283. Telegram From the Commander in Chief, Pacific (Felt) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff1

251958Z. Situation in RVN.

1. Following are highlights of conversation Gen Harkins had with Gen Don on Saturday:2

Don’s aim is to keep buffer between populace and troops, utilizing police to maintain order and employing Army only if police unable cope with situation.
Don reiterated he takes his orders from Diem not Nhu. Said I should bring to him any matters heretofore handled by Thuan.
Power alignment such that difficult for army to call the shots. Solidarity does not exist. Appears Dinh and his forces receiving instructions direct rather than thru Don. Obvious Special Forces and police also receiving orders direct and not thru Don and/or Dinh. A neatly engineered stalemate.
Don indicated stalemate could be broken by U.S. and that we must continue support Diem , forcing him to clean house. His suggestion, and definitely not to be attributed to him, was for the duration of the crisis to have an interim mixed Cabinet, military and civilian. Military should have three Cabinet posts. Interior—most important to preserve law and order. He suggested B/G Minh for this. Minister of Information-incumbent General Oai is OK. Minister of Defense-not too important in his mind but should be military. Thuan should remain as Secy of State to Presidency. He feels President should do this to show he’s really trying to clean house. He wants martial law to end soonest. Don’t blame him as he’s really in a quandary with so many cooks stirring the Nuoc Mam. Also he hopes U.S. will truly try bear down on Diem —and try to show him how to run government—by delegating authority of [to?] Ministers and broadening his narrow outlook. This we have tried to do without much success—but we should keep trying if we’re going to stick with Diem .
He reaffirmed that war against VC would go on. It does, but at somewhat reduced tempo. 300 to 400 opns a day vs 700 to 800.

  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Tÿ09172-69. Secret; Priority. Repeated to the Commanders of the U.S. Army, Pacific; U.S. Fleet, Pacific; and Pacific Air Force.
  2. August 24.