278. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President1

I attach the latest cables2 on the situation in Saigon. It is now quite certain that Brother Nhu is the mastermind behind the whole operation against the Buddhists and is calling the shots. This is now agreed by virtually everyone here.3

Agreement is also developing that the United States cannot tolerate a result to the present difficulties in Saigon which leaves Brother Nhu in a dominating position. There is disagreement on whether Diem has any political viability left, and on whether he could ever be brought to acquiesce in the removal of his brother.

Averell and Roger now agree that we must move before the situation in Saigon freezes. I am pressing them to get John McCone’s endorsement of one of several courses of action which can be presented to you at the earliest opportunity. We are still trying to keep all of this as closely held as possible.

Mike
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 8/24/63-8/31/63, Memos and Miscellaneous. Top Secret. A note on the source text indicates that this document was taken from the President’s weekend reading, dated August 24.
  2. No cables were attached to the source text, but apparently the reference is to Documents 273 276.
  3. See Document 279.