334. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1
Saigon, November 30, 1963, 4 a.m.
1093. CINCPAC for POLAD. Conversation with General Minh Saturday a.m. Nov 30.
- I told him of President Johnson’s determination to continue U.S. help to V.N.’s struggle for freedom, which he much appreciated.
- He said recent Viet Cong successes, especially the daytime attacks, were due to VC infiltration of GVN units, notably of the Special Forces. This had been going on for two years with the connivance of Nhu who in his last days had appealed directly to the Viet Cong for help. Of this they have proof. Also the Viet Cong had been engaged in selling charcoal to the Government of Viet Nam for a long time.
- Minh was now engaged in cleaning out the infiltrators, getting rid of the politically appointed non-commissioned officers and bringing the capable officers into the key places.
- These recent experiences have taught them that in every case the people have left the bad Strategic Hamlets and have returned to their old homes close to their own fields, but that the people have stayed in the good Strategic Hamlets.
- The Viet Cong were taking advantage of the change of government to capitalize on all that they had gained under the former regime.
- For the future the GVN intended to base themselves on the good Strategic Hamlets. The efforts to construct Strategic Hamlets had been spread much too thin and instead of allocating 20,000 plasters for each Strategic Hamlet he wanted to concentrate a larger sum of money on a few that were really good. He had already spoken to Brent about this.
- He wanted the creation of a U.S. team to work with their teams as a “braintrust”. He realized that Nhu had kept the Americans at arm’s length. They, however, had nothing to hide and wanted to have us understand all the details of their operations as much as possible.
- Both he and General Kim who was present throughout attached great importance to what they had accomplished with the Hoa Hao’s and Cao Dai’s. He said there were two million Hoa Hao’s. They were rabidly anti-Communist, they knew the country and were a great asset. Diem had lost them by trying to force them into becoming Christians.
- He said he was still not satisfied with the intelligence he was getting and wanted American help in this regard.
- The number one priority was Saigon, Cholon and the Delta. He wanted to make an “oil spot” type of operation-something which would spread out. They could not be strong everywhere. They would organize this area with three Generals two of whom were General Phat and General Thieu whose power was delegated from that of General Dinh. The third was General Co. They had complete authority over the province chiefs and district delegates as regards military matters.
- On the matter of Cambodia they wanted us to find out whether the Thais were supporting the Khmer Serei. FYI Please advise me.
- Also did any U.S. Government activity of any kind help Diem’s regime to get the Khmer Serei broadcast started. FYI Please advise.
- Kim asked this question: If Sihanouk is proven to be a Communist, will the United States put a nationalist in power in Cambodia? What will the United States do? FYI What, if anything, should I say to this?
- They expect the Laotian Army to send a delegation to visit Viet Nam in the near future and are looking forward to it.
- I again brought up the question of Ngo Dinh Can and was told that they had no intention whatever of killing him and I got the distinct impression that if the tribunal should sentence him to death there was a good chance he would get clemency.
- There was no doubt at all that these men are most eager to get on with the war and intend to leave no stone unturned. But, in order to show our eagerness, I said that I hoped to be in a position on my next trip to the United States to make a public statement on their accomplishments and also to appear before the Senate and House in a position to point to concrete results and not just to talk about intentions and hopes. When General Minh asked me when I hoped to do this I set the date ahead about a month of what I really plan and said at the end of January. He and General Kim looked at each other but didn’t reject that date as impossible so maybe there’ll be something by the end of February.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Repeated to Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Bangkok, and CINCPAC.↩