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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


286. Message From the Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge)/1/

Washington, August 25, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 8/24/ 63-8/31/63, State Cables. Top Secret. Apparently sent via CIA channels to Saigon. The message is unsigned, and there is no time of transmission or receipt on the source text.

Re CAS Saigon 0292./2/

/2/See footnote 2, Document 285.

1. Agree to modification proposed.

2. Re CAS Saigon 0291/3/ reporting approach by General Khanh. Our impression is that Khanh one of best of Generals, both courageous and sophisticated. His analysis seems to confirm other evidence indicating need for speed in making US position clear to Generals. Hope review E and E plans can be accomplished quickly.

/3/Document 284.

3. Re Deptel 244./4/ Press already aware general picture from own sources, e.g. NY Times today says "reports from Saigon indicate top Vietnamese Generals did approve plans for martial law, but not for raids on Buddhist pagodas, shooting and widespread arrests carried out by the special forces under Mr. Nhu's control." Will therefore proceed background press along lines Deptel 244 this afternoon and VOA will broadcast Monday morning Saigon time.

/4/See footnote 7, Document 281.

4. Re CAS Saigon 0293./5/ Suggest Ambassador decide best means getting word to Generals.

/5/Not found.


287. Voice of America Broadcast/1/

Saigon, August 26, 1963.

/1/Source: Library of Congress, Harriman Papers, Vietnam Policy. A note on the source text indicates that this was a copy of "VOA 2-One Thirty AM Breakfast Show." Apparently this is the text of the relevant portion of a prerecording of the 8 a.m. broadcast in Saigon on August 26. In To Move a Nation, p. 489, Hilsman explained that the broadcaster did not check the broadcast against the press guidance (telegram 244 to Saigon; see footnote 7, Document 281), and therefore made the "flat statement" in the last paragraph that the United States might reduce its aid to Vietnam.

In South Vietnam, the new American Ambassador, Henry Cabot Lodge, meets President Ngo Dinh Diem today to deliver a special message from President Kennedy.

The meeting comes immediately after Vietnam police arrested a reported one thousand students demonstrating against the government.

In Washington, officials said it was Vietnam's secret police--not the Army--which made the raids against Buddhist pagodas last week. Thousands of Buddhists were reported arrested, and at least four killed.

American officials said that based on latest reports from Vietnam, the army agreed to the plan to put the nation under military law-but it did not know about the police plans to attack the Buddhists. These Washington officials say the raids were made by police under the control of President Diem's brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu. They say America may cut its aid to Vietnam if President Diem does not get rid of the, police officials responsible.


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

Saigon, August 26, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 5 VIET-US. Top Secret; Eyes Only; Operational Immediate. Sent via CIA channels as CAS 0329 from Saigon. The Department of State passed the message to the White House and to the Office of the Secretary of Defense exclusive for McNamara, Gilpatric, Taylor, and Krulak. There is no time of transmission on the source text, but it was received at the Department of State at 3:11 p.m. The source text is not signed.

To State attention Governor Harriman. Do not question good intentions animating decision directing VOA broadcast 8:00 A.M., August 26./2/ But Department should know this action has complicated our already difficult problem as follow:

/2/Document 287. On August 28 the CIA distributed TDCS 3/557,818, which stated that, "by 28 August 1963 Ngo Dinh Nhu had interpreted the 26 August Voice of America broadcast and other U.S. actions since the arrival of Ambassador Lodge as clear indications that the U.S. Government desires Nhu's removal from any position of influence in the government." The report also stated that Nhu did not think these actions necessarily meant that the U.S. Government desired the departure of Diem from power. Nhu reportedly ordered the arrest of civilian oppositionists. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 8/24/63-8/31/63, CIA cables)

1. It has eliminated the possibility of the generals effort achieving surprise. This is definitely not practical politics even though I still hope. that the Generals will succeed. Purpose of my message of yesterday (CAS Saigon 0292)/3/ was to make clear our view that in the interest of achieving Washington objective and at same time of minimizing loss of life (including American life), we should not tip off Nhu on our decision.

/3/See footnote 2, Document 285.

2. The statement that I am "under instructions" to say certain things to Diem is not true. And even if it were true, the VOA would not be the vehicle through which I get such instructions. Also if it were true, the instructions would be fallacious since nothing is accomplished with any man by making him lose face. If our objective is to be achieved at all, it must be achieved by the Vietnamese themselves and must look natural. The US must not appear publicly in the matter, thus giving the "kiss of death" to its friends.

3. Believe Department's earlier telegram/4/ giving me charge of tactics is sound and should be adhered to. Obviously the VOA statement cuts right across tactics I had planned.

/4/Apparent reference to telegram 244 to Saigon, August 24; see footnote 7, Document 281.

4. Possibility inherent in [that?] VOA broadcast will tend to increase chance of bloodshed should there be a violent reaction to what is building up. This is a time which calls for action and very few words.

5. If VOA causes failure of our plan the effect in Congress will certainly be unfortunate.

Would appreciate your comment./5/

/5/In telegram 248 to Saigon, August 26, drafted by Rusk, the Department replied: "Deeply regret VOA broadcasts which complicate your situation. This resulted from failure of machinery here over weekend to carry our policy instructions which would have prevented these broadcasts. Dept and VOA will do utmost to avoid any comment not coordinated with you. VOA will broadcast only hard news for the next few days as part of its general news coverage but will refrain from relaying press speculations as they did on this occasion. We are all deeply aware of delicacy and danger of situation in Saigon and are determined to prevent actions or statements here would catch you by surprise or make your formidable task more difficult. Again my regrets." (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 8/24/63-8/31/63, State Cables)


289. Memorandum for the Record/1/

Washington, August 26,1963, noon.

/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Vietnam, chap. XXIII. Top Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Krulak. The meeting was held at the White House. A memorandum of conversation of this meeting by Hilsman is in the Kennedy Library, Hilsman Papers, Countries, Vietnam, White House Meetings, State Memcons.


1. Present, in addition to the President, were:

Secretary Rusk
Secretary McNamara
General Taylor
Mr. Ball
Govemor Harriman
Mr. Gilpatric
General Carter
Mr. Helms
Mr. Hilsman
Mr. Bundy
Mr. Forrestal
Major General Krulak

2. Mr. Hilsman summarized the current situation concerning the execution of the plan outlined in State Cable 243,/2/ to include the visits contemplated with Generals Khiem and Khanh.

/2/Document 281.

3. The President asked if we are adequately prepared for protecting and/or evacuating U.S. citizens in Vietnam. He was shown the' summary of military preparations to back up the Embassy program and was told that we have a battalion landing team at sea, 24 hours distant from Saigon now.

4. The President observed that Mr. Halberstam of the New York Times is actually running a political campaign; that he is wholly unobjective, reminiscent of Mr. Matthews in the Castro days. He stated that it was essential that we not permit Halberstam unduly to influence our actions./3/ Mr. Hilsman assured the President that this was not the case.

/3/In Hilsman's record of the meeting he paraphrased the President as follows: "Halberstam was a 28-year old kid and he [the President] wanted assurances we were not giving him serious consideration in our decision."

5. Governor Harriman interjected the opinion that in this case we have acted at the first opportunity; that at an earlier moment we could not have accurately located the sources of strength and support./4/

/4/In Hilsman's record of the meeting he reported Harriman's observations as follows:
"Governor Harriman pointed out that the decision was taken at the earliest possible moment that it could have been; that Saturday [August 24] was the first day that we knew the situation and that no such decision could ever have been taken unless the people of Viet-Nam had themselves fumed against the government; i.e., the act of beating up the Pagodas swung people against the regime and that we had made our decision at the earliest possible moment after that act."

6. The President observed/5/ that Diem and his brother, however repugnant in some respects, have done a great deal along the lines that we desire and, when we move to eliminate this government, it should not be a result of New York Times pressure.

/5/Hilsman's record of the President's observations at this point reads: "The President asked a number of questions about the personalities and the relationships between Khiem, Khanh, Minh, Nhu, General Don and so forth. The relative strength of the various forces in Saigon was also discussed-the impression being left that Colonel Tung's forces were the only military now present in Saigon with the exception of some Marine battalions which might in fact be loyal to Nhu."

7. General Taylor observed that there are many military difficulties involved in the execution of the plan embodied in the 243 cable; that the Vietnamese military is split three ways; that Diem is truly the focus and that we should put our first effort on him.

8. Secretary Ball raised the question of whether Diem knows the extent to which his brother is undermining him, offering as an example the thousands of his personal pictures which have been printed and displayed.

9. The President recalled that about six weeks ago Nhu had a meeting with the Generals/6/ and raised the question of whether he is trying to take over himself. Hilsman responded that Nhu is riding the fence. He continued on the Nhu subject by stating that Admiral Felt had called him, referred to various cables involved in the situation, and expressed concern as to what would happen unless the Nhus were removed. Hilsman quoted him as saying that unless the Nhus were eliminated the middle level enlisted men would soon lose their interest in fighting. Felt believed that the Generals could handle the situation but that we will have to make known our willingness to support them. Hilsman said that subsequent to this call Felt called him again and counselled against delay. He reiterated, following a query from General Taylor, that Admiral Felt had called him./7/

/6/See Document 220.

/7/In Hilsman's record, he observed: "Maxwell Taylor was visibly upset that Felt had called Hilsman and I am sure Felt will hear about it." In JCS telegram 2219, August 26, Taylor queried Felt if Hilsman's account of these telephone conversations was accurate. (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Vietnam, chap. XXIII) In CINCPAC telegram 262317, August 27, Felt responded that he made two calls to Hilsman on August 24. In the first he recommended U.S. support for a move by the Generals against Nhu; in the second Felt stated he did not counsel against delay, but merely asked to be included as an information recipient of appropriate telegrams on this question. (Ibid., T-172-69) In JCS telegram 2253, August 27, Taylor on behalf of the Joint Chiefs reprimanded Felt for expressing his views on a substantive issue outside of proper channels. (Ibid.)

10. The President asked General Taylor, in light of his experience in the Pentagon, what chance a plan such as outlined in State Cable 243 would have of succeeding. General Taylor replied that in Washington we would not turn over the problem of choosing a head of state to the military.

11. Mr. Hilsman then raised the question of whether it would be wise to have a public or a classified statement concerning the curtailment of travel. The President approved a classified approach to the problem, following Hilsman's advice that a public statement might in some way tip our hand.

12. The President asked what the Voice of America is saying on the subject, to which Mr. Hilsman replied that they were guilty of an error today when they speculated on our use of aid cuts as a sanction against the Vietnamese. He stated that this was contrary to explicit instructions that Voice of America should not become involved in speculation.

13. Mr. Rusk asked when Ambassador Lodge plans to have a business session with Diem. Hilsman had no knowledge of any planned meeting.

14. Mr. McNamara stated that a study of the problem raised these questions in his mind:

a. Exactly what Generals are we speaking of when we address the, subject of a "general officers group"?

To this Hilsman replied that while we have contacted only three (Khiem, Khanh and Minh) there are others, although these three declined to name their colleagues. Mr. McNamara then expressed the view that we should query Saigon as to exactly who the loyal Generals are.

b. His second question was: what exactly do we mean in State Cable 243 by the term "direct support"?

Hilsman replied that this meant finding ways to support the Vietnamese military logistically, not using Saigon as a port of entry.

Mr. Rusk asked me if I was familiar with the geography of the area, to which I replied in the affirmative. He then asked if I believed it would be practical to provide logistical support to the military forces directly, without the use of Saigon as a logistic base. I stated that it would be extremely difficult, involving major changes in our system and equipment and would require considerable time to develop a completely new arrangement. General Taylor stated that, in any case, this idea had not been examined by the military and that he would estimate it to be a very difficult project.

Mr. McNamara concluded the discussion on this question by stating that he believed we should query our representation in Saigon and find out more on their interpretation of what the "direct support" requirement embodies.

c. Mr. McNamara's third question was what Ambassador Lodge is to say to Diem. There never really was a response to this question.

The President commented that he did not believe that Diem would let his brother be ejected from the scene. Secretary Rusk demurred from this viewpoint stating that he was not at all sure this was the case, while Mr. Hilsman said that the Country Team believes that Diem and Nhu will rise or fall together.

15. Mr. McNamara then raised the question of who Ambassador Lodge believes could replace Diem, stating that if we stand by and let a weak man get in the Presidency we will ultimately suffer. In this regard the President asked if the Foreign Minister who recently resigned/8/ might be a good candidate, to which Hilsman replied in the negative--stating that it is his view that the Generals would probably support Big Minh.

/8/Vu Van Mau.

16. Secretary Rusk suggested that it might be possible to survive with Vice.President Tho at the head, supported by a strong military junta.

17. The President asked what would happen if we find we are faced with having to live with Diem and Nhu, to which Hilsman replied this would be horrible to contemplate because of Nhu's grave emotional instability.

18. Mr. Rusk then stated that, in the broad sense, it appears that unless a major change in GVN policy can be engineered, we must actually decide whether to move our resources out or to move our troops in.

19. The President asked if we are being blamed in Vietnam for the situation, to which Hilsman responded that we may be suffering slightly but that mostly the people seem to want to get rid of the Nhus, but clearly need U.S. support to do so. He stated that, on these terms, it is imperative that we act.

20. The President stated that there should be another meeting tomorrow to discuss the matter further. Mr. McNamara stated that, as a matter of first priority, we should procure biographical sketches of the key personalities involved, following which General Taylor suggested that we should talk to Ambassador Nolting. The President agreed and stated that Nolting should be brought to the meeting tomorrow, following which Mr. Hilsman commented that Nolting's view are colored, in that he is emotionally involved in the situation. Upon hearing this, the President observed, "Maybe properly."

21. The President then stated that the matters discussed in the room should be held very closely and that the need-to-know group should be kept in the minimum number.

V.H. Krulak
Major General, USMC


290. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency Station in Saigon to the Agency/1/

Saigon, August 26, 1963.

/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-172-69. Top Secret. Also printed in summary form in Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition, vol. 11, pp. 735-736.

[document number not declassified] Embassy requests pass appropriate State Dept officials. Ref: DIR 63869./2/

/2/A note on the source text summarizes this message as "Hqs guidance regarding future course of action in directing the leadership in the days ahead." The message has not been found.

1. During meeting with General Harkins, Trueheart, Mecklin and COS on morning 26 Aug, Lodge made decision that American official hand should not show. Consequently, Harkins will take no initiative with Vietnamese Generals. Decision was in line with Harkins' own view.

2. We agreed also that Colonel Conein would proceed immediately to convey points listed below to General Tran Thien Khiem. There was agreement that [less than 1 line not declassified] would proceed immediately to Pleiku to advise General Nguyen Khanh. Conein and [less than 1 line not declassified] are already under way to carry out these contacts. Conein will tell General Khiem that [less than 1 line not declassified] is enroute to talk with General Khanh in Pleiku.

3. During subsequent discussion, Trueheart and COS agreed that Conein will ask Khiem's advice on Conein's talking with General Tran Van Don. If Khiem agrees, Conein will make immediate contact with Don. If Khiem demurs, Conein will return to obtain further instructions. At moment, our planning is to inform only these three Generals.

4. Conein and [less than 1 line not declassified] conveying to General Khiem and Khanh the following points.

a. Solicitation of further elaboration of action aspects of present thinking and planning. What should be done?

b. We in agreement Nhus must go.

c. Question of retaining Diem or not up to them.

d. Bonzes and other arrestees must be released immediately and five-point agreement of 16 June/3/ be fully carried out.

/3/See Document 178.

e. We will provide direct support during any interim period of breakdown central government mechanism.

f. We cannot be of any help during initial action of assuming power of the state. Entirely their own action, win or lose. Don't expect be bailed out.

g. If Nhus do not go and if Buddhists' situation is not redressed as indicated, we would find it impossible continue military and economic support.

h. It hoped bloodshed can be avoided or reduced to absolute minimum.

i. It hoped that during process and after, developments conducted in such manner as to retain and increase the necessary relations between Vietnamese and Americans which will allow for progress of country and successful prosecution of the war.


291. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency Station in Saigon to the Agency/1/

Saigon, August 26, 1963.

/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-172-69. Top Secret. There is no telegram number indicated on the source text.

1. Colonel Conein spoke with General Tran Thien Khiem approximately 1245 hours local and reviewed points contained [document number not declassified] (IN 06507)./2/

/2/Document 290.

2. General Khiem replied as follows:

a. Generals were in accord with points expressed. Pleased to know US position.

b. These points should not be raised with General Tran Van Don at this time since Nhu has certain officers on General Don's staff and might become aware of this from them.

c. Colonel Conein should stand by for later pickup by jeep by an officer sent by General Khiem. This jeep will take Colonel Conein to immediate future meeting with General Duong Van Minh.

d. General Khiem concurred in contact with General Khanh by [less than 1 line not declassified] on these points and stated that he would inform General Khanh by secure means available to him that he is aware of [less than 1 line not declassified] mission and in agreement with it.


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

Saigon, August 26, 1963, 10 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL US-S VIET. Secret; Priority; Eyes Only; Limit Distribution. Repeated priority to CINCPAC. Received at 3:36 p.m. Passed by the Department of State to the White House.

340. CINCPAC for POLAD. Herewith report on my private talk with Diem which lasted from 5 to 7:10 pm.

He began by expressing particular appreciation for President Kennedy's personal letter introducing me which he said he had carefully read./2/ He was pleased to have someone like me as Ambassador who was out of American public life.

/2/Copies of this ceremonial letter, August 16, are ibid., Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 476 and Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 8/ 1/63-8/20/63. The signed original was given to Lodge on August 15 to take with him to Vietnam. At this meeting, Lodge presented his credentials.

I said that it had been a particular honor for me when the President had offered me the post of Ambassador to Vietnam and had thought I could be useful in it. I realized I knew little about Vietnam, but felt I knew something about the United States and also something about the United Nations and hoped I might advise him on American affairs and that he would listen to my advice whether or not he took it.

I said that the United States Government, as the term is used in foreign affairs, does not include Congress and that in the broad sense it is impossible to hook the United States of America because public opinion is essential to any long range policy and without the support of public opinion you can not get the support of Congress and without the support of Congress you can not get funds. It was interesting to me that people whom I had known all my life in politics thought that Madame Nhu was the Chief of State of Viet-Nam and that I had met several people in Massachusetts who had seen her picture on the covers of magazines and had read some of her statements about barbecuing the priests and total destruction of the Buddhists and that this had shocked public opinion. The idea that the government was persecuting the Buddhists was also shocking to American opinion which favors religious toleration. All these things were threatening American support of Viet-Nam.

Diem said that he had done his best to get Madame Nhu to keep quiet and that he had spoken to her several times. He said jokingly that he had even threatened to take a wife but that she said that she was a member of the Assembly and had a right to make speeches.

I told him that a dramatic gesture such as liberating the Buddhist prisoners would have a good effect on American opinion. He said he had liberated most of them and to prove in [the] point that Buddhists were small percentage of population gave me book which I am pouching entitled "Buddhism in Viet-Nam"/3/ published by the Xa Loi Pagoda in Saigon which states "under the General Buddhist Association's authority and general direction, are grouped, on the one hand, 3 sanghas numbering well over 3,000 monks and about 600 nuns, on the other hand, three communities of disciples which branch out their ramification as far as to remote hamlets. The figures of adherents to these three legally constituted lay associations and their affiliates reach about 1,000,000, to which it should be added an important number of non-associate disciples by as much as threefold."

/3/Not found.

The next two hours were spent by him in a remarkable discourse about his own family and extent to which Viet-Nam was an underdeveloped country. The serious lack of educated people, the difficulty which he had in finding people who could write a simple statement for him, how he had to write most of his own proclamations himself, how inferior persons held posts in universities who abused their trust by turning educational institutions into centers of unrest.

He then talked about the way in which a small Buddhist sect had been taken over by agitators and how plastic explosives had been distributed one of which could knock down a whole house. He said that delinquents were used to agitate the people in the market place and that often the police had no choice but to fire in self defense. He said that there was a well organized plan to create unrest around the country which would pull the troops out of the city, leaving the capital defenseless. It was under these circumstances that he had decreed martial law. In response to questions from me he said he did not know how long marital law would continue.

At the very end of the meeting, he said he hoped there would be discipline, particularly as regards the United States' activities in Saigon and that there would be an end to reports of diverse activities interfering in Vietnamese affairs by various United States agencies.

I said that I had just arrived and naturally could not know everything that was going on but would look into it.



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

Washington, August 26, 1963-8:18 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, INF 8 US. Top Secret; Operational Immediate. Drafted by Hilsman, cleared with Forrestal, and approved by Ball.

249. Eyes only for Ambassador. Following summarizes FYI highest level meeting noon Aug. 26./2/

/2/See Document 289.

After discussion E & E plans DOD was directed to consider prepositioning US forces in case they required in Viet-Nam. Circular message/3/ approved to discourage travel by private US citizens to Viet-Nam and to permit US official travel only as authorized by Department. No public announcement would be made at this time. Also decided to make Saigon's 327/4/ on GVN censorship available to editors in unclassified version not for publication.

/3/Circular telegram 370, August 26, not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, TRV 9)

/4/According to telegram 327, August 24, military censorship on all outgoing press copy, still pictures, and film was imposed by the Diem government a few hours after the raids on the Saigon pagodas. A censorship office was set up, but it operated sporadically. (Ibid., PPV 1-2 S VIET)

Agreed answers to three questions were urgently needed.

1. What exactly meant by "direct support to the military in an interim period if the central government is ineffective". This interpreted at meeting as possibility of supplying military leaders in the field with logistic support directly without going through central government. Urgent study will be made to see whether alternatives could be worked out to prevent heavy concentration through Saigon. (This being done by Joint Staff with immediate query to lIarkins on this point.)

2. What is the power status and interrelationship of generals? Which generals are involved with Minh, Khan, and Khiem? What are their plans?

3. Generals should be queried as to who their alternative leadership candidates would be.

A Who's Who of key personalities in present situation being urgently prepared here.

Another meeting will be held late afternoon August 27. Trust you will give us soonest and if possible in time for meeting your continuing assessment on number points 2 and 3 above.



294. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency Station in Saigon to the Agency/1/

Saigon, August 26, 1963.

/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-172-69. Top Secret. The source text is a copy sent by the CIA to the Joint Chiefs of Staff exclusive for Krulak who was to pass it exclusive to Lansdale. Copies were also sent to the White House for Forrestal and the Department of State for Hughes and Hilsman.

[document number and 1 sentence containing document number not declassified]

1. Following message received from CAS officer who now at Pleiku:

a. Khanh was not ready move now. Plan was to wait until Nhu moved in direction rapprochement with DRV then strike. This would give Generals some legal grounds for move.

b. Still hopes Nhu will provide pretext on which Generals can hang action. Quoting VOA broadcast said hope was we would cut aid and if Diem yields and fires Nhu then no need revolt. My impression he much prefers it that way. Wanted know if "secret police to be punished Der VOA includes Nhu." I replied Nhu must go. He nodded.

c. Talking to Khiem without his approval was wrong move but no damage. Khanh going Saigon for hour or so tonight.

d. We must not talk to Dinh. Also CAS officer be careful of tight surveillance.

e. Wants immediate reply to single request: will we guarantee safe haven and support to families in case Generals fail? Have no money stashed away.

f. Impression: Khanh caught off base by our timing does not quite know what to do.

g. Recommend phone Khiem number 30102 that I returning Saigon tonight, if you so instruct. We awaiting your instructions.

2. CAS officer being instructed return tomorrow after an additional meeting with Khanh or without, whichever seems useful. We not replying pare 1e pending discussion with Ambassador.


295. Telegram From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor) to the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins)/1/

Washington, August 26, 1963, 8:31 p.m.

/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-172-69. Top Secret; Operational Immediate. Repeated to CINCPAC for Felt. The source text is labeled as a draft, but has a date-time-group and JCS number written on it, indicating that it was sent.

JCS 3354-63. For General Harkins; info Admiral Felt; from General Taylor. State Cable 243 to Saigon/2/ and its implications have raised numerous military questions in minds of SecDef and JCS.

/2/Document 281.

Here are a few of the points which concern us, and on which we would like your observations prior to 271300Z:

(1) In the emerging situation, what is your assessment of danger to US personnel, military and civilian, and are arrangements for security or evacuation adequate? Specifically, SecDef noted that the Embassy relies on commercial air for evacuation, with military as back-up when it would seem more realistic to do the reverse, [less than 1 line not declassified].

(2) State 2-43 refers, in subparagraph (2), to the provision of "direct support." In a pure military sense this may have serious implications. 1iNthat does direct support mean to you, and how feasible would such support be under circumstances of non-cooperation on part of GVN?

(3) Who are the reliable GVN military personalities? How do you estimate they will align in terms of their loyalties, to Diem, to Nhu, the US and to each other?

(4) Whom, among the civilians and military, do you believe the military might support as a presidential successor?

We are keenly aware that this crisis could result in major requirements for US military assistance, and in the need for rapid decisions related thereto. For these reasons we would appreciate personal reports from you on matters related to the crisis; understanding always that you will keep Ambassador Lodge and Admiral Felt fully informed of what you are doing.


296. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President/1/

Washington, August 26, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Countries, Vietnam Security, 1963. Top Secret.


Lodge-Diem Conversation

Ambassador Lodge met with President Diem from 5 to 7 p.m. (Saigon time) today./2/ Lodge described the dangers to U.S. assistance to South Vietnam which would be incurred if U.S. public opinion turned against the GVN as a result of the Buddhist crisis. Diem replied by minimizing the importance of the organized Buddhists and the difficulties he had in running a country which had such a dearth of educated people.

/2/See Document 292.

General Khanh's Reaction

General Khanh is not ready to move immediately. CAS reports that he is looking for a pretext on which to hang action, such as an attempt by Nhu to negotiate with the North Vietnamese. CAS comments that Khanh was caught off base by the swiftness of our response and needs time to organize himself./3/

/3/See Document 294.

Voice of America Goof

VOA goofed badly in failing to follow instructions given them last night by State. In their Vietnamese broadcast they said that U.S. officials were considering cutting off aid to Vietnam. They added, as they had been instructed, that it appeared to us that the Vietnamese Army was not involved in police action against the pagodas.

Lodge wired back an angry telegram/4/ pointing out that this announcement could conceivably trigger a violent reaction by Nhu. State has told him of the mistake/5/ and this morning briefed the U.S. press to the effect that we were not considering cutting off aid to Vietnam. As might be expected, this attempt to correct the Voice of America broadcast itself is producing bad speculation in the wire services. Hilsman is taking steps to get control of all U.S. government output.

/4/Document 233.

/5/See footnote 5, Document 283.

Vietnamese Public Opinion of the United States

The attached cable (Saigon [document number not declassified])/6/ gives in a fair summary the answer to the question you raised this morning on what the Vietnamese think.

/6/This telegram, August 26, which was not attached, reads:

"Past few days we have been hearing increasing comments from Vietnamese from many walks of life criticizing US to effect that events of past few days would not have been possible without US equipment (not a little of which has familiar handclasp emblem), asking why US refrains from stopping [garble] and observing that only US can solve present difficulties. Strong implication in these comments (and frequently overtly stated) is that Diem government and family must go. Here again, those who openly state Diem and family must go invariably add that Vietnamese people powerless to change government and only US can bring about change. Significant that such comment now coming from Vietnamese who normally quite careful about discussing political topics.

"Wish emphasize Vietnamese attitudes have not reached point of hostility toward Americans but if current situation persists likely that criticism will increasingly be tinged with hostility. Some Vietnamese tending to equate use US equipment and US 'hands-off' stance as acquiescence in GVN suppression of populace, which is only one step removed from placing share of blame on US shoulders." (Department of State, Central Files, POL 25 S VIET)

Comment: The problem in Vietnam is rapidly becoming an operational one, and it is of the utmost importance that the execution of your decisions be lodged in one person, in one office. Mac agrees that Roger Hilsman is the logical person and office for this, for the time being. It would be helpful if you mentioned that at your meeting tomorrow at 4 o'clock.

If you need more information, I shall be near the telephone and available throughout the night.



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

Saigon, August 27, 1963, 4 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, INF 8 US. Top Secret; Eyes Only; handling indicator not declassified. Relayed by the Department of State to the White House, CIA, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

[document number not declassified] Reference: Department telegram 249./2/ I believe only fair answer at this time to three questions in numbered paragraph 2 reference telegram is that we do not know. A further meeting with Khiem is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and Minh may be seen at same time or soon thereafter. Information bearing on your questions may emerge from this meeting, but it may not. As of now, there are no signs, apart from Khiem's receptiveness to initial approach, that these or any other generals are really prepared to act against the government. (See separate message CAS channels for further details)./3/

/2/Document 293.

/3/According to telegram 352 from Saigon, August 27, this reference is to Document 299. (Department of State, Central Files, INF 8 US)

Unless and until we receive some sure sign of willingness and power to act, I believe it would be both pointless and dangerous to query generals about alternate leadership candidates. If meeting this afternoon develops favorably, however, soundings will be made.

Since above drafted have received CAS report [document number not declassified] suggesting Minh may be moving.



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

Saigon, August 27, 1963, 5 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 S VIET-US. Secret; Eyes Only; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 11:30 a.m. and relayed to the White House, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and CIA exclusive for principal officers there.

346. CINCPAC for POLAD. Report of one hour meeting with Nhu.

1. After exchange of amenities, he called attention to the comment by the Department of State Spokesman on the VOA broadcast/2/ and said that such statements from Washington should stop. He used the French phrase "doivent s'arreter", which could be translated "must stop". U.S. statements about Vietnam were accepted at face value by many other governments and U.S. was therefore injuring Vietnam's standing with foreign countries. He said that Washington should await my report before making any further comment. Moreover the Washington statement was wholly false as regards the facts, inasmuch as it was the Generals themselves who had specifically demanded the action which had been taken. He thought that the U.S. people talked too much, whereas in Vietnam they did not talk enough.

/2/Apparent reference to a reply by the Department of State's Spokesman, Richard 1. Phillips, to a question posed at a press and radio news briefing, August 26. Phillips amplified the VOA broadcast of August 26, Document 287, but without any reference to U.S. aid being cut off. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, p. 865.

2. I said that I did not know the details of the statement, but that there were some things that were very real to me as a man who had spent many years in public life and one of them was that no long range foreign policy could be carried out by the U.S. Government without the support of Congress and public opinion. I said that public opinion in the U.S. was much distressed by the treatment of the Buddhists and statements made in connection therewith. These have greatly complicated the job of the Executive branch of the U.S. Government in aiding Vietnam and that frankly I sympathized with whatever efforts the Executive branch might make to make clear to U.S. public opinion that our Vietnam policy did not involve stultifying ourselves-which would definitely be the case if we underwrote some of Madame Nhu's statements like "barbecuing the Buddhists" and her last interview with Life which proposed total destruction of Buddhists./3/ I said I was receiving letters about these statements and asked whether I should say in reply that Madame Nhu was not an official person and was speaking only for herself, to which he said that she was a member of the Assembly and was therefore a public person.

/3/For text of the interview, see Life, August 16, 1963, p. 31.

3. All of this took place in a pleasant conversational tone on both sides.

4. Other points made by Nhu:

5. 35 percent of the population were not in first class Strategic Hamlets. All of the people would be in Strategic Hamlets of some kind by the end of the year and the guerrilla war would then be over. Perhaps there would then be a conventional war.

6. There have been no more suicides since July 20. [?] This was because of the initiative which he had taken. Occidental people should understand that these suicides are brought about within the pagoda where in an atmosphere filled with incense and incantation, an individual is hypnotized, intoxicated and intimidated. This is how suicides are organized. That there have been no more suicides is proof that the measures that have been taken have had effect. He said he had wanted to clear up the matter before my arrival which, he thought, would be on August 26.

7. I said it would be very helpful in the U.S. if there could be some dramatic gesture here regarding the liberation of Buddhist prisoners.

8. He said it was now a fact that all the Buddhist prisoners were being released but he wanted this done quietly with the bonze in each area handling this himself and he could not make a dramatic gesture out of it.

9. He stressed the importance of winning the guerrilla war in terms of worldwide communist objectives and stressed the fact that he had invented personally the concept of the strategic hamlet.

10. When he accompanied me to the door to say goodbye, he said he hoped there would be no more statements out of Washington and I said I hoped there would be no more inflammatory speeches out of Vietnam.

11. This is a highly intelligent and effective man, and would be so considered in any country. My guess is that he is ruthless, not wholly rational by our standards and that he is interested above all in survival of himself and family.



299. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency Station in Saigon to the Agency/1/

Saigon, August 27, 1963.

/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-172-69. Top Secret. The source text is a copy sent by the CIA to the JCS exclusive for McNamara, Gilpatric, Taylor, and Krulak. Copies were also sent to the Department of State exclusive for Rusk, Ball, Harriman, and Hilsman and to the White House exclusive for Bundy. This copy was received at the JCS at 11:36 a.m.

[document number not declassified] 1. Colonel Conein met with General Tran Thien Khiem at the latter's invitation at JGS Hqs 1450 local 27 August. General Khiem stated that the question of a military coup against the government had been discussed by a committee of Generals headed by General Duong Van Minh, and that they are agreed a coup will take place within one week.

2. The committee of Generals in addition to General Duong Van Minh includes the following additional personalities: General Le Van Kim; General Nguyen Khanh; General Pham Xuan Chieu; General Nguyen Ngoc Le; General Tran Tu Oai is not a member of the committee but has indicated he will cooperate. General Tran Van Don is a member of the committee but cannot act because he is surrounded by personalities from the Presidency who block effective action on his part.

3. The Generals who are not included in the planning and who must be neutralized include: General Ton That Dinh; General Huynh Van Cao.

4. Colonel Le Quang Tung is considered a primary target by the coup committee and will be destroyed together with his entire encampment as one of the first acts of the coup.

5. In connection with the destruction of Colonel Tung and his Special Forces, General Khiem requested and was told he would receive a complete inventory of the ordnance now in stock at the Long Thanh training camp.

6. Vice President Nguyen Ngoc Tho is aware of the coup planning and supports it. He is the choice of the Generals as civilian leader of the succeeding government. He is aware of the seven points presented by Conein to Khiem 26 August./2/

/2/See Documents 290 and 291.

7. The government to be formed after the coup will be headed by Vice President Tho but will include some military officers in Cabinet positions. The government will not be a military government or junta since the coup committee believes that circumstance would lead to instability as is the case in Korea at present.

8. General Khiem stated that General Duong Van Minh had specifically requested it be passed to Colonel Conein that General Minh feels his position is so precarious at the present moment that General Minh cannot make contact with any Americans at the present time. Americans should not try to contact General Minh.

9. Likewise, General Khiem stated that he did not wish Colonel Conein to visit JGS again on these matters until the coup has been completed. Alternatively, General Khiem suggested that [4 lines not declassified].

[numbered paragraph 10 (5 lines) not declassified]

11. General Khiem also requested that all official American media cease all discussion of extension or cut-off of aid to Vietnam. General Khiem states that the recent statements on this matter by VOA have been confusing and could hurt the Generals' cause by leading people to believe that the U.S. will continue aid to the present government regardless of circumstances.

12. General Khanh came to Saigon on night of 26 August and contacted General Khiem. General Khanh is in complete agreement with the coup plan.

13. General Khiem asked for and received assurance that the U.S. would do all in its power to assist the families of the Generals engaged in the coup plot in the event of its failure.


300. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor)/1/

Saigon, August 27, 1963, 8:05 p.m.

/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-172-69. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Repeated to Honolulu for Felt.

MAC 1540. Ref A. JCS 3354-63./2/ B. CINCPAC 260302Z./3/ Following observation keyed to paras of ref A:

/2/Document 295.

/3/In this telegram, August 26, CINCPAC stated that Embassy and COMUSMACV plans for security and evacuation in the event of a coup were sound. CINCPAC also believed that Harkins had enough U.S. troops to evacuate the estimated 4,600 American noncombatants in Vietnam. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 8/24/63-8/31/63, Defense Cables)

1. US personnel, military and civilian are in no more immediate danger than usual. However, recognize full well that in atmosphere which exists here this situation could change momentarily. Situation is being closely monitored continuously. Arrangements for security and evacuation well covered in existing plans which support and are compatible with Embassy E & E plan. Am in direct liaison Embassy E & E officer on details. Published plans all based on assumption that friendly local government will be in control. Possibility that this assumption may not be valid has stimulated our thoughts along alternative lines.

Ref B indicates CINCPAC's thoughts along this line and action he has taken and is prepared to take in such an eventuality. We are in detailed development and review of alternative courses of security and emergency evacuation actions based on degree of loss of control by friendly government. Cataloging of location of some 5000 US noncombatants in RVN in good shape, various notification nets appear adequate and procedures checking out okay.

Concur in SecDef observation on use of commercial air as primary evacuation mode. For alternative actions utilizes in country and other immediately available govt evacuation transportation assets as primary mode. [sic]

2. In context of State 243 to Saigon/4/ "direct support" interpreted here as indicating that US diplomatic recognition will be forth coming promptly and that US economic and military assistance to RVN will continue as at present, even under most extreme contingency of military coup in which not only Nhus but also Diem is removed from scene.

/4/Document 281.

Specifically unless I receive other instructions I interpret "direct support" of military as covering the following:

a. Full military backing, military counsel and advice.

b. Use of US communications and unarmed aircraft for troop transport, supply, recce and command liaison.

c. Denial of further funds, equipment, advice, communication and aircraft to opposing military and paramilitary forces, and in particular, Col Tung's units. CAS must of course also deny.

Feasibility of foregoing direct support measures in event pressure on armed intervention from forces loyal to Palace depends in large part on how play develops. Category of support covered in pare a above feasible under all conditions, though effectiveness can be reduced should key MACV staff be restricted in freedom of movement' Believe however, we have enough good people to carry on despite some interruptions.

As to pare b above, a hostile VNAF could [garble] deny use of Tan Son Nhut and Bien Hoa. We will have to make tough decisions as between further concentration of aircraft VN-USA-Bien Hoa complex which is pertinent to E and E planning and dispersion suggested by maximum support of coup. Present disposition of USAF/USA/USMC aircraft outside Saigon area insures that we can provide considerable but not optimum assistance to forces converging on capital. Deployment of forces estimated to side with military takeover is reasonable assurance that major part of communication net would be preserved.

My best judgment as to reliability and alignment of senior military leaders is as follows:

a. Composition of group which would coalesce to plan and execute a military takeover:

(1). Gen Big Minh, Advisor to Pres
Gen Don
Gen Le, former JG of CG, now deputy to Don
Gen Little Minh, IG, ARVN
Gen Khiem, C/S, JGS
Gen Khanh, II Corps
Gen Tri, I Corps
Gen Le Van Kim, currently deputy to Don
Gen Chien, currently deputy to Don
Col Vien, CO ADH Brigade

(2). Loyalty of all runs to Diem not Nhu. Estimate that all, except Don and Le, convinced that both Nhu and Diem must now go. bon and Le would probably accept retention of Diem as nominal head of state.

(3). All are firmly pro-US with possible exception of Tri,. given his violent nationalism.

(4). The only general to whom others would subordinate themselves is Big Minh.

(5). Those most qualified and also in positions to take lead in planning are Khanh, Khiem, Tri, Kim, and Little Minh. Don is, of course, completely boxed in.

b. Those who will stick with status quo, opposing takeover:

(1). Gen Dinh, III Corps
Gen Cao, IV Corps
Col Tung, Cmdr Special Forces
Col Hien, Co VNAF

(2). Estimate Dinh and Cao would eventually attempt switch but too late. Tung would go down swinging. Hien not likely to rally any significant portion of VNAF. No loyalty ties among any of four.

c. The opportunists, who likely be aloof from planning but ready to jump quickly:

Gen Oai, RVNAF psywar chief
Gen La, CG Capital Mil Dist
Capt Quyen, Cmdr, VNH
Col Khang, Cmdr VNMC

4. Consensus here is that Vice President Tho is best candidate as man who all might rally behind as Presidential successor.

Will continue to maintain close liaison with Amb. Lodge. Keeping him informed of what I am doing and will file personal reports to JCS and CINCPAC as matters of significance [garble--occur?].


301. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Harriman) and the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)/1/

Washington, August 27, 1963, 1:50 p.m.

/1/Source: Library of Congress, Harriman Papers, Telephone Conversations. Transcribed by Dolores P. Perruso of Harriman's staff.

Hilsman said he thought he could bring Nolting around.

Harriman asked if some people were getting cold feet.

Hilsman said he was afraid of Maxwell Taylor. He said we have to make this work. Hilsman said he was going to the Hill and thought the Governor should be available to go to the White House.

Harriman said I hope you won't let them spoil the image of the US.


302. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President/1/

Washington, August 27, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 8/24/ 63-8/31/63, Memos and Miscellaneous. Top Secret.


You will meet this afternoon at 4 p.m. with the principal officials concerned with our policies in South Vietnam, including Mr. Murrow and Ambassador Nolting.

Roger Hilsman and Bill Colby (CIA) will be prepared to report to you on the most recent developments. A committee of generals has been formed for the purpose of bringing about a military coup within a week. It is contemplated that the government would be formed after the coup, to be headed by Vice-President Tho, and will include some military officers in cabinet positions. The generals have asked for a token of U.S. good faith in the form of an innocuous message over the Voice of America.

We also have a report of parallel coup plans by certain civilian leaders. This group includes the labor leader, Tran Quoc Buu, and puts up General (Big) Minh as President.

The purpose of the meeting is largely to inform you of latest developments and progress in planning. Ambassador Nolting will be available.

You may wish to close the meeting by restating the present policy toward South Vietnam in something like the following terms:

(a) The United States cannot support a government in South Vietnam which is dominated by Counselor Nhu.

(b) While the United States would prefer to retain President Diem in office, we have serious doubts that it can effectively be done. We should leave to the Vietnamese military leaders the decision whether Diem can be preserved.

(c) The fundamental objective of the United States in South Vietnam has not changed: it will continue to give wholehearted support to the prosecution of the war against the Viet Cong terrorists, and will continue assistance to any government in South Vietnam which shows itself capable of sustaining this effort.

You may wish to emphasize the great importance of highly coordinated collective action by the government officials and agencies involved here in Washington.

At the moment coordination is being carried on through Roger Hilsman's office.



303. Memorandum of Conference With the President/1/

Washington, August 27,1963, 4 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda, Meetings on Vietnam. Top Secret. Drafted by Bromley Smith. The meeting was held at the White House Also published in Declassified Documents, 1982, 648 B. A memorandum for the record of this meeting by Krulak is in the National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Vietnam, chap. XXIII.


Secretary Rusk, Under Secretary Ball, Secretary McNamara, Deputy Secretary Gilpatric, Attorney General, General Taylor, General Carter, Director Murrow, Ambassador Nolting, General Krulak, Assistant Secretary Hilsman, Mr. Helms, Mr Colby (CIA), Mr. McGeorge Bundy, Mr. Forrestal, Mr. Bromley Smith

Before the President arrived, Secretary McNamara made four points:

1. We need to appraise the situation in Vietnam and plan our techniques.

2. We should reconstitute the Executive Committee of the National Security Council.

3. We should list the contingencies which may develop and decide what we would do if a coup d'etat fails.

4. We need ask the President for no decisions today.

When the President arrived Secretary Rusk opened the meeting by suggesting that for the immediate future it might be necessary to have daily meetings with the President and carry on an exercise comparable to that done by the NSC Executive Committee for Cuba. He asked for a report on the situation in Vietnam.

Mr. William Colby, the Vietnam expert from CIA, said that the situation in Saigon was quiet. He summarized a situation report which concluded that unrest was not apparent in the Vietnam countryside. He referred to the efforts of Foreign Minister Mau to resign and leave the country. On the operations side, Mr. Colby reported that CIA officials had interviewed two Vietnamese generals yesterday. One general said the situation for a coup was favorable and forecast that one would take place within a week. The second general gave what was described as a jumpy answer in response to the CAS initiative. Mr. Colby concluded by summarizing Ambassador Lodge's report of his talk with Nhu (see attached [document number not declassified])./2/

/2/Not attached, but see Document 298.

Secretary Rusk commented that Lodge hasn't come to grips with the problem in Vietnam in his talks with Diem or Nhu. He may be waiting to see what the Vietnamese generals are going to do.

Mr. Bundy asked what elections the Vietnamese government had postponed. Mr. Colby replied that the elections were similar to our Congressional elections. Ambassador Nolting said that these elections were not significant and would not change the composition of the government.

In reply to the President's question, Nolting said that the Vietnamese generals haven't the guts of Diem or Nhu. They will not be a unified group but will be badly split. They do not have real leadership, and they do not control the predominant military force in the country. He expressed grave doubt that the generals could carry out a clean coup in a split second.

Secretary McNamara circulated a list of the coup generals and the forces they control. He noted that these military forces were few and scattered. He also had a list of generals loyal to Diem who had forces in Saigon and near at hand which they controlled. In addition, General Tung commanded the elite corps of special forces which were loyal to Diem. He concluded by reading extracts from General Harkins' cable summarizing the disposition and loyalty of Vietnamese forces./3/

/3/Document 300.

In response to the President's question as to the effect of the civil disturbances on the military campaign against the Viet Cong, General Krulak replied that the effect was slight and that there had been no dramatic degradation of South Vietnamese military capability./4/

/4/In his memorandum for the record, Krulak noted that he "stated that friendly operations have diminished, both in the large scale and as to small scale efforts, but the reduction was not as yet great; that Viet Cong operations are continuing at the low level to which they had dropped after the Geneva Accords offensive.

"The President asked if the low level of Viet Cong activity was due to the weather, to which I replied in the negative".

Secretary Rusk commented that there had not been sufficient time for the Viet Cong to react by taking advantage of the internal disturbances. Ambassador Nolting added that the effect of the unrest was limited to the cities and had not yet affected the countryside. He said that whatever happened in the city of Saigon would have little effect in the rural areas in the long run because the peasants were uninformed and interested primarily in obtaining sufficient food. Although the unrest would be bound to seep down into the countryside, he doubted that the rural people would be affected unless their personal security is involved and unless their food supply is reduced.

In response to the President's question as to why the peasants were not upset by Diem's attack on the Buddhists, Ambassador Nolting replied that the Buddhists were not organized as a religion such as we have in the West. The Buddhist church in Vietnam is not a real force.

The President asked whether Diem had ever explained to us why he had not kept his promises to us. Ambassador Nolting replied that Diem had kept his promises. He said that there was no promise made to us which he had not tried to keep. Ambassador Nolting said Diem should be given "E" for effort. Diem is not a liar and is a man of integrity. In response to a question about Madame Nhu, Ambassador Nolting said Diem had disavowed Madame Nhu by means of replying to a question put to him by Marguerite Higgins of the New York Herald Tribune. /5/

/5/See footnote 3, Document 253.

The President said that Mr. Hilsman had told him that Diem was not forthright. Mr. Hilsman referred to a Honolulu meeting with Ambassador Nolting/6/ which had left him with the impression that Diem had not carried out commitments made to Ambassador Nolting.

/6/Lodge and Nolting accompanied by Hilsman and Kattenburg met in Honolulu to confer on Vietnam on August 20 and 21 Lodge was going to Saigon, Nolting was resuming to Washington. Kattenburg went on to Vietnam for a 10-day stay and Hilsman returned to Washington. No account of their discussions has been found. Hilsman mentions Nolting's reaction to the pagoda raids of August 21 in To Move a Nation, pp. 482-483. In an oral history interview, Nolting remembers that he was "shocked" at the raids and that he sent Diem a personal message from Honolulu in which he told Diem: "This is the first time that you have ever gone back on your word to me." (Johnson Library, Oral History Program, Frederick E. Nolting, Jr., November 11, 1982)

Ambassador Nolting read from his report of August 13th/7/ which stated that Diem had promised to be conciliatory toward the Buddhists and to remove Madame Nhu from Vietnam. Diem had asked the Australians to invite Madame Nhu to visit there. On August 12th Nhu had promised to be conciliatory in order to satisfy world public opinion even though he believed that the Buddhist movement was subversive./8/ Diem had said that their military officers were worried by the Buddhist movement because of its possible effect on fighting the war against the Viet Cong. Ambassador Nolting said that on August 14th he thought we had won a real victory in Vietnam. He said that he was not convinced at that time that Diem's conciliatory policy would end the unrest.

/7/See footnote 2, Document 252.

/8/No record of this promise has been found.

The President asked whether between the 14th and the 29th of August the rioting and the unrest had changed Diem's mind or whether Diem had lied to Nolting. Nolting said he believed Diem and Nhu had changed their minds after they had talked to him on August 14th. He said they appeared to have decided to end the unrest once and for all and together they had moved from conciliation to the use of force. He said that they apparently had decided that conciliation would not pay off because the Buddhists would not cooperate with Diem after Madame Nhu had made her public attack on the Buddhists.

In response to the President's question about Madame Nhu's authority, Ambassador Nolting said that Nhu himself is an able person who organized and is responsible for the success of the strategic hamlet program. He had been cooperative with us and was not anti-American but pro-Vietnamese. He said that both Diem and Nhu had separately denied that they were fighting each other. He predicted that Nhu would not be disloyal to his brother and throw him out, but probably the younger man, aged 54, would replace the older, who is 62. He said that Nhu was feared by the people and by the Vice President. However, he could see Nhu in a position of authority because Nhu can command people and the Vietnamese are respectful of those who can command. In his view, the Vietnamese generals had asked for martial law, Nhu had checked their request with Diem, and when the proposal was approved, Nhu ordered his secret police to arrest the Buddhists at the same time that martial law came into effect. Ambassador Nolting acknowledged that the secret police had used brutal methods but he believed they had not been ordered to do so. He felt that the secret police were jumpy and therefore resorted to greater use of force than was anticipated. Ambassador Nolting cited reports that there were 1400 Buddhists arrested and about 1000 students. He pointed out that Nhu had told Ambassador Lodge that the monks were being released quietly and returned to their pagodas.

Secretary Rusk suggested that the group turn its attention to a list of contingencies which might face us in Vietnam. He listed two. What would our position be if some generals remained loyal to Diem and some generals attempted a coup. The second dealt with what we should do if the generals attempted a coup and were defeated by Diem.

The President commented that he saw no point in trying a coup unless there was a chance of its success. He asked what military support there would be for a coup.

Ambassador Nolting replied that military support for a coup did not now exist. There might be such support if the U.S. said that the Vietnamese must get rid of Diem and Nhu. A larger number of generals would rally to a coup aimed at ousting Nhu. Most of the generals would be reluctant to oust Diem. Diem and Nhu were Siamese twins who could not be forced apart. If the generals moved against Nhu, Diem would go down with him in the palace, or, if he escaped, return to Saigon to resist the rebel generals. Or Diem might quit the fight and leave the country. Ambassador Nolting said it would be impossible to engineer separation of the two men-the only possible way would be to persuade Diem to send Nhu abroad.

Ambassador Nolting recalled that the circle had nearly been completed in a three-year period. Ambassador Durbrow had told Diem three years ago that Nhu must go. Diem refused to accept the suggestion and Durbrow was removed from Vietnam. (The President recognized the irony of this situation by smiling.) Ambassador Nolting said we should not fight the internal political situation in Vietnam too hard. He urged that we keep our eye on fighting the Viet Cong. In his view, newspaper pressure cannot clean up the messy internal politics of Vietnam which will be with us for a long time.

The President asked whether Ambassador Nolting agreed that Diem's actions in the last few months would prevent him from carrying forward the war against the Communists. Ambassador Nolting responded that he thought we should take it slow and easy over the next several weeks. It is possible that the brutal surgical operation may succeed as Diem and Nhu have predicted. We will take our lumps because of the actions of Diem and Nhu, but if they succeed, we will have preserved a base for the fight against the Viet Cong. If the smouldering resentment of the Vietnamese people grows and begins to show up in the Vietnamese military units to such an extent that the war effort is blocked, then we have an entirely different problem of creating an acceptable political base. Ambassador Nolting called attention to the fact that the CAS agents had already told some generals to undertake a coup. If we go back on these generals now, we will lose them. He asked why we should jump unless we have some place to jump.

The President noted that we hadn't gone so far we can't delay. He recalled that one general had said the generals needed a week to effect their plans. [1 sentence (3 lines) not declassified]

Mr. Hilsman referred to Harkins' estimate that the generals would delay a few days until they knew the reaction of the general officers. If the general officers decided they could not live with the Diem regime, then the senior officers would move forward to a coup.

Secretary McNamara said he believed we should ask Ambassador Lodge and General Harkins for an appraisal as to whether a coup by the generals can be successful. If our officials doubt that the generals can pull off a coup, then the generals should be cautioned not to move. The danger already exists that Diem and Nhu know of the generals' coup planning and of U.S. interest in their plans. He believed that we could slow up the CAS action with the generals.

Mr. Hilsman said that the longer we wait the harder it would be to get Diem out.

The President asked what General Harkins' position is. General Taylor responded that General Harkins had never been asked for his views-that he merely got orders.

Secretary Rusk said that in his view the crucial factor is the effect of the current unrest on the other side. Does the existing unrest make it impossible to carry out the war against the Viet Cong? If the Buddhists and the anti-Diem groups do not give up their attacks on Diem, how can the war go on? If Vietnamese opposition to Diem is great, it is very hard for us to support Diem.

In response to the President's question, Ambassador Nolting evaluated the Vietnamese Vice President as a respected person who was neither forceful nor ambitious.

Mr. Bundy noted that the generals did not appear very forceful. He suggested that General Harkins and Ambassador Lodge be asked to report on the exact operational situation. He believed that we should ensure that if a coup were attempted and failed, there was no evidence of U.S. interest in the attempt.

Mr. Murrow asked whether the generals we were talking to would be able to reach an accommodation with the Buddhists. He thought we should be certain that if a coup succeeded, the resulting situation would be better than the present one.

The President said we should send a cable to Ambassador Lodge and General Harkins asking for their estimate of the prospects of a coup by the generals. They should also be asked to recommend whether we should proceed with the generals or wait. He also wanted their views on what we should do if the situation deteriorates.

Nolting commented that he would not be happy if the present situation calmed down and Nhu got more power. Diem must be forced to limit authority of Nhu and get Madame Nhu out of the country. Diem would not respond if he were pushed, but he could be convinced by Ambassador Lodge that the situation must improve if we were to continue assisting Vietnam.

Secretary McNamara agreed that we should obtain an immediate appraisal from the officers on the ground and should ask them whether chances of a successful coup would be increased by delay.

The President said he thought they should also be asked whether the effect would be harmful if we decided now to cut our losses.

Ambassador Nolting said we should try once again to persuade Diem to limit the authority of Nhu and to force the political liquidation of Madame Nhu.

Secretary Rusk stated that we should make clear to our officials in Saigon that we were not changing their existing directive on which they had already proceeded to take numerous actions.

The President concluded the meeting by repeating Ambassador Nolting's view that the generals interested in the coup were not good enough to bring it about.

Bromley Smith/9/

/9/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


304. Memorandum for the Record by the Secretary of Defense's Assistant for Special Operations (Lansdale)/1/

Washington, August 27, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 8/24/ 63-8/31/63, Memos and Miscellaneous. Secret. Lansdale passed this memorandum to Forrestal on August 28 and wrote on an attached covering note: "You might find this of interest." Forrestal passed it on to Bundy on the same day with the written comment: "Mac: This is not hard stuff."


At the invitation of Mme. Tran Van Chuong, I visited her at the Vietnamese Embassy this evening. Shortly after I arrived, Ambassador Chuong joined us and remained for much of my visit. The highlights remarks are:

Both: The US must act firmly and quickly to replace both Diem and Nhu with a new government. The Vietnamese people are aroused far more than ever before, and it is too late even to save Diem as a figure-head. The people, seeing VN special forces and police with US weapons and equipment, knowing that Diem can only stay in power with US support, will turn against the US unless there is a change of the whole top of government. If the US is satisfied merely with a change of Diem policy towards Buddhists and students, including release of Buddhist and student prisoners, this will not change the hate of the Vietnamese people for the acts already committed.

Amb. Chuong: The US will sell out the Vietnamese people to the Communists if there is any truth to the story that the US is getting ready to place Buu Hoi in as Premier under Diem as a figure-head President. Buu Hoi, with his Communist connections, would be a Vietnamese version of Souvanna Phouma and the Communists would take over. Admittedly, this would give the US "grandeur" of looking like it was solving a hard Vietnamese problem, without being directly responsible for sell-out-but the Vietnamese people would know.

Mme. Chuong (privately): You must go to Saigon fast and tell Diem and the Nhu's to leave the country now. The people hate them and they shouldn't stay for the people to kill them. They will surely be killed if they stay, and nobody at the Palace now is telling them how the people really feel. They are cut off from reality. Why do they need power, after nine years of it, if the family is killed? The US told Syngman Rhee to leave. Why not Diem and Nhu?

Both: We will reside in the Embassy until Ly, the new Ambassador, arrives from New Delhi, then stay in the Washington area as private citizens. Tran Van Dinh, now in Saigon [less than 1 1ine not declassified], was expecting to return to Washington as charge; [2-1/2 lines not declassified].


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

Washington, August 27, 1963, 8:11 p.m.

/1/Source Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET Top Secret; Emergency. Drafted by Hilsman and cleared in draft with McGeorge Bundy, McNamara, and Taylor and in substance with Rusk. Repeated to CINCPAC POLAD exclusive for Felt.

256. Eyes only--Ambassador Lodge. Examination of reports to date gives considerable hope but leaves unanswered questions regarding:

a. present balance of forces between coup and counter-coup elements
b. personal force of character of coupe participants, and
c. security of the operation.

Proceeding from the concept outlined in Deptel 243/2/ as modified, now desire your prompt interim appraisal of present prospects include specifically:

/2/Document 281.

1. Are Generals now committed to coup plan [document number not declassified]/3/ sufficiently strong and sufficiently united to give high prospect of success in immediate future?

/3/Document 299.

2. Would their chances be improved or lessened by delay, with respect to such factors as:

a. additional local military and political support at critical moment?
b. Security, including hazard to coup participants and compromise of U.S. role?
c. Public attitudes?
d. Nhu’s own capability for counter-coup or further action of his own?

3. In particular, what is your best estimate or orientation and comparative strength of forces in Saigon area?

4. If operation is initially indecisive how is balance likely to tip as other forces become involved?

5. More generally, highest authority asks whether you and Harkins, in light of developing situation, presently favor operation as currently planned by Generals.

We wish to give you all possible support in best available course but not to insist on any decision that developing evidence makes it wise to modify.



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

Saigon, August 28, 1963, 6 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET Top Secret; Emergency. Repeated to CINCPAC Operational Immediate. Received at 7:18 a.m. and relayed to the White House, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and CIA at 8:30 a.m.

364. Department eyes only for Secretary. CINCPAC exclusive for Felt. Deptel 256./2/ In appraising current prospects, it must be borne in mind that our knowledge of composition of coup group and their plans is derived from single source. We have high confidence authenticity of this information but are taking steps assure ourselves that General Minh is involved. (Contrary [document number not declassified],/3/ Minh has asked see CAS representatives tomorrow morning at JGS.) Vice President Tho's remarks to me this morning (reported below) were entirely consistent with his having been brought in on plans but do not prove he has been. Turning to numbered questions reftel:

/2/Document 305.

/3/Document 299.

1. Generals cited [document number not declassified] as members coup committee are best group that could be assembled in terms of ability and orientation. Certain of them (Big Minh, Khanh and Kim) are considered to have personal force of character. We believe that they would all unite under leadership of Big Minh. Question of their strength is dealt with in pare 3 below.

2. We believe that all factors cited pare 2 reftel argue for prompt action and that chances of success would be diminished by delay. In particular, we are concerned over possibility attempt by Nhu to arrest leaders. We assume Generals are guarding against this possibility.

3. Lineup and orientation of forces in metropolitan area; for detailed listing, refer to MACV 1551 Intel DTG: 280625Z, repeated State./4/

/4/Not found.

A. The forces listed in above message as non-ARVN total 7,750 and must be considered committed to defense of Palace, if all are in fact aligned under Tung. Possibility exists, however, that Generals may be able to drive wedge between Tung and Tu, Police Commissioner, who commands bulk of Police.

B. The ARVN forces listed are all under the command of General Dinh with exception 6th ABN BN mentioned below. Significant, however, that with minor exceptions, troops are not organic to the III Corps, which he normally heads. These troops fall into two main categories: (1) The forces of the Capital Military District, headed by General La who is Dinh's deputy for the Saigon-Cholon area, and (2) units of the general reserve (airborne and Marine brigades), normally controlled by the JGS.

C. Colonel Vien, commanding the ABN Brigade, has the single most powerful and cohesive unit in Saigon. Thus, his actions are crucial to the success of initial moves. His loyalties have run to Diem and he is close to Dinh. But he is also aware of the outspoken opposition of the bulk of his officers to the present regime. We have reports that this has caused a reorientation of his thinking and that he would immediately swing if Dinh swung, and, alternatively, that he could be persuaded to swing without Dinh before or in the opening stages of the revolt. If the Generals can count on the airborne, success might come quickly and with minimum violence. If not, the struggle might be bloody and extended. Under latter circumstances, estimate here is that the Generals would resort to stratagem to neutralize Vien, rather than assault forces he commands. On balance, we believe that Generals cannot count on Vien, but may have support of certain units of the brigade. Certainly, the 6th BN has been positioned at JGS Hq, under JGS control, because the coup group is confident of its commander's loyalty.

D. The two Marine BNs are also in key positions. Security mission of one battalion (second is nearby in reserve) extends from Palace to waterfront, an area which includes numerous VITJM installations: PTT, National Assembly, American billets. This BN is closest regular unit to Palace. Estimate is that Commander, Colonel Khang, will opt for the Generals.

E. We must assume bulk of remaining ARVN forces are under effective control of General La. His troops are numerous but lack cohesion, being primarily independent companies and lightly armed. They are certainly not shock troops. In a showdown, La would not necessarily take orders from Dinh.

F. In general, above remarks apply equally to air and naval elements in Saigon area. They are not organized or equipped for ground combat and their effectiveness therefore limited. Neither is likely to act as a cohesive entity.

G. Implicit in foregoing is theme that while Dinh is commander, his control of the heterogeneous forces assigned is far from assured. His major subordinates may follow his bidding, but they also preserve freedom of action to non-comply or even act in diametrically opposed manner. Should Dinh be removed or neutralized, his deputy (Colonel Co), is competent to carry on and would, unquestionably, side with the Generals.

H. Should the initial moves result in stalemate, the issue may turn on relative ability to reinforce. Our estimate is that time as well as force will work to advantage of insurgents and for the following reasons:

(1) The most immediately available troops are the 2 ABN BNs and units of the III Corps. Balance here might not be in favor of Generals.

(2) First reinforcement from IV Corps would be 47th Regt from Long An Province, bordering the Saigon area on the south. Newly arrived from II Corps, it would be responsive to Khanh rather than Cao-and latter could not stop its movement to capital.

(3) Most readily deployable major unit in north is Khanh's 9th Division. If Tan Son Nhut and/or Bien Hoa open, 3-4 tens could be shifted Saigon daily via C-123's.

(4) Over the long run, the coup group has more force at its disposal than do Dinh, Cao, Tung. And most of all, their thinking reflects the sentiments of the majority of the officer corps.

4. As stated above, we believe balance would tip in favor of coup group in event initial statement [stalemate]. Chances of this would be greatly enhanced if at critical juncture U.S. publicly announced that all aid through the Diem government had ceased and would be resumed as soon as conditions warranted It would be somewhat better for public standing of future government if this were not done. However, believe I should have standby authority to make declaration to this effect, implying termination of aid to present GVN if in my judgment it is necessary to success coup.

Another factor favoring coup forces in stalemate would be U.S. assistance in terms military advice, communications, troop lift, etc.

5. On basis of what we now know both General Harkins and I favor operation.

Following is brief memo my conversation with Tho this morning:

Begin text. At call on Vice President Tho I began by saying how honored I was to be in Viet-Nam and began a very conventional conversation about his home in the Delta, the U.N., and the possibility of Viet-Nam some day having a favorable trade balance. All of a sudden he stopped and his whole tone of voice changed and he said: "It can't go on in this way. We absolutely must get out of the state we are in. Emotions are rising so high that it is very dangerous. Relations between the U.S. and Viet-Nam are becoming question of internal politics both here and in your country. You have a very great responsibility as Ambassador. People expect much from you. I don't know how to do it but it absolutely must be done." End text.

Report of further meeting with Khiem follows via CAS channels./5/

/5/Document number not declassified, not printed. (Kennedy Library, Vietnam Country Series)



307. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency Station in Saigon to the Agency/1/

Saigon, August 28, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 8/24/ 63-8/31/63, CIA Cables. Secret. Also printed in Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition, Vol. II, p. 736.

[document number not declassified] Situation here has reached point of no return. Saigon is armed camp. Current indications are that Ngo family have dug in for last ditch battle. It is our considered estimate that General officers cannot retreat now. Conein's meeting with Gen. Khiem [document number not declassified]/2/ reveals that overwhelming majority of General officers, excepting Dinh and Cao, are united, have conducted prior planning, realize that they must proceed quickly, and understand that they have no alternative but to go forward. Unless the generals are neutralized before being able to launch their operation, we believe they will act and that they have good chance to win. If General Dinh primarily and Tung secondly cannot be neutralized at outset, there may be widespread fighting in Saigon and serious loss of life.

/2/Document 299.

We recognize that crucial stakes are involved and have no doubt that the generals do also. Situation has changed drastically since 21 August. If the Ngo family wins now, they and Vietnam will stagger on to final defeat at the hands of their own people and the VC. Should a generals' revolt occur and be put down, GVN will sharply reduce American presence in SVN. Even if they did not do so, it seems clear that American public opinion and Congress, as well as world opinion, would force withdrawal or reduction of American support for VN under Ngo administration.

Bloodshed can be avoided if the Ngo family would step down before the coming armed action. If General Dinh would join with the other Generals, it is conceivable Ngo family might surrender without a final fight. Up to now, Dinh has remained firmly on the family's side. [2 sentences not declassified]

[3 sentences not declassified] It is obviously preferable that the generals conduct this effort without apparent American assistance. Otherwise, for a long time in the future, they will be vulnerable to charges of being American puppets, which they are not in any sense. Nevertheless, we all understand that the effort must succeed and that whatever needs to be done on our part must be done. If this attempt by the generals does not take place or if it fails, we believe it no exaggeration to say that VN runs serious risk of being lost over the course of time.


308. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Murrow) to the President/1/

Washington, August 28, 1963.

/1/Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 306, USIA/TOP Files: FRC 67 A 222, IAF-1963. Drafted by B. Anderson of the Office of Plans and Research, USIA. Copies were sent to Donald M. Wilson, Ralph Bunce, and Orem Stephens, all of USIA.

Foreign Reaction to Diem Repression and U.S. Foreign Policy

Press and public reaction to the events in Viet-Nam received to date is almost universally critical of Diem and, directly or by implication, the United States.

The closest thing to a sympathetic comment appeared in Rome's right-wing Il Tempo: "The background of the crisis is in fact political . . ./2/ The neutralist orientation of the Buddhist clergy in a country at war becomes an indirect support for the enemy to the degree to which it prevents general psychological mobilization."

/2/All ellipses in this document are in the source text.

Far East

Editorialists are almost unanimously critical of the Diem Government actions and generally blame the U.S. for continuing it in power. The pro-communist press of the area is playing the obvious theme that the U.S. always supports unpopular dictatorships. Official spokesmen in Japan, Thailand, and Korea have maintained a cautious attitude, aside from Marshal Sarit's announced willingness to host a conference of Buddhist countries to consider the problem.

The Malayan Straits Times called the Diem Government action the. beginning of disaster and added: "What the U.S. does in principle is the fact on which the future of Diem hangs. The U.S. may accept what is a fait accompli and press for concessions or back up indignant words with indignant deeds."

Burma's English language Guardian called the crackdown a "colossal blunder." It asked the Saigon regime to stop this "mad war" against Buddhists, and called on the U.S. to give the regime an ultimatum.

According to the Manila press, the Philippine Government is considering following the Cambodian lead in breaking diplomatic relations with Saigon, and hopes other Asian nations will do the same.

Hanoi has gone all out on what it calls the "white terror drive." Peking has given heavy news coverage, but so far no original comment. North Korean papers find a parallel between South Vietnamese events and the collapse of Syngman Rhee's government as a result of "ruthless suppression of the people by the U.S. imperialists and their stooges.

Western Europe

Some of the French press has been particularly scathing. Le Combat (anti-Gaullist) said, "Washington has committed a capital error. To erect the detestable regime of the Diem clan as . . . a barrier would have been justified . . . for a short time if the barrier had not been rotten." Les Echos (financial) wrote: "In taking over our (the French) role, the U.S. has inherited our difficulties but has not remembered the lesson. To drop Diem in favor of whom?" Le Figaro (conservative), typical of the more balanced comments, took due note of the increasing dissatisfaction with Diem's course in the United States.

La Stampa (liberal, Turin) said perhaps the Diem regime "has dug its own grave." The Vatican Osservatore Romano saw the conflict as more political than religious, but the Catholic Avvanire d'Italia of Bologne said that between the Diem Government and the Buddhists it would have to declare flatly for the Buddhists.

Die Welt (independent, Hamburg) called on Washington to let the Diem regime fall, and to "establish contact with the non-communist opposition."

The Scotsman (conservative) speculated that Diem was forcing the U.S. to look for new Vietnamese leadership. The London Times (independent) warned Diem that his "dangerous game," which could prolong the war, might cut off American aid. The Guardian (liberal) said the difficulty lies not in alternative leadership but the absence of an alternative U.S. policy.


In the only African comment received, the Algerian radio reported that Algeria's delegation to the U.N. has been instructed to support measures putting an end to "the inhuman reprisals to which 70 per cent of the South Viet-Nam population has been subjected."

Near East and South Asia

News coverage has been unusually heavy in Ceylon and India. Editorialists in those countries, Iran, Pakistan, and Lebanon are universally critical of Diem and the United States for keeping him in power. There is growing sentiment in Ceylon and India to take the problem to the U.N.

The Ceylon Observer flatly accused the U.S. of being "committed, to the cynical view that it matters not whom it hires to engage the enemy in the outlying marshes if they will help to keep Fortress America safe." Critical comments by Buddhist leaders in Ceylon have been widely reported, including one to the effect that the "dollar-Vatican axis" is responsible for the events in Viet-Nam.

The Times of India credited the U.S. with a "large part of the blame" for the situation, and said that "one would have thought that after what happened in South Korea. . . the U.S. State Department would have realized that the communists' worst enemies are not necessarily democracy's best friends."

The Indian Express asked: "Will Washington at last realize that nothing will be gained, and much will be lost, by propping up such a thoroughly unpopular regime in Saigon?"

Dawn of Karachi caricatured the State Department shedding crocodile tears over a Buddhist corpse. Ettelaat of Teheran, in an editorial titled "Dark Future for South Viet-Nam," claimed Viet-Cong forces had increased from 15,000 to 25,000 in the last year "despite substantial U.S. economic and military aid."

Soviet Union

After a slow start, Moscow press and radio is now playing the crisis heavily. Moscow domestic radio said August 27 that Lodge's arrival coincides with "an unprecedented wave of terrorism against the population." It asserted that the Diem "autocracy" exists "only by the kind consent" of Washington.

Other broadcasts asserted that Lodge's instructions are to restore order and "to see that the local puppet rulers act against the people more flexibly and without undue publicity," and that, although the U.S. has full control, it has not lifted a finger to stop the "bloody


Edward R. Murrow/2/

/2/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


309. Telegram From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor) to the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins)/1/

Washington, August 28, 1963, 10:02 a.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 8/24/ 63-8/31/63, Defense Cables. Secret; Eyes Only. The source text indicates that copies were to be sent to Bundy at the White House; to Rusk, Ball, Harriman, and Hilsman at the Department of State; and to each of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hilsman refers to this cable as a back-channel message in To Move a Nation, p. 492, and recalls that he never saw it. (Department of State, Office of the Historian, Vietnam Interviews, Roger Hilsman, May 15, 1984) Michael V. Forrestal also remembers it as a back-channel message, but does recall seeing it. (Ibid., Michael V. Forrestal, May 16, 1984) Harriman saw a copy of it and subsequently complained to General Carter of the CIA that this was the first occasion he could recall of the military backing off their commitments. Harriman maintained to Carter that Taylor had cleared telegram 243 to Saigon, Document 281. (Memorandum for the record by Krulak, August 28; National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Vietnam, chap. XXIII) On the morning of August 29, Hilsman called Krulak about clearance of telegram 243 to Saigon. According to Krulak's record of the conversation, Hilsman admitted "that he was probably wrong to say that Taylor was involved [with clearance], but that Defense concurrence originated with Mr. Gilpatric." (Memorandum for the record by Krulak, August 29; ibid.)

JCS 3368-63. Reference State to Saigon 256 Aug 27./2/

/2/Document 305.

1. Important White House meeting on subject message scheduled for 1200 28 August EDT,/3/ your views urgently needed on reference message and on overall feasibility of operation contemplated in [document number not declassified]./4/

/3/A memorandum of this conference with President Kennedy is printed in Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. IV, Document 1.

/4/Document 299.

FYI State to Saigon 243 was prepared without DOD or JCS participation. Authorities are now having second thoughts.


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