126. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

“The attached cable from Fritz Nolting (which you may already have seen) gives a cheerful picture of progress in South Vietnam.

“I believe it should be read with a grain of salt, although the fact that Diem has gotten out into the country is in itself hopeful.” (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 4/63-5/63)

1036. CINCPAC for POLAD. During past week several members of our mission and I have accompanied President Diem on trips to various provinces, mainly to areas recently brought under Government control through clear and hold operations, road and canal building, strategic and combat hamlet establishment, and related measures. On trips last Sunday and Tuesday2 in seven provinces, it was the consensus of all of us, including several other foreign ambassadors, that important improvements were unmistakable. First was the evident enthusiasm among peasants and officials alike in progress to date towards permanent security and follow-up benefits to the people. In one recently cleared area the farmers, expressing their thoughts freely, had only one request-that a hundred families living to the West of their zone be also “liberated” promptly. Second was the evident goodwill and cooperation existing between U.S. advisors, both military and civil, and their GVN opposite numbers. (I talked personally with more than a dozen on both sides and I found no indications of friction or frustration-on the contrary, the prevailing mood was one of encouragement in accomplishments, goodwill, and confidence in the future.) Third was the obvious purpose of President Diem to show Americans, as well as other foreigners and Vietnamese, his appreciation of American help, including advisors, and his satisfaction with results achieved to date. Fourth, and perhaps most striking, was Diem’s touch with the people. He spent two long hot dusty days talking with, and seeking the reactions of farmers and their families and elders to the measures [Page 307]the Government is taking, probing their sentiments and listening to their ideas. The rapport between him and the people was evident and the exchange of questions and answers remarkably free. This applied as well to groups of recent VC “ralliers” and their families, who were grouped among other village people, and to groups of Buddhist bonzes. Realizing that these trips did not cover the entire country and cannot by their very nature be completely revealing, I was nevertheless again impressed, as I believe my colleagues were, by the vast difference between what is actually happening in this country and the reflection of it in the outside world. In my view, what is actually happening is a vindication of American and GVN policy, a steady forcing of the Communists to the defensive and a breaking of their classical pattern of subversion. There is a fierce concentration on the internal problems here and a consequent neglect of, or insufficient attention to, the factors forming international opinion, which are way beyond the grasp or control of this Government. It goes without saying that, even on internal matters, there continue to be “snafus”, but the general average of internal performance is improving constantly, I am convinced.

Nolting
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL S VIET-US. Secret. Repeated to Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Paris, London, and CINCPAC. On May 18, Michael Forrestal sent a copy to President Kennedy with a covering memorandum that reads:
  2. May 12 and May 14.