413. Message From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Taylor) to the President1

Embtel 1466.2 Huong’s government has survived its second week and, although still under attack by special interest groups, maintains its precarious position, and the fact that it is kept alive lends it slightly more authority. By his refusal to be pressured into changes in his recently announced Cabinet and his use of troops in Saigon over the weekend to restrain student demonstrations, Huong has continued to demonstrate his determination to maintain law and order and not to succumb to minority pressures. Thus far, the factions opposed to some of Huong’s Cabinet do not appear able or perhaps willing to force the issue. In the press, in spite of some attacks on the Cabinet, there are numerous moderate voices urging that the Huong government be given a chance.

We continue to receive expressions of fear by responsible GVN officials that General Khanh is maneuvering to maintain a position independent of the government and may even be encouraging some of the anti-Huong forces. I have seen no hard evidence of its truth, but in view of Khanh’s past behavior, it is not surprising that the suspicion is about.

Aside from the continuing political crisis, the government’s energies were heavily engaged in dealing with the typhoon disaster in Central Vietnam. Although it now appears the early reports, as is usual in such situations, were very much exaggerated, there is no doubt that at least six provinces in Central Vietnam have suffered severely. The Prime Minister and I surveyed the stricken areas by air on Friday3 and were briefed in Danang on the damage and relief efforts. I must say that the Vietnamese response to this challenge has been most encouraging and has produced examples of community spirit which contrast sharply with the lack of national unity which we have been seeing in Saigon. All US agencies are very much involved in assisting the flood relief and I say that their conduct has been exemplary.

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On the military and pacification fronts, again there is little to report this week. The floods held down both friendly and enemy activity in the I and II Corps areas. We have reason to hope that the floods may have been relatively more disastrous to the Viet Cong and their exposed supplies than to our side.

Elsewhere Viet Cong casualties were high totaling 255 killed in action during the week. There may be some significance in the increase in incidents in the tier of provinces just south of those affected by the flood where in the past the level of Viet Cong activity has always been quite low. Throughout this area, the Viet Cong appear bent on driving a wedge to separate economically the Northern provinces from those of the South.

Early in the flood crisis, I was queried from Washington with regard to the need for additional US logistical troops and the combat forces to protect them.4 I was not inclined to favor such action at that time and now as the estimates of the flood damage diminish, I am quite certain they are not needed. If, as may be possible, outside engineering assistance is eventually needed to help in reconstructing bridges and other engineering works destroyed by the flood, I would hope to receive that aid from third country sources.

Taylor 5
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S. Top Secret; Priority; Nodis. Transmitted as telegram 1536 from Saigon, which is the source text. According to another copy of telegram 1536, it was drafted by Taylor. (Ibid., Saigon Embassy Files: Lot 68 F 8) Received at 6:21 p.m.
  2. Telegram 1466, November 11, transmitted Taylor’s previous weekly report to the President. (Ibid., Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
  3. November 13.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 410.
  5. Telegram 1536 bears this typed signature.