270. Memorandum for the Record1
Saigon, June 11, 1968.
- Final Day in Saigon, 11 June 1968
- Having returned late from a dinner party given by the ambassador the previous evening, I found considerable administrative work in terms of efficiency reports and autographing of pictures to be done before leaving the command. I therefore set the alarm for 0500 and proceeded to work at the desk in my bedroom. At approximately 0615, the Viet Cong started a rocket attack and bracketed the quarters. I continued to work, appreciating that the probability of getting hit by such indiscriminate shelling was very remote. My first thought was that this was the greatest compliment extended to me yet—the VC were giving me a 22-gun salute upon departure. This was the largest bombardment thus far in the center of the city, and I do suspect it was planned for the occasion of my last day, since this was well known.
- I assembled, as a first order of business, the domestic help at my quarters, along with the US Army MP guards and the Vietnamese MSS security personnel. I thanked them all for their loyal and efficient support and stated that I would never forget what they had contributed to my welfare and safety. I then gave to each of the Vietnamese members of my household—in particular Hai and Thuong; Vien, my most loyal [Page 785] and efficient driver; Sgt Tat and his MSS security guards—a letter which included an appropriate piaster gratuity.
- I then proceeded to the hospital, where I called on MG Loan, who had been wounded during the communist attempt to attack Saigon on the 5th of May. Loan is apparently going to retain his limb but will probably be lame. He seemed to be in reasonable morale but disappointed that he is temporarily out of action, He did not comment on his recent replacement as Chief of Police by Col Hai2 but expressed appreciation for my assistance to his country, and we parted to the exchange of good wishes and the hope that we would meet again.
- I then went to the room of Col Cua,3 recently wounded by an accident caused by a rocket malfunction from a US Cobra helicopter. Cua had recently been replaced as mayor. He was not badly wounded, was cheerful and obviously pleased that I had stopped by to see him.
- I then proceeded to the palace, where I had an appointment with Vice President Ky at 0930. He and I spent 45 minutes together, mostly reminiscing. Ky went out of his way to make the point that he was very disturbed by the way the press had treated him. He deplores their efforts to create friction between him and Thieu. Ky pointed out that he and Thieu had been working together since early 1965, that he had supported Thieu for the Presidency, and that it made no sense at all to assume that he was now going to turn against Thieu. Ky stated that I, of course, understood his attitude and patriotic support but the US mission personnel, who were completely new, did not understand this. Ky went on to explain that a coup was not only impossible now, it was senseless and the days of physical conflict within the senior circle was a thing of the past. It was essential that they talk through their problems and not resort to forceful means to bring about political change.
- I then proceeded to the President’s office, where I again spent 45 minutes, reminiscing with Thieu on our friendship and reviewing the current situation. Thieu agreed with my military assessment of the situation, but expressed great concern at the political advantage being gained by Hanoi in support of their talks in Paris. He implied that the cessation of bombing had been a political victory for Hanoi and this was now being capitalized on by the indiscriminate shelling of Saigon, which has resulted in no retaliation or reaction by our side. He feels, therefore, that this could be the beginning of a general deterioration in the relative political posture of the US and South Vietnamese governments in the eyes of the world and particularly to the Vietnamese people in the south. As we parted company, Thieu again thanked me for my [Page 786] contribution and stated that he and Mrs. Thieu were looking forward to seeing me and Mrs. Westmoreland during their forthcoming trip to Washington.
- We then drove to the headquarters, where I paid my last call on MG Kerwin, and thence to the VIP lounge at Ton Son Nhut, where my friends were assembled. After a brief visit together, I shook hands all around; reviewed an honor guard staged by Gen Vien at plane-side; said good-bye to Gen Vien, who apologized for Mrs. Vien’s not being present, stating that the emotional strain would be too much and she would break down in the process so asked to be excused; and bade farewell to Ambassador Bunker and Gen Abrams. I then boarded the T–39 and was on my way.
- After getting airborne, I sadly remembered that I had not bade a final farewell to my trusted driver, Vien, Sgt Tat and his loyal MSS guards, and the Vietnamese motorcycle CanSat who had so efficiently guided me around the city. Of course, I had said good-bye to them earlier in the morning, but they were not conspicuous on my departure and I neglected to go out of my way to find these hard-working people who had done so much for me behind the scenes. I shall write them additional, special notes on assuming my new duties.
W C Westmoreland
General, United States Army
- Source: U.S. Army Military History Institute, William C. Westmoreland Papers, History Files, #33, 1–30 Jun 68. Confidential. Prepared by General Westmoreland on June 20 on board the USS Wilson. That same day, Westmoreland arrived in the Philippines, and began a cruise to Hawaii where he arrived on June 26. Also on June 20, the President and Clifford discussed Abrams’ request to abandon Khe Sanh. (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Clifford, June 20, 1968, 3:34 p.m., Tape F6806.02, PNO 3)↩
- Tran Van Hai.↩
- Van Van Cua.↩