JFK MET WITH ADVISERS ON SUPPORT FOR COUP IN SOUTH VIETNAM 50 YEARS AGO TODAY
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) The day following the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Thursday, August 29, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was meeting with his advisers at the White House regarding US policy in South Vietnam.
Thanks to audio tapes made at the meeting, declassified and released in December 2009, we now know the specifics of this meeting in which possible support of an overthrow of the government of President Ngo Dinh Diem* was discussed.
*Ngo Dinh Diem (1901-1963), president of the Republic of Vietnam 1955-1963, was born in Quang Binh and graduated 1st in his class at the French School of Public Administration and Law in 1921.
Ngo Dinh Diem
President Republic of Vietnam
May 8, 1957
According to The National Security Archive, President Kennedy acted as a "moderator," asking questions and listening to answers from his various advisers.
In the President own words, "We're up to our hips in mud out there."
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell Taylor, Attorney General Robert Kennedy and CIA director John McCone opposed supporting the coup while several others were in favor of US backing of the overthrow.
Senior officials told JFK that there was "no chance of success" in the war in Vietnam with Diem as president of South Vietnam.
The President and a majority of his advisers concluded that, at the very least, Ngo Dinh Nhu**, Diem's younger brother and chief political adviser, had to go.
**Ngo Dinh Nhu (1910-1963) was born in Phu Cam, French Indochina. He graduated from an archivists school in Paris and worked at Hanoi's National Library. In 1943, he married Tran Le Xuan who was later known as 'Madame Nhu.'***
Madame Nhu and LBJ
May 12, 1961
LBJ Library Photo
***Tran Le Xuan, a.k.a. Madame Nhu, (1924-2011) served as 1st Lady of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1963 as her brother-in-law, President Diem, was unmarried.
She converted from Buddhism to Catholicism and as 1st Lady opposed abortion, adultery, beauty pageants, brothels and opium dens.
Madame Nhu was sometimes called the Dragon Lady because of her fiery attitude. She was with one of her daughters in California when her husband and brother-in-law were killed. She blamed the U.S. for the coup saying...
"Whoever has the Americans as allies does not need enemies."
JFK would dispatch McNamara and Taylor to South Vietnam to attempt to convince Diem of the necessity of removing Nhu.
During the McNamara-Taylor mission, the United States terminated military aid to the South Vietnam Special Forces which was controlled by Nhu.
The National Security Archives says that this action indicates that JFK was prepared to support Diem's overthrow if he didn't cooperate.
"Kennedy Considered Supporting Coup in South Vietnam, August 1963." The National Security Archive, December 11, 2009, www.2.gwu.edu/
Rick Ryan's "Childhood's End"