246. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to Vietnam (Martin) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

722. Ref: Saigon 0721.2

The President did not speak at three o’clock, but I since have learned that the President will speak at 7:30 tonight before a joint meeting of both Houses of the Assembly and the Supreme Court, all of whom will be convoked at the Palace. At the end of his speech he will announce his resignation.3 He is doing it in this manner because the Constitution provides for the swearing in of a President before Houses of the Assembly and the Supreme Court and this is one way he can find excuse to convoke them and permit Vice President Huong to be sworn in immediately, thereby preserving the constitutional succession. It is quite possible Huong will resign within a few days, permitting President of the Senate Lam to take over as the interim head of the government. Lam then becomes President and presumably will call for a new Cabinet with full powers to negotiate full settlement. Thieu has chosen the hour because it will minimize any possible panic effect. The daily newspapers will have already been published and out on the streets and the announcement of his resignation at approximately 8:30 will be only 30 minutes before normal curfew time. The speech will be nationally televised. While only a fool would predict with certainty the immediate effect our consensus here is that it will have a calming effect. Although Binh will resign as police chief within a few days, he and the military will maintain order and discipline in the city.
You may, therefore, wish to inform Dobrynin beforehand on what is scheduled to take place in order that you may try to convert this into an advantage in whatever it is you are trying to accomplish with Hanoi through the Soviets.4
I think it would be a great mistake at this stage for me to in any way attempt to interfere with something which has been now formally decided and about which too many people have been informed for there to be a change, which almost surely, because of the uncertainty it would create, would do more harm than good. I will report more fully, but I will only add that in the meeting he had at 11:30 this morning with the Vice President, former Prime Minister Khiem, Chairman of the JGS Vien, Gen. Quang, and Gen. Binh, Chief of the Police, he reviewed the comments made to him the other day by the French Ambassador briefly. He informed them in great detail of the conversation with me and of the analysis I had given which all those present confirmed as correct.5 He also made it quite clear that I had been speaking as an individual and that I conveyed no request from the United States for his resignation and when asked about various alternatives had replied that those were Vietnamese decisions which had to be taken by the President and his advisers in terms of Vietnamese values and in terms of their own concern for the future of the country. While I do not know what he will say this evening I would not expect it to be too rough on the United States.
Warm regards.
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Backchannel Messages, Box 3, Martin Channel, April 1975, Incoming (2). Top Secret; Sensitive; Flash; Eyes Only. Sent with the instruction: “Deliver immediately.”
  2. In backchannel message 721 to Kissinger, April 21, Martin explained that Thieu seemed reluctant to forecast his intentions for stepping down as President. Martin also reported the rumor that Thieu planned to announce his resignation at 3 p.m., April 21. (Ibid.)
  3. A lengthy summary of Thieu’s speech was transmitted in telegram 5405 from Saigon, April 21. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files) Excerpts were published in The New York Times, April 22, 1975.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 258. In backchannel message 724 to Kissinger, April 21, Martin pleaded for information on U.S. initiatives to bring about a cessation of hostilities, including details on U.S. overtures toward the Soviet Union. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Backchannel Messages, Box 3, Martin Channel, April 1975, Incoming (2))
  5. See Document 244.