91. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

920. CINCPAC for POLAD. Deptel 952;2Embtel 909.3 Saw President Diem at my request yesterday morning for a 2-hour session. Believe our talk eased situation further and perhaps paved way for satisfactory resolution of problem of counter-insurgency fund, although this remains to be seen.

Told him first of Department’s instructions received Sunday4 re my home leave and return.

Then repeated reasons for our continued concern to settle promptly question of adequate Counter-Insurgency Fund and procedures to go with it, so that other important financial segments of U.S. support could move forward without interruption. Diem said letter we had requested was being prepared by Thuan and said he would act on it promptly. I told him thing which concerns us most were reasons that he had given for turning down our proposal. These seemed to amount to desire substantially to reduce American advisory effort in Vietnam. I hoped that upon reflection he would agree that time was not yet ripe for curtailment of advisory effort in any sector. I said we understood his problems, had already looked into some of complaints he had made, and would look into them all on case-by-case basis. I had certain procedures to suggest for remedying these matters. What we could not agree to was a wholesale reduction of advisory effort at this juncture while continuing large [scale] physical and financial aid, although nothing would please us more than to arrive at a stage as soon as possible when reductions of U.S. advisors would be possible without loss of momentum. Diem has evidently backed off considerably from his original position and, after some conversation, made it clear that he now does not insist upon withdrawals of U.S. personnel, but rather upon a concerted effort to make advisory system work better. He went into several new types of complaints from GVN officials, concerning both military and civilian matters, which I will not detail here. I suggested that we should work out with Thuan, for submission to him, possible remedial measures: A small group to look into such complaints on a case-by-case basis; frequent or regular meetings [Page 228]between himself and me or General Harkins (or both) to take up matters before they reached a crisis stage; perhaps a directive to all of our advisors in the field and to all their counterparts in Government of Vietnam detailing certain responsibilities and other matters to clarify relationships and functions. He thought these suggestions were good, and we will proceed to work them out with Thuan. My guess is that we can continue to take the heat out of this matter. We will, of course, have to see to what extent he will in fact drop his previous demands and work out satisfactory compromise on counter-insurgency funding and procedures.

I then requested to speak frankly on delicate question of public (or semi-public) statements, principally by Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, which had caused misunderstanding and resentment among Americans here and had become cause of real morale problem on our side. I related this to need for “more goodwill and understanding” which he had mentioned in connection with the U.S. advisory effort. I cited Madame Nhu’s recent communique to Women’s Solidarity Movement,5 and read certain passages which were invidious to Americans. I told him that none of our principal officers wished to be in position of seeming to agree with or condone such statements, and for that reason General and Mrs. Harkins, Mr. Brent and my family and I had reluctantly declined our previously planned visit to Dalat at the invitation of Madame Nhu. I said we had declined ostensibly on grounds of business here, but I wanted him to know privately that a major factor was the communique referred to. He seemed to understand this position, and after some discussion said he would do what he could to prevent a repetition. In course of this discussion, in which he at first defended Madame Nhu while admitting she was prone to overstate, I had opportunity to stress point that such statements were not only damaging in America, but in Vietnam as well. They encourage the very form of criticism by Americans which he had complained against and could in fact bring about a dangerous situation in which the “volatile Vietnamese” (to use his phrase) might get out of hand. This, I thought, might take one of two directions-either against Americans or against those who were apparently driving wedges between Americans and their Vietnamese friends.

Comment: It is too early, I think, to know how this rather sensitive matter will turn out. At any rate, I felt compelled to insist that he exercise his responsibility in this matter and President Diem, initially at least, received it in the spirit intended.

Our further conversation concerned various matters of some importance to progress of events here. I found Diem optimistic and apparently thinking in terms of moving in right directions on political [Page 229]side. He spoke of reviewing dossiers of political prisoners for public trials in near future, of organizing village elections and subsequently Provincial Council elections. I urged him to press on with these matters, which would give new demonstration of direction of his policy. He said he would do so. He closed conversation by proposing several trips with General Harkins and me.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, AID (US) S VIET. Secret; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC.
  2. Telegram 952 to Saigon, April 12, asked Ambassador Nolting if it would be “tactically useful” to hold regular weekly meetings with Diem in order to ease tension. (Ibid.)
  3. Document 89.
  4. April 14. The instructions have not been found.
  5. See Document 89.