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Context of 'Mid-1954: Ngo Dinh Diem Returns to Head South Vietnamese Government, US Aims Propaganda Campaign at North'

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Ngo Dinh Diem returns from exile in the US to head the South Vietnamese government. The CIA office in Saigon, under the leadership of Colonel Edward Lansdale, conducts a propaganda campaign aimed at creating the perception that North Vietnam is plagued with massive civil unrest and disorder while there is stability in South Vietnam and widespread popular support for its newly installed leader. [Herring, 1986, pp. 44; Pilger, 1986, pp. 192] “Paramilitary groups infiltrated across the demilitarized zone on sabotage missions, attempting to destroy the government’s printing presses and pouring contaminants into the engines of buses to demobilize the transportation systems. The teams also carried ‘psywar’ operations to embarrass the Vietminh regime and encourage emigration to the South. They distributed fake leaflets announcing the harsh methods the government was prepared to take and even hired astrologers to predict hard times in the north and good times in the south.” [Herring, 1986, pp. 44] “[Landale’s team] stimulated North Vietnamese Catholics and the Catholic armies deserted by the French to flee south. SMM teams promised Catholic Vietnamese assistance and new opportunities if they would emigrate. To help them make up their minds, the teams circulated leaflets falsely attributed to the Viet Minh telling what was expected of citizens under the new government. The day following distribution of the leaflets, refugee registration tripled. The teams spread horror stories of Chinese Communist regiments raping Vietnamese girls and taking reprisals against villages. This confirmed fears of Chinese occupation under the Viet Minh. The teams distributed other pamphlets showing the circumference of destruction around Hanoi and other North Vietnamese cities should the United States decide to use atomic weapons. To those it induced to flee over the 300-day period the CIA provided free transportation on its airline, Civil Air Transport, and on ships of the US Navy. Nearly a million North Vietnamese were scared and lured into moving to the South.” [Pilger, 1986, pp. 192]

Entity Tags: Ngo Dinh Diem, Bao Dai, Edward Geary Lansdale

Timeline Tags: US-Vietnam (1947-2001)

The US helps arrange a national referendum between Vietnamese Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem and Emperor Bao Dai. Diem “wins” 98.2 percent of the vote. Interestingly, a total of 605,000 votes are cast despite there being only 405,000 registered voters. [Herring, 1986, pp. 55]

Entity Tags: Ngo Dinh Diem, Bao Dai

Timeline Tags: US-Vietnam (1947-2001)

The policies of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem create concern in Washington when Diem’s government intensifies its repression of the Buddhists and clamps down on the press. Also worrisome to his US backers are rumors that he is considering unification with the North. [Herring, 1986, pp. 96; National Security Archives, 11/5/2003] When the Kennedy administration learns that a group of South Vietnamese generals are planning a [second] coup attempt, the decision is made to provide them with support. [National Security Council Staff, 8/28/1963 pdf file; US Department of State, 10/25/1963 pdf file; National Security Council Staff, 10/29/1963 pdf file; US President, 11/1/1963 pdf file; National Security Archives, 11/5/2003] “President Kennedy and his advisers, both individually and collectively, had a considerable role in the coup overall, by giving initial support to Saigon military officers uncertain what the US response might be, by withdrawing US aid from Diem himself, and by publicly pressuring the Saigon government in a way that made clear to South Vietnamese that Diem was isolated from his American ally. In addition, at several of his meetings Kennedy had CIA briefings and led discussions based on the estimated balance between pro- and anti-coup forces in Saigon that leave no doubt the United States had a detailed interest in the outcome of a coup against Ngo Dinh Diem. The CIA also provided $42,000 in immediate support money to the plotters the morning of the coup, carried by Lucien Conein, an act prefigured in administration planning.” [National Security Archives, 11/5/2003]

Entity Tags: Ngo Dinh Diem, John F. Kennedy

Timeline Tags: US-Vietnam (1947-2001)

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