counselor Nhu, in a recent interview with the press/2/ said we are not ready to go on the offensive, I disagree. The RVNAF is ready-over two-thirds of the people are in strategic hamlets. I say the time for an all-out offensive is at hand, before the armed forces get stale.
/2/See footnote 2, Document 122.
I will close by saying that at the staff conference last week in Hawaii, Secretary McNamara reiterated the U.S. policy of support for your country, and that we would leave no stone unturned to achieve victory in Vietnam. My staff and I, and further, all of the U.S. advisory and support agencies in Vietnam are ready and willing to do their part in continuing the pressure against the Viet Cong to see that victory is within our grasp in 1963.
Very respectfully yours,
Paul D. Harkins/3/
/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
124. Letter From the Assistant Administrator for the Far East, Agency for International Development (Janow), to the Assistant Director for Rural Affairs, United States Operations Mission in Vietnam (Phillips)/1/
Washington, May 15, 1963.
/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, AID-7 CIF. Secret.
Dear Rufe: Your letter to me and your memorandum to Joe Brent of May 1/2/ on the question of financing of the counter-insurgency effort have been very much on my mind. I hope you will understand that since I returned to Washington we have been overwhelmed by preparations for our Congressional Presentations. There were two this week. On Monday I was before the Senate Appropriations Committee on our personnel/management and I have just returned today from our hearings before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the whole of our program.
/2/The May 1 memorandum is printed as Document 102. The letter from Phillips to Janow has not been found.
Today was not a very comfortable environment for the hearings as we had an editorial in The Washington Post/3/ following up Warren Unna's story on Nhu's suggestion for a 50 percent reduction in the number of GI's in Vietnam that gave some members of the Committee difficult questions to ask concerning our policies in Vietnam. What I am about to say to you is not influenced by this experience of today nor by the news statements.
/3/On May 14, The Washington Post made Warren Unna's May 12 interview with Ngo Dinh Nhu (see footnote 2, Document 122) the subject of an editorial. The Washington Post noted that the interview raised basic questions concerning U.S. involvement with the Diem government.
At the Honolulu Conference I talked with Ambassador Nolting, with Joe Brent, and also raised, on the floor of the conference, the problems of our counter-insurgency operations under the changed financing plan. I asked General Harkins in the general meeting whether he had heard from his MAAG sector advisors that the change in financing would impede the programs establishing the strategic hamlets and the movement of supplies to them. He said he had not heard from them and did not know whether there would be great difficulties.
Both Nolting and Brent agreed that the system had to be changed and that a compromise method of operation, using the Government of Vietnam funds in the manner acceptable to the Government of Vietnam, would have to be tried. When I said on the floor of the conference that our Assistant Director had reported he expected difficulties in operation and any change in the methods that had been followed would be an impediment to the program, Secretary McNamara said he did not think that we could very well insist on perpetuating a system where the GVN had such strong objections. Secretary McNamara did not, however, appear to have been briefed on this subject. Because MAAG had not prepared their position and thereby there is only the Ambassador's and Brent's views here that a compromise method should be tried, it would not be good for you to visit Washington now.
I discussed this at some length with Dave Bell. He and I agreed that your views had to be heard and respected as you are the man on the spot charged with the responsibility of that which is central to our whole program in Vietnam. We agreed, however, that because the Ambassador feels that even if we purchased plasters with dollars the Vietnamese might not permit us to use them as we had in the past, we had no alternative but to attempt to make the alternate system work. On the other hand, both Dave Bell and I feel if it does not work, if the goods are delayed in delivery, if there are impediments to the program that the question should be promptly reopened.
I am sure that you will find that Joe Brent, the Ambassador and General Harkins will all feel this way. We urge you to take this attitude and not to prejudge the alternate system. If it does not work, if there is a documented case of delays, inefficiencies and waste, I assure you that you will have plenty of support in changing the system.
The question of your resigning and other members of your staff resigning would not achieve, at this time, a change in policy and will damage not advance our hamlet program in Vietnam. The problem cannot be dealt with that way. We cannot afford to lose your services; we have no replacement for you and will not look for one. I have not met anyone whom I would trust to have the same understanding, the same energy and the same passion for this program. The achievements of the strategic hamlet and your achievements are at the core of the aid program in Vietnam, and it is not a program which can spare you nor, in my opinion, is it one you can walk away from. Our assignment is to finish this program. We suggest that you do this: operate in such a way as to respect to the greatest degrees possible the Vietnamese sensitivities about not losing control of their government to us and yet we must not sacrifice a critical amount of efficiency. All the materials we supply are still in our hands, the food, fertilizer, barbed wire and guns we still control. Only the plaster fund control has changed. If you find impediments to the flow of materials to the strategic hamlets, because of the Vietnamese management of funds, these should be documented not just by you but jointly with the MAAG sector advisors. It will greatly simplify our programs if we represent what we find in this area as a joint AID/MAAG report. As I understand President Diem's and Nhu's objections to American intervention at the province level, it is primarily directed against the MAAG people and not towards A.I.D. In any event, the strategic hamlet efforts are in a joint program and involve the flow of MAAG materials as they do ours. Joint reporting seems to me essential if we are to watch the "compromise" plan.
I would like to say that I read with pleasure and with substantial benefit your report on Quang Ngai/4/ and found it very heartening indeed. I assure you that I share your concern about any change that may spoil or impede the very promising hamlet program. I want you to feel free to ask that any of the reports you make to Joe Brent should be sent in copy to me. I have, of course, sent a copy of this letter to Joe.
It would be most welcome if something good came out of this in the way of increased Vietnamese efficiency and greater provincial authority and initiative. I have passed your letters around, and many of us here are worrying with you.
With best regards.
Seymour J. Janow/5/
/5/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
125. Memorandum from the Deputy Director of the Vietnam Working Group (Heavner) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)/1/
Washington, May 15, 1963.
/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, POL-1 (Gen. Pol. Secret; Limit Distribution.
You requested a list of actions we might take which would hurt Diem but not the war effort. The list, plus estimates of likely results, follows:
A. Possible Actions
1. Aid Cuts. This could take a variety of forms on both the civilian and military side. I would suggest--and this is subject to further study--the following possibilities:
(a) POL. Petroleum products for civilian use are financed by our commercial import program; they run around $17 million per year. To cut this flow, we could inform the GVN that licensing under existing purchase authorizations is suspended and no further authorizations will be issued. This would force the GVN to use its own foreign exchange reserves to buy POL-and Diem is very sensitive about keeping up the level of GVN foreign exchange reserves. He probably sees his rather large foreign exchange reserves as a hedge against American withdrawal, aid cuts, or pressures like this.
(b) Sugar and Wheat Flour. We finance, under our CIP and PL-480, about $25 million per year of these commodities. Cutting them would have the same effect on GVN foreign exchange reserves as cutting
(c) [less than 1 1ine not declassified] Support for National Youth Center. This is quite a small item [1-1/2 lines not declassified]. But as a gesture, it might prick Nhu directly because he is the Grand Mogul of r the Republican Youth.
(d) Military Construction. We are planning to fund under MAP a number of construction projects. The problem, of course, is that cutting them will interfere with the war effort rather directly. In this category are items such as rehabilitation of the air field at Danang ($3.5 million) and construction of a quad wall at Saigon ($1.6 million).
2. Stopping Herbicide Operations. This has been a pet project for Diem. We have had our doubts and misgivings about it, but dropping crop destruction would, in my opinion, also hurt the war effort to some degree.
3. Cutting Farmgate. The military view would be, I am sure, that any cut in Farmgate would be very bad for the war effort. Perhaps they could eliminate interdiction type missions, however, and carry out all their other missions in spite of a healthy cut. There is a lot to be said for this idea, in terms of U.S. and world opinion, because Farmgate is our only real combat involvement. On the other hand, Diem would be nettled, but not deeply hurt. Nhu could present it as a personal triumph, i.e. we were forced out.
4. Public Statements. It might help domestically to respond directly to Nhu, and it would certainly strike a sensitive Diem nerve if we were to rebuke Nhu, however mildly, in a public statement. It would also play directly into the Communist propaganda line, give aid and comfort to all our critics, possibly force us to go much further in facing down Diem than we may wish to go, and even conceivably spark a coup attempt.
B. Results and Objectives
1. Strictly speaking, none of the above actions would be completely without negative effect on the war effort. Even in the case of POL or sugar and wheat cuts, for example, counterpart plaster re sources would be directly reduced by the proposed cuts; as you know, we are chronically short of plaster resources and are even now engaged in delicate negotiations aimed at getting the GVN to deficit finance CI projects formerly paid for by our $10 million plaster purchase. The GVN response to POL or sugar and wheat cuts would likely be to reduce their plaster support for CI projects which we, but not they, deem essential to a successful war effort. (There could also be a troublesome Vietnamese public reaction to cuts in POL or wheat and sugar. Shortages could be used to direct public anger against the U.S.)
2. There is also the broader question of what we mean to accomplish. I doubt that any of the above actions would result in chastening or disciplining Nhu and Diem. We would have to tell them pretty directly that we were undertaking the action as a punitive response to Nhu's outrageous remarks or risk the interpretation that the action was a prelude to an American pull-out. Given Ngo psychology, most likely the result would be not more but less GVN cooperation, less trust certainly, and quite possibly, more outrageous public statements.
If pressure is brought on Diem and Nhu, it should serve our major objective--defending Viet-Nam. Thus, if we cut or threaten to cut aid, it should be in support of an objective such as full plaster support of CI projects and a continuing American voice in administering them.
In the immediate instance, we could use such actions or threats to back up a demand for a public GVN statement to the effect that American assistance and personnel were requested by the GVN and are needed, at the present level, until the VC threat is further reduced. If such a statement is judged essential to maintaining domestic support for our Viet-Nam program, the actions would be justified. But we should recognize that Diem might well refuse to yield and could even use our demand against us publicly. We should also recognize that such a statement, coming on the heels of the Nhu remarks, would lend support to the main Communist propaganda line, i.e. Diem is an American puppet.
Most important, if we use punitive actions or the threat of such actions, we have to recognize that the mutual confidence on which the joint war effort must rest will be further eroded. This means the likelihood of an all-out confrontation, now or later, is increased measurably. And of course, there is a very real chance that Diem will not bend, and that once started down the road we will be unable to stop short of anything except a change in government. We don't want to blunder into that.
All of the foregoing is subject to reconsideration after we get the results of Ambassador Nolting's demarche plus the benefit of his suggestions.
126. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, May 17, 1963, 4 p.m.
/1/ Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL S VIET-US. Secret. Repeated to Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Paris, London, and CINCPAC. On May 18, Michael Forrestal sent a copy to President Kennedy with a covering memorandum that reads:
"The attached cable from Fritz Nolting (which you may already have seen) gives a cheerful picture of progress in South Vietnam.
"I believe it should be read with a grain of salt, although the fact that Diem has gotten out into the country is in itself hopeful." (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 4/63-5/63)
1036. CINCPAC for POLAD. During past week several members of our mission and I have accompanied President Diem on trips to various provinces, mainly to areas recently brought under Government control through clear and hold operations, road and canal building, strategic and combat hamlet establishment, and related measures. On trips last Sunday and Tuesday/2/ in seven provinces, it was the consensus of all of us, including several other foreign ambassadors, that important improvements were unmistakable. First was the evident enthusiasm among peasants and officials alike in progress to date towards permanent security and follow-up benefits to the people. In one recently cleared area the farmers, expressing their thoughts freely, had only one request-that a hundred families living to the West of their zone be also "liberated" promptly. Second was the evident goodwill and cooperation existing between U.S. advisors, both military and civil, and their GVN opposite numbers. (I talked personally with more than a dozen on both sides and I found no indications of friction or frustration-on the contrary, the prevailing mood was one of encouragement in accomplishments, goodwill, and confidence in the future.) Third was the obvious purpose of President Diem to show Americans, as well as other foreigners and Vietnamese, his appreciation of American help, including advisors, and his satisfaction with results achieved to date. Fourth, and perhaps most striking, was Diem's touch with the people. He spent two long hot dusty days talking with, and seeking the reactions of farmers and their families and elders to the measures the Government is taking, probing their sentiments and listening to their ideas. The rapport between him and the people was evident and the exchange of questions and answers remarkably free. This applied as well to groups of recent VC "ralliers" and their families, who were grouped among other village people, and to groups of Buddhist bonzes. Realizing that these trips did not cover the entire country and cannot by their very nature be completely revealing, I was nevertheless again impressed, as I believe my colleagues were, by the vast difference between what is actually happening in this country and the reflection of it in the outside world. In my view, what is actually happening is a vindication of American and GVN policy, a steady forcing of the Communists to the defensive and a breaking of their classical pattern of subversion. There is a fierce concentration on the internal problems here and a consequent neglect of, or insufficient attention to, the factors forming international opinion, which are way beyond the grasp or control of this Government. It goes without saying that, even on internal matters, there continue to be "snafus", but the general average of internal performance is improving constantly, I am convinced.
/2/May 12 and May 14.
127. Editorial Note
On May 17, 1963, President Diem and Ambassador Nolting issued a joint communique to announce United State-Vietnamese agreement on counterinsurgency funding. The text of the communique reads:
"The Government of Vietnam and the American Embassy announced on May 17 that agreement has been reached regarding funding for counter-insurgency and other economic development projects, particularly those supporting the Strategic Hamlet Program, during 1963. The agreement provides inter alia for the continuation of counter-insurgency projects supported under the piastre-purchase agreement announced in August, 1962. As explained at that time, the latter was an extraordinary arrangement necessitated by the fact that full provision for the counter-insurgency operations in question was not made either in the Vietnamese budget for 1962 or in the United States AID Program. It was planned that the continuation of these operations would be budgeted and programmed in a manner calculated to be responsive to the requirements of the present situation.
"Under the agreement just announced, the Government of Vietnam has undertaken to supplement U.S.-owned funds and counterpart, so as to make available up to $2.3 billion piastres during calendar year 1963. The United States is also providing some $55 million in the form of agricultural products, barbed wire, weapons for hamlet militia, cement, fertilizer and other commodities for the program.
"Counter-insurgency projects will continue to be initiated and developed by the Vietnamese authorities, and all of them will be fully coordinated between the Vietnamese and American central committees, as in the past. The execution of projects will also continue to be closely coordinated between the Vietnamese authorities and American experts in the provinces.
"During the course of the discussions, it was also reaffirmed that the scale of the U.S. advisory and support effort in Vietnam is directly related to security requirements and to the need to bring about throughout the country the economic and social improvements envisaged in the strategic hamlet program. Although at this time the present level of the advisory and support effort is still necessary, as the security situation improves and as the strategic hamlet programme progresses, it is expected that the need for foreign assistance, both in terms of material and personnel, will be progressively lightened." (American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pages 854-855)
128. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, May 17, 1963, 8:51 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 6 US. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Hilsman, cleared by Heavner and in draft in FE/P by Abram E. Manell. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.
1104. For Nolting from Hilsman. Gratified you able persuade Diem issue statement to effect present level our personnel SVN necessary to meet VC threat. Communique on CI funding agreement/2/ excellent device permit Diem disavow Nhu remarks indirectly and without loss of face.
/2/See Document 127.
As you know, this reaffirmation need for our assistance may not get extensive press play because it seems buried in communique on funding, and in any case slate would not really be wiped clean here. I hope you able find additional opportunities continue impress on Diem and Nhu fact that we having rough going defending our Viet-Nam program at best and this incident likely leave lasting bad impression in spite of communique. You may say we hope future statements will be more helpful to joint effort defeat VC.
Nhu rejoinder to Unna,/3/ which we have not yet seen, also may create further difficulties. Unna has reputation on Hill and elsewhere in government as accurate reporter no matter what his policy view. An insulting accusation against him could provoke even stronger resentments.
/3/In telegram 1043 from Saigon, May 20, Ambassador Nolting reported that Nhu claimed that he had been badly misquoted and generally misrepresented by Unna. Nolting added that he was convinced that the joint communique issued on May 17 was as far as Diem would go in the direction of a public repudiation of his brother Nhu's remarks. Nolting concluded that much of the unfortunate impact of the incident was due to The Washington Post's handling of the interview. (Department of State, Central Files, PPV 7 S VIET-US)
Doubt that there is anything you can do to change immediate situation, but repeat both my own fear that Nhu likely to repeat performance if not brought up sharply and above hope that you able find opportunity continue to impress consequences on both Diem and Nhu.
129. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, May 18, 1963, 4 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET Confidential; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC.
1038. CINCPAC for POLAD. References: Embtel 1005, Deptel 1066, Hue tels 5 and 6/2/ May 15, following preliminary discussions with Vice President Tho (Buddhist), delegation Buddhist leaders met with President Diem to present series of demands. Secretary Interior Luong and Secretary Civic Action Hieu also were present. Semi-official Vietnam Presse and local press May 17 gave lengthy report of press conference by Buddhist leaders giving their version of meeting with President. According Vietnam Presse, Buddhists demanded following:
/2/Telegrams 5 and 6 from Hue are printed as Documents 116 and 117. Regarding telegrams 1005 from Saigon, see footnote 2, Document 112. Telegram 1066 is Document 115.
a. Rescission of order prohibiting flying of Buddhist flags. Diem replied both Catholics and Buddhists guilty "disorderly use" of religious flags, which should be confined to temple grounds and subordinated to national flag. (Same issue VN Presse reports communique from Saigon Archbishop that Vatican flag to be flown only inside churches and noting that violations of rule have recently been seen.)
b. Give Buddhists rights with Catholics. Buddhists pointed out GVN Ordinance Number 10 does not cover Catholic organizations, which still enjoy privileges originally granted by French. Buddhist organizations on other hand considered foreign by Property Registration Office so that presidential permit required to allow them to buy property. Diem stated inconsistencies resulted from administrative errors and that he would have matter investigated.
c. Stop arbitrary arrests of and halt pressures on Buddhists in Hue. Diem replied that suspending practice of arrests could be taken advantage of by subversive elements. Discussion of facts which had transpired at Hue apparently did not bring agreement.
d. Grant Buddhists right to worship and propagate creed. Diem stated this right guaranteed by Constitution. Delegation referred to pressures and intimidation on Buddhists and Diem said these should be reported to authorities. Buddhists referred to case of Japanese film "Sakya" which deplored by Buddhists as distortion of Buddha's life; despite Buddhist protest, import license issued. President replied that import license not same as permission to exhibit. (Vietname Presse has reported separately that informed GVN sources say GVN will refuse film's admission to country.)
e. Pay compensation to Buddhist demonstrators killed at Hue. Diem promised financial aid to families, noting that Catholics and other non-Buddhists also among victims.
Two additional requests reportedly made: (1) Protection for delegation to visit families of deceased in Hue. Diem asked Luong and Hieu to look into matter. (2) Memorial for victims to be held in all pagodas throughout VN. Diem agreed if ceremonies inside pagodas and with small groups. Hieu suggested postponement till another holiday in four months time.
Buddhists indicated to Presse they had not yet decided what further action they should take in light meeting with President. Other reported Buddhist actions taken include widespread circulation of protest literature, including bulletins to newspapers (which have not of course published this material) and hunger strikes which started in Hue about May 12 and were perhaps intended secure release of arrested demonstrators. CAS also reports that Cao Dai and Hoa Hao leaders have come to Saigon to discuss concerted action with Buddhists. Under consideration in Buddhist circles are such steps as preparation of a white paper on GVN oppression to present International Buddhist Association, dissemination of films taken during the Hue demonstrations, setting of a national day of mourning for victims of Hue violence, as well as more active measures such as mass meetings and demonstrations. According to Lt. Col. Thuong, National Police Chief for Central VN Plains, a Buddhist plan exists to hold parades and demonstrations in every city and town in central VN on May 21. Such public gatherings would of course contain danger of possible violence. Thuong said police plan to attempt confine demonstrations to various pagoda grounds. Also recurrent rumors that Buddhist demonstration in Saigon planned for May 19 (now postponed to May 21, according to Minister of Interior).
Within Buddhist ranks it appears that religious leaders are tending to counsel moderation based on religious traditions of non-violence (consistent chief bonze Quang Tri's actions in controlling followers in Hue). On other hand certain lay leaders reportedly urging more activist line involving demonstrations etc. Also appears quite possible that individuals without genuine religious convictions may attempt exploit issue as means unify anti-regime elements.
For its part, GVN has moved quite slowly to placate Buddhist sentiment. Initial GVN reaction was to blame incident on VC agitation. This line has been adhered to perhaps for reasons of face, perhaps because of fear that GVN acceptance of responsibility for deaths would have even more damaging repercussions, or perhaps because GVN wished avoid publicity to extent possible. However, since allegation is widely disbelieved main result has been to damage GVN credibility and to further irritate Buddhists. Vietnam Presse account of Buddhist press conference suggests Buddhists themselves uncertain regarding their future course of action.
May 15 interview with President Diem may now indicate some willingness accommodate Buddhists. In discussion with Ambassador May 16 Secretary Thuan said Diem was contemplating issuing public declaration, an idea which Ambassador encouraged. Ambassador has also spoken to leading Catholic leaders (Papal Delegate and Rector University at Hue) urging a public statement. Thuan also said meeting with Buddhists went well but that President could not agree to demand that GVN accept responsibility for incident. There are other indications GVN trying to find ways to appease sentiment: reportedly Dang (concurrently Chief of Thua Thien Province and Mayor of Hue) to be fixed with responsibility for Hue riot and replaced along with other officials (although culprit in popular mind is Deputy Province Chief Sy). However, it not clear that if taken, these measures will placate Buddhists at this late date. Some high-level GVN officials take view GVN should have acknowledged fault immediately, dropped pressure on Buddhists, offered compensation to families of killed and injured, and tried officials responsible for violence.
At same time, GVN has acted hesitantly, apparently also unsure how to proceed. Buddhist meeting with Diem reported banning of film in response Buddhist demands, etc. suggest GVN understands need for placating Buddhists and erasing image religious discrimination. On other hand, GVN action to date does not yet appear satisfy Buddhists.
Comment: Apparent that original riot in Hue evolved from series of errors of omission and commission on both sides. Since then, GVN has been slow to make amends and accept responsibility for actions its own officials even where these actions clearly more extreme than situation demanded. GVN reluctance to date assume such responsibility and publicly address basic issue religious discrimination probably explained by difficulty in pinning down facts concerning causes and developments at Hue and assessing extent and seriousness religious cleavage and its future ramifications. GVN well aware seriousness of continued disaffection of any substantial part SVN's large Buddhist population and of necessity meeting their legitimate concerns. However, to date general GVN efforts appear directed toward damping down situation; positive actions have tended to be piecemeal and played in low key.
What appears needed at this point is a prompt clear-cut statement by GVN along following lines: 1) Affirming constitutional guarantees of religious equality, anti-discrimination; 2) Accepting GVN responsibility for actions its authorities during Hue riot; 3) Confirming GVN willingness to compensate families of Hue victims; and 4) Urging moderation on all sides while discussions continue./3/ This is substantially what Buddhists have demanded and President has thus far refused to grant. As alternative he might be willing appoint investigative commission headed by prominent Buddhist, and I plan to suggest this to him. While it obviously would have been better if some such action had been taken immediately following events in Hue, a forthright statement now would go far to redress the situation. Even given this, events of past week will leave substantial scar tissue among members of Buddhist faith. Without it there will be strong possibility of violence in connection planned demonstrations May 21.
/3/In telegram 1117 to Saigon, May 21, the Department of State responded: "Concur in your estimate of what GVN should do to dampen down crisis with Buddhist community. Believe you should strongly recommend to Diem various actions contained last para reftel ASAP. You may convey these points as view USG." (Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET)
130. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, May 21,1963-10:48 a.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, PR 11 Saigon. Confidential; Routine. Drafted by Heavner and cleared by Manell, Hilsman, Manning, and with Defense and USIA. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.
1111. Re press policy. Primary purpose this message is to recapitulate our basic approach and policy on press relations Viet-Nam.
In line with policy laid down at outset increase US assistance effort, first principle press relations Viet-Nam must continue be to provide fullest possible cooperation to press in order make available to newsmen complete picture complicated Viet-Nam situation and US role. US public must have accurate story our Viet-Nam program if we are to justify our large human and material investment there. Assistance to press thus commands very high priority.
We aware mission has made extraordinary efforts assist press and encourage GVN adopt liberal and generally helpful press policy. Believe however that wherever possible we should take reporters further into our confidence in order to be certain their background understanding of situation is more complete.
We also have in mind more frequent pre-operations briefings. While considerations of military security must naturally come first, believe it might be possible to do more such briefings without endangering war effort.
You should also continue your efforts persuade GVN cooperate more fully with US press. Primary responsibility for access to news is theirs and hence primary effort get Viet-Nam story fully told should be Vietnamese also.
We understand difficulties your situation and fully appreciate your efforts. Department also confident press accounts Viet-Nam situation are bound to reflect overall improvement situation as progress against VC becomes more evident. Foregoing intended only to reiterate standing policy and suggest what may be done to further implement that policy.
131. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, May 22, 1963, 2 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC.
1050. CINCPAC for POLAD. Deptel 1117./2/ During meeting with Diem May 18, he devoted about two hours to Buddhist questions. I sought to impress on him need for further GVN action and specifically suggested public declaration by him and/or appointment commission along lines Embtel 1038./3/ Diem was non-committal re commission and took position that declaration should be deferred until people had had time to reflect on various statements which have been made, particularly at press conference held by Buddhist leaders following meeting with him.
/2/See footnote 3, Document 129.
From Diem's extensive remarks to me, it was quite clear that he is convinced that (a) Hue incident was provoked by Buddhist leaders, (b) deaths were caused by grenade or grenades thrown by VC or other dissidents and not by GVN, and (c) certain Buddhist leaders are seeking to use Hue affair as means of enhancing their own positions within Buddhist movement. Finally, Diem appears to feel that whole affair is far less serious matter than we do. I said I hoped he had not underestimated seriousness of situation; that our information re facts and attitude of people was considerably different from his.
With regard to Buu Hoi's suggestion,/4/ there might be merit in creation of Cabinet-level post for religious affairs. I do not feel, however, that this is propitious moment to propose it, and I frankly think that at any time, proposal would have far better chance of acceptance if made by Vietnamese rather than American. We will work toward this at suitable opportunity.
/4/In telegram 1117 to Saigon, the Department of State also noted that, during his current visit to Washington, Ambassador Buu Hoi had expressed the idea that the Diem government should appoint a cabinet level official responsible for religious affairs. Buu Hoi suggested that Ambassador Nolting might take up the idea with Diem.
132. Minutes of a Meeting of the Special Group for Counterinsurgency/1/
Washington, May 23, 1963, 2 p.m.
/1/Source: Department of State, Special Group Counterinsurgency Files: Lot 68 D 451. Secret. Drafted by Dingeman who is not listed among the participants.
[Here follow items 1, "Special Report-Mr. Forrestal," and 2, "Follow-up Report on Indonesia from May 16 Meeting."]
3. Discussion with Colonel Serong on the Situation in Viet-Nam
Colonel Serong, Head of the Australian Training Mission to South Viet-Nam, stated that he believes we are winning the war in VietNam, current statistical indicators reflect favorable trends, and the most significant development is the increase in volume of spontaneous intelligence provided by the people. This is because the Government is now providing them with security from the Viet Cong.
He pointed out that there are problems with the press in Viet-Nam but they are reporting what they see or are being told. He believes this situation can be improved by working more closely with them in the field. Our U.S. military advisors are reflecting in their comments to the press their frustrations to get the Vietnamese to accept their advice. The big success story in Viet-Nam is the strategic hamlet program and this story has not yet been fully told. He stated that out of a total population in Viet-Nam of about 16 million some 8 million have been moved into the strategic hamlets, resulting in one of the biggest population moves in history.
Colonel Serong presented an oral and graphic description of the concept of the strategic hamlet program in the southern portion of Viet-Nam, stating that its objective is to establish strategic hamlets on a radial basis along communications routes with subsequent development of hamlets laterally to fill the gaps. The purpose is to separate the people from the insurgents.
The radial development of the hamlets is progressing well but the lateral program is falling behind. He observed that we may be overextending ourselves in the strategic hamlet program leaving a number of Viet Cong behind enabling them to penetrate areas already cleared. The strength of Vietnamese armed forces is being sapped to counter the threats of the Viet Cong in these pockets of resistance. He believes that unless we clear out these Viet Cong pockets we may provide the Viet Cong with an opportunity to concentrate against the over-extended Vietnamese armed forces.
Colonel Serong commented that the concept for the strategic hamlet program in the high plateau area envisions groups of mutually supporting areas cleared of the Viet Cong. The strategic hamlets in this area are designed to restrict and inhibit Viet Cong movement while those in the south are designed to destroy the Viet Cong.
Colonel Serong stated that he had discussed this problem with Diem and Diem recognizes the threat of the left-behind pockets of Viet Cong but he desires to extend the presence of his Government into outlying areas. Diem believes that to pursue this program effectively he may require additional resources from the U.S.
General Harkins, in discussing this matter with Colonel Serong, stated that he believed the Vietnamese units deployed to counter these left-behind Viet Cong are effectively utilized as they have been able to flush out and destroy the Viet Cong.
Colonel Serong concluded by stating that our goal should be to get a higher percentage of the population into areas free from Viet Cong attack, concentrate on economic programs in this area, and then extend these "white areas" throughout the country.
[Here follows item 4, "Progress Report on the Internal Defense Plan for Colombia."]
James W. Dingeman
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