19. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency Station in Saigon to the Agency1
[document number not declassified] 1. On evening 29 August, [less than 1 line not declassified] informed CAS that he had a report from a source of medium reliability to the effect that within 24 hours the govt would begin the arrest of Generals who might not be fully loyal. The [less than 1 line not declassified] rep intimated that this was the same source who on 20 Aug had provided report forecasting govt attack on the pagodas.
2. It was decided to attempt alert the Generals to this information while cautioning them that info was not confirmed and could be speculative. Of the various means available to pass this in best was thought to be contact with Major Nhieu who is next-door neighbor of Colonel Ralph E. Newman, USAF, MAAG. Major Nhieu is the Administrative Assistant of General Duong Van Minh. Newman, Nhieu and General Minh have a close relationship resulting from fact Colonel Newman was General Big Minh’s advisor for approx 7 months.[Page 37]
3. Col Newman was contacted by a CAS officer. Col Newman immediately attempted contact with Major Nhieu but was unable to telephone him or to find anyone at home at Major Nhieu’s residence. Col Newman volunteered that he was also on good terms with General Le Van Kim and could probably pass message to General Kim.
4. Newman was requested to call General Kim and state he had been approached by Vietnamese friend who was extremely worried about his son who had been arrested on Sunday during roundup of students and that Newman very much wanted talk with General Kim with respect to securing release of arrested boy.
5. Colonel Newman placed call to General Kim’s residence and noted immediately that telephone line was being monitored. An individual attempting to imitate General Kim’s voice came onto the line and repeatedly requested Colonel Newman’s location. Col Newman then asked to speak to Mrs. Kim. A woman then came on line and Colonel Newman recognized her voice as that of Mrs. Kim. Col Newman passed message concerning fictitious arrested student and asked come to General Kim’s house. The line was then broken. Very soon thereafter, General Kim’s aide came to Col Newman’s house and escorted Col Newman and CAS officer to General Kim’s house. The message was passed to General Kim who was most appreciative of the warning. General Kim promised to get the message to General Big Minh immediately. General Kim did state that it was very dangerous for Col Newman to come to his house and that for the time being these contacts should be suspended. Col Newman noted the presence of approx one platoon of troops in the vicinity of General Kim’s house. Upon departure from Kim’s house Newman and CAS officer were escorted away from the house over a back road and through gates apparently very seldom used.
6. There are at least two among other hazards in the present situation at the Generals’ end of this operation. The first is that the arrest of four or five key figures among the Generals might bring this operation to a halt at least for the short run. This action seems easily within capability of GVN. It is puzzling that action of this nature has not already been taken. We can only be speculative on this subject. GVN may be attempting to avoid direct confrontation in hope that steam will gradually go out of Generals’ present course. It may worry about causing further disaffection throughout Armed Forces or revolt in corps areas. GVN could be waiting for premature coup to crush military opposition. Or it may be building up its dossiers on course of coup plotting to present to armed forces and general public after arrest of key Generals in effort diminish impact these arrests. Another hazard is that one or another of Generals involved might betray details of operation. So far we cannot point fingers at anyone. Hope HQS will [Page 38] understand that speculation on possible negative factors does not represent negative station attitude. We are bringing all capabilities we can think of to bear.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET Secret; Operational Immediate; Eyes Only. The source text is a copy the CIA sent to the Department of State exclusive for Rusk, Ball, Harriman, and Hilsman. Copies were also sent to the White House exclusive for Bundy, and to the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army, exclusive for McNamara, Gilpatric, Taylor, and Krulak. Received at the Department of State at 4:45 a.m.↩