303. Editorial Note

In general elections held on September 3, 1967, the South Vietnamese people elected Nguyen Van Thieu as President and Nguyen Cao Ky as Vice President. The vote for the Thieu-Ky ticket was 1,638,902, or 34.8 percent of the total cast. Opposition tickets headed by Truong Dinh Dzu, Phan Khac Suu, and Tran Van Huong received, respectively, 17.2 percent, 10.8 percent, and 10 percent of the total vote cast. An analysis contained in Ambassador Bunker’s weekly telegram to President Johnson noted that a large portion of the vote for the Thieu-Ky ticket came from areas outside the large urban centers, while the other candidates led in the major cities, as evidenced by the fact that Suu received the most votes in cities such as Hue and Danang and Huong received more votes than Thieu in Saigon. The members of the Senate were chosen at this time, while elections for the House of Representatives were to be held on October 22. “The Presidential election results speak for themselves and will go far to answer the earlier charges that the government was guilty of improper activities during the campaign and would manipulate the results,” Bunker suggested. Bunker’s full analysis of the election is in his 19th weekly report to the President, telegram 5060 from Saigon, September 6. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S; printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pages 147–159)

The President had sent a mission to Vietnam to observe the elections first-hand. The observer group numbered two dozen individuals, including Governors, Senators, labor and business leaders, and journalists. A full list of the group’s members is in telegram 26112 to Saigon, August 24. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 14 VIET S) According to Johnson’s Daily Diary, he met with the election observers on September 6 from 11:06 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. (Johnson Library) Jim Jones’ notes of this meeting are ibid., Meeting Notes File, Sept. 6, ’67-Mtg. With VN Election Observers. No other record has been found. Walt Rostow cabled the group’s positive assessment to Bunker in telegram CAP 67759, September 7. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, White House Cables-Back Channels-Incoming, Outgoing)

On September 8 the President wrote to Thieu:

“I extend my warm regards to you and to Prime Minister Ky on your victory in the election of a President and Vice President. I have just received a detailed and most moving account of your election from the distinguished Americans whom you invited to Viet-Nam as observers. They returned believing in the fairness of the procedures and observed the intense interest of the Vietnamese people in this major step toward creating your own popularly chosen and constitutionally [Page 748] based government. Their individual reports were a testimonial to the courage and determination of the Vietnamese people to remain free and to create their own political institutions in their own way. The election was a milestone along the path toward the goal you have set for yourselves—a free, secure and peaceful Viet-Nam. But it is not the end of the journey. Many hard tasks remain. Not the least of these now is the creation of a strong, effective and broadly based government that will help you and your country achieve the objectives you set forth in your campaign. The American government and I, personally, look forward to continued close cooperation with you and your colleagues in the days and months ahead. I am confident that our efforts—joined with those of our allies—will be crowned with success and that under your leadership, a peaceful, democratic, strong and prosperous Viet-Nam will emerge.”

This letter was sent to Saigon in telegram 34017, September 8. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 VIET S) Thieu, who received the letter on September 9 from Bunker, acknowledged the President’s communication in his own letter of thanks dated September 26 but received from the Vietnamese Embassy by the Department of State on October 10 and then forwarded to the White House. (Ibid.)