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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 IV
Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, Volume IV, Vietnam, August-December 1963
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 166-184

166. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Cleveland) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)/1/

Washington, October 2, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 64 D 54, POL 7 Visits Meetings (to U.S.). Confidential. Drafted by Cleveland on October 2. Copies were sent to Ball, Harriman, Stevenson, and Rusk.

Buu Hoi Visit

After our long and useful discussion with Buu Hoi in my office this morning, I had a short, private tete-a-tete with him. I wanted to be sure that he understood that we have wanted to be helpful to him on the procedure he is floating in New York (which is described as he described it in our reporting cable to Stevenson),/2/ but that we could not be caught in the role of an apologist for the Viet Nam Government on the substance of the matter, as long as most of the world is convinced that the GVN has been persecuting Buddhists.

/2/Document 165.

I took the occasion also to ask, in the politest and most Oriental fashion you can imagine, whether steps were being taken to tone down Madame Nhu's public utterances, at least on this particular subject, while she is in the United States. Buu Hoi said quite frankly that in his judgment she had done much damage with her statements. He agreed that the word "barbeque" had been especially damaging; he complained that she did not even know the word, which would not be as colorful in the French language, but had picked it up from "an English language publication in Saigon", by which I suppose he means the American edited Times of Viet Nam.

Buu Hoi went on to say that he had fully reported the nature of the damage since his arrival here; he had sent in five reports just on this subject, he said. Instructions had already gone to Madame Nhu to quiet down but in view of the interest of the U.S. press he did not see what practical effect they would have. He said, a little wistfully, that he did not suppose it would be possible to persuade the press to take no interest in her.

Finally, he made a practical suggestion that we could perhaps help them do what he has been trying to do, without too much success, in talking with representatives of the U.S. press. He has been trying to emphasize, he said, that he himself has been especially sent to the UN to handle this question, that he and what he says represents the Government of Viet Nam, and that Madame Nhu is traveling in a private capacity and is not speaking for the Government. He conceded that this was a hard sale, but asked that we do our best.

It does seem to me that we can be a little bit helpful in this by emphasizing to editors and correspondents--particularly the editors and particularly in New York--that Buu Hoi is the man who is talking responsibly for the Government of Viet Nam and that his responsible and sophisticated attempts to deal with the situation should not be interfered with by press magnification of quotable comments by a lady who is unfortunately too beautiful to ignore. I passed this suggestion along to Governor Stevenson. You will know best what to do with it on this end.



167. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor) and the Secretary of Defense (McNamara) to the President/1/

Washington, October 2, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Memos and Miscellaneous. Top Secret. Also printed in United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 12, pp. 554-573.

Report of McNamara-Taylor Mission to South Vietnam

Your memorandum of 21 September 1963/2/ directed that General Taylor and Secretary McNamara proceed to South Vietnam to appraise the military and para-military effort to defeat the Viet Cong and to consider, in consultation with Ambassador Lodge, related political and social questions. You further directed that, if the prognosis in our judgment was not hopeful, we should present our views of what action must be taken by the South Vietnam Government and what steps our Government should take to lead the Vietnamese to that action.

/2/Document 142.

Accompanied by representatives of the State Department, CIA, and your Staff, we have conducted an intensive program of visits to key operational areas, supplemented by discussions with U.S. officials in all major U.S. Agencies as well as officials of the GVN and third countries.

We have also discussed our findings in detail with Ambassador Lodge, and with General Harkins and Admiral Felt.

The following report is concurred in by the Staff Members of the mission as individuals, subject to the exceptions noted.


A. Conclusions.

1. The military campaign has made great progress and continues to progress.

2. There are serious political tensions in Saigon (and perhaps elsewhere in South Vietnam) where the Diem-Nhu government is becoming increasingly unpopular.

3. There is no solid evidence of the possibility of a successful coup, although assassination of Diem or Nhu is always a possibility.

4. Although some, and perhaps an increasing number, of GVN military officers are becoming hostile to the government, they are more hostile to the Viet Cong than to the government and at least for the near future they will continue to perform their military duties.

5. Further repressive actions by Diem and Nhu could change the present favorable military trends. On the other hand, a return to more moderate methods of control and administration, unlikely though it may be, would substantially mitigate the political crisis.

6. It is not clear that pressures exerted by the U.S. will move Diem and Nhu toward moderation. Indeed, pressures may increase their obduracy. But unless such pressures are exerted, they are almost certain to continue past patterns of behavior.

B. Recommendations.

We recommend that:

1. General Harkins review with Diem the military changes necessary to complete the military campaign in the Northern and Central areas (I, II, and III Corps) by the end of 1964, and in the Delta (IV Corps) by the end of 1965. This review would consider the need for such changes as:

a. A further shift of military emphasis and strength to the Delta (IV Corps).

b. An increase in the military tempo in all corps areas, so that all combat troops are in the field an average of 20 days out of 30 and static missions are ended.

c. Emphasis on "clear and hold operations" instead of terrain sweeps which have little permanent value.

d. The expansion of personnel in combat units to full authorized strength.

e. The training and arming of hamlet militia to an accelerated rate, especially in the Delta.

f. A consolidation of the strategic hamlet program, especially in the Delta, and action to insure that future strategic hamlets are not built until they can be protected, and until civic action programs can be introduced.

2. A program be established to train Vietnamese so that essential functions now performed by U.S. military personnel can be carried out by Vietnamese by the end of 1965. It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time.

3. In accordance with the program to train progressively Vietnamese to take over military functions, the Defense Department should announce in the very near future presently prepared plans to withdraw 1000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963. This action should be explained in low key as an initial step in a long-term program to replace U.S. personnel with trained Vietnamese without impairment of the war effort.

4. The following actions be taken to impress upon Diem our disapproval of his political program.

a. Continue to withhold commitment of funds in the commodity import program, but avoid a formal announcement. The potential significance of the withholding of commitments for the 1964 military budget should be brought home to the top military officers in working level contacts between USOM and MACV and the Joint General Staff; up to now we have stated $95 million may be used by the Vietnamese as a planning level for the commodity import program for 1964. Henceforth we could make clear that this is uncertain both because of lack of final appropriation action by the Congress and because of executive policy.

b. Suspend approval of the pending AID loans for the Saigon-Cholon Waterworks and Saigon Electric Power Project. We should state clearly that we are doing so as a matter of policy.

c. Advise Diem that MAP and CIA support for designated units, now under Colonel Tung's control (mostly held in or near the Saigon area for political reasons) will be cut off unless these units are promptly assigned to the full authority of the Joint General Staff and transferred to the field.

d. Maintain the present purely "correct" relations with the top GVN, and specifically between the Ambassador and Diem. Contact between General Harkins and Diem and Defense Secretary Thuan on military matters should not, however, be suspended, as this remains an important channel of advice. USOM and USIA should also seek to maintain contacts where these are needed to push forward programs in support of the effort in the field, while taking care not to cut across the basic picture of U.S. disapproval and uncertainty of U.S. aid intentions. We should work with the Diem government but not support it./3/

/3/Mr. Colby believes that the official "correct" relationship should be supplemented by selected and restricted unofficial and personal relationships with individuals in the GVN, approved by the Ambassador, where persuasion could be fruitful without derogation of the official U.S. posture. [Footnote in the source text.]

As we pursue these courses of action, the situation must be closely watched to see what steps Diem is taking to reduce repressive practices and to improve the effectiveness of the military effort. We should set no fixed criteria, but recognize that we would have to decide in 2-4 months whether to move to more drastic action or try to carry on with Diem even if he had not taken significant steps.

5. At this time, no initiative should be taken to encourage actively a change in government. Our policy should be to seek urgently to identify and build contacts with an alternative leadership if and when it appears.

6. The following statement be approved as current U.S. policy toward South Vietnam and constitute the substance of the government position to be presented both in Congressional testimony and in public statements.

a. The security of South Vietnam remains vital to United States security. For this reason, we adhere to the overriding objective of denying this country to Communism and of suppressing the Viet Cong insurgency as promptly as possible. (By suppressing the insurgency we mean reducing it to proportions manageable by the national security forces of the GVN, unassisted by the presence of U.S. military forces.) We believe the U.S. part of the task can be completed by the end of 1965, the terminal date which we are taking as the time objective of our counterinsurgency programs.

b. The military program in Vietnam has made progress and is sound in principle.

c. The political situation in Vietnam remains deeply serious. It has not yet significantly affected the military effort, but could do so at some time in the future. If the result is a GVN ineffective in the conduct of the war, the U.S. will review its attitude toward support for the government. Although we are deeply concerned by repressive practices, effective performance in the conduct of the war should be the determining factor in our relations with the GVN.

d. The U.S. has expressed its disapproval of certain actions of the Diem-Nhu regime and will do so again if required. Our policy is to seek to bring about the abandonment of repression because of its effect on the popular will to resist. Our means consist of expressions of disapproval and the withholding of support from GVN activities that are not clearly contributing to the war effort. We will use these means as required to assure an effective military program.

[Here follow Sections II, "Military Situation and Trends," III, "Economic Situation and Trends," IV, "Political Situation and Trends," and V, "Effect on Political Tension."]


From the above analysis it is clear that the situation requires a constant effort by the U.S. to obtain a reduction of political tensions and improved performance by the Vietnamese Government. We cannot say with assurance whether the effort against the Viet Cong will ultimately fail in the absence of major political improvements. However, it does seem clear that after another period of repressive action progress may be reduced and indeed reversed. Although the present momentum might conceivably continue to carry the effort forward even if Diem remains in power and political tensions continue, any significant slowing in the rate of progress would surely have a serious effect on U.S. popular support for the U.S. effort.


A. Conduct of U.S. Representatives.

U.S. personnel in Saigon might adopt an attitude of coolness toward their Vietnamese counterparts, maintaining only those contacts and communications which are necessary for the actual conduct of operations in the field. To some extent this is the attitude already adopted by the Ambassador himself, but it could be extended to the civilian and military agencies located in Saigon. The effect of such action would be largely psychological.

B. Economic Leverage.

Together, USOM's Commodity Import Program (CIP) and the PL 480 program account for between 60 and 70 percent of imports into Vietnam. The commitment of funds under the CIP has already been suspended. CIP deliveries result in the generation of piastres, most of which go to the support of the defense budget. It is estimated that CIP pipelines will remain relatively large for some five or six months, and within this time period there would not be a serious material effect. Even within this period, however, the flow of piastres to support the defense budget will gradually begin to decline and the GVN will be forced to draw down its foreign exchange reserves or curtail its military expenditures.

Within the domestic economy the existing large pipelines would mean that there would be no material reason for inflation to begin in the short term period. However, the psychological effect of growing realization that the CIP program has been suspended might be substantial in 2-4 months. Saigon has a large number of speculative traders, and although there is considerable police effort to control prices, this might not be able to contain a general trend of speculation and hoarding. Once inflation did develop, it could have a serious effect on the GVN budget and the conduct of the war.

Apart from CIP, two major AID projects are up for final approval--the Saigon-Cholon Waterworks ($9 million) and the Saigon Electric Power Project ($4 million). Suspension of these projects would be a possible means of demonstrating to Congress and the world that we disapprove of GVN policies and are not providing additional aid not directly essential to the war effort.

C. Paramilitary and Other Assistance.

(1) USOM assistance to the Combat Police and USOM and USIS assistance to the Director General of Information and the ARVN PsyWar Program could be suspended. These projects involve a relatively small amount of local currency but their suspension, particularly in the case of USIS, might adversely affect programs which the U.S. wishes to see progress.

(2) However, there would be merit in a gesture aimed at Colonel Tung, the Special Forces Commander, whose forces in or near Saigon played a conspicuous part in the pagoda affair and are a continuing support for Diem. Colonel Tung commands a mixed complex of forces, some of which are supported by MAP and others presently through CIA. All of those now in or near Saigon were trained either for combat missions or for special operations into North Vietnam and Laos. Purely on grounds of their not being used for their proper missions, the U.S. could inform Diem that we would cut off MAP and CIA support unless they were placed directly under Joint General Staff and were committed to field operations.

The practical effect of the cut-off would probably be small. The equipment cannot be taken out of the hands of the units, and the pay provided to some units could be made up from the GVN budget. Psychologically, however, the significance of the gesture might be greater. At the least it would remove one target of press criticism of the U.S., and would probably also be welcomed by the high military officers in Vietnam, and certainly by the disaffected groups in Saigon.

At the same time, support should continue, but through General Harkins rather than CIA, for border surveillance and other similar field operations that are contributing to the war effort.

We have weighed this cut-off action carefully. It runs a risk that Colonel Tung would refuse to carry out external operations against the Lao corridor and North Vietnam. It might also limit CIA's access to the military. However, U.S. liaison with high military officers could probably be fully maintained through the U.S. military advisors. On balance, we conclude that these possible disadvantages are outweighed by the gains implicit in this action.

(3) Consideration has been given both by USOM and the military (principally the JCS in Washington) to the possibility of redirecting economic and military assistance in such a fashion as to bypass the central government in Saigon. Military studies have shown the technical feasibility, though with great difficulty and cost, of supplying the war effort in the countryside over lines of communications which do not involve Saigon, and it is assumed that the same conclusions would apply to USOM deliveries to the field under the rural strategic hamlet program. However, there is a consensus among U.S. agencies in Saigon that such an effort is not practical in the face of determined opposition by the GVN unless, of course, a situation had developed where the central government was no longer in control of some areas of the country. Nor is it at all clear that such diversion would operate to build up the position of the military or to cut down Nhu's position.

D. Propaganda.

Although the capability of USIS to support the United States campaign of pressure against the regime would be small, the Ambassador believes consideration must be given to the content and timing of the United States pronouncements outside the country. He has already suggested the use of the Voice of America in stimulating, in its broadcasts to Vietnamese, discussions of democratic political philosophies. This medium could be used to exploit a wide range of ascending political pressure. In addition, a phased program of United States official pronouncements could be developed for use in conjunction with the other leverages as they are applied. We must recognize the possibility that such actions may incite Diem to strong countermeasures.

E. The Leverage of Conditioning Our Military Aid on Satisfactory Progress.

Coupled with all the above there is the implicit leverage embodied in our constantly making it plain to Diem and others that the long term continuation of military aid is conditioned upon the Vietnamese Government demonstrating a satisfactory level of progress toward defeat of the insurgency.

F. Conclusions.

A program of limited pressures, such as the CIP suspension, will not have large material effects on the GVN or the war effort, at least for 2-4 months. The psychological effects could be greater, and there is some evidence that the suspension is already causing concern to Diem. However, the effect of pressures that can be carried out over an extended period without detriment to the war effort is probably limited with respect to the possibility of Diem making necessary changes.

We have not analyzed with care what the effect might be of a far more intensive level of pressure such as cessation of MAP deliveries or long continued suspension of the commodity import program. If the Diem government should fail to make major improvements, serious consideration would have to be given to this possible course of action, but we believe its effect on the war effort would be so serious--in psychological if not in immediate material terms--that it should not be undertaken at the present time.


A. Prospects of a Spontaneous Coup.

The prospects of an early spontaneous replacement of the Diem Regime are not high. The two principal sources of such an attempt, the senior military officers and the students, have both been neutralized by a combination of their own inability and the regime's effective countermeasures of control. The student organizations have been emasculated. The students themselves have displayed more emotion than determination and they are apparently being handled with sufficient police sophistication to avoid an explosion.

The generals appear to have little stomach for the difficult job of secretly arranging the necessary coalescence of force to upset the Regime.

Diem/Nhu are keenly aware of the capability of the generals to take over the country, utilizing the tremendous power now vested in the military forces. They, therefore, concentrate their manipulative talent on the general officers, by transfers, and by controls over key units and their locations. They are aware that these actions may reduce efficiency, but they tolerate it rather than risk the prospect that they be overthrown and their social revolution frustrated. They have established a praetorian guard to guarantee considerable bloodshed if any attack is made. The generals have seen slim hope of surmounting these difficulties without prohibitive risk to themselves, the unity of the Army and the Establishment itself.

Despite these unfavorable prospects for action in the short term, new factors could quickly arise, such as the death of Diem or an unpredictable and even irrational attack launched by a junior officer group, which would call urgently for U.S. support or counteraction. In such a case, the best alternative would appear to be the support of constitutional continuity in the person of the Vice President, behind whom arrangements could be developed for a more permanent replacement after a transitional period.

B. Prospects for Improvement under an Alternative Government.

The prospects that a replacement regime would be an improvement appear to be about 50-50./4/ Initially, only a strongly authoritarian regime would be able to pull the government together and maintain order. In view of the pre-eminent role of the military in Vietnam today, it is probable that this role would be filled by a military officer, perhaps taking power after the selective process of a junta dispute. Such an authoritarian military regime, perhaps after an initial period of euphoria at the departure of Diem/Nhu, would be apt to entail a resumption of the repression at least of Diem, the corruption of the Vietnamese Establishment before Diem, and an emphasis on conventional military rather than social, economic and political considerations, with at least an equivalent degree of xenophobic nationalism.

/4/Mr. Sullivan (State) believes that a replacement regime which does not suffer from the overriding danger of Nhu's ambition to establish a totalitarian state (the control of which he might easily lose to the Communists in the course of his flirtations) would be inevitably better than the current regime even if the former did have the deficiencies described. [Footnote in the source text.]

These features must be weighed, however, against the possible results of growing dominance or succession by Nhu, which would continue and even magnify the present dissension, unhappiness and unrest.

C. Possible U.S. Actions.

Obviously, clear and explicit U.S. support could make a great difference to the chances of a coup. However, at the present time we lack a clear picture of what acceptable individuals might be brought to the point of action, or what kind of government might emerge. We therefore need an intensive clandestine effort, under the Ambassador's direction, to establish necessary contacts to allow the U.S. to continuously appraise coup prospects.

If and when we have a better picture, the choice will still remain difficult whether we would prefer to take our chances on a spontaneous coup (assuming some action by Diem and Nhu would trigger it) or to risk U.S. prestige and having the U.S. hand show with a coup group which appeared likely to be a better alternative government. Any regime that was identified from the outset as a U.S. "puppet" would have disadvantages both within South Vietnam and in significant areas of the world, including other underdeveloped nations where the U.S. has a major role.

In any case, whether or not it proves to be wise to promote a coup at a later time, we must be ready for the possibility of a spontaneous coup, and this too requires clandestine contacts on an intensive basis.


Broadly speaking, we believe there are three alternative policies the U.S. could pursue to achieve its political and military objectives:

1. Return to avowed support of the Diem regime and attempt to obtain the necessary improvements through persuasion from a posture of "reconciliation." This would not mean any expression of approval of the repressive actions of the regime, but simply that we would go back in practice to business as usual.

2. Follow a policy of selective pressures: "purely correct" relationships at the top official level, continuing to withhold further actions in the commodity import program, and making clear our disapproval of the regime. A further element in this policy is letting the present impression stand that the U.S. would not be averse to a change of Government--although we would not take any immediate actions to initiate a coup.

3. Start immediately to promote a coup by high ranking military officers. This policy might involve more extended suspensions of aid and sharp denunciations of the regime's actions so timed as to fit with coup prospects and planning.

Our analysis of these alternatives is as follows:

1. Reconciliation.

We believe that this course of action would be ineffective from the standpoint of events in South Vietnam alone, and would also greatly increase our difficulties in justifying the present U.S. support effort both to the Congress and generally to significant third nations. We are most unlikely, after recent events, to get Diem to make the necessary changes; on the contrary, he would almost certainly regard our reconciliation as an evidence that the U.S. would sit still for just about anything he did. The result would probably be not only a continuation of the destructive elements in the Regime's policies but a return to larger scale repressions as and when Diem and Nhu thought they were necessary. The result would probably be sharp deterioration in the military situation in a fairly short period.

2. Selective Pressures.

We have examined numerous possibilities of applying pressures to Diem in order to incline him to the direction of our policies. The most powerful instrument at our disposal is the control of military and economic aid but any consideration of its use reveals the double-edged nature of its effects. Any long-term reduction of aid cannot but have an eventual adverse effect on the military campaign since both the military and the economic programs have been consciously designed and justified in terms of their contribution to the war effort. Hence, immediate reductions must be selected carefully and be left in effect only for short periods.

We believe that the present level of pressures is causing, and will cause, Diem some concern, while at the same time not significantly impairing the military effort. We are not hopeful that this level (or indeed any level) of pressure will actually induce Diem to remove Nhu from the picture completely. However, there is a better chance that Diem will at least be deterred from resuming large scale oppressions.

At the same time, there are various factors that set a time limit to pursuing this course of action in its present form. Within 2-4 months we have to make critical decisions with the GVN about its 1964 budget and our economic support level. In addition, there is a significant and growing possibility that even the present limited actions in the economic field-more for psychological than for economic reasons would start a wave of speculation and inflation that would be difficult to control or bring back into proper shape. As to when we would reverse our present course, the resumption of the full program of economic and military aid should be tied to the actions of the Diem government.

As a foundation for the development of our long-term economic and military aid programs, we believe it may be possible to develop specific military objectives to be achieved on an agreed schedule. The extent to which such objectives are met, in conjunction with an evaluation of the regime's political performance, would determine the level of aid for the following period.

3. Organizing a Coup.

For the reasons stated earlier, we believe this course of action should not be undertaken at the present time.

On balance we consider that the most promising course of action to adopt at this time is an application of selective short-term pressures, principally economic, and the conditioning of long-term aid on the satisfactory performance by the Diem government in meeting military and political objectives which in the aggregate equate to the requirements of final victory. The specific actions recommended in Section I of this report are consistent with this policy.

Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Secretary of Defense/5/

/5/The source text bears no signatures.


168. Memorandum of Conversation/1/


New York, October 2, 1963, 3 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Peter S. Thacher of the Political Affairs Section of the Mission. The meeting took place at USUN.

South Vietnam; Internal


United States
The Secretary
Ambassador Yost
Mr. Thacher (Reporter)

South Vietnam
Ambassador Buu Hoi

The Secretary started the conversation by noting that in order to achieve the goal of security and independence for the Republic of Vietnam, it would be necessary first to defeat the Viet-Cong. US policy on this matter is as clear as is our commitment to the goal. As Ambassador Buu Hoi well knew, we have been seriously concerned about our ability to achieve this goal because of what appeared to be a shattering of solidarity in South Vietnam, a loss of confidence by the people in their government. As Mao Tse-tung had once observed, if the people are in support of the guerillas, every bush becomes an ally. Until recently we were confident that the bushes in South Vietnam were our allies, but we were no longer sure. He expected shortly to receive Mr. McNamara's report,/2/ but had not as yet seen it.

/2/Document 167.

Amb. Buu Hoi said that he did not deny much of what had been said, but he felt that things were not necessarily what they appeared to be, and that the full scope of the struggle had to be kept in mind. The present fight is not a fight of today's battles, or even a year-to-year struggle; rather, the fight spans the time of a generation. To win we must encourage followers of the Viet-Cong to switch over to our side. At the same time we must prevent any drain from our side either by those who defect to the Viet-Cong or by those who might simply leave the country. He felt that no government has had worse public relations than his, a fact which he believed stems from their past reliance on foreigners for public relations.

Addressing himself to the immediate situation, Buu Hoi said that "Nhu is indispensable, and yet Madame Nhu must clearly be eliminated".

He digressed to review recent events which originated in the city of Hue, center of the Buddhist faith in South Vietnam, yet a city which at the same time retains its traditional role as "a hotbed of revolt".

Stating that he was convinced that these were the facts, Buu Hoi said that an approach had been made to His Holiness Pope John suggesting that President Diem's brother, Archbishop Thuc, be named Archbishop in Saigon. Pope John had recognized the political overtones of this request and had settled on the city of Hue as a compromise. This was how the President's brother became named as Archbishop in Hue, not long ago.

But the President had another brother, Can, who also lived in Hue, was a militant nationalist with a very poor press reputation. Can was a sincere friend of Buddhists in Hue and was, in fact, the source through whom funds were passed by the government to the Buddhist hierarchy in Hue. And when his elder brother, Archbishop Thuc arrived in Hue, local officials deserted Can in favor of the elder brother who appeared to be closer to the President. This led to a feeling of despair and hopelessness on the part of Buddhists in that city. The demonstrations which erupted in Hue in early May were triggered by orders from Saigon that the Buddhist flag should be pulled down; Can had earlier assured the Buddhists that they should fly their flag and that he would take responsibility for keeping their flag up.

Buu Hoi noted that it was President Diem, not Mr. Nhu, who ordered the Buddhist flag pulled down in Hue.

He said that Nhu had put the all-important ideological content into the fight with his strategic hamlet program. He, Buu Hoi, regretted to state that he is convinced that the "top of the government is rotten" and that the strategic hamlet program is an absolutely necessary counterpart to this rottenness. For these reasons he was convinced that Mr. Nhu is an indispensable figure for the successful conduct of the overall struggle.

The Secretary asked if it could be demonstrated that Mr. Nhu is not an all-controlling influence in the government.

Buu Hoi said that the US should urge Diem to appoint Nhu to the specific job of running the strategic hamlet program. Posing the question of whom this would leave to run the government, Buu Hoi said such a man would be Thuan, who he felt was already the equivalent of a Prime Minister. He noted that Thuan is purely an administrator, neither corrupt nor ambitious, and not interested in politics.

Governor Stevenson asked if what Ambassador Buu Hoi had described suggested the need for a change in Hue. Buu Hoi said that he believed that the present Pope would be willing to make a change.

He recalled that he had earlier said that Madame Nhu must go. He felt that President Diem was still convinced that she is not harmful, and he felt that the President needs to be told just how harmful she is. He said that he and others have been doing their best to prevent her from coming here, and he remarked that Vice President Johnson's letter to Madame Nhu might be helpful if shown to President Diem.

The Secretary said his impression remained that both Mr. and Mrs. Nhu exerted a harmful influence. The Secretary believed it was still necessary for the government to build solidarity. He agreed that Mr. Nhu had made an important contribution in the strategic hamlet program. But he felt that it would be hard to get anything done in the government if fear and suspicion pervades its top level.

Buu Hoi regretted that he had to say much of the harm was done by the President himself, often the President made harmful decisions despite his brother's (Nhu) advice to the contrary. He cited in this instance the order to pull the flags down in Hue (with the implication that Nhu had not favored this order). Buu Hoi felt that Mr. Nhu had only recently emerged from his previous "backroom" role into the public eye. He thought this might have resulted from Madame Nhu's influence.

In general terms, Buu Hoi felt it absolutely necessary to convince the President that he must set up a cabinet in which each member would stand or fall purely on the basis of performance. In this scheme of things, Mr. Nhu should be given the task of running the strategic hamlet program, and should at the same time again resume his role as a "backroom" advisor.

The Secretary wondered if it would be important to remove Nhu from the palace and to make his wife cease her palace operations.

Buu Hoi did not believe this would be a problem; it might not even be necessary for the Nhus to remove themselves from Saigon, but he agreed that they should be removed from the palace itself.

The conversation then fumed to the immediate situation at the UN which has been reported separately by telegram, Secto 51 to the Department./3/

/3/In Secto 51, October 2, USUN reported that Buu Hoi was about to raise with U Thant the idea of an ad hoc mission of leading international personalities to examine the Buddhist problem in South Vietnam. To dispel suspicion that this might be a stalling device, Buu Hoi would assure U Thant that the Government of Vietnam did not oppose reopening the issue later in the General Assembly session. In response to a question from Rusk, Buu Hoi said that mission members would be free to investigate the problem in South Vietnam as they chose. Buu Hoi stated that he and his government felt this way because there was no longer a Buddhist problem in South Vietnam. (Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET-US)


169. Summary Record of the 519th Meeting of the National Security Council/1/

Washington, October 2, 1963, 6 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSC Meeting No. 519. Top Secret. This meeting took place in the Cabinet Room of the White House and lasted until 6:30 p.m., according to the President's Log. (Ibid.)

[Here follows an attendance list.]

The President opened the meeting by summarizing where we now stand on U.S. policy toward Vietnam. Most of the officials involved are in agreement. We are not papering over our differences. We are agreed to try to find effective means of changing the political atmosphere in Saigon. We are agreed that we should not cut off all U.S. aid to Vietnam, but are agreed on the necessity of trying to improve the situation in Vietnam by bringing about changes there. Reports of disagreements do not help the war effort in Vietnam and do no good to the government as a whole. We must all sign on and with good heart set out to implement the actions decided upon. Here and in Saigon we must get ahead by carrying out the agreed policy. Because we are agreed, we should convey our agreement to our subordinates. There are no differences between Washington and Ambassador Lodge or among the State and Defense Departments and the CIA. Ambassador Lodge has full authority to pull into line all U.S. government representatives in Saigon.

The President then turned to consideration of the draft public statement (copy attached)./2/ He said that attacks on the Diem regime in public statements are less effective than actions which we plan to take. He preferred to base our policy on the harm which Diem's political actions are causing to the effort against the Viet Cong rather than on our moral opposition to the kind of government Diem is running.

/2/Not attached, but see Document 170.

Mr. Ball said that he and Secretary Rusk felt that there should be stress on the moral issues involved because of the beneficial effect which such emphasis produced in world public opinion, especially among UN delegates. The President replied that the major problem was with U.S. public opinion and he believed we should stress the harm Diem's policies are doing to the war effort against the Communists.

Mr. Bundy said Secretary McNamara and General Taylor wanted to emphasize the objective of winning the war. State Department officials wanted something more than an objective of merely winning the war. Mr. Harriman commented that he was prepared to accept the language as proposed.

The President objected to the phrase "by the end of this year" in the sentence "The U.S. program for training Vietnamese should have progressed to the point where 1000 U.S. military personnel assigned to South Vietnam could be withdrawn." He believed that if we were not able to take this action by the end of this year, we would be accused of being over optimistic.

Secretary McNamara said he saw great value in this sentence in order to meet the view of Senator Fulbright and others that we are bogged down forever in Vietnam. He said the sentence reveals that we have a withdrawal plan. Furthermore, it commits us to emphasize the training of Vietnamese, which is something we must do in order to replace U.S. personnel with Vietnamese.

The draft announcement was changed to make both of the time predictions included in paragraph 3 a part of the McNamara-Taylor report/3/ rather than as predictions of the President.

/3/Document 167.

Mr. Bundy raised the question as to Ambassador Lodge's view of the proposed draft policy statement. He said Ambassador Lodge could be told that because of the time pressure it had not been possible to clear the statement with him, but that it was felt here it would meet his requirements.

The President then asked about the measures which we would take to bring pressure on Diem. Secretary McNamara replied that a working group would propose recommendations for the President's decision at a later date.

The President directed that no one discuss with the press any measures which he may decide to undertake on the basis of the recommendations to be made to him. He said we should not talk about such measures until they are agreed. The selected cuts in U.S. assistance should be discussed only in the Cabinet Room until all of them were finally agreed upon.

Mr. Salinger said he would decline to answer any press questions about what measures the U.S. proposed to take.

In response to a question by Administrator Bell, the President said he should reply to inquiring Congressmen that we are continuing our present aid schedule. After a further exchange, the President made clear that what he thought we should tell the Congressmen should be limited to saying that aid which we are now extending would be continued. He recognized that aid we are now extending is not that we had been extending prior to the August disturbances.

Secretary McNamara felt that Mr. Bell should say nothing. The group would return to the President by Friday/4/ with specific recommendations.

/4/October 4.

The President then asked what we should say about the news story attacking CIA which appeared in today's Washington Daily News. He read a draft paragraph for inclusion in the public statement but rejected it as being too fluffy. He felt no one would believe a statement saying that there were no differences of view among the various U.S agencies represented in Saigon. He thought that we should say that now we had a positive policy endorsed by the National Security Council and that such policy would be carried out by all concerned.

Mr. Bundy suggested the President direct everyone present not to discuss the paper. Now that a policy decision had been made, we should be absolutely certain that no one continues to talk to the press about differences among U.S agencies.

The President said that as of tonight we have a policy and a report endorsed by all the members of the National Security Council.

The President asked again about the means we plan to use in changing the political atmosphere in Saigon.

Secretary McNamara discussed the recommendations in paragraph 4 of the report and said the group would be returning to the President with specific actions to be taken.

After the President left the meeting, there was a discussion as to how to put into final form the recommendations for the President. It was decided that a sub-group would make more precise the recommendations contained in paragraph 4, and that the group of principals would meet the following day in the absence of the President in order to prepare a paper for him to consider on Friday./5/

/5/See footnote 3. Document 174.

The only substantive point that came out in this discussion was Secretary McNamara's belief that economic pressures against Diem should be undertaken over a longer period of time rather than a short period which would produce critical reactions in Saigon.


170. Record of Action No. 2472, Taken at the 519th Meeting of the National Security Council/1/

Washington, October 2, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 70 D 265, NSC Meetings. Secret.


/2/Document 167.

a. Endorsed the basic presentation on Vietnam made by Secretary McNamara and General Taylor.

b. Noted the President's approval of the following statement of U.S. policy which was later released to the press:/3/

/3/Printed in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 759-760. McGeorge Bundy sent Lodge the following telegram explaining this statement:
"Statement issued after NSC meeting today represents President's own judgment of common purpose and policy established by you and McNamara mission and is designed to strengthen your hand in next phase.
"Urgency of immediate public proof of unity here prevented prior reference to you but President asked me to insure that if you need any adjustment or modif1cation you let us know." (CAP 63556, October 3; Kennedy Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country Series, State Cables)
Lodge responded in telegram 624 from Saigon: "The statement is excellent in substance and well-tempered in tone. I am proud to be associated with it." (Ibid.)

"1. The security of South Viet Nam is a major interest of the United States as other free nations. We will adhere to our policy of working with the people and Government of South Viet Nam to deny this country to Communism and to suppress the externally stimulated and supported insurgency of the Viet Cong as promptly as possible. Effective performance in this undertaking is the central objective of our policy in South Viet Nam.

"2. The military program in South Viet Nam has made progress and is sound in principle, though improvements are being energetically sought.

"3. Major U.S. assistance in support of this military effort is needed only until the insurgency has been suppressed or until the national security forces of the Government of South Viet Nam are capable of suppressing it.

"Secretary McNamara and General Taylor reported their judgment that the major part of the U.S. military task can be completed by the end of 1965, although there may be a continuing requirement for a limited number of U.S. training personnel. They reported that by the end of this year, the U.S. program for training Vietnamese should have progressed to the point where 1,000 U.S. military personnel assigned to South Viet Nam can be withdrawn.

"4. The political situation in South Viet Nam remains deeply serious. The United States has made clear its continuing opposition to any repressive actions in South Viet Nam. While such actions have not yet significantly affected the military effort, they could do so in the future.

"5. It remains the policy of the United States, in South Viet Nam as in other parts of the world, to support the efforts of the people of that country to defeat aggression and to build a peaceful and free society."


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

Saigon, October 3, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Secret; Immediate; Eyes Only. The source text is the copy sent by the CIA to the Department of State exclusive for Rusk, Ball, Harriman, and Hilsman. The telegram was also sent exclusive to the White House for Bundy and to the Assistant Chief of Staff (Intelligence), Department of the Army, exclusive for McNamara, Gilpatric, Taylor, and Krulak. It was received at the Department of State at 2:06 p.m. on October 3 and passed to USUN for Rusk eyes only.

1385. 1. On 2 Oct 1963 Lt Col Conein accidentally encountered Maj Gen Tran Van Don at Tan Son Nhut Airport. Don stated he had been attempting to make contact with Conein for some time. Requested that Conein come to Nha Trang on night of 2 Oct for private discussion. Conein was noncommittal in his reply.

2. Col Conein's visiting Nha Trang to talk with Don was approved by Trueheart.

3. Trueheart's guidance to Conein was that he neither to encourage nor discourage any coup thinking or action, to elicit information only and not to commit the USG to any action whatsoever.

4. Conein met with Don in Nha Trang on night of 2 Oct for approximately one hour. No other persons were present during the meeting. Don made the following points:

a. Duong Van Minh desires to see Conein for private conversation.

b. Meeting with Minh will take place 0800 hours 5 Oct at Joint General Staff Headquarters, Saigon.

c. At that hour Conein is to present himself in uniform at Don's office. Cover topic of conversation will be possible relocation of United States Special forces headquarters. (Comment: This is a cover topic only suggested by Gen Don. CAS Saigon would not undertake discussion such a matter since this would be solely within MACV prerogatives.)

d. Conein will speak to Minh alone.

e. Gen Ton That Dinh has realized he was "played for a fool" during his tenure as Military Governor of Saigon. For this reason "may join our side."

f. Gen Tran Van Kim and Gen Phan Xuan Chieu have been given staff positions under Gen Don on the JGS.

g. The Generals (specific personalities not identified) have requested President Diem to accord them positions of Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior, Minister of Education, Minister of Civic Action, and the Prefector of the Police for Saigon/Cholon. In addition, Generals asked President Diem to appoint a general officer Military Governor Saigon/Cholon to insure defense of area. Generals are convinced Diem has no intention of making these appointments.

5. Conein attempted to elicit additional details from Don who refused all attempts at elicitation with statement "you must talk to Minh." Don did volunteer, however, that Generals "now have a plan." Don was emphatic with respect to this last statement.

6. Don also stated that two days prior to Gen Dinh's first press conference (29 Aug) Vietnamese civilian otherwise unidentified visited Ngo Dinh Nhu, stated that Americans were contacting various Vietnamese in order to encourage a coup. Thereupon Nhu had called in Don and Don was shown list of Americans engaged in such coup plots. Don stated Conein's name was not on this list.

7. Ambassador has approved Conein's contact with Don and Minh on 5 October.


172. Memorandum of Meeting/1/

Washington, October 3, 1963, 6 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Meetings and Memoranda, vol. 11, Meetings on Vietnam. Top Secret. Drafted by Smith. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1982, 510C. The source text indicates the President did not attend the meeting, which was held in the White House Situation Room.


Secretary McNamara, Secretary Dillon, Under Secretary Ball, Director McCone, Administrator Bell, Acting Director Wilson, Under Secretary Harriman, General Krulak, Deputy Secretary Gilpatric, Assistant Secretary Hilsman, Deputy Assistant Secretary William Bundy, Mr. Janow (AID), Mr. McGeorge Bundy, General Clifton, Mr. Forrestal, Mr. Bromley Smith

The group working on Vietnam met without the President to work on the recommendations growing out of the McNamara/Taylor trip to Vietnam.

Secretary McNamara said we cannot stay in the middle much longer. The program outlined in his report/2/ will push us toward a reconciliation with Diem or toward a coup to overthrow Diem. The program will have no major effect on the war effort for a period of from two to four months. Ambassador Lodge, on the basis of conversations in Saigon, would undoubtedly welcome this program as well as instructions to implement it. The question still remains, however, as to what Lodge's bargaining position is. What should Lodge ask Diem to do? We should draw up a list for Lodge and have him find out how many of our recommendations Diem would accept. This list would include the military recommendations contained in the report. As to political actions, there are several things we want Diem to do which we think would halt the erosion of public support of the government, and, hence, the resulting effect on the war effort in Vietnam. One of the important actions would be to reopen Saigon University after conversations with the school authorities. The purpose would be to reassure the students that they need not fear arrest. In return, they would not carry out further riots in Saigon.

/2/Document 167.

Mr. Ball said that if we go down this road it will become known that we are using our aid as pressure on Diem. What position will we be in if we cut off aid, Diem does not do what we want him to do, and then we face a decision to resume aid because, if we do not, the effort against the Viet Cong will cease?

Secretary McNamara believed that Diem would respond to our pressure by moving part way toward a position which will improve the political situation in Vietnam and therefore improve the military effort.

The group agreed that Administrator Bell of AID should tell Congress that we are not suspending aid but were putting Diem on a shorter leash which would mean that we have greater flexibility to deal with the developing situation in Vietnam.

Bromley Smith/3/

/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


173. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs' Special Assistant (Sullivan) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)/1/

Washington, October 3, 1963.

/1/Source: Library of Congress, Harriman Papers, Vietnam--Policy. Secret.

The ultimate objectives of the United States in Viet Nam do not coincide with the Diem-Nhu objectives. We wish to defeat Viet Cong subversion so that South Viet Nam may develop as a free state. They wish to defeat Viet Cong subversion so that Viet Nam can develop as a totalitarian state, which, in Nhu's words, will "challenge the communists on their own grounds using their own methods". I believe such an effort will fail and will result in a communist victory in South Vietnam.

The question is not, therefore, whether we can win with this regime but rather whether we want this regime to have the benefits of such a victory for purposes which are contrary not only to our objectives but also to our interests. The fact is that Nhu is exploiting two principal elements of power to produce his totalitarian state. The first is the Vietnamese Establishment--that educated, propertied, leadership class which makes up the military officer class, the bureaucracy and the Vietnamese portion of the business community--the second is the military power of the United States.

Nhu will disestablish the first element by liquidation when he feels he has achieved enough success in the fight against the Viet Cong and the establishment of a peasant power base. He will eject the second by a deal with North Vietnam when he feels he has adequate means to continue in power without its assistance.

At the current moment, therefore, our situation equates with the thoroughly discontented Establishment, and their ultimate goals more closely coincide with ours than do those of the Diem-Nhu regime. I conclude therefore that it is in our interest to make common cause with them to overthrow the current regime.


174. Memorandum for the Record of a Meeting of the Executive Committee/1/

Washington, October 4, 1963, 4 p.m.

/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-233-69. Top Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Krulak who did not provide a list of participants. The meeting was held at the White House. A record of the discussion by Bromley Smith lists the following participants: "Secretary McNamara, Secretary Dillon, Attorney General, Under Secretary Harriman, Deputy Secretary Gilpatric (later), Administrator Bell, Director McCone, Acting Director Wilson, General Krulak, Assistant Secretary Hilsman, Deputy Assistant Secretary William Bundy, Mr. Janow (AID), Mr. Koren (Hilsman's office), Mr. McGeorge Bundy, Mr. Forrestal, Mr. Bromley Smith." (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda, Meetings on Vietnam)

1. The purpose of the meeting was to examine a second effort on the part of the drafting group to cover the economic and political actions recommended in the McNamara-Taylor trip report;/2/ specifically, to add detailed requirements which should be communicated to Diem and which, if fulfilled, would provide the basis for resumption of full support by the U.S. Government.

/2/Document 167.

2. The attached paper/3/ was submitted by the drafters. There were no major criticisms. Those voiced were:

/3/Reference is to an October 4 draft of a Report for the Executive Committee of the NSC. There is no drafting information on it, but Krulak implies that it was a group effort. The October 4 draft was revised as Krulak describes above and then discussed at a meeting with the President on October 5; see Document 179. The paper was then sent as a cable to Saigon; see Document 181.
The October 4 draft is in the Kennedy Library, Hilsman Papers, Countries Series, Vietnam, and the revised October 5 draft is ibid., National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda, Meetings on Vietnam.

a. The supporting analysts,/4/ which appeared in the preceding paper, was desirable and should be integrated into the current draft.

/4/Document 175.

b. It should be made clear that the instructions involved had their origin with the President.

c. The theme should be molded into the paper that the dialogue between the Ambassador and President Diem is designed to achieve three things--an increase in the military effort, a reduction in the strains on U.S./GVN confidence, and increase of popular Vietnamese support for winning the war.

Based on the foregoing, minor editorial changes were suggested.

3. The principal discussion centered around how the Ambassador was to convey to Diem the U.S. purposes, how the matter was to be explained to the U.S. public and what effect the suspension of aid would actually have.

4. It was the Attorney General's view that we are so deeply committed to the support of the effort in Vietnam that Diem will not be greatly influenced by the steps contemplated in this program. He was likewise concerned with the proposed technique of making the aid suspension known to Diem by indirection, rather than by direct confrontation. He also raised the question of the logic of making known the plan to withdraw U.S. soldiers. Mr. McNamara rationalized this course of action to him in terms of there being no wisdom in leaving our forces in Vietnam, when their presence is no longer required, either by virtue of the Vietnamese having been trained to assume the function, or the function having been fulfilled.

5. Mr. Bell was against use of the word "suspend" in discussion of aid and preferred to use the term "held up" to indicate that it might be resumed. He also proposed, in the anticipation that the President would have to make some form of public statement, that it should be pivoted upon the theme that the programs which are held up are being reviewed to insure that they are consistent with the President's previously announced policy regarding assistance for Vietnam.

6. There was discussion of the desirability of increasing VOA broadcasts, particularly with respect to the emphasis on democracy, freedom and enlightened processes. It was Mr. McNamara's view that we should be wary of this action because it might inspire Diem to eject the USIS, which would be disastrous.

Mr. McNamara recommended that at tomorrow's White House meeting the Conclusions and Recommendations in the McNamara-Taylor report be reviewed in the presence of the President, along with the analysis of alternative policies (Section IX). At that meeting, also, there will be a further redraft of the paper on economics and politics, embodying the minor changes suggested today.

V.H. Krulak

Major General, USMC


175. Annex to the Draft Report Prepared for the Executive Committee of the National Security Council/1/

Washington, October 4, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Hilsman Papers, Country Series-Vietnam. Top Secret. There is no drafting information on the source text, but an earlier draft of this annex, October 3, had William Bundy as the drafter. (Ibid.) This annex was attached without modification to the October 5 draft of the report (see footnote 3, Document 174) but was not sent as part of Document 181.


Introduction: The recommended US actions are designed to indicate to the Diem Government our displeasure at its political actions and to create significant uncertainty in that government and in key Vietnamese groups as to the future intentions of the US. At the same time, the actions are designed to have at most slight impact on the military or counterinsurgency effort against the Viet Cong, at least in the short term. The analysis of each action from this standpoint is as follows:

1. AID Commodity Import Program. Present planning envisages a range of $80-95 million of AID commodity imports, funded under the FY 1964 Supporting Assistance portion of the foreign aid appropriation and applicable to the CY 1964 budgetary and commodity needs of the GVN. An allotment of $28 million for the first quarter of FY 1964 has already been made, and $13 million of this committed and expended, with the balance of $5 million allotted but frozen in Saigon. A second quarter allotment of $20-25 million would now normally be due. The recommendation would continue to freeze the present $5 million and would withhold the second quarter allotment.

The material effect of this action must be considered from two standpoints:

a. Commodity imports are handled through commercial channels and the proceeds in piastres then become available to the GVN, 15% at the time of licensing, approximately 80% three months later at the time of shipment, and the balance through tax receipts upon arrival. The shortfall in piastre flow from receipts at the time of licensing is sufficiently small to be within the normal swing of the account, and would have no serious effect on piastre availability for the GVN budget, the deficiency being met by small borrowings from the Central Bank. However, the effect on piastre availability would become substantial in 3-4 months, in amounts that could be met over an additional short period by larger scale borrowings but that would be cumulatively serious in producing a budget pinch in the early months of 1964, and might cause the GVN to cut expenses even sooner. It should be noted that the GVN budget for 1964 is already tight even on the assumption that $95 million of AID commodity imports would be available, and it is now uncertain whether the foreign aid final appropriation would permit the $95 million level.

b. The effect on the flow of commodities into Vietnam would not be serious in the short term, inasmuch as $70-80 million of previous US-funded commodity imports as well as substantial private imports are in the pipeline. A valley would, however, begin to appear about March 1964.

Psychologically, a major problem might arise as the mere decision to suspend becomes more fully known in Saigon official and business circles. The freezing of the $5 million is already known, and the timing pattern of allotment decisions is also familiar. Hence, it must be expected that this too would become rapidly known. The resulting uncertainty might cause a substantial wave of speculation or hoarding. Moreover, retaliatory or compensatory action by the GVN might accelerate the process. Our tentative judgment is that inflation would start to become a substantial danger in 2-4 months, but the situation would require the closest possible scrutiny. We should be prepared to live with a modest degree of inflation, but anything major would be cause for concern. It should be noted, however, that the inflationary effect would probably be felt principally in the affected commodities and not, for example, in the basic price of rice for the people, which is under tight GVN control. Inflation would hit Saigon initially, and would be slow to reach the countryside. Its greatest early impact on the military effort would be through raising the already tight GVN budget to levels even more unlikely to be attained by any measure the GVN could be induced or pressured to take. Since 1/2 the GVN budget goes to the military effort, shortfalls might be reflected in some measure of force reductions and probably in reductions in the GVN's contribution to such key elements as the strategic hamlet program.

This action is not readily reversible. Since commodity imports move through commercial channels, they could not be later speeded up to avoid the impending valley. Nonetheless, a firm later decision to resume either at present full planning rates or at a more austere rate designed to keep some pressure on the GVN would tend to reduce the adverse effects.

Within 2-4 months, and perhaps sooner, a decision would have to be made whether to continue suspension and incur substantial effects on the military effort, or to resume either at the full level or at an intermediate austere level.

2. PL 480 items. Although the PL 480 mechanics are the same as for AID commodity imports, it should be noted that the specific items are in some cases more sensitive from the standpoint of popular blame to the U.S. in the countryside. Moreover, from the U.S. budgetary standpoint, PL 480 funds are more readily available than AID funds and for this reason have been built up to the maximum consistent with the GVN capacity to absorb; withholding PL 480 items must be weighed carefully if the economic effect is such as to require additional input in AID funds at a later time.

The only presently pending PL 480 item is $2.9 million of condensed milk. Much of this goes to the countryside, and its cut-off would be felt widely and might be blamed directly on the U.S. For this reason we do not recommend suspension of this item, nor, for lack of an appropriate mechanism, do we believe it should be shifted to direct grant channels under Title II. Instead, we believe it can make a modest contribution to the desired picture of uncertainty of being placed on a month-by-month basis rather than being negotiated on the normal basis of an agreement covering several months.

The next items requiring decision will be wheat flour ($6 million) and raw cotton ($12 million) both of which would start to run short unless supplementary agreements were negotiated about 1 November. We reserve a recommendation on these.

The remaining items comprise $5 million in the total PL 480 planning figure of $33 million for FY 1964. These too require no immediate decision.

Actions in the PL 480 field are similar to actions affecting AID commodity imports in their reversibility. Impending commodity slacks cannot be taken up by accelerated action.

3. AID Project Loans. The Saigon waterworks and electric power projects are now partially funded and under construction, and the remaining balances are up for final approval. Arrangements are so nearly final that it would be necessary to inform the contractors in both cases, and we believe this should be done frankly at once.

Suspension of these projects would have no direct effect whatever on the military effort. However, it could add to the psychological factors bearing on the likelihood of inflation, and would eventually affect employment in the Saigon area.

The GVN might well react to our suspension either by applying its own resources to the projects (raising a cumulative foreign exchange problem) or by turning to third countries such as France. The latter would be an interesting test of the recently displayed French attitude of willingness to assist, but the amounts are not so great that we should be unduly concerned from this standpoint if the French would come through.

4. Support for Colonel Tung's Saigon Forces.

The stated rationale for this action is that we will not support forces not being used for combat purposes. The material effect of this gesture would not be great, since the equipment already in the hands of these units is generally adequate and the U.S. contribution to their pay is small and could be made up from the GVN budget. However, the gesture would have importance not merely as part of the picture of uncertainty, but perhaps even more strongly in dissociating the U.S. from support of these forces. If-as we believe likely-Diem refused to accept our conditions, or proposed some transparent device, we should then (unlike the other actions) make an outright public announcement. The U.S. press reaction would undoubtedly be most favorable, and within Soviet Vietnam both high military leaders and disaffected elements in Saigon would also be favorable.

The cut-off action against Colonel Tung would be designed to be permanent and not reversible, unless our conditions were met and maintained.

The recommended transfer [less than 1 line not declassified] to MACV of border surveillance and mountain scout forces is desirable in its own right. Funding through FY 1964 will continue to be supplied [less than 1 line not declassified] under the same procedures now used for CIDG forces.

Furthermore, MACV [less than 1 line not declassified] should urgently consider whether it is wise and feasible to transfer to MACV wholly or in part certain [less than 1 line not declassified] activities: combat intelligence teams and operations into south Laos and North Vietnam.

Such recommended or possible transfers [less than 1 line not declassified] responsibility would result in the loss of some [less than 1 line not declassified] liaison connections in high military circles. Hopefully, this slack could be taken up by U.S. military advisors.

5. Over-all Impact. As stated in the McNamara-Taylor Report, it should be emphasized that, so long as the U.S. continued its principal assistance activities that contribute directly to the military effort, the level of pressure on Diem generated by the recommended actions would probably not be high. We do believe, however, that they would collectively add up to a picture of significant uncertainty, and that this would extend to Diem both directly and through representations by military leaders and economic officials who would be aware of the potential consequences. We must recognize that pressures such as these do not appear likely to get rid of Nhu, and likewise that they might conceivably lead Diem and Nhu to some upsetting action.

6. Need for a Working Group. Both GVN reaction and the impact of these actions on the military effort (notably through the inflation possibility) require very close review. Hence our recommendation for a working group in Washington, with Ambassador Lodge reporting reactions carefully.


It is only prudent to recognize that the course of action outlined above can be substantially affected by developments beyond our control. Among these might be one or more of the following:

a) Unanticipated coup d’etat (e.g. by junior officers), or death of Diem.

b) Other unanticipated internal developments (similar to the Hue incident on May 8) which could take place in the volatile atmosphere that characterizes the Vietnamese political scene. This could include a marked step-up in the pace and nature of the Viet Cong effort.

c) International developments affecting the war or the GVN's position, e.g. active Chinese Communist or Cambodian support to the Viet Cong; a UN initiative toward the condemnation of the GVN or neutralization of the area; or active and direct intervention by North Vietnamese forces in Central Viet-Nam.

d) A posture by the GVN vis-a-vis the United States characterized by outright and stubborn hostility to "foreign interference," accompanied by efforts to rally popular xenophobia.

e) A bid by Hanoi or the National Front for a rapprochement on terms attractive to Diem and Nhu (a contingency we believe conceivable, but unlikely).

f) A situation in which the Ngos carry out the forms of change, but maintain the fundamental character and image of their regime.


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

Washington, October 4, 1963, 9:03 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET. Confidential; Priority. Drafted and initialed by Ball.

529. Eyes only for Ambassador from Acting Secretary. Halberstam story in Times today says you "would be happier with a new CIA Chief" and recounts in some detail alleged State-CIA disagreements Saigon. Says "Lodge has told Washington he wants a new chief/2/ and CIA is fighting back hard . . . present struggle is believed to have parallel in struggle by Lodge against Maj. Gen. Harkins . . . ", etc./3/ (See Oct. 4 Wireless File.)

/2/John Richardson was transferred from Vietnam on October 5. President Kennedy referred to the transfer in response to a question at a press conference on October 9 about reports of the CIA acting independently in Vietnam. The President discounted the reports and said he found no evidence that "CIA has done anything but support policy," and had "operated under close control of the Director of Central Intelligence, operating with the cooperation of the National Security Council and under my instructions." (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 768-769)
Taylor, in Swords and Plowshares, p. 300, states that "Richardson had become persona non grata to Lodge for reasons I could not assess, but it seemed in the interests of all parties to reassign him elsewhere." In To Move a Nation, p. 515, Hilsman offers the view that Richardson's departure was at Lodge's request, but was related more to a signal to the Vietnamese rather than personal animosity or rivalry.

/3/Ellipses in the source text.

As you can appreciate, this story has caused concern in Washington, since we have been making serious effort in conjunction with McNamara-Taylor mission to achieve actual and visible unity within USG. I am aware, of course, that Saigon is a rumor-mill and that gossip of this kind is most difficult to control. We shall, however, keep you currently informed of press play-back here to assist you in taking whatever measures possible to guard against stateside stories that can harm what we are seeking to achieve.

Would appreciate your advice as to further steps that might be taken either in Saigon or Washington to ensure a more accurate reflection of our common commitment to a single governmental policy which is essential if we are to maintain full public support and understanding.



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

Saigon, October 5, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Har-Van files, Coup South Vietnam. Secret. Also printed in Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition, vol. II, pp. 767-768. There is no time of transmission on the source text.

[document number not declassified] 1. Lt. Col. Conein met with Gen. Duong Van Minh at Gen. Minh's headquarters on Le Van Duyet for one hour and ten minutes morning of 5 Oct. 1963. This meeting was at the initiative of Gen. Minh and had been specifically cleared in advance by Ambassador Lodge. No other persons were present. The conversation was conducted in French.

2. Gen. Minh stated that he must know American Government's position with respect to a change in the Government of Vietnam within the very near future. Gen. Minh added the Generals were aware the situation is deteriorating rapidly and that action to change the government must be taken or the war will be lost to the Viet Cong because the government no longer has the support of the people. Gen. Minh identified among the other Generals participating with him in this plan:

Maj. Gen. Tran Van Don

Brig. Gen. Tran Thien Khiem

Maj. Gen. Tran Van Kim

3. Gen. Minh made it clear that he did not expect any specific American support for an effort on the part of himself and his colleagues to change the government but he stated he does need American assurances that the USG will not attempt to thwart this plan.

4. Gen. Minh also stated that he himself has no political ambitions nor do any of the other general officers except perhaps, he said laughingly, Gen. Ton That Dinh. Gen. Minh insisted that his only purpose is to win the war. He added emphatically that to do this, continuation of American military and economic aid at the present level (he said one and one half million dollars per day) is necessary.

5. Gen. Minh outlined three possible plans for the accomplishment of the change of government:

a. Assassination of Ngo Dinh Nhu and Ngo Dinh Can keeping President Diem in office. Gen. Minh said this was the easiest plan to accomplish.

b. The encirclement of Saigon by various military units particularly the unit at Ben Cat. (Comment: Fifth division elements commanded by Gen. Dinh.)

c. Direct confrontation between military units involved in the coup and loyalist military units in Saigon, in effect, dividing the city of Saigon into sectors and cleaning it out pocket by pocket. Gen. Minh claims under the circumstances Diem and Nhu could count on the loyalty of 5,500 troops within the City of Saigon.

6. Conein replied to Gen. Minh that he could not answer specific question as to USG non-interference nor could he give any advice with respect to tactical planning. He added that he could not advise concerning the best of the three plans.

7. Gen. Minh went on to explain that the most dangerous men in South Vietnam are Ngo Dinh Nhu, Ngo Dinh Can and Ngo Trong Hieu. Minh stated that Hieu was formerly a Communist and still has Communist sympathies. When Col. Conein remarked that he had considered Col. Tung as one of the more dangerous individuals, Gen. Minh stated "if I get rid of Nhu, Can and Hieu, Col. Tung will be on his knees before me."

8. Gen. Minh also stated that he was worried as to the role of Gen. Tran Thien Khiem since Khiem may have played a double role in August. Gen. Minh asked that copies of the documents previously passed to Gen. Khiem (plan of Camp Long Thanh and munitions inventory at that camp) be passed to Gen. Minh personally for comparison with papers passed by Khiem to Minh purportedly from CAS.

9. Minh further stated that one of the reasons they are having to act quickly was the fact that many regimental, battalion and company commanders are working on coup plans of their own which could be abortive and a "catastrophe".

10. Minh appeared to understand Conein's position of being unable to comment at the present moment but asked that Conein again meet with Gen. Minh to discuss the specific plan of operations which Gen. Minh hopes to put into action. No specific date was given for this next meeting. Conein was again non-committal in his reply. Gen. Minh once again indicated his understanding and stated that he would arrange to contact Conein in the near future and hoped that Conein would be able to meet with him again and give the assurance outlined above.


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

Saigon, October 5, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Har-Van Files, Coup South Vietnam. Top Secret. Sent via CIA channels as telegram IN 34026. A note on the source text indicates that copies were sent to McGeorge Bundy, Hilsman, and Krulak. Also printed in Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition, vol. 11, p. 768. No transmission time is given on the source text.

Eyes only for Secretary Rusk for [from] Lodge. Please pass to DCI Mr. John McCone. Reference Big Minh-Conein meeting ([document number not declassified])./2/ While neither General Harkins nor I have great faith in Big Minh, we need instructions on his approach. My recommendation, in which General Harkins concurs, is that Conein when next approached by Minh should:

/2/Document 177.

1. Assure him that US will not attempt to thwart his plans.

2. Offer to view his plans, other than assassination plans.

3. Assure Minh that US aid will be continued to Vietnam under government which gives promise of gaining support of people and winning the war against the Communists. Point out that it is our view that this is most likely to be the case if government includes good proportion of well qualified civilian leaders in key positions. (Conein should press Minh for details his thinking re composition future government.)

I suggest the above be discussed with Secretary McNamara and General Taylor who contacted Minh in recent visit.


179. Memorandum for the Files of a Conference With the President/1/

Washington, October 5, 1963, 9:30 a.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Meetings on Vietnam. Top Secret. Drafted by Forrestal on October 7. The meeting was held in the White House. Forrestal sent this memorandum to Bromley Smith under cover of a memorandum of October 8 which reads in part as follows:
"I also attach a draft NSAM together with a memorandum to Secretary McNamara. If the NSAM looks okay to you, will you shoot it off to McNamara for his clearance?
"Should copies of the NSAM go to anybody else (Secretary Dillon, the Attorney General, the Vice President)? I should think perhaps not."
Smith indicated on the memorandum that he had obtained McNamara's clearance and agreed with Forrestal that no copies should be sent to any one else. The draft NSAM referred to comprised a draft report to the NSC, October 4 (see footnote 3, Document 174), an annex to the report (Document 175), and a draft of telegram 534 to Saigon (Document 181), which was essentially the draft report to the NSC in cable form.

Presidential Conference on South Vietnam

A conference on South Vietnam was held in the Cabinet Room at 9:30 a.m., October 5, 1963. Present were the Vice President, Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara, Under Secretary Harriman, General Taylor, Mr. McCone, Administrator Bell, Mr. Bundy and Mr. Forrestal.

The meeting discussed the report of Secretary McNamara and General Taylor and considered draft instructions to Ambassador Lodge.

The President asked what would be the impact of a suspension of the Commodity Import Program. Mr. Bell replied that the Commodity Import Program accounted for approximately 40 percent of South Vietnam's imports. He emphasized that the real effect of a suspension would be an interruption of the flow of commodities into the country. A suspension would not necessarily have an impact upon the government budget. A continued suspension, however, would have a serious effect on the economy.

Mr. McCone said that he believed that the principal effect of a suspension would be to cause an economic crisis in the Saigon business community. This would be more pronounced than the political effects such a suspension might have upon Diem and Nhu.

Secretary McNamara pointed out that since we have already suspended the funding of imports under the program, it would be difficult to resume now.

The President agreed and asked Mr. Bell what would be the impact of a suspension of the two capital projects, the Saigon water works and the Saigon power project.

Mr. Bell replied that a suspension of these projects would not have an effect upon the economy or upon the military effort. But, he pointed out, both projects were already started and near their final stages of completion. The water project was complete except for the construction of a filtration plant; and the power station needed only a building to house the turbines, which had already been ordered. The President suggested that the contractors in each case simply be told that a decision on the final stages of the two projects would be delayed for policy reasons for an indefinite, but not necessarily long, period of time. Our public posture should be that the two projects were being suspended for further review.

The President noted that the recommendations with respect to the PL 480 program were tantamount to taking no substantive action at this time. In this connection he suggested that, for the present, we say only that we were not in a position to make forward decisions.

The discussion then fumed to recommendations concerning a suspension of assistance to those forces under Colonel Tung which were located in Saigon rather than in the field. The President emphasized that we should make clear the basis upon which we were suspending aid to these forces, i.e. that they were not directly contributing to the war effort and therefore we could not support them.

The President asked Secretary McNamara for his opinion on the nature of the controversy between the Buddhists and the Government. Secretary McNamara replied that in his opinion the controversy was now more political than it was religious.

After a discussion with General Taylor, the President observed that the military improvements which we wished to press upon Diem be taken up as soon as possible by General Harkins rather than by Ambassador Lodge. It would be preferable if discussions of political improvements and possible U.S. pressure actions were undertaken by Ambassador Lodge. The President also said that we should not consider the political recommendations to be in the nature of a hard and fast list of demands, and that this point should be made more clear in the draft instructions. /2/ The most likely and desirable result of any U.S. pressures would be to bring Diem to talk seriously to Lodge about the whole range of issues between us.

/2/The changes made in the draft at the instruction of President are explained in the footnotes to Document 181. See also Document 180.

The Secretary of State agreed that the military matters should be pressed and that they stood the best chance of being accepted by the GVN. Nevertheless, he felt that we should not forget the importance of obtaining an improvement in the political climate in Saigon.

The President said that no formal or public statement should be made at the conclusion of the meeting. Instead he felt that the Secretaries of State and Defense in executive session before Congressional committees next week should confine themselves to saying that U.S. programs were under continuing review in light of the President's previously announced policy that we supported those things which furthered the war effort and would not support those things which do not.

It was agreed that Section 5 of the McNamara/Taylor Report be approved and that appropriate instructions implementing the recommendation in this section be transmitted via CAS channels. Mr. McCone said that any such activity should be carried on under the tightest security under the direction of the CAS station chief. The President agreed, but added that these activities should be subject to the Ambassador's general guidance.

The President also said that our decision to remove 1,000 U.S. advisors by December of this year should not be raised formally with Diem. Instead the action should be carried out routinely as part of our general posture of withdrawing people when they are no longer needed.

There is attached to this memorandum a copy of the McNamara/ Taylor report and the final telegraphic instructions to Ambassador Lodge./3/

/3/Neither attached, but see Documents 167 and 181.

M. V. Forrestal


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

Washington, October 5, 1963, 5:38 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIEI Top Secret; Immediate. The text of this message was sent to the Department of State from the White House for transmission.

533. Eyes only for Ambassador Lodge. From Bundy, White House. As he approved next following detailed cable of instructions,/2/ the President asked me to send you this personal message from him.

/2/Document 181.

He thinks it of the greatest importance that, to the very limit of our abilities, we should not open this next stage in the press. The decisions and instructions in following telegram are being held most tightly here, and we are making every possible effort to limit public knowledge and to let the Vietnamese Government itself learn from what we do and not what the papers say, so that your negotiations with Diem may be run on your terms. Nothing could be more dangerous than an impression now that a set of major actions is being kicked off and a set of requirements imposed on GVN by U.S. This is of particular importance since some officials and reporters honorably believe in just such a public posture of disapproval and pressure. President therefore believes you should personally control knowledge of individual actions and of tactics, and accept, as we will try to, necessary dissatisfaction of determined reporters with cryptic posture.



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

Washington, October 5, 1963, 5:39 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 S VIET. Top Secret; Immediate Prepared by Hilsman with clearances of Harriman and Bundy. Cleared in draft with Rusk and McNamara. Regarding the drafting of this cable, see Document 179. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD exclusive for Felt.

534. Eyes only for Ambassador Lodge.

1. Following is overall instruction resulting from NSC consideration of McNamara/Taylor report and recommendations together with those you have submitted in recent weeks. These instructions have the President's personal approval. At any time you feel it is necessary you may state to GVN that you are acting under the specific instructions of the President as recommended by the National Security Council.

2. Actions are designed to indicate to Diem Government our displeasure at its political policies and activities and to create significant uncertainty in that government and in key Vietnamese groups as to future intentions of United States. At same time, actions are designed to have at most slight impact on military or counterinsurgency effort against Viet Cong, at least in short term.

3. The recommendations on negotiations are concerned with what US is after, i.e., GVN action to increase effectiveness of its military effort; to ensure popular support to win war; and to eliminate strains on US Government and public confidence. The negotiating posture is designed not to lay down specific hard and fast demands or to set a deadline, but to produce movement in Vietnamese Government along these lines. In this way we can test and probe effectiveness of any actions the GVN actually takes and, at same time, maintain sufficient flexibility to permit US to resume full support of Diem regime at any time US Government deems it appropriate.

4. We recognize that recommended actions cannot be continued more than a limited period--tentatively estimated at two to four months--before they begin to have substantial impact on counterinsurgency effort. Even within this period, they will require careful and constant evaluation. As they begin to have substantial impact on war effort, further major decisions will be needed.

5. It is not possible to specify with precision the criteria that we should use in determining whether this proposed course of action has brought about adequate changes in performance of Diem Government and should, therefore, be modified or withdrawn, or whether on contrary response of the Diem Government is clearly inadequate so that more drastic action should be considered. The desired GVN measures in this report are grouped under three headings: (1) military actions, (2) political actions, and (3) actions with respect to US itself. Test of adequacy of these actions should be whether, in combination, they improve effectiveness of GVN effort to point where we can carry on in confident expectation that war effort will progress satisfactorily. Since we cannot now foresee interlocking impact of possible actions both in GVN and here, we obviously do not expect that GVN will or even can perform on entire list and for this reason this is in no sense a package of demands. While general view here is that some action in each of three areas will be necessary, we do not now wish to prejudge question of balance or quantity of actions which may justify resumption of full cooperation with GVN. /2/

/2/ The last sentence in paragraph 5 was in neither the Draft Report to the NSC of October 4 nor the attached cable. Its inclusion rejects the President's concern as expressed at the 9:30 a.m. meeting of October 5; see Document 179. The changes noted in footnotes 3-6 below also reflect the President's concern.

A. Actions:

6. AID Commodity Import Program. Existing suspension of new commitments will be maintained, and under this policy the presently due second-quarter allocation of $20-25 million will be withheld. You should make this continued suspension clear in an appropriate manner to the GVN.

No public announcement will be made. In addition, US working levels should inform Vietnamese military that commodity import assumptions being used for budget planning purposes must now be considered uncertain not only from previously stated standpoint of Congressional uncertainty, but because of executive review of program.

7. PL 480. Presently pending supplementary agreement for $2.9 million worth of condensed milk (5-months' requirement) will be handled by making month-to-month agreements for appropriate portions of this amount until further notice, but outright suspension will not be undertaken. Action on other pending items in PL 480 account will become due with respect to wheat flour ($6 million annually) and raw cotton ($12 million annually) approximately 1 November, and these items will then be submitted for action by Washington. Remainder of presently planned PL 480 for FY 1964, comprising tobacco ($2.5 million) and miscellaneous items ($2.5 million), does not require any action in next 60 days. Discussions with GVN on PL 480, especially with respect to food, should take note of fact that no deliveries are being held up or negative decisions made; we are simply not able to make forward decisions in October.

8. AID Project Loans. Presently pending balance of loan projects for Saigon-Cholon Waterworks ($10 million) and Saigon electric power project ($4 million) will be "suspended for review," and you should inform GVN in appropriate manner to this effect without making public announcement. If this becomes publicly known here or in field, explanation will be limited strictly to bare statement of suspension for review./3/

/3/The last sentence in paragraph 8 is in neither the Draft Report to the NSC nor the draft cable.

9. Assistance to Forces Commanded by Colonel Tung in or near Saigon. You should inform GVN, through whatever channel you deem appropriate, that US can no longer furnish support to these forces unless they are placed under effective operational control of Joint General Staff and committed to field operations. (This applies to MAP [less than 1 line not declassified] support for certain airborne ranger, Civil Guard, and "civilian airborne ranger" units.) Again no public announcement will be made, but if action becomes known explanation here and in field will be that we cannot assist forces that are not contributing to the war effort. Notion that action is a reprisal for political use of these forces should be discouraged./4/

/4/The last two sentences in paragraph 9 replace the following sentence in the Draft Report to the NSC and the draft cable: "Concurrently MACV should assume operational relationships with border surveillance and mountain scout forces [less than 1 line not declassified] commanded by Colonel Tung."

10. Handling of GVN Inquiries in Saigon: US representatives in Saigon should make clear that these matters must be taken up with you personally.

B. Negotiating Tactics:

Your policy toward the GVN of cool correctness in order to make Diem come to you is correct. You should continue it. However, we realize it may not work and that at some later time you may have to go to Diem to ensure he understands over-all US policy. Decision of when this becomes imperative rests with you, in light of your assessment of situation.

12. If, as we hope, Diem seeks clarification of US policies and actions, you should present an exposition of how our actions are related to our fundamental objective of victory. There are three issues at root of strained relations between GVN and US and of our judgment that victory may be jeopardized. The first concerns military effort; GVN must take steps to make this more effective. The second is crisis of confidence among Vietnamese people which is eroding popular support for GVN that is vital for victory. The third is crisis of confidence on the part of the American public and Government. Heart of problem is form of government that has been evolving in Viet-Nam. Diem's regime has trappings of democracy, but in reality it has been evolving into authoritarian government maintained by police terrorist methods. What GVN must do is to reverse this process of evolution.

13. To preserve flexibility and provide an opportunity for testing and probing on effectiveness of measures GVN actually takes, you should avoid laying down specific demands, but consider actions listed below as illustrative examples of general proposition outlined above, picking and choosing particular items as situation warrants.

14. Purpose of all actions listed below is to increase effectiveness of war effort, to ensure popular support, and to relieve strains in GVN/US relations.

15. Specific military actions listed below are probably most acceptable to Diem, but serve as a test of his commitment to furthering war effort. They should increase effectiveness of war effort and this in turn should feed back to improve political climate. We believe that burden of pressure for military actions should be assumed by General Harkins in direct conversation with Diem and others under your general guidance and that these conversations should not await initiative by Diem, since our continuing posture of cooperative consultation on military matters should not be broken. Conversely, Harkins should not be channel of a discussion on relation between improvements by GVN and resumption of full US support. /5/

/5/The last two sentences of paragraph 15 were neither in the Draft Report to the NSC nor the draft cable.

16. Political actions are not arranged in order of importance. First of political actions, i.e., entering into negotiations to normalize university life, etc., should set stage for later political actions, such as broadening government.

17. If, in fact, GVN does begin to move along lines we desire, an opportunity will be provided to test and probe effectiveness of the actions in improving war effort, ensuring popular support, and easing strain in GVN/US relations. Paramount need, however, is for GVN to set a psychological tone and image that will make specific actions both real and credible. Although we cannot at this time in complete confidence predict the exact point in this complex of actions at which we will be sure war effort will proceed to successful conclusion, it seems probable its achievement will require some restriction of role of Nhus. As practical matter, we would expect that Diem would not take such action at outset, but only after he had proceeded a considerable distance down the path we desire.

18. Military

a. Further shift of military emphasis and strength to Delta (IV Corps).

b. Increase in military tempo in all corps areas, so that all combat troops are in field an average of 20 days out of 30 and static missions are ended.

c. Emphasis on "clear and hold operations" instead of terrain sweeps which have little permanent value.

d. Expansion of personnel in combat units to full authorized strength.

e. Training and arming of hamlet militia at accelerated rate, especially in the Delta.

f. Consolidation of strategic hamlet program, especially in the Delta, and action to insure that future strategic hamlets are not built until they can be protected, and until civil action programs can be introduced

19. Political

a. Resumption of normal university life. Detained students should be released; school and university classes should be universally resumed. Diem should sit down with rector and faculty of Saigon University to work out conditions of normalization of university life. Since students are fearful of arrests and inclined to riots, this will involve significant negotiations on a variety of police-terrorist techniques, including secret arrests, torture, beatings, etc. For this reason, it is an excellent technique to get Diem to focus on the core issues. Similar action should be taken in regard to Hue University, including reinstatement of ax-rector. In both universities, at least some faculty members who have resigned, been fired or jailed should be reinstated.

b. Specific concessions should be made to Buddhists. Those still jailed should be processed for release with all possible speed. Repair of pagodas should be facilitated with government sponsorship. GVN-sponsored "Union Committee for Pure Buddhism" should be expanded and genuinely representative Buddhist leaders given responsible positions. Assembly action should eliminate laws which deny equal status to Buddhism.

c. Renewed activity in land reform program. This was an early Diem achievement but stopped short of completion. It could be revitalized and attract rural support for the GVN and improve its international image.

d. Joint re-emphasis on political aspects of strategic hamlet program. Phasing and security aspects of strategic hamlet program are dealt with under section 1 above. Following is concerned with aspects of strategic hamlet program affecting popular attitudes. This would require an effort to gain more support from peasants through increasing payments to them for their labor and other services and through weeding out graft by local officials. In addition, particularly in Delta, redesigning the program to avoid unnecessary relocation of population and increased emphasis on social and economic programs that are likely to elicit peasant support.

e. Police techniques. GVN should abandon its present practices of controlling populace by instilling fear through night-time arrests, brutal interrogation (including women) and other police-terrorist methods which contribute to growing resentment and unrest and diminishing acceptance of regime.

f. Civil liberties should be restored. Arbitrary arrests should cease and those arrested speedily released or given fair public trial. Religious freedom should be implemented as guaranteed by constitution. Public gatherings should be permitted and controlled only to insure safety of life and property.

g. Refurbishing GVN image. Government should be broadened so as to include respected individuals, including some within Viet-Nam who have not participated in government and some, such as Vu Van Mau, who have departed. It should be pointed out that these respected individuals are not likely to participate in government or return to Viet-Nam until changes such as those described above convince them that GVN has in fact reversed trend towards authoritarian government. Their willingness to accept posts in government or return to Viet-Nam will in turn be convincing evidence to mass of population that changes are, in fact, meaningful.

h. "Changes in personnel." Specific "reforms" described above are apt to have little impact without dramatic symbolic move which convinces Vietnamese that reforms are real. As practical matter this can only be achieved by some feasible reduction in influence of Nhus, who are--justifiably or not--a symbol of authoritarianism. Future role of Nhus in government is therefore of paramount importance. At this point it is impossible to tell whether Nhu must be permanently removed or merely confined to well-defined and limited role. In either case, some device must be found both to restrict his activities and to symbolize this restriction by his absence from power center in Saigon. In addition, similar devices must be found for those individuals, such as Colonel Tung, who are most closely associated with Nhu and his authoritarianism.

i. Public and official statement by Diem before National Assembly which would set new tone for government by pointing to steps being taken to respond to popular sentiment, and by making a call for total mobilization of effort on part of officials and people equally.

20. US/GVN Relations

a. Avoid divisive press attacks, e.g. Times of Viet-Nam story attacking CIA, etc.

b. Cease public statements slandering the US effort and the role of US military and civilian personnel.

c. Cease undercover efforts to discredit the US and weaken the will of US individuals to give their full support to programs, e.g. "mendacious briefings" of GVN troops and rumors of physical danger to US families and other personnel.

d. Re-cast GVN propaganda in such a way as to gain foreign support of its socio-economic program.

C. Congress, Press, and Public:

21. No public statement will be issued here for the present.

22. At President's next press conference, he expects to repeat his basic statement that what furthers the war effort we support, and what interferes with the war effort we oppose. If questioned on actions US may take, he expects to say only that US programs are being reviewed to insure consistency with this policy./6/

/6/The draft of telegram 534 to Saigon expanded President Kennedy's statement: "that in line with this policy Secretary McNamara and General Taylor have recommended that certain programs be reviewed; and that, on your additional recommendation, a small number of programs have been held up in order to permit review to determine their consistency with policy he has enunciated. He will say all other programs are being continued, in line with US policy of supporting war effort against the Communist aggression."
The draft continues:
"In the meantime, you will have informed GVN through appropriate channels, as outlined in the section concerning actions above, of the steps US is taking."
"If, as a result of your actions, inquiries are made about the programs under review, by either GVN or press, replies will state that certain programs have been held up, on your recommendation, to permit review for consistency with policy President has enunciated of supporting what furthers war effort and opposing what interferes with it; and that the bulk of the programs, which clearly further war effort, are being continued.
"At some point, after you have appropriately informed GVN, and after the President has made the statements described above, inquiries concerning Tung's forces should be made with statement that, in line with its policy, United States has terminated support to certain military units which are not contributing to the prosecution of the war."

23. Similar responses will be given if information about any US actions leads to detailed inquiries. If detailed inquiries pinpointing specific actions are made, they will be dealt with as indicated in each paragraph of A., above.

24. On Tuesday and Wednesday/7/ in meetings with Congressional committees in executive session, Rusk, McNamara and Bell will follow same line. They will explain our three-fold concern as outlined in para 5, above, but they will avoid as you should any listing of desired actions which could be construed as a package of US demands. We believe it of great importance that there should be no public impression of a package of sanctions and a package of demands. We are seeking necessary but limited improvements from a government very difficult to move, and we do not wish to encourage unjustified sense of optimism or of triumph from those who wish this situation was easier than it is. In particular, we would prefer press to consider us inactive than to trumpet a posture of "major sanctions" and "sweeping demands." (You should follow same line in briefing Zablocki Codel.)/8/

/7/October 8-9.

/8/Congressman Clement J. Zablocki chaired a special study mission to Southeast Asia, composed of members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which traveled to Laos, Malaysia, and Vietnam, October 3-19. Also on the mission were Congressmen Harris B. McDowell, Jr., Ronald Brooks Cameron, William T Murphy, William S. Broomfield, I Irving Whalley, Vernon W. Thomson, and Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen. See Document 222.

D. Coordination in Saigon:

25. Separate cables to Harkins and Brent lay out their areas of these instructions in detail./9/ You should, of course, coordinate all actions by country team representatives. Suggest you pass this cable to them individually.

/9/The Joint Chiefs of Staff sent Harkins and Felt these instructions in JCS 2792, October 5. The cable was substantively the same as the first three numbered paragraphs of section B of the Taylor-McNamara Report, Document 167. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET)
The instructions to Brent were in Aidto 915, October 5, and were essentially a reiteration of MD-related actions and tactics. (Ibid., AID (US) S VIET)



182. Telegram From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge)/1/

Washington, October 5, 1963.

/1/Source: United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 12, p. 574. Top Secret. Sent via CIA channels.

CAP 63560. In conjunction with decisions and recommendations in separate Deptel,/2/ President today approved recommendation that no initiative should now be taken to give any active covert encouragement to a coup. There should, however, be urgent covert effort with closest security under broad guidance of Ambassador to identify and build contacts with possible alternative leadership as and when it appears. Essential that this effort be totally secure and fully deniable and separated entirely from normal political analysis and reporting and other activities of country team. We repeat that this effort is not to be aimed at active promotion of coup but only at surveillance and readiness. In order to provide plausibility to denial suggest you and no one else in Embassy issue these instructions orally to Acting Station Chief and hold him responsible to you alone for making appropriate contacts and reporting to you alone.

/2/Document 181.

All reports to Washington on this subject should be on this channel.


183. Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs' Special Assistant (Sullivan)/1/

Washington, undated.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Memos and Miscellaneous. Secret. A note on the source text indicates that this memorandum was taken from the President's weekend reading of October 6, and that its approximate date was October 5. Sullivan was a member of the Taylor-McNamara Mission to Vietnam, September 24-October 1, and he labeled this a "Mission Memorandum."

Divergent Attitudes in U.S. Official Community

Secretary McNamara has asked me to examine the nature and the cause of differing opinions and attitudes in the official US community in Vietnam. Specifically, he is concerned with the divergent evaluations of the success which we are having in "winning the war against the Viet Cong."

I have talked with various members of the official community and have, in general, covered the same ground with each element of the Country Team. My first observation is that there are divergencies but that they do not divide cleanly and sharply along Service and Department lines. Within each of the elements of the Team, there are individuals who hold views more or less at variance with the majority of others in their element. However, insofar as any general watershed of opinion can be detected, it finds the civilian components of the Country Team on one hand and the military components on the other.

In approaching the views of these two general communities or the basic question of "winning the war", I soon became aware that, in their answers, they were addressing themselves fundamentally to two different questions. The military directed themselves primarily to the more active, physical task of counterinsurgency, i.e., conducting clear and hold operations, building strategic hamlets, isolating the population from the Viet Cong, organizing protection for the cleared areas, and prodding the ARVN into search and destroy actions against Viet Cong strongholds.

The civilians, on the other hand, directed themselves more to the psychological aspects of the problem. They were concerned less with the physical task of eliminating Viet Cong operations and more with the job of eliminating those mental attitudes among the population which made the people receptive and susceptible to the subversive and propaganda activities of the Viet Cong.

Moreover, the military are oriented towards a specific mission which they are undertaking. They feel a justifiable sense of accomplishment in the results they have achieved to date. They can measure the indices of their progress and have a "can-do", "gung-ho" sense of confidence in their ability to complete their mission.

The civilians, on the other hand (with the exception of USOM), are oriented towards a more passive and more frustrating task of attempting to dissuade an oriental regime from its method of governing and to persuade it to use other methods which involve more empathy towards the popular mind. They constantly watch the Government, despite their urgings, throw away opportunities to gain greater popular acceptance. They feel that each of these occasions gives new advantages to the Viet Cong and that each constitutes a step backward in the psychological battle. They do not, in general, discount the physical progress that has been made in the counterinsurgency effort, but they are inclined to question the quality of its efforts in the light of the Government's political ineptness.

Hence, the military and the civilian components of the Country Team approach the same set of data from different perspectives. They fall almost inevitably into the classic postures of the two men who look at the same glass of water--one sees it half full, the other sees it half empty. This difference in perspective is then magnified by the imprecision of the data examined. All honest US observers admit that there are great margins of tolerance and doubt in the statistics on which they base their conclusions. Therefore, there is an opportunity for a great deal of subjective interpretation in deriving a conclusion from a given set of "facts".

Moreover, and compounding this essential occasion for divergence, there enters into the picture a considerable emotional element. On the military side, this takes the form of professional or service pride. Any suggestion that success is not being attained is considered a personal affront, a reflection impugning the achievements of the US armed forces. On the civilian side, any effort by the military to reach essentially political or intelligence conclusions is considered an incursion into or even the pre-emption of a field of activity which should be properly civilian.

Finally, and as the ultimate fillings to the emotional charge, is the simple problem of the pecking order. When I came here a year ago with General Taylor, it was my observation that the "top banana" in the US official community was General Harkins. This was understandable, not only was he a senior officer in the Army, but he was a man with a considerable reputation and experience. He disposed of infinitely more resources than the Ambassador and he had a far more impressive establishment responsive to his direct command. Moreover, he and his command represented the new and the current thrust of highest level US policy interest in Vietnam. He was the executor of the main US drive of the day in which there was invested a great measure of US prestige.

Fritz Nolting, on the other hand, was a fairly junior US Foreign Service Officer of no particular international reputation and prestige. He was undertaking his first assignment as an Ambassador in a part of the world in which he had no depth of experience. He had very limited resources at his direct disposal and a relatively small staff. He knew and understood the direction and the design of top-level US policy. With good common sense and discretion, Fritz "got on the team" and made no contest to assume a prerogative of control. This does not suggest that he was a doormat; it merely means that he chose what he quite sensibly considered to be the most effective way to exercise his talents and to utilize his resources.

This arrangement caused some grumbling in the civilian side of the Country Team. As disciplined professionals, they buckled down and did their part in contributing to the US operational effort. However, they had a number of nagging doubts about the qualitative effect of the effort in which they were engaged. A number of them expressed these doubts to me privately when I was here. When I suggested that they report them officially through regular channels, I was later advised that most of their critical analysis was moderated before being sent or else was not finally sent on to Washington.

As a result of this situation, a certain head of emotional pressure built up in the Embassy which finally erupted into the open after Fritz went on home leave and while Trueheart was in charge. Once again, this was brought in check upon Fritz's return to duty here.

Finally, when Ambassador Lodge arrived on the scene, two things happened. First, he was a man of international political stature, considerable experience as an Ambassador and the bearer of Presidential assurances that he was, and should act as US "top banana" in Vietnam. This change of style was immediately apparent to everyone in the official US community and has had the usual intangible effects which go with such changeovers. Second, he has come to the conclusion that the "doubting Thomases" in the civilian component, those who hold the "we cannot win with Diem" attitude are correct. This, in turn, has had its predictable and largely intangible consequences in the emotional quotient of the problem.

Finally, however, I believe a word of evaluation is necessary with respect to current attitudes among the diverging components. With very rare exceptions, there is no bitterness. The period of operational harmony built up in the Nolting period has resulted in some very close friendships and good working relations across the board. The dedication of all sequents [segments?] of the Team to make the program succeed is great enough and the men involved are mature enough to be submerged in hard work. On operational problems, there is no impairment of effectiveness discernible as yet. All officers I have talked to show a genuine concern that this situation will continue without change no matter what the more introspective differences may bring in the way of divergencies.

W.H. Sullivan /2/

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


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

Saigon, October 6, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 S VIET. Top Secret; Immediate Eyes Only. Received at 7:59 a.m. and passed to the White House at 8:17 a.m.

642. 1. Your 534./2/

/2/Document 181.

2. An excellent instruction outlining a course of action which should yield constructive results.

3. I plan to let the continued suspension of the Commodity Import Program become evident without my calling attention to it in so many words. I am credibly informed that it is worrying Diem now, and that he will have to speak to me about it.

4. In general, U.S. representatives in Saigon will handle specific matters in accordance with your para. 10.

5. I am calling key Country Team members together tomorrow and am passing your cable to them individually now.

6. Assume this supersedes previous telegram concerning suspension or cutting off of aid./3/

/3/Apparent reference to Document 148.



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

Saigon, October 6, 1963, 8 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET Top Secret; Immediate; Eyes Only. Received at 9:15 a.m. and passed to the White House at 9:45 a.m.

643. For Bundy.

1. Your message contained in Deptel 533./2/

/2/Document 180.

2. I will of course comply in every particular in not opening our work to the press--a policy in which I deeply believe. I will personally control knowledge of future cables, limiting them to DCM, to personal assistant, myself, and the rather large number of clerks and communications people who under our system must be in the know. I will not even bring in the Chief of the Political Section unless absolutely necessary. Of course Harkins, Brent and Smith will have to control their own offices and I am cautioning them. It is indeed most desirable to confront the Government of Viet-Nam with deeds rather than words, which are of little use, and I will certainly accept whatever dissatisfaction all this causes to reporters.

3. I would like to explain certain features of the press situation here concerning which helpful action might be taken in Washington, as follows:

a. Some agencies here have much better press relations than others. For example, CAS, which should have no press relations at all, has the worst, and this raises questions as to whether it is properly organized. I say this without prejudice to anyone, least of all anyone in CAS here. But a situation has arisen, doubtless brought about by the course of events, which requires attention.

b. Reporters here have unlimited ways of getting material in this city, which contains thousands of loquacious Americans. For example, last night Sheehan of UPI called several Embassy officers regarding departure of CAS Station Chief and was told nothing. At this writing (Sunday noon, Saigon) I know nothing of what is in U.S. press. Yet I would bet that Sheehan found someone who informed him and that word of CAS Station Chief's departure is in print in U.S./3/

/3/According to telegram 651 from Saigon, October 7, United Press International reported on October 7 that John Richardson was being recalled and that "informed sources" indicated he would not return to Saigon. (Department of State, Central Files, POL S VIET-US)

c. One thing is certain: reporters here will write something every day. If U.S. Government gives nothing, they will work something up somehow. I wish I thought that it was possible for General Harkins and USOM to organize an extensive program to familiarize the press with interesting military and social economic programs in the countryside. But I believe that this would at most create one story and that they would all be back trying to ferret out the big story.



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

Saigon, October 7, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 S VIET. Top Secret; Immediate; Eyes Only. Received at 9:17 a.m. and passed to the Department of Defense exclusive for McNamara and to the White House at 10:55 a.m.

652. For Secretary Rusk pass to McNamara.

1. Herewith further thoughts on your 534./2/

/2/Document 181.

2. Language in paragraphs 17 and 19-h on "restriction on role of Nhus" seems unrealistic for these reasons:

a. On basis of my present knowledge, it is clear that U.S. has provided the weapons, training and money to enable Nhu to have in effect adequate army of his own, consisting of men who are carefully selected, intensely indoctrinal [indoctrinated] and well paid. For its size, it is a formidable force and man for man appears to have a big edge over an ordinary military outfit. For some inexplicable reason, we appear to have done all this without our having any effective strings whatever on the use of this force. Our only possible leverage would be cutting off funds, but it is hard to believe that this would be effective.

b. In an interview with the Italian journalist Gambino for the Italian illustrated weekly Espresso which is to be published in Italy on Thursday (complete English translation being pouched),/3/ Nhu says in effect that he can and would like to get along without the Americans. He only wants some helicopter units and some money. But he definitely does not want American military personnel who, he says, are absolutely incapable of fighting a guerrilla war. Even the Special Forces created by Kennedy are not worth anything. He wants Viet-Nam to be treated as U.S. treats Yugoslavia--giving them money but not seeking to influence their system of government. He says that he and the President were against massive American intervention even at "the time of greatest danger, that is, the winter of 1961-1962". The war cannot be won with the Americans because they are an obstacle to the revolutionary transformation of society which is the prerequisite of victory. Then come these words: "If the Americans were to interrupt their help, it may not be a bad thing after all." He said that if his father-in-law, former Ambassador Chnong, were to "come to Saigon, I will have his head cut off. I will hang him in the center of a square and let him dangle there. My wife will make the knot on the rope because she is proud of being a Vietnamese and she is a good patriot."

/3/No pouched translation of this interview of October 3 has been found, but an English text of the interview of Thursday, October 3, is attached to a memorandum from Kattenburg to Forrestal, October 24. (Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, Honolulu Conference, Nov. 20, 1963)

c. Within the last few days the Minister of Civic Action Hieu said to one of my (very few, alas!) highly reliable sources: "We don't need the Americans any more even in the economic field, as we can confront our economic problems with our own resources." Present suspension of Commodity Import Program may give GVN a chance to decide whether Hieu is right.

d. Diem in his message to the National Assembly today, speaking of the forthcoming victory over the Viet Cong, says that it will "show the small countries of the non-aligned world (tiers monde) that they too can strangle Communist subversive war." He also singled out the World Assembly of the Interparliamentary Union (scene of Madame Nhu's activity) as the place where Viet-Nam, on the international field, has played a notable role.

3. The above leads me to the conclusion that we cannot remove the Nhus by non-violent means against their will.

4. I also conclude that we cannot assume that Diem and Nhu have the same aims as we. Clearly Nhu wants our help without our presence which, in his view, we use as an excuse for interfering in their internal system of government. Get us out, he argues, and he can be as free to do as he wants as Tito is now. And Nhu is a strong influence on Diem.

5. Paragraphs 3 and 4 make it hard to see today a good future for the U.S.-GVN relationship. I say this because the only thing which the U.S. really wants-the removal of or restriction on the Nhus--is out of the question. Yet, none of the points 19 a-i look really important.

6. I believe Diem and Nhu see U.S. pressing for things such as removal of Nhus, release of students which they are absolutely sure they cannot give and that we should consider a request to withdraw as a growing possibility. The beginning of withdrawal might trigger off a coup.



187. Memorandum of White House Staff Meeting /1/

Washington, October 7, 1963, 8 a.m.

/1/Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T-646-71. Secret; Eyes Only. Draffed by W.Y White.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Vietnam.]

8. Vietnam. Everyone is bracing for Madame Nhu's visit. Forrestal remarked Madame Nhu has great attractive powers; even Hilsman is weakening and agrees some of the things she says make sense. On Vietnam in general, Bundy commented that he was surprised that some people were taking as "pollyanna-ish" the "McNamara-Taylor" statement that we could pull out of Vietnam in two years./2/ He said what struck him was that two years was really a long time, considering that by then the war would have lasted four years--or longer than most wars in US history. General Clifton said the President undoubtedly would be asked about it Wednesday at his press conference./3/ (The conference was news to all assembled.) The general line will be that in two years the Vietnamese will be able to finish the job without US military forces on the scene--a position considered reasonable by everyone around the table.

/2/See Document 170.

/3/The President was asked questions on Vietnam at his October 9 press conference, but not specifically about the 2-year projected time span for American disengagement from Vietnam. For the transcript of the conference, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 767-774.

Bundy also asked Forrestal to draw together the recent materials on Vietnam and issue an appropriate NSAM. He said that the New York Times had the only version of what was decided at a recent NSC meeting, and while he did not mind communicating with various agencies through the Times, General Taylor had suggested the need for something more official.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Vietnam.]


188. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

Washington, October 7, 1963, 10:30 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Secretary's Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330, Oct. 1963. Secret. Drafted by Johannes Imhof. The meeting was held at the Department of Stat.

Southeast Asia


Foreign Minister Couve de Murville
Ambassador Alphand
M. Charles Lucet, Director of Political Affairs, Foreign Ministry
M. Pierre Pelen, French Emb.

The Secretary
Ambassador Bohlen
Mr. William R. Tyler
Mr. Johannes V. Imhof, WE

In response to an earlier question by the Secretary, M. Couve de Murville briefly discussed Laos and Vietnam. Vietnam was the key because there would be no trouble in Laos were it not for North Vietnamese activities. M. Couve de Murville said that he understood that the Secretary had earlier been interested in what information the French had from North Vietnam. Actually, the French had very little information. Chinese influence there undoubtedly had increased. Ho Chi Minh remained basically anti-Chinese but many of the newer ministers belonged to the pro-Chinese faction. The economic situation was rather bad, but the regime remained strong politically. In view of the increased Chinese role, it therefore seemed likely that the U.S. in Vietnam would gradually come increasingly face to face with the Chinese. The French had made this experience in the past and had found it necessary to reach most of the major agreements on Vietnam with the Chinese.

The Secretary said that if the Chinese and the North Vietnamese would leave South Vietnam alone, our troops could be withdrawn. This was, however, not the case. The Secretary said that an error had perhaps been made in the past when insufficient attention had been paid to the joint strategic evaluation of the key importance of the Red River Valley.

M. Couve de Murville said that the destiny of Vietnam was to be neutral. Such a solution might come about in the long run. The problem was how to get rid of the communist regime in North Vietnam.

The Secretary agreed. He said that North Vietnam was now taking the position that a settlement would require changes in the regime in South Vietnam but none in the North. M. Couve de Murville said that this was obviously an unrealistic position. Perhaps the increased dependence of North Vietnam on Communist China might in the long run provide some hope for the formation of a government of national union. The population in North Vietnam remained strongly anti-Chinese.


189. Memorandum of a Conversation/1/

Washington, October 7, 1963, 4:30 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, President's Memoranda of Conversations: Lot 66 D 149. Secret. Drafted by Tyler and approved by Bundy and Ball. The meeting was held at the White House.

Franco-American Relations and Europe


The President
Mr. Ball
Ambassador Bohlen
Mr. Tyler

Mr. Couve de Murville
Ambassador Alphand
Mr. Lucet

[Here follows discussion of matter unrelated to Vietnam.]

He [the President] said he thought that we were quite close on Laos, but General de Gaulle's statement on Vietnam had been unhelpful, particularly with regard to its timing. The Foreign Minister said that it had not been General de Gaulle's intention to do anything unhelpful. France had been in a position at the time when she had to say something. France had never had very good relations with the Diem Government. There was a French interest in developing economic and cultural, rather than political, relations. He felt that in the long run, evolution seemed to lead in the direction of the unification and neutrality of Vietnam. He said that he was aware that the statement had been badly received in Washington, but it had been no better received in Moscow or Peiping. Mr. Ball repeated that the timing had been unfortunate. The Foreign Minister said he did not know what the real situation was in Vietnam. The President said he thought it was being made to appear worse than it is. The Foreign Minister said France had been in Indochina during a period of some ninety years and her experience had always been that any problems must be discussed with the Chinese. He thought that this held true today also. He said the Russians were out of Vietnam and Southeast Asia in general and that they have almost no influence there. He said they were in roughly the same position as the UK: both were getting less and less influential, whereas the Chinese influence was increasing.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Vietnam.]


190. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations (Dutton) to the Secretary of State/1/

Washington, October 8, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Secretary's Staff Meetings: Lot 66 D 147, FRC Session with McNamara, 10/8/63.

Foreign Relations Committee Session with Secretary McNamara

Following are the principal questions asked by members of the Foreign Relations Committee of Secretary McNamara and General Taylor Tuesday morning:/2/

/2/October 8.

1. What are the differences, if any, among State, Defense, and the CIA on policy in South Viet-Nam? McNamara indicated that there were generally no significant differences. He was questioned at length about the CIA and said that he thought those questions should really be answered by John McCone; at the same time, however, he said that while the CIA had carried out its mission as prepared in Washington, he thought that the assignment had been overly broad (operational in nature) and that this was now being corrected.

He observed that there were also no significant differences between Diem and Nhu, although characterizing Diem as the public figure and Nhu as the real operator, with neither controlling Madame Nhu.

Hickenlooper asked whether there were any differences between Lodge and Richardson and, if so, were these bucked to Secretary Rusk and John McCone? McNamara indicated he was not the best one to answer that question. Hickenlooper was basing his questions on a news article/3/ which he said had reported that State and the CIA could not agree and had had to go to the White House on it.

/3/The article by Richard Starnes, " 'Arrogant' CIA Disobeys Orders in Viet Nam," was published in the Washington Daily News, October 2, 1963.

2. Hickenlooper dwelled at length on the incorrectness of the allegations in the October 2 story in the "Daily News" by Richard Stearns [sic] and asked for a point-by-point refutation by McNamara. Hickenlooper indicated he would go over the same ground with the Secretary of State./4/ Hickenlooper is concerned primarily with defending the CIA against critical attack.

/4/Hickenlooper covered similar ground with Secretary Rusk, whose testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, October 9, is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 46, Records of the Committee on Foreign Relations-Declassified Executive Session Hearings.

3. Senator Morse asked a long series of questions seeking the reason the U.S. is largely going it alone and getting only token assistance from other countries.

4. Senators Morse, Carlson, Church and Gore, all of whom were most critical of U.S. policy in South Viet-Nam, asked whether there is not an alternative to the present government and whether it was McNamara's opinion that it could be effective despite the repressions and political difficulties that have been encountered. McNamara kept trying to rephrase this line of questions in terms of whether the Diem Government is the most effective we can get under the circumstances.

5. Senator Fulbright wanted to know whether more, less, or about the same amount of aid will be needed for South Viet-Nam in the future?

6. Fulbright wanted to know what the French are doing in South Viet-Nam?

7. Fulbright wanted to know whether the Hilsman cable/5/ discussed in the press was, in fact, cleared with the Defense Department and if not, why not? He was also interested in obtaining comments on the substance of the cable.

/5/Apparent reference to telegram 243, Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. III, Document 281.

8. Confirmation was requested as to the accuracy of the news story that U.S. aid had been cut off for the special force which had led the raid on the pagoda temples, for South Viet-Nam imports and for any other purposes.

9. Senator Gore asked a long line of questions as to whether an appraisal of the situation in South Viet-Nam was primarily a military or political question and, if the latter, the basis for Defense officials making the basic reexamination of U.S. policy in the area?

Senators Hickenlooper and Lausche generally defended the primary theme of McNamara and Taylor that the U.S. is winning the war in South Viet-Nam notwithstanding the repressions. Morse, Church, Gore and Carlson were sharply critical of it. Fulbright, Aiken, Mansfield and Long did not indicate their views.

The Committee plans to hear from John McCone on South Viet-Nam on Friday./6/

/6/The session with McCone, Thursday, October 10, is scheduled for publication in the Executive Sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1963.

Fred Dutton

P.S. You should also be aware of the attached letter/7/ which came in yesterday from Senator Morse, setting forth a number of questions on the coup in the Dominican Republic. Morse told me after the committee session today that he has been documenting the extent of interference by American businesses to bring about the coup and apparently intends to make a public case of this.

/7/Not found.


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

Saigon, October 9, 1963-11 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Limit Distribution. Received at 12:53 a.m. and passed to the White House at 1:20 a.m.

666. A highly dependable source told me that three weeks ago in the early hours of the morning, the police entered the premises of a Catholic institution and removed three young women, taking them to a sort of prison. In this place the women were not injured. But they saw a larger number of male prisoners who were being tortured, some by beating, some by the application of electric shocks to the genitals. Every day the young women were given "brainwashing" in the form of lectures on "personalism". After two weeks they were allowed to return to their previous abode but every three days they must report back to the prison for a lecture.

Comment: This looks like the application of a straight Communist technique for the sake of brother Nhu's cult of "personalism". This is apparently what is involved by what he calls the "revolution" (which he wants) as compared with what he calls the American "reform" (which he disliked).



192. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge)/1/

Washington, October 9, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Har-Van Files, Coup South Vietnam. Top Secret. Also printed in Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition, vol. 11, p. 769, where it is incorrectly dated October 6.

74228. Eyes only for the Ambassador. Re CAS Saigon 1448./2/

/2/Not found. In the Pentagon Papers, this reference is incorrectly cited as CAS 1445.

1. Believe CAP 63560/3/ gives general guidance requested reftel. We have following additional general thoughts which have been discussed with President. While we do not wish to stimulate coup, we also do not wish to leave impression that U.S. would thwart a change of government or deny economic and military assistance to a new regime if it appeared capable of increasing effectiveness of military effort, ensuring popular support to win war and improving working relations with U.S. We would like to be informed on what is being contemplated but we should avoid being drawn into reviewing or advising on operational plans or any other act which might tend to identify U.S. too closely with change in government. We would, however, welcome information which would help us assess character of any alternate leadership.

/3/Document 182.

2. With reference to specific problem of General Minh you should seriously consider having contact take position that in present state his knowledge he is unable present Minh's case to responsible policy officials with any degree of seriousness. In order to get responsible officials even to consider Minh's problem, contact would have to have detailed information clearly indicating that Minh's plans offer a high prospect of success. At present contact sees no such prospect in the information so far provided.

3. You should also consider with Acting Station Chief whether it would be desirable in order to preserve security and deniability in this as well as similar approaches to others whether appropriate arrangements could be made for follow-up contacts by individuals brought in especially from outside Vietnam. As we indicated in CAP 63560 we are most concerned about security problem and we are confining knowledge these sensitive matters in Washington to extremely limited group, high officials in White House, State, Defense and CIA with whom this message cleared.


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

Saigon, October 10, 1963, 5 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, PER-LODGE, HENRY CABOT. Secret; Limit Distribution; Eyes Only. Received at 6:15 a.m. and passed to the White House at 7:07 a.m.

676. For Rusk and Harriman from Lodge.

1. This refers to CAS cables [2 document numbers not declassified]./2/

/2/In these telegrams, both October 9, the CIA distributed intelligence, which it cautioned should "be treated with reserve", to the effect that Nhu had ordered a student demonstration against the U.S. Embassy in which he planned to use 100 agents to attack the Embassy, assassinate Lodge and other Embassy officials, and set the chancery afire. Nhu reportedly feared he could not "handle" Lodge and wished him "eliminated." (Ibid., Har-Van Files, Coup South Vietnam)

2. There has been some sort of assassination rumor on the average of about one in every ten days since I have been here, and we have brushed them aside. But the rumors in above-mentioned cables are sufficiently believable to warrant fresh State-Defense planning on two major points:

a. If I am assassinated in the way indicated in above reports, the deed will in effect have been done by the GVN, however much they attempt to disguise it, since they will have instigated the mob and will have denied us the police protection which they are totally capable of giving us in view of the very large police force in Saigon which is under their absolute control. This will, therefore, automatically constitute a rupture of diplomatic relations and means that present assumptions underlying U.S. presence here would be false. This will have grave consequences for all Americans in Viet-Nam, notably as regards evacuation and there should be fresh contingency planning to cover this situation.

b. If I am assassinated, a new situation would be created which might give us a chance to move effectively for a change of government using methods which would now be rejected by U.S. and world opinion, but which would then become acceptable. There should be State-Defense planning on this.

3. For Diem and Nhu even to be thinking of my assassination is so unbelievably idiotic that a reasonable person would reject it out of hand. But Nhu is apparently pleased with his raids on the Buddhist pagodas last summer and is said to be annoyed with me for having advised him to leave the country for awhile. Also he is reported to be smoking opium. For all these reasons my associates here, whose experience antedates mine, consider assassination to be real possibility. Needless to say, this comes as no surprise, as I realized the possibility of this when I accepted this post.

4. I hope to have the entrance gates to the building closed when crowd begins to gather and for the Marines to throw tear gas from inside to prevent crowd from breaking the gates down. If the crowd tries to enter the building by throwing ladders or other catwalks from the Chinese house next door over to our outside balconies, we will try to throw the ladders off and use tear gas there, too. I plan immediate protest to GVN, either by telephone or via MACV. But I plan no shooting.

5. Am in close consultation with MACV.

6. I have instructed CAS Acting Station Chief to have his agent tell source that if GVN authorities mount such an operation, American retaliation will be prompt and awful beyond description. Source will be invited to examine record of U.S. Marines in Pacific during WW II and ask himself candidly whether GVN wishes to have such a horrible and crushing blow descend on them. /3/

/3/ McCone called Harriman at 11:10 a.m. on October 10 and part of their conversation related to this cable:
"Mr. McCone said he is quite disturbed about reporting we get out of Saigon; haven't got a thing-nothing about what happened at Monday meeting. Governor said he would call Hilsman. McCone said all he had seen were few telegrams about assassination Governor said those sounded far-fetched but can't tell. Mr. McCone said Lodge's reply seemed rather hysterical. Governor said he would get after this and let Mr. McCone know if he gets anything." (Library of Congress, Harriman Papers, Telephone Conversations)
The reference to the Monday meeting is apparently to a meeting with General Minh, October 7, to elicit more detailed plans of possible coup planning.



194. National Security Action Memorandum No. 263/1/

Washington, October 11, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAMs. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The Director of Central Intelligence and the Administrator of AID also received copies. Also printed in United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 12, p. 578.

Secretary of State
Secretary of Defense
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

South Vietnam

At a meeting on October 5, 1963,/2/ the President considered the recommendations contained in the report of Secretary McNamara and General Taylor on their mission to South Vietnam.

/2/See Document 179.

The President approved the military recommendations contained in Section I B (1-3) of the report, but directed that no formal announcement be made of the implementation of plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963.

After discussion of the remaining recommendations of the report, the President approved an instruction to Ambassador Lodge which is set forth in State Department telegram No. 534 to Saigon./3/

/3/Document 181.

McGeorge Bundy


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

Washington, October 14, 1963-9:43 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 S VIET. Top Secret; Priority. The text of this message was sent from Bundy at the White House to the Department of State.

576. Eyes only for Ambassador Lodge. Ambassador Lodge from the President. The course of action set out in Deptel 534/2/ obviously requires closest coordination between you and Washington. The gradually increasing effects of suspension of CIP mean that we should be assessing the situation constantly in order to be ready for adjustments in either direction in the light of GVN reactions. But it takes time to work out each new position here, and accordingly it is important to me to have a constant sense of your own evaluation of the situation. I should be glad to have such an evaluation now, in the light of the considerable interval that has passed since McNamara returned with an up-to-date account of your views, and I think it would be helpful if thereafter you could send personal reports at least weekly for my attention. It seems to me that the central issues remain what they have been throughout:

/2/Document 181.

1. Are we gaining or losing on balance and day by day in the contest with the Viet Cong?

2. Is the government responding at any point to our threefold need for improvement in (a) campaign against VC, (b) internal political developments, and (c) actions affecting relations with American people and Government?

3. What does the evidence suggest on the strengthening or weakening of effectiveness of GVN in relation to its own people?

4. And more specifically, what effect are we getting from our own actions under Deptel 534 and what modifications in either direction do you think advisable?

These questions are not intended to be exhaustive, but only to assist in your reports and recommendations by indicating the shape of the problem as seen from here.

McGeorge Bundy has mentioned his brief message from you and while he has no plans currently to leave country, I would be glad to make him available for wholly unofficial and informal visit in near future if you think it important./3/

/3/ Lodge's suggestion that Bundy come to Vietnam has not been found. In telegram 706 from Saigon, October 15, Lodge thanked the President for his willingness to send Bundy to Vietnam. He continued:
"Would not have brought this up if I did not have a proposal which I think contains new ideas and which might just change the situation here for the better. It cannot be properly handled by telegram or letter and requires a chance for me to have a dialogue with Rusk and/or Harriman and/or Bundy." Lodge then offered to come to Washington for a day. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET)
Telegram 583 to Saigon, October 18, replied to Lodge's proposal as follows:
"The President and Secretary concur that a brief visit by you to Washington at end of October would be helpful. This seems to us better than additional visible missions to you. Suggest two or three days may be better than one because do not wish to give impression of hasty in-and-out call. Normal consultation of Ambassador with major responsibilities seems preferable position." (Ibid.)



196. Central Intelligence Agency Information Report/1/


Washington, October 14, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, CIA Cables. Confidential; Routine; No Foreign Dissem/No Dissem Abroad/Background Use Only/Controlled Dissem. The source text indicates this information was acquired in Saigon on and before October 12; as commentary, it is unappraised. A covering note from Forrestal to McGeorge Bundy, October 16, suggests that the President should read it. A marginal note in Bundy's hand indicates that the President saw it.

Situation Appraisal as of 12 October 1963

1. This is a field appraisal of the current situation. It is not an official judgement by this Agency or any component. It represents the observations and interpretations of staff officers based on information available to them at the time of its preparation. Prepared for internal use as a guide to the operational environment, this commentary is disseminated in the belief that it may be useful to other agencies in assessing the situation for their own purposes.

2. The dominating factor during the week ending on 12 October 1963 was the strong undercurrent of tension in United States-Government of Vietnam (GVN) relationships, with the Diem regime digesting and seeking to evaluate the implications of President Kennedy's policy statement on South Vietnam/2/ and subsequent statements by the President/3/ and other American officials. Judging by the articles in the Times of Vietnam, the regime professes to be most impressed by the negative aspects of the Presidential policy pronouncement, i.e., the references to the continued seriousness of the political situation in South Vietnam. The Times of Vietnam chooses to interpret the statements as indicative of continued American determination to overthrow the regime if it does not give in to American pressures for reform. The Times of Vietnam treatment of recent developments conveys the unmistakable impression that the Diem/Nhu combine are prepared to dig in for a protracted war of attrition with the United States, resisting pressures for reform, seeking to mute these pressures by exploiting any differences which may emerge among American policymakers, and attempting to deny the alternative options of the United States by keeping a close watch on dissident or potentially dissident elements in Saigon.

/2/Document 170.

/3/Apparent reference to answers to questions at a news conference, October 9. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 768-769 and 774)

3. The American official community is also now being kept under close scrutiny by the Vietnamese Police and other security elements; the National Police Special Branch Chief Duong Van Hieu's special action group is reportedly attempting to develop incriminating dossiers on selected American officials. Diem himself is reported to have told a central Vietnamese political leader that while he was strongly in favor of various programs, which could be continued, extreme care should be exercised by responsible Vietnamese officials in their relations with Americans. The most disturbing of all are the reports suggesting the possibility that the regime might stage a "spontaneous" demonstration against the American Embassy, possibly culminating in its sacking and/or the assassination of key officials, including Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. These reports are difficult to evaluate, their sourcing is hazy, and it is possible that they have been deliberately started by the regime as a psychological warfare tactic, aimed at intimidating the United States and keeping the United States off balance. General Confederation of Vietnamese Labor President Tran Quoc Buu has claimed that rumors to the effect that the American Embassy was going to be attacked have been circulating for several weeks. Buu tends to discount them. However, it is believed that it would be a mistake to discount the possibility completely.

4. Conversely, opponents of the regime, including a sizeable portion of the Saigon urban elite both inside and outside of the government, appear disheartened over, and in some cases contemptuous of, American failure to react to what they consider to be highly provocative acts on the part of the regime. The morale of these elements is also being adversely affected by the continued atmosphere of fear and uncertainty brought about by the heavy security controls and by additional arrests. Among those who have been arrested recently are the Senior Vice President of the General Confederation of Vietnamese Labor, Dam Sy Hien; the brother of Lieutenant Colonel Bui Kien Tin, President Diem's physician; and Captain Dinh Thanh Bich, aide to Brigadier General Van Thanh Cao, government delegate for the southeastern provinces. The Special Police are reported to have arrested 130 students in the Saigon area in a surprise roundup on the night of 7 October.

5. Reports indicate, meanwhile, that the regime used the detention period of the students who had been previously arrested b' subsequently released to "reindoctrinate" them and to recruit 1eadœ for the new National Union of Students which Ngo Dinh Nhu allegedly in the process of organizing. (Headquarters comment: connection between the "new" National Union of Students and existing National Union of Students (Tong Hoi Sinh Vien Viet Nam) is being checked further.) The creation of an ostensibly private student organization to monitor student activities and to absorb or neutralize other more genuine student groups is a typical action of the Diem regime, but it remains to be seen whether, with the present mood of the students, it will be successful in smothering or deflecting their discontent and anti-regime feeling. Other reports indicate that various student groups are continuing to plan anti-regime activities and that a trend toward some coalescence between these hitherto disparate groups is beginning to develop.

6. There have been no self-burnings by bonzes since the one at the Central Market Place on 5 October; however, Thich Tri Quang, in asylum in the American Embassy, has remarked to Embassy officers that he anticipates many more. The Secondary Intersect Committee leadership, which was reported to have gone underground after the pagoda raids, is probably badly fragmented; another report claimed that intercommunication between various cells of the rebellious Buddhists has been rendered difficult, if not impossible, by present heavy GVN security measures. Organization of further bonze burnings, either by the compartmented cells of Intersect leaders, or uncoordinated suicides by individual Buddhists, is perhaps one of the few feasible gestures which remain open to the dissident Buddhists.

7. We have received several reports tending to confirm indications of GVN belt tightening. Several sources in Saigon have now reported that the government is indeed cutting back on functionary salary payments. A consular officer in Hue reports a similar practice was being adopted there. The policy may merely reflect an anticipatory GVN response to a possible US-initiated cutback in aid. A lesser possibility, but one which cannot be overlooked, is that Ngo Dinh Nhu is conditioning officials to an eventual full break with the United States, brought about at the initiative of the Diem regime.

8. Little information has been received on the progress of the dialogue between the Generals and Diem/Nhu on the allocation of Cabinet portfolios to the military or on other demands reportedly made by the Generals. One possible indication that Diem and Nhu may be meeting with some success in winning over the Generals, or at least in playing for time, is the cool reception Joint General Staff Chief of Staff Brigadier General Tran Thien Khiem recently gave an American official. Khiem has been undecided on the idea of a coup d'etat and it may be that he has been persuaded that it is more in his interest to go along with Nhu. Colonel Pham Ngoc Thao, a self-admitted coup d'etat plotter, recently told an American observer that Khiem had informed him that organizing a coup d'etat attempt had been made more difficult by the American policy statement of 2 October, which Khiem chose to interpret as representing American capitulation to Diem and Nhu. Khiem was also quoted as stating that the Vietnamese people do not care who wins the war; they simply want peace. Thao speculated that the Generals' determination to effect a coup d'etat may also have been eroded by Diem's alleged promise to appoint Generals as Ministers of National Defense, Interior, and Civic Action.

9. One of the major developments on the military front has been the transfer of the Ninth Division, now virtually completed, from the Second Corps area to the Delta, where it will be responsible for the security of the middle tier of Delta provinces with the Seventh Division operating in the provinces nearest Saigon and with the Twenty-First Division remaining in the difficult Ca Mau Peninsula area. This transfer should materially enhance prospects for the improvement in the Delta. The Ninth Division should be especially useful in clear and hold operations in support of the strategic hamlet construction and consolidation, operations which have been all too lacking in the critical Delta area. This unit pioneered in clear and hold operations in Phu Yen and Binh Dinh Provinces. Although the Ninth Division transfer was partially offset in the Second Corps areas by the dispatch of an independent regiment from Long An, it will thin out the forces in the central coastland area. The Vietnamese Communists in the past two weeks have already moved to capitalize on the period of the transfer to substantially step up activities in Binh Dinh Province, the location of one of the more successful GVN province rehabilitation programs. However, in a recent company-sized attack, the enemy sustained a substantial defeat at the hands of the Twenty-Fifth Division, which now is responsible for Binh Dinh and Phu Yen.

10. Field dissem. State (Ambassador Lodge), USMACV (General Harkins), CINCPAC, PACFLT, PACAF, ARPAC.


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

Saigon, October 16, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET. Top Secret; Immediate. Received at 9:28 a.m. and passed to the White House at 10:25 a.m. and to the CIA and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

712. Eyes only for the President, pass White House directly. Herewith my best answers to your questions in Deptel 576./2/ In response to your request will report again in a week. If you prefer a different length or format, please advise.

/2/Document 195.

1. "Are we gaining or losing on balance and day by day in the contest with the Viet Cong?"

Answer: We appear to me to be doing little more than holding our own. This looks like a long, smoldering struggle, with political and military aspects intertwined, each of which is stubborn in its own way.

Our presence here is a stabilizing influence in Viet-Nam and in Southeast Asia; it also keeps the GVN from being overthrown, which would undoubtedly happen if we were not here. But the U.S. cannot make the people like the Government of Viet-Nam-and hatred of the government could ultimately be deadly serious as regards Army personnel, Army performance, and holding the gains which the Army makes by putting into operation a really effective social and economic program in the strategic hamlets.

2. "Is the government responding at any point to our three fold need for improvement in (a) campaign against VC, (b) internal political developments and (c) actions affecting relations with American people and government?"

Answer: Under (a) General Harkins reports a shift of boundaries and reallocation of forces. As regards (b) and (c), it is perhaps too early to conclude that the government will not make some positive moves, but it is now doing the opposite of what we would like to see done.

3. "What does the evidence suggest on the strengthening or weakening of effectiveness of GVN in relation to its own people?"

Answer: The evidence suggests that the Government of Viet-Nam has some of the strength which the government of a police state has, as long as the police remain strong and dependable and the government continues to control the police. Clearly Viet-Nam has such a force and the GVN clearly controls it. But Viet-Nam is not a thoroughly strong police state (much as the "family" would like to make it one) because, unlike Hitler's Germany, it is not efficient and it has in the Viet Cong a large and well-organized underground opponent strongly and ever-freshly motivated by vigorous hatred. And its numbers never diminish.

Viet-Nam has had some kind of war on its soil for more than twenty years, and the people appear to be more than ever anxious to be left alone. In the country, where 85 percent of the people live, as Graham Greene said, "They want enough rice; they don't want to be shot at; they want one day to be much the same as another." Vietnamese are said to be capable of great violence on occasion, but there is no sign of it at the present time.

4. "And more specifically, what effect are we getting from our own actions under Deptel 534 and what modifications in either direction do you think advisable?"

Answer: So far we appear to be getting virtually no effect from our actions under Deptel 534, but we would not have expected effects this early. The salient action under that program is the withholding of commercial imports. Some local businessmen are worried, but our withholding has not brought a request to me from President Diem, even though Thuan has told me that Diem is worried too. Frankly, I do not expect him to speak to me about it because of his suspicion that, if he asks me to do something for him, I would ask him what he is prepared to do for the U.S. He can, of course, dip into his foreign exchange reserves to meet the cost of the Army for a few months and, in my judgment, that is what he ought to do. If the Army does not mean that much to him, then how can he expect it to mean so much to us? But I oppose continuing to withhold commercial imports to the point where an economic crisis is produced which might bring about a popular outbreak. This could be extremely dangerous and might result in important and perhaps irreversible Communist gains.



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

Saigon, October 18, 1963, 4 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S Viet. Secret; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 6:44 a.m. and passed to the White House, CIA, and Office of the Secretary of Defense.

731. Eyes only for Secretary Rusk. Pls pass Secretary McNamara and DCI, Mr. John McCone, eyes only. CINCPAC POLAD exclusive for Admiral Felt.

1. Pursuant to instructions contained para 9 Deptel 534/2/ and elaboration para 3 Deptel 570,/3/ with MACV concurrence I appointed Major General Richard G. Stilwell, Assistant Chief of Staff J-3 MACV and [less than 1 line not declassified] to convey substance of para 9 Deptel 534 to Deputy Secretary of Defense Nguyen Dinh Thuan.

/2/ Document 171.

/3/1n this paragraph of telegram 570, October 12, the Departments of State and Defense and the CIA instructed the Embassy to proceed with the transfer of most paramilitary activities under the command of Colonel Tung. Those not approved for transfer were to be reviewed by CIA and MACV for possible transfer. All units should be paid except the special forces which remained in the Saigon vicinity outside the control of the Joint General Staff. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET)

2. General Stilwell and the [less than 1 1ine not declassified] met Thuan at Gia Long Palace by appointment on the morning of October 17. The meeting lasted approximately 45 minutes. Gen. Stilwell opened the conversation by stating that he had recently been traveling with Acting ARVN Chief of Staff, Major General Tran Van Don, to various subordinate headquarters throughout Vietnam and that the purpose of these travels had been to insure that all units were making full contribution to the war effort. Gen. Stilwell added that in this light, this meeting had been requested with Thuan.

3. Thuan immediately stated, "You've come to talk about the special forces." Gen. Stilwell and the [less than 1 1ine not declassified] acknowledged that this was true and then proceeded to explain the structure and support of special forces units in the Saigon area. It was pointed out that of ten special forces companies, seven are members or ARVN and are MAP-supported; three companies are civilian [less than 1 1ine not declassified]. [less than 1 1ine not declassified] then stated that he was instructed to indicate to Thuan that unless the civilian companies were effectively subordinated to the JGS and committed to field operations, all support of these companies would cease. Gen. Stilwell added that this applied to the MAP-supported units also but would be reflected in the long term, under the conditions specified, by a decrease equivalent to seven companies in the overall MAP support budget. It was carefully explained that the purpose of this action was to place these units in direct support of the war effort under his control.

4. Thuan seemed to absorb this fully and repeated his understanding that [less than 1 1ine not declassified] support of special forces would cease unless Vietnamese special forces are effectively subordinated to the JGS and committed to field operations.

5. Thuan was further informed that henceforth payments to mountain scouts and border surveillance personnel would be made only through US Special Forces mechanisms and funds for these programs would no longer be given directly to Col. Tung. Thuan was assured that the actual passage of funds would be through the hands of Vietnamese, not American, officers but that American Special Forces working with their Vietnamese counterparts in the provinces would directly oversee the expenditures of these funds. Thuan was interested in the amounts involved and seemed surprised at their magnitude.

6. Thuan was told that the USG does not plan any public announcement of this step but, if it became known and if the Embassy were queried, we would state that this action had been taken since we cannot support forces not directly contributing to the war effort. Thuan was also informed that this matter would also be taken up directly with Col. Tung. He concurred in this and stated that he would discuss the matter immediately with the President.



199. Letter From the Acting Director of the United States Information Agency (Wilson) to the Counselor for Public Affairs at the Embassy in Vietnam (Mecklin)/1/

Washington, October 18, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Memos and Miscellaneous. Secret; Eyes Only.

Dear Jonh: I hope I am being overly pessimistic but the days immediately ahead look rather dark for USIS. Your memo to Ambassador Lodge/2/ pertaining to the possible closing down of our field support posts is disquieting. So is the fact that the attacks on USIS not only continue in the Times of Viet-Nam but are now being extended to vernacular newspapers.

/2/Not found.

I have one thought on the situation which perhaps may be gratuitous, but I would not feel right if I did not pass it on to you. Since the pressure on USIS may well include increased personal pressure on you of the type you have already experienced, you must be extremely careful in the weeks ahead to be cleaner than a hound's tooth. It seems to me that you may have to be unusually circumspect in your relations with the Vietnamese and the U.S. correspondents in order not to allow the GVN the possibility of laying a real glove on you.

I am sure you have thought of this already. I suppose, also, that if the GVN decides to cut USIS down and cut you down too, what you do will make little difference. But in case they're undecided and wavering, it surely is important that we don't give them any unnecessary excuses for action.

Ed is really doing very well in light of the magnitude of his operation. I went out to see him several days ago and we had a good talk. His spirit and his guts are pure Murrow. We discussed Viet-Nam and he asked me to send you his warmest regards.

Sincerely yours,
Donald M. Wilson/3/

/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.


200. Memorandum From the Special Assistant in the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs (Neubert) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)/1/

Washington, October 18, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Hilsman Papers, Countries Series-Vietnam. Secret.

Maintaining Momentum in our Vietnam Policy

Although I am sure I am telling you nothing new, I thought it might be worthwhile to set down some of the evidence that we are heading into a period of considerable difficulty in maintaining cohesion and momentum in our policy toward the GVN. It is all very well for us to assert that all Washington agencies are now agreed upon a policy of graduated pressure on the GVN designed to obtain: 1) continuing progress in war effort, 2) improvement in the GVN's popular support, and 3) improvement in relations between the US and the GVN. At the same time we must--and do--recognize that these objectives are to a considerable extent mutually incompatible, and not necessarily likely to be achieved by the measures available to us. In addition to this, despite protestations of unity, the interests of State, CIA and the Pentagon are necessarily disparate.

As I see it, it is quite clear that the first serious problem confronting us here in Washington as we attempt to pursue a policy that really satisfies no one is going to arise with CIA. John McCone expressed at some length and reportedly with considerable vigor at the day before yesterday's (October 16) Special Group (CI)/2/ the view that we are going to have "an explosion" in Vietnam in the very near future. I am not sure precisely what McCone had in mind, but I imagine that he was asserting for the record one of his familiar "visceral" feelings. These, as we know, are sometimes right (Soviet missiles in Cuba) and sometimes wrong (ChiCom major attack on India), but I also think there is more to his present view than this. I suspect he is quite legitimately concerned about the likelihood we will be able to continue a successful war effort (in which his agency is to some extent involved) while at the same time, we are holding up economic aid as well as in effect encouraging political uncertainty in the GVN. The original McNamara/Taylor horseback opinion of how long it would be before the GVN felt the economic squeeze was two to four months. McCone may be arguing that the cumulative effect of political-economic unease will bring things to a head in much shorter order. As a further speculation, I would suggest that he may think that the development of an explosive situation is unlikely to redound to our benefit, that an alternative government acceptable and useful to us is unlikely to arise, and that the communist Viet Cong is in the best position to exploit the chaos that could ensue.

/2/No record of this meeting has been found.

[1 paragraph (15 lines) and handwritten marginal notation not declassified]

In sum, I believe we can expect McCone now to argue that the consequences of our present course are going to be unhelpful in the extreme and that we should, therefore, edge quite rapidly back toward what might be described as our policy toward Vietnam before last August.

I do not see any signs that the Pentagon has yet reached similar conclusions. In view of the military responsibility for getting on with the war, however, I would be astonished if they were not impressed by the line of reasoning I would expect McCone to advance.

I conclude that we may have rapidly increasing difficulty in inducing the rest of the town to live with the untidiness that we at least have fully expected to accompany pursuit of our present policy. Unless we can effectively refute the argument that our present course is trending toward "an explosion", we are going to have to assert with some considerable confidence that such an explosion is to our benefit. Perhaps all we can hope to do now is to hold the line at least until Lodge gets back here for consultation. It may be that what he has in mind is some positive thinking on ways in which we can, in fact, insure that any "explosion" is exploitable to our advantage.


201. Memorandum From the Director of the Vietnam Working Group (Kattenburg) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman) /1/

Washington, October 18, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Vietnam Working Group Files: Lot 67 D 54, Honolulu Conf Nov 20 '63. Secret. A note on the source text reads: "Action was to be by leak to press."

Department of Defense Release on Numbers of U.S. Military Personnel and Withdrawal of 1,000 Military Personnel in November


The Department of Defense has referred to the Department of State a proposed release (Tab A)/2/ on plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. military personnel from the Republic of Vietnam beginning in November. The release also states that as of October 30 there will be 16,730 U.S. military personnel in Viet-Nam.

/2/Not printed.


This will be the first time that the Defense Department will have officially announced a total figure for U.S. military personnel in South Viet-Nam, although high U.S. Government officials, including the President and Secretary McNamara, have made statements or given interviews on the record in which figures close to 15,000 have been used. The release, therefore, makes official what has more or less been official information for the last few months. The coupling of the figure on troop strength with the figure on withdrawal of military personnel is based on the view that speculation on the number of U.S. military personnel in South Viet-Nam is inevitable once the withdrawal of the 1,000 becomes known. Hence the desire on the part of the Defense Department to have an actual figure publicly available to which newsmen can be referred.

From a policy standpoint the official Department of Defense release poses a possible complication that may result from International Control Commission action. Under the terms of the Geneva Accord of 1954 the U.S. is not supposed to have more than 888 military advisers in South Viet-Nam. At the time the U.S. began its expanded military effort in South Viet-Nam in the fall of 1961, it was decided not to face this question directly, and U.S. troop strength was built up without making a figure publicly and officially available. Of course, statements made by the President and the Secretary of Defense amount essentially to a public disclosure of the size of our troop strength, clearly indicating that we are well above the levels provided for in the Geneva Accord on Viet-Nam. However, the official Defense Department release may leave the ICC in Saigon with no alternative but to cite the U.S. for violation of the Geneva Accord and to call on the U.S. to withdraw all personnel in excess of the 888 permitted by the Accord.

Should the ICC take such action to cite the U.S., we could state publicly that, as already stated officially by the ICC in its Special Report of June, 1962,/3/ the authorities of North Viet-Nam are guilty of aggression against South Viet-Nam, and that stationing of U.S. military personnel in South Viet-Nam relates to a direct request from the Government of Viet-Nam of December, 1961, in which the GVN exercised its inherent right of self-defense. When North Vietnamese aggression against South Viet-Nam ceases, it will no longer be necessary for the U.S. to maintain large numbers of military personnel in South Viet-Nam.

/3/Special Report to the Cochairmen of the Geneva Conference on Indo-China, June 2, 1962; extract printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 1103-1106.

Whatever our response we must anticipate that DRV propaganda will seek to make the most of the DOD announcement as a violation of the Geneva Accords. It is of interest to note in this connection, however, DRV Prime Minister Pham Van Dong's remarks in June, 1963, to De la Boissiere, retiring French Delegue Generale in Hanoi, that U.S. forces in South Viet-Nam number 25,000-30,000 and that this number will increase. It is possible that the DRV will not go all-out to obtain condemnation of the U.S. by the ICC.

Recommendation: It is recommended that the Department of Defense release be approved and that we be prepared, should ICC action be forthcoming to cite the U.S. for violation of the Geneva Accords, to respond along the foregoing lines.


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

Saigon, October 19, 1963, 1 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET. Top Secret. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 6:56 a.m. and passed to the White House, CIA, and Office of the Secretary of Defense.

748. Eyes only Secretary; exclusive for Felt. Deptel 558/2/ requested TF Saigon evaluation on continuing basis of US actions bring pressure on GVN (Deptel 534). Following assessments reflect combined judgment of Task Force.

/2/ Dated October 10, not printed. (Ibid.)

1. General. To date there have been no clear indications that US actions have had an adverse effect on war effort either in military or economic spheres. People in countryside largely unaware of recent developments in US-GVN relations or if aware do not feel these developments affect their lives directly. Among educated classes in urban areas general aura of unrest and discontent persists beneath surface. Most significant psychological reaction understandably taking place among business community (US, Vietnamese, Chinese and other foreign businessmen) in Saigon/Cholon area. We have received increasing number reports businessmen worried over suspension CI program and its effect on price structure and over possible cut-off of US aid. Price of gold has increased sharply. Other businessmen seeking unload large sums plasters at 120 to dollar or find investments yielding hard currency return (see Embtel 715 paragraph 7)./3/ Commodities and related trades primarily affected are sugar, flour, condensed milk, and cement. While reports still somewhat conflicting, concern in business community, and to certain extent in general public, has definitely deepened over past few days (see below).

/3/In paragraph 7 of telegram 715 from Saigon, October 16, the Embassy reported it received calls from two "panicky" Chinese businessmen in Saigon who wanted to unload 6 and 20 million plasters, respectively. (Ibid., POL 2 S VIET)

Reaction by GVN to US measures continues in subterranean ways. We hear continued rumors, probably officially inspired, of plans for sacking Embassy and USIS. Times of Vietnam has continued its drumfire of articles strongly supporting GVN policies and attacking elements of US Mission allegedly opposing GVN by overt and covert means. Reports from various sources indicate GVN currently engaged in planning belt-tightening measures.

2. Economic. Key prices of imports during week reversed pattern and took long-expected rise. Most important were sweetened condensed milk (by up to 10 percent, depending on brand), wheat flour (33 percent), and cement (30 percent), as well as chemical products, some iron and steel products in shortest supply, and miscellaneous manufactured imports.

Failure to rise previously in spite of expected shortages was reportedly GVN-inspired belief procurement authorizations would be issued mid-October. Trade sources report there had been some quiet speculative buying. Now canned milk and flour harder to find, and GVN limiting marketing of last flour shipments and is expected do same with coming milk arrivals. Thus, though supplies otherwise adequate till January, appears speculators have started create artificial shortages now. In case of cement, price rise can be explained in part as normal seasonal fluctuation, as end of rains allow resumption building; recent rise brings price only to official level.

Wholesale rice price also rose 8 percent since September 24, following 47,000-ton sale Philippines, 38,000 tons of which was from private stocks. GVN required exporters deliver equal amount no. 1 rice to security stock, creating pressure on market.

Rise key items touched off rise some other prices, particularly foodstuffs, even though no shortage was imminent.

Two commercial banks report rise in demand deposits, no change in loans, which difficult explain. Black market rate on plaster climbed 15 percent to 128, and there is speculation in gold.

In sum, impact on GVN of economic pressures to date has not resulted in request by Diem to see Ambassador, although Thuan has told Ambassador that Diem worried. Further time needed for pressures to take effect and pressures should be continued until point where they likely result in severe economic dislocation. There are no firm indications that Diem/Nhu will back down in face continued pressure.

3. Assistance to Vietnamese Special Forces. Thuan and Gen Don personally advised on 17 Oct/4/ that MAP and/or CIA support of RVNAF Airborne Ranger companies, Civilian Airborne Ranger companies and Civil Guard companies, presently under control of Vietnamese Special Forces (Col. Tung), will be withheld unless these units placed under operational control of JGS and committed to operations. COMUSMACV letter to President Diem of 18 Oct/5/ advised him of same. Col. Tung will be personally notified when he returns to Saigon.

/4/See Document 198.

/5/The letter is dated October 19. (Washington National Records Center, RG 334, MAC/V Files: FRC 69 A 702, 204-58 Organization Planning Files-Establishment of and Changes in Organization (1963))

4. Military. In addition to continuation of pressures which have been underway for some time the following specific actions have been taken on military side with results as indicated:

a. Previously proposed and recently re-emphasized suggestion to relocate corps boundaries in order to place greater emphasis in Delta has (with minor modification) been adopted by President Diem and will become effective 1 November.

b. Previously proposed suggestion to place Vietnamese Special Forces elements operating in various corps areas under the operational control of corps commanders has been adopted by Gen Don and JGS Directive promulgated.

c. USMACV J-3 and Gen Don have made country wide tour visiting all corps and cmd with view to determining [garble--what?] measures required; to place greater emphasis in Delta; to stimulate increase in operational tempo in all areas; and to accomplish other directed actions. These measures will be subject of another COMUSMACV letter to President Diem.

5. Political. In general there have been no favorable developments on various measures we would like see adopted in political area. Diem/Nhu have reacted to pressure by digging in more deeply and attempted exert discreet counter pressure on their own. On resumption of normal university life, University of Hue has reopened except for medical faculty which expected open this week; however, student attendance from 60-70 percent and general atmosphere at University remains sullen. No firm information when University of Saigon may reopen. Appears that GVN now attempting assess whether students actually will attend classes in sufficient numbers to give appearance of normalcy.

GVN general position re Buddhists is that Buddhist issue solved. While over one hundred Buddhist bonzes and faithful released from jail in Hue recently, many remain under detention including two leading bonzes who negotiated joint communique of June 16 and ranking lay leader. Such actions taken by GVN to date can be interpreted as moves on GVN part to demonstrate Buddhist problem solved rather than as concessions to Buddhists. Also, some indication that GVN will not move quickly to repeal or modify Decree Law 10. In meantime Buddhist faithful staying away from pagodas through fear of government reprisals. In sum, GVN appears believe any previous concessions to Buddhists under US pressure are interpreted by Buddhist leadership as weakness and further concessions not warranted and self-defeating.

Nothing significant to report re land reform. Similarly few recent indications (if any) re specific re-emphasis of political aspects of Strategic Hamlet Program, which would be geared in any event to tempo of construction and development of strategic hamlets. Hamlet elections are proceeding as hamlets built and organized. Self-help projects and economic follow-on assistance in development phase are receiving good reception by hamlet populace. Concrete benefits can be expected to result in progressive identification of hamlet populace with the government at least on local level.

GVN has not abandoned extreme police measures and shows no inclination do so in immediate future. Night arrests continue although on reduced scale. Similarly, no action has been taken by GVN to restore civil liberties. On contrary, actions to date seem designed to impress any potential oppositionists among educated classes that they can not count on any guarantees of civil liberties and are at mercy of security organs of the regime.

With regard to refurbishing GVN image through broadening of government, etc; no concrete actions have been taken. Rumors persist that Diem will announce Cabinet changes and realignment certain government functions. However, should this occur it likely to be mere window dressing since most unlikely Diem now contemplates any action which might undermine power position and solidarity of Ngo family. While we cannot discount possibility of Cabinet shuffle for optical purposes, we see no signs that any reduction of influence of the Nhus is in the offing. In fact, harassment of Americans both through newspaper attacks, arrests of Embassy and USOM local employees, and general freeze on normal contacts between Americans and their Vietnamese counterparts would indicate that family still believes it has strong cards to play.

At this juncture little prospect for public and official statement by Diem before National Assembly setting new tone for government. Diem's speech on October 7/6/ characterized by ambiguous position toward US, a call for self-sufficiency with xenophobic overtones, a catalogue of national accomplishments, and an effort to blame negative factors on Communists and other machinations from outside SVN.

/6/An analysis, summary, and selection from Diem's speech of October 7 before the opening session of the third Legislature of the National Assembly was transmitted in telegram 654 from Saigon, October 7. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15-1 S VIET)

6. US/GVN relations. No general improvement has been noted in GVN campaign of divisive press attacks on CIA, USIS, Embassy, etc. Recent trend is to place blame on US Government rather than singling out specific agencies. While campaign waxes and wanes, major thrust is still one of confrontation with US policy as GVN wishes to interpret it.

GVN appears to have focused on paragraph in White House statement of October 3/7/ on seriousness of political situation as indication US will continue apply pressure for political changes which they not prepared grant. We believe US program of pressures has put Diem/Nhu off-balance and they attempting assess strength of US resolve; however too early judge ultimate outcome and significant indications as [of] a change of attitude may not appear for some time.

/7/Statement by McNamara and Taylor, October 2; for text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, pp. 874-875.



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

Saigon, October 19,1963, 2 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, FT 1 S VIET Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 4:24 a.m. and passed to the White House at 4:45 a.m.

745. CINCPAC/POLAD exclusive for Admiral Felt. Secretary Thuan sought me out at a reception Friday evening./2/ When we were seated off to one side, he said:

/2/October 18.

"The President wanted me to ask you whether Washington had reached any decision regarding resumption of commercial imports."

He then continued without a pause, but with a pleasant smile on his face:

"And I told him I believed they had not. Is that right?"

After I said that as far as I knew no decision had been reached, he said, again with a broad grin on his face:

"That's what I thought and told the President. I will tell him that that's what you think."

After a few desultory remarks I said that I had great hope that the time would come when I would be able to show by my actions the strong feelings of friendship which I have for Viet-Nam. He said:

"I have faith that all of this is going to work out so that your mission will be a great success. I don't know how or when but I think it will be soon."

He then asked me what I thought about the statements Madame Nhu was making on her trip. Before I had even a chance to answer he said:

"Why does she have to say such things as her remark that all the people around President Kennedy are pink?"

I said that I did not know but the one thing I was sure of was that in a country like the United States where public opinion counts for so much, it is a very serious matter when two persons as prominent as Mr. and Mrs. Nhu get such consistently bad publicity. It was for this reason that I had advised that they drop out of sight for a while and simply be quiet. It was evident they had not taken my advice but I felt it was all too clear that my advice has been good.



204. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/

Washington, October 21, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Memos and Miscellaneous.

Nhu's Interview in Times of Vietnam

I attach FBIS 06 on an interview with Counselor Nhu published in the government controlled press of Vietnam on Saturday. It is obviously addressed to us, and I think the President would be interested in it.

You will note that I have marked a passage on the second page where Nhu is trying to thrust responsibility for deciding whether the UN team/2/ should see Tri Quang on us. A cable has gone out to the Embassy telling them that we want the reverse to happen./3/

/2/On October 12, the President of the General Assembly announced that a mission composed of the Permanent Representatives of Afghanistan, Ceylon, Costa Rica, Dahomey, Morocco, and Nepal and Brazil's Ambassador to Canada would travel to South Vietnam to investigate relations between the Government of the Republic of Vietnam and the Buddhist community. (Telegram 1338 from USUN, October 13; Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET-UN)

/3/Telegram 603 to Saigon, October 19. (Ibid., SOC 12-1 S VIET)

The UN team is due to arrive next Wednesday the 23rd and stay approximately two weeks. The question has arisen whether we wish to have Lodge out there for the entire two weeks, in which case he would not be free to come back to Washington until the end of the week November 4-9. My inclination is that it is probably more important for him to come here soon in view of the growing political effects of our aid cut off (see page 6 of today's CIB)./4/ If he left Saigon on Wednesday next (October 30th), he would be here at the end of that week or for the week end and would have spent a week in Saigon while the UN team was there. I have a cable coming over from State for clearance suggesting some dates to Lodge./5/

/4/Combined Intelligence Bulletin, not found.

/5/Not found.




Foreign Broadcast Information Service Text of Times of Vietnam Interview With Ngo Diem Nhu

Saigon, October 19, 1963.

Political Counsellor Ngo Dinh Nhu said Thursday/6/ that the Vietnamese people have lost their confidence in the U.S. Government. The Counsellor made the statement in an interview with visiting foreign newsmen. He said he could not understand why the United States has "initiated a process of disintegration at a time when we are winning. People here are wondering what the United States is doing. There is an atmosphere at [of] distrust. People have lost confidence in the United States."

/6/October 17.

He said: "Whether it is under this government or under some other government, the confidence between the Vietnamese people and the American government has been lost."

He said that arrested Buddhist leaders claimed "a half dozen" U.S. intelligence agency agents and employees of American "civilian" agencies in Vietnam had urged them to stage a coup d'etat and had incited Buddhists to commit suicide. "Some of the bonzes (Buddhist priests) in detention have freely revealed that some CIA agents encouraged them. Their stories check so well that they cannot be untrue. The bonzes have named a half dozen CIA agents plus some other employees of American civilian government agencies here. Some of these people are still here. Some have gone. Day and night they urged the bonzes to stage a coup against the government, "the Counsellor told newsmen.

He said he could not understand why these CIA agents got involved in the Buddhist affair since he and the CIA officials had been working marvelously together in what many have termed the "winning program"--the strategic hamlet program--and that McCone himself had understood the need and meaning of that program. "I do not know whether they had received instructions from their higher-ups, but I must say that until this Buddhist affair broke out, the CIA had played an important part in making this winning program a success," he said.

Asked why these CIA agents worked against him, Counsellor Nhu said: "I do not know. Maybe they had received orders to do it against their will and judgment." These agents were not from the Army, he emphasized.

He told the correspondents: "The trust which has existed between Vietnam and America has ceased to exist now. This is true also of relations between the United States and the whole of the underdeveloped world. For us in Vietnam, it will be difficult to go up the hill again (an apparent reference to the possibility of improvement in U.S.-Vietnamese relations in the future). The Vietnamese Government will need much wisdom to recover from what has been done in the past few months. I do not see what U.S. policy is at this stage."

Counsellor Nhu referred to these troubles as "this whole mess in Vietnam," and said American public opinion appeared to be trying to make "scapegoats" out of himself and the CIA for it.

The Counsellor pointed out in the interview that an abrupt, sharp cut in U.S. aid to Vietnam would have grave consequences in the economy as well as in the military effort, especially if such a cut is decided unilaterally. "To me, aid should be reduced progressively and by agreement between the two governments. This is something to be expected because American aid to us is something that cannot go on forever," he said.

Any sudden reduction of aid would place the Vietnamese Government in such a position as to be forced to make deep and drastic changes, stronger measures to more quickly bring about economic development, curb privileges, and promote more social justice, he explained. Such a drastic policy would involve changing everything, he added.

He said he did not understand why, since the U.S. AID normally releases funds in advance without waiting for congressional approval, it now is waiting for Congress to approve such funds. "There are two main effects so far," the Counsellor said. "The first one is to compel the Vietnamese Government to use its reserves of foreign currencies and the second is to bring about black market and its consequences. That leads to a poisoning of the situation and no doubt brings its adverse effects to the war effort . . . . "/7/

/7/Ellipsis in the source text.

Now if for one reason or another this aid is reduced, we shall have to do what the Communists have done. The Counsellor also referred to the solution of Algeria, which has been nationalizing major industries. Nhu said he personally believed the system of U.S. aid here should be changed to a lend-lease type whereby the Vietnamese Government would repay the United States for military equipment and other necessities. "It (the lend-lease type program) would preserve our dignity and make us more conscious of our obligation."

He added: "The other advantage would be that the United States would not be morally involved in the situation." He also said the U.S. withdrawal from Laos had frightened nationalist opponents of the Vietnamese and convinced them to cooperate with the government in fighting the Communists. "I do not think U.S. policy is to withdraw from Vietnam as from Laos, but I detect a wavering," the Counsellor said.

Asked whether the Vietnamese Government would object to the U.N. fact-finding mission talking privately with the "bonzes" being held at the U.S. Embassy, the Counsellor replied that, first of all, that would be the responsibility of the U.S. Embassy. "The responsibility rests with the United States, this responsibility we don't want the United States to throw on us. We want the American government to take the full responsibility in this case, he said./8/

/8/Forrestal sidelined this paragraph.

Asked if the Vietnamese Government would present evidence of CIA involvement in the Buddhist affair to the U.N. fact-finding team, the Counsellor said that the government will do everything it can to avoid washing dirty linen between America and Vietnam in public, unless the American Government decides to kill us through the intermediary role of this U.N. commission."

(Editor's Note: Accounts of this interview have not yet been monitored from Saigon radio nor have any appeared in the vernacular press or the Vietnam press bulletin.)


205. Editorial Note

On October 22, 1963, the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Thomas L. Hughes, sent Secretary Rusk research memorandum RFE-90, entitled "Statistics on the War Effort in South Vietnam Show Unfavorable Trends." The abstract of the paper reads as follows:

"Statistics on the insurgency in South Vietnam, although neither thoroughly trustworthy nor entirely satisfactory as criteria, indicate an unfavorable shift in the military balance. Since July 1963, the trend in Viet Cong casualties, weapons losses, and defections has been downward while the number of Viet Cong armed attacks and other incidents has been upward. Comparison with earlier periods suggests that the military position of the government of Vietnam may have been set back to the point it occupied six months to a year ago. These trends coincide in time with the sharp deterioration of the political situation. At the same time, even without the Buddhist issue and the attending government crisis, it is possible that the Diem regime would have been unable to maintain the favorable trends of previous periods in the face of the accelerated Viet Cong effort." (Kennedy Library, Hilsman Papers, Countries Series-Vietnam, JCS Comments on RFE-90, 11/4/63)

Lyndon Johnson, in The Vantage Point, page 62, wrote that in December 1963 he read "a review of the military situation developed by the State Department's intelligence analysts. The report concluded that the military effort had been deteriorating in important ways for several months." Apparently Johnson was referring to RFE-90. A copy is in the Johnson Library, Vice President's Security Files, Government Agencies, Department of State Intelligence Reports. For the complete text of RFE-90, see United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 12, pages 579-589.

For a subsequent Department of State-Joint Chiefs of Staff exchange of views on RFE-90, see Document 306.


206. Telegram From the Army Attache in Vietnam (Jones) to the Assistant Chief of Staff (Intelligence), Department of the Army/1/

Saigon, October 22, 1963.

/1/Source: Department of State, Har-Van Files, Coup South Vietnam. Secret; Noforn.

Initialed by Hilsman. There is no time of transmission on the source text.

SGN 199 (ARMA C-390). 1. Night 20 October highly reliable lt colonel US Army was contacted by two long-time Vietnamese acquaintances, and a third person, a Colonel Nguyen Khuong, presently unassigned and attached to RVNAF JGS. (See 704 INTC DET report AA990511 dated 30 August 1963.)/2/

/2/Not found.

2. Khuong asked if source believed US/press/military reports that war would be won by 1965? Also, had he (source) wondered why ARVN units failed to attack/press their advantage/kill more VC? Khuong stated RVNAF has the equipment, knowledge and ability to win but doesn't want to win and will not win war so long as present government remains in power. Khuong added, if things continue unchanged VC will win by 1965, VC now in phase III (change from company to battalion-size units) and building up to phase IV (heavy weapons/artillery for shift to VC divisions and final assault).

3. Khuong then came to point: A small, powerful group military officers who can control sufficient forces are prepared to launch a coup against Diem government. He outlined how they can assassinate Diem almost at will, replace corrupt/incompetent military, cabinet, and province officials, prosecute the war against VC, recall political refugees from France/USA, and establish a new government. While this group fears Diem, they especially fear Mr. Nhu who they consider will surely succeed Diem and who will seek reunification of North and South Vietnam through neutralist solution.

4. Khuong, realizing his own conspirators' lives are at stake if compromised, stated there were four ARVN generals and at least six colonels involved. Partial list included: Maj Gen Duong Van "Big" Minh, Brig Gen Le Van Nghiem (ex I Corps CG), Brig Gen Kim (assume Le Van Kim, close associate of Minh), Colonel Nguyen Van Thieu (CO 5th Inf Div), Colonel Pham Van Dong (IG III Corps), and Colonel Khuong.

5. Khuong is seeking assurance of US recognition and support following coup. If coup approach not acceptable alternate solution to establish radio station in some pro-US Asian nation such as Thailand, Korea, Philippines, from which an anti-government campaign could be directed.


1. See R-3262-7, R-285-62 for bios on Colonel Khuong./3/

/3/Neither found.

2. Source is highly competent and in past completely reliable. He was surprised at being selected as contact man; however, his command of French, accessibility without undue chance of exposure, and his access to senior US officials are logical, possible reasons.

3. Fourth general officer unknown; however, based on discussions with source following are not involved: Major Gen Don (in past Minh, Kim and Don formed close threesome), Brig Gen Khanh, Dinh, Cao (CG II, III, and IV Corps).

4. CAS states Colonel Khuong has been associated with numerous previous coup groupings.

5. Contents this message brought attention Acting DCM. Modified version this message with message number furnished CAS.


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

Saigon, October 23, 1963-5 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET Top Secret; Eyes Only. Received at 10:44 a.m. and passed to the White House at 12:55 p.m.

768. Eyes only for President only, pass White House directly, no other distribution whatever. Herewith my weekly report pursuant to Deptel 576/2/ for the week ending Wednesday, October 23.

/2/Document 195.

Question 1: Are we gaining or losing on balance and day by day in the contest with the Viet Cong?

Answer: A. There appears to have been no significant change in the last week on a day-by-day basis. But a thoroughly responsive answer to this question requires one to strike a balance between a multiplicity of often contradictory military, political, social and economic "facts"--any one of which can be used to prove almost anything

B. To strike a balance, the word "victory" must first be defined. How do we know when we have won? My definition is: a condition in which large numbers of Viet Cong surrender (as their counterparts did in Malaya) and others simply don't report for duty anymore. All that would then remain would be sporadic banditry which the regular police forces could handle.

C. This condition would be reached when, to use Mao Tse Tung's figure of speech, there is no longer friendly water in which the Viet Cong's fish can swim. In the condition the people no longer like the Viet Cong, no longer want to see them around, no longer give them food or information.

D. The people come to feel this way, first, because the farmer feels safe and is not being shot at; and then because his government does not oppress him with burdensome taxes and forced labor; because he is making a good living; because he thinks his strategic hamlet is a good place in which to live, with enough food, with a school, with a dispensary, with the beginnings of local democracy; because he has learned how to control rats and insects and how to produce hogs; because his fishing is better.

E. Favorable factors towards bringing the above about are:

F. First and foremost is the work of the U.S. and Vietnamese military which is not only the hope for future victory, but is today a tremendous obstacle to total Viet Cong domination of the country. This result is being achieved at a much lower cost than would be the case if we were to do it alone, as the French tried to do. We are also doing much on long-range economic and social programs which should have lasting value. The strategic hamlet idea too is most constructive. While many of the hamlets are not up to standard, there are undoubtedly some which are really good in an all-around way, that is, they are not merely little armed camps where people are given a chance to defend themselves, but true communities which appeal to the whole man and which also have dependable sources of military support from outside. Vice President Tho said there are only 15 to 20 such all-around hamlets in the area south of Saigon which are really good. Let us hope this is low. Finally it can also be said that the rice crop is moving into the city regularly.

G. Unfavorable factors:

H. This is after all a pacification effort which really cannot be considered successful as long as one cannot drive as much around the country as one could two years ago and so long as gunfire can still be clearly heard from Saigon. Then there are not only no mass surrenders; on the contrary, the Viet Cong is always up to strength and is, in fact, reckoned at a higher figure than it was two years ago, even though it is often said that 24,000 Viet Cong have been killed during that period. The hatred of the government continues to be an incentive for young men to join the Viet Cong. And, this hatred is sure to have harmful effects on the Army. In fact, there are signs that it has already tended to diminish the Army's vigor, enthusiasm and enterprise. The rumors that the Generals are being paid off with money and with flashy cars, which are much in evidence, are believable. Finally, the report of the Delta Subcommittee of the Committee on Province Rehabilitation, which includes representatives of MAAG, MACV, USOM, USIS, CAS, and Embassy, dated October 14,/3/ specifically says: that the Delta situation is serious; that it gives cause for concern; that while our side has ample resources, it is making unsatisfactory progress, but that the Viet Cong are gaining.

/3/Not found.

I. Unless there is a change in government therefore, it would appear that the hatred is bound to grow. Also, the existing political control over troop movements, which prevents optimum use of the Army, would be bound to continue. And, therefore, when it comes to defeating the Viet Cong, time is not working for us as long as the government is run by brother Nhu in the way in which he is now doing it.

J. All this could be quickly changed. But present circumstances compel me to say that in the contest with the Viet Cong, we at present are not doing much more than holding our own.

K. We have done and are doing big things in Viet-Nam which are changing the country basically for the better. In the forefront is the intelligent, courageous, and selfless leadership of the U.S. military which is bold yet practical and is in the best American tradition. There is the excellent economic and social work of USOM. We are, by all these means, producing an instrument which, if properly used by the Government of Viet-Nam, would bring victory. But at present the GVN's main preoccupation with protecting its own internal power structure seems greater than its preoccupation with victory over the Viet Cong. And the Viet Cong is developing.

Question 2: Is the government responding at any point to our threefold need for improvement in (a) campaign against VC, (b) internal political developments and (c) actions affecting relations with American people and government?

Answer: A. Under (a) General Harkins reports that "in no case has Government of Viet-Nam flatly resisted recommended improvements".

Under (b) there has been no significant improvement in internal political situation during past week. GVN engaged in extensive security sweeps and arrests of student leaders to prevent demonstrations during visit of UNGA delegations. All evidence to date points to concentrated GVN attempt to cow potential adverse witnesses and prevent their appearing before the delegation and to keep delegation busy on a cook's tour. Great interest in UNGA delegation among educated Vietnamese coupled with a general belief that GVN will not permit delegation to function freely. GVN reacted strongly against my approach concerning UNGA delegations access to Tri Quang. Rumors abound of further student agitation, more self-immolations during delegation's visit, and GVN-inspected attacks against Embassy and USIS.

B. But I am nonetheless sure our actions under Deptel 534 are producing results. For one thing, Thuan told me that Diem was worried and Diem directed Thuan to ask me on October 19 whether Washington had reached any decision on commercial imports./4/ Then experienced observers believe that our actions are creating favorable conditions for a coup. Although I as yet see no one who looks as though he means business in this regard, General Don has said he was impressed by commercial import suspension and said that our action regarding Colonel Tung was "one of the best things" we had done. See also CAS Saigon 1896./5/

/4/See Document 203.

/5/According to CIA telegram 1896 from Saigon, October 23, General Don contacted Conein on October 23 to inform him that the Generals' coup committee planned to take advantage of the presence of its members in Saigon during the October 26 national holiday to stage a coup within the week. Don was concerned about a conversation he had with Harkins on October 22. Harkins reamed of the Generals' plans because a member of Don's staff, Colonel Khuong, had contacted a MACV officer and asked for support of the coup and recognition of the new government. Harkins had told Don that it was the wrong time to stage a coup because the war against the Viet Cong was progressing well. To make matters worse, Don said that Diem had reamed of Khuong's approach and had extended the assignment of two key divisions outside the Saigon area. The coup leaders had planned on these units supporting the coup in Saigon. Don repudiated Khuong and told Conein that he would be disciplined by the coup committee. Conein challenged Don to produce proof that a coup committee existed. Don promised to turn over plans for political organization to Ambassador Lodge on October 24. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, CIA Reports)
General Don, in Our Endless War, p. 98, discusses both the October 22 conversation between Don and Harkins, which Don recalls took place at a British Embassy party, and the October 23 meeting between Conein and Don.

C. While I cannot prove it, I believe our actions are making Diem and Nhu much more careful about repressive measures-at least about getting caught. I also believe our actions under Deptel 534 constitute the first time that the U.S. has sought to discharge its moral responsibility for the behavior of this government, which surely would not stay in office without us. This is understood and appreciated and has attracted attention.

D. My present thought is that we should continue with this suspension at least until Madame Nhu's trip is over and at least until the GVN has dipped into their foreign exchange reserves. We should stop short of an economic crisis which causes a popular outbreak.



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

Saigon, October 23, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET Top Secret; Priority; Eyes Only. Received at 8:21 a.m. Repeated to CINCPAC. Passed to Defense, CIA, and the White House.

770. Eyes only for Secretary Rusk. Pass eyes only Secretary McNamara and McCone. CINCPAC exclusive for Admiral Felt.

1. As follow-up to approach reported in Embtel 731,/2/ Richard Stilwell and [less than 1 line not declassified] met Col. Le Quang Tung, Chief of Vietnamese Special Forces, at the latter's headquarters in Saigon on the afternoon October 21, 1963. During most of the meeting the Vietnamese Special Forces Chief of Staff, Major Le Quang Trieu, who is Tung's brother, was also present. The purpose for the meeting was explained to Colonel Tung in approximately the same manner as was the case with Secretary Thuan. Tung claimed to be unaware of the previous approach to Secretary Thuan/3/ and of the letter on this subject which had been sent by General Harkins to President Diem./4/

/2/Document 198.

/3/See Document 195.

/4/See footnote 5, Document 202.

2. Col. Tung reacted strongly to the statement that Special Forces would no longer be supported unless they are subordinated to the direct, effective control of the JGS. He claimed Special Forces are already under such control and that he "renders account" to the JGS of the movements of all his companies. It was pointed out that this was not satisfactory; that the US Govt desired unity of command whereby Special Forces come under the direct control of the JGS in order to maximize their impact on the conduct of the war. Somewhat heatedly, Col. Tung stated that while there were certain intelligence functions of his troops on which he reported directly to the Presidency and Counselor Nhu, all other dispositions of his units are undertaken with an "ordre de mission" issued by the Joint General Staff.

3. Col. Tung then asked if this same control applied to the civilian Airborne Ranger or if the Civil Guard companies [less than 1 line not declassified]. Tung replied that it was necessary to distinguish between military and paramilitary forces, that while these latter forces were under the general control of JGS, they were used in a more flexible manner as was agreed [less than 1 line not declassified] from the beginning.

4. [less than 1 line not declassified] repeated that the civilian Airborne Ranger companies could not be supported unless subordinated to JGS control. In anger, Tung retorted that if [1 line not declassified], he would dissolve them. When asked if he could do this of his own authority, he admitted that he would have to get an order from the Presidency to do so. Tung was questioned if he would rather dissolve the civilian Rangers than place them under ARVN control. Gen. Stilwell indicated that there are MAP spaces for three additional Special Forces companies and possibly these civilian Airborne Ranger companies could be converted to ARVN units. In a cooler vein Col. Tung stated that ARVN recruitment might be possible if they would volunteer. He followed this by insisting that the civilian Ranger companies as well as the ARVN Ranger companies are under JGS control.

5. After some further discussion, Tung was reminded that Gen. Stilwell and the [less than 1 line not declassified] were under the instructions of their government, that if there is some misunderstanding as to control of the Special Forces units, this is possibly a matter which the President would wish to take up with Ambassador Lodge. This was later reiterated and it is believed Tung understood that JGS control is not a matter for negotiation.

6. Under the provisions of Deptel 570/5/ Tung was also told that support of the mountain scout and border surveillance units has passed [less than 1 1ine not declassified] to MACV. Gen. Stilwell indicated that henceforth, payments would be made through MACV/ Special Forces mechanisms and that he would arrange a get-together between his staff and Col. Tung's staff. Tung appeared to accept this in good grace.

/5/See footnote 8, Document 198.

7. Payments to civilian Airborne Rangers are now suspended until evidence available they subordinated to JGS control.

8. Stilwell advised Gen. Don of conversation with Secretary Thuan on October 17. In a subsequent conference on October 22, Gen. Don informed Stilwell that JGS was developing modus operandi for assumption of control over VNSF and for deployment of companies to field.



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