198. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs (Young) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson)1


  • … Message to Saigon on Diem’s Policies

I checked this morning again … on whether a reply had yet come in to our message of Friday2 pursuant to a request made by the Secretary and by you. … told me that he had checked this morning and (a) to the best of his knowledge no reply has yet come in; (b) he asked his people to send out a needler to get a reply back in a hurry; and (c) he suggested that I send up to you … from Saigon which is attached.3

This … has a source comment which is optimistic. Of course this is not a fully evaluated report and represents only Lansdale’s opinion. However, we have received nothing from the Embassy during the past two weeks to indicate the Embassy is particularly [Page 427] disturbed or anxious over developments. Last week we asked the Embassy to prepare a situation report for Reinhardt and the Department. The Embassy replied that it had done so but since there were no new factors it would pouch the report4 rather than send it in telegraphic form. However we did ask them to telegraph in the section on Diem’s capabilities and the Hoa Hao problem. So far we have had no reply.5

Judging by all of the CIA reports of the past week, my conversations with CIA experts on Viet-Nam, and a pretty thorough canvass of the situation with Bob Hoey and Paul Kattenburg last Friday and again this week, there does not seem to be any evidence available in Washington at this time to indicate Diem has “bitten off more than he can chew”. Of course he is being set upon by rebellious elements despite an effort on the part of the Vietnamese Government to seek a negotiation of the differences by peaceful bargaining and show of strength rather than by the test of arms. I think the real difficulty in the situation is that the Diem government and its enemies are diverting their energies from coming to grips with the real adversary of Free Viet-Nam—the Viet Minh.

Recent reports from Saigon including a field trip of Ladejinsky6 again demonstrate the absence of political, administrative and military backing throughout the countryside. Until the national government establishes its authority with officials and security forces at the provincial and village level, Free Viet-Nam is more an expression of desire than the establishment of a fact. A great deal of time has been lost unhappily in the past six months in diversionary struggles with real and inevitable enemies such as the Binh Xuyen and French intrigues. I think it is also necessary to continue this course of action to get control of the Hoa Hao. I feel it would be a mistake to discourage the government in this project. In fact the Vietnamese Government should have support even with aircraft, ammunition and possibly operational advice. This may be a radical suggestion but once on a course I like to see it carried through.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/6–155. Secret.
  2. Concerning the response to this message, see Document 201.
  3. Not attached to the source text.
  4. In despatch 420, May 25. (Department of State, Central Files, 751G.00/5–2555)
  5. See Document 200.
  6. Wolf I. Ladejinsky, Land Reform Adviser at the U.S. Operations Mission in Vietnam.