14. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between the President and the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman)1


  • Viet-Nam: Reporting of Tad Szulc, New York Times2

The President said he thought Tad Szulc seemed to be getting pretty close to things. Mr. Hilsman said the whole point here is the mere fact that for the benefit of the military out there we had to do something to get the blame off them and that, of course, is bound to give smart pressmen grounds for speculation. He called attention to the latter part of the article and said that it left the impression that we are trying to give that things are simmering, that the situation must be allowed to mature. Mr. Hilsman assured the President that the situation was being watched very closely.

The President said, “We are not making any more press comments, are we?” Mr. Hilsman said inevitably there have to be statements on events. For example, when the Vietnamese Government says we were wrong when we protested the beating up of the pagodas then we had to reply that we stand by our statement of the other day. Nothing beyond that.

The President asked if Mr. Hilsman thought anyone was talking to Szulc. Mr. Hilsman said he did not think anyone was. The people here are under strict instructions. He said the President would notice [Page 26] the article was based on GVN statements and USG statements-the only things attributed to the US Government are past hard statements. The rest are Szulc’s deductions.

The President said, “O.K., Roger, fine.”

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, Hilsman Papers, Countries Series—Vietnam. Secret; Limit Distribution. Prepared in the Department of State.
  2. Apparent reference to a New York Times article entitled, “Long Crisis Seen on Vietnam Rule,” August 28, in which Szulc reported that some officials in Washington believed the only solution for the Vietnam crisis was to remove Nhu, or Nhu and Diem if the two brothers were inseparable, by a military coup. These unnamed officials were, according to Szulc, not sure that such a plan was feasible.