18. Telegram From the Central Intelligence Agency Station in Saigon to the Agency1

[document number not declassified]. 1. Maj Gen Nguyen Khanh on 28 Jan told Col Jasper Wilson, senior MAAG advisor for I Corps, that he had info indicating that another coup would be attempted possibly as early as Friday 31 Jan. Coup, which would be of Palace variety involving little or no bloodshed, would be mounted by pro-French, pro-neutralist Generals with Mai Huu Xuan playing leading role. Once coup successfully carried out, perpetrators would immediately call for neutralization of SVN. Plotters in touch with Gen Nguyen Van Hinh.2

2. Khanh appeared deeply concerned, stating that if plot not immediately crushed, it stood fair chance of success. Although officers at field grade level generally opposed to neutralism, Khanh fears neutralist platform might strike responsive chord among junior officers, who might help sustain Palace coup. Khanh personally coming Saigon today or tomorrow.

3. In conversation with Wilson, Khanh did not indicate sources of his information or reasons for his obvious concern. [1–1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

[4 lines of source text not declassified] Interesting to note that during conversations Xuan told Ly that he intended to report meeting to Big Minh. Ly subsequently informed by intermediary that Minh anxious to talk to him.3
Lt Col Tran Dinh Lam, most recent returnee from Paris, is alleged by col who met him at airport to have been empowered, presumably by the French, to spend substantial sum (two billion piastres) to achieve neutralization of SVN. Lam reported by this source to have been brought back to SVN at request Gens Tran Van Don and Le Van Kim.4
Earlier this month American observer noted number of military trucks bringing ammunition and weapons into Xuan’s police HQS at Camp Du Mare.
Maj Gen Le Van Nghiem has stated both to American observers and Vietnamese sources on number of occasions. that Gens Kim, Don, Nguyen Van Vy, and Duong Van Duc are pro-French and privately in favor of neutralization.

4. Worth noting in connection with assessment of Xuan’s capability to pull [off] coup is recently instituted policy of MRC to thin out military units in Saigon area. However, there still significant ARVN security forces Saigon area.

5. Difficult to evaluate these various reports and indications, including Khanh’s claims. They may merely reflect, in cases of Nghiem5 and Khanh6 in particular, disgruntlement over failure to achieve more prominent positions in MRC. Nevertheless, noticeable rise in uneasiness, rumor-mongering and political maneuvering detectable in past few days. Restiveness finding its focus in continued dissatisfaction with Premier Tho, concern and confusion over question of neutralism and De Gaulle’s China initiative, and expectation of further changes in composition military high command and provisional govt. Will continue to watch situation closely and report developments. In the recent past Khanh has also identified Big Minh, Don and Kim as pro-French and pro-neutralist. It is possible that he feels this alleged tendency on their part is becoming so pronounced that he and his like-minded military associates must act to prevent a neutral solution.

6. Amb Lodge and General Harkins advised.

  1. Source: Department of State, HarVan Files, Vietnam Coup Two, January 30,1964 Secret. The source text, which bears no time of transmission from Saigon, is a copy sent by the CIA to the Department of State for Hilsman. Also sent to JCS for Krulak and to the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence for the Defense Intelligence Agency. A later White House copy is published in part in Declassified Documents, 1975, 58C.
  2. Chief of Staff of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, 1953–1954.
  3. At this point, Mendenhall wrote the following note in the margin of the source text: “Yes, but see,” and then drew an arrow to paragraph 4 below.
  4. Mendenhall at this point wrote in the margin the following comment: “Cf. [?] attitude expressed by Generals to Lodge of adamant opposition to neutralism. JM”
  5. At this point in the margin of the source text, Mendenhall wrote the following comment: “Nghiem is central Vietnamese and this is obviously gov’t in which southern Vietnamese predominate. Thus Nghiem’s comments to be taken with several grains of sand. JM”
  6. Mendenhall wrote the following comment in the margin at this point: “Personally very ambitious. Thus has his own axe to grind in this situation. JM”