1. I have reviewed the following factors which appear to me to be
particularly relevant in a balanced examination of the positive and
negative forces affecting the chances of a successful coup d'etat:
A. Of immediate concern is the apparent lack of detail furnished by
General Don both with regard to
the military units to be involved and the politico/psywar side. This
appears to me to be at least in part explained by the Generals'
reticence to reveal these details at this point and because of what must
be a much greater regard for security than was the case in August. The
Generals also acknowledge a certain amount of compartmentation and
division of labor among the principals which on balance should work to
B. The acknowledged involvement of General Dinh is an extremely variable factor. The Generals seem
acutely aware of this and Don
states that they have him under 24-hour a day surveillance and are
prepared to neutralize him at any time should he kick over the
C. The possibility of a premature, unrelated and precipitate coup by Col
Pham Ngoc Thao or others looms large as a negative factor. Again, the
Generals appear completely aware of this and as you know, we have never
been particularly sanguine that Thao has this capability.
D. Knowledge of the involvement of certain civilian opposition elements,
notably Bui Diem, who has stated
that he is liaison between General Kim and civilian leaders, probably Dang Van Sung and
Phan Huy Quat, represents
both a positive and negative factor. On the negative side, it represents
an extension of knowledge weakening the security element but on the
positive side, it indicates an awareness of the necessity of civilian
political inclusion and the fact that as Don has stated it is not intended to establish a
military junta. Tran Trung Dung's knowledge and probable involvement
despite his disclaimer, further indicates intention to form civilian
government, probably within frame of reference of constitutional
E. I am disturbed over the reported discussion of Col Nguyen Khuong's approaches to U.S.
military personnel without the authorization of the coup principals. It
should be remembered that Khuong's role was obscure in the August coup
activities. Don has stated that
the coup principals would discipline Khuong and that he has been removed
from the scene.
F. It would seem to me that the existence of an imminent coup atmosphere
would reduce the element of surprise necessary for the successful
implementation of a coup d'etat. This coup atmosphere has pertained,
however, for several months which would tend to reduce the state of
readiness for countering such a coup attempt. We have some information
that counter-coup combat elements have been suborned. The fact that the
coup principals remain as the responsible military authority enhances
both their knowledge and ability to dispose the units both for and
2. Additional factors which should be noted are:
A. To date the Generals have not indicated either a desire for or
dependence on our support or actions for successful implementation of a
coup. On the contrary, the Generals have repeatedly demanded the least
possible American involvement.
B. Although we are well aware of the profundity of student and Buddhist
dissidence and unrest and even ability to undertake certain limited
action, we do not know of any plans to utilize these elements and of
course cannot calculate the extent of spontaneous action they might
C. Action taken with respect to the Commercial Import Program and the
severance of support and certain elements under Col Tung have created a coup atmosphere
and some deterioration in the economic situation characterized by the
fluctuation of the piastre value, the disappearance of gold on the
market, and the rising prices of consumer commodities.
D. Please note Don does not want
me to change date of my departure for Washington. We are reviewing whole
situation Wednesday night to see whether change my departure is
3. A point which must be completely understood is that we are not
engineering the coup. The sum total of our relationship thus far is:
that we will not thwart a coup; that we will monitor and report; and
that Conein's long-standing friendship with Don may be a real help. Although there have been no
requests to date by the Generals for material or financial support, we
must anticipate that such requests may be forthcoming.
4. In summary, it would 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, however
unjustifiably; and finally, that no positive action by the USG can prevent a coup attempt
short of informing Diem and
Nhu with all the opprobrium
that such an action would entail. Note too Don's statement we will only have four hours notice.
This rules out my checking with you between time I learn of coup and
time that it starts. It means U.S. will not be able significantly to
influence course of events.
1Source: Department of State,
Central Files, POL 26 S VIET Top Secret; Immediate; Eyes Only.
The source text is CIA Station
telegram [document number not declassified]
from Saigon sent to the Department of State eyes only Rusk, Harriman, Ball, Hilsman, and Hughes. Also sent to the Department of Defense eyes
only for McNamara, Gilpatric, Taylor, Krulak, and William Bundy; to the White House
eyes only for McGeorge Bundy;
repeated to Honolulu eyes only for Felt and to CIA eyes
only for McCone, Carter, and Helms. Received at the Department of
State at 7:59 a.m.