141. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Murrow) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • World Reaction to Developments in Viet-Nam

Some sympathy for the U.S. dilemma in Viet-Nam has emerged in the last week, particularly in Western Europe, but most comment is still critical of U.S. policies. There is virtually no sympathy for the Diem regime, except in South Korea and the Philippines where officials see Diem as the only available anti-communist bulwark. This applies to some extent to Thailand as well.

[Page 368]

De Gaulle’s oral intervention2 was criticized widely in France except by the papers traditionally supporting him. It drew only limited comment elsewhere.


The situation in Viet-Nam continues to receive major news play but editorial comment has slackened during past week. Available comment, both media and official, has tended to focus on the question of continued U.S. support for the Diem regime. Reference to the possibility of a neutralized Viet-Nam, as implied by De Gaulle, has been limited. Buddhist groups in Thailand, Burma and Cambodia continue to agitate against GVN treatment of Buddhists. Peking and Hanoi reports now reflect belief that U.S. may eventually replace Diem but that this will not affect the war.


Viet-Nam crisis remains the subject of continuing and extensive news coverage and considerable editorial comment in the West European press. Comment has been almost totally critical of the Diem family regime. Though not uncritical of some American moves, the majority of non-communist papers display considerable sympathy for the U.S. dilemma, and have offered few concrete suggestions for remedies. Recent news coverage has played up U.S. alleged participation in anti-Diem moves but editorial comment on this subject is not yet available.


Crisis continues receive substantial news play though volume has dwindled somewhat since the wave of reaction following the imposition of martial law and attack on pagodas on August 21.3 Scattered editorial and backgrounders in media are relentlessly critical of the Diem regime and continue to view its removal as the only answer if the war against the Viet Cong is to be won. Criticism of U.S. policy has softened somewhat, most editorial comment viewing U.S. as faced with necessity of dealing with “difficult and corrupt” regime with which it has little sympathy while responding to the longer range necessity of fighting the Viet Cong. De Gaulle proposal for unification [Page 369] has drawn little attention. Three leading Indian newspapers split sharply, one opposing and two supporting it.


Only light and scattered coverage of Viet-Nam issue. Except for Algeria, very little comment specifically condemns the U.S. Some Africans view South Vietnamese events in terms of Catholic oppression during the Middle Ages. Neutralization of the country is offered as a possible solution in Tunisia’s Jeune Afrique.


South Vietnam situation receiving moderate news treatment. Editorial comment scarce. News treatment often appeared under headlines which point up the disagreement between Washington and Saigon.


Virtually no sympathy or support for Diem regime except as noted above. Some sympathy for U.S. dilemma in Viet-Nam. I would expect this note of sympathy and understanding to increase unless new and violent acts of suppression occur in South Viet-Nam.

I conclude that the degree of the dilemma and the complexity of the issues involved is almost as well understood abroad as it is in Washington!4

Edward R. Murrow5
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Box 317, Meetings on Vietnam 9/16/63 (A). Confidential. Also printed in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. IV, Vietnam, August–December 1963, Document 108. All brackets are in the original.
  2. See footnote 5, Document 140.
  3. On August 21, Vietnamese police and military raided four Buddhist pagodas in Saigon, including Xa Loi, the main Buddhist temple, and arrested more than 100 Buddhist monks. (“Buddhists Seized,” The New York Times, August 21, 1963, p. 1) Diem declared martial law the same day. See Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, Vietnam, January-August 1963, Documents 261264.
  4. An unknown hand, presumably that of Murrow, added an exclamation point at the end of the final sentence.
  5. On August 29 President de Gaulle, at a meeting of the French Council of Ministers, made a statement on France’s interest in assisting Vietnam. The French Minister of Information later read the statement to reporters. It reads in part: “Every national effort that might be undertaken in Vietnam toward [unification and independence] would find France ready, to the extent of her own possibilities, to set up a cordial cooperation with this country.” (Peter Grose, “De Gaulle Offers to Help Vietnam End Foreign Role,” The New York Times, August 30, 1963, p. 1) The text with slight variation in language due to translation from French into English is also printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1963, p. 869.