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

2884. Eyes only for the Ambassador from the Secretary. I am reluctant to harass you with our anxieties here when you have your hands full with the political delicacies and dangers on the scene, particularly since we find it difficult to make really constructive suggestions. Westmorelandʼs recent letter to General Vien, sent with your concurrence, puts some fundamental issues to our South Vietnamese colleagues.2 It is [Page 313] becoming increasingly difficult for us to understand or to explain to the Congress and to our own people why the Hue Radio (see FBIS 53) can spew forth such vitriolic anti-American propaganda in the center of an area being defended by American forces. We are deeply distressed by the seeming unwillingness or inability of the South Vietnamese to put aside their lesser quarrels in the interest of meeting the threat from the Viet Cong. Unless that succeeds, they will have no country to quarrel about. Perhaps the very effort announced by the Generals to move toward a constitutional system has stimulated an active maneuvering for position among South Vietnamese groups. I assume you have exhausted your possibilities with Tri Quang and other extremists such as Tien Minh to impress upon them the importance of putting first things first. It seems ironic that, at the very time when all other efforts were beginning to move favorably, these internal differences among the South Vietnamese should threaten their and our total effort. Please let us know if you and the Country Team feel that there are steps which we can take from here which would be helpful. Is there anyone here or any way that we from here can bring any influence to bear on Tri Quang? Have you discussed with your Japanese colleagues the possibility of some of the Japanese Buddhists who established relations with him bringing influence to bear on Tri Quang? Our present impression is that the political differences are not likely to die away but seem to be gathering momentum.

I note from your 35893 that the government has decided to speed up a Constitutional Preparatory Council and has given assurances that necessary steps will be taken to protect US forces. We face the fact that we ourselves cannot succeed except in support of the South Vietnamese. Unless they are able to mobilize reasonable solidarity, the prospects are very grim. I much appreciate your frank and realistic reporting and am relying heavily upon your good judgment to exert every effort to get us over the present malaise.4 Regards.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Country File, Vietnam, vol. XLIX. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Rusk, cleared by U. Alexis Johnson, and approved by Rusk.
  2. See Document 103 and footnote 2 thereto.
  3. Document 105.
  4. In telegram 3614 from Saigon, March 31, Lodge responded that the Embassy had been doing its best to bring to the attention of all concerned the gravity with which the United States viewed the situation. Tri Quang, however, refused to listen. “He has embarked on a course deliberately designed not only to bring down the government, but to have its replacement substantially subject to his control.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)