16. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam 1

272. Eyes only for Ambassador Lodge and General Harkins.

Highest level meeting noon today reviewed your 375 and reaffirmed basic course.2 Specific decisions follow:
In response to your recommendation, General Harkins is hereby authorized to repeat to such Generals as you indicate the messages previously transmitted by CAS officers. He should stress that the USG supports the movement to eliminate the Nhus from the government, but that before arriving at specific understandings with the Generals, General Harkins must know who are involved, resources available to them and overall plan for coup. The USG will support a coup which has good chance of succeeding but plans no direct involvement of U.S. Armed Forces. Harkins should state that he is prepared to establish liaison with the coup planners to review plans, but will not engage directly in joint coup planning.3
Question of last approach to Diem remains undecided and separate personal message from Secretary to you4 develops our concerns and asks your comment.
On movement of U.S. forces, we do not expect to make any announcement or leak at present and believe that any later decision to publicize such movements should be closely connected to developing events on your side. We cannot of course prevent unauthorized disclosures or speculation, but we will in any event knock down any reports of evacuation.
You are hereby authorized to announce suspension of aid through Diem Government at a time and under conditions of your choice. In deciding upon use of this authority, you should consider importance of timing and managing announcement so as to minimize appearance of collusion with Generals, and also to minimize danger of [Page 33] unpredictable and disruptive reaction by existing government. We also assume that you will not in fact use this authority unless you think it essential, and we see it as possible that Harkins’ approach and increasing process of cooperation may provide assurance Generals desire. Our own view is that it will be best to hold this authority for use in close conjunction with coup, and not for present encouragement of Generals, but decision is yours.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Top Secret; Emergency. The text of this message was sent from the White House for transmission over Department of State channels. According to the memorandum supra , the telegram was cleared by the President. Hilsman and Rusk cleared the telegram for transmission. Another copy indicates that the President saw it. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, State cables) Also printed in United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967, Book 12, p. 538.
  2. See Supra . Telegram 375 is Document 12.
  3. In telegram 385 from Saigon, August 30, Lodge thanked Rusk for the “prompt decisions,” but noted that the Mission had no further contact with the Generals. General Khiem canceled a meeting with a CIA officer and was unavailable to receive a telephone call from Harkins. Lodge thought that this wariness might reflect concern for security. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET)
  4. Infra .