213. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor)1

MAC 1991. Yesterday I had long conversation with Sec Thuan re the topics included in your letter to the President2 and asked if he had anything concrete to report. He said he would give me periodic reports as and if changes occur. I suggested that I see the President personally to discuss some of the items. He agreed but said it would be next week because of preparations for the UN committee and the national holiday on the 26th. I am continuing my coverage of the Delta provinces. Spent this morning in Vinh Long and also with the new atmosphere the attitude of the 9th Div is bringing into the area. [sic]

Also spent yesterday in the new province of Han Nghia northeast of Saigon. Was very impressed with the Province Chief and the American advisory group. They have a fine attitude in tackling a real tough problem in an old VC stronghold. It really charges one’s batteries to see these youngsters at work. They put in a full day-and chances are they’ll be called to put out a VC fire almost every night.

New subject.

Just saw CAS 1896 to Washington.3 I was not in Bangkok as indicated in last para. And I did discuss message with the Ambassador apparently after it had been dispatched. In fact he indicated that my discussion with Don contravened our instructions on coup planning. I do not feel that I did. CAP 63560 dated 6 [5] Oct4 certainly spells out that policy and CAS Washington 74223 of 9 Oct5 gives additional thoughts.

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In the past two weeks two different officers in the advisory detachments here in Saigon have been approached by Khuong asking if the U.S. would back a coup. Khuong did not discuss any details of any plan. When these U.S. officers came to me for guidance I told them to inform Col Khuong that the U.S. military are here to advise and support the people and the government in their fight against Communism-and it would be well if he, Col Khuong, would bend his efforts along that line. I have never met Khuong. I have seen Don several times recently and at no time has he mentioned coup planning to me. Not that he would. In fact all our conversations have been along lines of furthering the war effort, ideas for carrying out some of your suggestions to Diem-and items I should put in another letter to Diem to continue plugging these ideas.

I told him not all of his officers had got the word and mentioned Khuong’s approaches to two of my advisors. Don was surprised and told me he thought he had stopped all that. My purpose in this was to see if we couldn’t avoid having advisors distracted by matters which are not in their domain and which only resulted in diverting them from their main effort as advisors.

CAS 1896 is the first indication to me since your visit that the Generals group was again in business. Though I am not trying to thwart a change in government, I think we should take a good hard look at the group’s proposals to see if we think it would be capable of increasing the effectiveness of the military effort. There are so many coup groups making noises. Unless elements of all are included I’m afraid there will be a continuous effort to upset whoever gains control for sometime out and this to me will interfere with the war effort. Ambassador has seen.


  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Defense Cables. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Repeated to CINCPAC exclusive for Felt. Received at the Pentagon at 3:27 p.m. Passed to the White House for Bundy; the Department of State for Rusk, Ball, Harriman, and Hilsman; and to the CIA for McCone and Colby
  2. Document 163.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 207.
  4. Document 132.
  5. Document 192.