269. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

683. Eyes only to Ambassador Lodge. On assumption CAS 182 2 and MACV 4 and 53 are carried out, we send our warm thanks for a day of brilliantly quick reporting.

At 9:15 Washington time tomorrow morning, President will review position and urgently asks your recommendations for this meeting. Our preliminary thinking is that if current trends are continued we should move promptly toward support and recognition, but this move will require careful justification in light of danger of misleading comparisons in Latin America. Our thought is to emphasize failings of Diem regime in repression, loss of popular support, inability to continue effective prosecution of war, and even signs of desire to negotiate with enemy. By contrast, we expect to emphasize prompt and evident popular support for what is in effect movement by entire senior staff of Vietnamese armed forces, as well as many well-known and respected civilian leaders, end of repression, and aim toward prompt restoration of constitutional government. In this last we believe position of Tho very important and hope it can be emphasized there.

More immediately, we expect to background press this evening that this is not a coup in the sense that it is merely the product of a few scheming officers, but that day’s events plainly show that Diem has yielded to virtually unanimous determination of military and civilian leadership of his country. In the context of civil war, this amounts to a [Page 526] national decision. This last point is of particular importance in underlining absurdity of notion that this national decision could have been merely a foreigner’s trick.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 S VIET Secret; Flash. The text of this message was received from the White House for transmission as a Department of State telegram. Cleared by McGeorge and William Bundy and Rusk and approved by Hilsman.
  2. This telegram, November 2—6:42 a.m., Saigon time, received at the Department of State on November 1 at 6:05 p.m., reads in part as follows:

    “As of 0620 hours, 2 Nov, President Diem personally called General Don at JGS and offered to surrender with honor. Diem stated that he and Nhu wished only safe escort to the airport and departure from there, destination not specified. The Nhu children are not at the Palace. Gen Minh has accepted this and is attempting to arrange a cease fire at the Palace where heavy fighting now in progress.” (Ibid., POL 26 S VIET)

  3. MACV Critic 4, November 2—6:41 a.m., Saigon time, received at the Department of State on November 1 at 6:03 p.m., reported that Diem had agreed to surrender to the coup leaders. MACV Critic 5, November 2—6:53 a.m., Saigon time, received at the Department of State at 6:07 p.m., indicated that Diem and Nhu had been taken into custody at 6:40 a.m., Saigon time. (Ibid., and ibid., POL 15-1 S VIET, respectively)