92. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Acting Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Komer) to President Johnson1

1. Likely showdown between Prime Minister Ky and I Corps Commander General Thi. This trouble is apparently reaching a climax. Ky has called a special meeting of the ruling military directorate for 1000 hours tomorrow (9 p.m. tonight our time) to seek Thiʼs removal. Ky is convinced that there is no alternative other than to remove Thi.2

2. Thi is to be accused of insubordination, “war lord” behavior, alienation of the population and general obstruction of the pacification effort. Recent CIA reports indicate that Thi may have begun conspiring with such retired officers as General Tran Van Don,3 and this may have influenced Ky to seek Thiʼs dismissal.

3. Lodge had two urgent meetings with Ky today. He told Ky that he was not in a position to give advice on such an internal political matter. But he warned Ky of the disastrous consequences of any government crisis at this time particularly in the wake of the Honolulu conference. He told Ky that if there was any possibility whatever that the ruling directorate [Page 280] could not enforce the removal of Thi, then the confrontation should be put off.

4. But Ky remains adamant, and claims that the removal will be painless since all the generals are with him. Thi would be given the graceful exit of either a study tour in the U.S. or the post of Ambassador to Bangkok.

5. State is worried too. If Thi is alerted to the action contemplated he may refuse to attend the March 10 meeting and take unilateral action in his area. Tri Quang and the Central Vietnam Buddhists are also known to be close to Thi and unsympathetic to Kyʼs government. Ky has sent an emissary to speak to Tri Quang, apparently to mollify him in advance of Thiʼs removal.

6. So State told Lodge to do all possible to avoid a showdown. If Ky and the directorate still choose to proceed, Lodge is to insure that they handle Thiʼs removal, to the extent possible, as a normal change in corps commanders, with Thiʼs next assignment announced simultaneously. Lodge has clearly done as much as feasible, and Stateʼs instructions4 give him the leeway he needs to attempt to cope with the situation. We will keep you posted.

R.W. Komer
  1. Source: Johnson Library National Security File, Memos to the President—Robert Komer, vol. 21. Confidential. The source text is marked with an indication that the President saw the memorandum.
  2. In telegram 3277 from Saigon, March 10, Lodge reported that the Directorate meeting had ended about 4 p.m. and that Thi had been relieved of his duties. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 VIET S)
  3. This report appeared in Intelligence Information Cable TDCS–314/02963 from Saigon, March 4. According to the cable, Ky told several members of the Directorate after its meeting on March 2 that he had disturbing reports about Thiʼs activities and that Thi “was attempting to make I Corps his personal fief.” (Central Intelligence Agency, EA/DDO Files: Job 85–00329R, 137–9–23, Government Activities in SVN)
  4. Transmitted in telegram 2653 to Saigon, March 9. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 VIET S)