144. Memorandum From William Jorden of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Message to Ky

Ambassador Diem has just talked personally with General Ky.

The Prime Minister sends his deep respect and warm greetings to the President.

He understands fully the President’s message and the concern reflected therein.2

He is deeply aware of the problems raised. He is putting the stability and the unity of the armed forces above everything. Nothing must be permitted to shatter the unity of the ARVN.

A majority of the generals would like him to be the Presidential candidate. He is considering this. If he can be the candidate without causing a break in armed forces stability, he will do it. But if his being a candidate will break the unity of the Army, he will not do it.

Nothing must be permitted to happen to the unity of the army and this is the uppermost consideration in his mind.

Regarding the I Corps situation, he realizes that the picture has been created that the Americans are rushing in to fight, but nothing is said of the Vietnamese forces. He recognizes this can be a source of criticism for the President, and for him and his people.

ARVN units have been moved into areas now being vacated by those U.S. forces moving north to I Corps. He will try to do more. It is a problem for us both.

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At the end, he repeated his deep respect for President Johnson. He recalled the pledge he made at Guam and he will live up to it. Nothing can happen to the unity of the Vietnamese armed forces; it must not be permitted.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIX, Cables. Secret. In a covering memorandum to the President, April 21, Bromley Smith wrote: “In response to your oral message, Premier Ky asked his Ambassador to reassure you he will not break the unity of the Vietnamese military. Attached is Bill Jorden’s report of his conversation with Ambassador Diem who had talked to Ky.” (Ibid.) The notation “L” on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. On April 19 immediately following a White House reception for SEATO Ministers, President Johnson met with Diem and Tran Van Do. He requested that they transmit to Ky a two-part message. First, Johnson cited the “absolute necessity” of continued cohesion among the Vietnamese leadership. Second, he stressed the need for the RVNAF “to carry as much of the military load as possible.” That evening, Diem told Jorden that he had sent the message both to Ky and to an associate of his who worked in the Prime Minister’s office. He assured Jorden that Ky and Thieu would “not let things get out of hand.” (Memorandum from Jorden to Rostow, April 20; ibid.) In a conversation with Unger later that day, Diem confirmed that he had delivered Johnson’s message to Ky. (Ibid.)