328. Memorandum for Record1

MACJOO

SUBJECT

  • Meeting with Prime Minister Ky, 1130–1230 hours, 15 September, at VNAF Headquarters
1.
Ky opened the conversation by saying he had just visited Bien Hoa and had had a chance to fly in the Army’s new Huey Cobra helicopter. I expressed delight that he had flown in this new aircraft. I then told him about the early arrival of Gun Ship II, a C–130 aircraft equipped with multiple guns and illumination and sensor devices. We will be in touch with him to arrange for an inspection of this new ship.
2.
After congratulating Ky on the way the elections were planned and carried out to include the security arrangements by the Vietnamese Armed Forces, we proceeded to discuss general events. The following pertinent comments were made by Ky:
a.
There is little prospect that the Constituent Assembly will invalidate the elections. Also, we should not worry about students, Buddhists, or other demonstrations which he feels have no momentum.
b.
A number of unhappy factions had approached him and suggested that he upset the situation, but he had given them no satisfaction. As of today two monks had approached him at Bien Hoa and asked him to go on the public record in behalf of the Buddhists.
c.
General Thieu has not informed him as to what his responsibilities will be. Thieu is a good man but he is surrounded by Dai Viet advisors who are giving him bad advice. Dai Viets are not strong because they are divided into three factions.
d.
The reports of friction between Thieu and Ky have been encouraged by Thieu’s entourage. (In connection with the report of friction between Thieu and Ky, I told him about my experience in Manila and the curiosity of senior Filipinos as to the truth of this report.) Ky is standing by to cooperate fully with Thieu but so far Thieu has made no move. Ky has made it clear to Thieu that he is willing to cooperate with him.
e.
The last meeting of the generals resulted in retiring or discharging a number of officers on whom they had evidence of malpractices. Regrettably, Thieu would not agree to the discharge of [Page 805]Quang2 which resulted in unhappiness by a number of the generals, particularly Thang. Thang may leave the Army and government service.3 (I discussed the importance of Thang in revitalizing the territo-rial forces and urged that Ky do all possible to persuade Thang to accept the position that had been planned for him as principal assistant to Vien. Ky agreed that this was important, but he was skeptical that Thang would change his mind.)
f.
Ky had noted some discouragement among the generals since their last meeting because Thieu gave the impression that he would not provide the leadership required for a dynamic national program. Lam was singled out as an officer who was normally optimistic but who expressed to Ky discouragement.
g.
Ky asked me if I still thought Chinh4 should be relieved from the 25th Division and I stated emphatically that I did. This brought about the discussion of the importance of leadership and Ky fully agreed with me that all the Vietnamese soldiers needed was good leaders for they were excellent soldiers. He will do all possible to put the strongest leaders in key positions.
3.
Ky let his hair down and related in some detail Thieu’s reticence to deal with him and take him into his confidence. He mentioned Thieu’s action to withdraw him from the TV Face the Nation program and expressed an appreciation of the importance of an appearance of unity for the benefit of U.S. and world opinion. Also he mentioned the long distance call received from New Mexico where an intoxicated American urged that he initiate a coup to which he replied that the days of coups in Vietnam were long past.
4.
As we concluded our visit, I emphasized that he and Thieu complemented each other very well and it was important that they work as a team. Ky again repeated that he was eager but the initiative had to be Thieu’s. I told Ky confidentially that I had seen Thieu on Wednesday5 and had made such a suggestion. Matters could slip from their [Page 806]grasp after they had accomplished so much during the last two years working as a team. Such a development would be a national tragedy.6
W. C. Westmoreland
General, United States Army
Commanding
  1. Source: U.S. Army Military History Institute, Papers of William C. Westmoreland, History File 22, Sept 10–30, 1967. Confidential.
  2. Lieutenant General Dang Van Quang, Thieu’s military assistant.
  3. According to the record of a meeting between Thang and Komer the same day, Thang contemplated leaving the government because the military was not keen on his assumption of a top position in the JGS, his advocacy of a civilian democracy which had made him become regarded as a “revolutionary,” and his belief that the new regime only wanted to place him in a “figurehead role” without any real power. Thang doubted that the government would seriously address the issues of corruption and inefficiency. (Center for Military History, DepCORDS/MACV Files, RD Liaison: 1967)
  4. Brigadier General Pham Truong Chinh.
  5. September 13. No other record of this meeting has been found.
  6. During his meeting with Cao Van Vien on September 16, Westmoreland reported that he “had found no evidence of antagonism” between Thieu and Ky. He also stressed to Vien the importance for the top Generals to remove themselves from politics. Vien agreed, adding that “the military would not dictate to Thieu or Ky or get involved in political matters.” (Memorandum for the Record, September 16; U.S. Army Military History Institute, Papers of William C. Westmoreland, History File 22, Sept 10–30, 1967)