On August 24, 1963, a cable was sent to Lodge, instructing him to support efforts to overthrow Diem. The cable was signed by, drafted by, George Ball, Roger Hilsman, Michael Forrestal and yourself. What was your real role in this affair?
My role in this telegram of July 24th was rather limited. It was drafted by Hilsman, I think, in the first instance, Forrestal may have had something to do with it. They brought it to me on a Saturday afternoon and we tried to find George Ball because Dean Rusk was out of town.
We found him on the golf course, playing golf with Alex Johnson. They both read it and both approved it and then it was up to George Ball to...to, to get it cleared. I dropped out of the situation. The...the telegram was not quite what you indicated it was.
It was instructions to, not instructions, but suggestion to him that he should talk to Diem about getting rid of his his brother Nhu. His brother Nhu was antagonizing the Buddhist population.
He had been responsible for violating the pagodas and arresting the nuns and the priests and in other ways discriminating against them. And it was a crisis situation...that was getting worse and worse. We'd come out in public opposition to what had been done in the message that had been published the day before.
And included the statement the army had nothing to do with it, it was Nhu's own personal...he had a personal bunch of operators that, Special Forces, I think called it. And if he did not...agree to point out...if he didn't agree to Nhu that...that he'd loose the whole support of the...very large section of the...Vietnamese people. And then Lodge was saying if he did refuse, why...he should talk to the military and see how they felt about it, see whether they would want to undertake to organize a coup.
We would stay out of it entirely but...it would only be if they were already prepared to...do it. Now, nobody at that time that I know of wanted to see Diem moved out of the situation. It was Nhu that they wanted. Nhu and his wife, Madame Nhu, they felt , people felt were damaging to the situation. George Ball reports that he called up President Kennedy on the telephone at Hyannisport
and read him the telephone, telegram. And the President approved it.
It was approved in the, according to records that I have...it was approved by Ros Gilpatric who was Deputy Secretary of Defense and it was also approved by General Cabell, who was number two in the CIA. All those approvances, as I understand it, were gotten ahead of time. The telegram went and Lodge did not want to talk to Diem. He didn't think it was any use because he didn't think that Diem would get rid of his brother. He thought he was too dependent on him.
And we also found that...the...military were not in unity on this subject and were not in a position to move and the subject was discussed for some days. There was a Security Council meeting about it, I think on the...remember...the 29th of July...and the subject was discussed...a number of different times.
So the telegram itself had no direct effect except it started the subject going and it was...continued to be a subject of discussion until the finally, the military did undertake to take over the government in October, if you remember...and Lodge never did talk to Diem about eliminating, not eliminating, but getting, I shouldn't use that word, but getting rid of his brother and his sister. He was too dependent upon them and Lodge didn't think it was worthwhile.
But Lodge agreed over the period that...Diem was losing so much popularity that...he would, was losing public support and the situation was getting to be a very serious situation which he fully agreed.