29. Memorandum on the Substance of Discussion at a Department of State-Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting1

[Here follows discussion of the first agenda item.]

II. Vietnamese Elections and Security Situation

In reporting on the Vietnamese elections, Mr. Jenkins2 remarked that they could be considered a significant victory for President Diem. An analysis of the returns indicate that he was able to hold the countryside in spite of Viet-Cong actions. Countrywide, there had been a turnout of about 90%. On the other hand, in Saigon the turnout was only 75%. Diem had received about 89% of the votes, but in Saigon he had received only 64%. This was probably due to [Page 71] the fact that opposition candidates were better known in the urban areas. There was no evidence of any blatant frauds in the election.

From a security point of view, the GVN armed forces had done surprisingly well. Though the Viet-Cong had attacked at several points, the situation was kept under control by GVN countermeasures and the Viet-Cong efforts had had little effect on the vote.

Mr. Jenkins remarked that the GVN had begun to release a good deal more information on Viet-Cong activities and the Government’s own countermeasures. There had been an increase in our own press reporting on insurgency activities in Vietnam, but this probably resulted largely from the presence of a good number of press people in Vietnam who were essentially there to cover the elections.

Admiral Russell3 asked whether we are really supporting Diem and, if so, in view of his election victory, shouldn’t we publicly affirm our support for him. Mr. Jenkins reported that we do continue to support Diem and that the Department is trying to arrange for President Kennedy to send a personal message to President Diem at the time of the latter’s inauguration.

In connection with Admiral Russell’s query, Mr. Rostow noted that in the next several weeks the Executive Branch will be taking another concerted look at the entire Vietnamese problem. One of the items that must be faced up to is the Geneva Accord as it relates to Vietnam. Current thinking is that we should disengage ourselves from the continued support of and adherence to the Geneva Accords since others are openly violating them. Mr. Jenkins remarked that the State Department’s legal people feel that we can probably do so, particularly since we are not signatories to the Accords and since some of the signatory nations are grossly violating them.

[Here follows the remainder of the memorandum.]

  1. Source: Department of State, State JCS Meetings: Lot 65 D 172. Top Secret. State Department draft undated, not cleared with Department of Defense.
  2. Alfred LeS. Jenkins. Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs, Department of State.
  3. Admiral James S. Russell, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations.