Document Number (FOIA) /ESDN (CREST): 
Document Page Count: 
Document Release Date: 
July 30, 2014
Case Number: 
Publication Date: 
December 1, 1993
PDF icon DOC_0000622834.pdf622.74 KB
Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834TITLE: The CIA and the Government of Ngo Dinh DiemAUTHOR: Thomas L. Ahern, Jr.VOLUME: 37 ISSUE: Winter YEAR: 1993Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834 43ed for Release. 2014/07/29 000622834STUDIES ININTELLIGENCEA collection of articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects of intelligence.All statements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those ofthe authors. They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the CentralIntelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in thecontents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of anarticle's factual statements and interpretations.Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 0006228340 (b)(1)(b)(3)(c)(b)(3)(n)Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834Power struggles in SaigonThe CIA and the Government ofNgo Dinh DiemThomas L. Ahern, Jr.When the First Indochina War ended with theGeneva Accords of 20 July 1954, the EisenhowerAdministration decided to assume the French burdenof preventing the advance of Communism inSoutheast Asia. In practice, this meant trying tobuild a nation-state south of the 17th parallel thatcould defend itself against Ho Chi Minh and theNorth. The question of Vietnamese leadership hadalready been decided: at US instigation and withFrench concurrence, Ngo Dinh Diem had becomePrime Minister in early July, and the American taskwas to help him consolidate his control in a situationthat appeared to favor an eventual victory by Hanoi.As the Geneva Accords came into effect, CIA hadalready established itself with the new government.Two independent stations represented the Agency inSaigon: the Saigon Military Station headed b Col.Edward Lansdale, and the regular StationLansdale hadintroduced himself to Diem, and Paul Harwood,chief of covert action in the regular Station, hadalready known Ngo Dinh Nhu, Diem's brother, forseveral months. The Embassy, essentiallyFrench-oriented, was treating the Ngo brothers withsome reserve, and Lansdale and Harwood quicklybecame the principal channels of political informa-tion and influence between the two governments.Diem's early opponents were not the quiescentCommunists but a variety of religious and banditgroups, abetted by the Francophile command ofDiem's own Army. Paris was quickly alienated byDiem's stubborn independence; on the Americanside, Gen. J. Lawton Collins, Eisenhower's personalrepresentative, soon despaired of Diem's ability togovern. In these unpropitious circumstances, the twoStations did their best to fulfill their mandate from41Se,/etHeadquarters by helping Diem fend off his oppo-nents. These efforts had a significant, perhaps deci-sive effect, during Diem's early months in office, butby March 1955 armed rebellion looked imminent,and Ambassador Collins was advocating that the USlook for someone to replace Diem. The followingexcerpt from The CIA and the Government of NgoDinh Diem, a forthcoming CIA History Staff volume,describes what happened from then until early May1955.Lansdale had become involved with several religioussect leaders in September 1954. Undertaken atDiem's request, these contacts included the autono-mous Cao Dai leader, Trinh Minh The; Gen. NguyenThanh Phuong, commander of the regular Cao Daiforces; and two Hoa Hao generals. Except for theearly payment to The, Diem asked Lansdale for nomaterial support, saying in one case that he merelywanted Lansdale "to teach (Hoa Hao General) Ngohow to earn the love and affection of his people."'Whatever Diem's concern for the general's popular-ity, he must also have intended his choice ofLansdale as middleman to demonstrate to the sectshis command of American support.Maneuvering and MediatingThe sect leaders were fully aware of the weakness ofDiem's position and, with the exception of The,withheld any commitment to the new government.But as 1954 drew to a close, they grew anxiousabout the impending termination of French subsidiesto their armed forces. If these units were neitherintegrated into the Vietnamese Army nor paid offupon demobilization, their leaders' authority wouldsuffer. The French still controlled the Army payrollApproved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834S'et Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834Se/etand the national treasury. When their sect paymentsended in February 1955, Diem had no funds withwhich to continue them. One regiment of The'sforces was integrated on 13 February, but the futureof all the other sect forces and their leaders' politicalloyalties remained unresolved.2As Lansdale mediated between Diem and The in theweeks before 13 February he was apparently una-ware of simultaneous direct negotiations betweenNhu and the Cao Dai, although Nhu kept Harwoodcontinuously informed. Harwood was ignorant ofLansdale's role, and neither saw any need to keepthe other apprised.' As a result, Lansdale viewed hisrole as more operative than was actually the case.Nevertheless, he served with The, as he did with theHoa Hao's General Ngo, to proYide an Americanguarantee of Diem's good intentions. At the sametime, Lansdale continued to mediate with the othersect leaders, all of them less receptive to governmentauthority than The, Nhu's longtime associate.With French support of the sect armies coming to an. end, Gen. John C. (Iron Mike) O'Daniel, Chief ofthe Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG)and French High Commissioner Paul Ely namedLansdale to head a joint Franco-American militaryteam to work out arrangements for their demobiliza-tion or integration into the regular Army.Consistently more fearful of a sect rebellion thanother Americans on the scene, Lansdale persuadedO'Daniel and Ely to reassure the sect leaders with amid-March series of briefings on Franco-Americanplans.4 Still unpersuaded that their interests would beprotected, the sect leaders, including The, formed aUnited Sects National Front, and issued a manifestoon 21 March giving Diem five days in which, asLansdale put it, to "clean out his entire govern-ment." Otherwise, they "would go to the people."'As the crisis intensified on the evening of 20 March,Lansdale found himself beginning a four-hour ses-sion with the Prime Minister. Diem complainedabout the sects and about his defense minister'spresumption in wanting authority to dismiss "un-desirable" Army officers. During the next two days.Lansdale shuttled frantically between Diem and theS/retDiemCao Dai, assuring Diem that The, at least, was stillloyal to the government, despite having signed themanifesto.Ambassador Collins, whom Lansdale had keptinformed, wanted to be helpful and thought he mightbe able to reassure Cao Dai Generals Phuong andThe. But at the ensuing meeting, on 22 March,Collins criticized the manifesto and questioned itsauthors' patriotism. It went so badly that Lansdalefelt constrained to ask Collins, at the end of the ses-sion, to explain to his visitors that three note-takingAmerican participants were Embassy officials, notjournalists.'Lansdale saw Diem the evening of 22 March. Diemwas still worried about control of the military andabout Collins having told him that Defense MinisterMinh was responsible for the Army. Lansdaleexplained that Collins was actually defining thechain-of-command, and that this had been promptedby Diem ordering troop movements without notify-ing Minh. Diem asked for an American "job descrip-tion" of his responsibilities as Prime Minister andLansdale outlined those of the US President.'As the crisis mounted, Lansdale noticed a strangepassivity in Diem's reaction:Diem does very little constructive planning insuch times of stress; or, at least he has not toldme his plans. He pays scant attention to suchplanning, seems eager to continue reporting theevents of the day, what Ambassador Collinshas termed "crying on my shoulder."8Lansdale tried to fill the gap, suggesting variouspolitical and public relations maneuvers that Diemmight use to regain the political initiative against thesects. He also tried to mediate the enduring disputebetween Diem and General Phuong over pay andsubsistence to Cao Dai troops. Of his method inresolving a disagreement over the amount alreadypaid. Lansdale later said that, "As usual, I hadchecked (the matter) out with both parties, tellingthem that I preferred taking such matters up openlyrather than going behind their backs."'42Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834DiemResort to ForceOn 29 March, after a week of inconclusive maneu-vering, Phuong and The came to Lansdale, claimingthat a Hoa Hao-Binh Xuyen coup de force wasimminent. They sounded?out Lansdale about gettingPhuong's troops integrated into the national Army toprevent their being suborned by the anti-Diem CaoDai pope, Pham Naoc Tac; Lansdale undertook todiscuss it with Collins.At the same time, Diem was telling the French thathe was about to use the Army to take over theNational Police headquarters. General Ely pressuredhim into postponing an attack, but the Binh Xuyenpreempted the issue that night, opening fire on Armyposts in Saigon. Mortar rounds landed on the Palacegrounds, and Lansdale-wanted to go to Diem for first-hand reporting of developments. General O'Daniel,apparently concerned for Lansdale's safety, refusedto let him go.'?As usual, there had been no coordination betweenStations, and Lansdale did not know that Harwoodwas at the Palace when the mortar rounds fell,watching as Diem's artillery leveled a house acrossfrom the Palace grounds from which some sniper firehad come. Harwood had been at the Palace almostdaily during the crisis, debriefing Nhu and onCollins's behalf urging Diem to refrain from deploy-ing the Army against the Binh Xuyen. On 29 March,he was there to check out a French report of anArmy advance toward Binh Xuyen territory inCholon. Diem gave assurances that he had made nosuch move and did not intend to do so."Lansdale was horrified to find, the next morning,that Ely had used the threat of French armed inter-vention to impose a cease-fire, and that Collins sup-ported him. Lansdale protested that "the FrenchArmy in effect was assuming a role which madeSaigon a protectorate." Collins disagreed, insistingthat the French role was only that of mediator. Diemsaw it as Lansdale did, and he complained that Elyhad proclaimed himself -commander in chief." ButEly and Collins prevailed, at least for the moment. Inone development that gratified Lansdale, Diem andGeneral Phuong agreed that day, 30 March, to43Sey?tintegrate 8,000 more Cao Dai troops into thenational Army, thus denying them to the sects' dissi-dent United Front.' 2Nhu's NegotiationsMeanwhile, Nhu kept Harwood informed of his ownefforts to defuse the crisis. While Diem was againusing Lansdale as his emissary to Trinh Minh The,Nhu continued his personal negotiations with Theand Phuong. A Station report of 29 March, appar-ently from Nhu, described a meeting at which Theagreed to withdraw from the sects' United Front andPhuong undertook to leave the cabinet. The two CaoDai generals performed as promised, and Nhu'sauthority as both negotiator and reporting source wasaccordingly enhanced." While the Embassy wasreporting that the rest of the cabinet was about toquit, Harwood told Washington that it wouldn't: Nhuhad said that none of its members had the fortitudeto confront Diem with a resignation. None did, andthey all stayed, at least for the time being."Showdown AvertedOn 31 March, probably at French instigation, BaoDai sent Diem a reproachful telegram from hisretreat in Cannes. It deplored the bloodshed?therehad been a hundred op so casualties?and obliquelysuggested that Diem resign. (The Emperor sent ittwice, once in the clear to ensure that Diem's ene-mies were kept informed.)Ely and Collins maintained their pressure on Diemnot to act against the Binh Xuyen, and the PrimeMinister was reduced to asking Lansdale whether thismeant that the French and the Americans were plan-ning to depose him. Lansdale assured him to the con-trary, but could offer no help when Diem complainedof the corrosive effect on his authority of the enforcedstandoff. But Lansdale could at least ensure that theVietnamese perception of events was conveyed toWashington. The day after the French prevented ashowdown with the Binh Xuyen, he spent three andhalf hours in the prime-ministerial bedroom, debrief-ing people sent in to him by Diem.'sApproved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834Set/ret Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834SyietDefense Minister QuitsDuring this phase of the crisis. Defense Minister HoThong Minh resigned over Diem's refusal to guaran-tee prior consultation with the cabinet before movingagainst the Binh Xuyen. Collins thought this anexample of Diem's inability to manage people ofindependent views, and he reacted by threateningDiem with the withdrawal of US support if Minhwere not retained. Minh left the cabinet anyway, andon 31 March Collins intimated to Washington that hehad given up. Diem, he said, had had a "fair chan-ce" to set up a working government, but had"produced little if anything of a constructivenature."' Lansdale, meanwhile, complained toHeadquarters that he thought Collins destructivelyinconsistent in criticizing Diem. for passivity whilepreventing him from curbing tile Binh Xuyen, thesingle most immediate threat to the government'sauthority.17Lansdale Versus CollinsLansdale's major points of disagreement with Collinswere the morale of the. Army and the sincerity ofCao Dai Generals Phuong and The, who simultane-ously professed loyalty to Diem and trafficked withthe anti-Diem leadership of the sects' United Front.Lansdale and the regular Station, supported by theMAAG and the military attach?thought the Armycould whip the Binh Xuyen, and Lansdale was cer-tain of the good faith of his Cao Dai interlocutors.Collins was doubtful on both counts. Despite beingdiscouraged by the State Department from exploringalternatives to Diem, he/Wrote John Foster Dulles on7 April that "my judgment is that Diem does nothave the capacity ... to prevent this country fromfalling under Communist control." 8(b)(1)(b)(3)(n)1Fearing that Collins would object to theproposal. Lansdale asked Headquarters to approve itwithout ambassadorial coordination. Washingtonsympathized with his dilemma, but insisted thatCollins be consulted. As it turned out, Collins read-ily approved the idea. At that point, however, JohnFoster Dulles had already endorsed a suggestionS/etDiemfrom the CIA's Deputy Director for Plans, FrankWisner, to postpone final word to the Station untilWashington could discuss the plan directly with theAmbassador, who was to be recalled for consulta-tions on Diem's political future. Lansdale, mean-while, was to temporize if Diem pressed him on thematter.'"Apprehensive about the line that Collins would takein Washington, Lansdale cabled the DCI asking forpermission to accompany the Ambassador toWashington. The reply, from Wisner, turned himdown, but urged him to try to prevent a damagingrejection by Diem of Collins's latest recommenda-tions for government appointments. Lansdale spentthe two days before Collins's 20 April departureshuttling between the Palace and the Embassy, but hewas unable to prevent what he saw as a fundamentalmisunderstanding between Diem and Collins.The result was that Collins left for Washington per-suaded that Diem would take only sycophantic yes-men into the cabinet, whereas Lansdale thoughtDiem was insisting merely that they be "an-ticolonialist honest courageous men." 21 Lansdaleseems to have been taking Diem at his word, whileCollins, who never questioned Diem's sincerity, hadthe better appreciation for what this formula wouldmean in practice.Difficulties with NhuHarwood was experiencing the same problem withNhu that Lansdale confronted with Diem. On 21April 1955, just after Collins's departure, Harwoodpredicted to Headquarters that, at an impending dis-cussion of the police problem, Nhu would ask whyDiem was being prevented from asserting control ofhis own government. Harwood had already receivedNhu's letter protesting Collins's latest effort at cabi-net broadening. Noting that Collins hadacknowledged consulting other Vietnamese on areorganized government, Nhu insisted that compli-ance by Diem meant "the negation of the wholerevolutionary ideal ... and the realization of aregime like that of Chiang Kai-shek, ending in a VietMinh victory, they alone being capable of sweepingaway all this rot." 2244Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834DiemAdversarial RelationsThis apocalyptic vision of the results of a non-Communist coalition illustrates the perceptual gap, inthe matter of defining a legitimate authority forSouth Vietnam, that already separated the Ngobrothers from their American sponsors. Diem hadonce written that "a sacred respect is due to the per-son of the sovereign.... He is the mediator betweenthe people and the Heaven as he celebrates thenational cult."23 In the midst of the struggle with thesects, Diem and Nhu seem to have seen their missionin terms both mystical and proprietary. TheAmericans, on the other hand, might be divided as totactics, but all saw the task as one of trying to recon-cile the various anti-Communist interests while hold-ing off the Viet Minh and beginning the constructionof a popularly based government.The divergence of American opinion at the tacticallevel, which persisted until the eve of the coup in1963, resulted in a relationship with Diem that wasadversarial at two levels. First was the opposition ofthe US officials who thought Diem incapable of suc-ceeding and wanted him replaced. The second levelarose from the tension between Diem and thoseAmericans who saw him as the only candidate forleadership of an anti-Communist South Vietnam, butwanted him to accept their views of the institutionalform it should take.Both CIA Stations saw the weaknesses in Diem'sleadership, and Harwood in particular had alreadyexperienced one confrontation. But neither he norLansdale saw any alternative. As AmbassadorCollins left for Washington, both remained commit-ted to helping Diem survive.Publicity FlapCollins's departure for Washington on 20 Aprillaunched the most fateful episode in CIA's relation-ship with the Diem government. It also illustratedboth Collins's tangled relations with CIA and theAgency's capacity at that time to exploit the USmedia for support of political action. In Hong Kong,while en route, the Ambassador picked up a copy ofLife magazine with a cover photo of a triumphal45S/etDiem reception in Central Vietnam. The photographand accompanying story had resulted from aLansdale initiative that Wisner took to Time/Life inJanuary. He gave the editors a background paper, andthey undertook to publish a feature on Diem's grow-ing political stature in Free Vietnam.'Collins arrived in Washington outraged by this pub-licity for what he regarded as a lost cause. He toldan interdepartmental meeting that Diem had nopopular following. The photo was faked, he insisted,probably by Harwood, and CIA was "slanting itsreports." Wisner responded that he understood Diemto have scored a genuine public relations triumph,and Collins "practically called (him) a liar."25Wisner promptly asked the Station for its side of thestory. The thrust of its reply was that money couldnot buy the popular feeling so evident in the photo-graph (the Station had, in fact, given Nhu $1,700 tohelp prepare Diem's reception). Wisner later toldHarwood that he had read the cable to a subsequentsession of the same interdepartmental committee,with some consequent damage to Collins's credibilityin Washington. Collins apparently had forgotten hisown approval of the Time/Life project, given toWisner in Washington in early February and con-firmed in Honolulu on his way back to Saigon.26Harwood thought Collins's apparent forgetfulnessmay have represented a fundamental lack of interestin the covert action program. The Ambassador,throughout his tenure in Saigon, never asked for abriefing on it."Ambassador's ConcernsWith or without a formal briefing, Collins hadalready decided that CIA officers in Saigon enjoyedtoo much freedom of action. State Departmentrecords hold a memorandum by Deputy Chief ofMission Randolph Kidder noting that theAmbassador had "directed that (CIA) will not under-take ... new programs in Vietnam without previousconsultation" with him, and with Kidder and thepolitical counselor. "Furthermore, (CIA) will period-ically review" current activity with these officials.According to Kidder, Allen Dulles sent GeorgeApproved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834Se/ret Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834S,ZetAurcll to Saigon in February 1955 to "discuss theabove decision with Ambassador Collins. No changein the Ambassador's directive was made." 2 8Collins had not shared with CIA in Saigon his7 April 1955 recommendation to State that Diem bereplaced. CIA Headquarters, presumably aware of itat least after the mid-April meeting that discussedCollins's recall, was also silent. As Collins preparedto leave. Lansdale wanted to know how he shouldrespond to the anticipated probing by Diem as toAmerican intentions. Collins told him to assure thePrime Minister of continued US support. TheAmbassador's well-known differences with Diemrendered this guarantee somewhat suspect, andLansdale was uneasy. But for the first week ofCollins's absence he had no choice but to feign opti-mism in his dealings with Diem.29Renewed TensionIn the last week of April, tension with the BinhXuyen mounted once more. In an almost exactreprise of the events of late March, Diem toldLansdale of his intention to remove-Lai Van Sang,the chief of the National Police; the same infor-mation came from Nhu via Harwood. This time,Collins was not around to object, and Diem acted, on26 April, without informing the French. Heappointed a new security chief and set up a head-quarters for him outside the sector controlled by theFrench Army. The rumor mill continued to predictFrench and American defection from the Diemistcause, and Lansdale begged Headquarters forauthority to assure Diem and other Vietnamese offi-cials of Washington's continuing commitment.This elicited a reply from DCI Allen Dulles urgingrestraint on Diem and pointing out that any assur-ances of the kind Lansdale wanted would be sentthrough the charg?'affaires, Randolph Kidder. Inany case, Dulles said, no assurances of any sortcould be given until the conclusion of deliberationsthen being conducted "at the highest level," and"you should be prepared for (the) possibility thatthis might involve some changes in relations toDiem."'"Setet??1.???????????????? ? ?DiemThis cautionary word reflected General Collins's for-midable presence in Washington. The contretempsover the Life cover story may have tarnishedCollins's credibility, but the Ambassador had twoadvantages in the debate oVer what to do aboutDiem. One was the strength of his conviction ofDiem's incapacity. The other was his status as per-sonal representative of the President. The title wasdesigned to meet the peculiarity of his accreditationto both the Diem government and the French, but itaccurately reflected his relationship with PresidentEisenhower.Within a few days of his arrival in Washington,Collins had prevailed on the President and a reluc-tant Secretary of State to start working with theFrench and Bao Dai to find a replacement for Diem.On 27 April, at the close of the working day, threecables went to the Embassy in Paris with instructionson the way to broach the subject with the French.nBacking for DiemAs State was telling Paris how to begin preparingDiem's removal, an uninformed but suspiciousLansdale was looking for a way to forestall just sucha move. By 27 April, he had sounded out the mem-bers of the country team and confirmed that all,including charg?'affaires Kidder, thought Diemcould beat the Binh Xuyen.32 Early on the 28th (atthe close of business on the 27th in Washington), heasked Kidder to authorize the country team membersto let their respective headquarters have their views,but Kidder declined, saying that Collins alreadyknew them.Lansdale then turned to the regular Station, and by0900 they had a joint cable on its way, tellingHeadquarters that it was the "considered opinion" ofCIA in Saigon that Diem had a better chance to suc-ceed than any prospective replacement; failure tosupport him would doom any successor governmentand benefit only the Viet Minh. The message addedthat information just received and being passed toKidder warranted a country-team estimate and sug-gested that the DCI ask the Department ofState torequest one from Saigon.'46Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834DiemPart of what the State Department later called "aflood of reports and recommendations" fromLansdale, this cable arrived at Headquarters on theevening of 27 April, local time. Along with the otherreports, it provoked:a series of telephone calls from... (George)Aurell to (Archibald) Roosevelt (acting forWisner), to Allen Dulles, to (Undersecretary)Hoover, to the Secretary, to (Director ofPhilippine and Southeast Asian Affairs) KenYoung. The result was a stay order on Paris not"to embark on the course of action agreed tolate yesterday afternoon." 4Another AttackWhile the State Department was putting a hold onpreparations to replace Diem, Headquarters askedSaigon for more details on events there. By the timethe request arrived, the replay of the late March cri-sis was resuming. Shortly after noon on the 28th,mortar rounds again exploded on the Palace grounds.Diem called General Ely to protest?the fire seemedto be coming from the Binh Xuyen in an area pro-tected by the French?while his secretary was onanother line, giving Lansdale a running account ofthe firing and of the argument with Ely. As anotherround landed nearby, Diem told Ely he was orderingthe Army to return fire, and hung up. His secretaryrelayed this to Lansdale, and then also hung up.35Some students of early US involvement in Vietnamhave believed that Lansdale, anxious to block anymove in Washington to abandon Diem, encouragedthe Prime Minister to challenge the Binh Xuyen, andthat it was the Army that fired first. Lansdale proba-bly did not try to persuade Diem to avoid a show-down, but as far as his interpreter, Joe Redick, couldlater recall, he said nothing to incite one, either."'The provenance of the first rounds thus remainsuncertain.Lansdale's team and the regular Station spent thenext two days keeping Washington abreast of Diem'sprogress against the insurrection. Lansdale concen-trated on Diem, other contacts at the Palace, and47Trinh Minh The. Harwood, meanwhile, debriefedNhu, getting from him copies of reports prepared forDiem by the chief of the Army's intelligence service.Since the fighting in late March, the regular Stationhad been in almo7N(6)(1) 1 ? 1 ? ? ent inthe Binh Xuyen;  he was (b)(3)(n).in a position to provide tactical infor-mation. Harwood passed much of this to Nhu for useby the Army."'On 29 April, the State Department asked for thecountry team estimate suggested by CIA in Saigon,and Kidder's reply confirmed the optimistic assess-ment of Diem's chances sent the day before by thetwo CIA Stations.38 Meanwhile, the VietnameseArmy, supported by The's Cao Dai troops, seized theinitiative. The Hoa Hao hung back, watching as theirBinh Xuyen allies went on the defensive." The con-fidence in Diem and the Army voiced by Lansdaleand the country team seemed about to be vindicated.Order from Bao DaiAt this point, Diem showed Lansdale a second tele-gram from Bao Dai. No longer content with theveiled threat of late March, Bao Dai now orderedDiem and his Army chief of staff to Paris. Diem wasto turn over the Army to Gen. Nguyen Van Vy, aFrench citizen and supporter of the former Chief ofStaff and would-be mntineer, General Hinh. Diemtold Lansdale that the Army and the loyal Cao Dairefused to accept Vy's authority and that they wantedDiem to endorse their intended repudiation of theemperor." Diem wanted to know if the US wouldaccept this.Lansdale's description of the incident does not referto any consultation with Headquarters or the charg?d'affaires. It says he responded that Washington"would accept a legal action, but that dethronementby voice vote ... such as that described by Diemwas hardly a legal proceeding."' At the same time,as recounted later in his book, Lansdale encouragedDiem to defy the emperor's order to report to him inFrance. He pictures Diem in an agony of indecisionover the conflict between imperial authority and thenational interest, a conflict that Lansdale implies hehelped him resolve. "Slowly, painfully," they cameApproved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834S/ret Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834S?Zetto the conclusion that if Diem left, "there would beno moral basis upon which the government couldgovern ... freedom would founder."In fact, Nhu had already told Harwood that Diemwould ignore the order, and Diem did so, though healso resisted sect pressure formally to repudiate theemperor. Charg?'affaires Kidder, to whom Diemalso described his dilemma, adopted a more neutralstance, saying that the Prime Minister would have tobear full responsibility for any defiance of imperialcommand.42Victory for DiemDiem's decision to stand fast cre-prived General Vy ofany resources except that portion of the ImperialGuard still loyal to Bao Dai. These modest forceswere enough to provoke near-chaos, even as theArmy battled with the Binh Xuyen for control of thecity. While the pro-Diem Cao Dai were trying toarrest General Vy, Vy's Imperial Guard arrested, thenreleased, Diem loyalists, including the Army Chiefof Staff. According to Lansdale's account, Col. -TranVan Don then somehow persuaded Vy to trick theFrench into delivering armored vehicles they hadbeen withholding from the Vietnamese. Vy turnedthem over to the Army, which promptly deployedthem against the Binh Xuyen."Whatever the contribution of Vy's armored vehicles,Diem's Army made short work of the Binh Xuyen.By noon on 30 April, the rebels had been drivenfrom Saigon and all but a few isolated strongpointsin Cholon." The Binh Xuyen and the Hoa Haoretained some nuisance value for another year, butwithout serious French support they no longerpresented a real threat.Washington ReactsAn Agency officer then in Washington later recalledthat on a weekend afternoon, presumably eitherSaturday, 30 April, or Sunday, 1 May, Allen Dullesand Frank Wisner took the latest reporting on thebattle for Saigon to John Foster Dulles's house.DiemDiem was holding his own against the Binh Xuyen,it said, and people were rallying to him.The DCI and Wisner argued that this was the wrongmoment to fulfill President' Eisenhower's commit-ment to Collins to look for a Diem replacement. TheSecretary of State agreed and, with his visitors stillpresent, telephoned the President. He summarized theAgency reporting, and recommended postponing theintended withdrawal of US support. In Collins'sabsence?he was already on the way back toSaigon?Eisenhower concurred.As the meeting ended, an aide announced the arrivalof French Ambassador Couve de Murville, and theSecretary of State assured his departing visitors that"he would take care of the French.- On the after-noon of 1 May, with Collins still en route to Saigon,a State Department telegram to the Embassyreaffirmed the US commitment to Ngo Dinh Diem.'Questions of InfluenceInformation from Lansdale's sources was a small,-though certainly significant, part of the reporting thatpersuaded President Eisenhower to reverse his deci-sion to abandon Ngo Dinh Diem. Most of thisproduct was acquired by the officers of the regularStation. Allen Dulles, however, treated it all asemanating from Lansdale. whom he had personallyselected for the Saigon assignment, and whom heregarded as the Agency's preeminent authority onVietnam. Wittingly or otherwise, Lansdale lent thatauthority to the reporting of the regular Station and,in so doing, became the largest single influence ondeliberations in Washington at the most critical pointof Diem's tenure before 1963."More generally, the episode illustrates one of thesalient features of the Agency's relationship withNgo Dinh Diem, namely, that CIA exercised itsinfluence much more effectively on Diem's behalfthan on Diem himself. He seems never to have actedin the spirit of quid pro quo, but rather as one enti-tled to the satisfaction of his demands by the justiceof his cause and by the US interest in seeing himsucceed.48Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834DiemDiem undoubtedly never learned the details of theAgency's operative role in arranging the suspensionof State's instruction S to Paris, and then persuadingthe Secretary of State and the President to rescindtheir commitment to Collins to abandon him. But hewould certainly have regarded this service as nomore than his due.Decisive SupportIt is not certain that without CIA support Diemwould have been forced from office. He still hadcommitted backers on Capitol Hill. Senator MikeMansfield had threatened to cut aid to Vietnam ifDiem were replaced, and Congresswoman EdnaKelly of New York spoke for many on the HouseForeign Affairs Committee in opposing withdrawalof US support for him. And two influential StateDepartment officials?Walter Robertson, AssistantSecretary for Far Eastern Affairs, and KennethYoung, Director of the Office of Philippine andSoutheast Asian Affairs?were unpersuaded byCollins's arguments; they saw no viable alternativeto Diem. John Foster Dulles, less committed to Diemthan any of these, had always questioned whetheranyone better was to be found. And Diem's successagainst the Binh Xuyen would have strengthened hissupporters' hand even without help from CIA.47But negotiations with Paris, once under way, mighthave acquired momentum of their own. With a footin the door, the French would have fought hard tobring Diem down, and Ambassador Collins wouldprobably have supported them, even after the defeatof the Binh Xuyen. The certainty is that CIA, by vir-tue of Lansdale's advocacy in Saigon and throughthe exploitation of DCI Allen Dulles's ready accessto the Secretary of State, ensured that the issuewould not be joined. Doubts about Diem persisted,but the die was cast.The same combination of goal-oriented action andintellectual objectivity that CIA officers brought tobear on their dealings with Diem and Nhu alsoproduced pioneering work on the operational con-cepts and the techniques of interagency coordinationthat later defined the American counterinsurgencycffort in Vietnam. All of this taken into account, the49SetAgency's role in consolidating Diem's hold on thegovernment of South Vietnam remains its most con-sequential achievement of the Second Indochina War.NOTES(b)(3)(c)Clandestine Service HistoricalProgram (CSHP) 113, October 1970, The SaigonMilitary Mission: June 1954-December 1956,Vol. II, p. 11 (Secret).2. Ibid., Vol. I, p. 73. Lansdale reported the troopsof this regiment as "pledged ... to SMM who inturn had insisted that they be loyal to Vietnam"(CSHP 113,Vol. II, p. 26).3. Harwood interview, 21 June 1990; memorandumfrom the Special Assistant (Anderson) to theAmbassador (Collins), "Confidential FundsProject," 25 March 1955, AN 68A 5159, Box124, Records Group 84, National Archives andRecords Administration, Suitland, MD (hereaftercited as NARA).4. CSHP 113, Vol. I, pp. 66-68, 73-79. -5. Col. Edward G. Lansdale, CHSP 62, The Defeatof the Binh Xuyen Sect by the Diem Government,10 March-3 April 1955, 15 April 1955, p.6(Secret).6. Ibid., p. 8.7. Ibid.8. Ibid., p. 6.9. Ibid., pp. 6, 9.10. Ibid., pp. 12-15.11. Harwood interview, 21 June 1990.12. CSHP 62, pp. 14-15, 17.13.  Intelligence ReDOn CS PD454, 29 March 1955,(b)(1)  (b)(3)(c)Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 CO0622834Se/et Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834S eide t14. Harwood interview, 17 October 1989.15. CSHP 62, pp. 18, 22-27.16. J. Lawton Collins, telegrams to Department ofState, 29 and 31 March 1955, FRUS, 1955-57,I, Vietnam, pp. 158, 169.17. SAIG 6517, 20 April 1955, cited in CSHP 113,Vol. I, p. 101.18. J. Lawton Collins, telegram to Department ofState, 7 April 1955, Foreign Relations of theUnited States (FRUS), 1955-57, Vietnam, 1, p.219.19. One subse------- -able from Lansdale gives theamount as(b)(1) piaster-c AIG 6925 16May 19554  Later, the Station advanced  (b)(3)(C)piasters,which was ultimately  returned (SAIG 8226,29August 1955,  (b)(3)(c)Redick interview, 28 September 1989).20.b)(3)(c) (b)(1)CSHP 113, Vol. I, pp. 95-97. The whole thingcame to naught when Diem concluded that theauthors of the idea could not produce. Hereturned the money in late August, but usedLansdale as intermediary in unproductivenegotiations until shortly before Ba Cut was  captured in April 1956 (b)(3)(c)  21. CSHP 113, Vol. I, pp. 97-98; SAIG 6517, 20April 1955, quoted in CHSP 113, Vol. I, p. 100.22. SAIG 6523. 21 April 1955,(b)(3)(c)23. Nguyen Thai, "The Government of Men in theRepublic of Vietnam" (thesis, Michigan StateUniversity, East Lansing, MI, 1962), quoted inFrances Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake, p. 109.24. ? rY(b)(3)(c)r for Plans, memorandum forSupport Assistant to the DDP,"Proposed Time Magazine_Diem," 2 February 1955, (b)(1)  (b)(3)(c)Se/retDiem25. Harwood interview, 17 October 1989; JohnCaswell, interview, 13 December 1963  (b)(3)(1C)2c(b)(1)22 April 1955;(b)(3)(c)?(b)(3)(c)Harwoodinterview, 1/ October 1989; unsigned memoran-dum, "Significant Travel by Premier DiemOutside Saigon Area," 24 April 19(b)(1)(b)(3)(c)27. Harwood interview, 16 May 1990.28. Randolph Kidder, memorandum for the record,untitled, 11 March 1955, AN 68A 5159, Box124, RG 84, NARA.29. Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars, pp. 276-277.30. Special Assistant (Anderson), Memorandum forthe Ambassador (Collins), untitled, 25 March1955, AN 68A 5159, Box 124, RG 84, NARA;CHP 113. Vol. I, pp. 101-102. The quotation isfro  (b)(3)(c)  26 April 1955, p. 104.31. FRUS, 1955-57, I, Vietnam, pp. 294-299.32. CSHP 113, Vol. I, p. 38; Randolph Kidder,interview by Thomas Ahern, Washington, DC,22 January 1990 (hereafter cited as Kidderinterview, 22 January 1990).33. CSHP 113, Vol. I, p.40; SAIG 6635, 28 A ril1955, of which a retyped copy is filed in (b)(3)(c)  34. Deputy Special Assistant for Intelligence,Department of State, untitled memorandum, 28April 1955, FRUS, 1955-57, Vietnam, Vol. I,pp. 305-306. The "stay" order is reprinted onp. 301.35. CSHP 113, Vol. I, pp. 105-106.36. Joseph Redick, interview by Thomas Ahern,Staunton, VA, 22 January 1991 (hereafter citedas Redick interview, 22 January 1991).50Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834Diem37. C H II, p. 41;(b)(3)(c)Magill interview, 24 October1989.38. CSHP 113. Vol. I, pp. 106-107.39. CSHP 113. Vol. II, p.4.40. CSHP 113. Vol. I, p. 108. As was often thecase, Nhu was simultaneously giving Harwoodwhat Diem was telling Lansdale. The sameinformation, attributed to a source described interms that fit Nhu, is contained in  SAIG 6659,29 April 1955  (b)(1)(b)(3)(c)41. CHSP 113. Vol. II, pp. 44-45.(b)(3)(c)  42. SAIG 6678 24'April 1955,Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars,p. 299; FRUS, 1955-57, Vietnam, Vol. I, p. 318.43. CHSP 113, Vol. II, pp. 42-43; Memorandum,S/S [Fisher Howe] to The Secretary [John -Foster Dulles], "French Aid toAnti-Government Elements in South Vietnam,"6 May 1955, citing ARMA [Army Attache]Report 982, 2 May 1955, Decimal File 751Goo/5-255. RG 59, NARA.51Se/et44. CHSP 113, Vol. II, p.43.45. John Foster Dulles, telegram to EmbassySaigon, I May 1955, US Department of State,FRUS, 2955-57, Vietnam, Vol. I, p. 344;Caswell interview, 27 February 1990. Caswelldescribed his presence at the meeting as that of"someone who can pronounce the names."46. Caswell interview, 27 February 1990.47. Kenneth Young, Memorandum to the AssistantSecretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, 30April 1955, FRUS, 1955-57, Vietnam, Vol. I,pp. 337-339.This article is SECRET.Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000622834S cret