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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of the Historian > Foreign Relations of the United States > Kennedy Administration > Volume III
Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, Volume III, Vietnam, January-August 1963
Released by the Office of the Historian

133. Letter From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Nolting) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)/1/

Saigon, May 23,1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 1-1 S VIET-US. Top Secret; Official-Informal. A note on the source text indicates that the contingency plan was "approved by White House" on June 6.

Dear Roger: I enclose a contingency plan drafted by Ben Wood for the U.S. role in the event of a change of government in Viet-Nam. I think it is about as good and sound guidance as one can develop on this subject, and I have concurred in it. We will keep it for reference and will update it at least annually. I hope you will clear it and suggest that it be submitted for White House approval. In the event of an emergency it would be invaluable for the Ambassador or the Charge to know that this plan had top level approval and could be used as the basis for action here.





Contingency Plan Prepared by the Director of the Vietnam Working Group (Wood)/2/

Saigon, undated.

/2/Top Secret.

Eventual Change of Government in Viet-Nam

I. Dissemination of this Memorandum

Knowledge of the existence of this memorandum which replaces earlier memoranda on the same subject/3/ is to be limited to the smallest possible number of people. Dissemination in Washington will be the sole responsibility of the Assistant Secretary for FE; in Saigon it will be the sole responsibility of the Ambassador.

/3/See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. I, Document 181.

II. Purposes of Memorandum

--To plan in advance the U.S. role when there is a change in the Government of Viet-Nam. Since this is inevitable, plans should be made and reviewed with the same care that a prudent man devotes to his will.

--To recognize, in the basic American tradition of supporting free governments, that the Vietnamese should, if possible, exercise their own choice without U.S. or any other outside intervention; that any U.S. interference runs a serious risk of branding a successor government as U.S. dominated. The U.S. role should, if possible, be limited to indicating discreetly, but clearly the conditions under which the U.S. would recognize and support a new government. Should further steps be required to prevent, for example, a dangerous interregnum, they must be exercised with sound knowledge, great firmness, good timing and the awareness that there will probably be only one chance to intervene effectively.

--Recognizing that the unexpected will occur, to avoid plans which are binding or too complicated.

--To insure that those directly responsible in Saigon and Washington understand and agree on such planning. These plans are designed for reference by the Ambassador, but are not binding on him.

--To insure that all official Americans in Saigon will keep the Ambassador fully informed in time of crisis, but will take no action to influence Vietnamese citizens unless specifically authorized by the Ambassador (see last paragraph Section III below).

--To authorize the Ambassador to act for the United States on his sole responsibility if in his judgment the situation requires him to do so. In a situation which is likely to be chaotic and dangerous prompt decisions and actions by the Ambassador must not be inhibited. He will be expected to seek instructions from Washington if, in his judgment, time permits. Instructions from Washington should lay down principles of policy which are considered necessary and useful for the Ambassador in dealing with the Vietnamese; they should not be detailed. While the Ambassador will be expected to keep Washington informed as fully and promptly as practicable, his responsibilities for deciding and acting have priority over his responsibility for reporting.

III. Continuing Embassy Responsibility

While Diem is in effective control, official U.S. personnel should under no circumstances discuss with any Vietnamese the position which the U.S. might take in the event of a government crisis.

The Embassy should keep current in the Ambassador's office a carefully selected compilation of biographic sketches of persons likely to play important roles in a change in government. In addition to relevant information on each person, it should attempt to keep current his relations with and attitudes towards Diem, Nhu and other important people. If possible there might be several pages showing groupings by family connections, place of origin (North, Center or South) and profession. Groupings by party are usually not permanent and are not worth listing.

Responsible persons in all agencies in Viet-Nam should be discreetly encouraged to submit such biographic information and evaluations of their Vietnamese colleagues as they may obtain without asking leading questions on the grounds that this is routine and important in all embassies. Many persons might find that they could spare an hour a month to write down informally their impressions of a Vietnamese friend. Officials should be encouraged to submit reports at the end of their tours. The powerful role of Vietnamese wives should not be ignored. It should be emphasized that information for these reports should not be obtained by asking too many leading questions likely to arouse suspicion.

The question of whether, how and by whom contacts should be maintained with persons opposed to or not supporting the Government deserves regular review. Questions to be considered would include: How much contact is necessary to provide essential intelligence in a crisis and mutual understanding after a new government is formed? How can such contacts be maintained without jeopardizing the person contacted; overtly, covertly or indirectly? As a minimum the Embassy Political Section should overtly maintain enough contacts so that it will be known that we exercise the right to see persons outside the circle of the GVN anointed.

The Embassy may wish to consider whether additional personnel are needed to collate this material and whether some background research can be done in Washington. Old reports should be reread to fill out the biographic sketches to be kept in the Ambassador's office (referred to at the beginning of this section).

On the basis of the findings thus collected this memorandum should be reviewed, revised and pouched to Washington for State Department clearance annually.

The Embassy may also wish to consider drafting an unclassified order which could be held in readiness for distribution to all official American personnel in the event of a government crisis. Such an order could emphasize the importance of avoiding any commitment which might possibly be construed as involving American prestige or support and recall that the Ambassador is the only person authorized to set forth American policy.

Consideration might also be given to setting forth procedures so that key American personnel could confidentially and quickly forward useful intelligence to their superiors in Saigon.

IV. Crisis Indicators

The Embassy may wish to decide on what symptoms should be particularly watched as most likely to indicate trouble for the Vietnamese body politic, e.g.: an abnormal increase in reliable coup rumors, particularly if they involve a rapprochement of leaders and forces opposed to the GVN; multiple VC victories or serious economic stagnation.

When such symptoms multiply, the question of how a change might occur should be watched almost continuously. With knowledge, care and luck, the U.S. might then be able to exert discreet and timely pressure in order to avoid violence and chaos. For example, if the GVN felt itself threatened, it might be persuaded to undertake reforms necessary to forestall a crisis. Likewise U.S. military and civilian advisers outside Saigon might be instructed to use all their influence to persuade Corps Commanders, Province Chiefs and others to remain at their jobs, holding off the V.C. and damping down local unrest. Extra efforts should be made to maintain the movement of necessary equipment to the provinces.

Instructions for American personnel suggested in Section III above and E and E plans should also be reviewed.

V. Types of Change

Foreseeable situations in which there might be a change in government. are listed in ascending order of likelihood that U.S. interests would be adversely affected. A possible U.S. role is suggested for each situation.

A. Diem retires before the end of his term and names Vice President as his constitutional successor.

(Unlikely but would be entirely acceptable. Presumably we would back Vice President Tho strongly, attempt to line up military support under officers sympathetic to Tho, e.g., his friend General Duong van Minh, and encourage orderly elections.)

B. Diem announces his intention of retiring and urges the election of his brother Nhu as his successor.

Given Diem's prestige, Nhu would probably be elected. (The U.S. would have to accept this with good grace despite a chorus of hostile comments from Congress, the press and third countries. Nhu's nationalistic xenophobia would require careful handling, but his anti-Communist record and his commitment to the strategic hamlet program would limit his freedom to maneuver too far out of line.)

C. Diem announces he will retire, but to preserve his own position while in office, does not name a successor.

(This would allow time for U.S. to work out its position. Presumably we would have to decide whether to support (a) a constitutional solution, the election of a non-family candidate with military backing or (b) a dynastic solution, the election of Nhu, on the grounds that his political machine was too strong to oppose unless it was clear that doing so would risk an interregnum favorable to the Communists.)

In the three situations outlined above there would be the question of Diem's presence after he left office. Probably in the long run it would be easier if he stayed in Viet-Nam where he could be consulted by the government. While this would cramp the new president's style, it might be less risky than if he left the country. In the latter situation he might subsequently decide that he was being forgotten and decide to try for a comeback.

D. Diem Killed by VC.

Diem's death at the hands of the VC would impede VC attempts to play a role in the formation of a new government and give more time for the formation of a government not under Communist influence. (Nhu would try to take power. This could be done without violating the constitution if Vice President Tho were "persuaded" to resign. President of the National Assembly Le could then take office to organize elections within two months-Article 34, Constitution of Viet-Nam.. Nhu would have very little popular support and if the military felt well enough organized to oppose Nhu's political machine, they would probably do so. The Ambassador would have to decide quickly whether to stand aside while Nhu makes his bid or whether to try and persuade Vice President Tho to carry on as constitutional successor and to persuade the military, possibly through Tho's friend General Duong van Minh, to support him. Tho is not inspiring and has for some time been reluctant to play an active political role. However, he is one of the few Vietnamese politicians who can obtain sympathetic popular support, particularly in the important Delta area where he comes from. He is experienced. Both he and General Minh would have the advantage of having not been closely associated with Diem and Nhu. Tho, as Diem's constitutional successor, would be in the position to retain the services of most of the top men now in the government. He might also broaden the Cabinet by bringing in a few carefully picked new men. General Minh is respected by some of the more competent generals. He or another general might be able to persuade them to support Tho for the sake of constitutional continuity and in order to avoid upheavals favorable to the Communists. Nhu and his wife would be a threat to such moves unless the Vietnamese military acted promptly to remove them from the scene. In the interests of public order in Central Viet-Nam, it might be well if Ngo dinh Can would remain at least temporarily in charge at Hue. Since the U.S. within the next few years may well have to face the question of whether or not to support Nhu as a successor to Diem, it is important to evaluate whether Nhu's political apparatus would, in the event of Diem's death, hold together out of self-interest and support Nhu in a push for power. While Nhu is unpopular, he has built up an apparatus of people who owe their positions to him; but in Viet-Nam political loyalties are mercurial. The Embassy should continue to explore the question of whether Nhu's machine would hold together in Diem's absence.)

E. Diem dies naturally.

(This would present the same situation as described above, except that Diem would not have died a martyr to Communist violence. Thus it would be somewhat easier for the Communists to play a role. Conversely Nhu's chances would be somewhat reduced since he could not play on the theme that he was the best suited to carry on the crusade of his martyred brother. There would be less polarization and a somewhat greater danger of slack and drift into interregnum. The chances for a constitutional succession by the Vice President would be slightly increased, particularly if quietly and firmly supported by the U.S.)

F. Diem killed by non-VC opposition.

If the opposition were tightly organized and ruthlessly determined, and if other members of the family were also removed from the scene, the transfer of power might be so quick as to bridge a crisis. Certainly the failure of the attempted coup of November, 1960 showed prospective coup leaders the importance of determination.

However, based on past performance it is more likely that even if coup leaders went so far as to kill Diem, there would be dissension and confusion. The situation might hang fire dangerously while competing leaders sought U.S. support. This would be a situation where the American Ambassador might need to act rapidly without awaiting precise instructions from Washington. Here, too, it would be particularly important that the best possible dossier of biographic information be available to the Ambassador (Section III supra).

G. Diem's position weakened by physical incapacity or by an attempted coup, but he has not clearly relinquished power.

This would be analogous to the situation which existed during the attempted coup of November, 1960' or to President Wilson's last days. It would be very dangerous particularly if it dragged on and it became well known that neither Diem nor anyone else were effectively running the country. Diem would hang on as long as possible and would bitterly resent any U.S. moves which might be interpreted as favoring a successor. The U.S. would have to support him fully for a reasonable time if there appeared to be a reasonable chance that he could reestablish himself. If the Ambassador concluded that Diem was incapable of exercising power, he would then have to decide whether or not to discuss the question with Diem and if so whether to urge him to relinquish power to another group. Whether or not Diem were consulted, a decision to support another group would have to be quick, determined and irreversible.

VI. Possible Contenders and U.S. Interests and Roles

The main contenders would be dynastic (the President's family) and military (the best trained and organized group in Viet-Nam). A constitutional successor (Vice President Tho or an elected candidate) could only succeed with military support.

Minor contenders would be opposition politicians outside Viet-Nam (who have little support in Viet-Nam) and the shadowy and disorganized oppositionists who still exist in Viet-Nam.

Given the strength of the Communist threat to South Viet-Nam, it would be in the U.S. interest to support a government of persons who were quickly available (i.e., in Viet-Nam) and who were sufficiently experienced in the operation of the GVN to carry on without faltering dangerously (this would probably rule out oppositionists in Viet-Nam).

The dangers of a change of government in an underdeveloped country at war are tremendous. However, these dangers are somewhat mitigated by the fact that Vietnamese in positions of responsibility are committed to opposing the Communist takeover of Viet-Nam. This would be a unifying force.

Two other factors may be serving to gradually reduce the dangers:

1. The war in Viet-Nam is building a group of competent men (some ministers, generals and province chiefs) who are not afraid of responsibility.

2. Vietnamese leaders understand and agree on the general program which their country should follow in fighting the war and rallying the peasants.

Given these factors the most realistic choice would probably be between Nhu and Vice President Tho with military backing.

A dynastic succession to power by Nhu would be very unpopular in the United States and in third countries (it would be wise to assume that our support of Viet-Nam would be drastically weakened). Yet Nhu could only be removed by use of force. The United States should play no part in such a move as it would almost certainly become known to the grave detriment of our relations with any succeeding government. We would probably be wise to reserve our public position until it became clear whether Nhu's political machine was strong enough to put him in power despite his unpopularity. If he succeeded, we would have to recognize his government as exercising effective sovereignty. In the United States we would have to emphasize the continued importance of supporting the Vietnamese people in their struggle and seek to minimize any official comments for or against Nhu. This would be the most serious situation which could follow Diem's death.

Alternatively, if on Diem's death Nhu were removed even temporarily from the scene, the United States should then, and only then, move promptly to support the constitutional succession of the Vice President with backing of the armed forces. Unfortunately no preliminary contacts should be made (prior to Diem's death or withdrawal) since the persons involved would surely be compromised.

Further study should be given to persons who could widen and strengthen the existing and future governments. Particular attention should be focused on younger men (such as Tran van Dinh) and labor leaders.


134. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, May 23, 1963, 2 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15-S VIET Secret; Limited Distribution. Repeated to Bangkok, Vientiane, Phnom Penh, and CINCPAC.

1056. CINCPAC for POLAD. Before departure on home leave,/2/ would like to summarize briefly recent conversations with GVN officials, in addition to those with President Diem reported separately./3/

/2/ Ambassador Nolting left Vietnam on May 24. He returned to Vietnam on July 11, after a holiday and consultations in Washington.

/3/ An apparent reference to Document 131.

1. Counselor Ngo Dinh Nhu. Nhu was most forthcoming in his observations and assessment of situation here, with particular emphasis on role of U.S. advisors. He appreciates and regrets problems caused by recent published interview. In long discussion, I found nothing inconsistent with U.S. objectives in what he had to say. This was, in brief, that South Viet-Nam must continually strive for self-sufficiency in all fields if it is to endure as free nation. It cannot be expected that foreign assistance will continue in present dimensions for prolonged period, and it is up to Vietnamese people to make this unnecessary. While much remains to be done, a great deal has been accomplished under difficult circumstances, thanks in large part to American material assistance and advice. Said he hoped I realized that he is neither anti-American nor xenophobic. Said he realized that he is unpopular among many Vietnamese, because he is trying to get GVN to promote a genuine revolution among the people and this annoyed the stand-patters. Nhu gave many examples of what he called his "lectures" to Vietnamese officials, high and low, civilian and military.

These lectures, he insisted, were not aimed against American assistance or advice. On contrary, he said they were aimed at making Viet-Nam self-sufficient as rapidly as possible so as to ease the burden on her friends. Citing examples, he said when ARVN general recently complained about too much U.S. advice, he asked him how often he had visited ARVN training centers. When told never, he said that Generals Harkins and Timmes are in the field every week visiting training centers and other installations and when Vietnamese officers can do the same there will no longer be the need for American officers to fill the gaps. In another instance, he said he asked ARVN battalion commander how many times he had been visited by ARVN general during operations. When told never, Nhu asked about U.S. general officers and commander said latter had visited battalion several times during operations. Nhu said he then told ARVN general present that when Vietnamese generals could do the same they would be in better position to talk about no need for U.S. assistance. Talking about U.S. civil advisors, he said he had found their reports and advice to be direct, well-motivated and generally correct. On this score, he had one request to make, i.e., that our people be diagnosticians rather than physicians, meaning that they should size up a difficulty and report it to higher authority in Saigon rather than trying to fix it by end-running the Province Chief, which caused difficulties. He was explicit in promising prompt investigations through Ministerial Committee to remedy insofar as possible such situations. He agreed time not yet ripe for lessening U.S. advisor-support role, but said he would continue to work toward that end as desirable for both countries. Said he deplored being misunderstood, but had gotten used to it. I said that his views as expressed to me were entirely consistent with U.S. views and objectives, and I was reassured to have them. At same time, I hoped he would not ignore serious problems created for us by reports, such as the recent one, which was 180 degrees different from what he had just told me.

(Comment: Nhu was as usual somewhat subtle and difficult to understand, but apparently sincere and cordial throughout. He is, however, capable of reacting emotionally and I dare say he did so when confronted by Unna's questions.)

2. Vice President Tho. In an hour's discussion with Vice President Tho, I found him more bullish on situation here than I had ever seen him. This was tempered by worry about handling of Buddhist situation, by developments in Laos, and by present poor prospects of developing any regional ties. But he thought things were going well internally in struggle against VC, emphasizing particularly economic improvements especially in rural area. He was most outspoken in appreciation of U.S. support. As regards regionalism, I asked him whether he was interested in the Mekong River development plans, remarked that this seemed to me offer long range prospects of collaboration among SEA countries. He said he was interested in this planning, and felt that best way to make progress was to continue technical studies and planning, leaving political aspects aside until more propitious time. With regard to U.S. advisors, Tho said that it is true that the presence of U.S. advisors, especially civilian, in remote country areas caused the Vietnamese people to wonder who was running the government. While he entirely agreed that the benefits of U.S. advice should be continued until victory is assured, he suggested as a device an inspection system from several central locations rather than having Americans living constantly and conspicuously in small rural villages.

3. Foreign Minister Maul. In a briefer courtesy call, we discussed mainly the need to work more effectively on improvement of the image of the GVN to the outside world. Mau said what struck him as most ironic was the picture of President Diem as aloof from the people when in fact his main strength lies in the liking and respect of the peasantry. He said he (Mau) had many friends among the intellectuals in Saigon, but since most of these had been in one way or another deprived of some of their privileges and possessions by the government in its attempt to benefit the people, he thought they would be the very last to be won over. On the public image topic, I suggested two things: that the staff of the GVN Embassy in Washington be beefed up by several young officers who could help tell the story of Viet-Nam to American groups (he said he thought this was a good idea and would see what he could do about it); second, that resident U.S. and other foreign journalists be taken by Diem on some of his trips to the provinces, so that they could see and report on his touch with the people. Mau said he agreed and would do what he could, but added that Diem had "disappointments" in trying to do this in the past.

Re relations with Laos, Mau remarked that they were "improving" and business was being conducted almost normally, albeit with some ambiguity. He remarked that he had attended the Laotian National Day and offered a toast to the King as usual. I asked about the invitation to the Laotian King to visit Saigon. He repeated that Diem preferred to have this next year in view of the situation here, but was willing to have the visit this year if the King preferred, and the GVN representative in Vientiane had been so instructed. He said he was waiting to hear the King's preference before issuing a formal invitation.

On Cambodia, he said he saw no prospect of improvement so long as Sihanouk continued to "insult" Diem.

Re Thailand, Mau remarked that, despite the fact that Thailand had sent back to North Viet-Nam about 10,000 to 15,000 Vietnamese residents of Thailand. the number of those still remained about the same, 38,000. This he attributed to the fact that they were sent back to Thailand as a fifth column after indoctrination in North Viet-Nam. He went on to say that personally he would expect the pressure of Communist subversion to be stepped up in Thailand when, as he anticipated, the going for the VC becomes too hard and costly in SVN.



135. Letter From the Charge in Vietnam (Trueheart) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)/1/

Saigon, May 25, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET Top Secret; Official-Informal.

Dear Roger: Yesterday afternoon Mr. Ngo Dinh Nhu asked General Harkins, General Weede, John Richardson and me to call on him for a discussion of a highly sensitive matter. Thuan and General Khiem, Chief of the Joint General Staff, were also present.

Nhu stated that he wished to recount to us an intelligence report which he had just received, to reach a joint evaluation of the report, and to consider together what should be done about it. The report concerned a meeting held on May 19 (Ho Chi Minh's birthday) at the Mimot plantation in Cambodia, at which all the principal VC political and military leaders in South Viet-Nam had been present, as well as representatives from Hanoi. Nhu's informant had been one of the participants. (This is not the first time that Nhu has claimed to be in touch with a top VC leader. So far as I know, previous information from this or these informants has not turned out to be particularly significant. Richardson confirms this impression and suggests that Bill Colby may be able to provide further comment. In this case, at any rate, we have no confirmation whatsoever.)

Nhu said that at this meeting the VC leaders had been informed that the Communists had now assigned top priority to liquidating the Laotian problem. South Viet-Nam would for the time being have secondary priority. In accordance with this decision, a directive was issued at the meeting, with effect from May 20, that all VC "special forces" in South Viet-Nam should be withdrawn to southern Laos. (Neither we nor Nhu had ever heard of VC "special forces". He explained that, according to his informant, these were elite units, about six battalions in all, divided between the southern and central areas of SVN, a sort of hard hard-core authorized to operate throughout South Viet-Nam without prior permission from higher authority. The ordinary VC regular units had to get permission to operate outside of their assigned area.) In addition, it had been directed that the VC regular units in SVN should retire into their "maquis" (or Cambodia) and cease operations, dispersing if necessary to avoid contact with GVN forces. In short, the effect of the alleged directive would be to leave all the fighting in SVN to the regional or territorial VC forces.

Nhu said that the report, if true, indicated that it might be advisable to advance the date of the GVN general offensive (national campaign), to sweep up the regional VC, and to attempt to prevent the "special forces" from re-entering Viet-Nam. This conclusion was applauded by all present, with General Harkins in the lead.

The above is the guts of the report, but there were a number of intriguing details. For example, the head of the "special forces" is a General de Division by the name of Nghe who has a special flag, green with a golden eagle. Nghe will accompany his troops to southern Laos where he will be military adviser to a General de Brigade (sic) named Tran Son, who is in overall command of an international force in southern Laos. (Tran Son's standard is white with a gold star. He is not fully trusted by Hanoi and Nghe, a 200% communist, is supposed to keep him in line.) The international force led by Tran Son consists of contingents from North (two regiments) and South Viet-Nam, plus Cambodia, Thailand, Malaya, Burma, and Laos. Nhu's informant said the Cambodian contingent was of battalion strength, but he was unsure about the size of the other non-Vietnamese groups. At any rate, they were or are supposed to be in southern Laos right now.

Nhu was asked a number of questions about the report--among them why the DRV would pull six battalions out of South Viet-Nam and expose their territorial troops when presumably it would be far easier to supply an equivalent, or larger, number of elite forces from North Viet-Nam. Nhu agreed that this was a good question and said he could only speculate that the Communists might feel that international repercussions in the event of a Communist takeover of Laos would be less if, for example, prisoners of war said they came from South Viet-Nam rather than North Viet-Nam. Nhu, incidentally, said he was convinced that the Communists were on the point of a drive to take over Laos in toto. He repeated this several times. He also said that the Hanoi representatives at the aforementioned meeting had estimated that the GVN planned to inject a force--25,000 men--into southern Laos.

I don't know what to make of all this. Nhu never said that he accepted the report and frequently used such expressions as "if it is true". On the other hand, he obviously gave it some credence. (None of us here do, and General Harkins suggested at the meeting that the report could be a Communist ruse.) I am inclined to think, however, that the real object of the meeting was to convey to us, particularly to General Harkins, Nhu's readiness to see the National Campaign Plan go forward and even to advance the kick-off date. About a week ago, General Harkins sent President Diem a longish letter/2/ in which he detailed the steps which had been taken to bring the Vietnamese military and para-military forces to a state of readiness to push the National Campaign. He expressed confidence that the time had come to intensify operations further. He also mentioned, having in mind the Unna and Halberstam articles,/3/ that he understood that Nhu thought the time was not right and that he, Harkins, disagreed. President Diem was somewhat perturbed by the latter remark and, undoubtedly, Nhu heard of it. If my conjecture is right, yesterday's meeting was Nhu's Oriental way of setting the record straight.

/2/Document 123.

/3/Regarding the Unna article, see footnote 2, Document 122. The Halberstam article is apparently the one printed in The New York Times on May 14, which David Halberstam began with the statement: "President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother and political adviser, Ngo Dinh Nhu, have outlined a military philosophy that observers believe conflicts with the one espoused by American officials."

As for the conclusions of the group in Nhu's office, they were that, whether or not the report is true, the correct course of action is to continue to intensify operations against the VC. It was also concluded, at Nhu's suggestion, that there should be no special publicity to the effect that some new and grandiose campaign had been started. Finally, there was some discussion of the possibility of verifying the report, and Richardson suggested in this connection that it would be helpful if President Diem would authorize deeper cross-border intelligence operations, proposals for which are now before him.

One other point is worth mentioning. Nhu said that he regarded our meeting as sort of a test case. He had not previously informed the President (or anyone else) of this intelligence report. The normal practice would have been to tell the President and seek his instructions as to what to do. In this case, we were consulting together first with a view to making recommendations to the President at the same time the information was conveyed to him. Nhu said that if-the procedure worked well in this case, he thought it would be well to continue it. This seems to be a healthy sign, and we will encourage Nhu to continue this scheme. We have the impression that another object of the meeting, in Nhu's mind, was to show his willingness to work with us.

Finally, Nhu asked that we not report this matter, at least until he had a chance to inform the President. Hence the classification of this letter. General Harkins and John Richardson have seen it and have agreed to let this be the only report of the meeting. Would you, therefore, please pass the enclosed copies to Defense (DIA), JCS, and CIA. I am also sending a copy to Ed Martin for Admiral Felt. Perhaps you would also show it to Fritz when he eventually reaches Washington.

Best personal regards.

Sincerely yours



136. Memorandum From the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Felt) to the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins)/1/

CINCPAC 3010. Ser. 00523

Honolulu, May 27, 1963.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 334, MAC/V Files: FRC 69 A 702, 201-42.1 (63). Secret. Copies were also sent to COMUSARPAC, CINCPACFLT, CINCPACAF, JCS, CSA, CNO, CSAF, and DODPRO.

Civilian Irregular Defense Group Program in the Republic of Vietnam

1. Purpose. The purpose of this letter is to confirm agreements previously reached by providing a mission, tasks, and coordinating instructions for execution of U.S. Military responsibilities concerning the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) Program and certain CAS activities in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN).

2. Background. On 23 July 1962, SecDef announced that the DOD would assume responsibility for certain activities in the RVN which had been developed under CAS auspices with U.S. military support. The JCS accordingly directed that training, operational assistance and logistical support responsibility for the essentially overt military and paramilitary elements, which had been developed in the RVN under CAS sponsorship, be taken over by COMUSMACV. This directive has been complied with. COMUSMACV has assumed responsibility for the CIDG program in RVN (nicknamed Operation Switchback).

3. Policy.

a. The CIDG Program will be supported by the U.S. Armed Forces with due regard for certain sensitive matters involved including the basic CAS requirement to obtain covert intelligence. In handling political aspects, care will be taken to preserve the well-established U.S. relationships with GVN officials in Saigon and the provinces.

b. Upon agreement between CAS Saigon and COMUSMACV, additional elements of CAS activities in the RVN may be transferred to COMUSMACV with CINCPAC and Washington-level approval.

c. The CIDG Program will be undertaken in a spirit of mutual CAS-Defense cooperation and support. DOD funds, including special authorization to meet unusual requirements, will be made available for the CIDG Program upon submission of firm requirements. Whenever possible these requirements should be determined by COMUSMACV in coordination with the U.S. Ambassador, CAS Saigon, and the Government of Vietnam. Every effort should be made to integrate this program with existing programs supported by the joint efforts of all U.S. resources and those of the RVN. However the CIDG Program will be funded outside the Military Assistance Program in order that there will be no problem concerning transfer or withdrawal of any items required for it from the GVN and to assure flexibility of operations.

d. CIDG activities should be conducted and supported in such a manner that they are completely acceptable to the U.S. Ambassador and the GVN. In so doing, it should be made plain that although such activities have some hazard with respect to the loyalty of the nationals involved, this integration of all military and paramilitary activities into one coordinated effort should reduce the loyalty hazard, while increasing overall future effectiveness of the total RVN military capability and helping to integrate minority groups into the RVN.

4. Mission. The U.S. Armed Forces will assist RVN by providing training, advice, operational assistance, and logistical support to the CIDG and training assistance to certain CAS assets.

5. Concept. The basic U.S. objective in supporting the CIDG Program is to assist the RVN in developing a closely knit paramilitary capability by obtaining the support of certain ethnic groups whose loyalty is contested by the Viet Cong. The CIDG Program is an offensive against the Viet Cong designed to expand and recover both people and territory from VC domination, develop a sense of national loyalty among the participating ethnic groups, improve their morale and well being and by so doing counter communist insurgency. The CIDG personnel are recruited from, but not limited to, primitive tribes and minority groups in remote areas where there is little if any government presence or control and the sovereignty of the RVN is not fully recognized. They complement the operations of other RVN military and paramilitary forces under the National Campaign Plan by clearing, holding, and expanding specified area-development centers. U.S. personnel achieve the desired results in cooperation with GVN personnel by employing paramilitary, medical, economic, and psychological techniques in the process of motivating, arming, training, advising, supporting, and assisting these groups. When the GVN is able to assume full responsibility for the CIDG and success is assured, the U.S. personnel will be withdrawn. As the National Campaign progresses the CIDG are demobilized or absorbed into other paramilitary or military forces.

6. Tasks.

a. COMUSMACV will:

(1) Provide training, advisory, and logistical support to the RVN for the conduct of the CIDG Program.

(2) Provide training assistance to certain CAS-supported forces.

(3) Assist the GVN in psychological operations and civic action in support of the CIDG.

(4) Assist CAS to develop assets for execution of U.S. and SEATO war and contingency plans when so requested.

(5) Assist the GVN to provide for security of bases, supplies, and activities for the CIDG.

(6) Control initial issue and eventual recovery of weapons, munitions, and equipment from CIDG personnel as they are phased out and absorbed in other activities or demobilized in accordance with the National Campaign Plan.

(7) Pass responsibility for CIDG guidance and support to appropriate RVN commanders when GVN is capable of assuming effective control.

(8) Provide a monthly status report to CINCPAC and other appropriate commands to include organization, equipment, training, operations, and requirements of the CIDG Program.


Support COMUSMACV as directed and required for these operations.

c. Coordinating Instructions.

(1) The U.S. Armed Forces involved in the program will remain under U.S. military control but will be responsive to GVN and CAS requirements as directed by COMUSMACV.

(2) Phasing of the CIDG Program will be in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan South Vietnam (CPSVN).

(3) COMUSMACV will coordinate with the CAS Saigon on requirements for mutual support. CAS representation with GVN officials may be used.

(4) COMUSMACV is authorized to communicate directly with the GVN and CINCPAC Component Commanders with information copy to CINCPAC on matters concerning the CIDG Program.

7. Administration and Logistics.

a. The CIDG Program will be administered outside of the MAP, with special procedures as authorized by the Secretary of Defense through the Department of the Army.

b. CAS will continue to provide fiscal assistance to the Department of the Army during FY 63. Thereafter this assistance will continue until the DC)D has secured authority for special disbursements.

c. COMUSMACV will submit detailed budget estimates for FY 64 and subsequent years to CINCUSARPAC for processing through DA channels with two copies to CINCPAC. CINCUSARPAC will obtain CINCPAC approval prior to submission to DA.

d. CINCUSARPAC is responsible for providing personnel, units, funds, and logistical support for the CIDG Program.

e. COMUSMACV will refer to CINCPAC for approval GVN and CAS requests for support which have not had prior overall policy approve .

8. Report Symbol. CINCPAC Reports Control Symbol 3300095 is assigned to the reports required by this letter.

H. D. Felt


137. Telegram From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Nitze) to the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Felt)/1/

Washington, May 29, 1963, 1:52 p.m.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 69 A 3131, Viet 091.3 MAR Secret; Priority. Drafted on May 27 by Woods in the Planning Division of OASD/ISA/ODMA and cleared by Milton H. Thick, Director of the Division, and several Defense Department officials, including William Bundy, Krulak, and Kent. Repeated to COMUSMACV.

DEF 928638. Reference: (a) JCS 9820 DTG 091805Z May;/2/ (b) DEF 928115 DTG 160026Z May./3/

/2/See footnote 4, Document 111.

/3/Telegram DEF 928115 to CINCPAC, May 16, indicated that the programming level and source of funding for fiscal year 1964 for ammunition for the Republic of Vietnam would be included in a forthcoming general guidance. (Washington National Records Center, RG 319, U.S. Army Message Center Microfilm, Reel 11328)

Part I

1. Following guidance for preparation FY 64-69 MA Programs for Vietnam has been obtained from SecDef. It supplements and amplifies instructions in Part III of ref a.


a. The MAP dollar guideline including supply operations will be $180 million.

b. Of this amount approximately $35 million may be programmed for ammo. However, whatever ammo is required for successful prosecution of the counterinsurgency campaign will be provided. The source of funding for any ammo requirements over the program level of approximately $35 million will be determined as requirements are filled.

FY 65-69

a. Three alternative plans will be developed and compared in the detail described in para b, Part III, ref a. These three plans will be based on the following dollar levels:

1. $585 million (derived from CINCPAC 11 May submission)./4/
2. $450 million.
3. $365 million.

/4/Document 121.

 These dollar levels include supply operations costs.

2. The materiel of U.S. units in Vietnam that will be replaced by equivalent Vietnamese units will be made available to the Vietnamese through the MAP. Items will be delivered where is, as is. Thus, the pricing of such items will be at the minimum allowable as authorized by law and based upon the year in which turned over to the Vietnamese.

Part II

1. The following additional planning guidance is provided by the Director of Military Assistance:

a. In comparing Plans, indicate projects or items which would have to be deleted (and any substitute items added) to arrive at lower plan levels. Projects or items should be listed by year by priority.

b. Following FY 65-69 funding guidelines for these three plans are provided:

Plan ($ Mill)

FY 65























2. Secretary of Defense requirements for data on "supplementary assistance" must be derived from USAID/Vietnam.

3. Washington review will address many points on which estimates and opinions of USAID and Embassy will be of great interest and these agencies should be given maximum opportunity to participate in development of plans and to provide full comment on all aspects of same.

4. U.S. materiel being turned over in place to equivalent Vietnamese units must be charged to MAP. However, do not count MAP costs against country MAP program guidelines stated Part II, para 1-b above. Rather, submit as additional and separate requirement, including lists of subject equipment (all major items), and year in which turn-over will occur. ODMA will then establish MAP price in accordance with para I-2 above, and seek approval of additional MAP funding if required.

4. [sic] The revised FY 64 program in program data card detail together with abbreviated MAP Element Description (descriptive title and machine data less asset data) will be submitted to ODMA on 30 June 63.

6. Alternative $585-$450-$365 Plans for FY 65-69 will be submitted to ODMA no later than 1 Aug 63.


138. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, May 29, 1963, 7:07 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIEI Secret. Drafted by Wood. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.

1159. Embtels 1038 and 1050; Deptel 1117/2/ New York Times today reports Buddhists still very upset by Hue incident and failure GVN take meaningful steps toward religious equality. Story states Buddhists planning hunger strikes and four weeks of memorial services./3/

/2/Telegrams 1038 and 1050 from Saigon are printed as Documents 129 and 131. Telegram 1117 to Saigon is summarized in footnote 3 to telegram 1038.

/3/The article was written by David Halberstam, who quoted a Vietnamese Government source as saying that President Diem had told Buddhist leaders on May 15 that they were "damn fools" to ask for religious freedom when it was guaranteed by Vietnam's Constitution. (The New York Times, May 29, 1963, p. 5)

We have noted your recommendations and Diem's essentially negative response as contained reftels. In face continuing Buddhist agitation, however, believe Diem may after further reflection be willing shift his ground. Urge Embassy make continuing effort move him on this problem which could either become very serious for GVN or be susceptible considerable easing by greater show GVN good will.

You may wish again raise problem with Diem, in whatever terms you think best in order persuade him take further actions meet Buddhist demands. You might wish consider suggesting public reassurance by Diem that Constitutional provision (Article 17) for religious freedom will be enforced, especially with understanding Buddhists will have equal rights with Catholics to hold processions, display flags, etc, promise full investigation of Hue incident by special commission, release of any Buddhists held by Hue authorities, and offer continue discussions with Buddhist leaders. Doubt GVN can be persuaded now to admit responsibility for Hue incident, but investigation headed by prominent Buddhist could cover this problem.

Since drafting above have received Reuters ticker May 29 on GVN communique urging "Absolute Respect" for all religious groups. What is background?/4/

/4/See Document 139.



139. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, May 30, 1963, 4 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Confidential. Repeated to CINCPAC.

1076. CINCPAC for POLAD. On May 29 semi-official Vietnam Presse published text of GVN communique/2/ affirming freedom of religion in VN and reiterating that national flag must be given supremacy. Communique explains that regulations for display of national flag intended to emphasize it as symbol of national unity and not intended to be discriminatory toward any religion. Communique also asks that "international groups not having extended any support to our cause" not interfere in VN internal affairs. All GVN cadre instructed to conform to policy set forth.

/2/For text of this communique, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pp. 855-856.

Text of communique being pouched.

Comment: Communique may be public declaration suggested to President Diem by Ambassador Nolting (Embassy telegram 1050)/3/ issuance of which Diem had stated should be deferred until people had had time to reflect on various statements previously made.

/3/Document 131.



140. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, May 31, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC.

1083. CINCPAC for POLAD. Deptel 1159;/2/ 1162./3/ No further Buddhist demonstrations last evening or today. Bonzes continuing their fast in pagodas until 1400 tomorrow. Reports from Hue, Danang and My Tho indicate those cities quiet with no Buddhist manifestations.

/2/Document 138.

/3/In telegram 1162 to Saigon, May 30, the Department suggested that the Embassy should consider approaching the Papal Nuncio in Saigon to ask if he would discuss the Buddhist problem with Diem. (Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET)

In assessing general situation it quite clear that feeling continues run deep among Buddhists. Equally clear that problem facing GVN goes well beyond issues religious freedom and discrimination. These issues-though real enough-are now also being used as label and facade behind which other groups seek express opposition to Diem government and exploit situation for various aims. This greatly complicates problem of GVN--and our advice to them--since they must act on assumption they are dealing with political opposition. Problem is further compounded by fact that Buddhists have no recognized hierarchy with which government can deal and which can take position on behalf of movement. (Thus Thuan complained to me May 29 that Diem had spent some hours with group of Buddhist leaders only to be confronted later by other groups demanding to be heard and complaining first group not the "real" leaders.)

Given history of events it seems unlikely to us that GVN can back off its stand on responsibility for Hue incident. Psychological moment to do so has long passed in any event. Unhappily, it appears that it may also be too late for GVN concessions of other sorts to halt Buddhist agitation. For example, May 29 GVN communique which clearly reaffirmed religious freedom under Article 17 of Constitution and gave firm assurance against discrimination, appears to have had no effect on militants. Moreover, those seeking to use Buddhist agitation for their own purposes can be counted on to keep pot boiling if possible.

While both sides displaying restraint to date, prolongation of GVN-Buddhist confrontation contains real dangers:

a. For first time many civil servants faced with religious issue and forced to take a stand, which cannot help but affect their morale.

b. Military predominantly Buddhist and sharp cleavage in their ranks would of course be most serious for prosecution CI effort, and otherwise.

c. Actions to date by both sides during demonstrations have been restrained and orderly. However, if Buddhists become more militant in their demands and demonstrations continue over extended period, possibility of clashes with police, whether provoked or inadvertent, are distinct possibility. For example, it is quite unlikely that GVN yesterday would have permitted 500 bonzes to squat indefinitely in central Saigon, had they not decided to move out on their own. Although VC have not overtly exploited situation to date, they undoubtedly have contingency plans and capability to exploit any situation which gets out of hand.

I have sought appointment with Thuan today with view to getting GVN assessment of situation and sounding him out on future plans. I will also raise again possibility of President's naming commission to study Buddhist grievances. At this point, I believe it would be best--from standpoint GVN acceptance as well as effectiveness with Buddhists--if commission's mandate were quite broad and not linked specifically to Hue incident. What is needed, I think, is to get all aspects of problem off the streets and into the conference hall.

I also prefer if possible to work through Thuan on this one, rather than Diem. Latter became quite agitated during Ambassador's and my conversation with him May 18, and I sense this is a subject on which he is predisposed not to take U.S. advice. Thuan, on other hand, claims to be completely objective and asserts he is neither Catholic nor Buddhist. but Confucianist.

As for Papal Nuncio, both Ambassador and I have previously sought his good offices. He was not responsive but I will try again at first opportunity. Ambassador also spoke with Diem's confessor, who promised to do what he could. Difficulty with this approach is that, as explained above, we are no longer dealing with purely religious issue:



141. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 1, 1963, 1 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC.

1084. CINCPAC for POLAD. Reference: Embassy's telegram, 1083./2/ Saw Thuan this morning re Buddhist problem. His assessment of situation is generally same as reftel. He says GVN is convinced NFLSV and VC are exploiting situation. President's position is therefore very difficult. If he now makes concessions under pressure, it could simply whet appetites. Next demands, Thuan felt, could be of a sort designed to interfere with war effort, for example, a plea in name of peace that GVN treat with NFLSV.

/2/Document 140.

On other hand, Thuan is fully aware of dangers of inaction. Problem is to find a solution acceptable to President and to Buddhists. Thuan pointed out again that lack of Buddhist hierarchy and authoritative spokesman compounded problem.

Thuan said he did not know Diem's latest thinking but expected see him later today. I suggested possibility of high level commission, along lines reftel, and said that Vice President Tho might be good person to head it. Thuan was rather skeptical; he did not understand why a commission was any more likely to come up with a solution than the government. I said the idea was not so much to come up with an immediate solution as to establish a respectable forum in which Buddhists, whatever their standing, and others could be heard. Once tempers had cooled, the "solution" might be relatively simple. Thuan remained non-committal but I imagine that he will at least mention the idea to Diem. With regard to Tho, Thuan informed me that shortly after Hue incident Vice President had been asked by Ngo Trong Hieu to discuss problem with one of principal Saigon Buddhist leaders but latter had refused to call on him.

Thuan said Diem's immediate problem was whether to receive delegation of four Buddhist leaders from Hue. While he did not know what decision would be, he thought tentatively that it might be a good idea for Diem to offer to meet again with Buddhists if latter would first agree among themselves as to who would be empowered to speak for them. I said Buddhists might have some difficulty in meeting this condition, but I saw no harm in trying. President's expression of willingness to continue talking would, in any case, be good move.

I was mildly encouraged by this conversation, primarily because of indication that GVN is not apparently thinking of standing pat. Thuan promised let me know results his talk with President.

Separate report/3/ follows on demonstrations now in progress Hue and Danang.

/3/Document 142.

Saigon quiet.



142. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 1, 1963, 1 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET Confidential; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC.

1085. CINCPAC for POLAD. Reference: Embassy telegram 1083./2/ Consul Helble reports from Hue (1030 AM) that large crowds Buddhists gathering various places throughout city. One crowd converging on offices Province Chief and provincial delegate, where former has promised convey to Buddhists GVN reaction to Buddhist demands. Another crowd expected total about ten thousand beginning gather Tu Dam Pagoda. Hunger strike of bonzes scheduled end at 1400/3/ with no clear indication Buddhist plans for later today if dissatisfied with GVN response. Crowds very orderly up till now; however many unverified rumors that Buddhists will not remain passive throughout day.

/2/Document 140.

/3/Buddhist leaders in Hue were not mollified by the communique on religious freedom which was issued by the Diem government on May 29 and reaffirmed by the National Assembly on May 31. On May 30, the bonzes in Hue began a 48-hour hunger strike to emphasize Buddhist demands. The protest continued despite a government announcement on June 1 that the Province Chief, the Deputy Province Chief, and the Government Delegate for the Central Region of Vietnam were being replaced. All three had been involved in the May 8 incident in Hue.

Large number of police positioned in city and augmented by paratroopers and M-113 vehicles from Quang Tri. Total number police and troops in excess number involved May 8 incident.

Situation considered tense and could erupt in violence if sparked by either side. Chief bonze Tri Quang, among staunchest of militants, has reportedly stated earlier this week, that situation in his view beyond compromise and, in direct confrontation with GVN, Buddhists should seek help from any source, including VC.

Reports from Danang indicate that approximately 0800 parade of Buddhist about 60 bonzes and 12 Buddhist nuns proceeded to Mayor's office. They carried international Buddhist flag and did not carry Vietnamese flag.

They now standing and sitting across street from his office. Street cleared of all civilians by police and soldiers for 3 blocks. Crowd started to collect and reached total of approximately 2000 on fringe areas by 0900 and were dispersed shortly thereafter by newly arrived troops with steel helmets and sub-machine guns./4/

/4/At 5:30 p.m. on June 1, Helble reported to the Embassy in Saigon that the crowds in Hue had dispersed peacefully after being told by the bonzes to return to their homes. Helble noted that Buddhist plans called for a continuation of the hunger strike, but all the Buddhist tracts emphasized that only peaceful activities be employed until Buddhist demands were met. (Telegram 1089 from Saigon; Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET)

Situation in Saigon quiet.



143. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, June 1, 1963, 1:59 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Wood and cleared by Rice and Hilsman. Repeated to Bangkok and to CINCPAC for POLAD.

1168. Embtel 1085 [1084]./2/ Approve your careful and thoughtful handling this difficult and important matter in talks with Thuan. While recognizing Diem's sensitivity it is also true that it is difficult for US with its large stake in Viet-Nam to support GVN in face almost worldwide liberal criticism plus growing Buddhist criticism.

/2/Reference is apparently to telegram 1084 from Saigon, which reported Trueheart's conversation with Thuan on June 1 (see Document 141), rather than telegram 1085, Document 142.

Following thoughts may be helpful:

1. Diem or other GVN members should keep talking with Buddhists even if there is no one group of accredited leaders. Such talks should be reported in press (as done by VN press Embtel 1038)./3/ Would be useful if commission could be appointed, but meanwhile conversations should be kept open. Eventual appointment of a moderate lay Buddhist leader as Secretary of State Religious Affairs might be useful permanent channel. Buddhist demands and Diem's replies reported Embtel 1038 both seem reasonable. Given peaceful nature and divided leadership of Buddhists continued talks may serve calm immediate crisis and give time for longer range constructive action.

/3/Document 129.

2. Agree that unrest has political as well as religious motivation, but believe it would be unwise for GVN to make any further moves to place blame on Communists. Naming them would make them an officially recognized party to the dispute and downgrade genuine grievances Buddhists themselves have. Would seem best ignore Communists and deal as reasonably as possible with Buddhists.

3. Dept prepared appoint interagency committee under Heavner to prepare report for Embassy background on whatever information on Buddhism in Viet-Nam available here. Fear there is little but prepared move rapidly if requested by Embassy.

4. Believe it would be wise seek persuade GVN use only force necessary maintain order. Bringing in US supplied M-113's and other heavy equipment likely increase resentment Buddhists. Can this type equipment be kept in background? Local US advisers might follow up. Is it true that M-113's ran over bodies after May 8 incident Hue?/4/

/4/In telegram 1112 from Saigon, June 5, the Embassy responded that "there were no M-113's employed, only armed British and U.S. scout cars." It was impossible to tell, from an examination of the bodies, how they were killed. (Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET)



144. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 3, 1963, 6 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Confidential; Operational Immediate. Repeated to CINCPAC.

1093. CINCPAC for POLAD. US Consul Hue reports by phone this afternoon that around noon today crowd of approximately 500, primarily youths, gathered in front of Government Delegate's office. Said about 300 troops were in evidence, but no armor. Crowd shouted at troops and accusations of foul play were hurled back and forth. German doctor spoke to crowd through interpreter, said as Catholic he could not counsel Buddhists but suggested they should pray instead of using violence. Crowd appeared responsive to him. GVN loudspeaker car then asked people to disperse, stating GVN could not be held responsible if trouble started. Crowd shouted back that GVN wished to kill them. GVN official responded over loudspeaker by saying that VC were among them in the crowd and could start trouble. Crowd expressed disbelief at loudspeaker's statements.

Several GVN soldiers pointed weapons at crowd, then raised them above crowd. Latter shouted "stupid killers." Troops then leveled bayonets, donned gas masks and proceeded in direction of crowd. Some people ran, others stayed and prayed, tear gas was thrown by soldiers and more of crowd ran away. Crowd was driven back several hundred yards and a second tear gas barrage was laid down by troops. Crowd shouted curses at troops. At this point representative of Buddhist Association chairman arrived, said chairman wished people either to go home or to pagoda. Most headed toward pagoda. Some youths, apparently injured by tear gas, were taken to pagoda dispensary. German doctor produced medicine for their eyes.

Crowd was prevented from getting to pagoda by barbed wire barrier. Many of them, mostly Boy and Girl Scouts, sat down and prayed. At about 3 PM troops said that more tear gas would be thrown if crowd did not disperse within three minutes. Stone was thrown at soldier, who dropped his tear gas grenades to protect himself. At same moment order apparently given to troops to throw tear gas. Boy and Girl Scouts stayed put.

Consul Helble reports that more troops are being moved into area, equipped with masks. So far no firing has occurred, but crowd obviously disturbed.

Helbel also reports that Buddhist leader Tri Quang, who has been fasting since last Thursday, has been examined by German doctor and is reportedly in serious condition.



145. Current Intelligence Memorandum Prepared in the Office of Current Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency/1/

OCI No.1561/63

Washington, June 3, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 6/63. Confidential; No Foreign Dissem.

Buddhist Demonstrations in South Vietnam

1. The Diem government has shown increased concern over recurrent Buddhist demonstrations in various South Vietnamese cities, but still appears unwilling to take more than limited, piecemeal steps to ease the situation. The demonstrations, in support of specific Buddhist grievances, have so far been peaceful, but serious disorders or widespread public and military disaffection, could result if they continue for a prolonged period.

2. Buddhist hostility first erupted on 8 May over regulations governing the display of flags in public religious ceremonies in the city of Hue, where at least eight deaths occurred during efforts of security forces to disperse a crowd. The severity of the outburst suggests long-simmering resentment among Buddhists over the pro-Catholic orientation of the Diem family and administration.

3. Many Buddhists, as well as other religious groups, feel that special privileges and favoritism toward Catholics, stemming from French rule, have been perpetuated by the Diem family's partiality. The vast majority of South Vietnam's population of 14 million is nominally Buddhist, even though only a small proportion have been considered active practitioners and these are loosely organized into regional congregations under Buddhist clergy. There has been no formal suppression of religious freedom in South Vietnam, but the government has successfully curbed the political influence of some religious groups, particularly the minority sects.

4. In a meeting with Diem on 15 May, a group of Buddhist leaders presented specific demands including the right to display their religious flag publicly (Catholics have been permitted to display the papal flag), the right to worship and propagate their faith freely, equal status with Catholics, and an end to arrests and mistreatment. They also demanded that the government acknowledge responsibility for the deaths in Hue and compensate families of the victims.

5. Diem has made limited concessions to the Buddhists, but believes full acceptance of their demands to be politically impossible. Despite the weight of evidence indicating that government cannon-fire caused the deaths in Hue, Diem insists they were due to a Viet Cong terrorist grenade. He promised assistance to the families involved, and on 1 June replaced three officials deemed partially at fault for the Hue disturbances. Diem, however, remains reluctant even to appoint a committee to negotiate with the Buddhists.

6. Buddhist spokesmen say the demonstrations will continue until all of their demands are met. A number have been held with no interference by the government, but reports now indicate renewed scuffling occurred again in Hue on 3 June. Further mass gatherings and heightened security precautions are likely to increase the danger of spontaneous or deliberately provoked riots.

7. There have been scattered reports that some army commanders, whose troops are predominantly Buddhist, are strongly reluctant to move against demonstrators and that troops might disobey such orders if issued. There was evidence in Hue on 8 May that some army troops refused to take action in the disturbances.

8. Although there has been no information to substantiate Diem's apparent suspicion that Buddhist extremists are acting on behalf of the Viet Cong, there have been reports that some Buddhist leaders hope the demonstrations will lead to the overthrow of the Diem government. The leading Buddhist priest in Hue is reported to have said that the time for reconciliation has passed and that Viet Cong support will be sought, if necessary, to achieve Buddhist demands.

9. Communist propaganda has highlighted the Buddhist grievances, and at least one document now being clandestinely circulated may represent Viet Cong efforts to heighten tension. Various non-Communist opposition circles have also sought to publicize the affair to bring further discredit on Diem. A high official in the information service claims to be part of a group inside the government planning moves to seize control if violence should occur in Saigon. Some key military leaders are allegedly also alert to such opportunities.

10. Inept government handling has permitted a localized incident in Hue to grow into a potential political crisis. Unless Diem is able to reach a quick reconciliation with the Buddhists, the issue could have serious repercussions on governmental stability.


146. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 4, 1963, 4 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate. Repeated to CINCPAC.

1101. CINCPAC for POLAD. Following is text of joint situation report from Hue as of 2400 June 3 referred to in Embtel 1096:/2/

/2/Telegram 1096 from Saigon, June 4, 1 a.m., conveyed to the Department a message received from Consul Helble concerning the situation in Hue at 11 p.m. on June 3. Helble reported that the South Vietnamese Army had established martial law in Hue, and added that government officials continued to maintain that the Buddhist demonstrations were Communist-inspired. The Chief of Police for Central Vietnam told an American observer that the three leading bonzes in Hue were Viet Cong "without doubt". The Embassy noted that it was Helble's understanding that the local authorities had decided against further compromise with the Buddhists or the withdrawal of troops. (Ibid.)

Begin text:

Since noon June 3 Hue security forces have utilized tear gas and/or other irritant chemicals to disperse Buddhist demonstrators on six occasions.

After 1300 incident which reported previously,/3/ demonstrators departed area near Delegate's residence. At 1400 group again attempted approach Tu Dam Pagoda area and were repelled by ARVN using tear gas. At approximately 1500, groups of bicycle riding students were observed circuiting areas of approach to Tu Dam Pagoda. The majority of students were high school and college age group. Subjects circled area occasionally grouping at routes providing access to pagoda. Several times gas was utilized to control groups of mobs. Sound trucks were also ordered into action requesting demonstrating Buddhists return home attesting current situation Viet Cong motivated. These pleas were met with jeers from participants. No injuries were reported from dispersal actions up to this point.

/3/Helble's first report to the Department of State on the use of gas to disperse Buddhist demonstrators was sent in telegram 107 from Hue, June 3, 2 p.m., which noted that 67 youths had been hospitalized as a result of the use of tear gas, and that possibly 1 to 3 deaths had occurred as a result of the gas. (Ibid.)

It is suspected Buddhists were further motivated by circulation rumor announcing death chief bonze Tri Quang. Local sources claim bonze now serious physical condition but not dead.

Worst conflict occurred 1830 when security forces attempted disperse crowd estimated at 1500. Soldiers were observed dispersing crowd colored glass vial contained liquid over demonstrators (as received). Observers indicated troops pouring liquid on heads of praying Buddhists. Rumors of deaths resulting from this encounter range to three. However no deaths confirmed to date but 67 casualties actually observed Hue hospital in various states of distress. Reliable source denies any fatalities.

MAAG reports June 1 demonstration approximately 2000 in Quang Tri City dispersed peacefully at Province Chief's office. However, June 2 demonstration Quang Tri of several hundred at pagoda broken up with tear gas. All roads into city barricaded as of June 3.

Events of June 3 in Hue have resulted in highly charged atmosphere and volatile situation needing only small spark such as failing Tri Quang health or incident involving demonstrator and soldier to set off serious clash.

June 4. As projected Contel 183,/4/ youths now in vanguard of demonstrations, with two hundred now fasting Tu Dam. Population furious at regime and ARVN, hurling vulgarities at latter all day June 3 but particularly incensed following day's final incident which caused casualties. Buddhists have made clear change of 3 officials still leaves original 5 demands unanswered. Source close to Ngo Dinh Can indicates VN has set course on no compromise and prepared for military showdown. Conflict involving violence appears almost inevitable June 4 unless one side or other capitulates.

/4/Not found.

No evidence yet of any anti-American tenor these demonstrations, but given enough mob violence we are watching this aspect closely.

End Text.



147. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, June 3, 1963-5:30 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET Secret; Operational Immediate. Drafted by Heavner and cleared by Wood and Hilsman. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.

1171. Appreciate very much prompt and full reports contained urtels 1095, 1096./2/

/2/In telegram 1095 from Saigon, June 3, midnight, the Embassy reported that Hue was effectively under martial law and tense but quiet. The Embassy noted that Consul Helble had reported that South Vietnamese troops had used tear gas and "possibly another type of gas which caused skin blisters" to disperse Buddhist demonstrators. (Ibid.) Regarding telegram 1096 from Saigon, see footnote 2, Document 146.

Due very serious situation in Hue and grave implications for future, appears here that immediate GVN action required. We would recommend that GVN make quick conciliatory announcement, in Hue, of willingness discuss Buddhist grievances. Ideally announcement should be from Diem and include statement he coming to Hue himself to talk with Buddhist leaders. At same time troops should be withdrawn and replaced with police or gendarmerie. Seems most unlikely that chief bonzes are in fact VC and we even more doubtful Quyen (who well known here) could be VC. GVN must avoid mistake of identifying demonstrators and their leaders as automatically VC, both in public and in private, if it is to succeed in efforts control situation.

Feeling here is that GVN must be made to realize extent not only their own stake in amiable settlement with Buddhists but U.S. stake as well and that frequent approaches best way accomplish this. Realize, however, only man on ground can keep up with fast moving situation and you therefore authorized at your discretion seek immediate interview with Diem or with Thuan as you think best to urge necessary measures in strongest terms.



148. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/

Washington, June 3, 1963, 6:46 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27-10 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Heavner and cleared by Wood and Hilsman. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.

1173. We very concerned by report blister gas may have been used./2/ As you of course aware adverse effects such action could hardly be exaggerated. Request you ascertain whether poison gas in fact employed and if so, under what circumstances. If blister gas used, would appear imperative for GVN to promptly disassociate itself from such action and announce intention investigate and punish those responsible.

/2/See footnote 2, Document 147.

If report true, believe we must also consider best means indicating our thorough disapproval while at same time not appearing to withdraw general support from GVN. If GVN takes proper action problem need not arise. However, if use of poison gas not disavowed by GVN we may have to warn GVN we likely be faced with necessity making some fairly strong public statement of disapproval.

Would appreciate your views this problem.



149. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 4, 1963, 2 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC. Passed to the White House, OSD, Army, Navy, Air Force, and CIA.

1100. CINCPAC for POLAD. Reference: Embassy's telegram 1097./2/ I saw Thuan for about 15 minutes at 11:45, after which he returned immediately to President's office.

/2/In telegram 1097 from Saigon, June 4, noon, Trueheart reported that he was seeking an urgent appointment with Thuan to make the points outlined in telegrams 1171 and 1173 to Saigon (Documents 147 and 148). He noted that the gas used by government forces in Hue had not yet been identified, but he added that Helble had observed blistering on victims who appeared to be having respiratory difficulties. (Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET)

In response my opening question re GVN plans for dealing with Hue situation, Thuan said that he could tell me in strict confidence that at Cabinet meeting yesterday afternoon presided over by Vice President Tho it had been decided to recommend to President that government reestablish direct contact with Buddhists. President had approved and arrangements were being made for Counselor Nhu to meet with Buddhist leaders from Hue. He repeated that this decision was still highly confidential but GVN wanted Washington to know of it.

I said that I was glad to hear that contact would be reestablished, as this was obviously essential to any solution. It seemed to us equally essential, however, that population in Hue know of what government was doing and that in our view more dramatic action was called for. Thuan urged me to put forward any suggestions--indeed his attitude throughout was most receptive, and worried--and I said that it seemed to us situation called for prompt and public announcement by President Diem of his readiness to discuss Buddhist grievances further and that effectiveness such move would be greatly heightened if President himself would go to Hue for these discussions and to assess situation generally. I said that I was aware of risks in this course. GVN concession in replacing principal officials in Hue June 1 apparently had no effect unless it was to stimulate further agitation. Nevertheless it seemed to me risk had to be taken. I told Thuan that I was diffident about making specific suggestions about handling of internal Vietnamese problems. Nevertheless U.S. was involved in this matter and I felt bound to tell him that in my opinion, U.S. support for GVN could not be maintained in face of bloody repressive action at Hue.

I said that problem was made vastly more difficult by reports of use of blister gas yesterday. Thuan seemed incredulous. (Believe this was first he had heard of this; I even had to explain what a blister is.) I said I was by no means sure what sort of agent was used but that evidence was compelling that something other than tear gas had been employed in last incident about 1800. Helble had himself observed blistering on victims and fact that some appeared be having respiratory difficulties. These were symptoms which could be associated with mustard gas. I added that it was probably well known in Hue that 60odd people had been hospitalized last night and that press reports could be expected at any time. It was therefore vital, I thought, for GVN to investigate matter immediately. If there were any suggestion of poisonous agent being used, GVN should at once disclaim responsibility and proceed to punish individuals who were responsible. I made it quite clear that unless effective measures of this sort were taken, U.S. would probably be forced to condemn action publicly.

In course of discussion, I pointed out that one of the unfortunate, and explosive, aspects of Hue situation was open hostility of population toward troops. I asked whether it would not be possible to remove them and leave security controls to police. Thuan said that it was his understanding that police in Hue (unlike those in Saigon) had not been trained in riot control techniques and the like. I also told Thuan that in my view, GVN made solution of problem more difficult by fixing blame for agitation on VC. There were many factors involved in situation. He indicated assent.

Thuan said he would report our conversation to the President immediately and would let me know the result. I said that I would like if at all possible to have a reaction during the course of the day and particularly on the matter of employment of blister gas. I stressed that Washington was very concerned over developments. Thuan indicated that he would do his best.



150. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 4, 1963, 5 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC.

1102. CINCPAC for POLAD. Vietnamese JGS this morning requested through JAOC channels urgent airlift for approximately 350 military police from Vung Tau (Cap St. Jacques) to Hue. Purpose of lift connected with civil disturbances at Hue. Under normal conditions USAF C-123's would be used in this operation. Have discussed the matter with MACV. JGS is being informed by MACV that use of US airplanes will not be permitted.

I shall also inform Thuan at first opportunity explaining that US cannot become involved, even indirectly, in GVN control measures at Hue. I hope that GVN will interpret this decision as reinforcing our recommendations for different approach to this problem. FYI. Use of USAF planes would of course be immediately apparent to Hue population. Even if troops lifted only as far as Danang, which alternate possibility, word would presumably quickly reach Hue. This action will not prevent movement of MP's, as GVN can provide its own lift./2/

/2/In telegram MAC J-3 5116 from COMUSMACV to CINCPAC, June 6, General Harkins reported to Admiral Felt that the following message concerning the Buddhist crisis had been dispatched on June 5 to all MAC/V subordinate units and corps advisers:

"1. All US military personnel must recognize that subject problems are internal to Vietnam and section [action?] to solve them is the unilateral responsibility of the GVN. Members of this command will stand aloof from the controversy and will take no position nor action to aid or [abet?] either protagonist. Advisors will not accompany any units assigned an operational role against demonstrators or rioters. Any request by RVNAF authorities for US equipment or other support, which clearly or presumptively will be used in countermeasures against Buddhist groups, will be forwarded to this headquarters for decision.

"2. At such time as it appears that the VC become identified with the controversy, the foregoing instructions will be reviewed." (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 6/63)



151. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 4, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC. A note on another copy of this telegram indicates that the President was briefed on its contents. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 6/63)

1104. CINCPAC for POLAD. Embtel 1100./2/ Thuan asked me to come to his house at 3 PM to inform me of following decisions taken at just-concluded meeting with President:

/2/Document 149.

1. Re alleged blister gas, Thuan said authorities in Hue certain that tear gas only employed but thought it possible that individuals very close to exploding canister might have received skin burns. In any event, investigative commission had been appointed and had already left for Hue by air. Commission headed by General Don, head of ARVN, and includes Surgeon General and Chief of Ordnance Lt. Col. Liem of Thuan's office. GVN does not plan to announce appointment this commission unless and until there is some public charge that agents other than tear gas employed./3/

/3/On June 6, the Embassy reported in telegram 1118 from Saigon that General Don's commission had determined that the gas involved was a tear gas dispensed in glass ampoules as a liquid which became a gas on being released. The tear gas used was taken from old stocks left behind by the French. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27-10 S VIET) On June 18, U.S. Army chemists at the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland confirmed, from samples supplied, that the gas used was a tear gas of the type used by the French during World War 1. (Telegram 182130Z from CG USA Edgewood Arsenal to the Department of State, June 18; ibid.)

2. President has appointed commission to study and find solution to over-all Buddhist problem. Commission headed by Vice President Tho with Thuan and Minister of Interior Luong as members. Appointment of commission has already been publicly announced and first. meeting will be held this afternoon. In addition GVN already has "unofficial emissaries" in contact with Buddhist leaders and meeting of Nhu with leaders from Hue will proceed.

3. Mayor of Tourane (Danang), whom Thuan described as politically inept, has been replaced by Col. Chau, presently Province Chief in Kien Hoa. Chau is outstanding Province Chief, a Buddhist from Central Vietnam, who has demonstrated excellent political touch in Kien Hoa.

4. Authorities in Hue have been instructed to use "peaceful action" in dealing with crowds.

5. Thuan said that the President had taken no decision on whether to visit Hue himself but had at least not ruled it out.

Above strikes me as somewhat more than a half a loaf and action satisfyingly swift. I expressed appreciation to Thuan on both counts. He expressed hope that we would be reassured and asked that we now give Vice President's commission a chance to see what it could do about finding a solution.

I recommend that we do so./4/

/4/In telegram 1176 to Saigon, June 4, 3:22 p.m., the Department responded as follows: "Agree on holding off further demarches for next 24 hours. Can barbed wire be removed from in front of the pagodas?" (Ibid., SOC 14-1 S VIET) The Embassy replied, in telegram 1109 from Saigon, June 5, that there was no barbed wire in front of the pagodas in Hue. There were barbed wire barriers on the streets leading to the pagodas, but they were used only to control rather than to block traffic. (Ibid.)



152. Letter From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Murrow) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)/1/

Washington, June 4, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, INF-Information Activities (Gen). Secret.

Dear Roger: Your suggestion that USIA undertake certain propaganda activities indicating that Communist North Viet-Nam is falling increasingly under Communist Chinese influence/2/ is and has been under serious consideration for some time. As you know, my people have been talking with representatives of the Working Group/Viet-Nam about this project for several months. In January there was an exchange of memoranda between Bill Jorden and Burnett Anderson, our Deputy Assistant Director (Policy and Plans) on this subject./3/

/2/See Document 108.

/3/A January 22 memorandum from Jorden to Anderson is in Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, INF-Information Activities (Gen).

I agree that the best way to handle this would be "by highlighting every visit or program between North Viet-Nam and Communist China and by frequently citing the innumerable instances in Vietnamese history when the Chinese have sought to or have actuallyr gained control of Viet-Nam." We believe, however, that this will be a difficult thing to handle and should, if attempted, remain under constant and careful review. It should be done principally through editorial selection and emphasis in news output. As Burnett Anderson stated in his memo to Bill Jorden of January 25,/4/ the best way for USIA to plug this line aside from appropriate handling of spot news would be to prepare and place in some South Vietnamese publication an article or series of articles on the background of Sino-Vietnamese relations-articles which could be picked up and replayed by VOA with proper attribution to Vietnamese sources. It must be recognized that the only way USIA can reach audiences in North Viet-Nam is by radio, and we must constantly keep in mind that anything which VOA broadcasts in the Vietnamese language can be heard by listeners in both North and South Viet-Nam.

/4/ Not found.

Our VOA Vietnamese specialists have pointed out that there are possible pitfalls in such an operation. In emphasizing that VOA Vietnamese broadcasts are heard in both North and South, they point out that emphasis on DRV-Chicom partnership may only serve to increase the dimensions of the threat that looms from the North. Since one of our propaganda objectives in South Viet-Nam has been to dispel the illusion that the Viet Cong are "ten feet tall," unless very carefully handled the addition of the Chinese factor into the equation in propaganda output might prove counter-productive. Even the traditional ethnic enmity between the two races and the Vietnamese fear of the Chinese may be overshadowed by the elements of sheer power and geographic propinquity involved.

It should perhaps be further pointed out that with over one million Chinese residents in South Viet-Nam who will also hear these broadcasts,- we must exercise caution in emphasizing any traditional enmity between the two races per se, but rather concentrate on the present Chinese Communist regime.

VOA also raises the question: Even if we succeed in tarring Ho Chi Minh with the brush of Chicom satellitism, can we persuade the people of North Viet-Nam that they have any realistic alternative to coming to terms with the Chicoms while they still have a chance? After all, they say, Communist China is doing pretty well in its contest with the Soviets, and its victory over India proved that it's also doing pretty well with its "adventurist" foreign policy.

In setting forth the foregoing caveats, I do not mean to imply that the project should not be undertaken; I only wish to emphasize that it is a difficult and delicate undertaking which must be carefully planned and constantly reviewed.

As a matter of information policy, we can begin immediately, in VOA news output, to lay a heavier emphasis upon all evidences of DRV-Chicom collaboration and less emphasis upon DRV-Soviet contacts. Further projects, such as placement of materials in Vietnamese publications and subsequent replay on the Vietnamese service of VOA naturally take considerably longer.

If you agree that even despite the aforementioned possible pitfalls, we should begin using VOA for this purpose, please let me know./5/

/5/An undated copy of a letter from Hilsman to Murrow, drafted by Wood on July 9, with a marginal notation to indicate that the original was sent to Murrow, reads in part: "l agree that the program should be undertaken with all the care and caveats which your letter so clearly sets forth". (Department of state, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, INF-Information Activities (Gen))

Incidentally, we have within the past few months begun to devote considerably more attention to conditions in North Viet-Nam in our VOA broadcasts.

With regard to your request for information on VOA and South Vietnamese capacity to broadcast into North Viet-Nam, VOA states that the Voice of America short-wave signal in North Viet-Nam is 100 per cent receivable in terms of programs and 90 per cent in terms of frequencies. There is no jamming. There are no frequencies rated as unsatisfactory. The medium wave broadcasts relayed from our transmitters in the Philippines are rated 100 per cent receivable in all respects.

The GVN broadcast capabilities to North Viet-Nam are as follows:

Radio Hue: Medium wave 20 KW, 670 KC, primary radius 48 miles, secondary radius 100 miles; short wave, 20 KW, 9670 KC, operates daily beamed to North Viet-Nam.

Saigon medium wave 50 KW, 870 KC, primary radius 106 miles secondary radius 200 miles plus, short wave 40 KW, 7245 KC. There is no information available here on Republic of Viet-Nam's broadcast reception in North Viet-Nam.




153. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 5, 1963, 1 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Top Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution.

1107. For Hilsman from Trueheart. Embtel 1104./2/ Thuan called me before breakfast this morning and asked me to come to his house at 8 AM. He said that since seeing me yesterday afternoon he had been involved continuously in a series of separate talks with President, Nhu and Hue Bonze Thich Thien Minh, whom he described as Deputy to Bonze Tri Quang with full power to negotiate with government. He wanted to inform me of these talks, which he believed held out real hope of prompt solution of problem, but he asked that I keep this information for time being strictly to myself in U.S. Mission and that I request Department to limit dissemination of information to greatest possible degree.

/2/Document 151.

Thuan said that in his talks with Minh tentative agreement had been reached on five Buddhist demands. If after seeing President again this morning Thuan was able to assure Minh that there was "good chance" of GVN endorsement of Minh-Thuan agreement, a sort of truce would be put into effect immediately.

This truce would involve Buddhist undertaking to cease all demonstrations and agitation, while GVN would remove not only troops but all uniformed personnel from vicinity of pagodas. In addition there would be a stand-fast on propaganda. Buddhists would stop passing out tracts and GVN would cease radio and press propaganda, e.g., "spontaneous" declarations of support for GVN from obscure Buddhist groups in provinces. Thuan said that Minh had to return to Hue today, as his "delegation of powers expired today". Although Thuan did not say so, this suggests that negotiations took place in framework of Buddhist ultimatum of some sort. Substance of agreement as described by Thuan is as follows:

1. Flags. Buddhists recognize the superiority of national flag and agree to display it outside pagodas on official, non-religious holidays. On religious holidays national flag and religious flag wil1 be displayed outside pagodas; any number of religious flags may be displayed inside.

2. Decree Law No. 10. GVN disclaims responsibility for this law which was promulgated under Bao Dai and suggests that Buddhists "through normal channels" ask National Assembly to amend it. Under questioning, Thuan admitted that what this really meant was that GVN would see to it that National Assembly passed a new law. (This may be a crucial concession because, according to some reports, Law No. 10 is grievance to which Buddhist leadership attaches most importance. New law would presumably put Buddhists on absolutely equal footing with Catholics in terms of ownership of property, etc.)

3. Right to worship and propagate creed. Buddhists accept that this is guaranteed by Constitution and government to undertake corrective action promptly if Buddhists will specify where Constitution not being respected.

4. Stop arbitrary arrests of Buddhists in Hue. GVN denies that there have been such arrests but undertakes to investigate any specific case cited by Buddhists.

5. Compensation for families of May 8 victims. This is not actually a question of compensation but of GVN acceptance of responsibility and/or punishment of guilty officials. Thuan said that payments of 10,000 plasters had already been made and GVN perfectly prepared to pay more but this had been ex gratia payment involving no acceptance of GVN responsibility. Thuan said that he and Minh had agreed that May 8 meeting had been unauthorized and also that some officials had misused their powers. GVN promised an investigation.

Thuan said that he was very hopeful that President would accept above and that truce would go into effect promptly. Pending action to implement agreement.

Thuan was vague about just how agreement would be implemented. In particular, it was not clear whether it would be a behind the-scenes or a publicly announced agreement. (On form, GVN would prefer the former.) Thuan did say that agreement would have to be put before Vice President's new commission which would then recommend its formal acceptance by President. Commission, incidentally, did not in fact meet yesterday, owing to fact that Thuan (and Luong) fully occupied in backstage negotiations with Buddhists.

In response to my question, Thuan said that he had no doubt about Minh's authority to speak for Buddhists in center and he was sure that anything acceptable to Buddhists in center would also be accepted in south-this notwithstanding his previous complaint about lack of Buddhist hierarchy.

Since reported agreement is not very different from what GVN has probably been prepared to accept all along, I am inclined to think that Thuan may not have fully disclosed GVN concessions. For example, I had to draw out of him the fact that GVN undertook to support change in law by National Assembly. I would not be surprised if there were other hidden features, such as government undertaking to wink at more extensive use of Buddhist flags than indicated above or to punish or remove specific officials guilty of abuses.

I am keeping my fingers crossed on all of this but meanwhile request that Thuan's confidence be respected.



154. Editorial Note

The ANZUS Council met in Wellington, New Zealand, on June 5 and 6, 1963. Australia was represented by Sir Garfield Barwick, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Attorney General, New Zealand by Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, who was also Minister of External Affairs, and the United States by Under Secretary of State W. Averell Harriman.

During the opening session of the Council meeting on June 5, Harriman stated that any additional assistance which Australia and New Zealand could provide in Vietnam would be of great political value as demonstrating multilateral support for the Republic of Vietnam. He noted that Diem had requested liaison pilots. Prime Minister Holyoake offered to provide such assistance, with the understanding that the New Zealand pilots would have a liaison but not a combat role in Vietnam. (Telegram 470 from Wellington, June 6; Department of State, Central Files, DEF 4 ANZUS)

The ANZUS Ministers devoted two paragraphs of the final communique issued on June 6 to the problems posed by the conflict in Vietnam.

For text of the final communique, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pages 734-736.


155. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, June 6, 1963, 1 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Top Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution.

1114. For Hilsman from Trueheart. Embassy telegram 1107./2/ Thuan reports another full day on Buddhist problem yesterday and most encouraging progress. GVN commission (Vice President, Thuan and Luong) met from 4 to 10 pm with Buddhist leaders Thich Thien Minh (reftel) and Thich Thien Hoa (representing southern Buddhists). Entire ground had to be gone over again but result, Thuan said, was "precisely" same as Minh-Thuan agreement previously arrived at (reftel). Hence GVN representatives and Buddhist representatives have now officially reached full agreement on referendum. Thuan has assurance that President will ratify it and is also confident that Buddhists will. Minh left for Hue this morning, accompanied by Thuan's "emissary," and is expected to return in two or three days for final conclusion of agreement. At that point, full content of agreement will be published and Buddhist leaders will be received by President. Thuan said that Thich Tinh Khiet, octogenarian chief bonze now fasting in Hue, will also come to Saigon for final act. Thuan told me in great confidence that his "emissary", who is sort of lay bonze--he lives the life of a bonze but does it at home--will live for the next few days with Minh and Khiet in pagoda at Hue to make sure that extremists do not upset agreement.

/2/Document 153.

Meanwhile, truce as described reftel is to go into effect immediately. In this connection, Thuan said that in addition to removing uniformed men from vicinity of pagodas, he had this morning directed military authorities in I Corps area to avoid demonstrations of force as much as possible.

Also joint communique on yesterday's GVN-Buddhist meeting was issued this morning. Full text follows./3/ Operative portion states that exchange of views took place from 1600 to 2200 on the "desiderata of the faithful Buddhists enunciated by the General Association of Buddhists of Viet-Nam. The meeting took place in an atmosphere marked by cordiality and understanding". Minh is described in communique as Vice President of Buddhist Association of Central Region and member of Committee of General Association of Buddhists of Viet-Nam charged with affairs of Buddhist students and youth.

/3/Telegram 1115 from Saigon, June 6. (Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET)

Finally, President Diem is today delivering radio message./4/ I do not yet have text but gist, according to Thuan, is that President has up to now left Hue affair to local authorities. Mistakes have been committed on both sides. President is concerned, asks for calm and time for him to settle problem.

/4/The text of this address was transmitted to the Department in telegram 1125 from Saigon, June 7. (Ibid.)

I told Thuan that this was very gratifying and that I was sure that Washington was most appreciative of role he personally has played in it.

Thuan asked that we continue to hold closely details of agreement and means by which it was reached.




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