272. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff1

MAC J-3, DTG 012200Z. Reference: A. Your 011418Z Nov,2 B. My 011515Z Nov.3

Summary Evaluation Situation.

A. Indicators of Coup Success.

All corps and division commanders have declared full support of their troops for the General Committee.
oup forces control all major communication media Saigon.
No fighting or unrest reported anywhere in SVN outside Saigon area.
Population in Saigon-Cholon making no attempt to interfere with coup forces.
Fighting now localized to Presidential Guard barracks and area surrounding Gia Long Palace.
Growing list of civil figures reported on radio as having declared for General Committee.
No reports of any ARVN units moving to reinforce Palace or block coup forces.

B. Status of Public Order

Civil populace standing clear of fray, remaining indoors, scrupulously obeying curfew. No reports of looting.
Few uniformed police in evidence. Many have removed their uniforms and left posts.
All public utilities have functioned uninterruptedly since coup began.

C. Units and Personalities Supporting Coup Group.

As indicated above, all corps and div cmdrs have declared for General Committee. This not conclusive evidence that all corps and division units are behind coup.

Following are reported (by radio, JGS statements and/or advisor msgs) to have thrown support to General Committee:

  • VNAF (under Col Hien);
  • VNN (under Cmdr Cang, formerly head of river forces);
  • Special Forces Command (under Lt Col Trieu);
  • Senior officers (less Gen La) of CMD;
  • Airborne Brigade (under Colonel Vien);
  • Marine Brigade (under Lt Col Khang);

However one must remember that coup forces control radio and that there is no immediate way of confirming these claims.

Membership of General Committee as promulgated by Radio Saigon:
  • MG Duong Van Minh, Chairman
  • MG Tran Van Don
  • MG Nguyen Ngoc Le
  • MG Tran Van Minh
  • BG Le Van Nghiem (former CG, I Corps)
  • BG Nguyen Giac Ngo (former Dir, Guerilla Warfare)
  • BG Mai Hou Xuan (CG, Quang Tng Gr)
  • BG Tran Thien Khiem (C/S JGS)
  • BG Nguyen Van La (CG, Cmd)
  • BG Phan So Chieu (Don’s deputy during martial law)
  • BG Le Van Kim (Office, Natl Defense)
  • BG Ton That Ding (CG III Corps)
  • BG Trang Ngoc Tam (Inspector, Strat Ham)
  • BG Tran Thieu Oai (Dir, Psy War)
  • Col Do Mau (Chief, Mil Security Service and now political advisor to Committee)
  • Col Nguyen Khuong (C/S, Army Cmd)
  • L/Col Nguyen Van Thien (Chief, Armor Cmd)
  • L/Col Le Nguyen Khang (CO, Marine Bde)
  • Col Duong Ngoc Lam (Director, CG/SDC)
  • L/Col Pham Van Thuyen (UNK)
  • L/Col Do Ngoc Nham (Chief of Material)
  • Maj Nguyen Ngoc Thiet (Provost Marshal)
Radio has also announced that following have declared support for Committee:
  • Col Nguyen Huu Hien (CO, VNAF)
  • Col Cao Van Vien (CO, Airborne)
  • Tran Van To (Police Commissioner)
  • L/Col Le Quang Trieu (reported new Special Forces Cmdr) Maj Tu (Chief Binh Duong Province and CO 8th Regt)
  • Secy Nguyen Dinh Thuan (Natl Defense)
  • Minister Nguyen Luong (Finance)
  • Minister Hoang Tat Thanh (Natl Economy) Minister Tran Le Quang (Agriculture)
  • (Thuan, Luong, Thanh last reported in Italian Embassy next to MACV HQ)

D. The threat to U.S. nationals is limited to the spill over from fighting between coup forces and the Presidential Brigade in Saigon. To a specific request, coup forces assented to free movement of U.S. military personnel and guaranteed the security of U.S. installations. There have been no restrictions except those realistically imposed by sporadic fighting in Saigon and those prudently arising from the U.S. declared Condition Yellow. We have not had a single report of molestation of, or aloofness toward U.S. personnel. RVNAF officers at JGS Opns Center continue to pass all info freely to US counterparts.

E. VC Reaction to Coup.

Negative at this juncture. This is primary view and advisory personnel being pressed for indicators.


It is too early to assess the effect of Saigon’s own SVN forces and their operations against the VC. Obviously, forces engaged in the coup in Saigon will not be available for field operations until the course of the coup is run. However, the number of troops directly involved is not large; aside from the general reserve battalions, only gap created is in 5th Div tactical area. Further, the pro-coup declarations of all corps commanders augur against spread of civil war outside the national capital and therefore should preclude diversion of I, II and IV Corps from counter-insurgency tasks. This is, of course, highly speculative for there is no info available on reaction of paramilitary forces (Civil Guard, SDC, hamlet militia, or significantly, Republican Youth). However, The fragmentation of paramilitary forces, by geography and organization (company and lower) and the reality of the VC threat in areas of deployment preclude coordinated or massive counter action. We face the greater danger if the issue is long delayed and the country left without clear political and military leadership, for the VC will certainly move to exploit the resultant vacuum.

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G. Steps Being Taken To Form New Government.

Big Minh, unquestionably in charge, has indicated that Nguyen Ngoc Tho is choice for President of provisional government. Whereabouts of Tho unknown to coup leaders.
Understood here that number of ministers (including those named in para C4 above) have tendered resignations to General Committee; their future is in doubt.
To be expected is a governing military junta at outset, should coup succeed. To be hoped for is a turnover to responsible civilian leadership as rapidly as practicable.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Secret; Priority. The source text is the copy sent for information priority to the Department of State and received at 5:05 a.m. Also repeated for information priority to CINCPAC and the White House.
  2. In this telegram, JCS 3342 to Harkins, November 1—11:20 a.m., the Joint Chiefs asked for information as follows:
    JCS need your running evaluation of events taking place in Saigon. Of special interest to us are following:
    “A. Indications of coup success.
    “B. Status of public order.
    “C. Units and personalities supporting coup.
    “D. Any threat to US nationals.
    “E. Any VC or DRV reaction to coup.
    “F. Effect of Saigon events on SVN forces and their operations against VC.
    “G. Steps being taken to form new government.” (Ibid.)
  3. In this telegram, November 1—11:15 p.m., Harkins provided the JCS with a special report on events in Saigon through about 11 p.m., November 1. He also reported that he had directed U.S. forces to observe the curfew as declared by the Generals and that there were no reported U.S. casualties from the fighting. (Ibid.)