General Thang's View on 23 April 1975 Situation

Central Intelligence Agency
Directorate of Operations

Country: South Vietnam
DOI: 23 April 1975
Subject: Comments of Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Thang on the deteriorating situation in South Vietnam
ACQ:Vietnam, Saigon (23 April 1975) Field No. FVS-34.320
Source: A regular source from Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Thang, former GVN MR-4 Commander who was aware that his remarks would reach U.S. officials.

1. 23 April 1975, Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Thang, the former of the Government of Vietnam (GVN) Military Region-4 (MR4) Commander said that he had been called back to active duty 22 April. He is to report to Minister of Defense Tran Van Don on 23 April for assignment. Thang said he had requested to be reactivated six months ago but President Nguyen Van Thieu and others thought Thang was too dangerous and refused to act on his request.

2. Thang said that it was time for drastic measures within the military, signs of panic are readily visible in Saigon. Many of the officers working at the Joint General Staff (JGS) had begun planning frantic evacuation of their families and themselves and have not gone to work for two days. Thang does not believe that the JGS and the Government are aware of the problems and the potential for panic which would destroy everything. He plans to discuss these points with Don on 23 April. Thang does not have much respect for the Chairman of the JGS, General Cao Van Vien, who Thang said must accept responsibility for the debacle of GVN MR-1, and MR-2. He failed to advise the President of the dangers involved. Vien has been nothing more than a stooge for the President. Vien is incapable of exercising control because the military will not believe him.

3. Thang said the military situation is hopeless but the military must unite and stand fast to prevent the collapse of the GVN before negotiations with the Communist could begin. If the current trend continues, the GVN would collapse and even if the North Vietnam want to negotiate there would be no real Government with which to negotiate. From his personal talk with Don on 22 April, there is a great deal of confusion at the national level with no real leadership being provided by newly appointed President Tran Van Huong. Thang said in a matter of two or three days there will be no one for the government to govern. He attempted to make this point to Don on 22 April and intend to stress this point again on 23 April.

4. Thang said he was disturbed by the poor condition of the GVN forces. The Airborne division has been dissipated by Thieu's piecemeal commitment and is now almost combat ineffective. The Airborne Commander, Brigadier General Le Quang Luong, took leave of absence on 22 April to express discontent with the JGS and is refusing to meet with Vien. The GVN Marine division Commander, Major General Bui The Lan, has almost a division in fair shape. Lan is not advising the JGS of the true status to prevent piecemeal commitment which would result in its destruction. Thang said he could rally both Luong and Lan and could provide motivation to the rest of the armed forces who are fully aware of Thang's honesty and desire for social reform. Thang expressed firm conviction that if something is not done quickly at the national level, the GVN will collapse from panic before negotiations could begin. It is imperative that the objectives of a strong stand be made clear to both people and military. He does not believe the Communnists would negotiate with Huong. He said if he is able a play a meaningful role in the JGS, he would insist that the management of the military be left in hands of the military to stabilize the situation long enough to permit negotiations to begin. The military would have to take "strong measures" to restore stability and get the officers back on the job. The arrest of the General officers of the MR-1 and -2 is not strong enough; these men should be tried immediately as an example. He is against a coup against Huong but would favor having Huong replaced by a civilian leader who could negotiate with the Communists such as senator Tran Van Lam. He felt that former Vice President Major General Nguyen Cao Ky, should play some role in a new government but did not believe he is the man for the Prime Ministership.

5. Field dissem: Embassy Defense Attache in Saigon: sent to CINCPAC and USSAG (Lt. General Burns only)

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