230. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

52. Ref Saigon 29258.2

I called on General Thieu at noon July 1 and spent about one hour with him. Thieu was in a relaxed and cheerful mood. I expressed my satisfaction that a decision had been reached on one military slate.
Thieu recounted the events that led up to the June 30 decision, repeating much of what Ky had said to me the day before.3 Thieu said that the talks among the Generals had been extremely frank. He had told them that some of the Generals had not given him sufficient consideration and had hurt his feelings deeply. Thieu said that he had finally informed the other Generals that he proposed to resign from the army and run as a civilian candidate, but this had brought a strong negative reaction on the grounds it would divide the military seriously. Thieu replied to them that he had not been the one who had divided the armed forces and that it was the actions of others among them that had led to this situation. He said that he had mentioned General Loan and General Nguyen Bao Tri specifically.
Following these discussions, according to Thieu, the Generals had insisted that he must remain in the armed forces. Thieu said that he would agree to do so only on the following conditions: (1) that the [Page 579]solidarity of the armed forces would be maintained and (2) that the elections would be completely free and fair. He had then declared that it was not important whether the military candidate or a civilian candidate was elected provided it was a free election. Otherwise it would be impossible to unify the people. Thieu repeated this point several times to me and said that he had spoken to the province chiefs in the same sense.
I emphasized to Thieu that if the Thieu-Ky ticket were elected, it would be important to broaden the government and to have a substantial civilian element in it. Thieu said he entirely agreed. He believed that there should be a civilian Prime Minister and most of the Cabinet posts should be filled by good civilians. He thought only the Defense, Revolutionary Development, and perhaps Information/Chieu Hoi portfolios need be military.
Thieu also stressed the importance of an increased pacification effort. He thought that division commanders should play much more active roles and province and district chief staffs should be enlarged in order for them to cope with this priority problem satisfactorily.4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Received at 7:28 a.m. and repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD. Passed to the White House at 8:26 a.m. Rostow sent the text of the telegram to the President at the LBJ Ranch in telegram CAP 67627, July 1, where it was received at 9:37 a.m. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, CAP Cables) The notation “L” on the telegram indicates that the President saw it.
  2. Document 226.
  3. Reported in Document 226.
  4. In a July 2 memorandum to Westmoreland commenting on telegram 52, Komer argued that simply encouraging division commanders to play a greater role in pacification would not “give pacification a push.” He suggested that Thang be made Deputy Prime Minister in charge of all ministries relating to pacification as well as province and district chiefs. (Center for Military History, Dep CORDS/MACV Files, Project TAKEOFF: 1967–68)