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

567. Following points raised at high level meeting today2 for your comment: [Page 722]


Urgent necessity is to get Khanh back into action and rehabilitate his prestige if possible. Embtel 6843 took exactly right line. We now wonder whether if Khanh remains reluctant it would be useful for you to have Presidential letter along lines following draft:

“Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

I want you to know that I have been following closely the political problems that have arisen in the past week. I appreciate fully the difficulties you have faced, and I admire the restraint with which they have been handled.

Ambassador Taylor tells me you are taking a rest from the strain of recent days and indeed of the past six months. I hope that you will recover rapidly, as it seems to me urgently necessary to have your presence in Saigon just as soon as you possibly can, demonstrably leading your country in its fight against the Viet Cong and meeting the criticism being heard in some quarters that your government and the resolve and unity of your people have been weakened by recent events. You may be assured that, with such leadership, the US will continue to give its full support to your government.

I am also well aware of your continuing concern that your government be able to plan and consider with us possible stronger actions against the source of the Viet Cong insurgency. This activity too requires your firm presence and leadership.

With all best wishes,

Sincerely yours,”

Request your comment and re-draft if desired. Consider especially whether inclusion last paragraph desirable. It would preclude release of letter, and this may be desirable.4

We gather from your reports no evidence province chain of command seriously affected as yet. Can Oanh be persuaded to put out firm directives that would assist in preventing deterioration, or might GVN consider devolving special responsibilities temporarily onto four corps commanders so that they jack up province chiefs? Realize key to problem, if there is one, may be basic doubt who is in charge, but above are samples of things that might help.
View general uncertainty, a clear GVN success in one or more key province, especially in area near Saigon, would now be particularly helpful. Realize you and MACV have given this continuing consideration, and do not mean to suggest occasion warrants undue risk through troop movements.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by William Bundy and cleared in draft with Forrestal and in substance with Rusk, McNamara, and McGeorge Bundy. Repeated to CINCPAC.
  2. According to Rusk’s appointment book, the meeting took place at 5 p.m., but no record of it has been found.
  3. Document 333.
  4. On September 1, Taylor replied that he wanted to defer a decision on delivering the letter until he saw whether Khanh would return to Saigon and until he got a report on the meetings Khanh held at Dalat. (Telegram 697 from Saigon; Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S)