Cable 243 (1963)

The following secret cable, now known as ‘Cable 243’, was sent from the US State Department to Henry Cabot Lodge, the US ambassador in South Vietnam, in late August 1963. It discusses the removal of Ngo Dinh Nhu from positions of power and, if he is unwilling to support this, the removal of Ngo Dinh Diem:

From US Department of State
To US Embassy, Saigon (Ambassador Lodge)


“It is now clear that whether [South Vietnam’s] military proposed martial law, or whether Nhu tricked them into it, Nhu took advantage of its imposition to smash pagodas with police and Tung’s special forces loyal to him, thus placing onus on military in eyes of the world and Vietnamese people. Also clear that Nhu has manuevered himself into commanding position.

US government cannot tolerate situation in which power lies in Nhu’s hands. 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 your efforts, Diem remains obdurate and refuses, we must face the possibility that Diem himself cannot be preserved.

We now believe immediate action must be taken to prevent Nhu from consolidating his position further. Therefore, unless you… perceive overriding objections, you are authorised to proceed along the following lines…

USG [United States government] cannot accept actions against Buddhists taken by Nhu and his collaborators under cover martial law.

Prompt dramatic actions [to] redress situation must be taken, including repeal of Decree 10, release of arrested monks, nuns, etc.

We must at the same time also tell key [South Vietnamese] military leaders that US would find it impossible to support [South Vietnam] military and economically unless above steps were taken immediately, which we recognise requires removal of the Nhus from the scene. We wish to give Diem reasonable opportunity to remove Nhus, but if he remains obdurate, we are prepared to accept the obvious implication that we can no longer support Diem. You may also tell appropriate military commanders we will give them direct support in any interim period of breakdown [in] central government mechanism…

Concurrently with above, 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…”