264. Memorandum From the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (Carroll) to the Secretary of Defense (McNamara)1


  • (S) Martial Law in South Viet-Nam2


The declaration of martial law and repression of Buddhist agitation in Viet-Nam are likely to further alienate the public from the Diem Government and will have serious repercussions throughout the country. Although the military moves are based on an alleged presidential proclamation, the military leaders have, in effect, assumed full control.
Shortly after the declaration of martial law at midnight last night, Army and combat police elements assaulted Buddhist pagodas in Saigon and other principal cities. A number of Buddhist priests were r reportedly killed or injured, and many others were arrested. The purpose apparently was to seize Buddhist leaders capable of organizing and sustaining continued Buddhist agitation. A senior Vietnamese military officer claimed on 19 August that top-ranking officers felt that some action was required to prevent the spread of popular unrest.
Government troops, including a marine battalion, two special forces groups, military police and combat police moved quickly during the night to secure all key installations in Saigon and the approaches to the city; the Saigon District has been placed under the command of the III Corps Commander. Stringent security measures have been imposed in other cities also. Some disturbances were reported in Hue, where Buddhist pagodas were damaged. CINCPAC says the situation appears to be under control and that comparatively few troops have been withdrawn from normal missions.
Commercial flights to Saigon were canceled today, and full press censorship has been instituted.
Although senior military commanders are apparently enforcing the presidential martial law decree, further coup or countercoup activity may be in the making. The Armed Forces Chief of Staff implied that martial law may be only temporary. The Army has announced the appointment of general officers to positions of civil, military, and [Page 601] economic responsibilities. The Army-controlled radio has also appealed to the populace to back the Army, without referring to the government. A major uncertainty in the situation continues to be the attitude of junior officers and enlisted personnel, most of whom are Buddhists.
A copy of this correspondence [to?] Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director, Joint Staff, J-3 and J-5.
Joseph F. Carroll
Lieutenant General. USAF
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 69 A 3131 Vietnam 381. Secret. A note on the source text indicates McNamara saw this memorandum.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 261.