At about 6:40 p.m. EST, February 19,
according to MACV, Airborne troops
reentered the capital, reoccupied the Radio Station and the Regional
Force Headquarters and gave the Fifth Armored Group troops 30 minutes to
get out of town.
At about 7:03 p.m. EST, MACV reported General Thieu, with the concurrence of
General Ky, was calling an Armed Forces Council
meeting at Bien Hoa and had requested U.S. transportation. General
Westmoreland authorized this
and also the use of T-39 at Da Nang to transport General Thi on space available basis to Bien
By 7:10 p.m. EST, MACV reported troops under General
Vien of III Corps entering
the city from four directions. The coup leaders were attempting to open
negotiations. It was not clear just who represented the government or
who represented General Khanh.
Four Corps Commanders seemed to be together in opposing the coup.
General Vien seemed to be in
charge of military operations while Generals Ky and Thi
presumably were handling negotiations. Khanh was floating in the background issuing orders and
appearing to be increasingly in control. However there was a possibility
that any meeting of officers convoked to settle the coup could turn
against Khanh around the
conference table although MACV did not
consider this likely on the basis of the past record. General Thi took off from Da Nang for Bien Hoa
in a VNAF C-47 at 6:30 p.m. EST.
By 8:15 p.m. EST AP and UPI were reporting that the coup had completely collapsed.
Also Radio Saigon announced its return to normal operations and was no
longer broadcasting rebel statements.
At 8:55 p.m. EST it was reported that
Prime Minister Quat and other
civilian members of the government would attend the Bien Hoa meeting.
The purpose of the meeting would be to settle the coup. General
Khanh was at Nha Trang
preparing to preside over a victory celebration related to the capture
of the Viet Cong arms ship near Cape Varella. He recommended that
journalists and ICC representatives be brought to the scene.
By 11:05 p.m. EST MACV reported the military phase of the
coup was apparently over. General Phat and Colonel
Ton had been seen changing into civilian clothes and
departing in a civilian auto.
At 11:10 p.m. EST MACV reported that the Armed Forces
Council meeting at Bien Hoa had voted “no confidence” in General
Khanh and that Khanh had left the meeting so that
Council members could speak freely. At about 1:15 a.m. EST Prime Minister Quat confirmed to Ambassador Taylor that the Council had voted “no
confidence” in Khanh and had
also decided that the insurgents should be tried and punished by the
Another Council decision, according to Quat, was to make General Nguyen Chanh Thi Commander of the Capital Military
District (Saigon) replacing General Pham Van
Dong. General Dong however is still serving as a member of the Armed
Quat agreed to discuss with
Ambassador Taylor the question
of naming Khanh's replacement
as Commander in Chief, indicating that Phan
Khac Suu's decree removing Khanh still stands. The Ambassador is inclined to share General Westmoreland's view that no successor
as Commander in Chief is necessary and that it would be preferable to
have only a Minister of Defense and a Chief of Staff of the Armed
Major General Nguyen van Thieu as
Minister of the Armed Forces and Acting Commander in Chief appears to be
top figure in the Armed Forces Council in the absence of Khanh and the most likely inheritor
of leadership of the armed forces.
1 Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Country File, Vietnam, Vol. XXIX. Secret. Prepared by Corcoran.