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

2125. For the Secretary from Lodge. Your Flash 1838.2 Herewith my best answers to your questions:

Your para 1—I believe Khanh is thinking much as any professional soldier would think whose whole training is to get a victory as expeditiously as possible. I do not detect any pique. I think he honestly is trying to answer the questions in his own mind how far he should go in putting the country on a war footing. Obviously, there are many variants in doing this, and he was in a sense thinking out loud with me.
Your para 2—I don’t think he has reached the conclusion that he cannot win the war in the South without military action against the North. And, you are, of course, right that there is an inconsistency between his statements about “making the agony endure” and his claim that he has regained control over two million people, which he repeated to me again last night. This last is a very interesting point for many reasons, including public relations. I understand MACJ J–2 will try to plot these two million on the map. Also last week’s 60,000.
Your para 3—I don’t think he wants to move regardless of progress in the South. He is too intelligent for that.
Your para 4—I agree that a plan to evacuate two million people from Saigon seems utterly fantastic. Moreover, I think Saigon has value as a showcase of what life in a non-Communist state can be. In the whole “clear-and-hold” concept, Saigon is the biggest example of “hold”, and I would hate to see the people leave it. Of course, if it were to be bombed, a regular civil defense evacuation plan would have to be considered. I do not think he wants to evacuate Saigon, but he wants us all to think through what is involved in possible Communist retaliation on Saigon. He also thinks there should be a civil defense plan and that the public should know that there is such a plan. It might sober them.
Your para 5—I believe that the answer to your question is “yes”. I told him many times and again last night that he should try and get convincing evidence against French nationals. Many things could be done by him and by us that are not now possible if he had such evidence.
Your para 6—I wouldn’t say he was asking for an army corps of US Special Forces now. We were discussing the possible consequences of action against the North, both from North Vietnam and Communist China, and this led him to ask me what we could do. When I expressed great lack of enthusiasm for a large US ground force in Asia, he brought out the idea of an “army corps” of Special Forces.
Your para 7 is a puzzler. I have not been able to figure out a way to get rid of “business as usual” thinking without doing at least some of the things which he wants to do.
I don’t think Khanh is becoming pessimistic, but he is realizing what a hard job he has, which is why he has asked us for advisers. I agree we should not discuss the Canadian matter now.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Flash; Nodis.
  2. Document 140.