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

MAC J-3 8556. Taylor and Felt from Harkins.


We are no 1onger a republic.

As you know, the Diem regime has fallen and the President and Counsellor are in the custody of the General Committee at an undisclosed location. We fix the time of the surrender of the Palace at 020600H. While the issue was fairly clear late last night, it took a heavy assault on the Palace, by a much superior force, to bring capitulation. Diem was stubborn to the end; in fact when Dinh, as tactical commander, got the President on the telephone at 0600H, Diem demanded the immediate surrender of the coup forces.

During the evening of 1 November, the coup forces systematically reduced the Presidential Guard barracks, took its defenders prisoner and moved troops into position ringing the Palace garrison (estimated at 1000 and 4 armored vehicles). While Palace was subjected to harassing fire from initiation of coup, it was made clear that an assault would begin at midnight if no surrender forthcoming. Heavy pounding actually started around 0400. At this juncture, we still lack estimates of casualties, except for those involved in defense of the Presidential Guard barracks, I believe casualties to be light. At least 5 tanks were hit and burned in the vicinity of the Palace. No U.S. casualties as yet reported.
My summary evaluation, DTG 012200Z,2 reflected the remarkable cohesion of the RVNAF once the coup started. Let’s hope it will continue. Dinh, his deputy, Col Co, and 5th Div Cmdr Col Thieu, were the key figures at the operational level since the initial troops to close Saigon and initiate action were units under their opn control. Thien personally commanded the largest single force against the Palace, supported by the 4th Marine Battalion and elms of the 11th Regt. Promotions of both Co and Thieu to Brig General already announced.
The lineup of the provincial govt looks good, for a starter. Tho is the logical choice until a stronger man appears-I shall push the Generals hard to make good their stated intention to relinquish, as soon as possible, the ministerial posts they have assumed. The nonappearance of Big Minh in the Cabinet was, of course, expected.
The big job now, and the entire interest of my people and me, is to get the new team focused on the VC immediately. We buckle down to this at once.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET Secret; Exclusive; Eyes Only. Repeated for information to Felt, CINCPAC, the White House exclusive for Bundy, CIA exclusive for McCone, and the Department of State exclusive for Rusk, Ball, Harriman, and Hilsman. The source text is the Department of State copy; it was received at 10:07 a.m.
  2. Document 272.