8. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

268. Eyes only for Ambassador and Gen. Harkins.

Your 3642 reviewed this morning at highest levels and is most helpful. We note that you continue to favor the operation; we also assume your concurrence in conclusion of [document number not declassified],3 which we share, that if this operation starts it must succeed. But it remains unclear to us that balance of forces in Saigon yet gives necessary high confidence of success, and we need daily assessment from you on this critical point. In particular, we share your view that Big Minh’s position and views are important and we await report of his conversation.
More broadly, we are assuming that whatever cover you and we maintain, prestige of U.S. will necessarily be engaged in success or failure of this effort. Thus we ask for your present estimate of latest point at which operation could be suspended and what would be consequences of such suspension. We continue to believe Nhus must go and coup will be needed, but we do not which [wish] to bind you [Page 16] against your better judgment at any stage. Conversely, while we assume Generals’ operation still subject to delay or cancellation, if you believe die is cast, we need to know it.
In addition to recommendation in your 364, which we are still considering, what other actions do you recommend to increase prospects of success? Specifically, do you think we should
add discreet diplomatic and military endorsement to approach made by CAS to Generals, especially to emphasize official view of the USG that Nhus should be replaced, but without direct comment on coup planning?
through General Harkins and other military officers discreetly hint to General Dinh, Colonel Vien and other military leaders who are potential fence-sitters that US opposed to continuation of Nhus?
add financial inducements as appropriate in affecting all individual decisions of uncertain key figures?
undertake and discreetly publicize movements of US forces in Pacific toward South Vietnam, in addition to present E and E contingency deployments?
indicate our concern by beginning evacuation of appropriate US dependent personnel?
We have concurred until now in your belief that nothing should be said to Diem, but changing circumstances, including his probable knowledge that something is afoot, lead us to ask again if you see value in one last man-to-man effort to persuade him to govern himself and decisively to eliminate political influence of Nhus. All evidence indicates to us that removal of Nhus is center of problem.
We understand that what we have told Generals is that they will have to proceed at their own risk and will not be bailed out by us. While this is sound initial approach, we must surely be ready to play every effective card at decisive moments. Therefore request your report of additional actions you and Harkins expect to take or recommend after coup begins to insure its success.
We shall be meeting tomorrow here at noon, our time, with President, and count on having your report by then to keep Washington in fullest coordination with you and Harkins.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 S VIET. Top Secret; Emergency. Repeated to CINCPAC POLAD exclusive for Felt. The text of this telegram was sent from the White House for transmission over Department of State channels. It was cleared by Rusk and Hilsman.
  2. Vol. III, p. 668.
  3. Ibid., p. 671.