292. Telegram From the Consulate at Hue to the Department of State1

15. Ngo Dinh Can reportedly still at Redemptionist Seminary although was possibly scheduled for removal to Saigon today by General Do Cao Tri. One of Can’s emissaries today reported Can appeared desperate this morning and was ready seek asylum at Consulate as soon as emissary gave go ahead.2 Emissary replied when Can sought [Page 563] asylum was Can’s choice. Another of Can’s emissaries reported Can would like his mother and one servant to come with him. Mother, incidentally, rumored to possibly have died today, or at least to be failing quickly. As far as it is known, she remains in her own residence.

During 4 November thousands of people visited area of Can residence which still guarded by troops and armor and nearby Tunam Pagoda. Many thousands also trekked three kilometers to large estate of Can south of Hue which about half constructed. Estate, which included large agricultural development and various buildings and landscapings, thoroughly looted and destroyed by crowds. Former French ammo storage buildings which converted to eighteenth century type dungeons with filthy, tiny pitch black cells also on grounds. Latter observed by reporting officer. These source of considerable agitation against Can and family.

University and high school classes held without incident, although one report received that students at Quochoc High School attempted to turn on known former secret police agents at school but disarmed by faculty.

Province Chief told enthusiastic crowd of 2,000 civil servants today that all caches of arms and agents of former regime should be reported, he would form peoples committee to help him solve problems, people should allow criminals of former regime to be punished by courts, demonstrations by people would be allowed in a few days. Latter presumably would be pro-coup.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 30-1 S VIET Secret; Immediate. Repeated to Saigon. Received at 12:48 p.m. and passed to the White House at 1:30 p.m.
  2. On the afternoon of November 2, two separate emissaries of Ngo Dinh Can contacted U.S. officials at the Consulate at Hue to ask for assistance if Can’s life were to be placed in danger. U.S. officials replied that Can could only be helped if he was in “imminent danger from mob violence” and pointed out that the Consulate’s premises were not inviolable. If asked by Government of Vietnam authorities to turn him over, the Consul would have to comply. (Telegram 12 from Hue, November 2; ibid.)

    In telegram 5 to Hue, November 2, the Department instructed the Consul to grant Can asylum at his request if he was in physical danger from any source. The Consul was to explain to local authorities that further violence against the Ngo family would harm the new regime’s international reputation. The Consul should also remind these authorities that the United States took similar action to protect Quang Tri from the Diem government. (Ibid.)

    In telegram 6 to Hue, November 3, the Department sent further instructions that in the event assistance to Can endangered American lives, Helble should contact General Tri and request protection and removal of Can. The Department also suggested that the Embassy in Saigon consider Can’s immediate evacuation. (Ibid.)