287. Telegram From the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (Harkins) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff1
- MAC J-3 8587. Summary Evaluation South Vietnam.
- Ref A, JCS DTG 011418Z Nov.2
- Ref B, my DTG 021036Z Nov.3
A. Indicators of Coup Success.
- Very little to add to evaluation contained Ref B. There have been no counter-coup actions reported, anywhere in the nation, during the past 24 hours. The junta is definitely in control of the situation, at this juncture.
- Mood of the Saigon population remains exuberant.
- Information is scanty in the following areas:
- Specific moves to eliminate secret apparatus of the Can Lao Party. The only arrests of which we are aware are, in addition to Colonel Le Quang Tung and brother Trieu (both rumored dead), a handful of Vietnamese Special Forces officers. General Cao has been relieved but not clear yet whether reason was political unreliability or military incompetence.
- Extent to which wholehearted support and participation of influential civilian leaders and institutions has been gained.
- The junta appears genuinely concerned over possibility of some pre-arranged counter-coup action; and thus considers next 48 hours or so to be crucial. Conceivably, counter-coup action could be stimulated by Republican Youth, elements of Special Forces not yet accounted for or other instrumentalities of Can Lao Party. We consider likelihood of large scale action to be remote; however terroristic acts are distinctly possible.
B. Status of Public Order.
- The street and squares are alive with people, today. Old hands report that population notable for numbers in evidence, and for relaxed attitude.
- No further indications of ransacking residences or offices closely associated with the Ngo family or regime. General Don appealed to the population to be circumspect in this regard; considerable numbers of troops deployed throughout the city to enforce injunction, if necessary; their mere presence suffices. In this connection, people appear reassured by, rather than fearful of, presence of troops.
- General Don reports that Saigon civil police force has been reconstituted at nearly pre-coup strength; that, given assurances, the great bulk of those who left their posts in fear on Friday have returned to duty. In this regard, Don expressed high confidence in General Xuan (Director General of National Police) who was an experienced police official prior to becoming an army officer.
- Public utilities continue to function uninterruptedly.
C. Personalities in New Government.
Following are changes or additions to previous reports:
- Major General Tran Van Don will be both Minister of National Defense and Chief, Joint General Staff. He plans to discharge both responsibilities from the same office at JGS Headquarters.
- Tran Thien Khiem (promoted to Major General) is to continue as Chief of Staff, for the time being.
- Le Van Nghiem (promoted to Major General) will command both Special Forces and Airborne brigade. Former Airborne commander, Colonel Vien, to be reassigned.
- Ton That Dinh scheduled to relinquish command of III Corps in next few days. Logical successor (and best choice) would be Brigadier General Co. However current information is that nod will go to Brigadier General Thieu, Commander, 5th Div and key figure in coup.
- Colonel Nhon (expected to be promoted 4 November) has assumed command IV Corps. Vice General Cao reported Nhon will be replaced at 21st Division by Colonel Han (former Chief of Staff, IV Corps).
- No further changes reported on division commanders.
Replacement of 23rd Div Commander (Colonel Le Quang Trung) likely.
- Additional promotions:
- To Major General: Le Van Kim (Minister of Agriculture designate), General Tran Thieu Oai (Director of Psywar).
D Threats to U.S. Nationals.
- Excellent state of public order and attitude of both Vietnamese officialdom and population led to decision to relax security condition to White at mid-morning.
- JGS has sent instructions down through chain of command for division commanders to insure security of advisors at sector level. This may be reflection of new government’s concern about some reaction by elements still loyal to former regime.
- No reports, from any quarter, of hostility toward or action against any U.S. personnel.
E. VC Reaction to Coup.
- The attacks in Vinh Long, reported in Ref B, were in fact, harassing fires. No friendly or enemy casualties.
- MACV assessment is that there has been no significant change in pattern of VC incidents since initiation of coup.
F. Effect of Coup on RVNAF and Operations Against VC.
- As expected, today was a duplicate of yesterday. No deployments from Saigon back to field. However, VNAF resumed tactical operations. Minds of senior military still concentrated on structuring and policies of government.
- The hope is for early upsurge in tempo and effectiveness of the military counterinsurgency efforts. General Don passed assurance to COMUSMACV via J-3 that troops would be returned to field stations in a couple of days. He also said one of first acts would be to tidy up III Corps by shifting northern boundary southward (as originally recommended) and eliminating the capital military district as a territorial command.
G. Steps To Form New Government.
- Reported that decree establishing provisional government will be promulgated tomorrow. Expected that powers of state will be temporarily vested in a committee (Don referred to a praesidium) with Duong Van Minh as chairman and from which the ministries would depend.
- As a minimum, Ministries of Defense (Don), Home Affairs (formerly Interior) (Dinh), Education (Tran Van Minh), Agriculture (Kim), Information (Oai) to be military incumbents, at outset. Promise is to relinquish all as soon as responsible civilian replacements can be found.
- Thus far, only the province chiefs of the two northernmost provinces have been replaced. However, the odds are for more widespread change. The probable formula will be an arrangement which separates military (security) and civil responsibilities.
- Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, Defense Cables. Secret; Exclusive. Also sent to CINCPAC; the Commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Thailand; and the Embassy in Saigon. Repeated for information by the JCS to the White House exclusive for Bundy; to the CIA exclusive for McCone; and to the Department of State exclusive for Rusk, Ball, Harriman, and Hilsman. The source text is the White House copy.↩
- See Document 2, Document 272.↩
- Printed as Document 282.↩