U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video
 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 I, Vietnam 1961
Released by the Office of the Historian
Documents 185-208

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

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

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

643. For Bundy.

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

/2/Document 180.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lodge

 

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

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

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

652. For Secretary Rusk pass to McNamara.

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

/2/Document 181.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lodge

 

187. Memorandum of White House Staff Meeting /1/

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

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

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Vietnam.]

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

/2/See Document 170.

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

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

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Vietnam.]

 

188. Memorandum of Conversation/1/

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

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

SUBJECT
Southeast Asia

PARTICIPANTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

189. Memorandum of a Conversation/1/

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

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

SUBJECT
Franco-American Relations and Europe

PARTICIPANTS

US
The President
Mr. Ball
Ambassador Bohlen
Mr. Tyler

France
Mr. Couve de Murville
Ambassador Alphand
Mr. Lucet

[Here follows discussion of matter unrelated to Vietnam.]

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

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Vietnam.]

 

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

Washington, October 8, 1963.

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

SUBJECT
Foreign Relations Committee Session with Secretary McNamara

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

/2/October 8.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fred Dutton

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

/7/Not found.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Lodge

 

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

Washington, October 9, 1963.

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

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

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

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

/3/Document 182.

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

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

 

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

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

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

676. For Rusk and Harriman from Lodge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Am in close consultation with MACV.

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

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

Lodge

 

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

Washington, October 11, 1963.

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

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

SUBJECT
South Vietnam

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

/2/See Document 179.

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

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

/3/Document 181.

McGeorge Bundy

 

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

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

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

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

/2/Document 181.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rusk

 

196. Central Intelligence Agency Information Report/1/

TDCS-3/657,250

Washington, October 14, 1963.

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

SUBJECT
Situation Appraisal as of 12 October 1963

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

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

/2/Document 170.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

/2/Document 195.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lodge

 

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

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

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

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

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

/2/ Document 171.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lodge

 

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

Washington, October 18, 1963.

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

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

/2/Not found.

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

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

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

Sincerely yours,
Donald M. Wilson/3/

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

 

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

Washington, October 18, 1963.

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

SUBJECT
Maintaining Momentum in our Vietnam Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Washington, October 18, 1963.

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

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

Problem:

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

/2/Not printed.

Discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

/4/See Document 198.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lodge

 

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

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

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

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

/2/October 18.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lodge

 

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

Washington, October 21, 1963.

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

SUBJECT
Nhu's Interview in Times of Vietnam

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

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

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

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

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

/4/Combined Intelligence Bulletin, not found.

/5/Not found.

Mike

 

[Attachment]

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

Saigon, October 19, 1963.

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

/6/October 17.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

/7/Ellipsis in the source text.

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

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

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

/8/Forrestal sidelined this paragraph.

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

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

 

205. Editorial Note

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

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

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

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

 

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

Saigon, October 22, 1963.

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

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

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

/2/Not found.

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

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

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

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

Comments:

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

/3/Neither found.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

/2/Document 195.

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

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

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

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

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

E. Favorable factors towards bringing the above about are:

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

G. Unfavorable factors:

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

/3/Not found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

/4/See Document 203.

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

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

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

Lodge

 

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

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

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

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

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

/2/Document 198.

/3/See Document 195.

/4/See footnote 5, Document 202.

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

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

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

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

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

/5/See footnote 8, Document 198.

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

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

Lodge

 


Return to This Volume Home Page

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.