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

8. Task Force VN. There follows text of a letter from the President to President Diem. In presenting it to President Diem the Ambassador should explain that it is not intended for publication.

“Dear Mr. President:

I have read with care your letters of May 15 and June 92 and have discussed with your able representative, Secretary of State Nguyen Dinh Thuan,3 the grave problems which you and your people are facing. Vice President Johnson has told me of the valor of the Vietnamese.

In view of the communist menace in Viet-Nam and of the serious threat posed to your country by the situation in southern Laos, both of which were set forth cogently in your second letter, I am very pleased to learn that the process of increasing the armed forces of Viet-Nam from 150,000 to 170,000 was recommenced recently, before a final understanding on financing had been reached. I am also gratified to know that on June 29 your government [Page 200] reached agreement with Ambassador Nolting on the joint financing of this increase.4 Due to the gravity of the situation and to the Vietnamese government’s willingness to go ahead with this increase in its armed forces even before the question of joint financing had been settled, we have sought to be as cooperative as possible.

Meanwhile, as the mobilization to 170,000 is continuing, the Department of Defense is urgently studying your request for support in a further long term increase to a 270,000 man force. In addition to exploring the usefulness, methods and procedures of such an increase we will both have to give the most careful attention to the large amount of funds which such an increase will involve for our two countries. I hope that the findings of Dr. Eugene Staley may provide helpful guidelines for both our Governments.

Returning to your letter of June 9 I was gratified to read of the determined and intelligent efforts being made to continue the economic and particularly the educational progress which Viet-Nam has made despite the Communist campaign of violence. Such programs are among the basic developments which will nourish the aspirations of the Vietnamese. I have also noted the new political institutions which were mentioned in your letter. I hope that these institutions and others like them will be strengthened by the participation of the rising generation and that they will have a healthy growth.

As to Cambodia, the communist threat to Southeast Asia would appear to clearly outweigh all other considerations and to necessitate improved relations among the free nations of the area. Would it not be in the interests of your Government to seek accommodation with Cambodia on the questions of improved border control and the settlement of the debts which are outstanding under the Paris Accords? Ambassador Nolting is at your disposition should you wish to discuss the matter further.

In closing I would like to affirm to you in the strongest terms that we support your government’s determination to resist communist aggression and to maintain its independence.

We admire the courage and tenacity displayed by the Government and people of Viet-Nam and particularly by their President.

With warm personal regards,


John F. Kennedy”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751K.oo/7-361. Secret; Priority. In telegram 12 to Saigon, July 4, the Department asked the Embassy to insert in the text an additional sentence-the second sentence in the fifth paragraph of text as printed here. (Ibid., 751K.00/7-461) In telegram 18 from Saigon, July 5, the Embassy referred to both telegrams 8 and 12 from the Department and reported that the President’s letter was delivered to Thuan that day, but since Diem was unavailable there was no reaction to report. (Ibid., 751K.00/7-561) No copy of the letter delivered on July 5 has been found.
  2. See footnotes 4, Document 55, and footnote 3, Document 69, respectively.
  3. See Document 69.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 77.