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

403. Eyes only for the Secretary. CINCPAC POLAD exclusive for Adm Felt. Herewith report on meeting with Nhu from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday: also present: [1 line not declassified].

Nhu will resign, leave the government service for good and move to Dalat after he has lifted martial law, which he would prefer to do after certain U.S. agents who he says are still promoting a coup d’etat against family have left. “Everybody knows who they are”, he said. He would also appreciate American radio in Vietnam stopping its attack on GVN and he suggested as a matter of national pride that Americans coming to Vietnam be required to have Vietnamese visas. His resignation would be announced as a sign of the success of the program against the Viet Cong and it would be put out that things were going so well that he no longer needed to stay in the government.

Madame Nhu to leave September 17 for the Interparliamentary Union meeting in Yugoslavia, for a trip in Italy and possibly a trip to the U.S. where she has been invited to come as a guest of what he called the “Overseas Club” which I suspect is the Overseas Press Club of New York.

[Numbered paragraph 3 (1 line) not declassified]

A number of measures involving Buddhist prisoners will be taken to ease these tensions.
Short of actual constitutional changes, Nhu is prepared, as an altogether new departure and as a public relations gesture, to consider broadening the membership of the Cabinet and to have a de facto Prime Minister. I pointed out to him that such a Prime Minister could absorb some of the criticism now going to the President and could easily be replaced.
In the context of this last approach, he suggested a change in the economic aid in terms of long range loans at low interest rates rather than grants. He thought this would make it easier both for Americans and Vietnamese because we would not have responsibility [Page 85] for all the things that were done here which we did not like. He seemed to like the idea of relenting on austerity measures, such as dance halls for soldiers.
He said he could not leave the country because of his contacts with the Viet Cong who, he said, were extremely discouraged and ready to give up. He said that six months ago a Viet Cong colonel had offered to desert with three battalions, but Nhu had told him not to desert but to stay at the Laos frontier so he could secede at the right moment. He reported this to Embassy at the time. There was a Viet Cong general in Cambodia who wanted to see him. He said that not only was the Viet Cong discouraged, it felt it had been used and let down by North Vietnam. He predicted that pretty soon the only way to supply the Viet Cong would be by air. Supply by sea was already prohibited, supply by land would soon be virtually impossible. When supply was by air the planes would be shot down.
He told of the ChiCom offer to sell two U-40 planes, which, I understand, was reported by Nolting 60 days ago.
Polish Ambassador called on Nhu today to direct his attention to the statements of De Gaulle2 and Ho Chi Minh3 and asked Nhu what the Polish Ambassador could report to Pham Van Dong, the North Vietnamese Prime Minister. Nhu said he replied: “Nothing. As regards De Gaulle, while he has a right to his opinion, those who do not take part in the fight have no right to interfere. Our loyalty to the Americans forbids us to consider either statement. The Americans are the only people on earth who dare to help South Vietnam. Therefore I have no comment.”
Please let me know if you want me to go ahead on paragraphs 1, 2, 4 and 5.4
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15-1 S VIET. Top Secret; Immediate. Received at 10:59 a.m. Repeated to CINCPAC. Passed by the Department of State to the White House, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and CIA. On another copy of this telegram a note indicates that the President read it. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, State Cables, Part I) According to an attached note by Mildred Asbjornson, September 2, General Carter of the CIA called the Secretary and “urged that no hasty action be taken on this message; that it be discussed in depth at least at the EXCOM level. He said that McCone would be back tonight.”
  2. See footnote 7, Document 26.
  3. Apparent reference to an interview with Ho Chi Minh by Wilfred Burchett, published in the New Times of Moscow, May 29. When asked by Burchett to state what were the essential steps to ending the fighting in South Vietnam, Burchett quoted Ho Chi Minh as follows:

    “Foreign intervention must cease. The forces and the weapons of the interventionists must be withdrawn. The 1954 Geneva Agreements must be respected and U.S. pledges not to violate these agreements by force or threat of force must also be respected. An end must be put to the barbarous attempt to uproot the population and force the people of South Viet-Nam into concentration camps. A cease-fire could presumably be arranged between the Diemist forces and those of the patriotic National-Liberation Front of South Viet-Nam. Conditions must be created in which the people of South Viet-Nam can freely elect a government of their own choice.”

  4. Telegram 308 to Saigon, from Hilsman eyes only for Lodge, September 2—11:53 p.m., noted that instructions were being developed. “Meanwhile, President’s radio statement of today (Deptel 306) should amply fill need for continued momentum in development of situation.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET)

    Telegram 306 to Saigon, September 2, transmitted an edited copy of the President’s interview with Walter Cronkite. (Ibid., POL S VIET/US) See Document 50.