Vietnam War: The Documents - 10

Nov. 6, 1963 cable from President Kennedy to Ambassador Lodge in Saigon, discusses U.S. policy in light of recent coup.

In these instructions to Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam, Kennedy expresses the hope that the new government will be better able to defend itself against the Communist insurgency. Kennedy tells Lodge that "we must all intensify our efforts to help it deal with its many hard problems."
November 6, 1963


Reference your 949

Your message makes a fitting ending to the weekly reports which you have sent in response to our 576, and from now on I think we should be in touch as either of us feels the need, but without this particular process of continuous watching on a specific set of questions.

Your own leadership in pulling together and directing the whole American operation in South Vietnam in recent months has been of the greatest importance [word outstanding originally in text, struck out in Kennedy's hand and changed to "of the greatest importance"], and you should know that this achievement is recognized here throughout the Government.

Now that there is a new Government which we are about to recognize, we must all intensify our efforts to help it deal with its many hard problems. As you say, while this was a Vietnamese effort, our own actions made it clear that we wanted improvements, and when these were not forthcoming from the Diem Government, we necessarily faced and accepted the possibility that our position might encourage a change of government. We thus have a responsibility to help this new government to be effective in every way that we can, and in these first weeks we may have more influence and more chance to be helpful than at any time in recent years.

I am particularly concerned myself that our primary emphasis should be on effectiveness rather than external appearances. If the new Government can limit confusion and intrigue among its members, and concentrate its energies upon the real problems of winning the contest against the Communists and holding the confidence of its own people, then it will have met and passed a severe test. That is what we must help in, just as it was ineffectiveness, loss of popular confidence, and the prospect of defeat that were decisive in shaping our relations to the Diem regime.

I am sure that much good will come from the comprehensive review of the situation which is now planned for Honolulu, and I look forward to your own visit to Washington so that you and I can review the whole situation together and face to face.

With renewed appreciation for a fine job. [original wording "your outstanding performance" crossed out by Kennedy].

John F. Kennedy

[JFK National Security Files 1961-1963 Box 202 Countries: Vietnam Vietnam 11/6-- 15/63, ]

Thanks to David Fuhrmann for supplying this document.
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