287. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1
303. Deptel 341.2 In company with Alex Johnson and Westmoreland I saw Khanh at 0930 Saigon time and gave him information and advice contained in reftel. Khanh was delighted with news and asked permission to tell Cabinet which was meeting at 1000. As execution of attacks had not been confirmed, I authorized communication of information less indication of targets.
At same time, I urged Khanh and he agreed to stress to Cabinet seriousness of situation and need to close ranks and achieve greater unity.
There followed considerable discussion of precautionary measures to take in SVN in view of possible hostile reaction. Khanh was inclined to put out something to public warning people (of Saigon in particular) of danger of air attack. We persuaded him not to do so, pointing out danger of panic and got his agreement to say nothing publicly now. Later, following President’s statement not yet received here, he will want to make some statement explaining situation and urging national unity.
It was agreed that an alert should go out through military channels warning of possible VC reaction and air action against targets in I and II Corps, particularly the air field at DaNang and the 34A marine base. Westmoreland is meeting with DefMin Khiem to work out detailed alert plan.3
General Khanh stated that his air force would like to participate in this action against NVN. I told him that I understood his desire to join forces but that now was not the time. He should keep his military guard up and await outcome of events in progress.
Khanh mentioned that in case of air attacks on Saigon he was prepared to move to emergency CPs which he had prepared at Cap St. Jacques, Dalat and Nha Trang. In view of fact that something might happen to him, he suggested giving me a paper asking US intervention and take over of command if he disappeared. I acknowledged this [Page 628]might be a desirable thing but let matter drop. (I would appreciate advice on attitude to take on this point.) Khanh also indicated that he still regards Khiem as his successor.
Westmoreland informed Khanh that he was seeing General Minh shortly for purpose of introducing General Throckmorton and got Khanh’s agreement to tell Minh the same things which Khanh was about to tell Cabinet regarding events in Tonkin Gulf.
I informed Khanh on leaving that US would increase the number of F–102s presently in SVN and he expressed thanks while reminding us that US has the only means for air defense of his country.
- Source: Department of State, Saigon Embassy Files: Lot 68 F 8. Top Secret; Flash; Exdis; Pierce Arrow. Received at 11:58 p.m., August 4. Drafted by Taylor. Also sent to the Department of Defense and repeated to CINCPAC, CIA, and the White House.↩
- Document 279.↩
- Westmoreland transmitted a report on his meeting with Khiem at 11:30 a.m. in MAC JOO 7425 from Saigon, August 5. Johnson Library, National Security File. Vietnam Country File, Vol. XIV, Memos)↩