239. Report From the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs (Manning) to the President1

REPORT ON THE SAIGON PRESS SITUATION

The press problem in Viet-Nam is singular because of the singular nature of the United States involvement in that country. Our involvement is so extensive as to require public, i.e., press, scrutiny, and yet so hemmed by limitations as to make it difficult for the United States government to promote and assure that scrutiny. The problem is complicated by the long-standing desire of the United States government to see the American involvement in Viet-Nam minimized, even represented as something less than in reality it is. The early history of the handling of the situation is marked by attitudes, directives and actions in Washington and in the field that reflect this United States desire.

The effect of these generally restrictive practices had the short-term virtue of keeping the escalating American involvement in a low key in the world and United States press. But a long-term result has been serious deterioration in the credibility attached by American correspondents to the information and assessments given to them by United States military and political authorities in Viet-Nam, and to a certain extent in Washington. Additionally, it can be argued that, whatever the merit of those practices in earlier days of the involvement in Viet-Nam, the public attitude in the United States has been mature and unexcitable—so much so that earlier fears of reaction to American casualties and other aspects of the program may be said to have been exaggerated. This last point argues strongly for relaxation of some—but not all—of the strictures still imposed on American press coverage of the Vietnamese situation, and it argues for a more relaxed attitude on the part of US officials to the reports and assessments of the US press. This would do much to reduce the somewhat sullen Alice in Wonderland miasma that surrounds the Vietnamese press situation, and it would help to build a degree of mutual confidence and mutual credibility between American authorities and American correspondents covering Viet-Nam.

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The absence of this confidence and credibility lies close to the core of the press problem as it appears on the conclusion of a four-day mission to Saigon. The situation is a troublesome one, and it is unlikely to evolve into a happy one. There are, however, possibilities of improvement. The basic problem will be removed as a critical factor in the US operations in Viet-Nam only by time and decisive GVN victory over the Viet-Cong. But it can be ameliorated.

First, a look at the parties involved:

1. The American Correspondents

The Saigon press corps consists of a dozen Americans, mostly staffers but some (Time, Newsweek) stringers. These are augmented by periodic visits by Far Eastern correspondents from the Tokyo, Hong Kong or New Delhi bureaus of AP, UP, the networks and major US publications. With two exceptions those we talked to at length were regularly stationed in Saigon. It became apparent that, save for a higher intensity on the part of the locals, the locals and the periodic visitors share generally similar views and assessments of the press situation. The local correspondents verge on unanimity also in their assessments of the Vietnamese government, the effectiveness of GVN-US military and political programs and the virtues or shortcomings of the American involvement and American officials. The periodic visitors may differ somewhat with many of the locals’ assessments, but for practical purposes they differ chiefly in degree only.

At the time of the visit to Saigon, the correspondents were concerned with their own safety and ability to operate, almost to the exclusion of problems of access and other relations with the GVN and US officials. Several maintained in fact that they feel able to get all the information they need (a statement which many will probably qualify once their concern over the recent roughing-up by GVN police fades away).2 The main burden of their several hours’ discussion was a desire for assurances that they could continue to work in Viet-Nam without threat of physical or technical harassment, or the threat of expulsions by the GVN. They were more scared than hurt by the fracas with police on July 7. Reporters covering the South have had rougher experiences. But the problem goes deeper than the matter of these fears.

The correspondents reflect unanimous bitterness toward, and contempt for, the Diem government. They unanimously maintain that the Vietnamese program cannot succeed unless the Diem regime (cum family) is replaced; this conviction, though it does not always appear in their copy, underlies all the reports and analyses of the correspondents

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The correspondents profess to have little faith in the information or guidance they are given by top officials of the US Embassy, and they treat with disdain what they believe to be the over-optimism of General Harkins and his top command. Where US officials maintain that the military program is making decided progress, and the strategic hamlet program is developing favorably, the correspondents maintain either the direct opposite—that the situation is retrogressing—or, that the situation is little better than a stalemate. Some correspondents go so far as to charge that they are systematically lied to by US officials. All of them maintain that to get what they consider to be “straight facts” on given operations, battles or situations (e.g., how well the Vietnamese fight), they have to go to lower echelons in the field. However justified these attitudes and allegations (I believe many are exaggerations), their very existence deserves to be recognized and attacked as a major obstacle to a healthy information situation in Saigon.

Beyond their own treatment at the hands of US officials, the newsmen generally feel that US officials have become so committed themselves to “winning with Diem” that their own official reporting is subject to serious question. This finds many of the correspondents convinced that their own assessments represent a more authoritative and more realistic picture than is being given to Washington by its own representatives. One need not agree with this view of correspondents in order to suggest that it must change before we can expect healthy press relations in Saigon.

Amid these many unpleasant facts about the correspondents’ state of mind sits a most important and encouraging fact: They seem to agree to a man that the US involvement in Viet-Nam is a necessary free world policy and that the programs, military and political, are basically necessary and feasible. Without this, the situation would be discouraging to the extreme; with this belief on the correspondents’ part, there is much to build on. Where they disagree is in questions of assessment of the progress and, more precisely to the point, the wisdom of continuing to rely for the program’s execution on the Diem regime.

From all of this, it is obvious that the correspondents place much faith in their own abilities to report and assess a situation that is as complex and as tricky as any in the world today. Is such self-confidence, coupled as it is with considerable disdain for the official assessments, justified?

The local correspondents for the most part are young and of limited experience. There are some more seasoned correspondents among the periodic visitors and this, combined with their ability to get frequent relief from the confines of Viet-Nam, often produces more balanced reports of the fighting and the political situation. The locals seem for the most part to be given to quick-rising emotionalism, and [Page 534]they unquestionably are severely afflicted with “localitis,” the disease which causes newsmen long assigned to the confines of one given situation to distort perspective by over-concentration on their own irritations, adventures and opinions.

This group contains no journalistic giants, though at least one is very promising and several are obviously bright men. And I would say that all are decent, patriotic Americans who are striving to do credit to themselves and their profession. The personal manners of some vis-a-vis the Viet-Nam officials leave something to be desired, and they suffer the common newspaper tendency to let the immediate dominate the long view.

As an overall assessment of the correspondents, I am inclined to accept the following opinion of John Mecklin, US Public Affairs Officer in Saigon:

“The American newsmen working here are as good or better than the average in such boondocks assignments. They are exceptionally hard-working; they manage to stay on top of the news despite extraordinary handicaps; they are unafraid to face frequent personal danger; and they must work under conditions of notable emotional stress. Their reporting has thrown light on the sordid, bitter depths of the situation here which would not otherwise be generally known, thus in effect forcing a healthy confrontation between the American people and the reality of this kind of big power responsibility. This has inevitably complicated US operations in Viet-Nam, but ironically it has also reinforced US efforts to persuade the GVN to take various unpalatable actions by providing the argument that US public opinion cannot be ignored.

“The newsmen have often been accused of ‘irresponsibility.’ In general, I don’t think this is either accurate or fair, though there have been some damaging errors. There have been numerous occasions when the reporters have deliberately withheld information that would have damaged the US interest; e.g., a number of shabby incidents between American military personnel and Saigon police, and the case some months ago of a homosexual American civilian official who was attacked and seriously wounded by his Vietnamese partner. The newsmen have, however, insisted on reporting matters that they considered of true significance to the US position here, regardless of the resulting broken crockery, and thus in effect have forced a basic issue: that just as the US will not attempt to unseat a sovereign government, however tempting, so it cannot engage in a semi-covert struggle such as this except in the full glare of the free American press.

“This is a reality which had been widely overlooked in developing the US advisory role here. It will be equally important if and as the US is obliged to engage in similar efforts elsewhere. How to handle it hopefully, should be one of the major ‘lessons learned’ in Vietnam.”

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2. Vietnamese Officials

The bitterness and contempt displayed by American correspondents for President Diem and his top officials (especially for Counselor and Madame Nhu) is fervently reciprocated by Diem and company. Madame Nhu has repeatedly remarked that the American correspondents are “Communists” or “as bad as Communists.” The government says (and, I believe, has become convinced) that the newsmen are chiefly concerned with bringing about the downfall of the Diem government. “These young reporters want nothing less than to make a new government,” said Ngo Dinh Nhu bitterly in my talk with him. “This is an exalting ambition, a stimulating pastime for three or four of them to get together to overthrow a government and create another.” (Please see attached memos of conversations with Nhu and President Diem.)

More perhaps than American officials on the scene, the Vietnamese see the American press in Saigon (and back home in the US) as an important political factor, one that can in fact play a large role in altering or even undermining the American commitment to Viet-Nam. Believing this, and believing that the correspondents are eager for Diem’s overthrow, the GVN officials see the correspondents as deliberately cooperating with and encouraging any and all political opposition—such as the Buddhist protests—as a means of achieving said overthrow.

Extremely sensitive to personal criticism, Diem and his relatives take particular affront at the kind of personal references that enter (inevitably, in view of the autocratic family role) into much American reporting. While on the one hand reacting by expelling correspondents who displease them (both expulsions, of Francois Sully of Newsweek and James Robinson of NBC, were for stories dealing with family personalities), GVN officials talk of needing “public relations advice” to improve their image with the American public. They have plainly given up hope of achieving any of this improvement through an improvement in relations with the correspondents stationed in Viet-Nam, and talk somewhat wishfully of trying to reach over their heads to editors and editorial writers in the United States. They are insistent that the American correspondents willfully refuse to talk with officials or recognize facts that tell the favorable side of the Vietnamese story. (On the other hand, correspondents say that when they try to talk with a Vietnamese official they get either lies or lectures.)

In talks with Nhu and Diem, it was apparent that they are bitterly resigned to the conviction that the newsmen are incorrigible. For our part, we believe that the point was clearly made that the United States cannot guarantee its ability to maintain its full effort in Viet-Nam if the GVN, by expulsions or harassment of correspondents, turns the entire [Page 536]American press into enemies of the program. Interestingly, Nhu at one point conceded that much information unfavorable to the regime has been given to American correspondents, and visiting US officials and legislators, by officials of the Vietnamese government. Said Nhu with a wan sneer: “All conditions are favorable for a complete US change of policy in Viet-Nam. It is a great opportunity and it would be a tremendous sacrifice for those hostile to the (Diem) government to give up this opportunity.”

3. US Officials

The senior American officials of the Embassy and MAC/V view the correspondents with a distaste that is difficult to conceal. They consider most of the correspondents young, immature and irresponsible. Some consider that the correspondents’ criticism of and opposition to the American effort in Viet-Nam transgress the line between journalistic independence and patriotism. They consider the correspondents’ behavior toward GVN and US officials to be sometimes rude, insulting, and insufferable. There is some justification for the above views, but the fact remains that the responsibility for the gulf between the correspondents and the senior American officials is something the two groups share.

To put it bluntly, the senior US officials have not been good enough in their handling of the press. Although they devote perhaps more time and effort than any post in the world to press problems, their contacts with the press often serve to make the situation worse. The major cause for this is the complete difference in the official and the correspondents’ assessment of the situation, but another serious cause is the reluctance of the official family to treat the press with candor. Background information is, apparently, almost never given. A too determined effort is made to give a rosy picture, with the result that the correspondents consider themselves to have been lied to. In short, the correspondents are viewed as a nuisance and an inconvenience to be endured, not as a valuable tool.

The Embassy’s instincts are to keep from the press all but the most transparently desirable stories. Thus the Embassy either refuses to talk about, or is disingenuously selective in its information, about even minor stories which might prove unhelpful to the GVN or to the US effort in Viet-Nam. Faced with a passionately hostile press corps, the Embassy is entitled to sympathy for its wariness in dealing with the correspondents. But the result of its efforts has been the complete destruction of the Embassy’s credibility.

Senior US officials should not be condemned for the situation which exists. It was in part inherited and in part predestined by the unrealistic policy directives under which they were forced to deal with the press until recently. Finally, they are dealing with an almost [Page 537]unique public relations problem which grows out of the almost unique nature of the American involvement in Viet-Nam and the peculiar nature of the Vietnamese government. No one—until recently—has realized how essential a role the press would play in our policies in Viet-Nam.

Nonetheless, it has now become essential that the Embassy recognize the press as what it is-an independent and important separate force bearing upon both the political situation in Viet-Nam and the all-important matter of domestic support in the United States for the American involvement in Viet-Nam. Unless I am mistaken, one element in the present hostility between the press and the Embassy is wounded ego on the part of the correspondents who have a highly developed sense of importance. The Embassy certainly possesses the diplomatic skill and maturity to bring the correspondents at least partly into a deeper sense of participation. It requires only that the correspondents be viewed and treated as politically important individuals, rather than as a group of socially objectionable and professionally incompetent young cubs.

A word on the USIS installation in Saigon. Under John Mecklin, a long-time journalism pro, the public affairs activities are in especially talented and dedicated hands. He seems to have achieved the confidence of top officers and the fullest access to important Embassy, MAC/V and intelligence information. He, too, has been severely handicapped by the restrictive regulations imposed from Washington and by the tendency of his superiors to over-caution. It is likely that the Mecklin team is one of the best USIS combines in the world; certainly it is superior to most, seasoned in the tough complexities of the Vietnamese situation and convinced that the job is a compelling challenge. Relations between USIS and the military, both PIO’s and top officers, appear to be excellent and Mecklin has taken great pains to familiarize himself with officials in the field. He also has obviously close and friendly contacts with many Vietnamese officials and has had considerable direct contact with Diem and Nhu.

It should be noted most correspondents, while satisfied to get most of their information from public information officials, and to a great extent dependent on it, still feel a strong need for steady and mutual confident relations with the major officials themselves.

4. The Buddhist Issue

The Buddhist controversy in Viet-Nam is pertinent to this report for two reasons. First, an incident growing out of the controversy inspired the visit to Saigon. Second, the controversy itself demonstrates the direct and potentially influential role that correspondents on the scene can play in the execution of a foreign policy. The Buddhist activities, however genuine their original religious motivation, [Page 538]have evolved into political activities aimed at the overthrow of the Diem government. The Buddhist activists, and whoever on the Viet-Nam scene is encouraging or supporting them, premise their potential effectiveness to a large extent on exploitation of the American correspondents. With a press agent’s flair, Buddhist leaders take pains to notify newsmen in advance of processions or other activities. They count heavily on word and photo coverage to keep the issue alive, and to extend and illustrate the evident unwillingness of the American government to condone Diem’s handling of the crisis, thus separating Diem and the US.

In view of the correspondents’ hostility to the government and in view of their concentration on spot news, the anti-government activists sense that the newsmen are predisposed to give full play to the demonstrations, the Buddhist grievances and the government’s countermeasures.

The GVN, on the other hand, knows full well that its life is at stake, and considers the American correspondents to be an essential and enthusiastic element in the attempt to bring down the Government. Despite the correspondents’ complaints of Embassy indifference, there is little doubt that the GVN would have moved against the correspondents some time ago were it not for the cloak of sanctity which they wear because of their nationality and the representations made on their behalf by the Embassy.

The GVN is belatedly attempting to deal helpfully with Buddhist complaints. The GVN is attempting to stave off the religious issues and to do this in such a way as to make it clear to all that subsequent demonstrations are political. The success of this effort is problematical, among other reasons because the American correspondents are apt to be sympathetic and understanding to opposition efforts to keep the crisis alive.

The GVN policy implies (and Minister Hieu explicitly told my Special Assistant) that subsequent demonstrations will be put down “with brutality if necessary”. At that point, Vietnamese and world opinion must either accept the Government’s version of events, which is unlikely, or the crisis will continue to grow in intensity. The American correspondents may well be the prime determinants of opinion-and they are hostile to the Government.

It is unlikely that the crisis can be settled without considerable violence. It is still possible the GVN will decide that it cannot be settled unless some way is found to moderate press coverage of the situation. If the crisis is not settled, the Government will probably fall.

Ironically, this crisis comes at a time when US and GVN officials are convinced that we have turned the corner in our efforts to defeat Communist subversion. There is general agreement that the Strategic Hamlet program is the answer, and that progress, although still spotty, [Page 539]is real. According to the official assessment (with which the correspondents passionately disagree) we need only keep the political situation under control in order to reap significant and lasting successes from our present effort. Yet, all agree that the present crisis can easily undo the progress made thus far, and seriously reduce if not destroy the prospects for early success.

Thus, even though there can be no great improvement in relations between the GVN and the press, an improvement in relations between the US press and the Embassy-MAC/V has become an exigent requirement of American policy in Vietnam, both for reasons of domestic US public support and, if it is desired, for the immediate survival of the Diem government in Viet-Nam.

Usefulness and Accomplishments of the Mission

Despite some initial doubts, I am now convinced that the mission was timely, necessary, and useful. The accomplishments were as follows:

1. It was made completely clear to the three highest officials of the Vietnamese Government that continuing scrutiny and criticism by the American press of the American involvement in Viet-Nam constituted an absolute requirement of United States policy. Diem and his principal advisors were made to understand that free reporting from Viet-Nam (however unfavorable it might be) was infinitely preferable to the situation in which expulsion or physical harassment made martyrs of the pressmen. Criticism of the Viet-Nam program was the essential ingredient to a public debate on the merits of the program. Press scrutiny and criticism enable the President to defend his program on its merits and accomplishments. But such a defense would be effective and credible only so long as free press scrutiny and criticism were allowed.

I believe Diem and company understand this argument and its validity. They have no reason for failing to understand the importance attached by the U.S. Government to continuing free press scrutiny of the American involvement in Viet-Nam.

2. We received from Diem, Counselor Nhu, and Secretary of State Thuan a virtual pledge against harassment of correspondents. The value of this pledge is tempered by the fact that the correspondents are so passionately opposed to the Government, and could conceivably engage in activity so clearly upsetting or insulting as to leave the GVN little alternative but expulsion. Barring such activity on the part of the pressmen I think it unlikely that the GVN will undertake either harassment or expulsion of correspondents.

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There remains, however, the possibility of inadvertent contact between police and U.S. correspondents in the event of further street violence with the Buddhists, and such a clash—even though accidental—could revive fears that correspondents are in danger. I would not predict calmness on the part of correspondents were this to happen.

3. We obtained the permission of the GVN for the readmission to Viet-Nam of NBC Correspondent Robinson. His actual re-entry took place prior to our departure from Viet-Nam. This action served not only to moderate the passion of the correspondents and to improve the tone of the moment, but also served to underline the fact that the U.S. Government has both the intention and some capability of protecting legitimate interests of the correspondents in Viet-Nam.

4. We reduced substantially the fear of the correspondents for their own physical safety. Although their concern was probably exaggerated, the correspondents genuinely feared, upon our arrival, that the GVN had embarked upon a deliberate campaign of harassment and intimidation which, some of them maintained, might well culminate in either the savage beating or actual death of one or more correspondents. The correspondents’ reaction to their fear was embittered determination not to give in, and passionate resentment of what they considered the Embassy’s inability or unwillingness to give them protection.

The correspondents now at least partly recognize that the atmosphere is changed and the physical harassment by the GVN is unlikely.

5. We received a pledge from Counselor Nhu to try background briefings with selected groups of the correspondents. Such meetings, if they go well, could contribute toward filling the vacuum which now exists in regard to authoritative GVN presentations of policy and interpretations to the American pressmen. With uncertain results, we pressed President Diem to hold similar meetings occasionally with individual American pressmen. The Times correspondent is now seeking a Presidential appointment.

6. During the visit, the GVN agreed to drop the charges against two correspondents of assaulting Vietnamese police. (Nolting had this in train before our arrival.) Similarly, we were able to get the American AP correspondent, Browne, to agree to drop his own charges against the Vietnamese police. This issue now seems dead.

7. Finally, and importantly, the visit gave the American correspondents a chance to blow off steam and to voice their own views to a receptive official American audience. How lasting the benefits may be of this psychological release will depend on an improved public relations program in Viet-Nam, but there is no question that there has been a temporary improvement in the atmosphere.

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Recommendations

1. That the President direct that the occasional meetings on Viet-Nam between the President’s Press Secretary and the principal information officers of State, Defense and USIA undertake on a regular basis to give centralized, professional and authoritative direction to the effort to improve U.S. public relations in connection with our involvement in Viet-Nam. The Group should, at an early date, formulate new and comprehensive guidance applicable to all elements of the U.S. involvement in Viet-Nam.

Justification: An improvement in relations between Embassy-MAC/V and the press corps in Saigon has become an exigent requirement of U.S. policy in Viet-Nam. The present relations are poisonous, and an improvement will require continuing leadership and momentum from Washington of the type that can only be given by an inter-Departmental authority.

Without such leadership, a substantial improvement is not likely. Professional diplomatic and military minds find it difficult to accept and even more difficult to deal with a situation in which public relations must take precedence over all but the gravest military and diplomatic requirements. Without centralized direction, the requirements of military security, the privacy of diplomatic negotiations, and protocol and procedural considerations will continue to dilute and frustrate the effort to improve relations between the press and the official family in Viet-Nam.

It is not intended that major substantive decisions should be shaped to meet the need of public relations. But it is imperative that the requirements of an improved public relations program no longer be subordinated to and thwarted by routine diplomatic and military procedures and considerations.

2. That Ambassador Lodge’s arrival in Saigon be used to involve the correspondents as participants in a reassessment of the real situation in Viet-Nam.

Justification: At the present time there is an unbridgeable gap between the official and the correspondent’s assessment of the Vietnamese situation. The officials believe that the war is showing great progress and that success is predictable if the political situation can be kept in hand. The correspondents believe that the program is stalled, that no progress is being made, and that no success is possible so long as the Diem Government is in power. In the present situation no dialogue is possible between the two parties for each dismisses with contempt the views of the other.

Ambassador Lodge’s arrival presents an opportunity to get before the correspondents in credible form the evidence upon which the official views are based. It also affords an opportunity to bring the [Page 542]correspondents into the official family in a sense, by giving them a purposeful opportunity to present to senior American officials their own views and information.

The mechanics for doing this should be Ambassador Lodge’s reassessment, for his own purposes, of the situation. He can tell the correspondents that he is aware that their assessment is in conflict with the official one, and intends to arrive at his own assessment through an examination of all the facts available including their own. He can seek their assistance, and thus possibly involve them in a reassessment of their own. The correspondents in Viet-Nam are sincere and deeply committed to the success of the U.S. effort to thwart Communist subversion. If they can be brought to consider the evidence of progress it is not credible that their views would not be influenced and moderated thereby. Moreover, the correspondents have sources and information of their own, more knowledge of which would doubtless be useful to the Embassy.

3. That a concerted effort be undertaken to obtain the publication in a broad range of U.S. periodicals of authoritative articles on the situation in Viet-Nam. These articles should stress the exciting end unique nature of the U.S. involvement in Viet-Nam and the appositeness of the effort to the Communist penchant for victory by subversion. Classified information should be made available as necessary to ensure that these articles reflect both the difficulties and the progress which characterize our effort.

4. No effort should be made to underplay or hide the magnitude of the U.S. involvement and casualties in Viet-Nam. In the first place, the effort will certainly fail in the end. In the second, as stated before, the reaction of American public thus far to news of U.S. casualties has been remarkably mature. Thirdly, there is even a chance that U.S. public support for the effort in Viet-Nam will be enhanced, not lessened, by the knowledge of American sacrifices made in this struggleÄ providing the unhealthy political situation in Saigon is cured. Finally, any attempt to disguise the American casualties or involvement in Viet-Nam will (as it has in the past) poison relations between Embassy-MAC/V and the correspondents and ensure the failure of efforts to create a more sympathetic and understanding press treatment of the U.S. effort in Viet-Nam. Similarly, we should be more honest and outgoing with the correspondents about our setbacks and our difficulties with the GVN. Our progress will become credible only when our failures (which the correspondents know about anyway) are admitted freely.

5. The American press, both here and in Viet-Nam, should be made aware that the U.S. Government considers continuing press scrutiny and free coverage of the U.S. involvement in Viet-Nam to be an absolute requirement of American policy in Viet-Nam. The press [Page 543]should be informed-on a background basis-that this has been vigorously conveyed to the highest levels of the Vietnamese Government, and that we have reason to believe that American correspondents will be free from harassment and expulsion.

The press should be informed of the attitude of the Vietnamese Government toward the American correspondents, and reminded that the unprecedented support which the correspondents are receiving from the U.S. Government makes it incumbent that their personal behavior toward the Vietnamese Government and its officials be proper and circumspect. The U.S. Government has used some of its currency with Diem in its effort to guarantee to the press the right to report freely and honestly. We can succeed in this effort only if the correspondents in Viet-Nam behave and report with responsibility and reasonable objectivity and fairness. No one can protect the press against retaliation for public and profane insults to GVN officials. No one can protect them against retaliation for participation in coup movements. No one can protect them against retaliation for contemptuous behavior toward the GVN (e.g. refusing to accept interviews with President Diem or Counselor Nhu).

6. A deliberate and calculated effort should be made to establish good personal relations between senior Embassy-MAC/V officers and individual correspondents. This effort should be pursued with the same tact and skill that is used in establishing personal relationships with GVN officials.

At the present, the correspondents are too in-bred. Conscious of the distaste and disapproval with which they seem to be viewed by senior Embassy and some military officials, they respond with a passionate and unanimous contempt of their own. They have formed a closed group, cemented together by a sense of maltreatment from the GVN and the Embassy. They have convinced themselves that they are the only ones who know or will recognize the truth about the situation in Viet-Nam. Any contrary views from Embassy-MAC/V officials are dismissed as untruthful and deceitful.

It is essential that a useful dialogue be re-established and this can be done if Embassy-MAC/V officers embark upon a concerted effort to woo individual reporters.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 7/21/63-7/31/63. Secret; Eyes Only. Sent to McGeorge Bundy on July 26 under a covering memorandum from Executive Secretary Benjamin H. Read. Read commended the report, and the attached memoranda of conversation between Manning and Nhu on July 17, and Manning and Diem on July 18 (Documents 226 and 227), as providing “a lengthy but fascinating window into the present state of mind of both Ngo Dinhs.” Read noted that a copy of the report was also being sent to Presidential Press Secretary Salinger. A note on the covering memorandum indicates that the report was placed in the President’s weekend reading file.
  2. See Documents 210 and 211.