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IV.B Evolution of the War (26 Vols.) 
Counterinsurgency: The Kennedy Commitments, 1961- 

1963(5 Vols.) 
5. The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem, May-Nov, 1963 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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IV. B.S. 

T he Qvert hrow of Ngo Di nh j^ iem 
May - Novenber^ I963 

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Sec iDe-f Ooxi^ ^^^ ^- 



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The Diem coup was one of those critical events in the history of U.S. 
policy that could have altered our commitment. The choices were there: 
(l) continue to plod along in a limited fashion with Diem -- despite his 
and Khu*s growing unpopularity; (2) encoiirage or tacitly support the over- 
throw of Diem, taking the risk that the GYN" might crujrible and/or accommodate 
to the VC; and (3) grasp the opportunity -- with the obvious risks --of the 
political instability in South Vietnam to disengage. The first option was 
rejected because of the belief that we could not win with Mem-Khu. The 
third was nevery seriously considered a policy alternative because of the 
ass-umption that an independent ^ non-communist SVN was too important a stra- 
tegic interest to abandon — and because the situation was not sufficiently 
drastic to call into q,uestion so basic an assimption. The second course 
was chosen mainly for the reasons the first was rejected --Vietnam was 

thought too important; we wanted to 
seemed to offer that prospect. 


and the rebellious generals 

In making the choice to do nothing to prevent the coup and to tacitly 
support it, the U.S. inadvertently deepened its involvement. The inadvertence 
is the key factor. It was a situation without good alternatives. While 
Diem's government offered some semblance of stability and authority, its 
repressive actions against the Buddhists had permanently alientated popular 
support, with a high probability of victory for the Viet Cong. As efficient 
as the military coup leaders appeared, they were without a manageable base 
of political support. When they came to power and when the lid was taken 
off the Diem-Nhu reporting system, the GVN position was revealed as weak 
and deteriorating. And, by virtue of its interference in internal Vietnamese 
affairs, the U.S. had assumed a significant responsibility for the new regime, 
a responsibility which heightened our commitment and deepened our involvemen-^ 

The catalytic event that precipitated the protracted crisis which 
ended in the downfall of the Diem regime was a badly handled Buddhist religious 
protest in Hue on May 8, I963. In and of itself the incident was hardly 
something to shake the foundations of power of most modern rulers, but the 
manner in which Diem responeded to it, and the subsequent protests which it 
generated, was precisely the one most likely to aggravate not alleviate the 
situation. At stake, of course, was far more than a religious issue. The 
Buddhist protest had a profoundly political character from the beginning. 
It sprang and fed upon the feelings of political frustration and repression 
Diem*s autocratic rule had engendered. 

The beginning of the end for Diem can, then, be traced through events 
to the regime's violent suppression of a Buddhist protest demonstration in 


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Hue on Buddha *s birthday. May 8^ in which nine people were killed and 
another fourteen injured. Although Buddhists had theretofore been wholly 
quiescent politically, in subsequent weeks, a full-blown Buddhist "struggle" 
movement demonstrated a sophisticated coimnand of public protest techniques 
by a cohesive and disciplined organization, somev/hat belying the notion that 
the movement was an outraged, sponta.neous response to religious repression 
and discrimination. Nonetheless, by June it was clear that the regime was 
confronted not with a dissident religious minority, but with a grave crisis 
of public confidence. The Buddhist protest had become a vehicle for mobiliz- 
ing the widesprea-d popular resentment of an arbitrary -and often oppressive 
rule. It had become the focal point of political opposition to Diem. Under 
strong U.S. pressure and in the face of an outraged world opinion, the regime 
reached ostensible agreement with the Buddhists on June l6. But the agree- 
ment merely pampered over the crisis, without any serious concessions by 
Diem. This intransigence was reinforced by Diem's brother, Ngo Dinh Mu, 
and his wife, who bitterly attacked the Buddhists throughout the sunmier. 
By mid-August the crisis was reaching a breaking point. 

The Buddhists' demonstrations and protest created a crisis for American 
policy as well. The U.S. policy of support for South Vietnam's struggle 
against the Hanoi- supported Viet Cong insurgency was founded on unequivocal 
support of Diem, whom the U.S. had long regarded as the only national leader 
capable of unifying his people for their internal war. When the Buddhist 
protest revealed widespread public disaffection, the U.S. made repeated 
attempts to persuade Diem to redress the Buddhist grievances, to repair 
his public image, and to win back public support. But the Ngos were un- 
willing to bend. Diem, in true mandarin style, was preoccupied with ques- 
tions of face and survival -- not popular support. He did not understand 
the profound changes his country had experienced under stress, nor did he 
understand the requirement for popular support that the new sense of national- 
ism had created. The U.S. Ambassador, Frederick Nolting, had conducted a 
low-key diplomacy toward Diem, designed to bring him to the American way 
of thinking through reason and persuasion. He approached the regime during 
the first weeks of the Buddhist crisis in the S8j:ae manner, but got no re- 
sults. When he left on vacation at the end of May, his DCM, William Truehart, 
abandoned the soft sell for a tough line. He took U.S. views to Diem not 
as expressions of opinion, but as dem.ands for action. Diem, however, re- 
mained as obdurate and evasive as ever. Not even the U.S. threat to dissoci- 
ate itself from GVN actions in the Buddhist crisis brought movement. 

In late June, with Nolting still on leave. President Kennedy announced 
the appointment of Henry Ca^bot Lodge as Ambassador to Vietnam to replace 
Nolting in September. In the policy deliberations then taking place in 
Washington, consideration was being given for the first time to what effect 
a coup against Diem would have. But Nolting returned, first to Washington 
and then to Saigon, to argue that the on2.y alternative to Diem was chaos. 
The U.S. mdlitary too, convinced that the war effort was going well, felt 
that nothing should be done to upset the apple cart. So Nolting v/as given 
another chance to talk Diem into conciliating the Buddhists. Hie Ambassador 
worked assiduously at the task through July and the first part of August, 
but Diem would agree only to gestures and half -measures that could not 

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stop the grave deteriora.tion of the political situation. Nolting left 
Vietnam permanently in mid-August with vague assurances from Diem that 
he would seek to improve the climate of relations with the Buddhists. 
Less than a week later^ Nolting was betrayed by Nhu^s dramatic August 21 
midnight raids on Buddhist pagodas throughout Vietnam 

One of the im-portant lessons of the American involvement in South 
Vietnajii in support of Diem was that a policy of unreserved commitment to 
a. particular leadership plavCed us in a weak and manipulable position on 
jjnportant internal issues. The view that there were "no alternatives" 
to Diem grea,tly lijnited the extent of our influence over the regime and 
ruled out over the years a nurnber of kinds of leverage that we might use- 
fully have employed or threatened to emply. I^irthermore, it placed the 
U.S. in the unfortunate role of suitor to a fickle lover. Av/are of our 
fundamental commitment to him^ Diem could with rela.tive impunity ignore 
cur \fishes. It reversed the real power relationship between the tv/o coun- 
tries. Coupled with Diem's persistent and ruthless elimination of all po- 
tential political opposition^ it left us with rather stark alterimtives 
indeed when a crisis on which we could not allow delay and eiuivoca.tion 
finally occurred. For better or worse, the August 21 pagoda raids decided 
the issue for us . 

The raids 5 themselves, were carefully timed by Khu to be carried out 
when the U.S. v/as without an Ambassador , and on3-y after a decree placing 
the country under military martial law had been issued. They were conducted 
by combat police and special forces units taking orders directly from Nhu^ 
not through the Army chain of comjnand. The sweeping attacks resulted in 
the wounding of about 30 m^onks, the arrest of over 1,^00 Buddhists and 
the closing of the pagodas (after they had been damaged and looted in the 
raids). In their brutality and their blunt repudiation of Diem's solemn 
word to Nolting, they were a direct, impudent slap in the face for the U.S. 
Whu expected that in crushing the Buddhists he could confront the new U.S. 
Ambassador with a fait accompli in which the U.S. would complainingly ac- 
quiesce, as v/e had in so many of the regim,e's actions which we opposed. 
Moreover, he attempted to fix blame for the raids on the senior Army gener- 
als. Getting word of the attacks in Honolulu, where he was conferring 
with Nolting and Hilsman, Lodge flew directly to Saigon. He immediately 
let it be known that the U.S. completely dissociated itself from the raids 
and could not tolerate such behavior. In Washington the morning after, 
while much confusion reigned about who was responsible for the raids, a 
statement repudiating them was promptly released. Only after several 
days did the U.S. finally establish Khu's culpabili in the attacks and 
publicly exonerate the Army. 

On August 23, the first contact with a U.S. representative was made 
by generals who had begun to plan a coup against Diem. The generals V7anted 
a clear indication of where the U.S. stood. State in its subsequently con- 
troversial reply, drafted and cleared on a weekend when several of the 
principal Presidential advisors were absent from Washington, affirmed that 
Nhu's continuation in a power position within the regime was intolerable 


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and, if after Diem had been given an opportunity to rid himself of Hbu 
and did not^ "then, we must face the possibility that Diem himself canjiot 
be preserved." This message was to be communicated to the generals ;, and 
Diem vras to be warned that Nhu m.ust go. Lodge agreed with the approach 
to the generals 5 but felt it v/as f\itile to present Diem with an ultimatum 
he would only ignore and one that might tip off the palace to the coup 
plans. Lodge proceeded to inform only the generals. They were told that 
the U.S. could no longer support a regime which included Miu, but that 
keeping Diem was entirely up to them. This v/as communicated to the gener- 
als on August 27. The President and sorae of his advisors^ however^ had 
begun to have second thoughts about sv/itching horses so suddenly, and with 
so little information on whether the coup could succeed, and if it did, 
what kind of government it would bring to power. As it turned out, Washing- 
ton's anxiety was for naught, the plot was premature, and after several 
uncertain days^ its demise was finally recognized on August 31. 

Thus by the end of August, we found ourselves without a leadership 
to support and without a policy to follow in our relations with the GVN. 
In this context a month-long policy review took place in Washington and in 
Vietnam. It was fundamentally a search for alternatives. In both places, 
the issue was joined between those who saw no realistic alternatives to 
Diem and felt that his policies were having only a marginal effect on the 
war effort, which they wanted to get on v/ith by renewing our support and 

I communication with Diem; and those who felt that the war against the VC 

would not possibly be won with Diem in power and preferred therefore to 
push for a coup of some kind. The first view was primarily supported by 
the military and the CIA both in Saigon and in Washington, \ihlle the latter 
was helf by the U.S. Mission, the State Department and members of the 
White House staff. In the end, a third alternative was selected, namely 

I, to use pressure on Diem to get him to remove Whu from the scene and to 

end his repressive policies. Through September, however, the debate con- 
tinued with growing intensity. Tactical considerations ^ such as another 
Lodge approach to Diem about removing the Whus and the effect of Senator 
Church's resolution calling for an aid suspension, focused the discussion 
at times, but the issue of whether to renew our support for Diem remained. ■ 
The decision- hinged on the assessment of how seriously the political deteri- 
oration was affecting the war effort. 

In the course of these policy debates, several participants pursued 
the logical but painfixl conclusion that if the v/ar co\ild not be won with 
■ Diem, and if his removal would lead to political chaos and also jeopardize 
the war effort, then the v/ar was probably unwinnable. If that were the 
case, the argument went, then the U.S. should really be facing a more basic 
decision on either an orderly disengagement from an irretrievable situa- 
tion, or a major escalation of the U.S. involvement, including the use of 
U.S. com.bat troops. These prophetic minority voices were, however, rais- 
ing an unpleasant prospect that the Administration was unprepared to face 
at that time. In hindsight, however, it is clear that this was one of 
the times in the history of our Vietnem involvement when v/e v/ere making 
futidamental choices. The option to disengage honorably at that time now 
appears an attractively low-cost one. But for the Kennedy Administration' 

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then, the costs no doubt appeared much higher. In any event, it proved to 
be iHiwilling to accept the implications of predictions for a bleak future. 
The Administration hewed to the belief that if the U.S. be but willing to 
exercise its power, it could ultimately always have its way in world affairs. 

Nonetheless, in view of the widely divergent views of the principals 
in Saigon, the Administration sought independent judgm.ents with two successive 
fact-finding missions. The first of these whirlwind inspections, by General 
Victor Krulak, JCS SACSA, and a State Department Vietnam expert, Joseph 
Mendenhall, from Septem.ber 7-10, resulted in diametrically opposing reports 
to the President on the conditions and situation and was, as a result, futile. 
The Krulak-Mendenhall divergence was significant because it typifies the 
deficient analysis of both the U.S. civilian and military missions in Viet- 
nam with respect to the overall political situation in the country. The 
U.S. civilian observers, for their part, failed to fiilly appreciate the im- 
pact Diem had had in preventing the emergence of any other political forces. 
The Buddhists, while a cohesive and effective minority protest movement, 
lacked a program or the means to achieve power. The labor unions were 
entirely urban-based and appeaJ-ed to only a small segment of the population. 
The clandestine political parties were small, urban, and usually elitist. 
The religious sects had a narrow appeal and were based on ethnic minorities. 
Only the Viet Cong had any real support and influence on a broad base in 
the countryside. The only real alternative source of political power was 
the Army since it had a large, disciplined organization spanning the country, 
.with an independent commimications and transportation system and a strong 
superiority to any other group in coercive pov^er. In its reports on the 
Army, however. General Harkins and the U.S. military had failed to appre- 
(_ ciate the deeply corrosive effect on internal allegiance and discipline 

in the Army that Diem's loyalty based promotion and assignment policies 
had had. They did not foresee that in the wake of a coup senior officers 
would lack the cohesiveness to hang together and that the temptations of 
power would promote a devisive internal competition among ambitious men 
at the expense of the war against the Viet Cong. 

Two weeks after the fruitless Krulak-Mendenhall mission, with the 
Washington discussions still stalemated, it was the turn of Secretary 
McNamara and General Taylor, the Chairman of the JCS, to assess the problem. 
They left for Vietnam on September 23 with the Presidential instruction 
to appraise the condition of the war effort and the im.pact on it of the 
Buddhist political turmoil and to recommend a course of action for the 
GVN and the U.S. They returned to Washington on October 2. Their report 
was a somewhat contradictory compromise between the views of the civilian 
and military staffs. It affirmed that the war was being won, and that it 
would be successfully concluded in the first three corps areas by the end 
of I96U5 and in the Delta by I965, thereby permitting the withdrawal of 
American advisors, although it noted that the political tensions were start- 
ing to have an a,dverse effect on it. But, more importantly, it recommended 
a series of measures to coerce Diem into complia^nce with American wishes 
that included a selective suspension of U.S. econom.ic aid, an end to aid 
for the special forces units used in the August 21 raids unless they were 
subordinated to the Joint General Staff, and the continuation of Lodge's 
cool official aloofness from the regime. It recomraended the public 

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amiouncement of the U.S. intention to v^ithdraw 1,000 troops by the end 
of the year, but suggested that the aid suspensions not be announced in order 
to give Diem a chance to respond without a public loss of face. It con- 
cluded by recormnending against active U.S. encouragement of a coup, in 
spite of the fact that an aid suspension vzas the one step the generals had 
asked for in August as a sign of U.S. condemnation of Diem and support for 
a change of government. The report was quickly adopted by Kennedy in the 
NSC and a brief, and subsequently much rued, statement was released to the 
press on October 2, announcing the planned withdrawal of 1,000 troops by 
year's end. 

The McNamara-Taylor mission, like the Krulak-Mendenhall mission before 
it and the Honolulu Conference in November after the coup, points up the 
great difficulty encountered by high level fact-finding missions and con- 
ferences in getting at the "facts" of a complex policy problem like Viet- 
nam in a short time. It is hard to believe that hasty visits by harried 
high level officials with overloaded itineraries really add much in the 
way of additional data or lucid insight. And because they become a focal 
point of worldwide press coverage, they often raise public expectations or 
anxieties that may only create additional problems for the President, There 
were many such high level conferences over Vietnam. 

Of the recommendations of the McNamara-Taylor mission, the proposal for 
a selective suspension of economic aid, in particular the suspension of 
the commercial import program, was the most sigziificant both in terms of 
its effect, and as an example of the adroit use or denial of American assis- 
tance, to achieve our foreign policy objectives. In- this instance economic 
sanctions, in the form of selected aid suspensions in those programs to which 
the regime would be most sensitive but that would have no immediate adverse 
effect on the v/ar effort, were used constructively to influence events rather 
than negatively to punish those who had violated our wishes, our usual re- 
action to coups in Latin America. The proposal itself had been under con- 
sideration since the abortive coup plot of August. At that time, Lodge 
had been authorized to suspend aid if he thought it would enhance the like- 
lihood of the success of a coup. Later in September he was again given 
specific control over the delay or suspension of any of the pending aid 
programs. On both occasions, however, he had expressed doubt about the 
utility of such a step. In fact, renewal of the commercial import program 
had been pending since early in September, so that the adoption of the 
McNaraara-Taylor proposal merely formalized the existing situation into 
policy. As might have been expected (although the record leaves ambiguous 
whether this was a conscious aim of the Administration), the Vietnamese 
generals interpreted the suspension as a green light to proceed v/ith a 

VJhile this policy was being applied in October, Lodge shunned all 
contact with the regime that did not come at Diem's initiative. He wanted 
it clearly understood that they must come to him prepared to adopt our 
advice before he would recommend to Washington a change in U.S. policy. 
Lodge performed with great skill, but inevitably frictions developed v^ithin 


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^ the Mission as different viewpoints and proposals came forv^ard. In particular^ 
Lodge's disagreements and disputes with General Harkins during October vA.en 
the coup plot was maturing and later were to be of considerable embarrass- 
ment to Washington when they leaked to the press. Lodge had carefully 
cultivated the press , and when the stories of friction appeared, it was 
invariably Harkins or Richardson or someone else who was the villain. 

No sooner had the McNamara-Taylor mission returned to VJashington and 
reported its recommendations than the generals reopened contact with the 
Mission indicating that once again they were preparing to strike against ■ 
the regime. Washington's immediate reaction on October 5 was to reiterate 
the decision of the NSC on the McNamara-Taylor report^ i.e., no U.S. encour- 
agement of a coup. Lodge was instructed, however, to maintain contact with 
the generals and to monitor their plans as they emerged. These periodic 
contacts continued and by October 25, Lodge had come to believe that Diem 
was unlikely to respond to our pressure and that we should therefore not 
thwart the coup forces. Harkins disagreed, believing that we still had not 
given Diem a real chance to rid himself of Nhu and that we should present 
him with such an ultimatum and test his response before going ahead with 
a coup. He, furthermore, had reservations about the strength of the coup 

1 forces when compared with those likely to remain loyal to the regime. All 

this left Washington anxious and doubtful. Lodge was cautioned to seek 
fu.ller information on the coup plot, including a line-up of forces and the 
proposed plan of action. The U.S. could not base its policy on support for 

I . ^ *^^^P attempt that did not offer a strong prospect of success. Lodge was 

counseled to consider ways of delaying or preventing the coup if he doubted 
its prospects for success. By this juncture, however, Lodge felt committed 

I ' and, furthermore, felt the matter was no longer in our hands. The generals 

were taking the action on their ov/n initiative and we could only prevent 
it now by denouncing them to Diem. While this debate was still going on, 
the generals struck. 

Shortly after Ambassador Lodge and Admiral Felt had called on Diem on 
November 1, the generals m.ade their move, cuMinating a summer and fall of 
complex intrigue. The coup was led by General Minh, the most respected of 
the senior generals, together with Generals Don, Kim and Khiem. They convoked 
a meeting of all but a few senior officers at JGS headquarters at noon on 
the day of the coup, announced their plans and got the support of their com- 
patriots. The coup itself was executed with skill and swiftness. They 
had devoted special attention to ensuring that the major potentially loyal 
forces were isolated and their leadei^ neutralized at the outset of the opera- 
tion. By the late afternoon of November 1, only the palace guard remained 
to defend the two brothers. At U:30 p.m.. Diem called Lodge to ask where 
the U.S. stood. Lodge was noncoramital and confined himself to concerzi for 
Diem's physical safety. The conversation ended inconclusively. The gener- 
als made repeated calls to the palace offering the brothers safe conduct 
out of the country if they surrezidered, but the tv^o held out hope until the 
very end. Sometime that evening they secretly slipped out of the palace 
through an underground escape passage and went to a hide-away in Cholon. 
There they were captured the following morning after their whereabouts was 
learned when the palace fell. Shortly the two brothers were murdered in the 
back of an armored personjiel carrier en route to JGS headq.uarters . 

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Having successfully carried off their coup, the generals began to 
make arrangements for a civilian government. Vice President Tho v?as named 
to head a largely civilian cabinet , but General Minh became Pi-^esident and 
Chairman of the shadow Military Revolutionary Council. After having delayed 
an appropriate period, the U,S. recognized the new governjnent on November 8. 
As the euphoria of the first days of liberation from the heavy hand of the 
Diem regime \roTe off, hovrever, the real gravity of the economic situation 
and the lack of expertise in the new governjuent became apparent to both 
Vietnamese and American officials. The deterioration of the military situa- 
tion and the strategic hajnlet progra.m also came more and more clearly into 

These topics dominated the discussions at the Honolulu Conference on 
November 20 vrhen Lodge and the country teara met with Rusk, McNamara, Taylor, 
Bell, and Bundy. But the meeting ended inconclusively. After Lodge had 
conferred with the President a few days later in Washington, the, White House 
tried to pull together some conclusions and offer some guidance for our con- 
tinuing and now deeper involvement in Vietnam. The instructions contained 
in NSAM 273, hov^ever, did not reflect the truly dire situation as it was to 
come to light in succeeding weeks. The reappraisals forced by the new 
information would swiftly m.ake it irrelevant as it was "overtaken by events." 

For the military coup d'etat against Ngo Dinh Diem, the U.S. must 
accept its full share of responsibility. Beginning in August of I963 we 
variously authorized, sanctioned and encouraged the coup efforts of the 
Vietnam.ese generals and offered full support for a successor government. 
In October we cut off aid to Diem in a direct rebuff, giving a green light 
to the generals. We maintained clandestine contact with them throughout 
the planning and execution of the coup and sought to review their operational 
plans and proposed new government. Thus, as the nine-year rule of Diem 
came to a bloody end, our complicity in his overthrow heightened out re- 
sponsibilities and our corrmiitment in an essentially leaderless Vietnam. 


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8 May 1963 Hue incident 

10 May 1963 

Manifesto of Buddhist 


18 May 1963 



Nolting meeting with 
Diem J Embassy Saigon 
message IO38 ' 




30 May 1963 Buddhist demonstration 

I^ Jun 1963 

Truehart meeting v/ith 

Tho committee 


Government troops fire on a Buddhist pro- 
test demonstration^ killing nine and 
wounding fourteen. The incident triggers 
a nationwide Buddhist protest and a 
crisis of popular confidence for the 
Diem regime. GVN m^ainta^ins the inci- 
dent was an act of VC terrorism. 

A five point demand by the Buddhist 
clergy is transmitted to the Govern- 
ment. It calls for freedom to fly 
the Buddhist flag, legal equality 
with the Catholic Church, an end 
of arrests, punishment of the perpe- 
trators of the May 8 incident, and 
indemnification of its victims. 

U.S. Ambassador Nolting meets with 
Diem and outlines the steps the U.S. 
wants Diem to take to redress the 
Buddhist grieva.nces and recapture 
public confidence. These include 
an admission of responsibility for 
the Hue incident, compensation of the 
victims, and a reaffirmation of re- 
ligious equa.lity and non- discrimina- 

350 Buddhist monks demonstrate in 
front of the National Assembly and 
announce a 48-hour hunger strike. 

With Nolting on leave, charge d'affaires 
Truehart meets with Secretary of State 
Thuan, and on instruction from the 
State Depa.rtment, warns that U.S. 
support for the GVN could not be 
maintained if there were another bloody 
suppression of Buddhists. 

Later that day the Government announces 
the appointm-ent of an inter-ministerial 
committee headed by Vice President Tho 
to resolve the religious issue. 



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5 Jun 1963 


Tho committee meets 

8 Jun 1963 

Madame Hliu attacks 

11 Jun 1963 

First Buddhist suicide 
by fire 

12 Jun 1963 

Truehart repeats U.S. 
dissociation threat 

Ik Jun 1963 

Tho committee meets 
again with Buddhists 

16 Jun 1963 GVN-Buddhist comjnuniq.ue 


The first meeting between the Tho 
committee and the Buddhist leader- 
ship takes place 5 after which 
each side publicly q^uestions the 
other's good faith in the negotia- 
tions . 


Madame Nhu^ wife of Diem^s pov/erful 
brother, publicly accuses the Buddhists 
of being infiltrated with commuriist 
agents , 

Later on the same day;, Truehart 
protests ]yime Miu*s remakrs to Diem 
and threatens to dissociate the U.S. 
from any future repressive measures 
against the Buddhists. 

At noon in the middle of a downtown 
intersection, a Buddhist monk, Thich 
Quang Due, is immersed in gasoline 
and sets himself afire. His fiery 
protest suicide is photographed and 
is front page material in the world's 
newspapers. Shock and indignation 
are universal. Mne Nhu subseq.uently 
refers to it as a "barbecue." 

Truehart sees Diem again to protest 
his lack of action on the Buddhist 
problem and says that Quang Due's 
suicide has shocked the world. If 
Diem does not act, the U.S. will be 
forced to dissociate itself from 

Under U.S. pressure, negotiations 
between Vice President Tho's committee 
and the Buddhist leadership reopen 
in apparent earnest • 

A joint GVN-Buddhist communique is 
released as a product of the nego- 
tiations that outlines the elements 
of a settlement, but affixes no re- 
sponsibility for the May 8 Hue inci- 


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Late June- 

Buddhist protest 

27 Jun 1963 

Kennedy announces 
Lodge appointment 

3 Jul 1963 

Tho committee 
absolves regime 

k Jul 1963 

White House meeting 
on Vietnamese situa- 

5 Jul 1963 Nolting in Washington 

10 Jul 1963 SNIE 53-2-63 

Buddhists protest activities intensify 
as leadership passes from the dis- 
credited modere.te^ older leadeis to 
younger militants. The Saigon press 
corps is actively cultivated. 

President Kennedy, visiting in Ireland, 
announces the appointment of Henry 
Cabot Lodge as the new U.S. Ambassador 
to South Vietnam, effective in Septem- 

Vice President Tho's committee announces 
that a preliminary investigation of 
the May 8 incident has confirmed that 
the deaths were the result of an act 
of VC terrorism. 

At a State Department briefing for the 
President it is generally agreed that 
Diem will not voluntarily remove Nhu. 
A discussion of the likely conseq,uences 
of a coup reveals divergent views . 

Having cut short his vacation to re- 
turn to Washington for consultations, 
Nolting confers with Under Secretary 
of State George Ball and voices the 
fear that an attempt to overthrow Diem 
would result in a protracted religious 
civil war that would open the door to 
the Viet Cong. We should not abandon 
Diem yet. While in Washington he also 
sees Secretary McNamara. 

This special intelligence estimate notes 
coup riomors in Vietnam a^nd warns that 
a coup would disrupt the war effort 
and perhaps give the Viet Cong the 
opportunity for gains they had been 
hoping for. It concludes, however, 
that if Diem does nothing to implement 
the June I6 agreements, Buddhist un- 
rest will continue through the summer 
and increase the likelihood of a coup 


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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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11 Jul 1963 

15 Jul 1963 

5 Aug 1963 


Nolting^s return 
to Saigon 

Ifeu squelches coup 

Embassy Saigon 
message 85 

19 Jul 1963 Diem speaks on radio 

McNamara press 

Second Buddhist 

l4 Aug 1963 Nolting-Diem meeting 

15 Aug 1963 New York Herald Tribune 

article by Marguerite 


Nolting returns to Vietnajn with 
Washington's blessing to one last 
attempt to persuade Diem to conciliate 
the Buddhists. The hope is to draw 
on the good will that Nolting has 
built up in his two years of service. 

At a special m^eeting for all senior 
generals^ Nhu attacks their loyalty 
to the regime for not having thwarted 
the numerous coup plots that had been 
reported. The meeting apparently 
forest3.11s any immediate threat to 
the family. 

Deeply resentful of Truehart's tough 
pressure tactics ^ Nolting meets with 
Diem and a.ttempts to mollify him. ■_ 
He convinces Diem to make a. nation- 
wide radio address with concessions 
to the Buddhists. 

Complying with the letter but not the 
spirit of Nolting* s request. Diem 
delivers a brief cold ratio address 
that makes only very minor concessions 
to the Buddhists and asks for harmony, 
and support of the Government. 

At a press conference. Secretary 
McNamara says the war is progressing' 
well and the Buddhist crisis has not 
yet affected it. 

A second Buddhist monk commits suicide 
by burning himself to death in the 
continuing protest against the Diem 
regime - 

In their final meeting before Nolting' s 
departure from Vietnam, Diem promises 
to make a public statement repudiating 
Mme Nhu's inflammatory denunciations of 
the Buddhists. Nolting left the next 

Diem's promised public statement takes 
the form of an interview with Marguerite 
Higgins, conservative correspondent 



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18 Aug 1963 

Generals decide on 
martial law 

20 Aug 1963 

Generals propose 
martial law to Hhu 
and Diem 

21 Aug 1963 

Nhu's forces attack 

Lodge confers with 
Nolting and Hilsman 

Washington reaction 

22 Aug 1963 

Lodge arrives in 


of the New York Herald Tribune . Diem 

_ _ ■ I I ■■ I ■ ■ III ■ ■ ! I ■ ■! II ■ - -1 11 M I r I ■ ! ■ ■■ ■!■■ _ , ,, II 1,1 , _ II 

asserts that conciliation has been 
his policy toward the Buddhists all 
along and the family is plea.sed with 
Lodgers appointment. 

Ten senior Arm_y generals meet and de- 
cide that in view of the deteriorating 
political situation^ they will ask 
Diem for a decla.ration of martial lavr 
to permit them_ to return monks from 
outside Saigon to their own provinces 
and pagodas and thus reduce tensions 
in the capital. 

A small group of generals meets first 
with Nhu and then with Diem to propose 
that martial law be decreed forthwith. 
Diem approves the proposal and the 
decree takes effect at midnight. 

Under the cover of the military martial 
law, shortly after midnight 5 forces 
loyal to Nhu and under his orders 
attack pagodas tliroughout Vietnam^ 
arresting monks and sacking the sacred 
buildings. Over 30 Buddhists are in-. 
jured and over 1^00 arrested. The 
attack is a shattering repudiation of 
Diem's promises to Nolting. The Embassy 
is taken by surprise. 

Eirst news of the attacks reaches Lodge 
in Honolulu where he is conferring 
with Nolting and Assistant Secretary 
of State Hilsman. He is dispatched 
immediately to Vietnam^. 

At 9-30 a.m. a stiff statement is re- 
leased by State deploring the raids 
as a direct violation of Diem's assur- 
ances to the U.S. But first intelli- 
gence places the blame for them on the 
Army 5 not Nhu. 

After a brief stop in Tokyo , Lodge 
arrives in Saigon at 9-'30 p.m. The 
situation still rem.ains confused. 



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23 Aug 1963 


CIA Information Report 
TDCS DB-3/656, 252 

Student demonstrations 

2k Aug 1963 

Embassy Saigon 
message 316^ 
Lodge to Hilsman 

State message 2U35 
State to Lodge 


General Don^ armed forces commander 
under the martial law decree, has 
contacted a CAS officer and asked why 
the U.S< was "broadcasting the erroneous 
story that the Army ha.d conducted the 
pagoda raids. Nhu's special forces 
vrere responsible. The U.S. should m.ake. 
its position knovm. A separate con- 
tact by another general with a member 
of the mission had brought a.nother 
inquiry as to the U.S. position. 
The query is clear. Would we support 
the Army if it a.cted against Miu and/or 

Large student protest demonstrations 
on behalf of the imprisoned Buddhists 
take place at the faculties of medicine 
and pharmacy at the University of 
Saigon. They are a dramatic break with 
the tradition of student apathy to 
politics in Vietnam. The regime re- 
acts with massive arrests. 

Lodge lays the blame for the raids at 
Nhu's feet and states that his influ- 
ence is significantly increased. But 5 
in view of the loyalty of Saigon area 
commanders 5 a coup attempt would be 
a "shot in the dark." 

Subsequently known as the "Aug 2k 
cable," this controversial message ac- 
knowledges Nhu's responsibility for 
the raids and says that U.S. can no 
longer tolerate his continuation in 
power. If Diem is unable or unwilling 
to remove him, the generals are to 
be told that the U.S. will be prepared 
to discontinue economic and military 
support, accept the obvious implica- 
tion and will promise assistance to 
them in any period of interim break- 
down of the GVN. Lodge's permission 
is requested for a VOA broadcast 
exonerating the Army of responsibility 
for the Aug 21 raids. 


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: . 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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25 Aug 1963 Embassy Saigon message 

CAS Saigon message 

26 Aug 1963 VOA broadcast 

Lodge presents 
credentials to Diem 

NSC meeting 

27 Aug 1963 

CAS agents meet 

Embassy Saigon 
message 36^1- 


Lodge approves the proposed course 
of action but sees no rea.son to 
Diem first. Diem \^ill not remove the 
Nhus and it would merely tip off the 
palace to the impending military action. 

Lodge 5 Harkinsj and Richardson meet 
and agree on an approach to the general 
with the information in State's 2^3. 


Early on this Monday morning, VOA in 
South Vietnam broadcasts the press 
stories placing blame for the Aug 21 
raids on Nhu and a.bsolving the Army. 
It also broadcast press speculation 
that the U.S. is contemplating an 
aid suspension. 

Later the same morning. Lodge presents 
his credentials to Diem, after an early 
morning meeting with Harkins and 
Richardson, at which they agree on 
the details of the approach to the gen- 
erals . 

The Aug 2^ cable of instructions had 
been drafted, cleared and sent on a 
weekend with Mclamara, McCone, Rusk 
and the President all out of town. 
The NSC meeting on Monday morning 
reveals that these top advisors have 
reserva.tions about proceeding hastily 
with a coup when we lack so much basic 
information about its leadership and 
chances. Lodge is asked for more 
details . 

CAS agents Conein and Spera meet with 
Generals Khiem and Khanh respectively. 
Khiem tells' Conein that other partici- 
pants are Generals Minh, Kim, Thieu 
and Le, and that General Don was aware 
of the plot and approved, but wa.s too 
exposed to participate. 

Lodge gives an optimistic appraisal 
of the bala.nce of forces for a coup 
and expresses confidence in the identi- 
fied leaders. 


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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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NSC meeting 

28 Aug 1963 MACV message I557 


State message 269, 
President to Lodge; 
and JCS message 3385^, 
Taylor to Harkins 

29 Aug 1963 CAS agents meet Minh 

Embassy Saigon message 

MACV message I566 

NSC meeting 

State message 272 

DESCRIPTION - - -" - ' 

At the now daily NSC meetings in"^ 
Washington, the State Department 
participants generally favor going 
ahead with the coup, while the Defense 
Department, both civilian and military, 
prefers another try with Diem. 

Harkins goes on record doubts 
about the line-up of forces for the 
coup and sees no reason for ouj" "rush 

Concerned by the differing views of 
Lodge and Harkins, as v/ell as the 
division of opinion in Washington, 
the President asks the Ambassador 
and MACV for their separate appraisals. 

At this meeting, arranged by Minh, 
he asks for clear evidence that the 
U.S. will not betray them to I^Ihu.. 
He is unwilling to discuss the details' 
of his plan. When asked what would 
constitute a sign of U.S. support, 
he replies that the U.S. should sus- 
pend economic aid to the regime. 

Lodge replies to the Presidential q,uery 
that the U.S. is irrevocably committed 
to the generals. He recommends show- 
ing the CAS messages to them to establish 
our good faith and if that is insuffi- 
cient, he recommends a suspension of 
economic aid as they requested. 

Harkins reply to Taylor suggests that 
one last effort be made v/ith Diem in 
the form of an ultimatum demanding 
Nhu's removal. Such a move he feels 
will strengthen the hand of the generals, 
not Imperil them. 

Another inconclusive meeting is held 
with the division of opinion on a 
U.S. course of action still strong. 
The resuJLt is to leave policy making 
in Lodge's hands. 

Lodge is authorized to have Harkins 
show the CAS messages to the generals 


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31 Aug 1963 

IVIACV message I583; 
Embassy Saigon message 
391^ and CAS Saigon 
message 0^+99 

NSC meeting; MGen 
Victor C. Krulak^ 
Memo for the Record, 
Vietnam Meeting at 
the State Dept . 

2 Sep 1963 Kennedy TV interview 

■Lodge meeis with Khu 


6 Sep 1963 NSC meeting 


in exchange for a look at their 
detailed plans. He is further au- 
thorized to suspend U.S. aid at his 

Harkins meets with Khiem who tells 
him that Minli has called off the coup. 
Military was unable achieve a favorable 
balance of forces in the Saigon area 
and doubts about v/hether the U.S. 
had leaked their plans to Nhu were 
the deciding factors. A future attempt 
is not ruled out. 


With the demise of the coup plot con- 
firmed, the NSC (without the President) 
meets to try to chart a new policy 
for Vietnam. The discussion reveals 
the divergence between the military 
desire to get on with the wa.r and re- 
pair relations with Diem, and the 
State Department viev/ that continued 
support for Diem will eventually mean 
a loss of the war as more and more of 
the South Vietnamese are alientated 
from it. No decisions are taken. 

The President, in a TV interview with 
CBS News' Walter Cronkite, expresses 
his disappointment with Diem's handling 
of the Buddhist crisis and concern 
that a grea^ter effort is needed by the 
GYN to win popular support. This can 
be done, he feels, "with change in 
policy and perhaps vj-ith personnel..." 

Avoiding any contact with Diem, Lodge 
nonetheH.ess meets with Nhu who announces 
his intention to quit the Goverimaent 
as a sign of the progress of the cam- 
paign against the VC. Mme Nhu and 
Archbishop Thuc, another of Diem's 
brothers, are to leave the country 
on extended trips shortly. 

The NSC decides to instruct Lodge to 
reopen "tough" negotiations with Diem 
and to start by clarifying to him the 


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7 Sep 1963 

Archbisliop Thuc 
leaves Vietnam 

8 Sep 1963 

AID Director Bell 
TV interview 

9 Sep 1963 

Mme Rhu lea.ves 

U.S. position. Robert Kennedy 
speculates that if the wa.r can be v/on 
neither with Diem nor in the event 
of a disruptive coup^ we should per- 
haps be considering a U.S. disengage- 
ment. Secretary McNamara proposes 
a fact-finding trip by General Krulak^ 
and State suggests including Joseph 
Mendenhall^ a senior FSO with Vietnam 
experience • They leave later the 
same day. 

With the intercession of the Vatican 
and the Papal Delegate in Saigon^ 
Archbishop Thuc leaves the country for 
Rome on an extended visit. 

In a televised interviev/^ AID Director 
Bell expresses concern that Congress 
might cut aid to South Vietnam if the 
Diem Goverim-ient does not change its 
repressive policies. 

Mme Whu departs from Saigon to attend 
the World Parliamentarians Conference 
in Belgrade and then to take an extended 
trip through Europe and possibly the 

Kennedy TV interview 

10 Sep 1963 NSC meeting 

Appearing on the inaugural program of 
the NBC Huntley-Brinkley News^ the 
President says he does not believe 
an aid cut-off would be helpful in 
achieving American purposes in Vietnam 
at present. 

Krulak and Mendenhall return from 
Vietnam after a whirlwind four day 
trip and make their report to the 
NSC. With them are John Mecklin^ 
USIS Director in Saigon^ s^nd Rufus 
Phillips 5 USOM^s Director of Rural 
Programs. Krulak 's report stresses 
that the war is being won and 5 while 
there is some dissatisfaction in the 
military with Diem^ no one V70uld risk 
his neck to remove him. A continua- 
tion of present policies under Diem 


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11 Sep 1963 

Embassy Saigon 
message ^78 

White House meeting 

12 Sep 1963 

Senator Church's 

Ik Sep 1963 State message ifll 

will yield victory. Mendenhall presents 
a completely contradictory view of 
the situation. A breakdown of civil 
administration vras possible and a 
religious civil war could not be ex- 
cluded if Diem was not replaced. The 
war certainly could not be won with 
Diem. Phillips and Mecklin support 
Mendenhall with variations. _ Nolting 
agrees with Krulak. All the disagree- 
ment prompts the President to ask the 
two emissaries^ "You tv7o did visit 



country ; didn't you?" 

Lodge reverses himself in suggesting 
a complete study of kinds of economic 
aid suspension that might be used to 
topple the regime . 

White House decides to hold economic 
aid renewal in abeyance pending a com- 
plete examination of hovr it might be 
used to pressure Diem. 

With White House approval. Senator 
Church introduces a resolution in the 
Senate condemning the South Vietnamese 
Government for its repressive handling 
of the Buddhist problem and calling for 
an end to U.S. aid unless the repressions 
are abandoned. 

Lodge is informed tha.t approval of 
the $18.5 million commercial import 
program is deferred until basic policy 
decisions on Vietnam have been m^ade. 

16 Sep 1963 Martial lav7 ends 

17 Sep 1963 NSC meeting 

Martial law is ended throughout the 

Two alternative proposals for dealing 
with Diem are considered. The first 
would use an escalatory set of pressures 
to get him to do cur bidding. The 
second would involve acq^uiescence in 
recent GVN actions, recognition that 
Diem a.nd Miu are insepara^ble^ and an 
attempt to salvage as much as possible 
from a bad situation. A decision is 


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21 Sep 1963 


23 Sep 1963 

25 Sep 1963 

27 Sep 1963 


White ?Iouse press 

White House instruc' 
tions to McNamara- 

McNamara- Taylor 
mission departs 

Opening meeting of 
McNamara-Taylor with 
country team 

National Assembly 


taken to adopt the first as policy, 
a.nd also to send Secretary McNa^mara 
and General TayH.or on a fact-gathering 

The forthcoming McNamara-Taylor mission 
is announced to the press by the White 
House . 

The Wliite House instructions for the 
mission ask the two men to (l) appraise 
the status of the military effort j 
(2) assess the im.pact on the war effort 
of the Buddhist crisis; (3) recommend 
a course of action for the GVN to 
redress the problem and for the U.S. 
to get them to do it; and (k) examine 
how oujT aid can further no. 3- 

The McNamara-Taylor party leaves Washing- 
ton for its ten day trip to Vietnam. 

The disagreement between Harkins and 
Lodge about the situation in-country 
and the progress of the war surfaces 
immediately in this first conference, 
McNamara spends several subseq.uent 
da.ys touring various parts of Vietnam, 
to appraise the war first hand and 
talk with U.S. and Vietnamese officers. 

As announced earlier, and at the end 
of a pro forma one week campa^ign, the 
GVN holds nation-wide elections for 
the National Assembly with predictably 
high turnouts and majorities for Govern- 
ment candidates. 

29 Sep 1963 


Embassy Saigon messages 
602 and 608 

McNamara, Taylor and 
Lodge see Diem 

Aware that McNa-,mara and Taylor are 
tasked to recommend uses of the aid 
program to pressure Diem, both Lodge 
and Brent, the USOM Director, go on 
record against them. 

In their protocol call on Diem, and 
after his two-hour mionologue, McNamara 
is able to pointedly stress that the 
political unrest and Goverimnent re- 
pressive measures against the Buddhisi:s 



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30 Sep 1963 

McNamaraj Taylor 
and Lodge meet 
Vict President The, 

2 Oct 1963 


SecDef Memo for the 
President: Report of 
the McNamara- Taylor 


White House 
press release 

were undermining the U.S. war effort. 
Diem seems unimpressed^ but does ask 
Taylor for his appraisal, as a mili- 
tary man 5 of the progress of the v/ar. 

Tho stresses to the two visitors the 
gravity of the political deterioration 
and the negative effect it was having 
on wa.r. He q.uestions the success of 
the strategic hamlet program. Later 
that day J the McNaanara-Taylor party 
leaves South Vietnam for Honolulu. 

After a day in Honolulu to prepare 
a report 5 McNamara and Taylor return 
to Washington and present their find- 
ings and recommendations to a morning 
NSC meeting. Their long report repre- 
sents a compromise between the mili- 
tary and the civilian viev;s. It confirms 
the progress of the war, but warns of 
the dangers inherent in the current 
political turmoil and recommends pres- 
sures against Diem to bring changes. 
Militarily, it calls for greater GVN 
effort, especially in the Delta and 
in clear and hold operations, and a 
consolidation of the strategic hamlet 
program. It proposes the announcement 
of the plans to withdraw 1,000 American 
troops by year's end. To put political 
pressure on Diem to institute the re- 
forms we want, it recommends a selec- 
tive aid suspension, an end of support 
for the special forces responsible fcr 
the pagoda raids, and a continuation 
of Lodge's aloofness from the regim.e. 
It recommends against a coup, but 
qualifies this by suggesting that an 
alternative leadership be identified 
and cultivated. The recomjnendations 
are promptly approved by the President. 

A statement following the meeting is 
released as recommended by McNam.ara 
and Taylor that reiterates the U.S. 
commitment to the struggle against 
the VC, annoiuices the 1,000 man troop 


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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
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Um^Cu^/ yU (^ 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 



CAS SaAgon 
message .I385 

5 Oct 1963 

NSC meeting 

CAP message 6356O 



CAS Saigon message 


withdrawal, and dissociates 
the U.S, from Diem*s repressive 
policies. It does not, bov/ever, 
announce the aid suspensions. 

CAS agent Conein "accidently" 
meets General Don at Tan Son 
Kliut.' Don asks him to come to 
Mha Trang that evening. With 
Embassy approval Conein keeps 
the appointment. Don states 
that there is an active plot 
among the generals for a coup, 
and that General Minli wa.nts to 
see Conein on Oct 5 to discuss 
details- The key to the plan, 
according to Don, is the conver- 
sion of III Corps Comanander, 
General Dinh. 

The President approves detailed 
recoram.endations of the McNamara- 
Taylor mission for transmission 
to Lodge . 

"...President today approved 
recommendation that no initiative 
should now be taken to give any 
active covert encouragement to 
a coup. There should, however, 
be urgent covert effort... to 
identify and build contacts with 
possible alternative leadership 
as and when it appears . " 

With liOdge's 6.pproval, and 
probably before of 
foregoing message, Conein meets 
with General Minh. Minh says 
he must know the U.S. position 
on a coup in the near future. 
The GVN^s loss of popular sup- 
port is endangering t?ie whole 
war effort. Three possible plans 
are mentioned, on^ involving 
assas-sination. Conein is non- 
commital . 


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CAS Saigon message 


Richardson recalled 

6 Oct 1963 CAP message 6356O 

7 Oct 1963 

National Assembly 

Mme Nhu arrives in 

8 Oct 1963 

UN General Assembly 

Lodge recoipjnends that when 
Conein is contacted agaan^ he \ 
be authorised to say that the 
U.S. will not thwart a. coup, 
that we are willing to review 
plans 5 and that we will con- 
tinue support to a successor 

His identity having been com- 
promised in recent press stories 
about internal policy struggles 
in the U.S. mission, CIA Chief 
of Station, John Richardson^ 
is recalled to Washington. 

Washington clarifies its views 
on a coixp by stating that the 
U.S. will not thwart such a 
move if it offers prospects 
of a more effective fight against 
the VC. Security and denla- 
bility of all contacts is para- 

The newly elected National 
Assembly convenes to hear 
Diem's State of the Union 
address. Diem speaks mainly 
of Vietnam's past progress under 
his rule, playing down the 
current political crisis and 
making only scant reference to 
U.S. aid. 

Mme Nhu arrives in the U.S. 
from Europe for a three-week 
speaking tour. She immedi- 
ately launches into vituperative 
attacks on the U.S. and its 
role in Vietnam. 

The UN General Assembly, after 
a strong debate with many voices 
denouncing Diem's anti-Buddhist 
policy, votes to send a fact- 
finding team to Saigon to 
investigate the charges of 

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10 Oct 1963 CAS officer meets 


17 Oct 1963 

GVN informed of aid 
cut-off to special 


22 Oct 1963 

Depa.rtment of State, 
INR Research Memo 

Harkins sees Don 

23 Oct 1963 CAS agent meets Don 


A CAS officer reportedly meets 
with Minh and conveys the U.S. 
position that it will neither 
encourage nor thwart a coup 
attempt, but would hope to be 
informed about it. 

Acting for the Ambassador, General 
Stillwell, MACV J-3, informs 
Secretary Thuan that U.S. aid 
for the specia^l forces units 
responsible for the Aug 21 
raids is being suspended un- 
til they transferred to 
the field and placed under 
JGS command. 

The State Department publishes 
a controversial research memor- 
andum which takes issue with 
the Pentagon's optimistic 
reading of the statistica.l 
indicators on the progress 
of the war. The memo states 
that certain definitely nega- 
tive and ominous trends can 
be identified. 

General Harkins sees General 
Don, and in a conversation 
whose interpretation is subse- 
quently disputed, tells him 
that U.S. officers should not 
be approached about a coup 
as it distracts them from 
their job, fighting the VC. 
Don takes it as U.S. discoitr- 
agement of a coup. 

General Don renews contact with 
Conein to ask for clarifica- 
tion of U.S. policy after 
Harkins* statement to him 
of the previous day. Conein 
repeats Washington guidance, 
which relieves Don. Conein 
asks for proof of the exis- 
tence of the coup and its planj 
Don promises to provide politi- 
cal organization plan as proof 
the following day. 


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2k Oct 1963 


" ' ' ' ■>■■■ ■■->■!■ ,^ g^^i^N— ifc^^M. I , 

Diem invites Lodge to 

1st CAS agent meeting 
with Don 

2nd CAS agent meeting 
with Don 

UN fact-finding team 
arrives in Saigon 

25 Oct 1963 

CAS Saigon 

CAP message 6359O 


Diem extends an invitation 
to Lodge and his v/ife to spend 
Simday^ Oct 27 ^ with him at 
his villa in Dalat. Lodge is 
pleased, Diem has come to him. 

Conein meets with Don in the 
morning and the latter reports 
tha,t Plarkins had corrected his 
previous remarks and apologized 
for 9.ny misunderste>nding. 
The coup is set to take plaice 
before Nov 2 and he will meet 
Cone3.n later that day to re- 
view the plans . 

In the evening, Don tells Conein 
that the coup committee voted 
not to r eve 8.1 any plans because 
of concern about security 
leaks. He promises to turn 
over to Conein for Lodge's 
Eyes Only the operation plan 
two days before the coup occurs. 

The UN fact-finding team arrives 
in Saigon and begins its in- 

Lodge argues that the time has 
come to go ahead with a coup 
and we should not thv.^art the 
maturing plot. He takes strong 
exception to Harkins reserva- 
tions about the determination 
and ability of the plotters 
to carry off the coup. 

Bundy, replying for the White 
House, is concerned about the 
dangers of U.S. support for 
a coup that fails . We must 
be in a position to judge the 
prospects for the coup plan 
and discourage any effort with 
likelihood of failure. 


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26 Oct 1963 


Vietnaraese National 

27 Oct 1963 Lodge-Diem meeting 


Diem reviews the troops in 
the National Da.y before 
scant crowds with Lodge a.nd 
all other diplomatic personnel 
in attenda.nce. The coup had 
originally been scheduled for 
this day. 

As plann.ed; Lodge travels to 
Dalat with Diem and engages 
in a day-long conversation 
that produces little results. 
Diem makes his standard com- 
plaints against the U.S.^ and 
whenever Lodge asks what he is 
planning to do about specific 
U.S. req.uests^ he changes the 
subject. At one point, he 
does inq.uire, however, about 
resumption of the commercial 
import program. Lodge asks 
what movement he will make on 
our requests. Diem changes 
the subject. Lodge's feelings 
of frustration confirm his con- 
viction that we cannot work 
with Diem. 

Buddhist suicide 

28 Oct 1963 Don contacts Lodge 


CAS agent meets Don 

A seventh Buddhist monk commits 
suicide by fire. 

At the airport in the morning 
prior to departing for the 
dedication of axi atomic energy 
facility in Dalat, General Don 
approaches Lodge and asks if 
Conein is authorized to speak 
for the U.S. Lodge says yes. 
Don then affirms the need for 
the coup to be completely Viet- 
namese. Lodge agrees, but when 
he asks about timing, Don re- 
plies that the generals are 
not yet ready. 

That evening Conein meets Don 
again and the latter so.ys that 
the plans may be available for 
Lodge only four hours before 





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29 Oct 1963 

CINCPAC alerts 
task force 

NSC meeting 

Special forces trans 
ferred from Saigon 

30 Oct 1963 

MA.CV messages 2028, 
2033, and 2034 

the coup. Lodge should not 
change his plains to go to 
Washington on Oct 3I S'S this 
would tip off the pale.ce. 
Some dete.ils of the orga-ni- 
zation of the coup committee 
are discussed. 

CINCPAC alerts a naval and 
air task force to stand off 
Vietnam for possible evacua- 
tion of America.n dependents 
and civilians if req,uired. 

A decision is made at the 
NSC meeting to have Lodge 
fully inform Harkins on the 
coup pbtting and a^rrangements, 
since if Lodge leaver Harkins 
will be in charge r Concern 
is also registered a.t the 
differing views of the tvro 
men toward a coup. 

In the first preparatory act 
of the coup, General Dinh orders 
Colonel Tung's special forces 
out of Saigon for maneuvers. 
It is unclear whether the ac- 
tion came as a part of the 
generals* coup or Nhu's pseudo. 

Belatedly apprised of the con- 
tinuing contacts with the 
generals and the U.S. role 
in the coup plotting. General 
Harkins dispatches three angry 
cables to Taylor in which he 
disagrees with Lodge's inter- 
pretation of the U.S. policy. 
He understands it to be no 
active covert encouragement. 
He opposes personally a coup 
and doesn't think the generals 
have the forces to pull one off. 

4 ) 


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CAS Washington 
message 79IO9 

CAS Saigon 
message 2063 

CAS Washington 
message 79^7 



31 Oct 1963 

Lodge defers 

1 Nov 1963 

10:00 a.m 

Lodge and Felt meet 
with Diem 



The White House is now genuinely- 
concerned at the Saigon dispute 
and tells Lodge it believes 
we still have the power to 
call off the coup if \re choose 

Lodge replies to Washington 
that he is powerless to stop 
the coup^ the matter is exi- 
tirely in Vietnam.ese hands. 
Harkins does not concur. 

To clear the air and redefine 
U.S. policy;, Washington sent 
another cable to Lodge. The 
U.S. cannot accept as a policy 
position that it has no power 
to prevent the coup. If the 
coup does not have high pros- 
pects of success^ Lodge should 
intercede with the generals 
to have it delayed or called 
off. More detailed informa- 
tion on the plans is urgently 
req.uested. Specific instruc- 
tions to guide U.S. action 
during &. coup are issued. 
They prescribe strict non- 
involvement and somewhat less 
strict neutrality. 

Lodge, who had been scheduled 
to leave for Washington for 
high-level conferences, defers 
his depaz-ture because of the 
tense atmosphere and the appar- 
ent imminence of the coup. 

Admiral Felt, who is visiting, 
and Lodge call on Diem, who 
reiterates many of the points 
he made to McNamara a month 
earlier. At the end of the 
meeting, Diem takes Lodge aside 
and indicates he is ready to 
talk about vrhat the U.S. wants 

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Coup units begin 
to deploy 

12:00 a/m. Officers meet at JGS 

1:45 p. 


U.S. notified 

2:00 p.m 

Key installations 

4:00 p.m 

First skirmishes. 
Diem told to surrender 



him to do. Eelt leaves Saigon 
after the meeting. 

The first coup units begin to 
dep2_oy in 6.nd around Saigon. 

The coup committee has con- 
vened a meeting of all senior 
Vietnamese officers except 
Generals Dinh and Cao at JGS, 
There they a>re informed of 
the coup and asked to support 
it . All except Colonel Tung 
do. Their pledges of support 
are taped. Tung is taken into 
custody later to be executed. 
The CNO v;-as killed en route 
by an escort. A CAS officer 
is invited to the JGS and main- 
tains telephone contact with 
the Embassy throughout the 

General Don calls Genera.l Stillwell^ 
J"3 to General Harkins^ and in- 
forms him that the coup is 
under way. 

About this time coup forces 
are seizing the key installa- 
tions in Saigon 5 including 
the post office 5 police head- 
quarters , radio stations , air- 
port , naval headquarters, etc. 
They V7ere also deploying for 
attacks on the palace and the 
palace guard barracks and to 
block any counter-attack from 
outside the city. 

By about this time the first 
skirmish was taking place at 
the palace and guard barracks . 
Failing to reach General Dinh, 
Diem and Nlm realize the coup 
is serious. The generals called 
shortly after this and told the 
two brothers to surrender. 
They refused. 

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^:30 p.m. 


Coup broadca^st. Diem 
calls Lodge 

5:00 p. in 

Generals again call 
Diem to dem-and 

8:00 p.m. Diem and Whu flee 

9:00 p.m. Palace bombarded 


2 Nov 1963 
3:30 a.m. 

6:20 a.m. 

Assault on the palace 

Diem calls, generals 
to surrender 


The generals go on radio , 
announce the coup and demand 
the resignation of Diem and 
Nliu. At the same tme^ Diem 
is calling Lodge. He asks 
Lodge v/here the U.S. stands. 
Lodge replies that the U.S. 
cannot yet have a view. He 
expresses concern for Diem*s 
safety, and the conversa.tion 
ends there. 

Repeated calls now made 
to the pa.lace to get Diem to 
surrender. All the generals 
try. Colonel Tung is put 
on the phone and tells Diem 
he is a captive. Tung is then 
taken outside and executed. 
Diem and Nhu now frantically 
call all unit commanders but 
can find none loyal. Outside 
sporadic firing continues. 

Sometime in the early evening ^ 
probably about eight o' clocks 
the two brothers escape from 
the palace through one of the 
secret underground passages 
constructed for just such 
emergencies. They are met 
by a Chinese friend who takes 
them to a previously prepared 
hideaway in Cholon. There they 
spend the night in telephone 
contact with the palace . 

At about nine o'clock, the 
atta^ckers launch an artillery 
and armored barrage on the 
palace and its defenders which 
lasts through the night. 

The tank and infantry assault 
on the Gia Long palace begins . 

Diem calls General Don from 
the Cholon hideout to surrender, 
but does not tell his location. 


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6:30 a.m. Palace falls 


6:50 a.m. 


3 Nov 1963 

Diem and Miu again 

Diem and I^u are 

Vice President Tho 
confers on new 

Lodge meets with 
Generals Don and Kim 



h Nov 1963 

Lodge meets with 
General Minh 


Realizing the hopelessness of 
the situation^ Diem issues 
a cease fire order to the pal3.ce 
gU8.rd and the palace falls to 
the insurgents. Colonel Thao^ 
the commander of the attacking 
forces^ learzas of Diem's where- 
abouts and with JGS permission 
goes to arrest him. 

Arriving at the Cholon house ^ 
Thao calls JGS and is over- 
heard by the brothers who 
escape to a nearby Catholic 

Diem again calls General Don 
and surrenders 5 this time un- 
conditionally. Pie and Nhu are 
taken prisoner shortly there- 
after and are murdered in the 
back of an a^rmored personnel 
carrier en route to JGS. 

Vice President Tho enters into 
intensive conferences and nego- 
tiations with the' coup conmittee 
on the composition of a new 
interim government which he 
will head. 

Generals Don and Kim call on 
Lodge at the Embassy and apolo- 
gize for the absence of Minh 
who is closeted with Tho working 
on the composition of the new 
government. A two-tiered govern- 
ment is expected. A military 
committee chaired by General 
Minh v/iU supervise a largely 
civilian cabinet under Tho's 
Prime Ministership. Lodge 
promises the immediate restora- 
tion of aid programs and assures 
the generals of forthcoming 
U.S. recognition. 

On instructions from Washington, 
Lodge meets with Minh and Don 
and urges them to make a clari- 
fying statement on the deaths 



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5 Nov 1963 

New goverruaent 

6 Nov 1963 

Composition of the 
Military Revolutionary 
Council announced 

7 Nov 1963 

NIF makes post- coup 
policy statement 

Brent meets with Tho 
on U.S. aid 

1 . 


of Diem and Wan to allay 

anxieties about the new leaders. 

Minh promises to do so a.nd 

to arinounce the nev7 government 


The new government is announced 
with Minh as President and 
Chief of the Military Coimnittee. 
Tho is Premier 3 Minister of 
Economy and Minister of Finance. 
Don is Minister of Defense and 
Dinh is Minister of Security, 
Most other posts are filled 
by civilians;, but there is 
a noticeable absence of well- 
known opponents to Diem, A 
later announcement suspends 
the 1956 constitution^ and 
outlines the structiire and 
functions of the new interim 
government . 

Saigon Radio announces the 
composition of the new Mili- 
tary Revolutionary Council 
with Minh as Chairman and 
including all important 
generals except Khanh. 

In a post-coup policy state- 
ment ^ the NLF lists eight de- 
mands of the new regime 5 all 
but one of which the Minh-Tho 
Goverimaent was going to do 

USOM Director Brent meets with 
Tho v:ho indicated that all 
economic aid questions would 
be handled directly by his 
office. It was further agreed 
that a high-level Vietnamese 
commission would work with a 
similar group in the U.S. mission 
to establish economic and aid 
policies and levels. 


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8 Nov 1963 


U.S. recognizes new 


9 Nov 1963 

Embassy Saigon message 

12 Nov 1963 

CINGPAC message to JCS 
12060i|Z 63 

17 Nov 1963 

NLF releases stronger 
set of demands 




20 Nov 1963 Honolulu Conference 


Lodge calls on the new Foreign 

Minister 5 Pham Dang Lam^ and 
presents a note of U.S. recog- 
nition* The new goveriiment heavily dependent on 
the U.S. in all areas. 

In the weekly progress report ^ 
the mission notes the greatly 
increased VC activity in the 
week following the coup. The 
return of coup units to the 
field will reverse this trend, 
it is hoped - 

CINCPAC takes note that the 
statistical indicators for the 
war (VC atta-cks, weapons loss 
ratio, VC defections) show 
deterioration dating back to 
the summer. 

Its first set of demands having 
been effectively preempted by 
the new Minh Government, the 
NLF release a new and stronger 
set of demands including that 
the U.S. influence be eliminated, 
the fightiJig be halted and that 
a coalition government be estab- 
lished. For the first time 
the NLF statesthat reunifica- 
tion of Vietnam, is an objective. 

The entire country team meets 
with Rusk, McNamara, Taylor, 
Bundy, and Bell to review the 
current situation. Lodge 
voices optimism about the new 
goverimient, but notes the in- 
experience of the new leaders. 
We should not press them too 
hard. We should secondly pledge 
aid to them in at least the 
amounts V7e were giving it to 
Diem, Brent notes the economic 
naivety of the generals and 
indicates the need for greater 
U.S. technical assistance to 


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9(y JTJi/ ^.^^a^^iu^ 

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Press release 
after Honolulu 

22 Nov 1963 

Lodge confers with 
the President 

23 Nov 1963 IJSPM 273 




I . 



the government- Harkins ^ 
assessment is guardedly opti- 
mistic, taking note of the 
'higher than average VC activity 
in the v:eek after the coup. 
The determination of the new 
leaders impressed him, but he 
v;as concerned about the dis- 
iniptions that wholesale replace- 
ments of province and district 
chiefs might have- 

The press release gives few 
details but does reiterate the 
U.S. intention to withdraw 
I5COO troops by the end of 
the year. 

' r 

'Having flown to Washington 
the day after the conference , 
Lodge meets with the President 
and pres^j:mably continues the 
kind of report given in Honolulu 

Drawing together the results 
of the Honolulu Conference, and 
Lodge's meeting vrith the .Pi^esi- 
dent, NSAM 273 reaffirms: the 
U.S. commitment to defeat the 
VC in South Vietnam.. It reiter- 
ates the plan to withdraw IjOOO 
troops by year's end and to end 
the W3,r in the first "three corps 
areas by the end of" 196^ ^nd 
in the Delta by the end -^f I965 • 
U.S. support for the new regime 
is confirmed cind aid in at least 
the amounts givien to Diem is 
guaranteed. The Delta is to 

be th: 

of concentration 

for all military, political^ 
economic and social .efforts. 
And clandestine oir-erations ■ 
against the North and into 
Laos are authorized. ' ■-. ■ 



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M/VY - 1T0VSM3SR 19o3 





1. The Crisis Erupts ^ 

2. The U. S, '■Ho Alternatives to Dieni" Policy 7 

III . LODGE vs. DIEM: AUGUST 2Q-0CTQB1K 2 • • 12 

!• The Pagoda Raids and Repercussions • • 12 

2. Mis-Coup. 17 

3. Toward a IIev7 Policy • -1 

H . The McITamara-Taylor Mission 30 


1. The South Vietnarnese Situation in October. 37 

2- The Hew American Policy • • • • - . . 37 

3. Renewed Coup Plotting 1 

V, Tirg COUn^ /J'H) ITS AJTEPJ^-LATH - ?T0^/EM3ER 1 - 23 52 

1. The Coup 52 

2. Establishment of an Interim Regime 60 

3. The Honolulu Conference and RSAM 273 ^5 

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^ — , — , — , — v — . — , . — - — .— ^ - 


f ' f » ■ . ■ I. I » ■ I i t — w- »- 



In the spring of 1963^, the regime of Ngo Dinh Dien seemed to exhibit 
no more signs of advanced decay or insninent demise than might have been 
discerned since I958 or 1959, Only in hindsight can certain developments 
be identified as salient. Of these^ certainly the steadily increasing 
influence of the Nhus vas the most ominous. Nhu came more and more to 
dominate Diem in the last year of the Diem rule. But as his pover 
increased_j Nhu's grip on reality seems to have slipped and he vas 
reported in that last year to have been smoking opiuirx and to have been 
mentally ill. l/ Meanvhile^ Mne. Nhu vas developing a power obsession 
of her o\m. The catastrophic effect of their influence during the ensuing 
crisis^ however^ vas impossible to have predicted. As one perceptive 
observer noted_, the Ngo fai'iily "had come to pover "vri-th a vell-developed 
persecution com.T)lez and had subsequently developed a positive mania 
for survival." 2/ 

Another source of concern should have been the regime's self- 
imposed isolation from the populace. It had left the peasants aiDathetic^ 
a cause for real concern in a struggle vrith the zealous _, doctrinaire 
Viet Cong; but^ more importantly _, it had alienated large portions of 
the restive urban population vho felt most directly the impact of the 
regirae's arbitrary rule. The regime _, in fact^, had no real base of 
political support and relied on the loyalty of a handful of key military 
comiiianders to keep it in povrer by forestalling any overth_ro^s^ The loyalty 
of these men vas bought mth promotions and favors. Graft and corruption 
should also have dravn concern_, even if governmental dishonesty was 
endemic in Asia^ and probably not disproportionate at that time in South 

It vas not^ however^ the strains that these problems had placed 
on the Vietnamese political structure that vere ultimately decisive. 
The fundamental weakness of the Diem regime vras the curious rigidity 
and polj-tica]. insensitivity of its m-andarin style in the face of a 
dramatic crisis of popular confideiice. 

With regard to the \raXy the consensus of the U.S. military mission 
and the U.S. intelligence coimiiunity in the spring of 19^3 '^'"as that the 
military situation in South Vietnam was steadily improving and the war 
vas beginning to be won. A National Intelligence Estimate in April I963 
concluded t2iat the infusion of U.S. advisors had begim to have the 
desired effect of strengthening the ARVI'J' and increasing its aggressive- 
ness. 3/ "^^"^s Viet Cong retained good strength_, but could be contained 


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by the ARVA^ if they did not receive a great increase in external support. 
Statistica.1 indices shoved a decline in Viet Cong attacks from the 
previous year^ increased ARW offensive activity^ and improvement in the 
weapons loss ratio. Continuing problems were Diem's loyalty-based officer 
promotion policy _, ARVxT desertions and AWGL*s^ poor intelligence^ and low 
grade NCO's and company officers. Honetheless_, the overall out- 
look was sanguine. Particular reason for encouragement was the adoption 
in February I963 of the National Campaign Plan urged by the U.S. The 
hopeful prospects were surmnarized for Secretary KcNamara in a briefing 
paper for the Honolulu Conference of May 6: 

The overfall situation in Vietnaia is improving. In the 
military sector of the counterinsurgency_, we are winning. 
Evidences of improvement are clearly visible, as the com- 
bined impact of the programs which involve a long lead 
time begin to have effect on the Viet Cong, hf 

Even as seasoned an observer of insurgency as Sir Robert Thompson, Chief 
of the British Advisory Mission, was able to report that, ''iTow, in March 
1963^ I can say, and in this I am supported by all members of the mission, 
that the Governjaent is beginning to win the shooting war against the 
Viet Cong." 5/ 

One reason for the optimism of these appraisals was the vigor with 
which the government, under the direction of Nhu, was pushing the 
Strategic Hamlet Program. IThu had been initially cool to the idea, but 
once he established the U.S. v,allingness to fund the prograjn, he focused 
on it as the principal vehicle of the counterinsurgency campaign and as 
an excellent meejis of extending the oligarchy's control into the country- 
side. In April the GVM claimed it had completed 5,000 strategic hamlets 
and had another 2,000 under construction. 6/ There was already official 
U.S. misgiving, however, about the quality of many of the hsjnlets and 
about overextension of the co-ontry's limited hujnan resources in the 
program's frantic rate of expansion, nevertheless, field reports seemed 
to support the success of the program which was seen as the key to the 
struggle against the Viet Cong. 

U.S.-GVlI relations in the spring of 1963 were beginning to show signs 
of accimulating stress. As the U.S. commitment and involvement deepened, 
frictions betvreen American advisors and Vietnamese counterparts at all 
levels increased. Diem, under the influence of Nhu, complained about 
the quantity and zeal of U.S. advisors. 7/ They vrere creating a colonial 
impression among the people, he said. Diem chose to dramatize his com- 
plaint by delaying agreement on the commitment of South Vietnamese funds 
for joint counterinsurgency projects, 8/ The issue was eventually 
resolved, but the sensitivity to the gro\ U.S. presence remained and 
as the long crisis summer wore on, it gradually became a deep-seated 
suspicion of U.S. motives. 

The report of the Mansfield mission, published in March, further 
exacerbated relations between the two countries. Diem and TThu \rere 

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particulcLrly incensed by its praise of Cejiibodian neutralism and 
criticism of their regimie. Coup rumors began to circulate again that 
springy and the prevailing palace state of mind hearkened back to 
suspicions of U.S. complicity in the abortive I96O coup. 0/ Vm.e, Nhu's 
ascerbic public criticism of the United States was a further source of 
friction. By May 1963^ these problems in U.S.-GVT:I relations were 
already substantial enough to preoccupy officials of both governments. 
Within a matter of vreeks^ hov/ever^ events thrust them into the back- 
ground of a fai' more serious crisis. 

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1. Th.e Crisis Erupts 

The incident in Hue on May 8^ I963, that precipitated what came 
to be called the Buddhist crisis^ and that started the chain of events 
that ultimately led to the overthrow of the Diem regime and the murder 
of the ITgo brothers^ happened both inadvertently and unexpectedly. 
No one then foresa,w that it would generate a national opposition move- 
ment capable of rallying virtually all non-communist dissidence in 
South Vietnam. More importantly _, no one then appreciated the degree 
of alienation of Vietnam's people from their government^ nor the extent 
of the political decay within the regime, a regime no longer capable of 
coping with popular discontent. 

The religious origins of the incident are traceable to the massive 
flight of Catholic refugees from North Vietnam after the Prench defeat 
in 195^!- • -An estimated one million Catholics fled the North and resettled 
in the South, l/ Diem, animated, no doubt, by religious as well as 
humanitarian sympathy, and with an eye to recruiting political support 
from his coreligionists, accorded these Catholic refugees preferential 
treatment in land redistribution, relief and assistance, commercial 
and export-import licenses, governiuent employment, and other GW. largess. 
Because Diem could rely on their loyalty, they came to fill almost all 
important civilian and military positions. As an institution, the 
Catholic Church enjoyed a special legal status. The Catholic primate, 
Ngo Dinh Thuc, was Diem's brother and advisor. But prior to 19-62, there 
had been no outright discrimination against Buddhists. However, among 
South Vietnam's 3-^^ million practicing Buddhists and the 8o> of the 
population who vrere nominal Buddhists, the regime's favoritism, 
authoritexiajiism, and discrimination created a smoldering resentment. 

In April I963, the government ordered provincial officials to 
enforce a longstanding but generally ignored ban on the public display 
of religious flags. The order came just after the officially encouraged 
celebra.tions' in Hue commemorating the 25th aziniversa.ry of the ordination 
of Ngo Dinh Thuc, the Archbishop of Hue, during v^hich Papal fla^s had 
been prominently flown. The order also cane, as it happened, just prior 
to Buddha's birthday (May 8) -- a major Buddhist festival. Hue, an old 
provincial capital of Vietnam, was the only real center of Buddhist 
learning and scholarship in Vietnam and its university had long been a 
center of left-\7ing dissidence. Not surprisingly, then, the Buddhists in 
Hue defiantly flew their flags in spite of the order and, when the local 
administration appeared to have backed down on the ban, were emboldened 
to hold a previously scheduled mass meeting on May 8 to commemorate 
Buddha's birthday. Seeing the dem-onstration as a challenge to fa^nily 
prestige (Hue was also the capital of the political fief of another Diem 

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brother^ Ngo Dinh Can) and to goyerninent authority^ local officials 
tried to disperse the crowds. Vftien preliminary efforts produced no 
result s_, the Catholic deputy province chief ordered his troops to fire. 
In the ensuing inelee_, nine persons were killed^ including some children_, 
and fourteen vere injured. Armored vehicles allegedly crushed some of 
the victims. The Diem government subsequently put out a stor^^ that a 
Viet Cong agent had throvm a grenade into the crowd and that the victiias 
had been crushed in a stampede. It steadfastly refused to adi-ait 
responsibility even when neutral observers produced films showing 
government troops firing on the crowd. 

Diem's majidarin character would not permit him to haiidle this 
crisis with the kind of flexibility and finesse it required. He was 
incapable of publicly acknovrledging responsibility for the tragedy and 
seeking to conciliate the angry Buddhists. He was convinced that such 
a public loss of face would underraine his authority to rule_, oblivious 
to the fact that no modern ruler can long ignore massive popular dis- 
affection whatever his ovrn particular personal virtues may be. So the 
government clung tenaciously to its version of what had occurred. 

The following day in Hue over 10_,000 people demonstrated in protest 
of the killings. It was the first of the long series of protest activities 
with which the Buddhists were to pressure the regime in the next four 
months. The Buddhists rapidly organized themselves^ and on May 10^ a 
manifesto of the Buddhist clergy was transmitted to the goverrjiient demand- 
ing freedom to fly their flag^ legal equality with the Catholic Church, 
an end of arrests and freedom to practice their beliefs, and indemnifica- 
tion of the victims of the May 8th incident with punishment for its 
perpetrators. 2/ These five dem-ands were officially presented to 
President Diem on May 15, and the Buddhists held their first press con- 
ference after the meeting. Publicized hunger strikes and meetings con- 
tinued throughout May, but Diem continued to drag his feet on placating 
the dissenters or settling issues. On May 30, about 350 Buddhist 
monks demonstrated in front of the National Assembly in Saigon, and a 
48-hour hunger strike was announced. On June 3, ^ demonstration in Hue 
was broken up with tear gas and several people were burned, prompting 
charges that the troops had used mustard ga-s. On June 4, the govern- 
m^ent announced the appointment of an interministerial committee headed 
by Vice President Tho to resolve the religious issue, but by this time 
such gestures were probably too late. Large portions of the urban 
population had rallied to the Buddliist protest, recognizing in it the 
beginnings of genuine political opposition to Diem. On June 8, V^ne. 
Khu exacerbated the problem by announcing that the Buddhists were 
infiltrated by communists. 

Throughout the early da;^'-s of the crisis, the U.S. press had closely 
covered the events and brought them to the attention of the world. On 
June 11, the press was tipped off to be at a downtovrn intersection at 
j noon. Expecting another protest demonstration, they were horrified to 

■vrLtness the first burning suicide by a Buddhist monk. Thich Quang Due's 
. [, fiery death shocked the vrorld and electrified South Vietnam. 

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Negotiations had been taking place between Vice President Tho's 
consiiittee and the Buddhists since June 5^ \r±±h considerable acriraonious 
public questioning of good faith by both sides. After the suicide^ the 
U.S. intensified its alreo.dy considerable pressuLre on the government to 
iriollifjr the Buddhists^ and to bring the deteriorating political situa- 
tion under control. Pinally^ on June l6_, a joint GW-Buddhist communique 
vas released outlining the elements of a settlement^ but affixing no 
responsibility for the May 8 incident. Violent suppression by the GW 
of rioting the next day_, however, abrogated the spirit of the agreement. 
The Kbus^ for their part_, immediately i3Tidertook to sabotage the agreement 
by secretly calling on the GWI --sponsored youth organizations to denounce 
it. By late June, it was apparent that the agreement was not meant as 
a genuine gesture of conciliation by Diem, but was only an effort to 
appease the U.S. and paper over a steadily \/idening fissure in internal 

The evident lack of faith on the part of the government in the 
June l6 agreement discredited the conciliatory policy of moderation that 
the older Buddhist leadership had followed until that time. In late 
June, leadership of the Buddhist movement passed to a yo-onger, more 
radical set of monks, with more far-reaching political objectives. They 
made intelligent and skillful political use of a rising tide of popular 
support. Carefully planned mass meetings and demonstrations vrere accom- 
panied v^ith an aggressive press c^npaign of opposition to the regime. 
Seizing on the importance of American news media, they cultivated U.S. 
newsmen, tipped them off to demonstrations and rallies, and carefully 
timed their activities to get maxim'om press coverage. Not surprisingly, 
the Ngo family reacted vdth ever m.ore severe suppression to the Buddhist 
activists, and with acrimonious criticism and even threats to the American 

Early in July, Vice President Tho^s committee annotmced that a 
preliminary investigation of the May 8 incident had confirmed that the 
deaths were the result of an act of Viet Cong terrorism. Outraged, the 
Buddhists denounced the findings and intensified their x)rotest activities. 
On July 19, under U.S, pressure. Diem made a brief two-minute radio 
address, ostensibly an expression of conciliation to the Buddhists, but 
so T-TTitten and coldly delivered as to destroy in advance any effect its 
8Jinoujiced manor concessions might have had. 

Within the regime, Nhu and his wife were severely criticizing Diem 
for caving in under Buddhist pressure. ¥j:ae. Nhu publicly ridiculed the 
Buddhist suicide as a "barbecue," accused the Buddhist leaders of being 
infjltrated with communists, and construed the protest movement as Viet 
Cong inspired. Both Nhu and his wife worked publicly and privately to 
undermine Diem's feeble efforts at compromise with the Buddhists, and 
nmiors that Nhu was considering a coup against his brother began to 
circuJ-ate in July. 

A U.S. Special Nationa.1 Intelligence Estimate on July 10 concluded 
\rith the perceptive prediction that if the Diem regime did nothing to 
implement the June 16 agreement and to appease the Buddhists, the 

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likelihood of a of deraonstrations was great^ mth the strong 
possibility of a non-coninumist coup attempt. 3/ By mid-August a week 
before Khu launched general raids on Buddhist pagodas in Saigon and 
elsewhere^ the CIA had begtm to note malaise in the bureaucracy and 
the armv: 

Since the Buddhist dispute vith the Diem goverimient 
erupted on 8 May^ there have been a series of reports 
indicating not only intensified plotting and grumbling 
among Diem's tra.ditional non -Communist critics, but 
reneved restiveness and growing disaffection in official 
civilian and military circles over Diem's handling of the 
dispute, k/. 

This estimate vent on to detail numerous rumors of coup plots in existence 
since at least late June. But Nhu, in a bold move designed to frighten 
coup plotters, and to throw them off guard, had called in the senior 
generals on July 11, reprimanded them for not having taken action to 
scLuelch revolt, and q,uestioned their loyalty to the regime. I^lhu's move 
seemed to have temporarily set back all plans for an overthrow. CIA 
also reported rumors that Miu him.self was planning a "false coup" to 
draw out and then crush the Buddhists. 5./ ■ 

In August, Buddhist militancy reached new intensity; monks burned 
themselves to death on the 5th, 15th, and l8th. The taut political 
atmosphere in Saigon in mid^August should have suggested to U.S. 
observers that a showdo^.m was on the way. When the showdomi came, how-. 
ever, in the August 21 raids on the pagodas, the U.S. mission was 
apparently caught almost completely off guard. 

2. The U.S. "No Alternatives to Diem" Policy 

The explanation of how the U.S. mission became detached from the 
realities of the political situation in Saigon in August I963, is among 
the most ironic ajid tragic of our entire involvement in Vietnam. In 
dealing vath Diem over the years, the U.S. had tried two radically 
different but ultimately eq.ually unsuccessful approaches. Under 
Ambassador Elbridge I>arbrow from the late »50s until I96I, ve had used 
tough pressure tactics to bring Diem to implement programs and ideas we 
felt necessary to win the war against the Viet Cong. But Biem soon 
learned that the U.S. was committed to him as the only Vietnamese leader 
capable of rallying Ms country to defeat the commimists. Armed with 
this knowledge he could defer action or ignore the Ambassador with 
relative impunity. He became adept at pleying the role of offended 
lover. Thus by I96I, I^rbrow was cut off from the palace, with little 
information about what was going on and even less influence over events. 
Under Frederick Rolting as U.S. Ambassador, the U.S. pursued a very 
different tactic. Forewarned not to allow himself to be isolated, 
Koltlng set out through the patient cultivation of Biem^s friendship and 
trust to secure a role for himself as Biem's close and confidential 
advisor. But there had been no basic change in the American belief that 

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there vas no alternative to Diem^ and Diem must have quickly sensed 
this^ for he continued to respond primej:'ily to family interest^ at best 
only listening impatiently to bolting's carefuny put complaints^ 
secure in the toaovrledge that ultimately the U.S. would not abandon him 
no matter what he did. Both tactics failed because of American coramit- 
ment. No amount of pressure or suasion vas likely to be effective in 
getting Diem to adopt ideas or policies which he did not find to his 
liking^ since we had coimnuiiicated our unwillingness to consider the 
ultimate sanction «- -v/ithdrawal of support for his regime. We had 
ensnared ourselves in a powerless^ no alternatives policy. 

The denouement of this policy^ the ultimMe failure of all our 
efforts to coerce _, cajole and coa^c Diem to be something other than the 
mandarin that he was^ came in the midnight attack on the pagodas on 
August 21. And it created a fi.mdamenta.1 dilemma for U.S. policy with 
respect to Diem. On the one hand^ \7ithdrawal of support for his regime 
was the only lever likely to force Diem to redress the Buddhist grievances 
and to make the political reforms prerequisite for popular support in the 
common fight against the Viet Cong. On the other hand^ withdrawal of 
U.S. support for Diem would be signal U.S. approval for an anti-Diem 
coup^ \rlth all its potential for political instability and erosion of 
the war effort. \Je found ourselves in this predicament not entirely 

In May 1963^ though it had failed to anticipate the Buddhist 
upheaval^ the U.S. mission nevertheless quickly recognized the gravity 
of the threat to Diem and reported it to Washington. 6/ Kolting met 
with Diem on May 18 and outlined the steps he felt were necessary to 
retrieve the situation. These included a government acknowledgement 
of responsibility for the Hue incident^ an offer to compensate the 
families of the victims^ and a reaffirmation of religious equality and non- 
discrimination. As an alternative^ he suggested an investigatory commis- 
sion. Diem's noncommittal response led the Ambassador to think that Diem 
really believed the Viet Cong had caused the deaths and that the Buddhists 
had provoked the incident. Diem felt the U.S. was over-reacting to the 
events. 7/ Thus^ at a critical time Nolting_, in spite of his tvra years 
of careful groundwork^ was unable to exercise any real influence over 
Diem; Wolting left on a well-deserved holiday and home leave shortly 
after this frustrating meeting. 

[By the end of May_, Washington had become concerned at Diem's 
failure to act^ and at the vridening Buddhist protest. The Charge 
d'ACfaires^ Wllliaiu Truehart^ was instructed to press the GVIT for 
action. 8/ W^orking with Secretary of State for Defense Thuan^ Truehart 
tried to move the government toward negotiations with the Buddhists. 
After the dem^onstrations in Hue on June 3^ the State Department instructed 
Truehart to tell Diem or Thuan that the U.S. also had a stake in an 
amicable settlement with the Buddhists. 9/ On the folloiang day^ Truehart 
met with Thuan and told him that U.S. support of South Vietnam could not 
be maintained if there was bloody repressive action in Hue. lo/ This 
seemed to get action. Later that day^ Truehart was informed that 

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ITolting's second suggestion heid been adopted and a high-level comniission 
ha.d beeji named to settle the problem. The coriuidssion^ headed by Vice 
President Tho^ met belatedly with the Buddhists on June 5. 

On June 8^ Truehart had an interview with Diem to protest I'Ime. 
lOiu's public criticism of the Buddhists^ which was poisoning the atmos- 
phere for a settlement. When Diem refused to disavow her stateffients_, 
Truehart tlireatened a U.S. "dissociation" from any future repressive 
measures to suppress demonstrations. Truehart left the meeting vrith the 
impression that Diem was more preoccupied with security measures than 
with negotiations, ll/ Nolting's low --key policy had by now been abandoned^ 
both in Washington and in Saigon^ in favor of a new tough line. 

The situation was dramatically altered by the first Buddhist suicide 
on June 11. Alarmed^, the State Department authorized Truehart to tell 
Diem that unless drastic action was taken to meet the Buddhist demands 
promptly^ the U.S. would be forced to state publicly its dissociation 
from the GVIT on the Buddhist issue. 12/ Trueheirt made his demarche on 
June 12. Diem replied that an_y suchlJ.S. announcement would have a 
disastrous effect on the GW -Buddhist negotiations, 13 / The negotiations 
finally got under way in earnest June 1^1- and the joint communique was 
issued June l6. 


Truehart made repeated calls on Diem in late June and early July_, 
urging him in the strongest language to take some action indicating the 
government's intention to abide in good faith by the June l6 agreement. 
His efforts were unavailing. Diem was either noncommittal _, or talked in 
generalities about the difficulties of the problem. 

On June 27^ President Kennedy named Henry Cabot Lodge to replace 
Ambassador Nolting effective in September. After a brief stop in 
Washington^ Nolting was hurried back to Saigon on July 11 to make one 
last effort to get Diem to conciliate the Buddhists. I-Iolting^ evidently 
resenting the pressure tactics used by Truehart^ met immediately -vrLth 
Diem and tried to mollify him. ik/ Pie succeeded only in convincing Diem 
to make the shallow gesture of the July 19 radio speech, Otherwise_, 
Diem merely persisted in appeals for public harmony and support of the 
government, without any real attempt to deal "vrith the Buddhist grievances. 

Nolting spent his last month in Vietnam trying to repair U.S. -GVIT 
relations and to move Diem to resolve the Buddhist crisis, but his 
attempts were continually undercut by the Nhus both publicly and pri- 
vately. They ha,d grovm increasingly belligerent about the Buddhists 

i during the summer, and by August spoke often of "crushing" them. 

' Washington asked Ilolting to protest such inflammatory remarks, and began 

to suspect DiemVs capacity to conciliate the Buddhists in the face of 
Hhu sabotage. Kolting was instructed to suggest to Diem that Ikie, Nhu 
be removed from the scene. 15/ Kolting asked Diem for a public declara- 
tion repudiating her remarks but after initially agreeing. Diem then 
I , demurred and postponed it. 16/ Finally, as a parting gesture to Nolting, 

he agreed on August ik to make a statement. I7/ It came in the form of 


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an interview vith Marguerite Higgins of the ITev York Herald Trib\ ine> 
Diera asserted that conciliation had been his policy all along and that it 
vas "irreversible." He further said^ in direct contradiction of a 
previous remark by Moie. Ilhu^ that the family was pleased \rlth Lodgers 
appointment, 18/ Washington was apparently satisfied by this statement^ 
which Diem viewed merely as a going-away present for ITolting. 19 / Less 
than a week letter ^ bolting's two years of careful work and an /vmerican 
policy would be in a shambles^ betrayed by Nhu's midnight raid on the 
pagodas . 

Underlying the prevailing U.S. view that there was no alternative 
to Diem \ras the belief tha.t the disruptive effect of a coup on the vrar 
effort^ and the disorganization that, would follow such a coup^ could 
only benefit the YC^ perhaps decisively. 20 / Military estimates and 
reports emanating from. RA.CV through the summer of I963 continued to 
reflect an optimistic outlook_, indicating good reason to continue our 
support of Diem even in the fa.ce of his inept handling of the Buddhist 
crisis, 21/ • In retrospect^ it can be seen that by July the GW position 
in the war had begmi to seriously deteriorate. At the time^ however^ 
this weakening was not yet apparent. The then prevailing view also held 
that the Buddhist crisis had not yet detracted from the war effort^ 
although its potential to do so was recognized. Secretary McNamara on 
July 19 told a press conference that the vmr was progressing well and 
that the Buddhist crisis had thus far not affected it. 22/ The intel- 
ligence community^ however^ had already begun to note depressing effects 
of the crisis on military and civilian morale. 23 / 

Meanwhile^ the U.S. press corps was reporting a far different view 
of both the war and the Buddhist crisis^ one which was, in retrospect, 
nearer the reality. In particular, they were reporting serious failures 
in the Delta in both militaiy operations and the Strategic Hamlet 
Program. 2h/ Typical of this reporting was en August 15 story in the 
New York Tijaes by David Halberstam presenting a very negative appraisal 
of the war in the Delta. 25/ Such reports were vehemently refuted within 
the Administration, most notably by General Krulak, the JOS Special 
Assistant for Counterinsurgency. 26/ At the lower echelons in the field, 
however, there were m.any U.S. advisors who did not share Krulak' s 
sanguine view of the war^s progress. 

Within the Administration, no real low -risk alternative to Diem had 
ever been identified, and we had continued our support for his trouble- 
some regimie because Diem was regarded as the only Vietnamese figure 
capcible of rallying national support in the struggle against the Viet 
Cong. The Buddhist crisis shattered our illusions about him, and increased 
the domestic U.S. political price to Kennedy of supporting Diem, But 
the only other option for us seemed a coup, with highly uncertain pros- 
pects for post-coup political stability. At a briefing for the President 
on July ky the possibilities and prospects for a coup were discussed. 2j/ 
It was the consensus that the IMhus could not be removed, but that there 
would surely be coup attempts in the next four m.onths. Nolting's 
reported view, with which then Assistant Secretary of State, Roger Hilsman^ 

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did not entirely agree^ vas that a coup vould most likely produce a 
civil var. Hilsman felt that the likelihood of general chaos in the 
wake of a coup vas less thsn it had been the preceding year. (Notes 
on this briefing^ reproduced in the Appendix^ provide the first docu- 
mentary evidence of highest level consideration of the ramifications of 
a coup. ) 

In a meeting at State the following day^ July 5^ Mbassador 
Nolting^ who had cut short his vacation to return to Washington in the 
wake of the Buddhist crisis^ told Under Secretary of State George Ball: 

In his view if a revolution occurred in Viet-ITam which 
grew out of the Buddhist situation^ the country would be 
split between feuding factions and the Anericans would 
have to withdraw and the country might be lost to the Com- 
mujiists. This led to the question of how much presstrre we 
could exert on Diem. Mr. Nolting replied that if we 
repudiated him on this issue his goverriment would fall. 
The -Ambassador believed that Diem vrould live up to the 
agreement (June l6) unless he believed that he was dealing 
with a political attempt to cause his overthrov/-. 28/ 

Earlier In the same Interview he had said: 

. . . that although interference by the Ilhus was 
serious^ he believed that the GW would be able to come 
through this one slowly. As to tactics^ the more Diem 
was prodded the slower he went. IVhile Ilhu was trouble- 
some he was chiefly responsible for gains which had been 
made in the provincial pacification program. 29/ 

Nolting^ no doubt^ expressed similar views when he met with Secretary 
McKamara before returning to Saigon. 

In spite of the mounting politica.1 pressure on the President in 
Congress and in the press because of the Buddhist repressions^, the 
Adiainistration decided to send Nolting back for another try at getting 
Diem to settle the dispute \ the Buddhists, Anxiety in Washington 
mounted as the summer wore on^ and Ilolting's efforts with Diem produced 
evident progress. By the time of the August 21 raids^ Washington's 
patience -vrith Diem vras all but exhausted. 



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'f^immi^imt^ ■ ^ 


T he Pagoda Raids and Repercussions 

Shortly after midnight on August 21^ siz days after lolting's 
frustrated departuj-e^ Nhu^ shattering any remaining illusions about the 
GWs conciliatory approach to the Buddhists^ and betraying Diem's 
parting pledge to ITolting^ staged a general assault on Buddhist pagodas. 
In Saigon^ Hue^ and other coastal cities^ the regime's private shock 
troops ~ the U.S. -trained Special Forces -- and the combat police 
invaded the pagodas and arrested hundreds of Buddhist laonks^ effectively 
destroying an American policy and marking the beginning of the end of the 
Diem regime. 

On August 18^ ten senior generals had met and decided that they 
vould ask Diem for a declaration of martial lav to permit them to 
return Buddhist monks from outside Saigon to their own provinces and 
pagodas^, hopefully reducing tensions in the capital, l/ .Among those 
In attendance at the meeting were General Ton That Dinh, military 
governor of Saigon and commander of III Corps surrounding It, and 
General Huynh Van Cao, IV Corps commander, both of whom ovred their 
positions to their loyalty to the regime. Either or both of them 
probably reported the outcome of this meeting to Diem and Khu. 

In any case, Nhu had decided to eliminate, the Buddhist opposition, 
and to confront the U.S. with a fait accompli on Lodge's arrival; he 
assujued the U.S. would protestingly acquiesce, as it always had in the 
past. On the afternoon of the 20th, I^Ihu met \rlth a small group of 
generals, including Don, Khlem, and Dinh who presented the martial 
law proposal to him. Islhu, his omi plans for the raids now far advanced, 
told them to take their proposal to Diem. At a meeting later that 
eyening. Diem acquiesced in the generals' plan and at midnight the 
decree was published under the signature of General Don, Chief of the 
Joint General Staff. 2/ Meanwhile, ujibeknown to the generals, Nhu had 
already alerted Colonel Tung's Special Forces and the combat police. 
Once the facade of martial law was in place, so the army would be blamed 
for the raids, Nhu gave the word and the crackdown began. To further 
Implicate the amy, some of the combat police wore paratroop uniforms. 
Pagodas were ransacked in all the major South Vietnamese cities, and 
over 1^00 Buddhists, primarily monks, were arrested. 3/ In the raid on 
Xa Lol pagoda in Saigon about thirty monks were wounded or injured, 
and several were subsequently listed as missing; exact casualties were 
never established, k/ Diem had approved the martial law decree >n.thout 
consulting his cabinet, but it was never established whether he knew of 
and approved Nhu's plans for the pagoda raids. Significantly, he never 
subsequently sought to dissociate hlDiself from Nhu or the raids. 

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VJliile the martial law decree gave General Don corrnnajid of all troops, 
in fact, General Dinh and Colonel Tung took their orders directly fromt 
the palace. Thus, vhen the raids came. General Don vras at JGS unaware. 
In a long discussion on August 23 with a CI\S officer, he suggested that 
the mar-tial lavr decree was only phase one of a larger Generals* plot. 5/ 
They were thro-^vn off balance, however, by the raids and by General Dinh's 
rapid assumption of local control of martial law in Saigon. 

In planning the raids, Nhu had been extremely careful not to have 
word leak to the U.S. mission (although the Buddhists and the U.S. press 
corps had been tipped off by their omi infoimants). On the morning 
after the attack, Richardson, the CIA chief and the senior American 
civilian in Saigon, emphatically denied to Halberstam any foreknovrledge 
of the plan. 6/ To further isolate the U.S. from an accurate assessment 
during the operation, Nhu had the telephone lines to the Embassy and the 
homes of all senior U.S. personnel cut shortly af^ter the raids got under 
■way. 7/ His efforts had the desired effect. It was several days before 
the U.S. mission in Saigon and officials in Washington could piece 
together what happened. In Washington, Plarriman and Michael Forrestal, a 
member of McGeorge Bundy's staff at the Miite House, drafted a stiff 
public statement that was released by the State Department at 9:30 the 
follov/ing morning. It deplored the raids as "a direct violation by the 
Vietnamese Government of assurances that it was pursuing a policy of 
reconciliation with the Buddhists." 8/ But the first U.S. intelligence 
reports, based on information from IJhu, accepted army responsibility for 
the raids, and treated their coincidence with the martial l8.w decree as, 
in effect, a military coup. In an August 21 memorandum for the Secretary 
of Defense, the Director of DIA, General Carroll, wrote, "Although the 
military moves are based on an alleged presidential proclamation, the 
military leaders have, in effect, assumed full control." 9/ 

>7hen the raids occurred. Lodge, Nolting, and Roger Hilsman, the 
Assistant Secretaiy of State for the Far East, had been conferring in 
Honolulu. Lodge was immediately instructed to proceed to Saigon. 10 / 
After a brief stop in Tokyo, Lodge touched down in Saigon at 9^30 p.m. 
on August 22, in an atmosphere charged \-rlth tension and official U.S. 
confusion. Awaiting him was a cable from Hilsman asking for a clarifica- 
tion of the situation. Had the military taken over and retained Diem as 
a figurehead; ha^d Diem strengthened his omi position by calling in the 
military; or were the Nhus really calling the shots? ll/ Within twenty- 
four hours. Lodge had sent a preliminary reply: there had been no coup, 
but there seemed also to be no diminution in the roles of the Ilhus, 
although the pov7"er roles T-riLthin the regime were unclear. 12/ 

" That same day, the first military feelers had been put out from 
the Vietnamese generals to determine what the U.S. reaction would be to 
a military coup. General Don, the commander of the armed forces under 
the martial law decree, had a long, rambling conversation with a CAS 
officer. He first outlined the true role the army had played in the 
events of August 20-21 and then inquired why the U.S. had blamed the axmy 
for the raids on the pagodas; 

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General Don has heard personally that the military is 
being blamed by Vietnamese public for the attack on the 
pa£odas. He said that the US Govt is at fault for this 
misconception because VOA announced that the military took 
action against the pagodas. Don queried why VOA did not 
admit that Colonel Tung's Special Forces and the Police 
carried out the action. Don believes this vould help the 
military at this point. Don stated that the USA should 
now make its position knovn. 13/ 

In a conversation the ssjne day with Rufu^ Phillips of USOM^ General Kim^ 
deputy to General Don^ bitterly attacked Khu^ charging him with responsi- 
bility for the raids^ and deploring his dominant role in the government. 
He said that unless the popular impression that the army was responsible 
for the raids were corrected^ the army would be handicapped in its fight 
against the VC. He stated that a firm U.S. stand for the removal of 
the Khus would unify the army and permit it to act against them/ lA/ 
These two direct and obviously reinforcing requests for U.S. support 
for military action aimed at Nhu's ouster marked the formal beginning 
of the U.S. involvement in the protracted plotting against the Diem 
regime. T^fo senior civilians in the government, Diem's chef de cabinet, 
Vo Van Hai, and Secretary of State, Nguyen Dinh Thuan, were simultaneously 
telling U.S. contacts that Khu's elimination from the government was vital 
and that the U.S. should take a strong stand against him. 15/ 

On August 2k ^ Lodge cabled his appraisal of the situation to 
Washington, based on these conversations. "Hhu, " he reported, "probably 
with full support of Diem, had a large hand in planning of action against 
Buddhists, if he did not fully master-mind it. His influence has also 
been significantly increased." 16/ Whu had simply taJien advantage of the 
concern of certain generals, possibly not fully informing the regular 
army of the planned action. Nonetheless, none of the important Saigon 
area troop commanders (Don, Dinh, and Tung) were presently disaffected 
with the regime. Furthermore, absence of clear-cut military leadership 
and troop strength in Saigon for a move against the Nhus would maJie U.S 
support of such an action a "shot in the dark." Ij/ 

For the State Department, the problem of clarifying the public 
record about the raids and affixing responsibility for them had become 
acute by August 24. The press reports emanating from Saigon had from 
the outset blamed Nhu for the raids, but VOA, with a large audience in 
Vietnam, continued to report the official U.S. position that the army 
was culpable. 18/ The accumulating evidence against Nhu and the likeli- 
hood of severe damage to army morale if VOA did not broadcast a clarifica- 
tion seemed to call for retractions. 

The second issue for Washington was Nhu. The generals had asked, 
in effect, for a green light to move against him, but Lodge had cautioned 
^ against it, Hilsman reports that as he, Ha^rriman, Forrestal, and Ball 

deliberated over the drafting of a reply on that Saturday morning, the 
statement of Thuan to Phillips that "under no circumstance should the 

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United States acquiesce in what the Nhus had done^" was given great 
weight. 19/ Admiral Pelt telephoned Washington from CINCPAC to support 
a strong U,S. stand against the Khus, 20/ The unanswered question^ of 
course^ was whether the Nhus could be removed v;-ithout also sacrificing 
Diem^ and if not, whether the resulting political instability would not 
have an even more detrimental effect on the war effort than maintaining 

The August 2^ cable of instructions to Lodge resulting from these 
deliberations outlined an important, and subsequently controversial, new 
policy approach for the U.S, in South Vietnam, Its opening paragraphs 
crisply set forth the new American view: 

It is now clear that whether military proposed martial 
law or whether ]\Thu tricked them into it, Khu took advsjitage 
of its imposition to smash pagodas with police and Tung's 
Special Forces loyal to him, thus placing onus on military ■ 
in eyes of world and Vietnamese people. Also clear that Nhu 
has maneuvered himself into commending position, 

US Government cannot tolerate situation in which power 
lies in Nhu's hands. Diem must be given chance to rid himself 
of Nhu and his coterie and replace them with best military and 
political personalities available. 

If, in spite of all your efforts, Diem remains obdurate 
and refuses, then we must face the possibility that Diem 
himself cannot be preserved. 2l/ 

Lodge was instructed to tell the GWI the U.S. could not accept the 
actions against the Buddhists and that prompt dramatic steps to redress 
the situation must be taken. The key military leaders were to be 
privately informed that, 

... US would find it impossible to continue support 
GVK militarily and economically unless above steps are taken 
immediately which we recognize requires removal of Nhus 
from the scene. ¥e wish give Diem reasonable opportunity 
to remove Nhus, but if he remains obdurate, then we are 
prepared to accept the obvious implication that we can no 
longer support Diem. You may also tell appropriate military 
commanders we will give them direct support in any interim 
period of breakdown central goverrmient mechanism. 22/ 

Finally, the message recognized the need to publicly exonerate the array 
from the raids and asked Lodge to approve a VOA broadcast to that effect. 
Lodge was requested, as v/ell, to survey urgently for alternative leader- 

Clearance of the draft message was complicated by the coincident 
week-end absence from Washington of most of the top level members of 
the Administration. The President was in Hyannis Port; Rusk was in 
New York; and McHamara and McCone were away on vacation. Both the 

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President and the Secretary of State vere reached_, however, and approved 
the draft. Deputy Secretary of Defense Eosvell Gilpatric approved for 
Defense, and General Taylor for the JCS. Schlesinger, in his account 
of the incident, suggests that the cable was hasty and ill-considered, 
and that the President iimnediately began to back avay frora it. 23/ 

Lodge replied the follo-^-ring day endorsing the strong position but 
proposing to forego a futile approach to Diem axid to state our position 
instead only to the generals, thus thromng all our weight behind a 
coup. The cable stated: 

Believe that chances of Diera's meeting our demands are 
virtually nil. At the same time, by making them we give 
Nhu chance to forestall or block action by military. Pdsk, 
we believe, is not worth taking, with llhu in control combat 
forces Saigon. Therefore, propose we go straight to Generals 
with our demands, without informing Diem. Would tell them 
ve prepared have Diem without Hhus but it is in effect up 
to them vrhether to keep him. 2^/ 

Hilsman asserts that the cable also reflected Lodge's view that since 
our disapproval of GW action was well known, it was not fitting for the 
U.S. to go to Diem, it was Diem who should come to us, 25_/ 

In a separate CAS cable the same day, Richardson, the CIA Chief of 
Station in Saigon, reported that at a meeting \rith Lodge and Harkins it 
. had been agreed that Diem would not remove IThu and that therefore, 
assuming State's cable of instructions on 2^1- August (Appendix) represented 
Washington's basic policy, the consensus was that contact should be 
immediately made with generals such as Minh and Khanh to assess the 
degree of unity and determination of senior officers. Minh was considered 
the best possible interim leader, with Vice President Tho as the most 
attractive candidate for President among the civilians. The cable con- 
cluded with the vievT- that a junta would probably operate behind the 
scenes in the event of a successful coup, and that the U.S. should 
leave the specific tactics of a coup up to the generals. 26 / There is 
a hiatus in the available cable traffic at this point, but Hilsman 
indicates that Washington decided on Sunday, August 25, to defer a 
direct approach to Diem until more vras kno'vm about the situation. 27/ 

i- In Lodge's reply, he had also apparently approved the proposed VGA 

broadcast to exonerate the army. Hilsman briefed the press on the basis 
of a previously approved draft statement on August 25. The statement 
expressed strong U.S. disapproval of the raids, which vrere attributed to 
Nhu. In reporting the story, the press speculated that such a strong 
statement probably indicated that measures such as aid suspension were 
being considered, VGA had been instructed to bi'oadcast only the sub- 
stances of the U.S. statement as provided in the press guidance and 
nothing more. The instructions somehow got mislaid, and on Monday 
morning, August 26, just several hours before Lodge was to present his 
credentials to Diem, VGA broadcast in full a UPI story which flatly 

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asserted that "the US may sharply reduce Its aid to Vietna;ni unless 
President Diem gets rid of secret police responsible for the 
attacks/' 28/ Lodge was understandably upset^ and sent a testy cable 
rhetorically inquiring whether he really was in charge of tactics as he 
had oeen given to understand. 29/ Rusk sent a personal cable of apology 
to Lodge ^ and VGA promptly broadcast a denial of U.S. intent to cut aid_^ 
but the initial dejnage had been done. 

The Vietnamese reaction to the attack on the pagodas during this 
time had been dramatic. In the United States^ time. Khu's father and 
mother^ respectively the Vietnamese Anibassador to the U.S. and the 
Vietnamese observer at the UIT^ had both resigned^ making bitter public 
statements denouncing the raids. In South Vietnam^ the Foreign Minister^ 
Vo Van Mau^ had resigned and shaved his head like a Buddhist monk in 
protest. On August 23^ students at the faculties of medicine and 
pharmacy at the University of Saigon turned out to stage mass demon stra- 
tions on behalf of the Buddhists. The GVIT reacted in the only way it 
seemed to loiow, with massive arrests. But the demonstrations continued^ 
and when the university vras closed_, the protest was talcen up by high 
school and junior high school students. These were dramatic evidences 
indeed of the degree of disaffection with the regime^ since most of these 
students were from the middle class families that formed the bureaucracy 
and the army leadership. Students in Vietnam had no substantial record . 
of political activism as was the case with their coujiterparts In other 
parts of Asia^ like Korea. Furthermore^ some of the Buddhist leadership 
had survived the raids and gone underground and vrere soon passing out 
leaflets on the streets again. On the day of the raids, two monks had 
taken refuge in the USQM building next door to Xa Loi pagoda. The 
following day^ three others, including the militant young leader Tich 
Tri Quang, took refuge in the U.S. Embassy, where they were warmly 
received by Lodge and remained until the successful November coup. 30 / 

2. Mis -Coup 

^ ^ii -p ■■III ■■iig ■ 1 1 , I 

Rujnors of coup plotting had been a standajrd part of the Saigon scene 
under Diem from the veiy beginning. And there had been several attempts. 
In 1957; an assassin fired at Diem at an up-country fair. In November I960, 
he had narrovrly escaped being overthrown by a military coup by negotiating 
with the dissident officers until loyal reinforcements could be moved 
into Saigon to restore his control. And in I962, two disgruntled Air Force 
pilots had ujisuccessfully bombed and strafed the Gia Long Palace. So, 
when rumors of coup plotting began to gain currency again in the spring 
of 19^3; they vere monitored by the U.S. intelligence community, but not 
given extraordinary prominence or credence. By mid-summer, however, with 
the Buddhist crisis in full bloom, more serious consideration was given 
to the growing nujuber of reports identifying plotters and schemes. 31/ 
One plot, identified in late June, was led by Dr. Tran Kim Tuyen, Diem's 
Director of Political and Social Studies (national intelligence). 32/ 
It involved elements of the Civic Action Ministry, the Information 
Ministry, the Secret Policy and som^e junior army officers. A sepaj:'ate 
plot involving other elements of the army was reported, and on July 8 

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..- ^ General Don indicated to a CAS officer that there was support among 

all but a couple of generals for a coup, 33/ 3^Ihu*s July 11 meeting with 
the generals^ hovrever^ seeBied to disorient their efforts temporarily. 
In an August l4 memorandum^ the CIA acknowledged some military support 
for a coup^ but doubted theit anyone would risk it unless a deterioration 
of the political situation threatened a Viet Cong victory. 3^ / The 
pagoda attack was just such a deterioration and it precipitated the 
generals^ first approach to the U.S. on August 23 about a coup. 

With State's instructions of 2h August as guidance^ Lodge met with 
Harkins^ Truehart_, Mecklin^ and Richardson on the morning of August 26 
before presenting his credentials to Diem. They decided that the 
official U.S. hand should not show — i.e.^ Earkins should not talk to 
the generals. It was agreed that Lt, Colonel Conein of the CIA would con- 
tact General Khiem^ and I4r. Spera (also of CIA) would contact General 
Khanh^ II Corps commander in Pleiku^ conveying the following points to 

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

b. We in agreement Khus must go,. 

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

d. Bonzes and other arrestees must be released 
immediately and five -point agreement of l6 June be fully 
carried out. 

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

f . We cannot be of any help during initial action of 
assuming power of the state. Entirely their o^ra action^ 
win or lose. DonH- expect to be bailed out. 

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

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

i. It is hoped that during process and after^ develop- 
ments conducted in such manner as to retain and increase the 
necessary relations between Vietnamese and Americans which 
will allow for progress of countr;^'- and successful prosecution 
of the war. 35^/ 

Conein met with Khiem on August 27^ and after conveying his message 
learned that Minh was the leader of the cabal^ which included also 
Generals Kim^ Khanh^ Thieu^ and Le. Don vras aware of the plot and 
approved_, but vras too exposed to participate. General Minh was under 
surveillance^ and had asked not to be contacted by the U.S. Khiem 
recognized the need to neutralize General Cao^ the IV Corps commander^ 
General Dinh^ the III Corps and Saigon Area commander^ and Colonel 
Tung. 36/ A separate CAS report indicated that General Kim had charge 
of plans for the provisional successor government v/hich would include 
^^ both civilians and military^ with Minh as President. 37 / 

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Mesxivhile^ back in Vashington^ by the time the NSC met on Monday 
morning^ August 26^ misgivings about £:)up,portlng a coiip -~. chG polloy out- 
lined in State's August 2h message — had developed. Hilsman's account 
credits IIcNamara^ Taylor, and McCone with second thoughts. 38/ Tfliatever 
the outcome of Monday's meeting, another was held the next day, after 
which Lodge was cabled for more details about the coup plans, and an 
assessment of their chances of success. 39/ Reflecting the reservations 
in Washington, the message asked what effect delaying the coup would 
have , 

Replying the following day. Lodge gave a favorable assessment of 
coup prospects; expressed confidence in the generals who v^ere to lead 
it, especially Minh, Khanh, and Kim; and argued, ''that chances of 
success would be diminished by delay/' ko/ A ca"^le from Harkins to 
Taylor on the same day is the first documentary indication of Harkins' 
reservations about supporting the coup attempt. Cryptically, Earkins 
indicated that he would offer his full support to the Ambassador in 
implementing State's instructions, but noted that, ^'Reference b. (CINCPAC 
250lt.562 Aug 1963) a dvises me that reference a. (State 2k3) embodies 
CINCPAC opinion and that my sup port had been volunteered ." kl/ He would 
have preferred one last attempt to persuade Diem to dispense vdth Nhu. 
Furthermore, the line-up of forces did not indicate a clear-cut advantage 
for the coup plotters. Therefore, he stated, "In my opinion as things 
stand now I don't believe there is sufficient reason for a crash approval 
on our part at this time." k2/ He also had concluded that the coup would 
not take place until we gave the word. In a separate message, Richardson, 
however, described the situation as having "reached the point of no 
return." 43/ Further, he concluded, "Unless the generals are neutralized 
before being able to launch their operation, vre believe they \7ill act and 
that they have good chance to -vrln." kk/ 

In Washington, State and Defense were divided on the issue. Nolting, 
who was regularly attending the daily RSC meetings at the President's 
request, sided \rlth the Pentagon in the view that prospects for the coup 
were not good, and that another effort should be made vrith Diem. Hilsraan, 
Harriman, and Ball were convinced the U.S. had to get on with the coup, 
since Diem offered no prospect of complying the U.S. wishes, k^/ The 
discussions in the NSC^ reportedly, were increasingly heated and testy. h6 / 
The division of opinion between Harkins and Lodge concerned the President 
and upon receipt of their respective messages on August 28, he cabled 
each of them separately for their "independent judgment" about the 
prospects for a coup and their personal advice on the course the U.S. 
should pursue. The President was at pains to reiterate his great con- 
fidence in both men, and to assure them that differences of opinion in 
Washington would not prevent the U.S. governi'aent from acting as a unit 
under his direction. Vf/ In a separate message. State asked Lodge to 
indicate the latest point at which the operation could be suspended, 
and with what consequences; since U.S. prestige v/ould be engaged in the 
venture, the mtessage stated, once the coup were under way, it had to 
succeed. 1^8/ Lodge was also asked what actions the U.S. might take to 
promote the cou.p. 

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; On August 29^ Colonel Conein and Mr, Spera met with Generals KMem 
and Minh, Minh bluntly said that the generals had to be cautious until 
they had clear evidence that the U.S. vould not betray them to Nhu. They 
vere unwilling to discuss their plans^ and vhen asked what vould con- 
stitute a sign of U.S. support^ replied that the U.S. should stop economic 
aid to the regime. k3j In a subsequent separate contact vrith Rufus 
Phillips^ General Kim asked for verification that the Minh-Conein meeting 
had Lodgers approval. After checking with Lodge^ Phillips assured Kim 
who then asked for a meeting to discuss planning on the next day. Lodge 
then authorized CAS to assist in tactical planning. 50/ 

Stressing the generals' reported lack of confidence in U.S. support, 
Lodge's reply to V?ashington asked Presidential permission for Harkins to 
show CAS messages to the generals to prove our con-imitment. If that failed, 
he reluctantly recommended suspension of economic aid as they requested. 
Typical of the Ambassador's all-out support for the coup is the following 
suxamary he gave of the U.S. position: 

Xfe are launched on a course frorfl which there is no 
respectable turning back: The overthrow of the Diem Govern- 
ment. There is no turning back in part because US prestige is 
already publicly committed to this end in large measure and 
■v/ill become more so as facts leak out. In a more fundamental 
sense, there is no turning back because there is no possibility, 
in my view, that the war can be won under a Diem administra- 
tion, still less that Diem or any member of the family can 
govern the country in a way to gain the support of the people 
' ' who count, i.e., the educated class in and out of government 

service, civil and military -- not to mention the American 
people. 51/ 

Harkins, on the other hand, felt that there was still time to make 
one last approach to Diem, without endemgering the plotters, since their 
plans did not appear fully mature yet. Diem should be handed an ultimatum 
that the IJhus must go. This, he felt, would strengthen the hand of the 
generals whose opposition, like ours, was to the Nhus, not Diem. If Diem 
did not, there would then be time to back a move by the generals. 52/ 

These views were all revievred at the noon meeting of the ITSC on 
August 29. At the meeting, McNamara backed Harkins' view in favor of a 

u final approach to Diem, but the issue vfas not decided. 53/ Rusk took 

up the question in a subsequent cable to Lodge, asking Lodge's opinion 

' about an approach to Diem, possibly by the generals at a time when they 

vould be ready to act, in vAich they would insist on the removal of the 
Nhus, and threaten withdrawal of U.S. support. ^1 A separate State 
cable to Lodge and Harkins authorized the latter to show CAS cables to 
the generals to prove our support. Harkins was instructed to insist on 
kno^Ting the personnel involved in the coup, and the forces available, and 
to ask to review the detailed plans, without, however, directly invo]ving 
himself in the coup planning. Lodge was authorized to suspend aid to 
Diem, "at a time and under conditions of your choice." _55/ 

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In his response to Rusk's cable^ Lodge stoutly opposed any further 
contact \T±±h Diem^ even to present an ultimatum. Agreeing that removal 
of the IJhus vas the prime objective, Lodge argued, "This surely cannot 
be done by working tlirough Diem, In fact. Diem vrlll oppose it. He 
wishes he had more Tlhus, not less. The best chance of doing it is by the 
generals taking over the goverxmient lock, stock and barrel. After this 
has been done, it can then be decided whether to put Diem back in again 
or go on -vrithout him." 56/ What genuinely concerned Lodge at that point 
was the lack of action by the generals, but he was reluctant to use the 
aid suspension as a lever. 

Throughout this period, another CAS officer had been in contact 
with a Colonel Thao^ an inspector of strategic ha^nlets, who \ras the 
leader of an independent junior officer-civilian plot. On August 30, 
he told the CAS officer that he was in touch >ri- th the generals, and vrould 
support any move they might make, but that for the moment the plans of 
his group had stopped because the risk of failure was too great. 57/ 

VJith Lodge's anxiety at the generals' failure to act increasing 
daily, General Harkins met with General Khiem on August 3I. He V7as told^ 
that Minh had called off the coup for the time being because of the 
inability to achieve a favorable balance of forces in the Saigon area, 
and because of continuing anxiety among the generals about Richardson's 
close identification with the Ilhus. 58/ Both Richardson and Lodge con- 
firmed the end of this coup attempt on the same day. 59/ Apparently 
unable to win over G-eneral Dinh, the Saigon III Corps area commander, 
I J Minh had decided not to risk an indecisive, protracted blood bath with 

only a slim likelihood .of success. Three factors appear to have been 
important in Minh's decision to abort the coup: (l) the failure to win 
over Linh, leaving the coup forces at a tactical disadvantage in the 
Saigon area; (2) continuing doubts about the firauiess of the U.S. com- 
ma tment to Diem's overthrow and the related concern that the U.S. had 
wittingly or unwittingly tipped off Whu to the plot; and (3) ujicertainty 
about the cohesion of the coup group and the firmness of plans. Lodge 
concluded somewhat bitterly, "... there is neither the will nor the 
organization among the generals to accomplish anything," 60/ He did not, 
however, rule out a future attempt. 

3. Toward a Hew Policy 

Having at long last decided to seek an alternative to the Piem 
regime by sanctioning a coup, only to have the attempt fail, the U.S. 
found itself at the end of August I963 vrithout a policy and with most 
of its bridges burned. In both Saigon and Washington, the reappraisal 
and the search for alternatives began anew. In the cable acknowledging 
the demise of the coup plot on August 31^ Lodge suggested that: 

Perhaps an arrangement could be worked out whereby 
the follovring could be made to happen: Madame Nhu to 
leave the country, Mr. IJhu's functions to be limited 

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entirely to strategic hamlets; the office of Prime 
' Minister to be created and Mr. Thiian to become Prime 

Minister; Archbishop Thuc to leave the country. In 
addition^ the students and Buddhists vrould be libera.ted; 
Decree Lbm 10 vrould be repealed; the pagodas vould be 
repaired and conciliatory gestures vould be made. All 
of this^ if agreed to^ might be annoujiced by President 
in Washington, ol/ 

These suggestions became the basis of discussion of a "where do \re go 
from here" NSC meeting on the same day. 

In the absence of the President^ Secretary Pusk chaired the meeting 
at the State Department^ and called for consideration of the Lodge 
proposals^ but said he felt it was unrealistic to start off by asserting 
that Nhu must go. 62/ Secretary McNamara urged that \re "establish 
quickly and firmly our line of communication betvreen Lodge^ Harkins and 
the GW." He pointed out that "at the moment our channels of communica- 
tion are essentially broken" and that "they should be reinstituted at 
all costs." 63/ These considerations were soon submerged, however, in 
a broader discussion of the negative impact of the regime's actions on 
the vmr effort., supported by State's Kattenburg of the Vietnam 
Working Group, argued that we should not continue our support of a Nhu- 
dominated regime because its repressive policies would eventually have 
a disastrous effect on the war, even if the statistics did not yet reveal 
their negative impact. Gk / Hilsman and Kattenburg pointed to the growing 
^ disaffection and restiveness of middle level bureaucrats and military 

officers as a factor which would steadily erode the military effort. 65/ 
Unconvinced, both Secretary KcNamara and General Taylor asked for evidence 
of this development. 

Kattenburg offered his estim-ate that we would be throvm out of the 
country in six months if the regime remained in power and that the 
question the meeting should be considering was "the decision to get out , 
honorably." 66 / Taylor and Ifolting immediately took exception to these 
views and Secretary Rusk remarked that they were "largely speculative." 67 / 
He continued, "that it would be far better for us to start on the firm 
basis of two things -- that vre will not pull out of Vietnam until the war 
is won, and that we will not run a coup." 68/ Secretary McNamara and 
Vice President Johnson supported Rusk's views, the Vice President saying 
he had never really seen an alternative to Diem. The meeting ended incon- 
clusively; the only decision taken was to ask for Lodge's advice. 

As the only documented meeting during this period of major policy 
deliberation, the August 3I meeting is significant for the viewpoints 
it revea^ls. Rambling inability to focus the problem, indeed to reach 
coimuon agreement on the nature of the problem, reflects disorientation 
in the aftermath of the initial failure. More importantly, hovrever, the 
meeting is the first recorded occasion in which someone followed to its 
logical conclusion the nega^tive analysis of the situation — i.e., that 
the wejT could not be won vrith the Diem regime, yet its removal would 


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leave such political instability as to foreclose success in the var: 
for the first tinie^ it vas recognized that the U.S. should be consider- 
ing methods of honorably disengaging itself from an irretrievable situa- 
tion. The other alternative^ not fully appreciated until the year 
following^ was a much greater U.S. involvement in and assumption of 
responsibility for the vrar. At this pointy however^ the negative 
analysis of the impact of the political situs-tion on the var effort vas 
not shared by McITamara^ Taylor, Krulak, nor seemingly by Rusk. 

But discussions vere overtaken by events. On the following Monday, 
September 2, the President, appearing on the initial broadcast of the 
CBS Evening News, vas intervievred by Walter Cronkite: 

I-lr. Cronlcite . Mr. President, the only hot var vreWe got 
runjiing at the moment is of course the one in Viet -Nam, and 
ve have our difficulties here, quite obviously. 

President Kennedy . I don't think that unless a greater 
effort is made by the Government to vin popular* support that 
the var can be von out there. In the final analysis, it is 
their var. They are the ones vho have to vrin it or lose it. 
¥e can help them, ve can give them equipment, ve can send 
ouj" men out there as advisers, but they have to -vrin it — 
the people of Viet -Nam — against the Communists, We are 
prepared to continue to assist them, but I don't think 
that the var can be von unless the people support the 
effort, and, in my opinion, in the last tvo months the 
Government has gotten out of touch vith the people. 

The repressions against the Buddhists, vre felt, 
vere very unvlse. I\Iov all ve can do is to make it very 
clear that ve don't think this is the vay to vin. It is 
my hope, that this vill become increasingly obvious to 
the Government, that they mil take steps to try to 
bring back popular support for this very essential struggle. 

Mr. Cronkite . Do you thinli this Government has time 
to regain the support of the people? 

President Kennedy . I do. With changes in policy and 
perhaps vith personnel, I think it can. If it doesn't 
make those cha^nges, I vould think that the chances of 
winning it vould not be very good. G^l 

Confronted by the necessity of public comment, the President had spoken 
boldly and forthrightly. The President's call for changes of policy and 
personnel patently conveyed the message that the Buddhist repressions 
must end, and the Uhus must go. Later in the same interviev, hovrever, 
the President had said, "... I don't agree vrith those who say ve 
should withdraw. That would be a great mistake." Jo/ As Hilsman sum- 
marized it later. 

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( ) We had emba,rked on a policy that avoided the 

extremes both of withdravriiiig from Vietnam or of actually 
taking part in direct action to change the Government. 
The policy vas one of trying to discriniinate by con- 
tinuing to support those Vietnamese who were struggling 
against the Coimnunists but maintaining the tension of 
our disapproval of Diem*s and Iftiu's repressive policies, Jl/ 

It vraSj in effect^ the policy Lodge had proposed. 

Meanvhile in Saigon^ Lodge had gone ahead vith his proposals. 
He continued to avoid any official contact vith Diem^ but on September 2 
he had his second meeting with I-rhu (the first on August 27 was an incon- 
clusive statement of positions on each side 72/) in company with the 
Italian Ambassador and the Papal Delegate. Nhu^ perhaps encouraged by 
a collateral intercession of the French Ajnbassador, announced he intended 
to resign from the government for good and retire to Dalat. 73/ ' A GVN 
announcement would state that the progress of the program against the 
Viet Cong permitted his departure. I-!me. Nhu was to leave Vietnam for 
a trip to Yugoslavia^ Italy^ and possibly the U.S. The Papal Delegate 
vould arrange for Archbishop Thuc to leave the country. Some measures 
to ease Buddhist tensions would be taken and^ as a public relations 
gesture, a prime minister would be appointed. These vrere all proposals 
which Lodge had initially advanced. But as the days passed_, nothing 
happened and Lodge grew impatient. Contributing to his concern were 
^- the frequent and often contradictory ruraors that Nhu was secretly 

dealing with Hanoi and/or the VC through the French and the Polish 
Ambassadors, both of whose governments favored a neutralist solution 
between North and South Vietnsjn, 7^/ 

For the remainder of the week, the Italian Ambassador and the 
Papal Delegate urged Ilhu to act on his promises to Lodge. On Friday, 
September 6, after they had stressed the urgency for action created by 
Senator Church's rumored aid-suspension resolution, Nhu went into a 
tirade and said he would not consider leaving the country. He did, 
however, say he vrauld "formally" resign. 75/ On the following day, the 
Papal Delegate, who had condemned Archbishop Thuc's activity to the 
Vatican 8Jid received the Pope's support, got Thuc out of the country. 'j6/ 
I'&Le. Khu left the co'ontry for Europe on September 9- ^^e arrests of "" 
students by the regime, however, continued and stories of torture and 
atrocities began to circulate. 

In Washington, the NSC met on September 6 and renewed the discussion 
of reopening "tough negotiations" mth Diem, 77 / Lodge, of course, 
opposed this while continuing his dialogue with Nhu. But others at the 
meeting (presumably including McNamara on the basis of his views at the 
August 31 meeting) urged that Lodge be instructed to make another 
approach to Diem. Lodge was accordingly instructed to clarify for Diem 
the U.S. position and explain the difficult position his policy placed 
us in \rl±h respect to U.S. and vrorld opinion. 78/ 

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Perhaps the most important discussion at the meeting was that 
engendered by Robert Kennedy over the fujidaiiiental purpose of the U.S. 
involvement. According to Hilsman^ Robert Kennedy said: 

" As he understood it ve were there to help the people 
resisting a Communist take-over. The first question vras 
whether a Communist take-over could be successfully resisted 
with any government. If it could not^ now was the time to 
get out of Vietnam entirely^ rather than waiting. If the 
answer was that it could^ but not with a Diem-Khu government 
as it was now constituted^ we owed it to the people resisting 
Comraujiism in Vietnam to give Lodge enough sanctions to bring 
changes that would permit successful resistance. But the 
basic question of whether a Coiimiunist take-over could be 
successfully resisted with any government had not been 
answered^ and he was not sure that anyone had enough informa- 
tion to ansvrer it. 79/ 

Kennedy's trenchant analysis^ however^ did not generate a searching 
reappraisal of U.S. policy. It did stimulate further efforts to get 
more information on the situation. McNemara proposed sending General 
Krulak on an immediate fact-finding trip. It was agreed that a senior 
Foreign Service Officer vrith Vietnam experience _, Joseph Mendenhall^ 
would accompany him^ and that they would bring John Ilecklin^ the USIS 
director^ and Rufus Phillips, the director of rural programs for USOM^ 
back with them to report. 80/ Krulak and Mendenhall left later that 
day. State_, for its part, sent Saigon a long comprehensive cable of 
questions on Vietnamese attitudes at all levels of society. 81/ 

The purpose of the Krulak -Mendenhall mission was to assess, in 
Krulak' s words, "the effect of recent events upon the attitudes of the 
Vietnamese in general, and upon the war effort against the Viet Cong." 82/ 
In a whirlwind four-day trip, the two men visited throughout Vietnam s^d 
returned to Washington to report. Krulak went to ten different locations 
in all four corps areas and spoke with the Ambassador, General Plarkins 
and his staff, 87 U.S. advisors, and 22 Vietnamese officers. 83/ 
Mendenhall went to Saigon, Hue, Da ITang, and several other provincial 
cities and talked primarily to old Vietnamese friends. Not surprisingly, 
their estimates of the situation were almost completely opposite. 


. ' The NSC convened on the morning of September 10, immediately after 

I their return, to hear their reports. Krulak gave a very optimistic 

J appraisal of the progress of the war and discounted the effect of the 

political crisis on the amy. The following, in his ovm words, were 
his general conclusions: ■ s . 

The shooting war is still going aJiead at an impressive 
pace. It has been affected adversely by the political 
crisis, but the impact is not great. 

There is a lot of war left to fight, particularly in 
the Delta, where the Viet Cong remain strong. 

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Vietnamese officers of all ranlis are well aware of the ^ 

Buddhist issue. Most have viewed it in detachment and have not 
permitted religious differences significantly to affect their 
internal military relationship. 

Vietnamese military commanders, at the various echelons, 
are obedient and could be expected to execute any order 
j they view as lavrful. 

The U.S. /Vietnamese military relationship has not been 
damaged by the political crisis, in any significant degree. 

There is som.e dissatisfaction, among Vietnamese officers, 
with the national administration. It is focused far more on ITgo 
Dinh Nhu than on President Diem. Nhu's departure would be 
hailed, but few officers would extend their necks to bring it 

Excluding the very serious political and military factors 
external to Vietnam, the Viet Cong war will be won if the 
current U.S. militaiy and sociological programs are pursued, 
irrespective of the grave defects in the ruling regime. 

Improvements in the quality of the Vietnamese Govern- 
ment are not going to be brought about by leverage applied 
^ through the military. They do not have much^ and will 

probably not use what they have. 84/ 

This sanguine view of the situation was forcefully disputed by Ilendenhall. 
He argued that the disaffection with the regime had reached the point 
where a breaicdo^-m of civil government was threatened, and the possibility 
of a religious civil war could not be excluded. The war could not be 
won with the present regime, he concluded. 85/ The polar opposition of 
these two reports prompted Kennedy's now famous query, "lou two did 
visit the same country, didn't you?*' 86/ 

The critical failure of both reports was to understand the funda- 
mental political role that the array was coming to play in Vietnam. It 
was the only potential force with sufficient power to constitute an 
alternative to Diem. Diem and Nhu fully understood this fact, and had 
coped with it by usurping the prerogative of senior officer promotion, 
and basing those promotions on loyalty to the palace. This had sown deep 
seeds of distrust among the senior military men, and fragmented their 
potential power. Krulak failed to see that once the internal political 

\ |- situation deteriorated to the point where massive disaffection with the 

regime threatened a communist victory, the generals would unite and 
plunge into politics out of coirimon necessity. But more importantly^ 
neither Krulak nor Mendenhall seemed to anticipate that, if the army 
achieved power, the divisive effect of Diem's preferential promotion 
policies vrould svirface in an internal army power struggle. Nor did 
they fully understand the negative effect on the war effort this pre- 

' ' occupation with politics among the generals would have. 

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ITolting took issue with r!!endenhall* s appraisal^ noting that 
Mendenhall had been pessimistic about prospects in Vietnam for several 
years. But Johin Mecklin^ the USIS director^ corroborated Ilendenhall's 
viev^ and pushed it even further^ saving that the U.S. should apply 
.direct pressure^ such as suspension of non-military aid^ to bring about 
a change of government. In Mecklin^s vords: 

This would unavoidably be dangerous. There was no way 
to be sure hov/ events would develop. It \ms possible^ for 
example^ that the Vietnamese forces might fragment into 
warring factions^ or that the new government would be so 
incompetent and/or unstable that the effort against the 
Viet Cong would collapse. The US should therefore resolve 
now to introduce /^erican combat forces if necessary to 
present a Communist triumph midst the debris of the Diem 
regime . 87/ 

Mecklin appreciated the potential for instability inherent in any army 
successor regime that ICrulak and Ilendenhall had not seen. But he^ 
nevertheless^ concluded that we should proceed to bring about a chsxige 
of government^ accept the consequences, and contemplate the introduction 
of U.S. combsA troops to staye off a Viet Cong victory. 

The meeting went- on to hear Rufus Phillips^ dour report on the 
situation in the Delta, and his doubts about the validity of Krulak's 
-— ^^ optimistic outlook on the military situation. 88 / Phillips argued that 

this was primarily a political contest for the allegiance of people, not 
a military war, and that the Diem regime was losing it. The Strategic 
Hamlet Program was a shambles in the field, especially in the Delta. 
The meeting ended on this note and no decisions were made. 

One course of action being given increasing consideration in these 
meetings, as well as in Saigon and on Capitol Hill, was a suspension of 
non-military aid to Diem. After the erroneous VOA announcement of aid 
suspension on August 26, Lodge had teen authorized on August 29, as 
already noted, to suspend aid at his discretion if it would facilitate 
the coup. Lodge had been relucta^nt to do so. The question had been 
raised again in a joint State/i'JD cable to Lodge on September 3 which 
listed the items currently up for approval or renewal. 89/ Lodge "vras 
informed that all approval for non-military aid vrould be temporarily 
held up but that no suspension was to be announced, since such a policy 
decision was still pending. Lodge took advantage of this by having the 
mission, and especially USOM, reply to all GVM inquiries about the . 
status of the aid renewals or approvals that President Diem would have 
to talk to Lodge about it. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate began to put 
pressure on the Administration to do something about Diem. Hilsman was 
badgered by the Senate Subcommittee on the Far East, and there were 
threats of further cuts in the AID bill if something wasn't done. 
Senator Church informed the Administration he intended to introduce soon 
a resolution condemning Diem's repressions against the Buddhists and 
x--^ calling for an end of aid to South Vietnam unless they were abandoned. 

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He agreed to delay its introduction temporarily so as not to embarrass 
the Administration, 90/ 

The idea of a selective aid suspension to goad Diem into action was 
actively discussed at State during the KrulaJc-Mendenhall mission^ and 
later John Mecklin had specifically suggested it to the NSC. 91/ On 
September 8^ AID Director David Bell warned in a TV interview that the 
Congress might cut aid to South Vietnam if the Diean government did not 
change its policies. 92/ On Monday _, September 9^ however^ the President^ 
in a TV interview for the new Huntley --Brinkley Nevrs^ said^ "I don't 
think ve think that (a reduction of U.S. aid to South Vietnam) v/ould be 
helpful at this time." 93/ On September 11^ the day after the President 
received the KrulaJi-LIendenhall reports^ Lodge reversed his previous 
position^ and in a long cable proposed that detailed consideration be 
given to ^^ays in which non -military aid suspension might be used as a 
sanction to topple the government, ^k/ He had concluded we could not 
get satisfaction from Diem^ and had to face up to the unpleasant task 
of forcing events. This view \ras reinforced the next day in a long series 
of cables replying to State's September 7 request for a comprehensive 
evaluation of South Vietnamese attitudes. 95/ 

Lodge's proposal^ and a proposal by Hilsman for a combined set of 
public and private measures to bring pressure on Diera^ formed the basis 
of a White House meeting on September 11, 96/ On the follovang day^ 
Senator Church was given the green light and introduced his resolution. 
On September ll|-^ Lodge was informed that approval of the $l8.5 million 
remainder of the coinraercial import program (the principal piastre support, 
anti -inflation aid device) was deferred until basic U.S. policy decisions 
had been made. 97/ The decision on aid suspension was now absorbed into 
> the broader consideration of a set of coordinated measures to put pressure 
on the GVIT. 

^Throughout September, the division of opinion within the U.S. 
mission in Saigon had grown sharper and sharper. Harkins, Richardson, 
and to a lesser extent Brent (Director of USOIl), did not believe that 
the Diem government's bungling of the Buddhist crisis and loss of popular 
support were threatening the war effort, or that the crisis was as serious 
as Lodge, Mecklin, Mendenhall, et al. , portrayed it. In any case, the 
situation was not so irretrievable as to require a U.S. abandonment of 
■ Diem in a risky venture at coup-making tov?ards an unknovrn alternative. 98/ 
The opposite view was held by Lodge, Truehart, I^Iecklin, Phillips, and the 
majority of the junior officers in the mission. By mid-September, the 
debate had reached a shjpill and acrimonious level, as the following 
exceipt from a Harkins' cable to Taylor indicates: 

As everyone else seems to be talking, writing and 
confusing the issue here in Vietnam, it behooves me to also 
get into the act. From most of the reports and articles 
I read, one would say Vietnam and our progra^ns here are 
falling apart at the seams. Well,' I just thoroughly 
disagree. 99/ 

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The situation was of such concern that CIA dispatched a special officer 
to reach an independent evaluation. His conclusion was that ve had 
hastily expended our capability to overthrow the regime^ that an aid 
suspension would not guarantee a constructive result, and that to prevent 
further political fragmentation we should adopt a "business as usual" 
policy to buy time. lOO / Amidst all this internal U.S. dissension, the 
GVN announced on September ik that martial law would end on September 
l6 and that National Assembly elections vrould be held September 27. lOi/ 

In Washington, the NSC convened again September 17 to consider two 
alternative proposals for dealing with Diem prepared by Hilsman. The 
first, which Hilsman and others at State favored, was the "pressures 
and persuasion track," and involved an escalatory ladder of measures 
both public and private, including selective aid suspension, to coerce 
Diem into getting rid of Nhu and tailing steps to restore the political 
situation, 102/ The alternative proposal, the "reconciliation with a 
rehabilitated GVN track," involved a public posture of acquiescence in 
recent GW actions, recognition that Diem and Nhu were inseparable, 
and a decision to salvage as much as possible from a bad situation. 
This, of course, would have involved a reopening of the dialogue with 
Diem, to which Lodge was opposed. Both proposals assumed that for the 
moment a coup was out of the question. 

There are no available records of what transpired in the meeting, 
but two decisions were clearly made. The first was, in effect, to adopt 
Hilsman' s "pressures and persuasion" proposal. The guidance cable to 
Lodge after the meeting however, came from the White House. It stated 
that, ' 

We see no good opportunity for action to remove present 
goveriiment in immediate future; therefore, as your most 
recent message suggests, we must, for the present, apply such 
pressures as are available to secure whatever modest improve- 
ments on the scene may be possible, . . Such a course, more- 
over, is consistent \r±th more drastic effort as and when means 
became available. 103/ 

Lodge was to press for a reduction of Nhu's authority and his departure 
from Saigon, at least temporarily. The cable included a long list of 
other measures for the GW to taJke to redress the political situation and 
gave Lodge complete control over the aid program to enhance his bargaining 

This authorization specifically includes aid actions 
currently held in abeyance and you are authorized to set 
those in train or hold them up further in your discretion. 
We leave entirely in your hands decisions on the degree of 
privacy or publicity you wish to give to this process. 104 / 

There is no evidence on the degree of consensus of the principals in 
this decision. 

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Lodge replied to the ne>7 policy guidance on September 19 in a 
generally negative vein. 10^ / The proposals for specific actions by 
the C-W: had all been previously suggested to Diem without any results, 
and Lodge vas not optimistic about their adoption now. He specifically 
felt that he should not be required to make a futile overture to Diem. 
The ^'Jflbassador 's aloofness was beginning to cause official concern at 
the palace, and he felt he should press views on the Ego family only v/hen 
they initiated the contact. He did not think a public relations effort 
was likely to have any effect on the regime, whose appreciation of 
questions of public si:ipport was virtually nil. Withholding aid was 
another delicate matter that did not offer great prospects of success. 
Lodge was particuarly concerned that such action would impede the war 
effort or damage the economy, but heve no real effect on the regme. 
Ivo doubt recalling the generals* previous request for an aid suspension 
as a sign of U.S. support, Lodge expressed his view that any suspension 
of aid should be timed to coincide with another coup attempt and should 
be used to facilitate it. He was troubled by the opinion expressed by 
both General Minh and Secretary Thuan privately within the previous two 
days that the war was going very badly and the VC were winning. In 
general, he felt that a patient "let them come to me" tactic was more 
likely to have results, unless a real coup possibility emerged, which 
he felt we should back. 

^ • The Mc Namara-Taylor Mission 

The second decision to come out of the September 17 NSC meeting was 
to adopt a suggestion of Secretary L-cNamara for another fact-finding 
mission, this time by himself and General Taylor, Chairman of the JCS. 106/ 

Lodge reacted immediately to the proposed McNamara-Taylor mission, 
pointing out to the President that such a visit would require a call on 
Diem that would be construed by the regime as a retiirn to business as 
usual. 107/ Since he had been consciously pursuing a policy of official 
aloofness, he wondered whether such a high level visit was desirable. 
Furthermore, it coincided with the proposed national Assembly elections 
on September 27 j and could not but be construed as an indication of the 
lack of importance we attached to them. But the President was insistent, 
and Lodge acquiesced, suggesting that the public announcement state that 
Lodge had requested the visit. 103 / After an exchange of alternative 
phraseology, it was agreed that the release would say that the President 
had decided to send the mission after consultation with Lodge. It was so 
announced on September 21. 109/ 

The President's instructions to Mcl'.amara described the purpose of 
the mission in the following terms; 

I am asking you to go because of my desire to have the 
best possible on-the-spot appraisal of the military and 
paramilitary effort to defeat the Viet Cong.... The events 
in South Vietnam, since Hay have now raised serious questions 

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both about the present prospects for success against the Viet 
Cong and still more about the future effectiveness of this 
effort unless there can be ianportant political itnprovement in 
the country. It is in this context that I now need your 
appraisal of the situation. If the prognosis in yo-ur- judgcient 
is not hopeful, I would like your views on what action must be 
telcen by the South Vietnamese Government and what steps our 
Government should take to lead the Vietnamese to that action. 

...I will also expect you to examine with Ambassador Lodge 
ways and means of fashioning all forms of on-r assistance to 
South Vietnam so that it will support our foreign policy ob- 
jectives more precisely. IIO / 

The purpose 5 thus, was fourfold: (l) appraise the war effort; (2) assess 
the impact on that effort of recent political developments; (3) recommend 
a course of action for the GW. and for the U.S.; and (k) examine with 
Lodge ways of tailoring our aid to achieve our foreign policy objectives. 
In a statement to the press at Andrews Air yorce Base just before leaving 
for Vietnam on September 23, Secretary McNamara said that the purpose 
of the trip was^ " determine whether that military effort has been 
adversely affected by the unrest of the past several weeks." Ill / 

Both Schle singer and Hilsman, however , contend that Kennedy sent 
Mci\'3inara and Taylor to Vietnam to convince them of the negative effect 
on the war effort that the protracted political crisis was having, and 
of the necessity of applying sanctions to the Diem regime to bring about 
change. According to this arguraent, the President felt he could not 
afford a major policy rift in the Administration over applying sanctions, 
especially the opposition of the powerful JCS, and concluded that only 
McMamara, if convinced, could bring the military along. 112 / 

Whatever the exact purpose of the trip, the party left Washington 
on September 23 and returned ten days later, on October 2, after an 
exhausting trip and a comprehensive review of the situation. 

The divergent views of the members of the U.S. mission about the 
relative progress of the wax, and the effect on it of the political 
crisis, were exposed immediately in the opening session that McLTamara 
and Taylor held in Saigon with the country team on September 25. General 
riarkins and the MGV staff generally presented a favorable picture of 
the war, emphasizing the progress of the strategic hajnlet program, and 
the generally improved A'^^V1\ position, in spite of recent rises in VC 
initiated incidents and declines in ARVN operations related to the po- 
litical turmoil. 113/ McITamara and Taylor prodded the briefers with 
questions trying to get comparative indicators of the situation over the 
previous tvjo years. McKamara in particular pressed for details about 
the Delta. Lodge's and Iiecklin's reading of recent events, and their 
estimate of v^ar progress, differed sharply from that of General Harkins. 

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Lodge stressed the more political and intangible aspects of the conflict 
and cast doubt on the "hardness*' of the statistical data from m.CY. 
With the Mission's division of opinion exposed and the issues joined, 
McI^Iainara left to tom^ the country. 

His subsequent itinerary took hiiii throughout the country inter- 
viewing Americans and Vietnamese both at headquarters, and in the field. 
In Saigon, in the last few days of the visit, he was given extensive 
briefings by the civilian side of the Mission and, since he stayed with 
Lodge, had atnple opportunity for discussions with the i^jnbassador. 

On September 29, McLiamara, Taylor, Harkins, and Lodge called on Diem, 
after having previously decided against delivery of a stiff letter from 
Kennedy. 11^ / After a two-ho\xr monologue by Diem, MciMamara was finally 
able to stress the U.S. concern that political unrest" was undermining 
the war effort. 11^ / He stressed the problem that repressions were 
creating for President Kennedy because of aroused public opinion. But 
he did not ask for the removal of the i'lhus, a matter Washington had left 
to his and Lodge's discretion. All this seems to have" had little impact ■ 
on Diem, however. Diem had asked Taylor for his appraisal of the war, 
and with the approval of McL'amara, a long letter from Taylor was delivered 
to Diem on October 2. The letter pointedly outlined the major military 
problems in the Delta, warned of the danger to the war effort of the 
political crisis, and listed many of the specific steps needed to improve 
the military effort that subsequently appeared in the report to the 
President. The letter summed up with a terse, tough statement of the 
U.S. view: 

In closing, Mr. President, may I give you my most important 
over-all impression? Up to now, the battle against the Viet 
Cong has seemed endless; no one has been willing to set a date 
for its successful conclusion. After talking to scores of 
officers, Vietnamese and American, I am convinced that the 
Viet Cong insurgency in the north and center can be reduced to 
little more than sporadic incidents by the end of 196U. The 
Delta will take longer but should be completed by the end of 
1905 • But for these predictions to be valid, certain conditions 
must be met. ' Your Government should be prepared to energize 
all agencies, military and civil, to a higher output of activity 
than up to now. Ineffective commanders and province officials 
must be replaced as soon as identified. Finally, there should 
be a restoration of domestic tranquility on the home front if 
political tensions are to be allayed and external criticism is 
to abate. Conditions are needed for the creation of an atmos- 
phere conducive to an effective campaign directed at the objec- 
tive, vital to both of us, of defeating the Viet Cong and of 
restoring peace to your community. II6/ 

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On September 30^ their last day in Vietnain^ Mchaiaara and Tc^ylor, together 
■viith Lodge, met with Vice President Tho. The said that the J. S., after 
Taylor's report in 196lj had responded to the Vietnam situation promptly 
' and efficiently 5 but that recently v.^e had failed to use our strength and 
influence intelligently to prevent the current political deterioration. 11?/ 
But he had no methods to suggest. Later he sharply questioned the success 
of the Strategic Hsonlet Program, and said that increased Viet Cong strength 
had to be attributed to widespread peasant disaffection with the government. 
These views, from the man most often mentioned in U.S. circles as an al- 
ternative to Diem, coming at the end of the visit as they did, must have 
had an important influence on McKamara's conclusions. Later that day the 
party left Vietnam to return home. 

During the briefings for McIIamara, Lodge had raised again his doubts 
about the efficacy of aid suspension as a lever against Diem, but had also 
expressed his concern that the foreign aid bill would be penalized in 
Congress for Diem's repressions. 118/ Lodge reiterated in his cables to 
Washington during the visit his belief that an aid suspension could 
boomerang and alienate the population as well as the regime. 119 / Aware, 
no doubt, that an aid suspension was a potential recommendation of the 
mission. Brent went on record against it, too. 120 / Both views were 
• important because McIIamara and Taylor had been specifically charged by 
the President with examining ways to make our aid serve our foreign policy 
goals, and their briefing papers included a program~by-program considera- 
tion of the impact of aid suspension prepared by AID -Washington. 121. / 

After a one-day stop in Honolulu to prepare their report, McIIamara 
and Taylor arrived back in Washington on October 2 and promptly m^et with 
the President and the KSG. Their report concluded that the "military 
campaign has made great progress and continues to progress." 122 / But 
it warned that the serious political tensions in Saigon and the increas- 
ing uripopularity of Diem, and lihu could abet the then limited restiveness 
of some ARVIT officers and erode the favorable military trends. They 
reported no evidence of a successful coup in the making, and felt that 
U.S. pressure would probably only fiorther harden the regime's attitudes, 
lievertheless, "unless such pressures are exerted, they (Diem-Ehu) are 
almost certain to continue past patterns of behavior." 123/ 

I The report's military recommendations were that General Harkins should 

review the war effort with Diem with a view tovj-ard its successful conclu- 
sion in I, II, and III Corps by the end of 1964 and in the Delta by the 
end of 1965* This would necessitate: (a) a shift in military emphasis and 
strength to the Delta; (b) an increased tempo of military activity 
throughout the country; (c) an emphasis on "clear and hold operations"; 
(d) a consolidation of the Strategic riamlet Program with the emphasis on 
security; and (e) the fleshing out of combat units and better training 
.and arms for the hamlet militia. It \ras further proposed that an anjioujice- 
ment be made of the planned withdrawal of 1,000 U.S. troops by the end of 



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1963 in connection vith a progre.m to train Vietnamese to replace Americans 
in all essential functions by 1965. 

To bring political presstire on the Diem regiirie to end its repressive 
policies 5 the following measures vrere recoimuended: (a) a continued with- 
holding of funds in the coiianodity import program, but without formal 
announcement; (b) suspension of approval of AID loans for the Saigon- 
Cholon Waterworks and the Saigon Electric Power Project; (c) suspension ■ 
of support for Colonel Tung's forces unless they were transferred to the^^ 
field and placed under JGS authority; (d) maintenance of purely ''correct 
relations between the Ambassador and Diem (General Harkins * contact with 
the regime not to be suspended, however). In subsequent evaluations of 
the success of these sanctions, the report stated: 

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


Finally, the report recommended against our actively encouraging a coup, 
although it recommended seeking ^'urgently to identify and^build contacts 
with an alternative leadership if and when it appears." 125/ 

The report is a curiously contradictory document. It was, no doubt, 
a compromise between General Harkins ' view of the war's progress as sup- 
ported by General Taylor, and Secretary McrTamara's growing conviction of 
the gravity of the political crisis and its dire potential for the war 
effort. Its recommendations for aid suspensions and the announcement of 
U.S. troop withdrawals were obviously designed as measures, short of a 
withdrawal of U.S. support, that would create doubt within the Diem regime 
about U.S. intentions and incentives for policy changes. 126/ The fact 
that these sanctions would be seen by the generals as a signal of our 
willingness to accept alternative leadership -- i.e., a coup -- does not 
seem to have figured in the recommendation, however, because elsewhere 
the report specifically rules out U.S. encouragement of "a change of 
government." I27/ This is an important lapse in view of the generals' 
clear statemejit in August that they would regard an aid suspension as a 
coup signal. 

It Nevertheless, the recommendations of the Mission met with swift 

approval at the NSC on October 2, and later that day Secretary McKamara 
made the Presidentially approved statement to the press that included the 
; annoujicement of the 1,000 man troop withdrawal by the end of the year. 128/ 

, The statement reiterated the U.S. commitment to the struggle against in- 
ij' _ surgency and aggression in South Vietnam, noted the progress of the war, 

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armomiced the troop vithdraval, and dissociated the U.S. frora the GW s 
repressive policies. It avoided^ ho^v^ever, any reference to economic 
aid suspensions or other sanctions against the regime ^ thereby giving 
• Diem a chance to come around without a public loss of face. 

On October 5? the President approved the specific military recom- 
mendations of the Mcl^iamara-Taylor report, "but directed, that no formal 
announcement be made of the implementatio n of plans to vrithdra^r ].,000 
U.S. militaj-y personnel by the end of 1963." 129 / The details of how 
the new policy would be applied were spelled out in a long cable to 
Lodge following this meeting. The purpose of the new coirrse of action 
was described at the beginning of the message: 

Actions are designed to indicate to Diem Government ouj: 
displeasure at its political policies and activities ajid to 
i create significant uncertainty in that government and in key 

Vietnaanese groups as to future intentions of United States. 
1 1 -^"t same time^ actions are designed to have at most slight 

impact on military or counterinsurgency effort against Viet 
Cong, at least in short term. 

The recaimnendations on negotiations are concerned with 
what U.S. is after, i.e., GW action to increase effective- 
ness of its military effort; to ensure popular support to 
win w^ar; and to eliminate strains on U.S. Government and 
public confidence. The negotiating posture is designed not 
to lay down specific hard and fast demands or to set a dead- 
line, but to produce movement in Vietnamese Government along 
these lines. In this way we can test and probe effectiveness 
of any actions the GVII actually takes and, at the same time, 
maintain sufficient flexibility to pennit U.S. to resume full 
support of Diem regime at any time U.S. Governjuent deems it 
appropriate. 130/ 

The cable goes on to acknowledge that the proposed sanctions can only be 
applied for 2-^1- months before they begin to adversely affect the military 
effort, and therefore when that begins to happen recognizes that, 
"...further major decisions will be required." 131/ 

The specific actions to be taJkien included: (l) suspension of the 
commodity import program without public announcement; (2) selective 
suspension of PL ISO, on an item-by-item, sometimes monthly, basis, after 
referral to Washington for review; (3) suspension of the loans for the 
Saigon-Cholon Waterworks and the Saigon Electric Power Project; [k) noti- 
fication to txhe GVI^ that financial support of Colonel Tung's forces would 
be contingent on their commitment to field operations under JGS control, 
again without public announcement. Lodge was instructed to maintain his 
policy of "cool correctness in order to make Diem come to you," but to be 

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prepared to re-establish contact later if it did not work. Specifically 
he vas to seek improvements in the GTO military effort , as outlined in 
the McFsmara-Taylor report; in the GTO's internal policies that would 
restore popular confidence; and in the GVirs international (particularly 
American) public rniage and its attitudes and actions toward the U.S. 
Once again^ however , the discussion of this new program of pressures did 
not allude to their impact on the military nor how a coup initiative by 
the generals^ stemming from such measures ^ should be dealt with. 

Thus, the Kennedy Administration, after a long month of searching 
deliberations had made a far-reaching decision on Aanerican policy toward 
South ^ Vietnam. It had chosen to take the difficult and risky path of 
positive pressures against an ally to obtain from hm compliance with 
our policies. To our good fortune, that policy was to be implemented 
by an Ambassador who not only supported it, but was uniquely equipped 
by background and temperament to make it succeed. 

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■-^* The South Vietnamese Situation in October 

Through the month of September the GVIT resorted to police state tactics 
ever more frequently. The regime^ no\! more than ever under Nhu's dominance, 
lifted martial law September 16, but repressions against the Buddhist 
clerg.y continued unabated. Students, dovn to the grade school level, were 
arrested and detained for the most minor of protests. Civil servants came 
under pressure to avoid contact with Americans, and to demonstrate their 
loyalty to the ruling family. Regime-inspired rumors of impending mob 
attacks on U.S. facilities, and assassination lists of prominent Americans 
circulated regularly, l/ Then, on October 5, at noon in the central mar- 
ket place, another Buddhist monk burned himself to death, the first self- 
immolation since the pagoda raids. 2/ 

In this tense atmosphere, elections for the National Assembly were 
held on September 27 after a pro forma one-week campaign. Predictably, 
GYIi candidates won overwhelming victories. The new assembly convened on 
October 7 to hear President Diem's state of the union message. Diem spoke 
mainly of South Vietnam's past and present progress, playing down the 
internal political crisis, and made only scant reference to U.S. assist- 
ance. 3/ As might have been expected, he threvr the blame for the Buddhist 
crisis on the Communists, foreign adventurers, and the Western press. 

On the same day, }Me. Khu arrived in the U.S. a month in Europe 
to begin a three-week speaking tour. She immediately launched into shrill 
denunciations of the Buddhists and of U.S. policy that progressively 
alienated U.S. public opinion. She vras followed around the country by her 
father, the former Ambassador to the United States, however, who acted as 
a one-Dian truth squad revealing the inaccuracies and distortions of her 
statements. The Administration's dignified and temperate reaction further 
discredited her attacks. On October 8, the \JE General Assembly voted to 
send a fact-finding team to South Vietnam to investigate the charges of 
repressions against Buddhists. 

2. The New American Policy ■ . . 

Lodge's immediate reaction to the new policy approach was enthusias- 
tic, "an excellent instruction outlining a. course of action which should 
yield constructive results." h/ With the exception of the aid suspen- 
sion, his views, in essence, had prevailed with both Mcramara and the 
President, the standard public kudos to military progress notwithstand- 
ing. His plan was to allow the suspension of the cormucdity import pro- 
gram, the largest and most important of the economic sanctions, to become 

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evj.dent without making any mention of it, and, by maintaining his aloof- 
ness from official contact, force the regime to come to him. ^ On 
October 7, hov/ever, Lodge expressed some doubts about the real value of 
the political concessions itemized in Staters instructions if oirr real 
goal v/as removal of Nhu, an objective of questionable feasibility under 
the current circumstances. 6/ In view of Hhu's increasing hostility 
to the U.S. presence and influence, Lodge felt a request frctni the regime 
for a U.S. withdrawal was a distinct possibility. 

That same day, the regime's reaction to the aid cut-off hit the 
streets with banner headlines in its mouthpiece, the Times of Vi etnam; 
"USOM Freezes Economic Aid Progratn." ?/ The article accused the U.S. 
of subverting the war effort, and asserted that the cut-off had been 
decided in mid-»September. Such fantastic pressure for petty reforms 
would Jeopardize the entire revolutionary program of the government, it 
concluded. Lodge made no coimuent on the story. 

In mid-October, Lodge was requested to provide Washington with a 
weekly evaluation of the effects, "both positive ajid negative, of the 
new policy. 8/ Lodge's October l6 reply simimarized the situation as 
follows: "So far we appear to be getting virtually no effect from our 
actions under DEPTEL 53^? but we would not have expected effects this 
early." 9/ Other reports indicated that the regime was preparing to 
take a number of belt-tightening measures, including reductions in 
civil service salaries; that Chinese businessmen and bankers had begun 
to get Jittery about currency stability; and that the government was 
planning to draw down its foreign exchange reserves to sustain import 
levels in the face of the U.S. cut-off of CIP funds. lO/ A CIA memo- 
randum concluded that the G^/II reaction to the new U.S. policy, parti- 
cularly the violent anti-U.S. campaign in the Times of Vietnam and the 
surveillance and harassment of Americans and their employees, indicated 
that Diem and Ilhu were preparing for a long fight and were unmoved by 
the new policy. 11/ 

Under Lodge's instructions, General Stillwell (MACV - J-3) met with 
Secretary Thuan on October 1? and informed him of the impending cut-off 
of funds for the Special Forces, both MAP and CIA, unless the three CIA- 
funded companies under Colonel Tung's command were placed under JGS 
control and transferred to the field. 12/ Thuan said he would take 
the matter up with Diem iimnediately. liarkins informed Diem directly of 
this action in a letter on October l8. 13/ General Don and Colonel 
Tung \jere also personally advised of the action, but again no public 
anjiouncement was made. On October 26 it was learned that Tung and JGS 
were vrorking on plans to transfer his Special Forces to the Central 
Highlands, ih/ By then, however, coup plans were well advanced and 
the significance of this transfer must be understood therein. 

Militarily, in October while the GVI; had taken some minor steps in 
line with the McKamara-Taylor reconmiendations (such as agreeing to 

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^ i 

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realign III and IV Corps botindaries to give added emphasis to the Delta 
var), the combat situation continued to vorsen. The tempo of VC attacks^ 
particularly in the Delta, increased; the veapons-loss ratio and casualty 
ratios deteriorated; and C?ll< 'Vrilssing in action" increased. 15/ In 
Washington, further doubt "v^as cast on the optimism of previous reports 
by a controversial State Department research study of October 22. l6/ 
The memorand^om took issue vith encoioraging conclusions about the progress 
of the military cajnpaign derived from statistical trends, pointing out 
important unfavorable trends revealed by the same statistical data. In 
Saigon, MA.CV continued lonsuccess fully to press Diem to take further steps 
to strengthen the war effort. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Mission had been feeling the impact of the new 
policy in internal strains of its own. Hilsman reports that Lodge 
decided early in October that the recall of John Richsrdson, the CIA 
chief in Saigon, would be a useful additional pressure against Nhu because 
they had been closely identified during Ilolting^s ambassadorship, and 
because Richardson was kno^.m to favor a more conciliatory approach to 
the regime. 1? / While there are no cables in the available files to 
confirm it, Hilsman maintains that Lodge sent a private message to the 
President and CIA Director McCone requesting Richardson ^s transfer. The 
President agreed, McCone acquiesced, and Richardson V7as returned to 
Washington on October 5. Whatever other motives may have been involved, 
Richardson had, in fact, been the specific object of an attack in the 
U.S. press on October 2 that had accused him of insubordination and had 
compromised his identity. 18/ It is not surprising under such circum- 
stances that he should have been transferred. Whatever the case, the 
press interpreted his recall as a slap at the regime, as Plilsman suggests 
Lodge wanted. 

This was only an incident in the continuing series of stories by U.S. 
correspondents on divisions within the mission. Lodge's relations with 
the press, however, remained excellent throughout his tour. He con- 
sciously cultivated the U.S. press corps with private luncheons, 
"backgrounders," and occasional leaks, and it paid off for him personally. 
But the. press sharply attacked those in the mission, like Richardson and 
Karkins, with whom they disagreed about U.S. policy. Washington regis- 
tered its concern that these stories, whatever their origin, were dajnag- 
ing to the official posture of unity the U.S. G-overimient was trying to 
maintain in the implementation of a difficu-lt policy toward South Vietnam. I9/ 
But the stories continued, even after the coup. ^ 

In his weekly evaluation of the impact of the new U.S. policy on 
October 23, Lodge was not encouraged by the results to date. "Diem/LThu 
give every appearance of sitting tight and reacting to U.S. pressure with 
counter pressure and implying through public statements that they can go 
it alone." 20/ nevertheless, there were several straws in the wind. 
Secretary Thuan had reported that Diem was worried and that he had in- 
structed Thuan to ask Lodge if Washington had reached any decisions on 

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commercial iraports. Lodge also felt that the regrnie vas heing more care- 
ful about repressive actions. Furthermore, experienced obser~/ers felt 
the U.S. policy was creating favorable conditions for a coup, although 
Lodge did not see anyone seriously considering it. The day after this 
message vas sent, Lodge and his wife were invited by Diem to spend the 
next Sunday (the day after the National Day celebration) with him at his 
villa in Dalat, after visiting an agricult'oral station and a strategic 
hamlet. Lodge promptly accepted. Diem had made the first move. 

Washington instructed Lodge to use the occasion of the trip with 
Diem to test for movement by the GVl^ on any of the U.S. demands. 21/' 
Lodge was to take advantage of any subject of interest that Diem brought 
up to determine both the willingness of the government to make conces- 
sions and the effect of our selective sanctions. If Diem did not provide 
such conversational opportunities, Lodge was to assume the initiative. 
In particular, he was to inquire about changes in the military ca:tnpaign 
that had been recommended by the McI\amara"Taylor mission and subsequently 
pressed by General Harkins; he was to suggest that Diem be cooperative 
to the UI\ investigatory team that had arrived in the country on October 2^, 
and allow them full access to information and people; and he was to inquire 
whether Diem did not think it time to end the bitter anti-American cam- 
paign of the Times of Vietnam and the nhus. 

• Lodge's Sunday with Diem on October 27, the day after the National 
Day celebration, was frustrating in almost all respects. Diem did bring 
up several issues of interest, but gave no indication that he had changed 
his position or his attitude about the Buddliists or the U.S. 22/ He did 
inquire about the suspension of the commercial import program to which 
Lodge inquired in reply about the release of Buddhists and students from 
jail, the reopening of the schools, and the elimination of anti-Buddhist 
discrimination. Diem offered excuses and complaints as usual. Taking 
the initiative, Lodge complained to Diem of the public opinion pressure 
that his policies were placing the President vmder in the U.S. He com-^ 
plained about the physical attacks on U.S. newsmen and about Ifee Nhu's 
inflammatory remarks in the U.S. as examples of the kind of thing Diem 
could prevent that would enhance his public ijnage in the U.S. and the 
world- Lodge describes the end of the conversation in this manner: 

When it was evident that the conversation was practically . 
over, I said: "Mr. President, every single specific suggestion ■ 
which I have made, you have rejected. Isn't there some one 
thing you may think of that is within your capabilities to do 
and that vrould favorably impress U.S. opinion?" As on other 
previous occasions when I asked him similar questions, he gave 
me a blank look and changed the subject. 23/ 

While Lodge saw no movement on the basis of the conversation, he nonethe- 
less suggested that consideration be given in Washington to what we would 

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consider adequate response on Diem's part for a resia^iption of the com- 
mercial import program. The following day, after Lodge had related the 
disappointing results of the conversation to Secretary Thuan over 
luncheon, the latter observed that the U.S. really wasn't asking much 
and that perhaps the conversation with Diem had been a beginning. 2ii-/ 
In retrospect, the comment is ironic, for with the coup only five days 
away, the October 27 conversation \ra.s in reality a pathetic ending not 
a hopeful beginning. 

At one level, attention now turned to Lodge's scheduled trip to 
Washington October 31. The exact purpose of the trip remains a mystery. 
On October 30, he sent a cable to Washington with some suggestions of 
steps by the C-V^T that Uashington might consider adecjuate for resuming 
the commercial jjiiport program under various "conditions, steps which he 
hoped to discuss when he arrived. 25/ However, earlier in October, 
Lodge had sent a private note to ^-IcC-eorge Bundy, asking that the Presi- 
dent make hiia available for a trip to Vietnam to discuss with Lodge a 
matter which Lodge did not feel free to enter into through any electronic, 
communication channel. 26/ Tlie following cryptic reference suggests 
that whatever the mysterious subject Lodge had in mind, it v/as the pur- 
pose for the planned trip to T'Jashlngton at the end of October: 

Regarding my wire, I appreciate your willingness to send 
Bundy. 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 telegrara or letter and requires a chance for me to 
have a dialogue with Rusk and/or Harriman and/or Bundy. I wired 
Bundy because I cannot leave here immediately, but I could come 
for one working day to y."ashington after Vietnamese National Day 
on October 26 and dedication of Vietnamese Atomic Energy Plant 
on October 28, returning here iiiimediately thereafter, and w^ould 
be glad to do it." 27/ 

In order to shorten Lodge's absence from Saigon and to add flexibility to 
his departiore timing, the President dispatched a military aircraft to 
Saigon and left it. at his disposal. But as the October 31 date arrived, 
it coincided -with the momentary anticipation of a move by the generals. 
Lodge, no doubt preferred to remain in control of U.S. actions during a 
coup rather than see Harkins take over, as Washington's instructions for 
his absence stipulated, and so, he postponed his own departure. 

3- Penew-ed Coup Plotting 

While Diem's reaction to the tough new American policy was hostile, 
the senior South Vietnamese generals, predictably, interpreted the ne\r 
policy as a green light for a coup. Plotting was reactivated almost 
immediately, if indeed it had ever been completely dormant. 

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On October 2^ the day the McITa^nara-Taylor mission reported to the 
President, General Don ''accidentally" encountered Lt Colonel Conein, 
the CIA contact man in the August plot, at Tan Son iNhut airport and 
asked him to meet him that night in I\ha Trang. 28/ Truehart approved 
the contact, instructing Conein to neither enco-orage nor discoia^age a 
coup but only to get information. At the meeting. General Don said that 
General Minh wanted to meet vith Conein at 8:00 a.m. on October 5 at 
JGS headquarters at which time Minh would be able to go into the details 
of the generals » plan. Don emphatically stated that there was a plan, 
and that essential to it was the conversion of General Dinh, III Corps 
commander, to the cause. 

So, with Lodge's approval, Conein met General Minh on October 5- 
Getting straight to the point, "General Minh stated that he must know 
American Government's position with respect to a change in the Govern- 
ment of Vietnam within the very near fut-ure." 29/ The goverrMent ' s 
loss of popular support was endangering the whole war effort, which was 
deteriorating rapidly. Ke did not expect any U.S. support, but needed 
assurances the U.S. would not thwart the attempt. Also involved, he 
said, were Generals Don, Khiem and Kim. Of three possible and not 
mutually exclusive plans mentioned by Minh, two involved military action 
against loyal units in Saigon, and one was an assassination plot against 
brothers ]}ihu and Can, but not Diem. Conein remained noncommittal about 
both U.S. support and the various plans. Minh then expressed doubt about 
^ General Khiem whom he suspected of having played a double role in August, 

but indicated that the generals would have to act soon to forestall 
abortive attempts by lower echelon officers. Minh hoped to meet with 
Conein in the near future to go over the detailed plan of operations. 
Conein was again noncommittal and Minh said he understood. 

Lodge, with Hark in s * concurrence, recommended that when Minh, about 
whom he was now dubious after his August experience, approached Conein 
again, he be told: (l) that the U.S. would not thwart his plans; (2) that 
we would be willing to review his plans, except those for assassinations; and 
(3) "that U.S. aid will be continued to Vietnam under government which 
gives promise of gaining support of people and winning the war against 
the CoDmiunists." 30/ In pressing Minh for details of the planned composi« 
tion of a successor regime. Lodge felt we should stress the need for a 
"good proportion of well qualified civilian leaders in key positions." 3l/ 

A message emanating from an NSC meeting was sent to lodge on the 
same day and appears to have been dispatched before the arrival of the CAS 
report on the Conein-Minh meeting and Lodge's comment. In it the Presi- 
dent specifically instructed Lodge to avoid encouraging a coup. The 
message stated: 

...President today approved recommendation that no 
initiative should now be taken to give any active covert 
encouragement to a coup. There should, however, be urgent 
covert effort with closest security \mder broad guidance 


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/ P 


of Ambassador to Identify and build contacts vith possible "^> 
alternative leadership as and when it appears. Essential 
that this effort be totally secure and fully deniable and 
separated entirely from normal political analysis and report- 
ing and other activities of countery te8:ni. VJe_ repeat that 
this effort is not repeat not to be aimed at active promotion 
of coup but only at surveillance and readiness. In order to 
provide plausibility to denial suggest you and no one else in 
Embassy issue these instruction orally to Acting Station Chief 
and hold him responsible to you alone for making appropriate 
contacts and reporting to you alone. 3^ / 

Responding the next day^ October 6, to the report of the Conein-Minh 
meeting^ Washington referred to the preceding day's cable, but, prompted 
by Lodge's suggestion, added: 

Vlhile "we do not vish 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 -vrorking relations with U.S. We vrould 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. 33 / 

Washington was, further, greatly concerned about the security and denia- 
bility of any further contacts and suggested to Lodge that someone could 
be brought in from outside Vietnam for follow-up contacts if he thought 
it necessary. Lodge apparently did not. 

An important apparent lacuna in the available message traffic occurs 
at this point. By Shaplen's account, a CAS officer met vrith Minh on 
October 10 and conveyed the substance of the U.S. position as defined in 
CAP 1U228. 3^;^/ Whether or not the da.te is accurate, it is probable that 
some such contact took place by mid-October. On October 20 a Colonel 
Kbmong at JGS contacted an ^^jnerican counterpart and reported a coup plot 
involving Minh, Khiem^ Kim, and a fourth unidentified general, plus a 
number of colonels. 3^5/ He was seeking assurances of U.S. support 
following a coup. 

There were no further reported contacts with the generals until 
October 23 when Conein again met with Don at the latter 's initiative. 36/ 
In a state of agitation, Don stated that the coup had been scheduled to 
take advantage of the October 26 Eational Holiday, but that on October 22 
Harkins had called on him to report the Khuong contact and to discourage 
a coup. Don further Indicated that the palace had lecirned of Khuong 's 
overtures, implying that Karkin.s was responsible, and had taken action 



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to ensure that the vital 5th and 7th Divisions vrauld be avay from Saigon. 
Don demanded to know what the U.S. attitude was toward a coup. Conein 
reiterated the Washington guidance. Apparently relieved, Don asked 
Conein to assure Lodge that Khuong was not a member of the coup committee 
and w^ould be ptinished. He indicated that the generals had avoided con- 
tacting lodge directly at a party on October 18 because of the presence 
of members of Harkins' staff. Conein then asked for proof of the existence 
of the coup group and its plan. Don said that if they could meet the 
following day, he would give Conein, ETES OHLY for Lodge, the political 
organization plan. 

In a subsequent conversation with Harkins on the matter. Lodge 
reported that Harkins confirmed his demarche to Don on October 22, and 
after they had reviewed CAP 7^228, said he had misunderstood the policy 
and hioped he had not upset any delicate arrangements. 37/ Harkins added 
that he would inform Don that his previous statements did not reflect 
U.S. Government policy. 

By Harkins' account, he had not violated Wc.shington^s guidance in 
his conversation with Don. 38/ He was merely trying to discourage 
Vietnamese officers from approaching U.S. coujiterparts about coup plots 
■v^hich only detracted from the v:ar effort. Furthermore, Don had at no 
time mentioned coup planning to him. He concluded by commenting about 
the renewed plotting by the generals that: 

Though I am not trying to thwart a change in goverament, 
I think we should take a good hard look at the group's pro- 
posals to see if we think it would be capable of increasing 
the effectiveness of the military effort. There are so 
many coup groups making noises that unless elements of all 
are included I'm afraid there will be a continuous effort to 
upset whoever gains control for sometime out and this to me 
will interfere with the war effort. 39/ 

This incident once again highlighted the differing outlooks of the 
Ambassador and MCV and underscored the lack of close coordination 
between them. Unfortunately, it did not lead to any improvement in 
the situation. The close identification of Harkins with Diem made the 
Vietnamese generals mistrust him. Lodge, responsive to their great 
sensitivity about security, tended to restrict information about the 
contacts and coup plans to himself. 

In response to this contact by Don, Washington reflected mainly 
concern that he might be acting as an agent of the palace to lead us 
down the garden path, ^o/ As he had Indicated, Don contacted Conein 
on the morning of the 25th, but not with the promised plans. Ul / He 
reported that the previous evening Harkins had spoken to him, correcting 
his earlier statements about the nondesirability of a change of govern- 
ment. Don further said he had a scheduled meeting with Lodge that 

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evening (vliich Lodge denied) and that plans v.^ere no>r far advanced for a 
coup sometime before Iloveraber 2, lie asked Conein to meet him later that 
afternoon to discuss the details of the plan. In a separate cable dis- 
puting some of Lodge s interpretative description of his statement to 
Don, Harkins stated that he had repulsed Don's suggestion that they meet 
again to discuss the coup iDlans, "I told Don that I would not discuss 

coups that vere not my business though I had heard rumors of m.any. h2/ ' 
Taylor replied iamaediately, stating, "View here is that youi' actions^in 
disengaging from the coup discussion were correct and that you should 
continue to avoid any involvement/' WijI 

A Conein 's meeting with Don on the evening of the 2Uth, the latter 
indicated he had misujiderstood General Harkins and had not seen Lodge, hk/ 
He said that the coup committee had refused to release any plans becausT" 
of its anxiety about breaches of security. He did pranise to turn over 
to Conein for Lodge's review detailed plans of the operation and the 
proi^osed successor goverriraent two ds.ys before the coiip, which he 
reiterated would take place before Uovember 2. 

At this junctujre, the natizre of the dialogue between Lodge and the 
White House began to change. On October 25, Lodge sent McGeorge Bu_ndy 
a long cable taking exception to Plarkins' reservations about a coup and 
arguing for a policy of "not thwarting." ^5/ Ko successor government 
could bungle the vrar as badly as Diem had, "he argued, and, furthermore, 
for us to prevent a change of goverjoment would be "assuming an undue 
responsibility for keeping the incumbents in office." U6/ In his reply, 
Bundy expressed the White House anxiety about reaping the blame for an 
unsuccessf\i.l coup. 

¥/e are particularly concerned about hazard that an unsuccess- 
ful coup, however carefully we avoid direct engagement, will be 
laid at our door by public opinion almost every^.-rhere. Therefore, 
while sharing your view that v^e should not be in position of 
thwarting coup, we would like to have option of judging and warn- 
ing on any plan with poor prospects of success. We recognize that 
this is a large order, but President wants you to know of our 
concern. k''( / 

The discussion of these issues dominated the cable traffic between Lodge 
and the White House up to the day of the coup, with Washington concerned 
about detailed plans and prospects for success and Lodge stressing the 
irrevocability of our involvement. 

There were no further contacts with the coup group ujitil the day 
after the fruitless Lodge-Diem conversations. That Monday, October 28, 
Lodge and Diem were leaving Saigon for Dalat to dedicate the Vietnamese 
Atomic Energy Plant. At the airport before their departure. General Don 
daringly took Lodge aside and asked if Conein was authorized to speak for 
him. i|8/ Lodge assumed Don that he vras. Don said that the coup must 

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be thoroughly Vietnamese and that the U.S. must not interfere. Lodge 
agreed^ adding that the U.S. vanted no satellites but vould not th^'^art 
a coup. When Lodge asked about the timing of the coup, Don replied that 
the generals >;ere not yet ready. 

Later that evening Conein met Don by prearrangement at the latter 's 
initiative, h^j vJ"hen Conein c3.Hed Bon's attention to Lodge's scheduled 
trip to Washington on October 31, indicating that it was iiaportant for 
him to revie-vf the coup plans before his departirrej Don replied that the 
plans might not be available until four hours in advance, but urged tha.t 
the Ambassador not change his plans as this might be a tip-off. Don said 
that nothing would happen in the next U3 hours, but the implication was 
that the coup vrould pre-empt Lodge's departure. When pressed for details 
of the planning, Don indice^ted that yithin the coBimittee, Minh had charge 
of the military plans for the operation, Kim was doing the political 
planning, and he, Don, v:as the liaison with the .'\mericans. They had 
surrounded General Dinh v^ith coup supporters and he would be neutralized. 
Generals Tri and Khanh v/ere both involved in the planning. General Khiem 
w^as being circumspect because he v^as under palace suspicion. Minor details 
of the plan and a list of units supporting the coup were also discussed. 

Simultaneous separate contacts had confirmed that several imx)ortant 
opposition civilians vrere in contact with the generals, including Phan 
Huy Quat, Bui Diem, and Tran Trung Dimg, and that they expected to play 
a role in the post-coup government, which reportedly would be headed by 
Vice President Tho. In a cable dispatched that same day sumniaTizing the 
situation, Lodge expressed some concern at the possibility of a premature 
coup ''oY junior officers, but generally expressed confidence in the generals 
■while regretting their reluctance for security reasons to provide details 
of their plans. 50/ He concluded in these words: 

In summary, it W'ould appear that a coup attempt by the 
Generals' group is imminent; that whether this coup fails or 
succeeds, the USG- must be prepared to accept the fact that we 
will be blamed, ho>rever unjustifiably; and finally, that no 
positive action by the USG can prevent a coup attempt short 
of informing Diem and IThu with all the opprobrium that such 
an action would entail. Kote too Don's statement w^e will 
only have four hoiirs notice. This rules cut m^^ checking with 
you between time I learn of coup and time that it starts. It 
means US will not be able significantly to influence course 
of events. 51/ 

Lodge's view was clear. We were committed and it was too late for second 
thoughts. Moreover, when the balloon went up he did not expect to have 
time to consult Washington. He expected, and probably preferred, to 
guide events himself. 

In view of the deteriorating situation, instructions were given to 
Admiral Felt, CII-;CPAC, to have a task force stand off the Vietnamese 

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' ' . coast for the possible evacuation of /jnerican dependents and civilians 

if events required. 52/ This was a re-enactment of a similar alert 
during the abortive August coup. 

In Washington, LlcIIajnara and the JCS had become concerned, about the 
differing views of Lodge and Harkins as to the correct U.S. covurse of 
action. 53/ More importantly, they were alarmed at the apparent break- 
down of communication and coordination between the Ambassador and MACV. 
The cable traffic tended "to form a picture of a relationship which lacks 
the depth and continuity required by the complex circumstances in Saigon. "5^/ 
Harkins' suggestions for Improving their rapport were invited. After the 
YiSC meeting on October 29, the V/hite House w^as also concerned and instructed 
Lodge to show Harkins the relevant cables and be sure he was fully av7are 
of the coup arrangements, since during lodgers absence in Washington 
Harkins would have overall responsibility for the U.S. 55/ 

These two cables triggered a flurry of strong opposing reactions 
from Lodge and Harkins. Harkins, belatedly apprised of the recent Conein- 
Don contacts and of Lodge's evaluations and recommendations, took bitter 
exception to the Ambassador's conclusions in three separate cables on 
October 30. He particularly resented Lodge's independent, gloomy assess- ■ 
ments of how the war was going, which vrere at direct odds with his ovm 
viev/s, views which he had provided Lodge for inclusion in his weekly 
reports to VJashington. 57/ As to U.S. policy toward a coup, he was irate 
at having been excliided by Lodge from information and consultation about 
the continuing contacts with the generals. 58/ The heart of the issue, 
however, vras a disagreement about vzhat was, in fact, U.S. policy toward 
a coup as defined by the Washington guidance cables. Harkins outlined 
the disagreement in a separate October 30 cable to Taylor: 

There is a basic difference apparently between the /im- 
bassador's thinking and mine on the interpretation of the 
guidance contained in CAP 6356O dated 6 October (see Appen- 
dix) and the additional thoughts, I repeat, thoughts expressed 
in CAS Washington 7^1228 dated 9 October (Appendix) . I inter- 
pret CAP 63560 as o'or basic guidance and that CAS 7^228 being 
additional thoughts did not cha.nge the basic guidance in that 
no initiative should now be taken to give any active covert 
encoiuragement to a coup. The Ambassador feels that 7^228 does 
change 63560 and that a change of government is desired and 
feels as stated in CAS Saigon 196^+ (Appendix) that the only 
way to bring about such a change is by a coup. 

I'm not opposed to a change in government, no indeed 5 but 
I'm inclined to feel that at this time the cheiige should be in 
methods of governing rather than complete change of personjiel. 
I have seen no batting order proposed by any of the coup groups. 
I think we should talie a herd look at any proposed list before 
we make any decisions. In my contacts here I have seen no one 

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. vltli the strength of character of Diem, at least in fighting 
comiunists. Certainly there are no Generals qualified to 
taJ^e over in my opinion. 

I Wi not a Diem man per se. I certainly see the fau].ts 
-in his character. I am here to back ik million S\a\ people in 
their leader at this time. 

* ^ -^ -X- -X- -Jv 

1 would suggest we not try to change horses too quickly. 
That we continue to take persuasive actions that will make 
the horses change their course and methods of action. That 
we win the military effort as quickly as possible , then let 
them make any and all the changes they "vrant. 

After all, rightly or vrrongly, we have backed Diem for 
eight long hard years. To me it seems incongruous now to get 
him down, kick him around, and get rid of hixi. The US has 
been his mother superior and father confessor since he's been 
in office and he has leaned on us heavily* 58/ 

The first Washington message to Lodge on October 30 revealed that 
White House anxiety about the possible failure of a coup attempt, 
already evident on October 25 in CAP 63590 (see Appendix), had increased. 59/ 
The CIA's evaluation of the balance of forces cast doubt on whether the coup 
group could pull off a decisive action. 6o/ With these concerns in mind, 
Washington could not accept Lodge's jud^ent ''that no positive action by 
the U3G can prevent a coup attemp...** 6l/ The White House view was that; 

...oujT attitude to coup group can still have decisive 
effects on its decisions. We believe that what we say to 
coup group can produce delay of coup and that betrayal of 
coup plans to Diem is not repeat not our only way of stopp- 
ing coup. 62/ 

In a long reply (in which Harkins did not concur), Lodge was at pains to 
point out his powe'rlessness to prevent what was fundamentally a Vietnaraese 
affair, short of revealing it to the palace. 

We must, of course, get best possible estimate of chance 
of coup's success and this estimate must color our thinlving, 
but do not thinlv we have the power to delay or discourage a 
coup. Don has made it clear many tii^ies that this is a Viet- 
najaese affair. It is theoretically possible for us to turn 
over the information which has been given to us in confidence 
to Diem and this would undoubtedly stop the coup and would 
make traitors out of us. For practical purposes therefore I 



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vould say that Me have very little influence on vhat is 
essentially a Vietnejnese affair. In addition^ this vrould 
place the heads of the Generals, their civilian supporters^ 
and lovrer military officers on the spot, thereby sacrific- 
ing a significant portion of the civilian and military 
leadership needed to carry the war against the VC to its 
successful conclusion. After our efforts not to discourage 
a coup and this change of heart, v?e vould forecl.ose any 
possibility of change of the C?m for the better. 

■X- ->^ ^ -X- -X- ^ 

As regajTds your paragraph 10 (question of determination 
and force of character of coup leaders), I do not knov vhat 
more proof can be offered than the fact these men are ob- 
viously prepared to risk their lives and that they \rant noth- 
ing for themselves. If I am any judge of human nature, Don's 
face expressed sincerity and determination on the morning 
that I spoke to him. Heartily agree that a miscalculation 
could jeopardize position in Southeast Asia, \le also run 
tremendous risks by doing nothing. 63/ 

VJhether Lodge seriously believed this or merely used it as an exgimienta- 
tive excuse for not entertaining the possibility of intervention to delay 
or stop an unviable attempt is not clear. His defense of the plotters 
and his support for their goal in this telegraphic dialogue vith Washing- 
ton, however, clearly show his emotional bias in favor of a coup. Else- 
where in the cable Lodge objected to the desigiiation of Karkins as the 
Chief of Mission in the event of a coup du-ring his absence. 

The tone and content of these parallel messages from Harkins and 
Lodge only heightened White House anxiety and, no doubt, raised concern 
about the objectivity of these two principal U.S. observers of the criti- 
cal Vietnamese situation. In an effort to clear the air, explicitly re- 
define and restate the policy guidance, and clarify the assignment of 
roles and responsibilities within the Mission, the White House sent still 
another cable to Saigon later on October 30. 6h/ Taking pointed issue 
with Lodge's view, the message stated: 

We do not accept as a basis for US policy that we have no 
power to delay or discourage a coup. In your paragraph 12 
you say that if you were convinced that the coup was going to 
fail you would of co'arse do everything you could to persuade 
coup leaders to stop or delay any operation which, in youT 
best judgement, does not clearly give high prospect of success. 
We have never considered any betrayal of generals to Diem, and 
our 79109 explicitly rejected that course. We recognize the 
danger of appearing hostile to generals, but we believe that our 
own position should be on as firm ground as possible, hence we 
cannot limit ourselves to proposition implied in your message 

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that only conviction of certain failure justifies interven- 
tion, lie believe that your standard for intervention should 
be that stated above. 

Therefore, if you should conclude that there is not 
cleajrly a high prospect of success, you should communicate 
this doubt to generals in a v^ay calculated to persuade them 
to desist at least until chances are better. In such a com- 
munication you should use the \feight of US best advice and 
explicitly reject any implication that ve oppose the effort 
of the generals because of preference for present regime. 
We recognize need to bear in mind generals^ interpretation 
of US role in I96O coup attempt and your agent should main- 
tain clear distinction bet^reen strong and honest advice 
given as a friend and any opposition to their objectives. 65/ 

liOdge was also urgently requested to obtain more detailed information 
about the composition of the forces the cou.p leaders expected to have 
at their disposal so that -we could better assess their prospects. 

With regard to Lodgers absence, the instructions placed Truehart in 
cherge unless a coup occurred, in which case Harkins would be Chief of 
Mission. The desirability of having Lodge on the scene in the event of 
a coup, however, was stressed and he was encouraged to delay his depar- 
ture if he thought the coup was imminent. The following four-point 

standing instructions for U.S. posture in the event of a coup were also 
given : 

a. US authorities will reject appeals for direct inter- 
vention from either side, and US-controlled aircraft and other 
resources will not be committed between the battle lines or 

in support of either side, without authorization from Washing- 
ton . 

b. In event of indecisive contest, US authorities may in 
their discretion agree to perform any acts agreeable to both 
sides, such as removal of key personalities or relay of infor- 
mation. In such actions, however, US authorities will stren- 
uously avoid appearance of pressure on either side. It is not 
in the interest of USG to be or appear to be either instrument 
of existing government or instrument of coup. 

c. In the event of imminent or actual failure of coup, US 
authorities may afford asyluEi in their discretion to those to 
whom there is any express or implied obligation of this sort. 
We believe, however, that in such a case it vrould be in our 
interest and probably in interest of those seeking asylum that 
they seek protection of other lllmbassies in addition to out ovm. 
This point should be made strongly if need arises. 

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d. But once a coup under responsible leadership has begim, 
and vithin these restrictions ^ it is in the interest of the 
US Goyermnent that it should succeed. 66/ 

VJith respect to instruction d.^ hovrever^ no specific actions. to support 
or guarantee the success of a coup \rere authorized- This message vras 
the last guidance Lodge received from VJashing-bon before the coup began. 

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1. The Coup 

The atmosphere of Byzantine intrigue in Saigon in the fall of I963 
made it virtually impossible to keep track of all the plots against the 
regime* In one of his last messages to Washington before the coup^ 
Lodge identified ten individual dissident groups in addition to the 
generals' group, l/ These various plots vere highly fluid in composi- 
tion and quixotic in character, quicP^ly appearing, disappes.ring and/or 
merging v^ith other groups. There iv^ere, however, t>?o groups that came 
into existence in the summer and retained their identity with some 
mutation until near the end. The first, chronologically, was variously 
identified as the Tuyen or Thao group after its successive leaders. It 
was ^ conceived sometime in June by Dr. Tran Kim Tuyen, the Director of 
Political Studies (national intelligence) iijider Diem, and involved ele- 
ments of the Ministries of Civic Action and Information and certain ele- 
ments of the Army. When Dr. Tuyen was sent out of the country in 
September, the group was more or less merged with a separate group of 
middle level officers headed by Lt Colonel Phamh Goc Thao. Several 
dates \7eve established by this group for a coup during the summer and 
fall, but each time critical military units were temporarily transferred 
by either the palace or the JGS, under General Don, each of whom was 
somewhat aware of the group's plans and was interested in frustrating 
them. In the end, it concerted efforts with the generals as the only 
alternative with prospects of success. 

The ^second group was, of course, composed of the senior generals 
of the Vietnamese Army. Plotting by this group also began in earnest 
in June. Initially, its leader was identified as General IChiem and later 
General Don, but the de facto leader throughout was, no doubt, General 
Minh who commanded by far the greatest respect and allegiance within the 
officer corps. The four principal members of the group were Generals 
Minh, Don, Khiem, and Kim, all of whom were sta.tioned in Saigon without 
troop command, the latter three at JGS and General Minh as a palace 
military advisor. Generals Tri and Khanh, I and II Corp)S commanders 
respectively, were secondary members of the generals' group, but were 
also in touch with the Thao group. The abortive attempt by the generals 
to launch a coup in August has already been described in detail. Impor- 
tant lessons seem to have been learned by these men from that experience, 
for when they again began to set their plans and make arrangem.ents it 
was with great attention to detail and with an explicit division of labor. 

Among the plotters. General Minh had the overall direction of the 
coup activities, although the group acted in coBimittee fashion with the 
members apparently voting at several points on particular actions. He 

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W8.S also responsiljle for the military operation of the coup itself. 
Genez^al Don vas the liaison with the Americans and responsible for 
wooing General Dinh. General Kiin handled planning for the post-coup 
government and the relations vith the civilian groups that Y'ere ex- 
pected to be called on to support the coup. 2/ General Khiem was to 
play a critical role at the end of October as the liaison man vith the 
Thao coup group in working out the details of their support and inte- 
gration into the actual execution of the coup. 

As already noted, the fundamental problem of the plotters vas their 
lack of troop comaiiand in the immediate Saigon area. The Ngo family's 
longstanding fear of military coups, as previously discussed, had been 
the main factor in all military command assignments and promotion policy. 
Nowhere was loyalty a more important prerequisite for coimnand than in 
Saigon, the sui'roujiding III Corps, and the nearby IV Corps, with its 
headquarters only Uo miles away down Highway U. In addition to the 
sizable special forces units in Saigon under Colonel Tung and the various 
national police and pareanilitary units that also took their orders directly 
from the palace, Diem had appointed the vain, ambitious, and supposedly 
loyal General Dinh as Ccmiuander of III Corps (whose 5th Division vras 
stationed at nearby Bien Hoa) and the Saigon Military District. Further- 
more, the r/ Corps was commanded by General Cao, who had saved Diem 
during the I96O coup by bringing his loyal 7th Division troops up from 
My Tho. It was on this formidable line-up of forces that the family had 
staked its survival; and not v/ithout reason, as the frustrated coup of 
August demonstrated, 

Saigon, however, was not entirely without dissident elements, \llth 
the exception of their commanders, the Marine battalion, the airborne 
battalion, and the Air Force were all sympathetic to a coup. Sut the 
plotters knew that a favorable balance of forces could not be achieved 
or maintained without either the conversion or neutralization of Generals 
Dinh and Cao. 

During the August pagoda raids, Dinh had been given overall command 
of the crackdown, although Tung had taken his instructions as always 
directly from Nhu in carrying out the attacks. 3/ Thereafter, Dinh, 
who was a notorious braggart, boasted that he had saved the co-untry from 
the Buddhists, Comimunists, and "foreign adventurers." Carried away with 
himself, he held a news conference on August 27 in which he was harried 
and finally humiliated by antagonistic Ajnerican journalists. The plotting 
generals decided that they would play on his vanity and egoism to win him 
over to their side. V/ith his pride injured at the hands of the newsmen, 
Dinh was easy prey to Don's suggestion that Ehu had played him for a fool, 
but that he really was a national hero, and that the regime was indebted 
to him, Don suggested that Dinh go to Diem with a plan to increase mili- 
tary participation in the government, specifically that he, Dinh, be 
named Minister of Interior. Don rightly expected that Diem would be 
outraged at such a brazen request, ai^d vrould reprimand Dinh, further 

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■vrouiiding his pride and alienating hm from the regime. Biem reacted 
as expected^ and ordered Dinh to take a "vacation" in Dalat for a -while. 
Don at this point began his long effort to i-roo Dinh to the plotters 
side against Diem. Dinh, hovrever, lacked self-confidence and vacillated, 
although he does not appea^r to have played a douhle role by revealing 
the existence of the plot to the palace. While the elaborate stratagems 
for seducing Dinh vere taking place, the plotters had carefully sur- 
rcunided him vith supporters of the coup, including his deputy, Colonel Co, 
whom they felt they could rely on to neutralize him if he showed signs 
of rallying to the fainlly once the balloon was up. By the end of the 
third week in October, the plotters felt reasonably confident that the 
problem of Dinh had been resolved: he would, as an opportunist, rally 
to the coup if he felt it was going to succeed; if he did not, he would 
be eliminated. 

At the S3jne time, plans had been imder way to neutralize General Cao, 
the IV Corps coim^iander, since he would certainly betray the plotters to 
the palace if he got word of the plans, or bring his troops to Diem's 
aid if the coup started while he was still in control of them. To do 
this. Colonel Co, Dinh's deputy, was sent to the Delta to win the support 
of the subordinate commanders in IV Corps. In the ultimate plan, Co 
would be sent with JG-S orders to take comraand of the 7th Division in 
My Tho on the day before the coup began; he would order all boats to the 
Saigon side of the Mekong Eiver; and, thus, act as a blocking force to 
General Cao who, stranded in Can Tho on the far side of the Mekong, 
would then be arrested by dissident officers in his own command. Co 
apparently was successful in getting the support of the great majority 
of the subordinate officers, but one loyal officer heard of the plans 
and immediately tipped off Nhu. 

Diem and IThu called in Dinh and revealed v?hat they had learned, 
attempting to force his hand. Dinh reacted with feigned shock and 
suggested that Co be executed iinmediately. This convinced Lihu that 
Dinh was not involved. They preferred to keep Co alive to get m.ore 
information from hjjn. Tihu then revealed his o\m elaborate schem.e for 
a pseudo-coup that vrould pre-empt the plotters and squelch tlieir plans. 
His two-part plan was to start with the transfer of Colonel Tung's 
special foz-^ces out of Saigon on maneuvers. The phony coup would then 
take place with Diem and IVan escaping to their hideavay at Cap St Jacques. 
After several days of hooliganism including the murder of several promi- 
nent Vietnamese and some Americans, the loyal 5th Division under Dinh 
and the 7th under Cao would counterattack the city and Diem and l^hu would 
return as tri\imphant heroes, more secure than ever. Dinh was the key 
to IThu's plan. 

Dinh's role becomes confused at this point. He apparently was 
uncertain about the relative ba^lance of forces and decided to cooperate 
with both sides until he could decide which he felt was going to gain 
the upper hand, although he was probably still leaning toward the palace. 

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In any case^ if he was trusted by the Nhus, he certainly vas not by the 
generals because they confided in hini none of their detailed plans for 
the operation^ and FjhuVs plan^ in which he would have played the key- 
role ^ never caone to fruition. It was pre-^einpted by the real coup the 
generals had been plotting. 

By the last week in October , tinning had become critical. The Thao 
group apparently had intended to act on October 2k ^ but were dissuaded 
by Don and Khiein who argued that they had too few forces to gu^jrantee 
success, h^/ It was at this juncture that Khiem brought the Thao group 
into the plans and worked out joint arrangements with them for the 
execution of the coup. Bhaplen says tha,t the generals' coup was 
orginally planned for November k. This conflicts^ however, with what 
Don had told Conein on October 2^, neauely that it would occur before 
November 2, 5/ By Shaplen's acco'uiitj Dinh revealed the planned date 
of the coup to I'ihu who instructed h±m to urge that it be advanced to 
November 1. 6/ I^hu still tliougbt somehow he could carry off his plan 
by abandoning the phony coupj- by letting the real one substitute for 
it in the hope that it would be thrown off balance by the advanced date 5 
and by relying on Dinh's loyal troops as supplemented by Cao^s to tip 
the scale in the family *s favor once the chips were down. In allowing 
the generals to maJie their move, the principal rebels would all be com- 
promised and l^Ihu could then act to crush all major dissidence. Whatever 
the reason 5 whether by hhu/s intrigue or by their own tmetable;, the 
generals set the coup for llovember 1. 

While they had left a worried U,S, officialdom with only sketchy 
ideas of the planned operation , the generals had themselves devoted 
great attention to all details of their move. When the hour csj-ne for 
execution, the plan was iiaiplemented with hardly a hitch, 8.nd the fate 
of the regisne was sealed in the first hours of the coup. 

On October 29, the first preparatory action for a coup was taken, 
Genera.1 Dinh ordered Colonel Tung to move his special forces out of the 
capital for maneuvers, but whether he was acting as the agent of the 
generals or the palace is still ujiclear. Siiaultaneously, the chief of 
intelligence, who had been a member of the Thao plot and was nov7 parti- 
cipating in the generals* pl^^n, passed phony intelligence of a YG 
build-up outside Saigon to Diem and Nhu to get them to divert loyal 
units that coiild have been used to thwart a coup. 

The day of the coup itself began improbably with an official 
U.S. call on Diem. Admiral Felt, CH-JCPAC, had been visiting General 
Ha^rkins to review the situation and prior to his departure at noon, 
he and Lodge paid a courtesy call on the President, Diem's monologue 
was little different from what he had said to Mcl\'aiuara and Taylor the 
month before. As they were leaving, however, he called Lodge aside and 
they talked privately for twenty minutes. Diem, in a tragically imwitting 
example of too little too late, ijidicated that he wanted to taU^ to Lodge 

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sometinie about what it "Vv^as the U.S. wanted him to do. 7/ The atmosphere 
of this meeting must have been strained in the extreme in view of Lodge's 
awareness of the imi-jiinence of the covip. After the meeting, Pelt went 
straight to the airport and held a press conference^ with a nervous 
General Don at his side, before departing at noon unaware of the drama 
that was already unfolding. 

VJhile Lodge and Felt had been at the palace, coup units had already- 
begun to deploy in and around Saigon. At the sairie time, nearly all the 
generals and top office-r-s had been convened for a noon meeting at JGS 
headquarters at Tan Son llhut. There the coup committee informed them 
that the coup had begun and asked for their support. Pledges of support 
were recorded on tape by all those present who supported the action. 
They were to be used later over the radio and would im.pliGate the entire 
senior officer corps of the Army in the event the coup failed. In this 
way the plotters were able to enlist the support of several wavering 
officers. The only senior officers not present were Generals Dinh g,nd Cao, 
who were not informed of the meeting to prevent their revealing the coup 
prematurely to the palace or tailing counter action. Also not present was 
the South Yletnamese Chief of Haval Operations, v?ho had been assassinated 
by a trigger-happy escort enroixte. Several officers suspected of being 
loyal to Liem were taken into immediate custody at JGS, including Colonel 
Tung, and the commanders of the Air Force, the airborne brigade, the 
Marines, the Civil Guard, and the police force. A CAS officer, pre- 
sumably Lt Colonel Conein, was also invited to come to JGS and was 
authorized to maintain telephone contact with the I^^bassy during the 
coup, lie provided reliable reporting throughout the next two days. 

-^^"^^1*^5 p.Dio, Don called General Stilvrell, Harkins' J"3> and informed 
him that all the generals were assembled at JGS and that the coup had 
begun. 8/ At the same time, coup forces vrere seizing the post office 
with its telecoironunications facilities, the police lieadquarters, the 
radio stations, the airport, and the naval headquarters, and were deploy- 
ing in positions to assault the special forces headquarters near Tan 
Son Ilhut, the palace, and the barracks of the palace guard. Other units 
had been deployed in blocking positions to defend against any loyal 
counterattack from units outside Saigon. These actions were swift and 
met with little resistance. The units involved included the Marine and 
airborne units under the leadership of junior officers, the Air Force 
under junior officers, and units from the 5th Division under orders from 
Dinh, who had thrown in his lot when he became aware of the unanimity of 
the senior officers and their apparent likelihood of success. Later in 
the day, armor and troops from the 7th Division at My The, under the 
insurgent leadership of Colonel Co, arrived for the assault on the palace. 

As is always the case in this kind of crisis, the quantity of cables 
quickly overwhelmed the communications system, and the incompleteness of 
the reports meant that no clear pictui^e of what was happening could be 
pieced together ujitil later. As in all such situations, the Embassy 
became an island linlied to outside events only by tenuous reports from 
telephone contacts. 

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In the early afternoon^ Colonel Tmig, who had been arrested on the 
morning of ISovember 1^, vas forced to call his special forces and tell 
them to siirrender to the coup forces. Not long thereafter^ the adjacent 
special forces headquarters fell to the coup units after a brief skir- 
mish, When this occurred^ the palace vas reduced for its defense to 
the palace guard, since the remainder of the special forces vere outside 
the city and effectively cut off from it^ and all other unit commanders 
had come under the command of officers involved in the coup. General Cao, 
the IV Corps coimnanderj pledged his support to the coup in the late aner- 
noon^ although it is not clear whether this vas opportunistic or whether 
he thought the coup vras really Phase I of IThu's plan. I'Jot trusting him^ 
however, the generals placed him under guard. At U:30 p.m., the generals 
went on the radio to announce the coup and demand the resignation of Biem 
and l^hu. 9/ This was followed by a continuing broadcast of the pledges 
of support of the senior officers that had been recorded that morning. 
Meanwhile, Air Force transports were dropping prepared leaflets annoiijic- 
ing the coup, and calling on the populace to support it. 

At the beginning. Diem and Nhu were apparently fooled by the coup, 
or had completely miscalculated the extent of its support. At the first 
indications of coup actions, I'hu reportedly assured an alarmed official 
that it was all a part of a palace plan, lO/ When word reached the 
palace that all Jiey points had fallen, Nhu tried to contact General Dinh. 
When he could not reach him, he realized that he had been outfoxed and 
that the coup was genuine. By this time, fighting was going on between 
the coup forces and the palace guard at the palace and the nearby guard 
barracks. When the generals called the two brothers and asked them to 
siorrender, promising them safe conduct out of the country. Diem replied 
by asking them to come to the palace for "consultations," an obvious 
attempt to repeat the i960 tactic of delaying the coup long enough for 
loyal troops to reach the city. The generals, however, vrere not bar- 
gaining "- they were deBianding, 

At li-:30 p.m.. Diem called Lodge to ask where he stood and the follow- 
ing conversation ensued: 

Diem-. Some units have made a rebellion and I want to know what 
■is the attitude of the US? 

Lodge: I do not feel well enough informed to be able to tell you. 
I have heard the shooting, but am not acquainted with all 
the facts. Also it is U;30 a.m. in Washington and the US 
Government cannot possibly have a view. 

Diem: But you must have some general ideas. After all, I am 
a Chief of State. 1 have tried to do my duty. I want 
to do now what duty and good sense require, I believe 
in duty above all. 

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Lodge: Yoii have certainly done yow: duty. As I told you only 
this morning^ I a'^iiire your courage and your great 
contributions to your comitry. No one can take B.\ra.y 
from you the credit for all you have done. I-Jov? 1 am 
■vrorried about your physjcal safety. I have a report 
that those in charge of the cuzTent activity offer you 
and your brother safe conduct out of the country if 
you resign. Had you heard this? 

Diera: Ho. (And then after a pause) You have my telephone 

Lodge: Yes. If T can do anything for your physical safety, 
please call me. 

Diem: I am trying to re-establish order, ll / 

There is no evidence available as to \\iiether 1/ashington issued further 
instructions with respect to the personal safety of Diera and IThu at this 
time. 12/ The above conversation vas the last that any /aiierican had 
vith Diem. liOdge, as vas his custom^ retired the^t night at about 9:30 
p. Til. 13/ 

Shortly after Die^Ti's call to Lodge, the generals called the palace 
again and put Colonel Tung on the phone. Tung told I'hu he had sur- 
rendered. The generals then deraanded the imoiediate surrender of the 
brothers or they would put the palace under air and gro-ond attack. Each 
general at JGS, in turn, vas put on the phone to assure Diem of S8.fe con- 
duct if he "would resign, but apparently dissuaded hjjn. ik/ General Minh 
hitnself made a separate telephone ca]..l to Diem in a final at"tempt to get 
hifii to svirrender, but Dian hung up. I5/ The two brothers now began 
frantically calling unit coriimanders throughout the country on their pri- 
vate coirmiuni cat ions system to get them to come to their aid. In most 
cases they could not get through, and when they did they were told to 
surrender by officers who now supported the coup. When they could get 
no help from the regular military, they made a vain effort to enlist the 
support of paramilitary ujiits and their Republic Youth groups. Sometme 
in the early evening, probably by eight o'clock, they recognized the 
hopelessness of the situation and escaped from the palace ^ unbeknown to 
its defenders, through one of the secret underground exits connected 
to the sevrer system. They were met by a Chinese friend --Aio took them 
to his home in Cholon where they had previously set up a communications 
channel to the palace for just such an emergency. There they spent 
their last night. 

In the face of the brothers' intransigent refusal to s^orrender and 
confident that they were now in control of the entire country and that 

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thei:r plans ha^d succeeded^ the generals began assembling forces and pre^ 
paring for the siege of the palace. At about nine o'clock, they opened 
an artillery barrage of the palace and its defenders. Since the palace 
vas being defended by some tanks-, an infantry assault vith tank support 
V7as required to captuxe it. This began about 3:30 a.m. on iTovember ?.^ 
and lasted until about 6:30 a.m. , when the palace fell^ Diem had 
issued a cease-fire order to the palace guard from his Cholon hideavay. 

Throughout the night the brothers had remained in contact vith both 
their loyal si:ipporters at the palace, and periodically with the insux- 
gents. The latter did not learn that the brothers had fled imtil the 
rebel forces under Colonel Thao invaded the palace. At 6:20 a.m.. Diem 
called J'GS and spoke personally with CTcneral Don, offering to surrender 
in exchange for a guarantee of safe conduct to the airport and departure 
from Vietnam. l6/ Minh agreed to these terms, but Diem did not reveal 
his whereabouts, still apparently unable to grasp the new realities. 
\ Colonel Thao learned of the location of the hideaway from a captured 

officer of the palace guard and received permission from Minh to go 
there and get the brothers. VJhen he arrived at the house, he telephoned 
again to headquarters to report his location and was overheard by the 
brothers on another extension. They escaped to a nearby Catholic ch-urch, 
where once again Diem called General Don at Gx^O a.m. and surrendered 
miconditionally. 17/ He and Khu were taken prisoner shortly thereafter 
by General Mai Huu Xuan, a long truBe enemy, who according to most accounts 
ordered or permitted their murder in the back of an armored personnel 
carrier enroute to JGS headquarters. 18, 

The State Department reacted to news of the coup in teiTns of the 
recognition problem with respect to the new government. Rusk felt that 
a delay would be useful to the generals in not appearing to be U.S. 
agents or stooges would assist us in our public stance of nonccm- 
plicity. 19/ He fui^tlier discouxaged any large delega.tion of the generals 
from calling on Lodge as if they were "reporting in." A subsequent" 
message stressed the need to underscore publicly the fact that this was 
not so much a coup as an expression of national v-ill, a fact revealed by 
the near unanimous support of important military and civilian leaders. 20/ 
It further stressed the importance of Vice President Tho to a quick return 
to constitutional goverrmient e.nd the need, therefore, for the generals to 
include him in any interim regme. Lodge replied affirmatively to these 
views, indicating his opinion that we should encourage other friendly 
co'untries to recognize the new goverrmient first with the assurance that 
the U.S. would follov/ suit shortly. 21/ Further, we should show our 
friendly support for the regiine and without fanfare resume pajanents in 
the carnmercial Import prograiTi. 

The news of the brutal and seeiningly pointless miirder of Diem and 
Nhu, however, was received in Uashingison with shock and dismay. 22/ 
President Kennedy was reportedly personally stunned at the news, par- 
ticularly in view of the heavy U.S. involvement in encouraging the coup 


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leaders. 23/ Apparently^ \7e bad put full confidence in the coup com- 
TTiittee's offers of safe conduct to the brothers and, reluctant to inter- 
cede on behalf of Diem an.d Hhu for fear of appearing to offer support 
to them or of reneging on our pledges of non-interference to the generals, 
we had not appreciated the degree of hatred of the Kgo faiiiily among the 
generals, nor their fear that if the brothers survived the coup they 
\70uld somehov, sometime stage a comeback. In their first meetlD.g with 
Lodge after the coup, however, the generals denied that the assassination 
had been ordered, and promised to make public their offer of safe conduct 
to Diem if he would resign, 2^-/ 

While the callousness of the murders of Diem and Khu, their previous 
repressiveness notwithstanding, horrified the world 5 the success of the 
coup and the deaths of the hated brothers were greeted with popular jubi- 
lation in South Vietnam, Spontaneous street demonstrations by students 
in a holiday mood ended in the b'orning of the offices of the T lines of 
Vietnam and the destruction of a statue modeled after I^iffie. Ilhu. The 
tension released set off celebrations rivaled only by the annual Tet 
l^iew Year festivities. .Americans were greeted and received with great 
enthusiasm, and Lodge was widely regarded as the hero of the whole train 
of events. Vietnemese were heard to renark that if an election for 
president were held Lodge would vrin by a landslide. 25/ 

Thus, the nine-year rule of i-igo Dinh Dian came to a sudden, bloody, 
and permanent end, and U.S. policy in Vietnam pl'onged into the nn'kno^m^ 
our complicity in the coup only heightening our responsibilities and oiir 
commitment in this struggling, leaderless land. vJe could be certain only 
that whatever new leadership emerged would be fragile, untried, and 

2- Establishment of an Interixa Regime 


Even before the initiation of the coup, the coup coirmiittee thcrough 
General Kim had been in touch with civilian political oppositionists and 
to some extent with members of Dian's government. Once the success of 
the coup was certain, negotiations with these civilians by the generals* 
coiimilttee began in earnest. On the night of ITovember 1 and the follow- 
ing day, all ministers of Diem's goverriment were told to submit their 
resignations and did so, some on U.S. advice. Ko reprisals were taken 
against them. Indeed, Vice President Tho entered into intensive nego- 
tiations with Creneral Liinh on Lovember 2 on the composition of the in- 
terim government. He apparently understood the eagerness of the generals 
to have him head a new government to provide continuity, and he used this 
knowledge to bargain with them about the composition of the cabinet. He 
was not to be their pliant tool. 

While these conferences were taking place, the coup committee, or 
"Revolutiona^ry Committee" as it was now calling itself, distributed 
leaflets and press releases announcing the dissolution of the National 

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Assembly and the abolition of the DieiTi-^^hu government based on the , con- 

stitution of 1956^ and proclaiming the support of the corimittee for such 
democratic principle^, as free elections ^ unhampered political opposition^ 
freedom of press, freedom of religion^ and an end to discri]nination. 26/ 
They vere at pains to explain that the purpose of the coup was to bolster 
the fight against the Communists >?hich they pledge themselves to pursue 
vith renewed vigor and determination. 

On the afternoon of November 3? the second day after the coup, 
Generals Don and Km called on Lodge at the Illmbassy^, explaining that 
General Minh was tied up in conversations with Vice President Tho on the 
nevr government* 27/ The conversation was long and touched on many tojpics 
It began with mutual expressions of satisfaction at the success of the 
coup, and continued with Lodgers assurance of forthcoming U, S. recognition 
for their nev/ government* The generals explained that they had decided 
on a two-tiered government structure with a m.ilitary committee presided 
over by General Minh overseeij'ig a regxilar cabinet that would be mostly 
civilian with Tho as prime minister. Lodge promised to see to the Im- 
mediate restoration of certain of the aid programs and the speedy resiimp- 
tion of the others when the government was in place. They then dealt 
with a host of immediate problems including the return of the Llhu chil- 
dren to their raother and the disposition of the rest of the T^:go facially, 
press censorship, the release of Tri Quang from the Mbassy, curfew, 
reprisals against fcrraer ministers, etc. The generals confirmed the 
psychological importance of t}ie comiiiodlty import suspension to the suc- 
cess of their plans. Lodge was elated, botli at the efficiency and 
success of the coup, and the seriousness and determination of the generals 
to deal with the pressing problem-S and get on with the v;ar. 

The following day, on instructions from "^/Jashington, Lodge, in company 
with Lt Colonel Conein, met with Generals Minh and Don. 28/ Washington 
had been anxious for Lodge to ur-gently convey to the generals the need 
to mal:e a clarifying statement about the deaths of the brothers an.d to 
take steps to insure humane treatment of other members of the feinily. 
The generals were responsive to Lodge's urgings and promised to see that 
action was taken on the U.S. requests. Minh said tha,t the composition of 
the new government would be announced shortly. In describing the meeting 
later, Lodge offered a prophetic description of Minh: "Minh seemed tired 
and somewhat frazzled; obviously a good, well-intentioned man. Will he 
be strong enough to get on top of things?" 29/ Lodge closed the cable 
by taking exception to State's excessive pre-occupation with the negative 
public relations problems of the coup and decrying its failure to note 
the brilliance with which the coup was planned and executed. 

The promised, announcement of the new government cajne on the m.orning 
of November 5. It was very m.uch as General Kim had described it to Lodge 
on ITovember 3. Minh v/as najned President and Chief of the Military 
Cojiimittee; Tho was listed as Premier, Minister of i^^conomy, and Minister 

*! ^«» 

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'of Finance; Doji was named Minister of Defense; and General Dinh vas na^ned 
to the Ministry of Security (interior). 30/ Only one other general wat5— - 
included in the cabinet o.f fifteen vhich vras composed primarily of 
bureaxicrats and ciA^'ilians with no previous experience. Political 
figu-res, either opposed to Diem or not^ vrere conspicuously absent from 
the cabinet 5 a fact which would impair the new government's securing the 
roots in popular support it would need in the long run. The announcement 
of the new cabinet was follov?ed by the release of "Provisional Constitu- 
tional Act IIo. Ij" signed by General Minh, formally suspending the I956 
coiistitution and outlining the structur'e and furjctions of the interim 
govermiaent. 3,1/ On l^ovember 6^ Saigon radio annoimced the composition 
of the Executive Committee of the Military Revolutionary Council. Minh 
was Chairman^ Don and Dinh were Deputy Chairmen, and nine other senior 
generals ;, including Kiraj Khiem.5 "little" Minh, Chieu, and Thieu were mem- 
bers. Significantly, General Khanh was not. 

On October 5, the new Foreign Minister had sent a note to the Etabassy 
informing the Ambassador officially of the change of government, and 
expressing the hope that relations between the two countries wo'uld be 
continued and strengthened. 32/ State approved Lodge's proposed reply 
of recognition the following day, Z.ovember 6, and, under the press'ore of 
other governments and the press, announced its intention to recognize 
on November 7 in Washington. 33/ The note of recognition was delivered 
on Kovember 8, when Lodge called on the new Foreign Minister, Pha^n Dang 
f , Lam. 3V Lam, emphasizing his own insufficiencies for the job he had 

been given, asked for Lolge's advice which Lodge was apparently not 
reluctant to give on a variety of topics. The primary impression left 
was that the new government would be heavily dependent on U.S. advice 
and support, not only for the war effort, but also in the practical prob- 
lems of running the country. 

In the first three weeks of JCovember I963, three problems pre- 
occupied most Americans and Vietnainese in the new political and military 
situation created by the coup. The first of these was getting the new 
government started, developing the relations between the new Vietnamese 
officials and their American counteipar.ts, and most Importantly shaking 
down the power relationships within the new regime. 3^/ The first two 
aspects of this problem would be self -resolving and were largely a master 
of time. YiXth respect to the latter, it was clear from the outset that 
General Minh was the dominant figure in the new government and was so 
regarded by nearly all the military men. Tho, however, had exhibited 
considerable independence during the negotiations over the cabinet, 
reflecting his confidence that the generals felt they needed him. The 
opeji question, then, was what degree of freedom of action the new cabinet 
xxnder Tho would have, or alternatively, hovr deeply the military council 
intended to involve itself in running the co\intry. This issue was not 
resolved in the public statements and communiques of the new regime and 
ambiguity on the subject was clearly reflected in the lack of decisive- 
ness ajid vigor of the new ministers and in. their general uncertainty as 

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to their authority, While the exacv reasons for not including any politic' 
cians in the cabinet are not Kno\m^ it is reasonable to assume that neither 
Tho nor the military were anxious to see potential political rivals, with 
pover deriving from popular support, in positions to cliallenge the 
authority of the new leaders c Whatever the case^ it vas the irresolution 
of the power relationship within the nev government that was one of the 
factors contributing to the next round of coup-inaldng in Jojiuary 196)4. 

The second urgent problem of these first weeks in IJoveraber vras the 
rapidly deteriorating econoraic situe.tion in Vietnam. The situation had 
been serious in September, and a l&rge deficit for the 196k budget had 
already been forecast. The siispension of the commercial import payments 
and selected PL U80 had aggravated the situation during September and 
October c Furthermore, all negotiations on the 196k budget levels and U.S 
support had been suspended and were now seriously behind schedule. Av;are 
of the urgency of the problem, State, en >.ovember 2, had asked for Lodge's 
recoimendations on the resumption of aid and had urged him to identify the 
people responsible for economic planning in the new government so that 
negotiations could begin imjuediately, 36/ Concern was also expressed 
at the lack of expertise in this area among the generals and Lodge was 
advised to encoujrage them to make m^ximinn use of economists in the 
previous government who were faiailiar with the problems. Lodge proposed 
in response that the governmen1> be asked to name a high level coBimission 
of economic experts to work with a similar gro\ip from tlie U.S. Mission. 37/ 
This suggestion had been agreed to in principle the previous day by Tho, 
through wh_ose office all economic aid matters ^rere to be channeled. 38/ 
Lodge also believed that our aid should be increased as an indication of 
our support for the new goverranent, 39/ But beyond these preliminary 
discussions, no real progress was maTe on the economic problems before 
the Honolulu -Conference on November 20. 

The third problem that worried Americans was the heightened level of 
Viet Cong activity in the wake of the coup and the military dislocations 
caused by it. Related, but of even more importance, was the new infor- 
mation that came to light after the coup and in the atmosphere of free 
discussion that it generated showing that the military situation was 
far worse than we had believed. The overall statistical indicators had 
now beg-un to show deterioration dating back to the summer. The incidence 
of VC attacks was up over the first six months of 1963> the weapons loss 
ratio had worsened and the rate of VC defections was 'way down, ko/ 
In the lirirtiediate wake of the coup, VC activity had jumped di*amatically 
as MA.CV had feared it vrauld and there was great concern to return units 
participating in the coup to the field o"^ickly to forestall any major 
Cormnunist offensive, kl / Cause for more fiuidemental concern, however, 
were the first rum^ors and indications that under Diem there had been 
regular and substantial falsification in tlie military reporting system 
and in reporting on the strategic he^lets that had badly distorted the 
real military situation in Vietnam to make it appear less serious than it was. 

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This, it turned out, was the main reason for the previouB discrepancies 
in mcV and U.S. mission evaluations of the var. In the first flush of 
self-satisfaction the coup^ Loige had predicted that the change 
of regirae would shorten the var beca-ase of the improved morale of the 
MVU troops. k2/ But as time wore en, the accumulating evidence of 
the gravity of the military situation displaced these sanguine prog- 

The only comforting note in the intelligence was the apparent dis- 
comfiture of the Kational Liberation Front. Tliroughout the suiBmer and 
fall, the KKf* had seemingly been unable to capitalize on the Buddhist 
or student struggle movements. In fact, its principal response to the 
Diem-Buddhist clash had been increasingly vituperative attacks on the 
U.S. Hot imtil ]]ovember 7th did the L'LF issue a post-Diem policy state- 
ment, consisting of a list of "eight dem.ands": k3/ 

(1) Destroy all strategic hainlets. . .and other disguised ca:aips. 

(2) Release all political detainees. •« c 

(3) Promulgate without delay democratic freedom.... 

(h) Root out all vestiges of the fascist and militarist dic- 
tatorial regime. 

(5) Stop all persecution and repression and raiding operations. 

(6) Dissolve all nepotist organisations.... 

(7) Imraediately stop forcitle conscription.... 

(8) Cancel all kinds of unjustified taxes. 

The Duong Van Minh governmexat could claim that it was in the process of 
meeting all of these ''demands" except one -- halting the draft -- so that 
the I:LF was effectively pre-empted. On i;ovember 17 ;► the J^IF Central 
Committee issued another series of demands: 

(1) Eliminate the vestiges of the Diem regime. 

(2) Establish democratic freedom. 

(3) Eliminate American influence. 

{h) Hake social and economic reforms. 

(5) Halt the fighting. 

(6) Establish a coalition government. 

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The demands vrere accompanied by a stateTiient affirming the reimification 
of Vietnai'ii as a goal of the I'lLF, the first such statement in over tvjo 
years. Douglas Pike's analysis vas unable to resolve the reasons for 
the inaction of the IIJJF throughout the crisis: 

Had the IILF leadership "vrished to do so^ it could have 
used its Ifnpressive str'uggle machine to laurich in the name 
of the Buddha a nation-vide st.ruggle m-ovement that con- 
ceivably could have ended with its long-pursued General 
Uprising. . .Knowledgeable Vietnamese attributed its refusal 
to act to an unwillingness to involve itself in an alien 
struggle movement. The IILF and the coiimnanistsj ran the 
argument^ airoid actj.vities over which they do not exercise 
total control. .. .Tne Buddhist leadership made it clear it 
did not seek KLF help since it wished at all costs to avoid 
the Commuxiist stigma. Another popular explanation for the 
KLF's ''sit-tight'^ policy during the Buddhist troubles was 
that the KLF was going to allow the boiurgeois revolutionary 
forces to succeed in toppling Diem., after which it would 
capture the Revolution as the Kerensky Government was cap- 
tured in the Russian Revolution. No such effort, however, 
was made by the IILF. A slanderous but widely bandied 
explanation among Vietnamese at the tii'fle was that the TILF 
did not want Diem removed, that he and his brothers and 
sister-in-law were far more val\iable to the liLF in office 
than out. In truth, the I\LF posture duj:*ing this period 
remains something of a mystery. Wi-/ 

3- The Honolulu Conference and YiSMA 273 

Having postponed his planned October 31 visit to l?ashington because 
of the imjninence of the coup, Lodge apparently suggested, in response to 
a State query, that it be rescheduled for liovember 10. Rusk proposed a 
further postponement to insure t'ljae for Lodge to establish working rela- 
tions with the new government s.nd to take advantage of his own plaraied 
trip to Tokyo later in the month, kk / Accordingly, a meeting with Rusk, 
Bundy, Bell, McNainara, and Taylor in Honolulu was scheduled on F^ovember 20 
for the entire co'ontry team. Lodge was invited to proceed on to Washing- 
ton after the meeting if he felt he needed to talk with the President. 

In preparation for the conference, State dispatched a long series 
of specific questions to Lodge on possible methods of broadening the 
political base of support of the new government and increasing the effec- 
tiveness of the war effort. U6 / This was additional to the comprehen- 
sive review of the situation, including an evaluation of progress on the 
McHajmara-Taylor reco^mnendations, that the military v;as expected to provide 

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and the in-depth assessment ' of the nev regi^iie and its prospects by the 
country team. Wj j Lodr;;e replied even "before arriving at the conference 
that the proposed discussions would require detailed infoi-mation about 
the functioning of the nev rulers which it was far too early to obtain. 1^8/ 

In a broad overview of the new political sittiation in Vietneui at 
the ^ plenary session in Ilonolulu, Lodge "voiced his optimism about the 
actions taken thus far by the new government to consolidate its popular 
support. j^9/ In particular^ he noted the efforts to elijiiinate forced 
labor in the strategic hamlets , to cmrtail arbitrary arrests ^ to deal 
with extortion and corruption^ to enlist the support of the Koa Hao and 
Cao Dai sects ^ and to consolidate and strengthen the strategic hajnlet 
progra^Uc ^ But, he left no doubt that the new leadership was inexperienced 
and fragile. For this reason^, he urged the conferees not to press too 
much on the govern3:ient too soon, either in the way of military and eco- 
nomic progrsm.s, or steps to democratize and constitutionalize the coxontry. 
His second major point was the psychological and political, as well as 
economic, need for b.S, aid to the new goverimient in at least the ajuount 
of our aid to Diem, and preferably more- He recognized the domestic 
political problems in the U.S. with Congress, but he argued that anything 
less^vxould be a severe blow to the new rulers who were still getting their 
bearings. USOM Director Brent supported these latter vievrs, but registered 
his concern about the naivete of the new leaders in the face of an ex-- 
tremely grave economic situation. _5cV In response to a direct question . 
from Rusk as to whether an increase in dollars would shorten the war. 
Lodge demurred somewhat and replied that what was required was greater 
motivation. 51/ McNamara Immediately disagreed, saying that his under- 
standing of the piaster deficit problem was that it vras endangering all 
the programs, and that both AH) and M4P were in need of increased funding. 
Concurring in this view, AID Administrator Bell agreed to review the 
entire AID prograau. 

General Haxklns * assessment of the military situation took note of 
the upsurge of Viet Cong activity in the week following the coup, but 
in general remained optijiiistic, although more guardedly than in the past. 52/ 
The sharp increase in VC attacks after the coup seemed to have been 
haphazard, and not part of a well coordinated country-wide response to 
the uncertain political situation. And in the week just ended, activity 
had returned to more normal levels. Moreover, he did not show concern 
about the seexaing long term deterioration in the statistical indicators. 
While he was favorably impressed with the determination of the new leader, 
to prosecute the war and make needed changes, he was worried about the 
sweeping replacement of division and corps corrmianders and province chiefi 
The discontinuities and disruptions created by wholesale replacement of 
province chiefs could have a serious negative effect on the whole counter- 
insujTgency program'. On the positive side, he noted the strengthened 
chain of cormnand under General Don as both Defense Minister and Chief of 
Staff. Hcl-^amara pointedly questioned both Harkins and the other military 



66 TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

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TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

"briefers about conditions in the Delta and seemed skeptical of the 
official opttrnisin, although he vas equally disinclined to accept 
undocumented negative Judgments o 

The conference ended inconclusively with respect to the military 
problem. It did, ho-^^rever, underscore U.S. support for the nevr regime 
and focus U.S. official concern on the urgency and gravity of the 
economic probleBi confronting the new government. An un informative 
press- release after the conference took note of UcS, support i^or the 
ne^T" govenment in facing the difficult political and economic problems 
in South Vietn£>m, and pointedly reiterated the plan to withdravr 1,000 
U.S. troops by the end of the year with 300 to leave on December 3. ^/ 

Lodge flev to Washing:ton the following day and conferred vrith 
President Johiison. Based on that meeting and the report of the dis- 
cussions at Honolulu^ a Eiational Security Action I-^emorandum vas drafted 
to give guidance and direction to our efforts to improve the conduct of 
the war urider new South Vietnamese leadership. ^|i_/ It described 
the purpose of the /vnierican involvement in Vietnam as, ''to assist the 
people and Government of that country to win their contest against the 
externally directed and supported ComBiunist conspiracy." 55/ It defined 
contribution to that purpose as the test of all U.S. actions in Vietnain, 
It reiterated the objectives of withdrawing 1,000 U.S. troops by the end 
of^l963 and ending the insua^gency in T, II, and III Corps by the end of 
I96U, and in the Delta by the end of 1965. U.S. support for the new 
regime was confirmed and all U.S. efforts were directed to assist it 
to consolidate itself and expand its popular support. In view of the 
series of press stories during Novem.ber about the disagreements between 
Harkins and Lodge, the President requested "full unity of support for 
established US policy" both in Saigon and in Uashington. 56/ IvSAl-I 273 
directed the concentration of U.S. and Vietna^iiese military, political, 
economic and social efforts to improve the counterinsiorgency C3mpaign 
in the Mekong Delta. It further directed that economic and military aid 
to the new regime should be maintained at the same levels as during 
Diem's rule. And in conclusion, plans were requested for clandestine 
operations by the GVI^ against the North and also for operations up to 
50 kilometers into Laos; and, as a justification for such measures, State 
was directed to develop a strong, documented case "to demonstrate to the 
world the degre to wtiich the Viet Cong is controlled, sustained and sup- 
plied from Hanoi, tlrrough Laos and other channels." 57/ 

As a policy document, I\SAM 273 was to be extremely short lived. In 
the jargon of the bureaucracy, it v^as simply overtal'^en by events. The 
gravity of the military situation in South Vietnam was only hinted at 
in r:SAl/. 273 and in the discussions in Honolulu, Its full dimensions 
would rapidly come to light in the remaining weeks of I9S3 and force 
high level reappraisals by year's end. But probably more important, the 
deterioration of the Vietnamese position in the countryside and the rapid 

67 TOP SECRET ■ Sensitive 

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NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 

TOP SECRET - Sens itive 

collapse of the strategic haaalet program vere to confront the fragile ne^T 
political structuore in South Vietnam vith difficulties it could not sur- 
movnt and to set off rivala^ies that would i'ulfill all the dire predictions 
of political instability nade by men as diverse as Jolon Mecklin and Fritz 
Nolting before Diem*s fall, 


I ' 

TOP SECRET - sensitive 

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NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 





Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date; 201 1 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive; 

'y ^ n 


1. Rober-t Sli&plen, Tlis Lost Eovcliition (Ne^r York: Harpsr & Eowe: 1966) 

p. 18 


2. IMcI.^ p. 153 

3. RK 53-63 "FroGpcsts in South Yietnm," j^pr il 17, 19^3 

k, Ex'icfinn po.psr, "Highlights of the Ciiri'-3nt Situation" for fho 
Secrctcrcy of Bsfonse, Honolvau Conference, May 6j I903. 

5. Sir E. G. K. Thompson, "The Sitiiatiorj. in Soirbh Viotr)c;a;, March 1963," 
Mc-.rch 11, 19^3 • 

6. KIE 53-63; op. Git. 

— — «Wiii« 111 ,1 ■ m 

7. CIA Current Intelligence McLnoreindraa OCI O521/635 April 9 3 I963 

8. Saigon msg 888, April 7^ I963 (S) 


9. CIA Me:!ioranc:ija CCI O521/63, op. eit 


TOP SECRET - ScnfjitivD 



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NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date; 201 1 

TOP f"~--ji „ Sensitive 



1. CIA Intolligonce Kemorandm Ko. 03ll/66^ h May 1966. This estlmat 
is probably high. GVK refv officials estlinated about 800,OCO 
Catholics mmz tlaeir civ.i'gss; ^. Bui Van Lijong in Riche;,.rd W. 
^^■^oho^:):'.^ ed., Viet-Nara (/ma Arbor j Michigan State University Presf 

2> Eaigon AirsreJti A~78:L, Jvne. 10. I963 (c) 
3. SNIE 53"£-63, 10 jxLty 1963 

'•!-. CI^. Cum-ent Intcllisenco Memorandum, OCI Ko. 2339/63^ I'l- An^ 63 

5. Ibid. 

6. Scdgon niB3 IO38, May 18^ 1963 (c) 

7. Saigon aog IO50, Hay 22^ 1963 (s) 

8. State Kos 1159^ May 29, I963 (b) 
9« State ffiss 1171 > June 3, 1963 (s) 

10. Daison Wijg 1100, Juno k^ 1963 (fi) 

11. Saigon msg II36, jyne 9^ 1963 (s) 


IS. Stt^te mss 1207, Jims 11^ 1963 (s) 
13. Saigon mss II68, Jxmo 12, I963 (s) 
lit. Salmon rnss 85^ July 15^ 1963 (s) 

15. Str.te rocs 160, A^'^UGt 5j 3-963 (s), end. State msg I78, Ausust 8, 1963 (s) 

16. Saigon mBg 226, Augiist l'-!-, 19\^3 (s) 

17. Saigon iiir.n; 229^ Ai^gust 1^^, I963, (C) 

3-So Nov York Hsrgga. Tribxmo, Axigust 15, I963. 
19. State msg 20!+, August 15, 3-963. 
20.' SKLE 53-2-63, Jijly 10, I963. 

70 TOP SECRET - Sensitive 


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21 c. Charles von Lutteehau^ The- US Army Bole in tlie Conn-iCt in v; ' -i^ 
Office of the Chief of Milita^T Ilil . . ... V ( T3 ) ^^ Chapter IX^ pp^ 9'-^fK. 

22o SccDsf St; * nt to Pre^:?; July 19^ I963. 

23. SNIE 53-2«63j July 10, 1963. 

SH* Gee David Ifelherstam« The Making; of a Q-aa-^Tiiii'Oj (Nev7 York* :aar?.acm 

- ...w J*" I V 5" ■ '■ ■ ' " ■■I f ■!■»■ ■! ii ■■ >* ». e mmm iiii.iji m iui jm 111 mi l i r ii ipi T* ■ II I ji r ii ii m M 

Houi^o^ 196^!), jjp. 135-1930 

25 • Eavid EcaborBtau^ "VictnarjiGso Keds Gain 5n Key Area/' Nc-^7 York Tin^iSj 
Axxgust 15^ 19<^3« 

26. Mao or Gonorol V» H« KT-rilak, JCS^ PACBA^ McnoranOxva fox" the SeexvjtoA^ 
of Defense^ A\iguet l6^ I963 (s)» 

27» Da^partmcnt of StatOj, Mane: .a of Convc . .tion for ths Reeord 

(Parbicipa!its: the Presidc/vl-^ E.aXlj Harrlincui^ MoGoorge Bundy<j 
IlilfiTiiati and Forrests^il), July \^ I963 (TS EYES ONLY), (aitaeh'-d in 
appendix) « 

28« Department of State^ MsHOrcnduni of Convex^tmtion, Oiily 5, I963 (g). 
(Attached in ai^pondi';:) . 

29* Brid. 

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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date; 201 1 

TOP SSCr^};;! - Sensitive 



1.^ CIA, Infonnation Repox-t, TMS D3-3/656,252j /aijjust 2k , I963 (c) 

2. Te:d-. reported in Gaiscn msjs 2B0, Av/rust 21 j I9S3 (u)j oth-r accounts 
credit Wm -with the !H&.rtial law idea as woll, 

3. As repcv^tcd. by C . ral Le V.-ri Klni in en interview with Ru.fMs Phillips 
(U30M) ijr^^Tst 23p 3.963, Saigon msg 320, Lodge to State, A.tigust 2l|, 

. 1263 (']'?. )o 

k. D.-ivid E.;..rDerfitam^ The M-^kinjc of A Qiteirjaire, op.cit,. pp. 231-232 
5« CT/i Infoimatioa Repo^-tj £P.clt« 
6. mabar3ta2u-j op. cite, po 23'^o 

7. Joto Mecld-inj, Mission in Torr^icnt (Kow Ycrk: ]>Dubloacy^ I965), po I81. 

8. Stats iii.^(; 226, AugiiGt 21, I963 (LOU) . 

9. Director, rtefcnse Intelligotico Agency, Mcmorandivi for the Sesratary 

of D-fonso, S.»l8, 5'i.8/r-3. subject: (s) MarbieJ. Lai^r in Soivtli Viet.-rj?H, 
Auc^ust 21, 1963 p 

10« Roger RrJlsnan, To Move a Ration, (Ke-.r York: Double.5ii.y, 195?), pp, ls-8l»3 

11. State msg 235, KilEBUin to LodsG (TS), Axiguot 22, I9S30 

12. So/igon siKg 31.!;.^ Lod^e to State, August 23, I963 (TS). 

13. CIA Information Repoa-t, op.cit 


l!u Saigon rasg 320, Locisc to Stivbo, August 2^^, I963 (TS)o 

15 » SaiGon kss 316, Lodge to Hilsman, August 2*!-, 19^3 (TS), r<;ports a con. 
vcrsation bctvrocn Kattcaiburg ( Wl/l-?G ) , vho had acccrnpanied Lodge from 
Honolulu, md Vo Van Hci, Diea's chef de cabinet; S.?/Igon rasg 32^i-, 
Lodge to Stato, Axjsucjt 2^1-, 1963 (0:6), repoi'ts Hiillips' conversation 
viith Secretary of State %uyan Dinh Thuan. 

16. Saigon msg 329, Loa^e to Hlleinsn, . 2!+, I963 (s)c 

17. Ibici. 

18. The intelligence reports do not reflect an accurate picture of vhat 

TOP S5CRFJT - .'.e-n gitive 

, > 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

TOP SECRT^r - Sensitive 

actueUy transpired in the raids exid mavtial lav decree tmtil August 
26* See (Xirrcnt IntcI^liGonce MmormdxfM OCT No* 23^6/63j9 /aijiiGt £6^ 
19^3 (b); end Cirectov, DIA:» Mcmorand^n for the Secretary of I;afen?:>e, 
August 26, 1953 (s)o . ' 

19. Thuan statcriont as reported in Sfrigon n;-s 32'-i-^ £2^. Ei^''^ H31. 1^ 

To Move a Nation, oppcitoc po ^1-8 

20. Hilsrmn^ il:*lcU 

• i>»«i-K»a 

2.1. State tasg 2!v3,, State to Loclsej Avcu.ot 2^^, 1953 (I'S) (o;ttc.ched in 

appsndij:) . 

22 o Dlrj/L 

23. Aa'tli-ar Schlesingei'^ A Thor-'-nd P-^-':, (Kgw York : Houghton Mifflin COo, 
1965)^ Pe 90hi for a more positive vlotr of those events, see Hiltmsn, 
£S«cii«^ Pl^« '■!-83~9. 

254-. Michaca V. Forrc-stj-l, IvtencrendiM for the Erosidoit, August 2?^ I963 

(ts eyes 0SLY)| direct quote froia miavail&blo^ n.nn.ujn'bercd Sidson c^T^le. 

25o HllBTii;arj^ op e cit ^ Po J188* 

26a CAS Saigon msg 0292^ August £5^ I963 (1-8)0 

27 o KileBi:^!, £E»£ii»# PP* ^88-9 • 

28c Ibid. 

29 • CAS Saigon msg 0329^ Lodge to Harrijnan^ August 26^ I963 (TS)e 

30 o See Mccklin^ w.cito, ppo 183-^- eJid 197^^8 « 

31 e See Curr>2nt Intelligenca Memoranda, OCI No. 2339/63, Ang^ust Ik, 1963^ 
ajad OCI No« 23^1/63^ Aisgust 21, 19^3 (b). 

32o Ibid 

3'4o Ibid 

4^ -■--■■ — ■■ 



35o CIA to state (no ra^anbcr), Aiigast 26, I963 ('iS). 
360 CAS Saigon 03li6, CI^. to State, August 27, 1953 (TS) 
37. CAS S&ison 0357, CIA to Stato, AuquzI 27 j l$6's (s)o 

TOP SECPJg - ScnGiti%'-G 
73 • 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

38, Hilsm^iH^ 32\^1'^*> PP* 'l90»91. Fo'r a similar account boq Sclilcsingor, 
0£»cit.^ p7 90^^r. The virtual lack of official records for tho NSC 
meetings in August^ Septombez'', and October 1953 rcouix^es a major caveat 
on the p:.rh of the e^uthor vit}a x^CDijeet to the analysis of VJathin^jton 
policy dclibex-^ations for that period « Of necessity^ the author has 
txarned to the public DOurceG (\rhich a:ce not vithout bias) in eji effort 
to piece togGther the story of ho./- 0::^Qiv>ions irere reached; prira:6irily 
Roger Hilsm-an^ To Move a I;Icvt_ion;, £E*£ii«i Arthur Schlesingc-r^ 
A Th ous.and Tays, O'o.cit. f " and John U^oltLin. Miasion in To" -nt^ 'op.cit. 

I I III . ii.i. I I I " IIIH^ - , -■' -_ ,1,-1 - ' ' II I III II .1.1 I I II. I . 111*^ *Bi*-« I II I I 

39. State rasg 256, State to Lodge, August 27, 19^3 ('j'S). 

liOo Saigon msg 36!.;., Lodge to Stato^ Aiisust 28, I963 ('i\S). ' 

kl. MACV mss 15^^*0 Kax-^kins to Taylor &nd Felt (TG^ EYES OKT.Y), AugiLot 28;, 
1963^ ernphasi^ added* 

U2. MCV UBS 1557^ Harliinc:} to Taylor, August 28, .1963 (TS) . 

H3. CAS Salson msg O363, August 28 j, 19'53 (TS). 

kk. Ibirl. 

It5. Hilsman, op.cit., pp. ^5-92-3. 

k6. Ibid. 

l|-7. State msg 269, President to Lodge, August 28, I9S3 (TS); snd JCS 
msg 3385, Taylor to Harklns, August 29, 19^3 (TS). 

)|8. State rasg 268, State to Lodse, August 28, I963 (TS) . 

li-9. CAS SaiGon ms^ 0':-05, August 29, 19^3 (TS) . 

50. CAS Saigon mss 0'4-37, August 29, 3-963 (TS). 

51. Saleon meg 375, Lod^o to Stents, August 29, 1953 (i'S) . 

52. MACV msg 1566, Harkinc to Taylor, August 29^ I963 (TS). 

53. Hilsman, og.cit.;, p. l!93. 

^k. State rnsg 279^ Eusli to Loc^rsej Au^i^st 29, I963 (TS) . 

55. Stats niDS 272, State to Loase and Karkins, August 29, 19^3 (TS). 

56. Saigon mss 383^ Lodge to State, August 3O, 19-53 (TS). 

57. CAS Saison racg Oh83, CIA to State, August 30, 1963 ('iS) . 

58. MAOY msg 1583_, Harkins to Toylor, Aui^ust 3I, I963 (TS). 


TOP SECIWI - Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date; 201 1 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

59 » CAS Saigon meg 0J-:-99; CIA to State^ Augxict 31^ 1953 (s); and Saigon 
lasg 391j> Lofi^G to Stats J Axis:i3,st 31 j ?l.963 (os). 

60. Saigon nsg 391^. op,cit. 

6lo Ibid. 

■ ■mil ■ I I 

62. Major General V. C. ICa-ulak, Meaiorandum for the Record^ Vietnsm 
Meeting at the State R^partment, August 31, I963 (TS SENSITIVE) 
(attachGd in appendix). 

63. Ibid. 


. Hilaman, op.cit., p. k96 

65. IGaaak^ M-omcrancSim for tho Rcaord^ op.cit. 

66. n:)id. 

67 c Ibid . 
68. To id. 

69' Tr-anscrapt of broad<3£.5;t with V? alter Cronlcito inang-arating a CBS 

Televlcion n-vjc pycGX'o^a, Septcmbsr 2, 1953/' in I\ibli(! Fapars of tho 

^^^^^^^PS^^i^l~^^^lIjLJ^iHE*£* ('.'feshinston: 04^0^1961!), vol. in, 
pp. 651-2, emphasis added ( attached in appendix). 

70. Ibid. 

71. HilsBicm, op.cit. 

72. SaiGon meg 3^6, Lodso to State, Av.gv^st 27, 19'53 (TS). 
Saigon ffit- '403, Lodso to State, September 2, 1963 (TS), 

73 ■> 

7!!-. Saigon rnr.;': 388, Lodf:e to State, Ai.K;ust 30, I963 (TS); Saicon meg 391, 
Loasc to Stcito, August 31, 1963 (TS). 

75 « Saigon msg Ij-slt^ LoOse to State, Ssptomber 7, 1953 (TS) 

76. Saison mj-g 1|U6, Lod«e to State, September 9^ 1963 (TS). 

77. Hilsaen, op.cit.^ p. 50O-5OI. 

78. State rasg 3'-'r8, Stcte to Lodsc, Bspteniber 6, 1953 (:i'S). 

79« Hilsman., op.cit., p. 50I. 

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Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

TOP SECRET - Scinsltive 

80* Hils:nan^ £pe eitc^ pp« 501-502 • 

61. State msg 353^ State to Lodge, September T> 1963 (TS). 


82. Mcgor General Ve Co Ki-ulak, "Visit to Vietn-^u-a^ T-^IO SeptemlDcr I963 
(TS), pp. 3.~2o 

83. Ibid , 
S^^"' Ibic!. ^^ pp. 2-3 • 

85. ScblCBingcr, op.cit^^ p. 905j Hilsman^ £P*£ii'^ PP* 502-505} C'5^<3. 
Mcoklin^ Sl"£ii*'^ P» ^08 give pia'^allol accoua'its of this meoting# 

85. SchlcBinser, ibido 

87. MeoldLin. op.cit.. pp. 210-211 o 

88. HilsinaUj cgoCit., pp. 50-*-;-505. 

89. State msg 33-3-s Joint Statc/AID m^g to Loclge^ September 3j 19^3 • 
90c Hilsraanj op.c5/fco^ p. 505c. 

91c Mocklin, op.cit.^ po 210. 

92 • Co:i';mittGe on Foregih Releticns, U. S* Senate, B a ckgroimd Inf or m^.t io n 
E?^tj.n.^ to Fjouthea nt Asif , e-Tjd Vietnc^m (3rd e d".™)' "(Washins-b on : GPO, 
julyl9FfT;p. 13. 

93 6 "Tranccript of broadcast on I^IBC^b *Kimtley«Brinld.ey Eoport^ 

• September 9s 1953"j Ftablic Papers of the Presidents. opoCit.. p. 659 

9''rc Saigon rar.^ hjS^ Lod^s to State^ September 11^ I963 (TS)* Saigon Ru;g 
if83j Locise and Extent to State^ on the sarns &.y^ took tho opposite 
view caid requested permission to approve pending aid pro^^rcunso This 
cable probcbly rofleGts Brontes viow^ in vrhich Lodge concurred to 
avoid revealing th3 coiitent of his eorlior ccblc. 

95. Si'.igon mss3 ^69-^77^ Lodge to State^ September 12^ I963 (TS). 

960 State mss 391 j State to Lodse^ September 12, 1953 (TS). 

97* Stote mss 'ill, Stato to LoO-c, September 1^-, 1963 (TS). 

98. MACV msa l6h9^ Harklns to Taylor, September 9, I963 (TS); MCV msz 
1675/ Hexiiins to Taylox-, Septciibcr 12, 1963 (TS); c;ad John A* McCono, 
Director CIA, Me^norandum, September 13^, I963 (TS)* 

TOP SECRET - Sensitive 
76 " ™ ~" 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date; 201 1 


TOP SECRET - Sensitive 

99^ MCV rass 7536, Earkins to Taylor, Saptember 18, 1963. 

100.. "Sunimary of Mr. Sboldon's /inalysis or Vxetn::^ Situation/' SoFfcejiiber 31, 
ly&o (S EfSS OI'ILY)^ in SccDsf Briefing Book. 

101. Saigon ia,o;; [JSO,, Lo5£;o to State, September I6, I963 (c). 

102. RobsT Eilsia.^^ Heraorandiim to the Secretary of State, Subjsct: 
Viet-Ifem, Ssptembsr I6, 1963 (TS-EiffiS GM.Y). 

103 c CAP ffiag 63516, IJhite Hoa-GO to LocKic, September 17, I963 (ts) 
(attaclied In r -ndir.). 

104. Ibid. 


Saigon ras^ 5';-'!., Loclge to State for Presidcjnt only, September I9, 
1903 (TO) (a.ttac4j2d in appendix); and Sai/^on rac-;g 5l!-5, to tlic 
President frc;a Lodsc, Scptej:^ocr 19, I963 (^':3). 

lOo, CAP msg 63516, opocit. 

107. Saiaon msg 536, Lod-e to F/^esident, Septc^^cr I8, 1963 (TS). 

103. state ms^ 1^31^ President to Lod^a, SeptembeT I8, I963 (TS)j and 
Saigon m^s 5^-;0, Lodge to Frecident, September 18, 1963 (Tfj) . 

109. Pi-ess release, Septcrriber 21, I963, 18:05 p.ra. 

110. P3.'csident John Fo KennGa.Y, MemorandOTn for the Sacrctaiy of Dofenoo, 
Septcabsr 21, 1963 (ts) (attaolisd in appendix). 

111. Secretary of Defense Rober-t S. MnKamara, P.faiarks to the Press on 
Departure for Victncm, Androvrs APB, Hd., Septsmbcr 23, I963. 

112. SchlRsinsor, cp.eit., pp. 907 -908; Hilsmtax, op.c:!t., pp. 502-508 « 

113. Comandir UGIAacv, "Tranccript of Ope-ning Conference with the Secre- 
tary of Defense, A-abassador and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of 

Staff on the Status of the U3 Effort to Victns^J', 25 Septr.riber I963 (ts). 

His-. State ass 476, EYE.S OKl,Y for Ambassador Lodse and Soerc-tary McNmara, 
September 2'i., 1963 (tb); and Saisoa tur^s 593, EYES OI-iLY for President, 
Septoniber 25, 3.963 (TS). 

115. Saigon Hsg 6l2, Lod^c to State, September 29, I963 (TS) . 

116. MACV Eisg JOl 7811-7 from Harkins to Taylor, October 1, 1963 (s). 
117 > Saigon Kcg 613, Lodse to State, Sept saber I3, I963 (tg). 

TOP SECRST - Sr:n f:. it ive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

TOP sr ■ » Sensitive 

118. Ct -indc-r UDIvLICV, "TriUiscr-ipt . o «/' on.cit.^ pp. TA-dl. 

119 c Saigon msg 602, Lodge to State^ EYES OKLY, Ssptcmbcr 27, I963 (Ty) 


120. Saisoa toss 6o8j Lodse to Stcta^ EYES OIJLY, September 27. I963 (ts); 
Joseph Brent^ Director USO:/;, Mcaaoranduia for tho Ambassadoi 
Septsn-bei- 30, I963 ( S-LIf/i JJIS ) . 



121. USAiD Briefing Papsr, ''Listing of Possible Eccnomlc Aid SwspenciiODG 
v/it.b, Estimated Impacts/' no d^.to (S-LBIECS) . 

122. Secretoxy of Pafencc^ Manorandim for the President, Subjoett Rcpor't 
of the Mcr ra-T:.ylor Mission to South Vietmra, 2 OctobDr 1903 (fj) 
p. 2 (conclxxsions and recoamGndiitions attached in appondJ:i<). 

123 « B3id . 

12'!-» ^id., p. 5, 

125 . Brld. 

126 c The 1,000 man withda-ca/al i)lc,n is dcelt with in dot till in fmothsr 
Icsl: Forces paper, "H-jascd Withdrcvsl of US Forces 1962-196)i-". 

127. Secretary of Defense, memorandwo. for the President, op.clt. 

128c NationoJl Securibj- Council Action, Ko, 2iiT2, October 2, I963 (a'S); tind 
"vmite House State :b folloi?ii\^ the Retvirn of a Special Mission to 
■ Vietnc::iti, " October 2, 3-963, in PL*"' :* ^ P^^gl^'s of the Presidents; John 
£i-iS22E££LL.r_2;2§3i ££^£ii»^ pp. ''('>Y-7S"0 (boSr'fFbt ached in appendix;. 

129* KSMj NOo 263^ Octc^oc^r 11, 1963 (T3 WDIB OivXY), Gnphasis added 
(attr,chod in GppaHlix)o 

130. State msg 53'4, October 5, I963 (TS) (attached 5^i append!::) 
131 « n^id* 


TOP SECRST « Sensitl^/e 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date; 201 1 

TOP EBCEBT - Sensitive 



Xo CAS rasg FVS 9750^ to State from Saigon, OotoTaer 9.- 19o7 (s)j 

CAS msg FVS 9753^ to State frcni Saigon^ Octoljer 9> 19o7 (s); aiid- 
Saigon rasg 6^6 ^ LoSge to Stats, Octobor 10, 19'57 ('I'S)o 

2. Saigon msg 637, to State fro:u Lodga, October 3f 19^3 (S). 

3. Saigon m^^g 65li-, to State frcn Loa°;Cj Ootobcr 7; 3,963 (TS). 

li-c Saigon 3nGg.6!.|-2, to State from Loage, Octo^ber 6, 1963 (TS EiT.S OIILY), 

6, Saigon msg 652, to State froa Lod^G, Octobar 7j 1953 (TS EYES 0I1LY)e ■ 
7c Saigon mog 6'!7, to Stats frosi Lodge, October 7, 1953 (^a'S). 

8. Stats in.r:g 576, to Lodge from the R-csident, Octobor l^i-, I963 (TS 

9e Saigon msg 712, October I6, 1963 (ts). 


10. Saigon mc.g 715 j October 16, 1963 (C)j and Scdgon msg 732, October 
IB, 1963 (T3 ) . 

11. Cl/i Current Intenigcnce Memorejmdm, OCI 2370/63, October 19^ 1953 (s). 
12 » Saigon msg 731, October I8, 1963 (s)» 

13 o M/^CV rasg JOI 8250, for Generca Taylor end Admiral J'elt from Karkins, 
October 17, 1953 (TS). 

1)4-0 KACV RiDg- 2006, October £6, I963 (ts). 

15. CIA Current Intelligence Hciaorsudani OCI 2370/63, og^cit. 

16 e Department of State, IKE Ecaeaxcb MsmorcJiidmu R5E90, October 22, 

1963 (S)c 

17. Hila^iaJi, og c e it o , p« 515, 

18. VTaeliin-rton Tciily Kcifs, Octc;ber 2, 19o3; also Halberstam storj, 

■ iT'-tl ■■■!• " ■ I II II II I I I I ail |— i-Ti I [■■■MB nifcjil-^ . -p ' 

Nov York Ttoo^j October ^-^ 1963. 
19^ State mQ 529, Octo"bor it, I963 (3)e 
20 o Sai2on meg 768^ to ST.cretary of State^ October 23> 1.9^3 (TS)i. 

79 TOP SECRET ■- Sonsitiv-e 




Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

TOP SECRET " Sensitive 

21 State mss Q^ ^ October 25, 1953 (ts) 

Saigon laog Go^^ Oct;ol3er 29, 1S53 (?) 

23. XbMo . • 

2'i-o Saigon nsg &0>i-, October 28, 1963 (s), 

25. Saigon msg 816, Getobei- 30,. 19o3 (S). 

260 Stc-fce xmz Ti^^ to Lod^o frou the Fresident;;, October \h^ I9S3 (TS 
EYES OI:n:;Y).; caid CilS Saigon ^.53 lli^!28^ Lodse to the President, 
October I5, 1963 (ts)o 

27 c Saigon mi^g 13^28^' op oC it 

28* GAS Saigon msg 1385^ October 3# 19'53 (b)o 

29o CAS E£'/ii;^tn r.U:S 1^'^5, to State fran Locl-C; October 5^ I963 (TS) 
(attfr:clied in appondi'^c) ^ 

30. CAS Saison msg 3^026^ tc Stato frcui Lodse^ October 5^ 2.963 (T3 

31 • Ibide 

32c CAP msg 63560 \ria CAS cliojartel^ Ostobor 5> 1963 (^TS) (attached in 

33o CAP iD£S 7^-228, October 6, 1963 (X'S) (attachGd in £^^pendix)« 

314-0 Shaplen, opoCit*^ ppo 203-^- 

35 a USAPJm Saigon msg 199^ frora Jones^ USAEIIA^ Saigon, to M.cNci;-iara, 
October 21, I963 (ts)o 

36. CAS Saigon msg IB96, October 23^ I963 ('rs)o 

37 o CAS Saigon I906; to State from Lodsc, OctoToer 23, 191S3 (T3)« 

38. mcy msg 3-991^ Harkins to Taylor, October 2)f, I963 (-S)» 

S9» Ibid. 

1^0. CAS mss 77878., to Loage, October 2U, 1963 (TS)| and CAS msg 78liil, 
McCone to Sulsoa, October 2'i-^ 1963 (TS). 

ll-l. CAS Saigon Ksg 1925, October 25|-, I963 (TS)» 

l|-2. MACV risg 1993, ' Harlrins to Toiylor, 2!-M055Z Oetober I963 (I'S). 

U3« JCS msg U137-63, 2!-:-22^6 October 1963 (ts) 


80 TOP SECRET - Sensitive 



Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 2011 


TOP CEGKET ■« Scn?;5tiva 

kho CAS Saigon msg ^J[0^ October 25^ 1953 (^b). 

it-5. CAS Saigcxi mEf; 196^^^ LoO^c to McGcorge Bundy^ October 25, 3.963 (iS) 
(attached in api>sndix) <» 

U6. Xbid. 

h^c CAP msg 6359O;, McGeorge Eundy to Lodge, OGtobar 25, 19^3 (I'S) 
(attached in t^ppendix)* 

1^8. CAS Saigon rasg 2003, Locl-c to St:ito, October 20^. 1963 (T3)e 

U-9e CAS Saigon mss 2023, LoO-c to State, OctobGr 29^ I963 (I'S). 

50. CAS Saigon 20!^-0, Lodge to State, October 29, 3,963 (^S). 

51 o Xbirlo 


52. JCS I.1CS 3301, Taylor to i-olt, October £9^ 3-953 ('^'O) • 

53. JCS mfjg U188-63, Taylor to Iforkins, October 29, I963 (TG EYES OM..Y). 

5l|-. Ibide 

^ »ni 111 »1] 

CAS Wash:: : ::.oa mc:; 79109, MeGcorco BimSy to Lofige, Ootdbsr 30, I963 
(TS) ( attached ^ in appendi:^)© 

56c M/^.CV n^^g 2053, Ilarkins to Taylor, Octc^cr 30, I963 (TS) (attaclicd in 

57e MAC\^ n)ss 203^1-, Harkins to Taylor, October 30, I963 (TB) (attachod in 
appendix) * 

58c M4CV m^s 2028;, Harkins to Taylor, Cctobor 30, I963 (TS) (rvttached in 

59 c CAG Washington m^z 79109, opoCito 

60. CAS lJa5;liington msg 79126^ CIA to Uhite House, October 30, I963 ('^3)0 

61. CAS Sainton mm 20?^0c op.cit 

■&^" xuvi> ^-^^^, ^y:'^^- --^^ 

62 ^ C/iS lJashii-)ston msg 79109, opcCit*. 

63. CAS Saigon msg 2063, Lodr,e to State, OctoTsor 30* ^9^3 (-*-B) (attachad 
in appendix).. 

6k. C/iS Washington msg 79^0?,, Biuidy to Lodgc^ October 30, 1963 (TS) 
(attached in appoiiclix). 

65. Ibid. 

^ ■■ ■ !. ■ ■ » ■ ■- I 

660 Ibid» 

81' TOP SECRET - Sensitive 


Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 



TOP BEGRia? - Scnsiti\'-e 



Ic CAS Saigon rasg 211ii-^ Lodge to Statc^ October 3^^ I963 (kO 
2. CAS Saigon 2023^ opcCit, 

It if3 extrcTiiely diffic-alt to piece together from classified eources 
tho story of the eoniplo: intrigites that cuJjninatea in the coup itself. 
In view of hiy extensive contc.ots amciig U.S. and Vietnc^srrj cffici5.1s 
in Saigon^ as veil as aQiong the generalfi^ thG moot ploxisiblo and 
detailed acccwit of the plotting and co^^'ter-plottir^j and tho ono on 
■v*tich this ncx^rc^ive has Kiost heoA^-ily r^aioa^ ie thcA of Robert 
S}.:j,plen in Tho Lost R^volutidru Oi^.cit*. pp* 201«'212<» 

w-g^ i ' ' w rgcm aiB * 

ko Sh-plcn,, op.cit.j pe SO5. 

CAS Saigon msg 1925^ opeCit 


Shaplen; opcCit., -d. 205 

T. Saison rasg 85U, Loclso to State, Eovdnbei' 1;, I963 (s) 
8. CIA (kacv) critic 8^ Noveniber 1, 1953 (s). 

aigon iijpjs 859, Lodge to State, November 1, 19^3 (u) 



10 o Shapleru. op.citc. p, 208 « 

11. Saigon rasg PoO^ Lo5ge to Stated;. Kovanibsr 1^ 19o3 (?)• 

12. Wiatftvorj if ejiything;, transp:lrcid between ireshington eaid Arrinnh Saigon 
on Ijoverahor 1^ can only he fiscertained throu^J^ interviews. 

13* Mecklin, op.cit.^ pp. 262-3. 

llic Saigon msg 913^ Loa£;e to Steto^ Novemher 1^> I963 (s). 

15 • Shaplcn^ op.cit.^ p. 208. 

16. CIA Saigon CRITIC msg I8 to Director KSA^ Hovcmh-i'' 2, I963 (s)o 

IT* CLA Saigon CRITIC msg I9 to Director USA, Novomher 2, I963 (o). 

18. ScG Saigon Kss 888^ Lodgs to Stato^ Novomher 2, 19^3^ ^'M ^on. (s);, 
for the conflicting: versions of the raurder. 

19. State luss 673^ Rw-sk to Lodge, Eover-iher 1, I9S3 (s). 

20. State msg 683^ Novoinoer 1, I963, 8:!-i-T p^-n. (s EYES OlILY). 

21 e Saigon m^^g 875^ November 1^ 19'$3j? 3.1:33 p.n. (s). 

■x- 82 TOP SECRET " Sensitive 

Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

/ » 

TOP smiMIS - Sonjjitivc 

_ - I m fw mnwa^^a -Ji ~ i — -y 

■ 22. S-li/oe msg 685^ November 2, I963 (S) . 

2U. Snigon m^s 900^ Lodge to State, Koveraber Z$ 19^3 (->)• 

25 • KilCTicnj op»oito> po 521* 

26* Saigon ^isgs 885 oBd 685^ Lod£ie to State, November 2, I963 (u)» 

27. Si-dgon mss 900, Lodge to State, Kovem'ber 3y ^.963 (s). 

28. State mss TQl)-, State to Loflse^ Eovoraber 3^ 1963 (s); c-^-'i SE-lgon 
msg 917, Lodse to State, NovcorabGr U, 19^3 (s). 

29 • Saison msG 917 ^ op.cit. 

30c Saigon rafjg 927, Lodge; to State, Koverabez- 5* 19^3 (u). 

31. Sairon msg 929, Lodge to Stato, Kovmber 5, 1963 (u). 

f 32 1 Saigon mz 9'!-'^ Lodge to Stats, Hoveffiber 6, 1963' (u)« 

33. State rasg 7^^2, State to Loage, November 6, 1963 (b)j State inss 7^;-9i 
State to LoS^G, Noreaber 7, 1963 (c). 

3U. Saigon msg 976, Lo3ge to St?.to, IToTC-mbar 8, 1963 (s)« 

35. For a general assepsment of the political sitiiation, seo CIA Saigon 
rasg 2i^20, Novanbsr 1'+, I963 (S E'£ES ONLY). 

36. St?te rasg 701, State to Lodge, Eoveaiber 2, I963 (s) . 

37. Saigon rcsg 975, Loclge to State, IJo/ember 8, 1963 (s). 

38. Saigon msg TOAID X016, Korcmber 7> I963 (C"-)* 

39. Saigon meg 975, £P'£il' 

J^O. CINCPAC rasg to JC3 1206oUz 63 (s). 

1^-1. Saigon msg 986, Lodge to State, November 9, I963 (b). Highlights 
TF/Saigon's ireoiay Progress Ecpcrt. 

U2. Saigon rasg 917, op. cit . 

li-3. Do-aglas Pike, Viet_Con^, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1966), pp. 353-35'^. 

TOP SJ5CR?a' - SGneltive 




Declassified per Executive Order 13526, Section 3.3 
NND Project Number: NND 63316. By: NWD Date: 201 1 

TOP SECP.E-I - Sonsltivo 

hk . Ibid. 

k^. State mng C9h^ Kusk to Lodge, Kovcmber 2, 1953 (^') • 

h6. State msg 785^ State to LoOge^ Koveziit-or 13, 19^3 (s). 

ItT. Defense mss 9'^^-!389, to OBICPAC, MCV, Loclge, Kovem'ber 9, I963 (s) . 

iiS. SalGon insg 990, Lodge to Stats^ Vovowjoct 11;, 19^3 (B)=. 

l!-9. "Sti?n'-a£aT of Special Meotins on the Kepiibl Ic of Vietnan," CINCPAC 
Hea.dciii.a-rber5. 20 HoTCzuber I963 (TS), pp. 1-3 <> 

50» lb id Sf PP" 5"6c 

51* Ibidc^ p. 12. 


53. Press release follo\;ing the Honolulxi Conference, Novomter £0^ 1963. 

« • 

^k. Katiouca Security Action Memorandrr.! Ko. 273> Novembsr £o, I963 
(TG) (attached ia fippendivi) « 

55. Ibid . 
55 r Ibid. 

^ ■ ■ ■■>■ ■ ■ 

57. 11.->id« 

TOP SECRET " '" ^.Rsitive 
8!|. ~