328. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State 1

559. After events Aug 25,2 and despite fact that MRC publicly endorsed Khanh’s capitulations to Buddhist demands, it became soon [Page 708] clear that major elements of MRC were happy [unhappy] with outcome and wished upset results. Those officers centered around Khiem and Thieu immediately began politicking during evening and night of Aug 25 with primary purpose of ousting Khanh from presidency. Khanh, in meantime, had gone to Vung Tau in order “get some sleep” and presumably to withdraw himself from central arena of bargaining.

In early evening Aug 25, Khiem and Thieu sought out Big Minh, gave him a somewhat biased account of day’s events and apparently left Minh with impression that he, Minh, would be a strong candidate in Aug 26 MRC elections for president. Other pro-Khiem elements of MRC, especially Lam, were busy making contact with MRC members, reportedly sounding them out on voting possibilities. I had sent Westmoreland to see Khiem and sent Stilwell to see Thieu during evening to sound out their state of mind. During night, Lam had insistently sought info from his MACV adviser, wishing to know US Govt opinion of possible change from Khanh to some other General as President. I had also sent a note to Big Minh encouraging him to attend MRC meeting and cast his vote there.

On morning Aug 26, I received word that Minh wished see me at 9:00 am (elections were scheduled for 10:00 am). I also had received reports re politicking activities during night of Aug 25. I therefore decided upon and took following actions.

I went to see Minh (detailed report by septel)3 and told him US wanted no change in govt. Our candidate was Khanh.
I sent De Silva to see Khiem to convey same message to him.4
I sent Gen Lam’s MACV adviser to see Lam and tell him we had no alternate candidate to Khanh.
After these events (at about 9:40) I telephoned Khanh, reported my conversation with Minh, assured him of our support, and wished him good luck in elections.

It was my conviction, in taking these actions, that US could not possibly afford confusion that would result from loss of Khanh, that internal maneuvers had to be stopped somewhere, and that Khanh is indeed the best bet we have in current circumstances. I am now awaiting report on results of election.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to the Department of Defense, CIA, the White House, and CINCPAC for POLAD. Received at 12:16 a.m.
  2. Taylor’s diary describes the events of August 25 as a “rump meeting” of the Military Revolutionary Committee “with only the corps commanders and Chiefs of Staff present.” (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, T–272–69, Box 55)
  3. Telegram 561 from Saigon, August 26, noon. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
  4. A report on De Silva’s meeting with Khiem was transmitted in telegram 564 from Saigon, August 26, 4 p.m. (Ibid., POL 15–1 VIET S) Following receipt of telegrams 561 and 564, the Department of State cabled Saigon that it fully concurred in the line taken with the Generals. The Mission was instructed to continue its efforts along these lines as long as deemed appropriate. (Telegram 521, August 26; ibid.)
  5. At the end of the day, Taylor and Johnson met with Khanh, who reviewed the MRC sessions. Khanh reported that the going had been hard and that the Dai Viet were not above attempting a coup. A variety of organizational changes were discussed, but nothing settled. Khanh also reported that he had received a letter from Tri Quang pledging his support. (Telegram 572 from Saigon, August 27, 12:30 a.m.; ibid., POL 15 VIET S) Tri Quang had informed the U.S. Embassy about the letter at noon. (Telegram 570 from Saigon, August 26, 9 p.m.; ibid., POL 27 VIET S)