Friday, September 16, 2005

1960 U.S. Ambassador in Saigon warns that situation is worsening

In a cable to Secretary of State Christian A. Herter, U.S. Ambassador in Saigon, Elbridge Durbrow analyzes two separate but related threats to the Ngo Dinh Diem regime, danger from demonstration or coup, predominantly "non-Communist" in origin; and the danger of a gradual Viet Cong extension of control over the countryside.
Durbrow explained that any coup would be partly motivated by a "sincere desire to prevent Communist take-over in Vietnam." He suggested methods Diem might use to mitigate both threats, including sending his brother Nhu (head of the hated secret police) abroad and improving relations with the peasantry, and ended by declaring, "If Diem's position in country continues to deteriorate as result of a failure to adopt political, psychological, economic and security measures, it may become necessary for U.S. government to begin considerable alternative courses of action and leaders in order achieve our objective." President Kennedy and his administration were faced with a difficult quandary; President Diem was staunchly anticommunist, but he resisted any reforms that might have won him more support among the South Vietnamese people. Ultimately, the Kennedy administration decided the Diem would never make the necessary changes and subsequently let a group of dissident South Vietnamese generals know that the United States would not oppose a coup to remove Diem from office. In the process of the coup that occurred on November 1, Diem and his brother were murdered. A period of political instability ensued during which there was a series of "revolving door" governments.
1969 Nixon announces the withdrawal of a further 35,000 troops from Vietnam
President Richard Nixon announces the second round of U.S. troop withdrawals from Vietnam. This was part of the dual program that he had announced at the Midway conference on June 8 that called for "Vietnamization" of the war and U.S. troop withdrawals, as the South Vietnamese forces assumed more responsibility for the fighting. The first round of withdrawals was completed in August and totaled 25,000 troops (including two brigades of the 9th Infantry Division). There would be 15 announced withdrawals in total, leaving only 27,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam by November 1972.


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