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

59. CINCPAC for POLAD. Embtel 44.2 Thuan informed me today that following conversation reported reftel he had asked Diem directly [Page 480] whether he planned speech on Buddhist problem. Diem said he did not. Thuan said he concluded that Luong in talking to CAS officer (Embtel 41)3 must have been referring to passage on problem contained Double Seven speech (Embtel 49).4 Thuan agreed with me that latter not helpful.

Thuan also indicated that he had had no success in getting GVN orders to provinces published and gave every evidence of having run out of steam on Buddhist problem.

I told Thuan I was most discouraged over situation and particularly lack of GVN actions. I also found offensive continuing articles in Times of Vietnam seeking link US with 1960 coup5 and taunt Buddhists.

I spent all day yesterday accompanying Ambassador Bowles on visits to Diem, Tho, Thuan and Mau.6 Buddhist problem not mentioned directly by Diem in session which lasted nearly four hours nor was it referred to in other talks except when Bowles complimented Tho on June 16 agreement. Tho did not follow up.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC.
  2. In telegram 44 from Saigon, July 6, Trueheart reported that he told Thuan that morning that he found the situation in Saigon increasingly puzzling. On the one hand, Vice President Tho was sending conciliatory messages to the Buddhists and Counselor Nhu had publicly called on the Republican Youth to support the June 16 agreement. On the other hand, the Times of Vietnam had published an attack on the Buddhists and had charged the United States with involvement in the 1960 coup attempt against the Diem government. At the same time, Trueheart had learned through other sources that President Diem was about to make a long-anticipated conciliatory speech on the Buddhist question. Thuan could not explain the conflicting signals issued by his government, and described the situation as “un pander de crabes.” He added that Diem’s speech was still being cleared within the government. (Ibid., POL 15 S VIET)
  3. Telegram 41 from Saigon, July 6, reported on a conversation on July 5 between Minister of the Interior Luong and an American official. In the course of the conversation, Luong said that Diem would make a major speech on the Buddhist situation in the near future. (Ibid., POLS VIET)
  4. Telegram 49 from Saigon, July 8, reported on a “Double Seven” statement made by President Diem on July 7. The statement contained a brief paragraph on the Buddhist problem, using it as an example of a problem “settled in spirit of community responsibility.” (Ibid.,POL 26 S VIET)
  5. The Department of State reacted sharply to the allegation of U.S. involvement in the 1960 attempt to overthrow the Diem government. Telegram 31 to Saigon, July 5, instructed Trueheart to deny any U.S. involvement, and noted, for Trueheart’s information, that on November 11, 1960, when Diem’s palace was surrounded by artillery, Ambassador Durbrow had used every means at his disposal to urge both sides to avoid a bloodbath. (Ibid., POLS VIET-US) See Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. I, pp. 631 ff.
  6. Ambassador Chester Bowles visited Saigon on July 7 and July 8 on his way to take up his new post as Ambassador to India. See Documents 216 and 231.