289. Telegram From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge) to the Department of State1

On 4 Nov CAS source close to General Tran Van Minh reported that Minh said that former Minister of Finance, Ha Van Vuong, and former Minister of Agriculture Le Van Dong, of two years ago, told Minh that the Generals are quarreling among themselves. They also say that if the Generals cannot come to an agreement within next day then the Marines who actually led the coup against the regime would lead a countercoup.

According to Minh, these several items are contributing to the discord among the Generals:

None of the Generals is jubilant over the murder of Diem. General Nguyen Khanh’s only stipulation for joining the coup was that the President would not be killed. Generals were in agreement that as little bloodshed as possible was to take place. General Duong Van Minh issued orders that only fire fights on given objectives were to take place and property was not to be destroyed. Little Minh says the Generals are very disturbed over the looting that has taken place. Another point of disagreement among Generals is the manner in which promotions were handled. Duong Van Minh passed approving of promotions to Tran Van Don. Tran Van Minh and Nguyen Ngoc Le thought some of the Generals’ promotions should be held up for the moment. At this point, Tran Van Don passed approval promotions to Tran Thien Khiem, who announced the promotions including his own. Former Vice President Tho who was party to promotion discussion was very disturbed over manner promotions.

Last meeting of Generals discontinued at 0300 hrs 4 Nov and to be continued sometime after 1300 4 Nov. Generals have not been able to come to agreement on Cabinet. The major deterrent in coming to agreement centers around General Ton That Dinh. Dinh who figured among the primary coup movers and, according to Little Minh, carries some weight with Duong Van Minh, wants to be Minister of Interior. Former Vice President Tho objected strongly to Dinh taking this position. Also, several Generals are concerned over Dinh’s second demand that newly appointed General Do Mau be made Minister of Youth [Page 558] Affairs. Duong Van Minh suggested compromise by moving some of Interior’s functions into Ministry Administrative Affairs to Prime Minister [sic] and in essence Tho would hold the portfolio of Ministry of Interior and Dinh would handle the security affairs for Interior.
According to Minh, Cabinet positions have been discussed as follows:

Prime Minister and Minster Interior, Nguyen Ngoc Tho.

Ministry of National Defense, General Tran Van Don.

Foreign Affairs, Vu Van Mau, if he will accept and if not, then Pham Dang Lam, presently Chief Secretariat Foreign Ministry.

Secretary State for Presidency, Nguyen Thanh Cung.

Finance, Luu Van Tinh.

Rural Affairs, Tran Le Quang (who would take over some of the functions of Interior thereby diluting still further some of Dinh’s responsibilities).

Public Works, Tran Ngoc Oanh.

Economy, Huynh Van Lang (this position is controversial and may be changed).

Youth Affairs, Do Mau (at insistence of Dinh and strongly objected to by Nguyen Ngoc Le and Tran Van Minh).

Health, vacant at moment (turned down by Pham Huy Quat).

Justice, vacant (no agreement reached primarily because of Dinh’s objections).

Information, Tran Tu Oai, turned the job down and objected when Tran Van Kim was proposed because two brothers-in-law would then be in Cabinet.

At the close of the meeting, it appeared that only four of the Generals had to be ministers. They were Defense/Don, Interior/Dinh, Information/Kim, and Youth/Maul
Tran Van Minh and Nguyen Ngoc Le told Duong Van Minh they willing to help in putting together Cabinet but they must be sensible about it. They received only shrug of shoulders from Duong Van Minh. At this point, Vice President Tho pulled Tran Van Minh aside and said don’t be discouraged that he, Tho, would try to help and that he thought Tran Van Minh’s counsel very valuable.
Afternoon of 4 Nov General Big Minh told reliable American source that Dr. Tran Kim Tuyen had been arrested because it had been discovered that he was plotting a countercoup.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL S VIET. Top Secret; Immediate. The source text is CIA Station telegram 2191 from Saigon sent to the Department of State eyes only for Rusk, Harriman, Hilsman, and Hughes; to the Office of the Secretary of Defense eyes only for McNamara, Gilpatric, Taylor, Krulak, and William Bundy; to the White House eyes only for McGeorge Bundy; and to the CIA eyes only for McCone, Carter, and Helms. It was repeated to Honolulu eyes only for Felt. Received at the Department of State at 8:23 a.m.