304. Memorandum for the Record by the Secretary of Defense’s Assistant for Special Operations (Lansdale)1
At the invitation of Mme. Tran Van Chuong, I visited her at the Vietnamese Embassy this evening. Shortly after I arrived, Ambassador Chuong joined us and remained for much of my visit. The highlights remarks are:[Page 666]
Both: The US must act firmly and quickly to replace both Diem and Nhu with a new government. The Vietnamese people are aroused far more than ever before, and it is too late even to save Diem as a figure-head. The people, seeing VN special forces and police with US weapons and equipment, knowing that Diem can only stay in power with US support, will turn against the US unless there is a change of the whole top of government. If the US is satisfied merely with a change of Diem policy towards Buddhists and students, including release of Buddhist and student prisoners, this will not change the hate of the Vietnamese people for the acts already committed.
Amb. Chuong: The US will sell out the Vietnamese people to the Communists if there is any truth to the story that the US is getting ready to place Buu Hoi in as Premier under Diem as a figure-head President. Buu Hoi, with his Communist connections, would be a Vietnamese version of Souvanna Phouma and the Communists would take over. Admittedly, this would give the US “grandeur” of looking like it was solving a hard Vietnamese problem, without being directly responsible for sell-out-but the Vietnamese people would know.
Mme. Chuong (privately): You must go to Saigon fast and tell Diem and the Nhu’s to leave the country now. The people hate them and they shouldn’t stay for the people to kill them. They will surely be killed if they stay, and nobody at the Palace now is telling them how the people really feel. They are cut off from reality. Why do they need power, after nine years of it, if the family is killed? The US told Syngman Rhee to leave. Why not Diem and Nhu?
Both: We will reside in the Embassy until Ly, the new Ambassador, arrives from New Delhi, then stay in the Washington area as private citizens. Tran Van Dinh, now in Saigon [less than 1 1ine not declassified], was expecting to return to Washington as charge; [2-1/2 lines not declassified].
- Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 8/24/63-8/31/63, Memos and Miscellaneous. Secret. Lansdale passed this memorandum to Forrestal on August 28 and wrote on an attached covering note: “You might find this of interest.” Forrestal passed it on to Bundy on the same day with the written comment: “Mac: This is not hard stuff.”↩