257. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

620. Following is draft letter from President Diem to President Kennedy which should be handled accordance instructions contained Deptel 619.2

“Dear Mr. President:

Since its birth, more than six years ago, the Republic of Viet-Nam has enjoyed the close friendship and cooperation of the United States of America. On our mutual concern for the future of the Vietnamese people, on our mutual determination to defend the frontiers of the Free World against Communist aggression, and on our mutual dedication to the ideal of human dignity, we have founded an international partnership which I believe is of great and lasting value not only to our two peoples but to all free men. Together, we have built a bridge of understanding and friendship between an Asian people and a Western people, setting an example for all who believe that great historical and cultural differences need not separate men of goodwill. Together we have laid the material foundations of a new and modern Viet-Nam in which my people can realize their aspirations. Together, we have checked the thrust of Communist tyranny in Southeast Asia. These are great accomplishments and our two peoples can be rightly proud of them.
Like the United States, the Republic of Viet-Nam has always been devoted to the preservation of peace. My people know only too well the sorrows of war. We did not sign the 1954 Geneva Agreements because we could never consent to the partition of our country and the enslavement of more than half of our people by Communist tyranny. But we have never considered the reunification of our nation by force. On the contrary, we have publicly pledged that we will not violate the demarcation line and the demilitarized zone set up by the Agreements. We have always been prepared and [Page 616]have on many occasions stated our willingness to reunify Viet-Nam on the basis of democratic and truly free elections.
The record of the Communist authorities in the northern part of our country is quite otherwise. They not only consented to the division of VietNam, but were eager for it. They pledged themselves to observe the Geneva Agreements and during the seven years since have never ceased to violate them. They call for free elections but are ignorant of the very meaning of the words. They talk of “peaceful reunification” and wage war against us.
From the beginning, the Communists resorted to terror in their efforts to subvert our people, destroy our government, and impose a Communist regime upon us. They have attacked defenseless teachers, closed schools, killed members of our anti-malarial program and looted hospitals. This is coldly calculated to destroy our Government’s humanitarian efforts to serve our people.
We have long sought to check the Communist attack from the north on our people by appeals to the International Control Commission. Over the years, we have repeatedly published to the world the evidence of the Communist plot to overthrow our Government and seize control of all of Viet-Nam by illegal intrusions from outside our country. The evidence has mounted until now it is hardly necessary to rehearse it. Most recently, the kidnapping and brutal murder of our chief liaison officer to the International Control Commission, Colonel Hoang Thuy Nam, compelled us to speak out once more. In our October 24, 1961, letter to the ICC,3 we called attention again to the publicly stated determination of the Communist authorities in Hanoi to “liberate the South” by the overthrow of my Government and the imposition of a Communist regime on our people. We cited the proof of massive infiltration of Communist agents and military elements into our country. We outlined the Communist strategy, which is simply the ruthless use of terror against the whole population, women and children included.
In the course of the last few months, the Communist assault on my people has achieved a new ferocity. In October, they caused more than 1,800 incidents of violence and more than 2,000 casualties. They have struck occasionally in battalion strength, and they are continually augmenting their forces by infiltration from the north. The level of their attacks is already such that our forces are stretched to the utmost. We are forced to defend every village, every hamlet, indeed every home against a foe whose tactic is always to strike at the defenseless.
A disastrous flood was recently added to the misfortunes of the Vietnamese people. The greater part of three provinces was [Page 617]inundated, with a great loss of property. We are now engaged in a nation-wide effort to reconstruct and rehabilitate this area. The Communists are, of course, making this task doubly difficult, for they have seized upon the disruption of normal administration and communications as an opportunity to sow more destruction in the stricken areas.
In short, the Vietnamese nation now faces what is perhaps the gravest crisis in its long history. For more than 2,000 years, my people have lived and built, fought and died in this land. We have not always been free. Indeed, much of our history and many of its proudest moments have arisen from conquest by foreign powers and our struggle against great odds to regain or defend our precious independence. But it is not only our freedom which is at stake today, it is our national identity. For, if we lose this war, our people will be swallowed by the Communist Bloc, all our proud heritage will be blotted out by the ’socialist society,’ and Viet-Nam will leave the pages of history. We will lose our national soul.
Mr. President, my people and I are mindful of the great assistance which the United States has given us. Your help has not been lightly received, for the Vietnamese are a proud people, and we are determined to do our part in the defense of the Free World. It is clear to all of us that the defeat of the Viet Cong demands the total mobilization of our Government and our people, and you may be sure that we will devote all of our resources of money, minds, and men to this great task.
But Viet-Nam is not a great power, and the forces of International Communism now arrayed against us are more than we can meet with the resources at hand. We must have further assistance from the United States if we are to survive the war now being waged against us.
If our request for aid needs any further justification before the court of world opinion, we need only refer to the Charter of the United Nations which recognizes the right of self-defense for all nations. We can certainly assure mankind that our action is purely defensive. Much as we regret the subjugation of more than half our people in North VietNam, we have no intention, and indeed no means, to free them by the use of force.
I have said that Viet-Nam is at war. War means many things, but most of all it means the death of brave people for a cause they believe in. Viet-Nam has suffered many wars, and through the centuries, we have always had patriots and heroes who were willing to shed their blood for VietNam. We will keep faith with them. When Communism has long ebbed away into the past, my people will still be here, a free united nation growing from the deep roots of our Vietnamese heritage. They will remember your [Page 618]help in our time of need. This struggle will then be a part of our common history. And your help, your friendship, and the strong bonds between our two peoples will be a part of VietNam, then as now.”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/11-1561. Secret; Niact. Drafted by Cottrell and Heavner on November 14 and cleared with McConaughy, U. Alexis Johnson, Rusk, and the President.
  2. For text, see United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 11, pp. 400-405. It instructed Nolting to meet with Diem and inform him of President Kennedy’s decision to join the Republic of Viet-Nam in a joint effort “to contain and eliminate the threat to its independence.”

    Telegram 618 to Saigon, November 15, summarized for Nolting the results of the U.S. Government’s decisions on the Taylor Report; see Declassified Documents, 1976, p. 132C. It stated that the United States did not intend to introduce combat troops into Viet-Nam now.

  3. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 751K.00/11-861)