175. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam 1

1219. Re contingency plan enclosed in May 23 letter Nolting to Hilsman3 suggest you consider:

Means whereby word [can] be gotten to Vice President that while there is no change in U.S. policy of supporting Diem, we want Tho to know that in event situation arises due to internal political circumstances (in which US would play no part) where Diem definitely unable act as President and only in this situation we would want to back Tho as constitutional successor and that we would assume he would need military support. In view present precarious situation it would seem worthwhile to run risk delivering such message now assuming Tho would not likely consider it in his interest to inform anyone else. We would have to tell Tho that if word leaked we would flatly deny. Assume message would have to be delivered directly by American official who had some reason for seeing Tho. You may wish consider whether it would be preferable to say this directly to Diem.
Suggest you consider steps gradually increase covert and overt contacts with non-supporters of GVN. In present situation this should only be done if you feel our (overt or covert) contacts with those who might play major roles in event of coup are now inadequate.

[Page 395]

Request your views. You may consult within TF/Saigon if you consider necessary.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 84, Saigon Embassy Files: FRC 68 A 5159, SGN (63) 19 GVN. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Wood and cleared by Hilsman and Harriman.
  2. Due to a delay in servicing, this telegram was not received in Saigon until June 16. Another copy of the telegram indicates that it was sent on June 14 at 10:25 a.m. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 6/63)
  3. Document 133.