278. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge)1

CAP 63602. Deaths of Diem and Nhu, whatever their failings, has caused shock here and there is danger that standing and reputation of incoming government may be significantly damaged if conviction spreads of their assassination at direction of one or more senior members of incoming regime. Evidence available here is thin and conflicting, but simple assertion of suicide obviously will not end the matter. We believe that it is deeply in the interest of the regime to make prompt and full explanation, and if the deaths not by suicide, to emphasize with clear evidence all mitigating circumstances. They should not be left under illusion that political assassination is easily accepted here. Across the months of repression and increasing ineffectiveness, American people and government remember great services to freedom rendered by Diem over many years.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15-1 S VIET Secret; Eyes Only. Sent via CIA channels. Repeated for information to the Office of the Secretary of Defense eyes only for McNamara, to the Department of State eyes only for Rusk, and to the CIA eyes only for McCone. The source text is the Department of State copy.