200. Telegram From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Reinhardt) to the Department of State1

5609. Re Deptel sent Saigon 5271.2

Following is revised summary our analysis Diem’s position and future policies. Diem’s major effort since taking office has been directed at solidifying government’s position as supreme authority. All other aims and programs have been retarded and subordinated to attainment major goal. Secondary and more recent effort, which to some extent aimed at same goal, is establishment new base of legality for government. Fruition this effort designed to be national elections and a National Assembly which would give new constitutional base for government.
Diem’s policy would appear to be moving into final phase of subduing organized opposition and at same time into first phase of preparing way for national political action. Having gained support of army, and being in mop-up stages of action against Binh Xuyen (who cannot, however, be entirely discounted), he is ready to move militarily against Hoa Hao. Diem probably believes success against Ba Cut and Soai will permit isolation of Cao Dai and render ineffective such groups as Dai Viet, which Palace seems to believe represent past era. It seems clear Diem has no intention broaden his government by including other national figures or elements prior formation [Page 432] national assembly which he probably anticipates being able to control. Political action of “Revolutionary Committee” and exploratory efforts set up electoral system are clear signs preparation for stage two. Latest evidence indicates Diem may have determined deal with Bao Dai question prior convening National Assembly, and possibility exists government may resort to early “referendum” to provide basis for removal Bao Dai as Chief of State.
Following is … estimate of Hoa Hao capabilities: current strength Hoa Hao around 16,000 armed personnel, broken down as follows: Soai 7,000; Ba Cut 3,000; Ngo 3,000; and Nguyen 3,000. (Figures claimed are greatly in excess of these.) Ngo considered loyal to government. Nguyen officially rallied on June 1 and VNA has agreed “integrate” 3,000 his troops. Soai and Ba Cut believed ready actively to oppose government military action. Hoa Hao forces considered 30 to 40 percent combat effective compared to VNA, owing to known equipment shortages and logistic deficiencies. Possibility French resupply Hoa Hao forces discounted. VNA has 21,000 troops deployed in Can Tho, Soc Trang and Vin Long subdivisions.
If VNA successful in trapping Soai and preventing his movement westward to Ba Cut area, VNA should be able to reduce Soai forces to 3,000 to 5,000 men in short order. If Soai trapped and succeeds in break-out to join Ba Cut a force of 5,000 to 7,000 would remain which VNA in open battle should be able to reduce in two to three weeks to a residual force of 2,000 to 3,000 men with little or no ammunition. Should Hoa Hao avoid any large scale engagement and resort to maquis type guerilla action, they could probably maintain considerable strength for longer period. Third phase of VNA campaign against Hoa Hao would be a three month “starve out” action which would probably reduce Hoa Hao capabilities to traditional small banditry.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/6–255. Secret.
  2. In this telegram, May 27, the Department of State requested from the Embassy a current assessment of the situation in Vietnam and of the Hoa Hao dissident capabilities. (Ibid., 751G.00/5–2555)