Camera 423. Slate 583. Take 1. Ah, wait a second, wait a second. Wait a second. One question. Rolling. 583. Okay.
Tran Van Don:
During the period of preparation for the coup d’état of November 1st, 1963, Conein was our intermediary - rather, my intermediary, because I was the only one of my group that was qualified to speak with the Americans. Conein was, in sum, my intermediary with the Americans. But Conein came to see me, to tell me lots of things and I found some things very confusing. For example, the 22nd October, 1963, General Harkins, who was the commander of the Americans forces in South Vietnam, told me over the course of a dinner that he was against a coup d’état.
He said it was inadmissible – he didn’t see why it was necessary to remove Diem. So when he told me that, I was very surprised. Well, those were the Americans before me. There was Conein who told me one thing, supposing Conein was coming on behalf of Cabot Lodge, the ambassador - and General Harkins, who is Cabot Lodge’s adjunct, who told me that he was against the coup. So, put yourself in my place. I said, “I don’t know what more to do now. I very well know what I want to do, but I don’t know.”
So I asked Conein, “I would like to meet your ambassador in order to be sure because I need American support. If I don’t have American support, I can’t throw the coup because we need American support to continue the war against the Communists.” This was very clear in our minds, in the minds of the generals.
Conein, came to see me at my friend the dentist’s to set up a meeting with Cabot Lodge. This meeting took place on the airfield of the Saigon airport at the time of the departure of the plane that would take President Diem, Ambassador Cabot Lodge and his wife to Da Lat in order to inaugurate the atomic center.
So I arrive a little ahead of time, Ambassador Cabot Lodge arrives after me and says to me, hello. He told me so I asked the question right then. I said “Mr. Ambassador, what is Conein’s relation to you?” He said, “He is my representative.”
And I said, fine. And I didn’t avoid talking about the coup. I said, “Well, I’m very happy to know he’s your representative.” So then I jumped into the subject. I said, Mr. Ambassador we need a change soon. I didn’t speak of a regime change, merely of a “change”. He knew I was talking about a coup. He said, “Well, I’m ready to give you support, and so are the Americans in all that you do.”
I said, “Mr. Ambassador, I don’t need, we don’t need anything right now. It’s after the coup that we need your support, after the change, if there’s a change. Because I would like to make it clear to you and the rest of the Americans that it’s purely a Vietnamese affair, and that it’s we alone who have to do this. And I will keep you up to date.” And then President Diem arrived, it’s the only time I met Cabot Lodge, and I had the support of the Americans. So we decided to have the coup. That’s it.