Saturday, August 24, 1963: Cable 243

Cable 243 was a telegram sent by the U.S. State Department to Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam. It raised the possibility of the U.S. taking an active role in removing South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem from power. (The cable's origination and approval also illustrated the rift within the U.S. government over supporting Diem.)

It reads in part:

US Government cannot tolerate situation in which power lies in Nhu's hands (referring to Ngo Dinh Nhu, President Diem's brother.) Diem must be given chance to rid himself of Nhu and his coterie and replace them with best military and political personalities available. If, in spite of all of your efforts, Diem remains obdurate and refuses, then we must face the possibility that Diem himself cannot be preserved. ... We wish give Diem reasonable opportunity to remove Nhus, but if he remains obdurate, then we are prepared to accept the obvious implication that we can no longer support Diem. ... Ambassador and country team should urgently examine all possible alternative leadership and make detailed plans as to how we might bring about Diem's replacement if this should become necessary.

The cable was sent three days after raids on Buddhist pagodas in South Vietnam, part of a suppression campaign that The Pentagon Papers called "the beginning of the end" for Diem's government. (Diem would be overthrown in a coup on November 1.)

* Copy of cable (from National Security Archive): @
* "Martial Law Declared in South Viet Nam" (United Press International, August 21): @
* "Martial Law Fires Vietnam Flare-Up" (Reuters, August 21): @
* "Furious Buddhists Battle Troops" (Associated Press, August 23): @
* "Vietnam Crisis" (newsreel): @
* "Vietnam Crisis Mounts" (newsreel): @
* "Evolution of the War: The Overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem, May-November 1963" (from "United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1957," aka The Pentagon Papers): @
* "Vietnam, Diem, the Buddhist Crisis" (from JFK Library): @
* "JFK and the Diem Coup" (National Security Archive): @
* "Kennedy Considered Supporting Coup in South Vietnam, August 1963" (National Security Archive): @
* Related documents, January-August 1963 (from State Department): @
* "Cold War Mandarin: Ngo Dinh Diem and the Origins of America's War in South Vietnam" (Seth Jacobs, 2006): @
* "American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the Origins of the Vietnam War" (David E. Kaiser, 2000): @ 
* Earlier post on "The Situation in South Vietnam" (July 10, 1963): @
* Post on Thich Quang Duc (June 11, 1963): @ 

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