249. Memorandum From Vice President Humphrey to the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach)1

As the Vietnamese election date approaches,2 it is important that we be prepared to use our leverage in Vietnam to make certain that the much-advertised election in September can plausibly be regarded as a free and honest election.

If the military directorate is permitted to implement its plans to eliminate both Big Minh and the civilian candidate Au Truong Thanh, it is inevitable that public opinion in the United States—and probably in Vietnam—will have serious doubts about the integrity of the election.

It seems particularly unwise to permit the elimination of Au Truong Thanh, a genuine civilian candidate, not just another general, like Big Minh. No one here or in Vietnam believes that the man whom Ky personally appointed as Finance Minister two years ago is a Communist, since his record indicates the contrary. In his case, unlike that of Big Minh, there seems to be no possibility that he would win. Permitting a peace candidate to run would do much to convince people here that the election was an honest one and that the people of Vietnam were given a choice.

I understand that a final decision will be made on this within a few days. I suggest that we use our leverage—and despite what some may say we do have leverage over the military directorate—to prevent the military from disqualifying Thanh, and thereby discrediting the electoral process, and undermining our claim that a representative government will be elected in September through a free and honest election.3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 14 VIET S. Secret.
  2. September 3 was the date of Presidential and Senatorial elections.
  3. In his July 26 reply to Humphrey, Katzenbach noted that the disqualification of Thanh was already an accomplished fact; given the attitudes of Assembly members, attempts to dissuade the Assembly “were unsuccessful.” He remonstrated that the disqualification of Thanh and Minh did in fact occur at the hands of an elected body and also that the qualified candidates would “provide the electorate with a considerable choice.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 14 VIET S)