209. Editorial Note

[Page 428]

In CIA telegram [document number not declassified] from Saigon, October 23, 1963, Lodge reported that he had talked with Harkins on the afternoon of October 23 about the U.S. approach to coup planning against Diem. Harkins confirmed that in his conversation with General Don on October 22 he had warned Don of Colonel Khuong's approach to one of his Military Assistance Command officers. (See Document 206.) According to Lodge, Harkins stated. that his purpose in offering Don the warning was to discourage Vietnamese military officers from approaching U.S. officers on political matters. Lodge stated that he reminded Harkins of the guidance on coup planning that Washington had sent. ( Document 192) Harkins responded, according to Lodge, that he understood this guidance to mean that the United States did not favor a coup. Lodge countered as follows:

“I explained that while it was true that the USG did not desire to initiate a coup, we had instructions from the highest levels not to thwart any change of government which gives promises of increasing the effectiveness of the military effort, insuring popular support to win the war, and improving working relations with the U.S.… General Harkins expressed regret if he had inadvertently upset any delicate arrangements in progress and added that he would inform General Don that his remarks of 22 October did not convey official USG thinking.” (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, CIA Reports; ellipsis in the text of the telegram)

Don was understandably concerned about the differing signals on coup planning which he was receiving from Harkins and Conein. He arranged to meet Conein on the night of October 23 and during the discussion expressed his worries to Conein. Don stated that Harkins' discouragement of a coup during the discussion of October 22 seemed contrary to Conein's desire to know more about the coup committee's planning. Conein assured Don that Harkins' remarks had been inadvertent and were actually contrary to a Presidential guidance from Washington. Conein asked again for detailed plans of the coup. (CIA telegram [document number not declassified] from Saigon, undated; Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, CIA Reports, and Don, Our Endless War, page 98)