290. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1


I had it from an unimpeachable source that the bodies of Diem and Nhu were returned to the families and that they are now in the morgue at St. Paul’s Hospital. The source which has seen the bodies said both were shot in the nape of the neck and that Diem’s body in particular showed signs of having been beaten up. This definitely disproves the rumor of suicide.
According to [less than 1 line not declassified] of the Chinese Catholic Church in Cholon, both men were kneeling in church and were taken out and shot, then put into the armored car.
According to General Don, they called Diem shortly after 4:30 p.m. (FYI—After Diem’s call to me),2 and all of the Generals in the room took the telephone in turn and offered him safe conduct if he would resign; Don believes that he was dissuaded from resigning by brother Nhu. Comment: Once again brother Nhu proves to be the evil genius in Diem’s life.
General Don confirms the story that Diem and Nhu left the Palace on Friday evening in a vehicle with two aides and drove to Cholon and went into a house which they had long since prepared and from where they could be reached by telephone from the Palace and could make outgoing telephone calls themselves. General Don and his associates wanted very much to get them out of the country safe and sound, and no one deplored their assassinations more than he does. They provided an armored car so that they would not be lynched.
Thuan told me last night that there was an Indian astrologer who was here a few weeks ago who predicted a “frightful massacre” of a “great family”. The respect with which he and former Economics Minister and Finance Minister considered this prediction confirmed the reports I have always heard of the prestige which astrologers have in this part of the world.
Thuan said that after my talk with him in Dalat last Monday,3 in which I outlined the type of things which U.S. wanted the GVN to [Page 560] do, he put them up to Diem saying that they were really not much to ask. He believes that Nhu talked Diem out of agreeing to do anything that would please U.S.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15-1 S VIET Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Repeated to CINCPAC. Received at 8:23 a.m. and passed to the White House at 9:50 a.m.
  2. See Document 259.
  3. See Document 220.