279. Editorial Note

The President’s Intelligence Checklist of August 24, sent to the President at Hyannisport, Massachusetts, assesses Nhu’s role and responsibility for the situation in Saigon. The checklist on South Vietnam reads as follows:

  • “A. We cannot determine as yet who is calling the shots in Saigon-Diem or the Nhus.
  • “B. General Don told a US observer that Diem is making the decisions, but that he is acting through Nhu.
  • “C. Nhu has been given credit by a usually reliable source as the prime mover in the crackdown on the Buddhists and the imposition of martial law.
  • “D. General Don also stated that the Palace is issuing orders directly to the Saigon Commander General Dinh and to the Special Forces Commander Colonel Tung rather than through himself as top commander.
  • “E. Ambassador Lodge thinks—and General Don tends to confirm this—the military is not at present a monolithic structure and warns of serious fighting between competing military elements if the military should decide on a coup.
  • “F. Our CIA people received the impression from General Don’s statements that the current unstable situation may be the first of several as yet unrevealed phases.” (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Chester V. Clifton Series)

In its Current Intelligence Memorandum, OCI No. 2343, August 26, the CIA concluded: “Ngo Dinh Nhu is the key to the situation in Saigon and appears to be the controlling figure, possibly without President Diem ‘s assent.” (Ibid., Vietnam Country Series, 8/24/63-8/31/63, Memos and Miscellaneous)