282. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff1
A. Indicators of coup Success
- The initial objective of the coup group has been attained. Open resistance to the coup forces has ceased, leaving the military in full control of the apparatus of government.
- Deaths of the President and Counsellor, protective custody of Can would appear remove only significant symbol around which supporters of former regime might rally.
- From all outward appearances, there is strong public support of the Armed Forces and the new govt those forces have established. The mood of the population is jubilant, by Vietnamese standards rapport between troops and people is excellent; everywhere, people are bringing food to troops.
B. Status of Public Order
- During morning hours, there were numerous large, spontaneous and enthusiastic demonstrations. As of now (mid-afternoon), it is quieter, but the streets are crowded; this is, of course, Saturday and a holiday to boot (Memorial Day for VN war dead).
- There has been some sacking and looting but, thus far, it has been highly selective. In addition to the Palace, the targets have been holdings of the Nhus (Times of Vietnam; book stores; commercial concerns; HQ of Women’s Solidarity League); residences of Minister Hien (Civic Action), Luong (Interior) and Trinh (Education); and home of senior Republican Youth leader. In all actions, student groups have been in vanguard.
- Few civil police in evidence, many having discarded uniforms and jobs yesterday; those on duty are making little or no effort to influence crowds. Military have reacted quickly to the incipient danger of crowds getting out of hand. Military Police and some line troops are deployed at critical locations and handling situation in relaxed, effective manner. Notably, Minh, Don and Dinh have been personally moving to reported trouble spots to supervise. Reconstitution of police force is a first priority task of regime.
- All public utilities continue in full operating condition.
- Martial law in effect, country-wide.
C. Personalities in New Govt
- Following changes to intially reported lineup:
- M. General Duong Van Minh is Chief, Joint General Staff.
- M. General Tran Van Don is Minister of National Defense.
- M. General Mai Huu Xuan is Director, National Police.
- Do Khac Mai, promoted to Colonel, and named Commander, VNAF.
- Ton That Dinh, III Corps Cmdr and Minister of Interior designate, promoted to Major General. He is currently responsible for military security of Saigon-Cholon area-again.
- To Brig General:
- Do Mai, Chief MSS
- Co, now CG, 7th Div
- Thieu, now CG 5th Div
- Phat, formerly CO 2nd Div
- BG Nghiem, formerly I Corps Cmdr, has assumed command of VN Special Forces.
D. Threats to U.S. Nationals
- No report of U.S. casualties as result of coup action.
- Rapport between U.S. and VN military continues excellent. What is notable is new warmth of common man towards U.S. personnel.
- Condition Yellow remains in effect, with intention to relax to Grey tomorrow.
E. VC Reaction to Coup
- While it cannot be directly linked to exploration [exploitation?] of situation, unusual pattern of VC attacks reported in Vinh Long. After daylight this morning, VC, aggregating 200, attacked 6 Strat Hamlets. VC described as clad in blue uniforms.
- 33rd Ranger Bn has flushed estimated 300 VC in Ho Bo area, Binh Duong Province.
- No evidence any direct VC participation in minor disorders (para B2 above) in Saigon.
F. Effects of Saigon Events on SVN Forces and Their Operations Against VC
- Understandably, as the result of nationwide military interest in coup developments combined with a national holiday, the tempo of offensive operations slowed drastically today.
- It recognized here that it will take several days to re-focus the attention of the new government on priority military tasks. The attention of the entire higher command structure is now centered upon the most pressing of all immediate problems: the establishment of a viable government. There is also an impact upon field commanders, particularly sector commanders who face, in varying degrees, personal and political reorientation.
G. Steps Being Taken To Form New Govt
- Nothing substantial to report.
- Coup leaders are making determined efforts to maintain order and at the same time, transform popular exuberance into political support. For example, Generals Minh and Don were reported as being well received this morning as they shook hands with, and moved freely among, the people of Saigon.
- Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Defense Cables. Secret; Priority. Repeated for information to CINCPAC and to the Deputy Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Thailand. Passed by the JCS to the Department of State and the CIA. Received at the JCS at 10:01 p.m.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 272.↩
- Document 272.↩