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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 279-306

IV. U.S. Relations With the Provisional Government of Vietnam, November 2-22, 1963:
U.S. Recognition of the Provisional Government, The Fate of Remaining Ngo Family Members and Tri Quang, U.S. Advice to the New Government, Rejection of a Neutralized South Vietnam, The Special Honolulu Meeting


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

Washington, November 2, 1963, 6:56 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL CAMB-S VIET. Secreti Priority. Drafted by Hannah, cleared by Hilsman, and approved by Rusk. Also sent to Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and Vientiane.

697. Announcement by new Vietnamese regime of intention improve relations with neighboring countries offers encouraging prospects. Following preliminary views are offered for comment addressees:

Cambodia

Possibility of improved SVN-RKG relations particularly attractive as it might lead to RKG cooperating in preventing Viet Cong infiltration and smuggling. It might also create more relaxed atmosphere conducive to resolution various specific differences such as those involving frontiers. Moreover, improved Cambodian relations with a new, more responsive Vietnamese regime, coupled with Cambodian awareness of US benign, special relationship with new regime, might gradually bolster Sihanouk's confidence in future of Free World in Southeast Asia and reduce his [less than 1 line not declassified] fear of his neighbors.

Initiative for re-establishment relations probably must come form RKG which took initiative in severance, but new Vietnamese regime could do much, particularly in first few days and weeks of its tenure to encourage Sihanouk this direction. It would be particularly desirable at this time to take special precautions to prevent any new border incidents or overflights. Department does not, however, believe it would be wise for U.S. at this time to take initiative to urge RKG to resume relations since this would probably be misinterpreted as evidence new regime will be a puppet of U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh should however take advantage of ordinary contact with Cambodians to provide as much helpful background on developments in Saigon as possible and to express hope that under new circumstances relations will improve

For Saigon: Request you consider what would be proper timing to send EmbOff to Phnom Penh with backup materials to assist Ambassador in demonstrating quality and bona fides new regime.

Thailand

There appears to be no reason to doubt that Thai Govt will be inclined at least initially to be friendly toward new Viet regime, particularly in view recent Thai concern trend of events in Diem regime. Thai Govt will no doubt welcome it as one which promises to maintain war effort against Viet Cong while strengthening political situation at home. It is to be hoped that RTG will move quickly toward recognition new Viet regime and that it will develop closer relations than it had with former government. Expression of greater Thai interest in Vietnamese war effort would not only be encouraging to GVN but might be instructive to Thai military regarding problems which they may face at some time in future. Embassy Bangkok should accordingly in its discretion point out to Thai importance of forthcoming attitude on their part and provide information needed by Thai as preliminary to recognition.

There seems to be no reason to believe that Thai would oppose a closer relationship between GVN and RKG provided of course that Viet regime maintains its basic pro-Free World alignment. At same time it might be pointed out to Thai that new fluid situation created by change in Viet-Nam provides many opportunities for strengthening Free World in SEA. For example, it would be especially timely now for resumption Thai-Cambodian relations since if Sihanouk were almost simultaneously presented with real possibility of closer, more friendly relationships with his two principal neighbors, Cambodia's whole orientation might be slowly but fundamentally influenced. Therefore, while recognizing that Thailand has shown great patience with Sihanouk's outbursts, it might be useful that Thailand would be willing to ignore these outbursts at this time and re-double efforts to bring to a successful conclusion its negotiations with Cambodia.

Laos

Relations between the Diem regime and RLG were shadowy at best because of Diem's bitter reaction to RLG acceptance of Ambassador from DRV. There are diplomatic missions in both Vientiane and Saigon headed up by second-line officers, usually referred to as Charges. Presumably these representatives will not be withdrawn pending basic decisions in both countries. However, RLG may delay considerably before making any final decision regarding its future relations with new Saigon regime. Phoumi will probably find little difficulty in accommodating himself to Viet regime based on power of Generals whom he knows and with whom he might be able to cooperate in anti-Viet Cong operations. Souvanna will presumably be more cautious, preferring to study future course and stability of new Viet regime. It is in our interest that present state of relations not be severed and that cooperation between RLG and GVN be encouraged, leading perhaps eventually to exchange ambassadors.

Rusk

 

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

Washington, November 2, 1963, 8:13 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, AID (US) S VIET Secret; Immediate; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Stoneman, Janow, and Hilsman and cleared by Forrestal and Rusk and in draft by Bell.

700. For Ambassador Lodge. Request you discuss following instructions with Brent, AID and report your joint views before implementing.

You are authorized to inform GVN, at your discretion, but not earlier than Monday Washington time that US prepared to resume CIP and PL 480/2/ in order prevent disruption of war effort and economy and avoid hardships on population.

/2/Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act; 68 Stat. 454.

You are authorized to negotiate extension of the existing PL 480, Title I Sales Agreement to provide an additional three months supply of cotton, wheat flour and milk. Separate cable/3/ today provides more detailed negotiating instructions, including amounts as calculated here.

/3/Not found.

USAID/Vietnam is hereby authorized to issue procurement authorizations for the remaining approximately $5 million of the existing $18.5 million CIP allotment. A separate cable today transmits program approval and allotment information for $20 million additional for CIP./4/

/4/Not found.

We will proceed with pending project actions, i.e. Saigon water and power projects.

The CIP funds should be used within the framework of the FY 64 CIP program as earlier planned, and applied to those commodities which are already or which promise to be in short supply. Particular attention should be given to potential shortages that might have political repercussions on the new Government or on relationships between the U.S. and the new Government. At the same time we must, as you point out, avoid the appearance of giving the new Government a blank check.

Pursuant your suggestion, we plan no public announcement of resumption of CIP projects and PL 480. However, after hearing from you, in response inevitable questions in wake of recognition new Government, we plan say all types economic aid now going forward.

Rusk

 

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

Washington, November 2, 1963, 8:14 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, AID (US) S VIEI Secret; Immediate; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Stoneman, Janow, and Hilsman and cleared by Forrestal, Rusk, and Bell (in draft).

701. For Ambassador Lodge. When time and opportunity permits, but on high priority basis suggest you review Deptel 345 of 6 September/2/ and hold extensive discussion with Brent and Silver of USOM Saigon on questions of improvements of joint US-GVN economic policies and necessary arrangements concerning 1964 economic and budget problems.

/2/In telegram 345, Hilsman and Janow informed Lodge and Brent of "fruitful interagency consultations" on the fiscal years 1964 and 1965 aid programs for Vietnam. The result of these deliberations was that planners foresaw that the Government of Vietnam was faced with an imminent financial dilemma made more difficult by Vietnam's military budget expenditures and willingness, ability to institute self-help measures, and the U.S. Congress' growing limitations on AID contributions to South Vietnam. (Ibid.)

As you know, even with CIP resumption, serious 1964 GVN budgetary problem still remains on which we had planned urge GVN use its foreign exchange resources, accept increased deficits, raise taxes, cut certain expenditures and take many other measures towards austerity and budget discipline. We do not see how this basic position can be altered since CIP amount probably cannot be raised both as US budgetary matter and because of limited capacity of Vietnamese economy to absorb useful imported materials. Revelation this apparently tough position may cut across desired impression full resumption of support. We need your collective judgment re timing and manner getting into these issues bearing in mind it must be tackled fairly soon if GVN is to make necessary effort.

Related question is new regime personnel in this economic area. We have impression generals unfamiliar with it and should have great need personnel familiar with past history and complexity, and able to interpret the apparently tough USG positions as in fact reasonable and essential. Personnel such as Vu Van Thai and Dean Thuc could be most helpful along these lines. On other hand, we concerned at Embtel 884/3/ implication that Thanh might reappear in the new cabinet. We understand that in past he has been one of the obstacles in the Diem Government to putting VN economy and the AID program, particularly the CIP, on sounder counter-insurgency footing.

/3/Dated November 2, not printed. (Ibid., POL 26 S VIET)

We are prepared to make high level experts available to assist the new Government in this task. We also understand that some work has been done recently by the National Economic Council which might be helpful.

Rusk

 

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

Saigon, November 2, 1963, 6:36 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Defense Cables. Secret; Priority. Repeated for information to CINCPAC and to the Deputy Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Thailand. Passed by the JCS to the Department of State and the CIA. Received at the JCS at 10:01 p.m.

MAC J-3 85 73. Summary Evaluation SVN. Ref A JCS DTG 011418Z./2/ Ref B My DTG 012200Z./3/

/2/See footnote 2, Document 272.

/3/Document 272.

A. Indicators of coup Success

1. The initial objective of the coup group has been attained. Open resistance to the coup forces has ceased, leaving the military in full control of the apparatus of government.

2. Deaths of the President and Counsellor, protective custody of Can would appear remove only significant symbol around which supporters of former regime might rally.

3. From all outward appearances, there is strong public support of the Armed Forces and the new govt those forces have established. The mood of the population is jubilant, by Vietnamese standards rapport between troops and people is excellent; everywhere, people are bringing food to troops.

B. Status of Public Order

1. During morning hours, there were numerous large, spontaneous and enthusiastic demonstrations. As of now (mid-afternoon), it is quieter, but the streets are crowded; this is, of course, Saturday and a holiday to boot (Memorial Day for VN war dead).

2. There has been some sacking and looting but, thus far, it has been highly selective. In addition to the Palace, the targets have been holdings of the Nhus (Times of Vietnam; book stores; commercial concerns; HQ of Women's Solidarity League); residences of Minister Hien (Civic Action), Luong (Interior) and Trinh (Education); and home of senior Republican Youth leader. In all actions, student groups have been in vanguard.

3. Few civil police in evidence, many having discarded uniforms and jobs yesterday; those on duty are making little or no effort to influence crowds. Military have reacted quickly to the incipient danger of crowds getting out of hand. Military Police and some line troops are deployed at critical locations and handling situation in relaxed, effective manner. Notably, Minh, Don and Dinh have been personally moving to reported trouble spots to supervise. Reconstitution of police force is a first priority task of regime.

4. All public utilities continue in full operating condition.

5. Martial law in effect, country-wide.

C. Personalities in New Govt

1. Following changes to intially reported lineup:

a. M. General Duong Van Minh is Chief, Joint General Staff.

b. M. General Tran Van Don is Minister of National Defense.

c. M. General Mai Huu Xuan is Director, National Police.

d. Do Khac Mai, promoted to Colonel, and named Commander, VNAF.

2. Promotions

a. Ton That Dinh, III Corps Cmdr and Minister of Interior designate, promoted to Major General. He is currently responsible for military security of Saigon-Cholon area-again.

b. To Brig General:

Do Mai, Chief MSS

Co, now CG, 7th Div

Thieu, now CG 5th Div

Phat, formerly CO 2nd Div

3. BG Nghiem, formerly I Corps Cmdr, has assumed command of VN Special Forces.

D. Threats to U.S. Nationals

1. No report of U.S. casualties as result of coup action.

2. Rapport between U.S. and VN military continues excellent. What is notable is new warmth of common man towards U.S. personnel.

3. Condition Yellow remains in effect, with intention to relax to Grey tomorrow.

E. VC Reaction to Coup

1. While it cannot be directly linked to exploration [exploitation?] of situation, unusual pattern of VC attacks reported in Vinh Long. After daylight this morning, VC, aggregating 200, attacked 6 Strat Hamlets. VC described as clad in blue uniforms.

2. 33rd Ranger Bn has flushed estimated 300 VC in Ho Bo area, Binh Duong Province.

3. No evidence any direct VC participation in minor disorders (para B2 above) in Saigon.

F. Effects of Saigon Events on SVN Forces and Their Operations Against VC

1. Understandably, as the result of nationwide military interest in coup developments combined with a national holiday, the tempo of offensive operations slowed drastically today.

2. It recognized here that it will take several days to re-focus the attention of the new government on priority military tasks. The attention of the entire higher command structure is now centered upon the most pressing of all immediate problems: the establishment of a viable government. There is also an impact upon field commanders, particularly sector commanders who face, in varying degrees, personal and political reorientation.

G. Steps Being Taken To Form New Govt

1. Nothing substantial to report.

2. Coup leaders are making determined efforts to maintain order and at the same time, transform popular exuberance into political support. For example, Generals Minh and Don were reported as being well received this morning as they shook hands with, and moved freely among, the people of Saigon.

 

283. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency Station in Saigon to the Director of the National Security Agency (Blake)/1/

Saigon, November 3, 1963, 10:43 a.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Secret; Flash. Received in the Department of State at 10:09 p.m., November 2. Passed to USIB agencies.

024. Critic. Young Vietnamese Saigon businessman who CAS casual source exhibited set of snapshots morning 3 Nov which showed [Ngo] Dinh Diem and Ngo Dinh Nhu covered with blood, apparently bullet riddled, lying dead on floor of armored vehicle with hands tied behind them.

Source claims pictures given to him by actual photographer who member of coup forces. Source would not identify photographer. Snapshots examined by CAS Saigon Acting Chief of Station and other senior case officer. Both agree photos appear authentic.

Source states pictures taken approx 1000 hours 2 Nov near Gia Long. Source adds it his understanding Diem and Nhu escaped Gia Long through underground tunnel and were driven by Cao Xuan Vy to church in Cholon, where they were captured. Vy has since disappeared. Source adds bodies were offered to wife of former Asst Defense Minister Tran Trung Dung, who niece of Diem. Mrs. Dung, near hysteria, refused accept bodies.

Pictures now being offered for sale to international press in Saigon. CAS does not now have copies but will obtain 3 or 4 Nov.

 

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

Saigon, November 3, 1963, 7 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET Secret; Immediate; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 8:06 a.m. and passed to the White House at 8:22 a.m. On another copy of this telegram, a note indicates that it was sent to the President at 10:30 a.m. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, State Cables)

900. CINCPAC for POLAD. General Don and General Kim called at 3 o'clock. (They explained that General "Big" Minh was tied up in conference with V.P. Tho.) After my congratulations on their masterful performance and my offer of assistance they asked me if I had any questions.

1. I asked whether they were planning a statement which would absolve themselves from the assassination of Diem and Nhu. They had not thought of making statement, but obviously agreed that they should make it clear that they had offered Diem safe passage out of the country if he would resign; that they deeply deplored the assassination; that the assassination had not only not been in any way ordered by them but was contrary to their wishes and was, unfortunately, the kind of thing which will happen in a coup d'etat when order cannot be guaranteed everywhere. I am sure assassination was not at their direction. For your information, I believe this is the most that you can expect of them and that when they make a statement like this it ought to be welcomed in Washington. Burial and funeral of Diem and Nhu would be family matter. Bodies would be in vault in cemetery here and would be taken to family vault in Hue later.

2. I asked whether they had any ideas in mind concerning the relations between the United States and the Government of Vietnam. Don said, with a big grin, "Certainly and we would like to start getting milk and flour for free sale immediately and, of course, the restoration of economic aid." (FYI, I hope that this can be done promptly.) Don said that for psychological reasons they planned to lift immediately restrictions on sale of milk in cafes, etc., which were recently instituted by Diem regime.

3. I then asked what kind of a government they planned to have--a military committee or successor government, or what. General Kim, who did most of the talking, said that three solutions had occurred to the group. The first was a straight out military junta, the second was a government with a military majority, and the third was a government in which the military had only a slight interest. And the third was the kind of government on which they decided. In this there was a military committee which was presided over by General Minh.

Under this there was a Prime Minister and under him there was a Cabinet of some fifteen ministers, of which four or five would be military. Mr. Tho would be Prime Minister. When I asked why it would not be more astute for Mr. Tho to have the title of President rather than the title of Prime Minister inasmuch as his powers were going to be the same in either event and that it would make it look like less of an abrupt transition, they said that the title of President had been reserved for General Minh as President of the Military Committee, who would be a ceremonial head. They said they would be willing to call Mr. Tho President of the Council in the French style rather than Prime Minister. I did not see much advantage in that. They said this would be a provisional government which would last six months and even longer but certainly not two years. They would have a provisional constitution and the present constitution was suspended. They seemed to be completely decided that this was how they were going to do it.

4. I then asked them whether the Generals were going to stay united and win the war? This seemed to move them both. They said they had been divided a long time and knew from bitter experience what it costs to be divided. General "Big" Minh now is their leader. They would do everything possible to be united. The army needs a much more aggressive morale than it has. Even Nhu had said the Army did not have as much drive as it should have, and he was responsible for many of the troubles. They would bend over backwards to stay united. Don said that he was Vice President of the Committee and Khiem Second Vice President.

5. I asked about safe passage for the Nhu children and for the members of the family to exile. General Don said he would personally take it in charge. They planned to take the Nhu children in Vietnam, who were three in number, and who had been in Dalat when the coup occurred, and give them over to Madame Dung, the niece of Madame Nhu. They were now in Phan Pang. I suggested that when everything was ready and the children were all set to go that this be announced to the press. This struck them as a good idea, although they evidently had not thought about it at all.

6. I asked them about the people who had been arrested and the previous ministers--whether they would receive humane treatment. They said that no previous ministers had been arrested. In fact, they didn't know that anybody of that rank had been arrested. I spoke about Mr. Thiep, who is well known in international parliamentary circles and who had been picked up last night, and whose wife was frantic. General Kim made a note of the name and said he would look into it. They would all get humane treatment.

7. I then asked about Tri Quang. They said of course he would be safe. As their group was completely committed to religious freedom, they would like to not have him just slip out of the Embassy quietly without some kind of ceremony for him. At the end of the meeting I took them down to the 2nd floor to see Tri Quang and after a long consultation it was decided that Tri Quang would walk quietly out of the building tomorrow and if they want to have a ceremony for him, they can have it somewhere else, not in front of the Embassy. Kim said they had in mind making Tri Quang a member of a council of wise men, which would advise Big Minh.

8. I asked about reprisals and purges and expressed the hope that there would be no wholesale purges but that reprehensible individuals would be dealt with as special cases. They said that, except for incompetents, they wanted everybody below the rank of minister to stay on and in fact they would like to have the Diem Cabinet, most of the Diem Cabinet, come back to their posts in order to assure continuity.

9. I asked about the lifting of curfew and restoration of dancing. They said dancing could be restored at once but they would keep curfew on for another two days. They said the United Nations Commission, together with Buu Hoi, was leaving today.

10. I said I much wanted an exit visa for Mrs. Gregory so that she could leave the country [1 line not declassified]. They said they would gladly provide it.

11. On the matter of censorship, General Kim said that at a press conference yesterday he said he wouldn't be a demagogue and say there would be no censorship but there would be as little as possible and that he wanted to facilitate any difficulties and hoped they would all telephone him if anything went wrong. So far he had had no telephone calls. He also asked me to call him personally if I heard of difficulties on this score.

12. They said of course they would assume all international obligations and I said that I was sure recognition would not be long in coming.

13. Don asked me my opinion [garble--of?] Thuan of whose whereabouts he said he was ignorant. I praised him highly: character, intelligence, understanding of other countries.

14. He said Amb. Chuong wanted to come home and be part of the government, but they didn't want Madame Chuong back in Vietnam.

They were extremely frank and forthcoming in all their answers and we did more business in fifteen minutes than we used to be able to do at the Palace in four hours. They expressed warm thanks to me for not thwarting, for not giving up Tri Quang, for my general attitude; and it was clear throughout that the withholding of commercial imports had a tremendous psychological effect. They said their coup was organized without a single piece of paper having been kept. All papers were burned; everything was memorized.

Lodge

 

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

Saigon, November 3, 1963, 12:29 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Defense Cables. Secret; Eyes Only. Repeated for information to CINCPAC exclusive for Felt. Sent by Taylor to the White House for Bundy; the Department of State for Rusk, Ball, Harriman, and Hilsman; and to the CIA for McCone and Helms.

MAC 2081. 1. Saigon is quiet and orderly and all evidence indicates revolutionary committee has situation well in hand. Some troops still positioned throughout city and police also in evidence. Martial law continues with curfew hours changed to 1900 to 0500.

2. With ref your JCS 4279/2/ intend to press the new govt for same military improvements which we have been endorsing in the past, specifically:

/2/Document 276.

a. Direct chain of command.

b. Subordination of prov chief to corps and div comdrs in military matters.

c. Emphasis on the trng of units, including hamlet militia (and militia squad leaders).

d. Opnl use of gen reserve.

e. Opnl use of Special Forces under JGS and corps comdrs (now reported accomplished).

f. Better use of military engineers.

g. Better use of Navy and Civil Guard boat companies in Delta.

h. Lifting of restrictions on aircraft armament.

I. Increased tempo of opns with emphasis on those types of opns which augur success of desired objectives.

J. Freeing of ARVN elements from static security missions and reduction isolated outposts.

3. All of the above have previously been discussed with military leaders who were responsive to the need for such improvements and I anticipate that they, functioning under the new govt structure, will be inclined to institute desired changes.

4. As concerns the effect of the change in administration on the province chiefs I do not have at this time details on country-wide reaction of these very important individuals. Am in the process of assembling info on this point and will report in detail soonest. As a general response to your query and based on info presently available.

a. As a general rule, with some exceptions, we have been satisfied with current line up in so far as their military duties are concerned.

b. Do not anticipate any wholesale shakeup of present incumbents.

c. Agree that it to our best interests to prevent removal of effective or experienced chiefs, and to experience the minimum of changes.

d. Several prov chiefs have to date declared their allegiance to the new govt. Consolidated list being assembled and will be forwarded ASAP.

e. Have reed info of temp replacement two (2) prov chiefs in I Corps.

5. Sr adv IV Corps advises that Gen Cao has been replaced as CG IV Corps by Col Nhon who continues to function as CO 21st Div.

 

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

Washington, November 3, 1963, 2:56 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Secret; Immediate; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Mendenhall and cleared by Rusk, Hilsman, and McGeorge Bundy. Repeated priority to CINCPAC for POLAD.

704. Your 900/2/ and 901./3/

/2/Document 284.

/3/Telegram 901, November 3, 7 p.m., reported the arrest of CVTC leader Tran Quoc Buu. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET)

1. Several developments in aftermath coup creating serious concern here. Suggest you arrange see General Duong Van Minh for prompt discussion of following:

2. Reports of manner death of Diem and Nhu (shot and stabbed with gory details) carried in press headlines and causing considerable shock here. When pictures bodies reach U.S., effect will be even worse.

Urgent that prompt and complete clarifying statement be made. Clarification described in your 900 should be expanded with full account of arrangements for safe passage and safe removal Diem and Nhu from palace. We do not think there should be any suggestion that this is just the sort of thing you have to expect in a coup. On the contrary, Generals should emphasize extensive efforts we understand they made to prevent this result.

3. Mme. Nhu has issued long, bitter statement in effect holding U.S. responsible for coup, using such phrases as "cruel treachery", "treason" and "dirty crime." Statement and reaction to Diem/Nhu deaths accentuate importance of assuring safety Nhu children. We trust intentions expressed to you by Don re children and other members Ngo family will be carried out. Prompt and chivalrous treatment of children will be particularly helpful here in context of death of father.

Marguerite Higgins has contacted Hilsman on behalf Mme. Nhu asking that children be brought out to Rome. Suggest you arrange transportation for this purpose. Use military aircraft if necessary.

4. Deeply disturbed by reports arrests of Tran Quoc Buu and Nguyen Phuong Thiep. We consider it of highest importance that new regime immediately release them and avoid further actions directed toward personalities who apparently not guilty any crimes.

Suggest you point out these developments at minimum give appearance military not in full control of situation and unless promptly corrected will produce strong adverse international reaction contrary to regime's desire attract international sympathy. Thiep well-known in U.S. Congressional circles and Buu highly regarded by American and international labor movement.

5. FYI. Re Deptel 700./4/ American and world public opinion problem relating to paras 2, 3, and 4 above, are sufficiently serious as to indicate those points should be clarified before public announcement of full resumption of aid. It is not our intention to use delay in resuming aid as summary leverage on Generals, but you should emphasize importance of immediate action to ensure as favorable international image as possible. Public here would not understand resumption of aid before clarification these points. End FYI.

/4/Document 280.

Rusk

 

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

Saigon, November 4, 1963, 1:05 a.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Defense Cables. Secret; Exclusive. Also sent to CINCPAC; the Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Thailand; and the Embassy in Saigon. Repeated for information by the JCS to the White House exclusive for Bundy; to the CIA exclusive for McCone; and to the Department of State exclusive for Rusk, Ball, Harriman, and Hilsman. The source text is the White House copy.

MAC J-3 8587. Summary Evaluation South Vietnam.

Ref A, JCS DTG 011418Z Nov./2/

/2/See Document 2, Document 272.

Ref B, my DTG 021036Z Nov./3/

/3/Printed as Document 282.

A. Indicators of Coup Success.

1. Very little to add to evaluation contained Ref B. There have been no counter-coup actions reported, anywhere in the nation, during the past 24 hours. The junta is definitely in control of the situation, at this juncture.

2. Mood of the Saigon population remains exuberant.

3. Information is scanty in the following areas:

a. Specific moves to eliminate secret apparatus of the Can Lao Party. The only arrests of which we are aware are, in addition to Colonel Le Quang Tung and brother Trieu (both rumored dead), a handful of Vietnamese Special Forces officers. General Cao has been relieved but not clear yet whether reason was political unreliability or military incompetence.

b. Extent to which wholehearted support and participation of influential civilian leaders and institutions has been gained.

4. The junta appears genuinely concerned over possibility of some pre-arranged counter-coup action; and thus considers next 48 hours or so to be crucial. Conceivably, counter-coup action could be stimulated by Republican Youth, elements of Special Forces not yet accounted for or other instrumentalities of Can Lao Party. We consider likelihood of large scale action to be remote; however terroristic acts are distinctly possible.

B. Status of Public Order.

1. The street and squares are alive with people, today. Old hands report that population notable for numbers in evidence, and for relaxed attitude.

2. No further indications of ransacking residences or offices closely associated with the Ngo family or regime. General Don appealed to the population to be circumspect in this regard; considerable numbers of troops deployed throughout the city to enforce injunction, if necessary; their mere presence suffices. In this connection, people appear reassured by, rather than fearful of, presence of troops.

3. General Don reports that Saigon civil police force has been reconstituted at nearly pre-coup strength; that, given assurances, the great bulk of those who left their posts in fear on Friday have returned to duty. In this regard, Don expressed high confidence in General Xuan (Director General of National Police) who was an experienced police official prior to becoming an army officer.

4. Public utilities continue to function uninterruptedly.

C. Personalities in New Government.

1. Following are changes or additions to previous reports:

a. Major General Tran Van Don will be both Minister of National Defense and Chief, Joint General Staff. He plans to discharge both responsibilities from the same office at JGS Headquarters.

b. Tran Thien Khiem (promoted to Major General) is to continue as Chief of Staff, for the time being.

c. Le Van Nghiem (promoted to Major General) will command both Special Forces and Airborne brigade. Former Airborne commander, Colonel Vien, to be reassigned.

d. Ton That Dinh scheduled to relinquish command of III Corps in next few days. Logical successor (and best choice) would be Brigadier General Co. However current information is that nod will go to Brigadier General Thieu, Commander, 5th Div and key figure in coup.

e. Colonel Nhon (expected to be promoted 4 November) has assumed command IV Corps. Vice General Cao reported Nhon will be replaced at 21st Division by Colonel Han (former Chief of Staff, IV Corps).

f. No further changes reported on division commanders.

Replacement of 23rd Div Commander (Colonel Le Quang Trung) likely.

2. Additional promotions:

a. To Major General: Le Van Kim (Minister of Agriculture designate), General Tran Thieu Oai (Director of Psywar).

D Threats to U.S. Nationals.

1. Excellent state of public order and attitude of both Vietnamese officialdom and population led to decision to relax security condition to White at mid-morning.

2. JGS has sent instructions down through chain of command for division commanders to insure security of advisors at sector level. This may be reflection of new government's concern about some reaction by elements still loyal to former regime.

3. No reports, from any quarter, of hostility toward or action against any U.S. personnel.

E. VC Reaction to Coup.

1 The attacks in Vinh Long, reported in Ref B, were in fact, harassing fires. No friendly or enemy casualties.

2. MACV assessment is that there has been no significant change in pattern of VC incidents since initiation of coup.

F. Effect of Coup on RVNAF and Operations Against VC.

1. As expected, today was a duplicate of yesterday. No deployments from Saigon back to field. However, VNAF resumed tactical operations. Minds of senior military still concentrated on structuring and policies of government.

2. The hope is for early upsurge in tempo and effectiveness of the military counterinsurgency efforts. General Don passed assurance to COMUSMACV via J-3 that troops would be returned to field stations in a couple of days. He also said one of first acts would be to tidy up III Corps by shifting northern boundary southward (as originally recommended) and eliminating the capital military district as a territorial command.

G. Steps To Form New Government.

1. Reported that decree establishing provisional government will be promulgated tomorrow. Expected that powers of state will be temporarily vested in a committee (Don referred to a praesidium) with Duong Van Minh as chairman and from which the ministries would depend.

2. As a minimum, Ministries of Defense (Don), Home Affairs (formerly Interior) (Dinh), Education (Tran Van Minh), Agriculture (Kim), Information (Oai) to be military incumbents, at outset. Promise is to relinquish all as soon as responsible civilian replacements can be found.

3. Thus far, only the province chiefs of the two northernmost provinces have been replaced. However, the odds are for more widespread change. The probable formula will be an arrangement which separates military (security) and civil responsibilities.

 

288. Memorandum for the Record of Discussion at the Daily White House Staff Meeting/1/

Washington, November 4, 1963, 8 a.m.

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

1. Mr. Bundy presided throughout the meeting.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Vietnam.]

3. Vietnam. The coup in Vietnam was the subject of a somewhat rambling discussion which focused mainly on the problem of recognition but also touched on a number of other points.

Bundy made it clear that we would recognize the government in the next day or two. He asked that this word be gotten to the American Republics Section of the State Department because he knew that cables were already coming in from Latin American countries which pointed up how our recognition policy in Vietnam appeared to differ from that in Latin America. Cooper of CIA suggested this might be a good time to spell out US recognition policy. Bundy replied he was enough of a diplomatic historian to know that if a government did this it would certainly be in trouble, because the approach to recognition changed with circumstances.

Schlesinger said we must recognize that our recognition policy toward Latin America is different from our policy in other parts of the world because of our special responsibilities. He admitted that our recent emphasis on constitutionality of governments in Latin America could be jeopardized by our recognition of the Vietnamese coup and tried to draw a distinction between the Far East situation and the one in Latin America. Bundy commented that he was sympathetic with Schlesinger's approach, but what it seemed to amount to was, if we liked people, we would say what they did was constitutional and if we didn't we would not. After a bit more discussion, there seemed to be a consensus that the two criteria for recognition should be (1) an effective government, and (2) one that has the support of the people. This approach will avoid the strict legal approach to recognition and avoids centering our policy solely on constitutionality and legitimacy.

Bundy said that he had no intention of making publicly any clear-cut statements along the lines above, but he did think it might be a good idea for the President to have a press conference this week/2/ to explain our attitude toward the Vietnamese coup and, in process, draw some distinctions between the various types of military revolts. He asked Gordon Chase to compile the President's previous statements on recognition.

/2/The President held a press conference on November 14; for the transcript, which includes questions and answers on the situation in Vietnam, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 845-853.

One interesting sidelight is the importance of a coup having the support of the people. Bundy and others were impressed with the fact that the Saigonese people threw garlands of roses on the tanks and seemed genuinely pleased with the revolt. In contrasting this with certain Latin American military coupe, Bundy remarked that Latin American generals would do well to plan for some such demonstration of support. He made the remark half jokingly, but he was serious in noting that such things were important. Given my suspicious mind, I wondered if all the local support in Saigon was spontaneous or whether some of it had been arranged.

At one point, the discussion turned on what was the determining factor in bringing about the coup. The subject came up when, in talking of recognition, Bundy said that perhaps we should have a policy of showing our support for various governments not by mere recognition, but by willingness to provide them economic and military assistance. In discussing the effectiveness of such assistance, Bundy remarked that he thought cutting off the commodity support program in Vietnam was probably the determining factor in bringing about the revolt at this time. Forrestal agreed. Hansen of BOB, however, took a somewhat different view, saying that the verbal pressure we had put on also had some effect, and was probably the most important thing we did. There followed some discussion which came down to the fact that our cutting off assistance to the special forces and cutting the commodity support program were two actions that showed that we meant business with our words. The primary point Hansen was trying to make never became clear, but I think it probably stemmed from the fact that, as a budgeteer, he would not like to see the assistance programs manipulated in every crisis.

Bundy deplored the slaying of the brothers Nhu, and said the evidence was mounting that they were assassinated. Bundy remarked there are supposedly some pictures which will soon appear publicly, showing the brothers in a pool of blood with their hands tied behind their backs. Bundy said this was not the preferred way to commit suicide, and regretted that the coup leaders still insisted that it was.

With respect to the government of Vietnam, Bundy and Forrestal agreed that perhaps a provisional government would be preferred over a period of months rather than settling in for a long time with a more constitutional government of less effective people. These remarks were related to the difficulty of getting good civilians in the cabinet.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Vietnam.]

 

289. Telegram From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge) to the Department of State/1/

Saigon, November 4, 1963, 7:26 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL S VIET. Top Secret; Immediate. The source text is CIA Station telegram 2191 from Saigon sent to the Department of State eyes only for Rusk, Harriman, Hilsman, and Hughes; to the Office of the Secretary of Defense eyes only for McNamara, Gilpatric, Taylor, Krulak, and William Bundy; to the White House eyes only for McGeorge Bundy; and to the CIA eyes only for McCone, Carter, and Helms. It was repeated to Honolulu eyes only for Felt. Received at the Department of State at 8:23 a.m.

1. On 4 Nov CAS source close to General Tran Van Minh reported that Minh said that former Minister of Finance, Ha Van Vuong, and former Minister of Agriculture Le Van Dong, of two years ago, told Minh that the Generals are quarreling among themselves. They also say that if the Generals cannot come to an agreement within next day then the Marines who actually led the coup against the regime would lead a countercoup.

2. According to Minh, these several items are contributing to the discord among the Generals:

None of the Generals is jubilant over the murder of Diem. General Nguyen Khanh's only stipulation for joining the coup was that the President would not be killed. Generals were in agreement that as little bloodshed as possible was to take place. General Duong Van Minh issued orders that only fire fights on given objectives were to take place and property was not to be destroyed. Little Minh says the Generals are very disturbed over the looting that has taken place. Another point of disagreement among Generals is the manner in which promotions were handled. Duong Van Minh passed approving of promotions to Tran Van Don. Tran Van Minh and Nguyen Ngoc Le thought some of the Generals' promotions should be held up for the moment. At this point, Tran Van Don passed approval promotions to Tran Thien Khiem, who announced the promotions including his own. Former Vice President Tho who was party to promotion discussion was very disturbed over manner promotions.

3. Last meeting of Generals discontinued at 0300 hrs 4 Nov and to be continued sometime after 1300 4 Nov. Generals have not been able to come to agreement on Cabinet. The major deterrent in coming to agreement centers around General Ton That Dinh. Dinh who figured among the primary coup movers and, according to Little Minh, carries some weight with Duong Van Minh, wants to be Minister of Interior. Former Vice President Tho objected strongly to Dinh taking this position. Also, several Generals are concerned over Dinh's second demand that newly appointed General Do Mau be made Minister of Youth Affairs. Duong Van Minh suggested compromise by moving some of Interior's functions into Ministry Administrative Affairs to Prime Minister [sic] and in essence Tho would hold the portfolio of Ministry of Interior and Dinh would handle the security affairs for Interior.

4. According to Minh, Cabinet positions have been discussed as follows:

Prime Minister and Minster Interior, Nguyen Ngoc Tho.

Ministry of National Defense, General Tran Van Don.

Foreign Affairs, Vu Van Mau, if he will accept and if not, then Pham Dang Lam, presently Chief Secretariat Foreign Ministry.

Secretary State for Presidency, Nguyen Thanh Cung.

Finance, Luu Van Tinh.

Rural Affairs, Tran Le Quang (who would take over some of the functions of Interior thereby diluting still further some of Dinh's responsibilities).

Public Works, Tran Ngoc Oanh.

Economy, Huynh Van Lang (this position is controversial and may be changed).

Youth Affairs, Do Mau (at insistence of Dinh and strongly objected to by Nguyen Ngoc Le and Tran Van Minh).

Health, vacant at moment (turned down by Pham Huy Quat).

Justice, vacant (no agreement reached primarily because of Dinh's objections).

Information, Tran Tu Oai, turned the job down and objected when Tran Van Kim was proposed because two brothers-in-law would then be in Cabinet.

5. At the close of the meeting, it appeared that only four of the Generals had to be ministers. They were Defense/Don, Interior/Dinh, Information/Kim, and Youth/Maul

6. Tran Van Minh and Nguyen Ngoc Le told Duong Van Minh they willing to help in putting together Cabinet but they must be sensible about it. They received only shrug of shoulders from Duong Van Minh. At this point, Vice President Tho pulled Tran Van Minh aside and said don't be discouraged that he, Tho, would try to help and that he thought Tran Van Minh's counsel very valuable.

7. Afternoon of 4 Nov General Big Minh told reliable American source that Dr. Tran Kim Tuyen had been arrested because it had been discovered that he was plotting a countercoup.

 

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

Saigon, November 4, 1963, 4 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15-1 S VIET Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 8:23 a.m. and passed to the White House at 9:50 a.m.

913. CINCPAC for POLAD.

1. I had it from an unimpeachable source that the bodies of Diem and Nhu were returned to the families and that they are now in the morgue at St. Paul's Hospital. The source which has seen the bodies said both were shot in the nape of the neck and that Diem's body in particular showed signs of having been beaten up. This definitely disproves the rumor of suicide.

2. According to [less than 1 line not declassified] of the Chinese Catholic Church in Cholon, both men were kneeling in church and were taken out and shot, then put into the armored car.

3. According to General Don, they called Diem shortly after 4:30 p.m. (FYI--After Diem's call to me),/2/ and all of the Generals in the room took the telephone in turn and offered him safe conduct if he would resign; Don believes that he was dissuaded from resigning by brother Nhu. Comment: Once again brother Nhu proves to be the evil genius in Diem's life.

/2/See Document 259.

4. General Don confirms the story that Diem and Nhu left the Palace on Friday evening in a vehicle with two aides and drove to Cholon and went into a house which they had long since prepared and from where they could be reached by telephone from the Palace and could make outgoing telephone calls themselves. General Don and his associates wanted very much to get them out of the country safe and sound, and no one deplored their assassinations more than he does. They provided an armored car so that they would not be lynched.

5. Thuan told me last night that there was an Indian astrologer who was here a few weeks ago who predicted a "frightful massacre" of a "great family". The respect with which he and former Economics Minister and Finance Minister considered this prediction confirmed the reports I have always heard of the prestige which astrologers have in this part of the world.

6. Thuan said that after my talk with him in Dalat last Monday,/3/ in which I outlined the type of things which U.S. wanted the GVN to do, he put them up to Diem saying that they were really not much to ask. He believes that Nhu talked Diem out of agreeing to do anything that would please U.S.

/3/See Document 220.

Lodge

 

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

Saigon, November 4, 1963, 8 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Secret; Priority. Received at 9:55 a.m. and passed to the White House at 10:15 a.m.

917. Report of conversation with General Minh and General Don. Lt. Colonel Conein was with me.

1. I began by saying we had made preliminary arrangements for resumption of milk and flour deliveries and asked who should be Brent's contact in the Vietnamese Government for discussion of this and other aid matters.

2. They said that the new government was going to be announced later in the day and that Brent could deal with the appropriate minister.

3. I stressed repeatedly the importance of publishing a very complete and detailed account of their efforts to arrange safe passage for Diem and Nhu; their repeated telephone calls and urgings to Diem to resign; and the provision of an armored car so that Diem and Nhu would not be lynched on the way out of the Palace. Like many people in this part of the world, they do not appreciate the importance of public relations, but I think maybe I made a dent.

4. I then stressed the importance of getting the Nhu children out soonest and was told that they were now in Saigon and that the Generals, too, wanted to get them out soonest./2/

/2/The three youngest children of Ngo Dinh Nhu and Madame Nhu were in Dalat during the coup. The eldest daughter was in the United States with her mother. They were taken to Phan Rang on the coast and then to Saigon. With the cooperation of the Military Committee and the American Embassy, the Nhu children left Saigon at 4:20 on November 4 for Bangkok accompanied by an Embassy official and a nurse. (Telegram 713 to Bangkok, November 4, ibid., POL 15-1 S VIET)
See Marguerite Higgins, Our Vietnam Nightmare, p. 225, for her recollection of her role in arranging for the evacuation. A memorandum of a telephone conversation among Madame Nhu, her eldest daughter Le Thuy, and Roger Hilsman, November 4, concerning the arrangements for the evacuation of the children is in Kennedy Library, Hilsman Papers, Memorandum of Conversations. Secretary Rusk and other U.S. Government officials followed the November 4 evacuation of the Nhu children from Vietnam very closely, reflecting the President's desire that they be reunited with their mother as soon as possible. (Department of State, Rusk Files, Telephone Conversations)

5. On the question of Ngo Dinh Can, they said that their General in Hue had just telephoned that there was a very large and hostile crowd around the house where Can lives with his mother and that he was obviously thoroughly loathed for all his many cruelties in the past and that the crowd wanted his skin. I asked whether or not Can wanted to leave his mother and the country, and they did not know. This is an exceedingly puzzling question. It would obviously be very bad if Can were lynched. It would also be bad if we tore him away from his mother./3/

/3/In telegram 714, November 4, 4:58 p.m., the Department agreed that Can should not be harmed and that "we should make every effort to get him and his mother, if necessary, out of country soonest, using our own facilities if this would expedite their departure." (Ibid., Central Files, POL 26 S VIET)

6. Both Minh and Don have made extensive inquiries regarding the whereabouts of Tran Quoc Buu, the labor leader. Each member of the Generals' council specifically interrogated, and they are absolutely definite that none of them had taken any steps to have him arrested. They say that he is not in any police station; that he was not arrested but has been kidnapped and is now in some private house. They are continuing the search. (FYI--Believe it is important for Department to point out to George Meany/4/ and others that new government says that this man was not "arrested" but has been kidnapped.)

/4/President of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

7. They said that Dr. Tuyen had resumed to Saigon from Hong Kong via Bangkok and had at once started pulling his old plotting organization together. They suspect him of having engineered the kidnapping of Buu in order to make trouble for the new government and put it in wrong with the world labor movement.

8. I repeatedly stressed the importance of the Generals keeping united and going out and winning the war and not getting a reputation for arbitrary arrests, which would damage their ability to win the war as it had damaged that of the Diem regime.

9. Minh seemed tired and somewhat frazzled, obviously a good well-intentioned man. Will he be strong enough to get on top of things?

10. Deptel 704/5/ seems to show some divergence between ourselves and yourselves on significance and merit of the coup. Here is how it looks to us:

/5/Document 286.

a. To whomever has ever been involved in either a military or a political campaign, this coup appears to have been a remarkably able performance in both respects. To mention but one out of [many] features, the way in which secrecy was preserved and no papers of any kind were used during and preceding operations might be profitably studied by any organization in which leaks and a superfluity of paper are problems. The concentration of effort on switchboards, radio stations and communications facilities showed a realism not possessed, for example, by those who attempted the coup against Hitler.

b. Experts who have all along been hostile to the coup and who said "win with Diem" now say that this coup means that the war can be drastically shortened. One observer, watching the performance of the ARVN, said if these men can perform like this when their hearts are in it, why isn't it reasonable to believe that they can do equally well against the Viet Cong?

c. I quite agree that Generals should make clear that they were opposed to any harm coming to Diem and Nhu and that the rest of the Ngo family will be humanely treated. I recognize that these Generals will make mistakes, and I hope they don't start arbitrary arrests and fighting among themselves. Also I am doing everything I can for Buu and Thiep. But this is only way these people can get a change--which they are very happy about.

d. And we should not overlook what this coup can mean in the way of shortening the war and enabling Americans to come home. Hope we can get solidly behind the new crowd and give them a real chance.

Lodge

 

292. Telegram From the Consulate at Hue to the Department of State/1/

Hue, November 4, 1963, 10 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 30-1 S VIET Secret; Immediate. Repeated to Saigon. Received at 12:48 p.m. and passed to the White House at 1:30 p.m.

15. Ngo Dinh Can reportedly still at Redemptionist Seminary although was possibly scheduled for removal to Saigon today by General Do Cao Tri. One of Can's emissaries today reported Can appeared desperate this morning and was ready seek asylum at Consulate as soon as emissary gave go ahead./2/ Emissary replied when Can sought asylum was Can's choice. Another of Can's emissaries reported Can would like his mother and one servant to come with him. Mother, incidentally, rumored to possibly have died today, or at least to be failing quickly. As far as it is known, she remains in her own residence.

/2/On the afternoon of November 2, two separate emissaries of Ngo Dinh Can contacted U.S. officials at the Consulate at Hue to ask for assistance if Can's life were to be placed in danger. U.S. officials replied that Can could only be helped if he was in "imminent danger from mob violence" and pointed out that the Consulate's premises were not inviolable. If asked by Government of Vietnam authorities to turn him over, the Consul would have to comply. (Telegram 12 from Hue, November 2; ibid.)
In telegram 5 to Hue, November 2, the Department instructed the Consul to grant Can asylum at his request if he was in physical danger from any source. The Consul was to explain to local authorities that further violence against the Ngo family would harm the new regime's international reputation. The Consul should also remind these authorities that the United States took similar action to protect Quang Tri from the Diem government. (Ibid.)
In telegram 6 to Hue, November 3, the Department sent further instructions that in the event assistance to Can endangered American lives, Helble should contact General Tri and request protection and removal of Can. The Department also suggested that the Embassy in Saigon consider Can's immediate evacuation. (Ibid.)

During 4 November thousands of people visited area of Can residence which still guarded by troops and armor and nearby Tunam Pagoda. Many thousands also trekked three kilometers to large estate of Can south of Hue which about half constructed. Estate, which included large agricultural development and various buildings and landscapings, thoroughly looted and destroyed by crowds. Former French ammo storage buildings which converted to eighteenth century type dungeons with filthy, tiny pitch black cells also on grounds. Latter observed by reporting officer. These source of considerable agitation against Can and family.

University and high school classes held without incident, although one report received that students at Quochoc High School attempted to turn on known former secret police agents at school but disarmed by faculty.

Province Chief told enthusiastic crowd of 2,000 civil servants today that all caches of arms and agents of former regime should be reported, he would form peoples committee to help him solve problems, people should allow criminals of former regime to be punished by courts, demonstrations by people would be allowed in a few days. Latter presumably would be pro-coup.

Helble

 

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

Saigon, November 4, 1963, 6:17 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Secret; Eyes Only. Passed by the JCS to the White House exclusive for Bundy; to the Department of State exclusive for Rusk, Harriman, Hilsman, and Ball; and to the CIA exclusive for Helms. Repeated for information to CINCPAC for Felt and to the Embassy in Saigon. The source text is the Department of State copy.

MAC JO1 8605. Personal for Gen Taylor info Adm Felt from Harkins.

1. Situation in Saigon remains quiet and orderly. Curfew hours have been relaxed-now from 2400 to 0500.

2. No indication of any counter-coup activity, however, understand Revolutionary Committee fully appreciates possibility such may develop and are alert to this contingency.

3. A word received today that BGen Co (formerly Col Co Deputy CG III Corps) now CG IV Corps. No info as to future utilization of Gen Cao former IV Corps comdr. BGen Thieu (former CO 5th Div) now CG III Corps designate.

4. At brief meeting this am of Big Minh and M Gen Timmes Minh expressed regret that it had been necessary to resort to a coup, however, it had been apparent that rectification of the situation by pacific means would not be possible. Stated that daylight coup had been decided upon in belief that fewer casualties would result. Nov 1st selected due that day a holiday and children would not be in school which would also tend to minimize casualties. He stated that Revolutionary Committee had not anticipated overthrow of the govt would be particularly difficult but that major concern was how VC might react. Feels that coup was carried out with such dispatch that VC did not have time to react and that now situation permits troop availability to counter any VC reaction which may now develop.

5. Best line-up on province chiefs as of now follows:

a. Fourteen (14) old prov chiefs have pledged their support to the coup and retain their prov chief assignments.

b. Three (3) old province chiefs have been reported as retaining their assignments, however, not indicated that they have pledged their support to the coup.

c. Two (2) prov chiefs in I Corps have been replaced.

d. Six (6) prov chiefs in II Corps have been relieved and their security responsibilities have been assumed by ARVN comdrs in their areas.

e. No info at this time on remaining sixteen (16) prov chiefs.

6. Numerous promotions, some of which have been previously reported, have been made. Consolidated details later as available.

 

294. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France/1/

Washington, November 4, 1963, 7:08 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 16 S VIET. Secret; Immediate; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Koren; cleared by Johannes Imhof, McGeorge Bundy, and Harriman (in draft); and approved by Hilsman. Repeated to Saigon.

2333. For the Ambassador. Re Embtel 2164./2/ Circular 833/3/ sent you for info re recognition new regime Vietnam. Our intent still is to recognize as soon as possible after interim government formed and provided generals do not in meantime take any actions which would be inimical to our interests or their international posture. Suggest you inform de Gaulle accordingly and inquire as to GOF intent but not press for parallel action by France.

/2/Telegram 2164, November 4, requested information on plans to recognize the new government in Vietnam and guidance on what to say to President de Gaulle when Bohlen met with him on November 5. (Ibid.)

/3/Document 277.

Deptel 697 to Saigon/4/ also being passed to you for background. Suggest you draw on 697 and on following guidance at your discretion in light of your own assessment of de Gaulle's view of problem. Suggest you tell de Gaulle we think new regime in SVN offers good opportunity for improvement GVN relations with Cambodia and Laos. Improvement with Cambodia would be particularly helpful and in best interest these two countries as well as area in general. If French agree, it would be helpful if they could use their influence in Phnom Penh toward this objective. Suggest you also indicate to de Gaulle our feeling that change in regime ends any thought in Saigon of accommodation with NVN on basis of neutralization which idea previous regime may have toyed with.

/4/Document 279.

Death of Diem and Nhu regrettable no matter in what manner it occurred. According to information from Embassy Saigon death not intended or ordered by coup leaders. Coup carried out in remarkably restrained and efficient manner indicating wisdom and sense of responsibility on part of generals and also that coup overwhelmingly supported by populace. We feel that generals committed to vigorous prosecution of war and will re-energize struggle not only in military but in civilian aspects. In sum we feel basis has been laid for an effort in Vietnam that gives far greater hope for success than was case under Diem government. We intend to support this effort to the extent possible and feasible. In this connection we plan resume very near future flow of our aid which was temporarily in suspense.

Rusk

 

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

Saigon, November 5, 1963, 2:06 a.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Defense Cables. Secret. Repeated for information to CINCPAC; the Deputy Commander, Military Assistance Command, Thailand; and the Embassy in Saigon. Received at the JCS at 7:40 p.m., November 4, and passed to the Department of State, CIA, and White House.

MAC J-3 8607. Summary Evaluation South Vietnam.

Refs: A. JCS DTG 011418Z Nov./2/ B. My DTG 031705Z Nov./3/ C My DTG 041817Z Nov./4/

/2/ See footnote 2, Document 272.

/3/Printed as Document 287.

/4/Not found.

A. through E.--No substantial change to ref B and C.

F. Effect of coup on RVNAF and their operations against VC.

1. There has been no significant change in Saigon troop dispositions since coup. VNAF support missions and small unit actions continue at nearly normal pace while bn and larger operations remain in a slump as the senior ARVN commanders remain preoccupied with political reorganization, and ARVN continues police chores. Expect by weekend CMD units should replace majority of III Corps units in Saigon.

2. Surge of cooperativeness toward US personnel continues, although too early to judge extent of its staying power. AOC and JOC personnel report improved responsiveness in counterparts. I Corps sr advisor today reports increased spontaneity of information from ARVN.

3. Decision to maintain VN special forces, to delimit functions, to subordinate command to JGS and to place deployed elms under full command of Corps Cmdrs. This will be boon to unity of effort and decentralization of control. Details to be reported separately.

4. CG 2 ADIV reported today that VNAF restrictions on aircraft armaments lifted.

5. New leaders can be expected to support strat hamlet operations as pillar of strategy; and Big Minh repeats his awareness of their socioeconomic importance.

6. Top commanders stress desire to get on with war at full throttle as soon as govt formed and launched. No plans for increased tempo for opns yet forthcoming.

G. Steps Being Taken To Form New Government.

1. Nothing definitive since last report. Committee still in throes of organization; negotiations with top civilian leadership are reportedly advancing slowly.

2. From this point forward, Embassy will probably have fuller info on organizational steps and progress.

3. Reshuffling of personnel at provinces and district level continues.

 

296. Editorial Note

On November 5, 1963, the composition of the new Vietnamese Government was announced. The Embassy in Saigon reported the announcement in telegram 927, November 5, which was received at the Department of State at 2:59 a.m. and passed to the White House at 3:20 a.m. The new appointments included the following:

President: General Duong Van Minh;

Premier, Minister of Economy and Minister of Finance: Nguyen Ngoc Tho

Minister of Defense: General Tran Van Don;

Minister of Security: General Ton That Dinh;

Minister of Foreign Affairs: Pham Dang Lam;

Minister of Justice: Nguyen Van Mau;

Minister of Information: General Tran Tu Oai;

Secretary of State for the Premier's Office: Nguyen Than Cung;

Secretary of State for Finance: Luu Van Tinh;

Secretary of State for Economy: An Trnong Thanh.

Telegram 927 was repeated to CINCPAC, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Vientiane, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Canberra, Taipei, Paris, London, Bonn, Rome, Manila, Seoul, The Hague, New Delhi, Djakarta, and the Commander, U.S. Army, Pacific. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15-1 S VIET)

 

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

Paris, November 5, 1963, 8 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 16 S VIET. Secret; Limit Distribution. Received at 6:03 p.m.

2223. Ref: Deptel 2333./2/ I told De Gaulle that it was our general intention to recognize the Vietnamese Government when it was formed and provided they did not take action which would be inimical in the near future. De Gaulle said that of course France had never supported the Diem regime because they had not shown the proper attitude towards French interests there and while regretting the assassination of Diem and his brother they did not have any great regrets for the regime. The U.S. on the other hand had continually supported Diem until the very end when he had lost our confidence. De Gaulle then gave his view of the future of the present regime along typically De Gaulle lines. He said the military were in power, the military meant war, this would mean that they would intensify their war efforts and would press us for increased assistance, demands which we would find hard to resist. He saw very little hope in the Indo-Chinese situation and attempted obliquely to place some blame on the U.S. for coming into the south while China and Russia were coming in from the north. I pointed out to the General however that we would have been perfectly willing to live with a divided Vietnam but that the Communists were the ones who had started the current war and that it was either a question of helping Vietnam resist these attacks or letting the entire country go Communist. I asked the General whether he thought a divided Vietnam was worse than a divided Korea. He replied that the division of Korea meant that there was no solution there, to which I agreed but said that there was at least an accommodation that kept the peace. He repeated his prophecy that the present government would have to be more active in the war and that this would eventually make it unpopular with the people as had been the case with Diem.

/2/Document 294.

Comment: I did not feel it wise to raise with De Gaulle our feeling that the change in regime would end any question of neutralization. I did not think this added anything to the discussion and he certainly gave me no evidence of any interest in the question.

Bohlen

 

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

Saigon, November 5, 1963-5:17 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Secret; Eyes Only; Priority. Also sent for information to CINCPAC for Felt and to the Embassy in Saigon. Repeated to the White House exclusive for Bundy; to the Department of State exclusive for Rusk, Harriman, Hilsman, and Ball; and to CIA exclusive for McCone and Helms. The source text is the Department of State copy, which was received at 6:40 p.m.

MAC JOO 8625. Gen Don called on me this morning. This is the first time I've seen him since Adm Felt's departure last Friday./2/ We discussed the recent past and future plans. I said I had heard so many conflicting stories on the coup and on the demise of Diem and Nhu I would like to get his version.

/2/November 1.

He said as far as he could tell, Diem and Nhu left the Palace Friday evening about 2200. They went in some Chinese civilian's car to a house in Cholon. Though the Generals had talked to Diem and Nhu during the evening, neither of the brothers let on they were no longer in the Palace. JGS intelligence knew the house in Cholon and the two were arrested there, Saturday, a.m.

They were placed in an M-133 for security and for delivery to the JGS compound. Upon arrival at the compound it was discovered they were dead. The Generals were truly grievous over this because they had promised safe conduct. Don did not explain what had happened, whether it was suicide or someone had not got the word.

He is holding the coffins for later shipment to Hue for burial.

I asked about Ngo Dinh Can, the late President's brother in Hue. Don said I Corps troops were protecting him and he was considering bringing him to Saigon for safekeeping. I asked about the graves reported being found in Can's enclave. Don smiled and said they had nothing to do with Can at all. Don knows Can very well and, while I Corps Commander, visited him many times. He said he knew where the graves were and that they had been there for years. They belong to many families who lived in and around the area even before it became Can's residence.

Don went on to say he received a call from Los Angeles from Mrs. Nhu this morning. That the Madame went into a tirade, saying they were all fools-murderers and bought by the Americans-that the people would never follow Big Minh or the military. Don disclaimed any connection with the demise of Diem and Nhu-also that he was not bought off. He told the Madame if she were here she would see for herself the changed attitude of the people. She asked about her children. Don told her they departed last night, but could not tell her when they would arrive in Rome. Incidentally, they must be there by now as they made good connections with a jet flight out of Bangkok last night.

As to the present--they were still making changes in command--also in some province chiefs (I'll report them when firm). I reminded him many of the province chiefs had done well and suggested not changing them all just for change's sake.

He admitted he and Big Minh considered the possibility of a counter coup--but are not too concerned as they pretty well know who is involved.

I asked about Col Tung, former Commander of the Spec Forces. Don said Tung was with the Generals when the coup started. He said he didn't know what has happened to him since.

Don feels he can get most of the troops out of the city by this weekend and as soon as the changes in command are established, he will be ready to prosecute the war. He said he as Minister of Defense and Chairman of the JGS could see no difficulties in getting orders carried out.

The Special Forces now under command of Maj Gen Nghiem, former Commander of III and I Corps and who now also commands the parachute brigade, will be directly under the command of the JGS. Further, when working in a corps of S.F.'s would be under command of the corps commander concerned.

He intends to disarm the Republican Youth except those who are hamlet militia, and also Madame Nhu's Women's Army. He hopes to steer them to more productive fields--didn't explain the productive part.

Don said Gen Dinh, presently III Corps Commander, would probably be Minister of Security. Wearing this hat he would command the National Police and perhaps the Gendarmerie. However, he was considering bringing the Gendarmerie back into the army as most of the officers and NCO's originally came from the army.

All in all, if, I repeat, if things work out, we'll have a more orderly set-up-and a more streamlined chain of command, fewer para-military organizations under arms and not as much concern with political interference which caused delays and in some cases changed missions and orders.

I reminded Don that the courage and determination shown by the coup's battalions in overcoming the Presidential Brigade of 1,500 men, if displayed in fighting a VC battalion of three to four hundred men, could make short order of the remaining VC in SVN.

All this might add up to a much earlier ETA for getting counterinsurgency in SVN under control.

I feel sure this will be true if I can get the show on the road.

Regards.

 

299. Telegram From the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Felt) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff/1/

Honolulu, November 5, 1963, 7:45 p.m.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Defense Cables. Secret; Priority; Exclusive. Repeated for information to Harkins and passed by JCS to the White House exclusive for Bundy; to the CIA exclusive for McCone; and to the Department of State exclusive for Rusk, Ball, Harriman, and Hilsman.

DTG 060545Z. Military Improvements in New Government-RVN.

A. JCS 4279-63 of 2 Nov./2/
B. COMUSMACV 2081 DTG 030429Z./3/
C. COMUSMACV MAC J-3 8607 DTG 041806Z./4/
D. COMUSMACV MAC J-3 8587 DTG 031705Z./5/

/2/Document 276.

/3/Document 285.

/4/Document 295.

/5/Document 287.

1. Ref A requests comments on military improvements to be sought from new government of RVN. Ref B is COMUSMACV response with which I agree. Following are additional comments:

A. In conversation with Gen Don last Friday morning, he emphasized his contention to get control of the Special Forces. I note ref C reports decision has been made to maintain the Special Forces but to delimit their functions and to subordinate command to the JGS and corps commanders.

B. During same conversation with Gen Don, proficiency of Gen Cao was discussed and I got definite impression that a change would be made in order to give better leadership to the accelerated military effort to be undertaken in IV Corps. Ref D reports that Gen Cao has been relieved by B Gen Nhon.

C. It important, of course, for combat units brought into Saigon during coup to be returned to their field duties at [of] fighting the war. My staff estimates that there is an equivalent of one and one-half divisions in Saigon area not counting troops from Quang Trung training center and Thu Duc. Ref C reports no significant change in Saigon troop disposition since the coup and that situation should start to improve by the coming weekend.

D. VNAF had been operating under restrictions as to armament load. Ref C reports restrictions have been lifted.

E. We hope to see soon increased tempo of operations in the field and implementation of intent as stated orally by the gens.

F. It particularly important to obtain whole-hearted support of civilian leaders and institutions.

G. Under Diem regime, restrictions were placed against military psyops directed toward population in support of civic action program. We can expect these restrictions to be lifted.

H. It encouraging to note that police in Saigon are back on the job.

I. Ref D gives preliminary report on province chiefs. I would expect new arrangement to destroy parallel system established by Diem whereby province chiefs could switch hats and bypass the corps commanders and the JGS.

J. I think it important to determine the future of Nhu's Republican Youth Organization.

K. We can assume that Nhu had an organization which was penetrating the military. Counter-coup planning would emanate from these infiltrators. They should be weeded out.

 

300. Editorial Note

On November 5, 1963, Secretary of State Rusk, accompanied by Assistant Secretary Roger Hilsman, testified in secret executive session before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the situation in Vietnam. Secretary Rusk in his testimony set the background of the situation in Saigon in the weeks preceding the coup, minimized U.S. involvement with coup planners, and expressed the Department of State's fear that the coup would result in a prolonged civil war. Rusk reviewed Lodge's efforts to assure Diem's safety during the coup, and described Nhu's and Diem's escape to Cholon, their surrender and capture, and their deaths. Rusk opined that the Generals did not order the assassination, which "was done by trigger-happy people down the line." Rusk explained that the Nhu children had been evacuated to Rome and that Madame Nhu was traveling to meet them there.

Rusk was optimistic about the prospects for the new government in South Vietnam which he thought would be predominantly civilian. Rusk concluded his testimony by reviewing abortive coups and "endemic" rumors of coups since 1960. These, Rusk stated, had made him skeptical about rumors of the November 1 coup. Rusk then answered extensive questions from members of the Committee. The 39-page transcript of the hearing is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 46, Records of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Declassified Executive Sessions Hearings.

 

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

Saigon, November 6, 1963, 4 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Secret; Immediate; Limit Distribution. Received at 4:41 a.m. and passed to the White House at 4:51 a.m.

947. Deptels 719/2/ and 735;/3/ Embtel 944./4/ In our view SVN has taken necessary actions qualifying provisional government for recognition and we should proceed promptly to recognize since Malaysia and Thailand have already done so. Clarifying statement on death of Diem and Nhu issued at press conference of Military Committee this morning (see septel)./5/ While statement perhaps not as candid as we might wish, it provides as much detail as provisional government likely release at this time. Believe that prompt action to reunite Nhu children with their mother provides compensating factor vis-a-vis public opinion.

/2/In telegram 719, November 4, the Department of State asked for the Embassy's views on U.S recognition of the new government in South Vietnam. The Department specifically asked if the requirements for U.S. recognition had been met and whether an official clarifying statement by the new government on the deaths of Diem and Nhu would make such a recognition easier. (Ibid., POL 16 S VIET)

/3/In telegram 735, November 5, the Department of State reiterated that a clarifying statement concerning the deaths of the Ngo brothers would "conclude definitely this aspect of recent events and be generally helpful outside SVN." (Ibid.)

/4/In telegram 944, November 6, the Embassy sent the text of a South Vietnamese note of November 5 announcing the abolition of the Diem government and establishment of a provisional government. The note also expressed the new government's desire for continued good relations with the United States. (Ibid., POL 27 S VIET)

/5/Information Minister Tran Tu Oai stated at a news conference on November 6 that Diem and Nhu died by "accidental suicide." Oai claimed that they were shot to death when Nhu attempted to grab the pistol of the officer arresting them.

Following is draft Embassy reply to Foreign Office note contained Embtel 944:

"The Embassy of the United States of America has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Ministry of Foreign Affairs note no. 4386/ PR dated 5 November 1963, concerning recent events in South Vietnam, the formation and composition of the provisional government, and the policies the provisional government intends to follow in its internal and external relations. For its part the Government of the United States of America shares with the provisional government of the Republic of Vietnam the strong hope that the cordial relations between our two countries will continue as in the past and develop further to our mutual benefit in the future. (Complimentary close.)"

Request Department urgent approval or comment on above draft./6/ Suggest Department permit us discretion as to time of delivery of US reply. We will keep Department informed re plans for delivery. On publicity, we do not feel strongly but inclined to think on balance it is best to play announcement of recognition in low key. This perhaps best accomplished by release to press in Saigon after delivery of note./7/

/6/The Department approved the draft in telegram 742 to Saigon, November 6, and instructed the Embassy to deliver it at 7:30 a.m. Saigon time, November 8. The Department also suggested that Lodge inform General Minh in confidence on the evening of November 7 of the impending recognition. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 16 S VIET)

/7/On November 7, the Department of State released a statement of recognition of the new government; see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, p. 879.

Lodge

 

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

Saigon, November 6, 1963, 5 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET Top Secret. Received in two parts at 6:47 and 8:11 a.m. and passed to the White House at 7:40 and 8:35 a.m.

949. Eyes only for President, pass White House directly, no other distribution whatever. Now that the revolution has occurred, I assume you will not want my weekly reports, pursuant to Deptel 576,/2/ to continue, although I will, of course, gladly continue them if you desire. Herewith a "wrap-up" report for the week ending November 6.

/2/Document 195.

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

Answer: I believe prospects of victory are much improved, provided the Generals stay united. Thompson of the British Advisory Mission thinks that, in such an event, the war could be considerably shortened as compared with the period estimated during the Diem regime. General Harkins concurs.

General Harkins says that during the past week "the Revolutionary Committee was greatly preoccupied with matters relating to the coup. However, they did not lose sight of the necessity to keep a weather eye out for the counter-insurgency effort. While VN initiated activity diminished, it did not come to a halt. VC activity, on the other hand, remained fairly constant. On balance, while the VN cannot be credited with gaining, they lost no ground".

Question 2: Is the government responding to our threefold need for improvement in (a) campaign against the Viet Cong; (b) internal developments and (c) actions affecting relations between American people and government?

Answer: On (a) General Minh intends--and I expect--a stepped-up campaign against the Viet Cong. General Harkins is also optimistic about this.

Under (b) it is obvious that there have been revolutionary internal political developments.

Under (c) the whole trend of the new crowd is to have warm and cordial relations with the American people and government. General Harkins says: "We have found the attitudes of the Vietnamese in their relations with their American advisers to be extremely cordial and open."

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

Answer: Evidence suggests much strengthening of the relationship of the new government with its own people.

It is evident even to a foreigner who does not speak Vietnamese that the coup is very popular. People cheer the American flag; they are free to express their loathing of the "family"; and the pagodas are full of smiling people.

Crowds gather in front of newspaper offices waiting for papers. Although newspapers understandably do not yet show much individuality of editorial opinion, they already reflect variety in coverage of important news stories. Perhaps local reporters no longer simply accepting Vietnam Press and Information Directorate handouts but going out seeking news.

Question 4: And more specifically what effect are we getting from our own actions under Deptel 534/3/ and what modifications in either direction do you think advisable?

/3/Document 181.

Answer: Now that we have a few days' perspective since the coup, we can say that we got a great effect from our actions under Deptel 534.

1. At the time of the pagoda raids of August 21, U.S.G. and GVN seemed to be totally deadlocked. Diem and Nhu evidently thought that the US was hooked; it seemed that we were on the horns of a dilemma in which we were forced either to do nothing or else to injure the war effort and dangerously lower the basic living standard of the people-or else to act like a colonial power. There seemed to be nothing which would hurt Diem and Nhu which would not hurt us as much, if not more. We were being totally taken for granted by the GVN; we were never asked to do even the smallest favor.

2. We began to show our displeasure. Responding to the President's declaration in Washington, I adopted a policy of silence and of simple correctness in relations with Diem and Nhu. In this period I privately gave advice to Diem and Nhu which, had they followed it, would have resulted in their being alive today. Then there were these facts: our failure to provide any US planes or naval vessels, as was customary, for the October 26 National Day ceremonies; the Voice of America broadcasts on the dignity of man and human freedom; and, particularly the evident indignation caused to Americans by Madame Nhu's statement regarding US junior officers,/4/ which impressed Vietnamese. Our evident determination to give asylum to Tri Quang was much noticed. Also, we did not, as we had done in the past, turn over coup information to GVN.

/4/See footnote 3. Document 158.

3. When the effect of the withholding of commercial import payments, coupled with the withholding of payments to Colonel Tung started to be felt, cracks began to appear in the blank wall, and it was evident that we were getting some room for maneuver. There was a loosening up of the masonry and signs that we were no longer being taken completely for granted. Diem's message to me through Thuan, Diem's own questions to me Sunday, October 27 at Dalat and on last Friday morning, all may have marked a new attitude on his part, or the beginnings of one. Vice President Tho's evident approval of what we were doing and [less than 1 1ine not declassified] evident last minute desire to get on the right side of the US were noteworthy straws in the wind. We really seemed to be getting some leverage.

4. There is no doubt that the coup was a Vietnamese and a popular affair, which we could neither manage nor stop after it got started and which we could only have influenced with great difficulty. But it is equally certain that the ground in which the coup seed grew into a robust plant was prepared by us and that the coup would not have happened with [when] it did without our preparation. General Don as much as said this to me on November 3. Our actions made the people who could do something about it start thinking hard about how to get a change of government.

5. Another indication of this was the statement made on the radio by Vietnamese speakers on the day of the coup that the Diem-Nhu regime had deprived the country of US aid without which the Communists would gain and that the Army's coup would enable the country to get this economic aid and thus survive. This was not in any proclamations put out officially by the Generals' committee, but it was widely said by nameless "authorized spokesmen". Ex-Minister of Health De has also emphasized importance our action on aid.

6. All this may be a useful lesson in the use of US power for those who face similar situation in other places in the future. The President, the State Department, the military, the AID, the USIS, and the CIA deserve credit for this result. Without united action by the US Government, it would not have been possible. Many Americans in Saigon were required suddenly to start thinking differently, a difficult thing to do. The fact that they did so is creditable.

7. Perhaps the US Government has here evolved a way of not being everywhere saddled with responsibility for autocratic governments simply because they are anti-Communist-a course which can eventually lead many people to believe that the foreign Communist autocracy which they don't know is preferable to the local autocracy which they do know. Nothing could put the cause of freedom into a stronger position than for those on the side of freedom to be able to clean their own house and not be so often in a situation in which we have to put up with autocrats at the very worst or at the best with Colonel Blimps in order to avoid being taken over by Communism. The ingenuity which was shown in working out a way to put pressure on Diem and Nhu without endangering the war effort, and without lowering the basic living standard of the people made a most valuable contribution. Clearly the coup has brought about a change; let us hope it will turn out to be a great improvement.

8. In a country like this, exhortations, argument, rhetoric, and facial expressions mean very little. Actions apparently are an international language. But they must not be "colonial" actions, only the kind of pressure which partners can put on each other. Our actions were not "colonial" and when Madame Nhu accused me of acting like the Governor General of Indochina, it did not ring true.

9. The prospects now are for a shorter war, thanks to the fact that there is this new government, provided the Generals stay together. Certainly officers and soldiers who can pull off an operation like this should be able to do very well on the battlefield if their hearts are as much in it.

10. My thanks to you and all those associated with you for comprehending [comprehensive] and imaginative guidance and support.

Lodge

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

Saigon, November 6, 1963, 6 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 S VIET. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 7:06 a.m. and passed to the White House at 7:30 a.m.

951. CINCPAC for POLAD. Two characteristics of new provisional GVN stand out: 1) largely made up of technicians and not politicians; and 2) military clearly have upper hand.

Regarding 1) above, no political figures appear in government and all civilian members, with possible exception of Quang (Rural Affairs), have only non-political professional and technical experience in their fields. Some of them are considered by Mission personnel to be competent, honest public servants, but at least two (Tinh, National Economy, and Cung, Premier's Office) have reputations of being careful bureaucratic types. Quang (Rural Affairs), Lam (Foreign Affairs) and Giang (Labor) stand out as the best civilian appointments. Giang maintains excellent relations with CVTC, whose leaders are known to be pleased with appointment. Most members of new government are southerners and Buddhists.

Regarding 2) above, Revolutionary Military Council holds legislative and executive powers "pending amendment of constitution" and President of Council, "Big" Minh is Chief of State. Council "entrusts" executive power to provisional government, whose members are chosen by Premier Tho but subject Council's approval. Moreover, Chief of State Minh, Minister of Defense Don, and Minister of Security Dinh, in addition to being members of Revolutionary Military Council, are Chairman and Deputy Chairmen respectively of Council's executive committee.

As might be expected, complaints about new government already being registered by Vietnamese, primarily by those with histories of political activity and, presumably, political ambitions. While Embassy sampling still small, such complaints center on fact government 1) non-political and technical; 2) allegedly lacks vision and drive to solve Vietnam's problems; and, therefore, 3) cannot long maintain support of people. Additional complaints heard: 1) large percentage members of government pro-French, and 2) various elements in Vietnamese political life not represented.

Countering above criticism, based on all available samplings by Embassy, rank and file of population delighted at end of Diem regime and army unquestionably has wide popular support for its initiative. Nhu's death not regretted; Diem's death regretted but not to extent of detracting from army's popularity.

Lodge

 

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

Washington, November 6, 1963, 7:50 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 S VIET. Top Secret; Priority. The text of this message was sent by McGeorge Bundy at the White House to the Department of State for transmission to Saigon.

746. Eyes only for Ambassador Lodge from the President. Reference your 949./2/Your message makes a fitting ending to the weekly reports which you have sent in response to our 576,/3/ and from now on I think we should be in touch as either of us feels the need, but without this particular process of continuous watching on a specific set of questions.

/2/Document 302.

/3/Document 195.

Your own leadership in pulling together and directing the whole American operation in South Vietnam in recent months has been of the greatest importance, and you should know that this achievement is recognized here throughout the Government.

Now that there is a new Government which we are about to recognize, we must all intensify our efforts to help it deal with its many hard problems. As you say, while this was a Vietnamese effort, our own actions made it clear that we wanted improvements, and when these were not forthcoming from the Diem Government, we necessarily faced and accepted the possibility that our position might encourage a change of government. We thus have a responsibility to help this new government to be effective in every way that we can, and in these first weeks we may have more influence and more chance to be helpful than at any time in recent years.

I am particularly concerned myself that our primary emphasis should be on effectiveness rather than upon external appearances. If the new Government can limit confusion and intrigue among its members, and concentrate its energies upon the real problems of winning the contest against the Communists and holding the confidence of its own people, it will have met and passed a severe test. This is what we must help in, just at it was ineffectiveness, loss of popular confidence, and the prospect of defeat that were decisive in shaping our relations to the Diem regime.

I am sure that much good will come from the comprehensive review of the situation which is now planned for Honolulu,/4/ and I look forward to your own visit to Washington so that you and I can review the whole situation together and face to face.

With renewed appreciation for a fine job, John F. Kennedy.

/4/November 19-20; see Document 321.

Rusk

 

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

Washington, November 7, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Memos and Miscellaneous. Bundy wrote the following response on the source text: "MVF/ I'm for this as background stuff right now and as a quote in [illegible--any?] speech-and to be worked into [illegible--any?] press conference. McGB."

The typewritten words "Draft-November 7, 1963," were crossed out on the source text.

Scotty Reston's piece in yesterday's Times/2/ raised the old shibboleth of negotiations with the North Vietnamese looking toward unification and neutralization. He linked this with criticism of the "let's get back to the war" spirit.

/2/Entitled "Why a Truce in Korea and Not in Vietnam?", The New York Times, November 6, 1963.

Wouldn't it make sense f\or the USG to reiterate the statements which the President made more than a year ago defining the reason why we are present in South Vietnam giving assistance and advice./3/ The President made the point, as I remember, that our only interest was to help South Vietnam defend itself against subversive aggression from the north. He then said that if Hanoi would cease its aggressive interference in South Vietnam the need for our advisory presence would disappear and we would withdraw./4/

/3/Statements made at news conferences of February 7 and 14, 1962; see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, pp. 121-122 and 136-137.

/4/Apparent reference to a statement at a news conference of September 12, 1963; see ibid., 1963, p. 673.

More recently we have added a gloss to this formula and implied (in the NSC statement of last month)/5/ that we would also withdraw the bulk of our personnel as soon as the South Vietnamese were able to cope for themselves. Secretary McNamara and General Taylor estimated that this might occur in 1965.

/5/Document 170.

It seems to me that these two thoughts might be reiterated by Lodge in Saigon in connection with an announcement about our resumption of aid. Alternatively the President could say something like this at his next press conference,/6/ if the subject comes up or we could have a Department spokesman do it at some appropriate time next week.

/6/At his press conference of November 14, the President stated, in response to a question, that the U.S. objective in South Vietnam was "to bring Americans home, permit the Vietnamese to maintain themselves as a free and independent country, and permit democratic forces within the country to operate-which they can, of course, much more freely when the assault from the inside, which is manipulated from the north, is ended." For the transcript of the press conference, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, pp. 845-853.

I have asked Roger for his opinion; he says he will think about it.

Mike

 

306. Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hilsman) to the Secretary of State/1/

Washington, November 8, 1963.

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, Hilsman Papers, Country Series-Vietnam, JCS Comments on RFE-90. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. Initialed by Rusk. Attached was a copy of a letter from Rusk to McNamara, November 8, which reads as follows:
"Confirming our telephone conversation about INR's research memorandum RFE-90 of October 22, 1963, it is not the policy of the State Department to issue military appraisals without seeking the views of the Defense Department. I have requested that any memorandum given interdepartmental circulation which includes military appraisals be coordinated with your Department."

SUBJECT
JCS Comments on Department of State Research Memorandum RFE-90/2/

/2/See Document 205.

We appreciate receiving the detailed comment by the Joint Chiefs of Staff relevant to INR's Research Memorandum RFE-90, Statistics on the War Effort in South Vietnam Show Unfavorable Trends, October 22, 1963 (Attachments A and B/3/ respectively). We concur fully with Secretary McNamara's view that we should not issue military appraisals without seeking the views of the Department of Defense, nor have we done so in this instance.

/3/Tab B contained the substance of Tab A in the form of a draft letter from McNamara to Rusk.

You may be assured that our working level officers maintain close contact with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and with General Krulak's office. As noted in the first page of the Research Memorandum, all statistics used in this report were compiled by DIA and by General Krulak's office. Recognizing limitations in these statistics, we have explained at some length, in the first two pages of our report, how the statistics are incomplete, sometimes unreliable, and omit other factors that are important but cannot be quantified. However, the statistics selected are among those regularly highlighted by the Military Assistance Command (MAC) and DIA in its weekly briefings of State's Vietnam Working Group. We recall that Generals Krulak and Wheeler, during last spring's discussions at CIA on the South Vietnam National Intelligence Estimate,/4/ declared that these statistics, then running in favor of the Vietnam Government, were not given sufficient emphasis in the estimate.

/4/See Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. III, Document 94.

While it is true that the data in our report cover largely a period of only seven weeks (actually, three sets of figures extend over nineteen weeks), it should be noted that MACV and joint US mission reports from Saigon on trends and developments in the counterinsurgency program, including statistical compilations, often examine much shorter periods.

We naturally agree that military assessments are basically the responsibility of the Department of Defense. However, the unique and varied political factors involved in the insurgency in South Vietnam and the continuing political crisis since May led us to investigate the possibility that the counterinsurgency effort may have been adversely affected during this period. Indeed, over the past few years we have similarly made intermittent political-military assessments of progress and problems in South Vietnam.

We would like to comment briefly on two assertions in the Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum. It claims as a favorable indicator "the rise of confidence and fighting efficiency of the Vietnamese military forces." (Page 2) We agree that these qualities have improved generally over the past few years but we believe that morale nonetheless has been adversely affected in recent months. The US Military Attache in Saigon reported last month that the Vietnamese Deputy Commander of Corps III feared mass desertions among his troops, possibly as high as 80%.

The JCS memorandum also claims that the armed strength of the Viet Cong has decreased. While it is true that the present estimate (October 1963) of Viet Cong strength, as reported by MACV, is lower than the previous estimate of last March, it should be noted that MACV has changed the criteria for determining the Viet Cong order of battle. In its October report, MACV states:

"In previous editions of the MACV Viet Cong OB, an arbitrary figure of 100 personnel per company and 30 per platoon was assigned in those cases where hard evidence was lacking upon which to base a strength computation. Commencing with this edition, all strength estimates have been based on evidence obtained from prisoner-of-war estimates or from captured documents."

Thus there is no basis for comparing the most recent estimate with those of six months and one year ago.

In conclusion, we note that a very recent CIA report,/5/ prepared independently of our analysis, concurred with our findings using essentially the same statistical indicators and the same time period.

/5/Not further identified.

 

Tab A

DRAFT MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

SUBJECT
Department of State Bureau of Intelligence and Research Estimate of Military Situation in South Vietnam

1. The Department of State Bureau of Intelligence and Research has published and distributed a memorandum (Tab B) which concludes that, as of 22 October, the military situation in Vietnam may have reverted to the condition of six months to one year previous. This conclusion respecting the military aspect of the Vietnam war is derived from an evaluation of four statistical factors: casualties, weapons losses, defectors and Viet Cong incidents covering an eleven-week period from 1 July to 18 September 1963. In short, the paper makes a broad military judgement of a complex combat situation, derived from a survey of a limited number of factors in a limited period of time.

2. In confining itself to the four indices mentioned, the memorandum does not take into account fundamental military considerations which should weigh heavily in any appraisal of the progress of the campaign. These include such factors as:

a. Growth in the character and intensity of the Vietnamese offensive effort--air, sea and ground--over the past year.

b. Degree of pacification achieved in the plateau and coastal prams.

c. Strategic and tactical implications of the shift in Vietnamese offensive effort to the Viet Cong stronghold in the Delta.

d. Nature of the Viet Cong tactical reaction as they are compressed into a progressively smaller area.

3. The conclusion that a major military retrogression has occurred ignores various substantial indices of military progress which include:

a. The rise in confidence and fighting efficiency of the Vietnamese military forces.

b. Increases in freedom of movement and increased use of the roads and rail lines, particularly in the north and central regions. (The memorandum would lead one to believe that the freedom of movement had decreased.)

c. The number of people resettled in strategic hamlets (population now in hamlets--9.7 million; 6 months ago-about 6 million; 12 months ago-less than 2 million).

d. The number of strategic hamlets organized, built and equipped (number of completed hamlets now--over 8,300; 6 months ago--6,000; 12 months ago--3,000).

e. Number of village and hamlet radios installed and in use, bringing a new level of security to rural regions (5,200 radios now installed; six months ago--2,500; 12 months ago--1,300).

f. The steady diminution in the strength of Viet Cong forces (present estimate-about 93,000; estimate six months ago--114,000; estimate 12 months ago--123,000).

g. The numbers of paramilitary forces trained and equipped (total to date--188,000; six months ago--151,000; 12 months ago--53,000).

4. Apart from the above omissions, the following points in the memorandum also warrant attention:

a. The paper projects unfavorable end-1963 values for three of the four statistical factors, based upon an extrapolation of the selected eleven-week period to the end of the year. Extrapolation of a limited sample must be heavily discounted, since graphic representation of those military factors considered in the paper plot irregularly over any short period of time. Trends, and trends only, may be detected--through the general upward or downward direction of the over-all trace--while extension of any rising or descending period can produce deceptive results. Indeed, in the 6 weeks following the cut-off date of the State evaluation, the number of Viet Cong attacks, for example, decreased by about 40%. Using the same extrapolative method of estimate employed in the State paper would result in the unlikely conclusion that, by end--1963, there would be no Viet Cong attacks whatsoever.

b. The paper points out that the "Chieu Hoi" Amnesty Program rates have decreased from 3,200 per month to about 1,600 per month, and uses this as part of the basis for its conclusions regarding a military retrogression. The paper fails, however, to take note of the more important fact that twelve months ago there was no Chieu Hoi Program at all, and that surrenders were rare. To date the program has already collected about 14,000 persons. When the effort was initiated in the Spring of 1963 a large wave of persons came over to the Vietnamese side. The monthly rate has since decreased from the high initial figure, but is continuing to bring in substantial numbers daily. The reservoir of potential returnees, of course, is also diminishing, since 9-1/2 million of the 12 million rural residents are already in strategic hamlets.

5. It is the judgment of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, based on an appraisal of all of the relevant factors up to 1 November, that the military situation should be appraised as follows--As of that date the GVN offensive effort has not achieved the optimum levels envisaged in the National Campaign Plan, but is on the way thereto. Meanwhile, the Viet Cong have been reacting sharply to the intensification of operations in the Delta area. Coup plotting in Saigon, as well as genuine doubt regarding US intentions deriving from our economic sanctions against the GVN, have operated against a more vigorous prosecution of the campaign. Overall, the military campaign is still progressing favorably and clearly has not been "set back to the point it occupied six months ago."

6. About 40 copies of the State Department document have already been distributed to the White House, to various offices of USIA, AID, CIA and the Departments of State and Defense, and a request has already been received, at the action officer level, for Joint Chiefs of Staff concurrence in release of the document to Senator Hickenlooper and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. While the study has little importance in itself, the diffusion of its inaccurate military conclusions could have unfavorable effects, since it contradicts publicly announced Department of Defense estimates on these military matters.

7. Accordingly, it is recommended that the matter be brought to the attention of the Secretary of State, either orally or in the form of a memorandum, as attached hereto.

 


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