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

3698 1. I called on Prime Minister Ky at his request at 1:00 pm, Monday, and, as I entered, thanked him for his friendly words about American aid. He said that at the meeting yesterday, two resolutions were adopted: 1) for a political convention and 2) for taking strong meas-ures. After this, General Vinh Loc said that he thought they ought to say something showing appreciation for American aid. Ky suggested that Vinh Loc make a motion which he did, so it was the third resolution of the day.

2. He then turned to me with a very serious expression on his face and, looking somewhat shaken, said:

3. “We have waited too long. Now we must be very firm. How can I describe this situation? All these different groups and minorities and sects make an infernal combination”. He used the French work for “infernal”.

4. “I told the Directorate today: either I resign or we all stay together, and we have decided to stay together. Thieu will speak to the nation tonight. We have decided to declare an ‘etat de siege’ (state of siege) in the whole country. Before that we were in an ‘etat de guerre’. A state of siege means that we are authorized to have a curfew all day long all over the country if we want to. We plan temporarily to close all schools and universities.”

5. He asked me whether I had heard that the Dalat radio had been burned, which I had.

6. I said that some thought that Tri Quang was a Communist, but I remembered that Prime Minister Ky had said he was a “visionary” (un illumine). Ky said that he now thought he was a Communist and that undoubtedly we face a great Communist conspiracy to take over the government, ask the Americans to leave, and turn the country over to Hanoi.

7. Ky said he realized now that he had had too much faith in the value of making concessions to the Buddhists. He had been talking with Thich Thien Minh all day and night. He said you canʼt satisfy them. Minh had asked him for two things: one a job for Thi, to which Ky said he was not opposed; secondly that Thieu would reply to the Buddhists agreeing with everything that they ask for. Ky then said:

8. “I have given Minh until [garble] tonight to issue orders to all the Buddhists to sit down and discuss a way to achieve our common goal. I [Page 319] wanted him to prove his good will. I did this using the Secretary of Health, Kha, as an intermediary.

9. “The Directorate meeting today was a very good meeting—thoroughly military and professional—with everything staffed out. We have plans for psychological warfare, leaflets, mobile radio. I want to move three battalions to Danang and bring up one division from the Fourth Corps for security in Saigon.

10. “I, myself, will go to Danang and be at the command post tonight with General Vien who will stay after I come back to Saigon, presumably tomorrow. I would like to have more aircraft to reinforce Danang. We have not enough Vietnamese Air Force planes. I know that MACV is ready and that they need an order from you. Will you give it?”

11. I said that I would and I notified General Westmoreland to that effect at 1:30.2

12. Ky said he had received members of the VNQDD who wanted to help and asked what is the government going to do.

13. Ky looks for a “mass effect”, quickly and simultaneously. The strategy for the nation is to have a big success in Danang first and then the people in the other communities in Viet-Nam will see it. For the time being he will isolate Hue, but believes he will have no trouble with Hue once Danang is disposed of.

14. If necessary he will move M–113s from Quang Nam. All Saigon troops are 100 percent restricted to their camps.

15. General Thieu will send invitations to representatives of all the different groups in Viet-Nam to organize meeting to be held “the day after tomorrow”. There will be two to three hundred people and everybody will be given a chance to talk. He believes he has put the Buddhists on the defensive.

16. There is now no doubt in his mind that the Communists are striving for a “soulevement”, that is a general uprising. He said:

17. “If I am weak they will succeed, but if I am strong they will not. History will judge whether I have done well or not, but I am ready to make the supreme sacrifice.”

18. He was deeply moved and so was I.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 23–8 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. The source text does not indicate the time of transmission; the telegram was received at 3:50 a.m. and passed to the White House, CIA, and Department of Defense.
  2. At 1135Z on April 4, Westmoreland informed General Walt that two Vietnamese Marine battalions, field police and military security elements, psywar teams, and a command group would move to Danang under cover of darkness that evening and that Lodge had agreed to Kyʼs request for airlift. (MAC 2667; Center of Military History, Westmoreland Papers, COMUSMACV Message Files) Subsequent events during April 4–10 and the role of U.S. forces can be followed in Jeffrey Clarkeʼs Advice and Support: The Final Years, 1965–1973 (Washington, DC, 1988) pp. 131–133.