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

434. CINCPAC for POLAD—exclusive for Admiral Felt. Eyes only for Secretary. Herewith report of meeting from 6 to 8:15 p.m. Friday2 between [less than 1 line not declassified] and Nhu.

[less than 1 line not declassified] stressed the urgent crisis created by the situation in US Senate described in Hilsman’s no. 3353 to me. They explained that passage of a resolution described in the telegram would be an irreversible action and would commit every Senator voting for it to vote against further appropriations.
They think Nhu was shaken by this news which evidently he had not expected. Nhu said he had expected me to come back, apparently, “to negotiate” with him about his resignation. [less than 1 line not declassified] said that there was nothing for me to negotiate; that I, from a background of 25 years in US public life, had given my very best advice, which was for him to leave the country immediately for six months. It was up to him to take the advice or to reject it. There was nothing to haggle over.

Then came a long tirade by Nhu who lost his usual impassive composure and walked up and down. Some of his statements were:

“I’m the winning horse—they should bet on me. Why do they want to finish me? I want to be—not the adviser to Pres. Diem—but the adviser to Henry Cabot Lodge.
“I may leave the country after a month and what if 100 Strategic Hamlets go over to the Communists while I am away?
“I am alarmed by what’s going on in the Armed Forces. If I leave, the Armed Forces will take over the government. ‘Ces grenouillards’ (which I translate as “these schemers” or ‘these contrivers’) of the CIA and USIS will sabotage the war effort.”

FYI: This is first admission I have seen that Army was worrying him. Nhu also said he was burning his papers.

Madame Nhu is to leave on Monday4—for a two or three months “rest” in Europe.
Nhu stressed he would not consider leaving country, but would formally resign without retaining any connection with Strategic Hamlets. After a “number of months” had gone by he might consider leaving for a period of 3 or 4 months. When he did resign he would [Page 132] not deny that he had been kicked out. He would also consider any piece of legislation which would help to appease Buddhists, deal with Decree Law 10 and rebuild pagodas.

Comment: Believe it was good tactics for [less than 1 line not declassified] to see Nhu without me, as they obviously have no axe to grind. Am sure Nhu will not leave, but am also sure that news in Hilsman’s telegram has shaken him. Planning Monday meeting with Diem, using Hilsman telegram, Deptel no. 3315 on situation in UN and anything else you may send me on Vietnamese interest in Congress.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 S VIET. Secret; Immediate. Received at 3:02 a.m. Repeated to CINCPAC. Passed to the White House and CIA.
  2. September 6.
  3. Document 63.
  4. September 9.
  5. In telegram 331, September 5, the Department of State informed the Embassy in Saigon that the Afro-Asian bloc in the United Nations had requested inscription of the Buddhist issue in South Vietnam as an “urgent and important” item on the upcoming General Assembly agenda. The Department instructed the Embassy to inform the Diem government that unless “far-reaching and well publicized steps towards settlement of the outstanding issues with the Buddhists” were taken, South Vietnam could expect substantive debate on the issue and a condemnatory resolution. If the South Vietnamese did not implement reforms, the United States would not oppose a resolution calling on the Republic of Vietnam to respect the principles of religious freedom and human rights. (Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-15 VIET)