300. Editorial Note

On November 5, 1963, Secretary of State Rusk, accompanied by Assistant Secretary Roger Hilsman, testified in secret executive session before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the situation in Vietnam. Secretary Rusk in his testimony set the background of the situation in Saigon in the weeks preceding the coup, minimized U.S. involvement with coup planners, and expressed the Department of State’s fear that the coup would result in a prolonged civil war. Rusk reviewed Lodge’s efforts to assure Diem’s safety during the coup, and described Nhu’s and Diem’s escape to Cholon, their surrender and capture, and their deaths. Rusk opined that the Generals did not order the assassination, which “was done by trigger-happy people down the line.” Rusk explained that the Nhu children had been evacuated to Rome and that Madame Nhu was traveling to meet them there.

Rusk was optimistic about the prospects for the new government in South Vietnam which he thought would be predominantly civilian. Rusk concluded his testimony by reviewing abortive coups and “endemic” rumors of coups since 1960. These, Rusk stated, had made him skeptical about rumors of the November 1 coup. Rusk then answered extensive questions from members of the Committee. The 39-page transcript of the hearing is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 46, Records of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Declassified Executive Sessions Hearings.