As he prepared to leave Japan in 1952, at the end of a seven-year assignment, William J. Sebald developed misgivings about his new post as Ambassador to Burma.

Sebald's worries centered on a band of 12,000 Nationalist Chinese troops who were squatting on Burmese territory in defiance of the Burmese Government. The Nationalist troops had fled to Burma in 1949 as the Chinese Communists advanced toward victory. The troops made one concerted effort to return by force to Yunnan, their native province in China. But they were easily turned back, and settled down in Burma to a life of banditry and opium-running.

The Burmese Government demanded that they lay down their arms, but the Nationalist troops repulsed the sporadic efforts of the Burmese Army to subdue them. In the more recent fighting they had displayed new equipment and a greater sense of discipline. And they had just acquired a new commander, General Li Mi, an intelligence officer who was spotted commuting between Formosa and Burma by way of a landing strip in Thailand. just across Burma's southeastern border.

To the Burmese Government, burdened by catastrophic World War II destruction and continuous domestic rebellions, the Nationalist troops had long been an intolerable foreign nuisance. Now, revived as a military force, they became a menace to Burmese independence. The troops might easily provide a pretext for an invasion by the Communist Chinese or a coup by the 300,000 Burmese Communists.

Officially, Burma pleaded with the United States to apply pressure on Formosa to withdraw the troops. Unofficially, Burmese officials accused the CIA of supporting the troops as a force that could conduct raids into China or threaten military retaliation if Burma adopted a more conciliatory policy toward Peking.

Ambassador Sebald had spent more than a third of his fifty years as a naval officer and diplomat in the Far East. He knew he would have trouble enough with a touchy new nation of ancient oriental ways without being undermined by another agency of his own government.

On home-leave in Washington, Sebald demanded assurances from his superiors that the CIA was not supporting the Nationalist troops. He was told emphatically that the United States was in no way involved.

From the very first days of his two-year assignment in Rangoon, Sebald regularly warned Washington that the troops threatened Burma's very existence as a parliamentary democracy which was friendly to the West. If United States relations were not to turn completely sour, he insisted, the Nationalists would have to be removed. Each time, the State Department responded that the United States was not involved and that Burma should logically complain to Taipeh.

Dutifully, Sebald passed along these assurances to the Burmese Foreign Office. But he never succeeded in convincing the Burmese of American innocence. The most determined of the skeptics was General Ne Win, who as Chief of Staff of the Army was leading the battle against the guerrillas. Fresh from a meeting with his field commanders, Ne Win confronted Sebald at a diplomatic gathering and angrily demanded action on the Nationalist troops. When Sebald started to launch into his standard disclaimer of United States involvement the general cut him short.

"Mr. Ambassador," he asserted firmly in his best colonial English, "I have it cold. If I were you, I'd just keep quiet."

As Sebald was to learn, and as high United States officials now frankly admit, Ne Win was indeed correct. The CIA was intimately involved with the Nationalist troops, but Sebald's superiors -- men just below John Foster Dulles -- were officially ignorant of the fact. Knowledge of the project was so closely held within the CIA, that it even escaped the notice of Robert Amory, the deputy director for intelligence. He was not normally informed about the covert side of the agency's operations but he usually received some information about major projects on an unofficial basis. Yet on Burma he could honestly protest to his colleagues in other branches of the government that the CIA was innocent.

Though Sebald was never able to secure an official admission from Washington, he discovered through personal investigation on the scene that the CIA's involvement was an open secret in sophisticated circles in Bangkok, Thailand. There, he learned, the CIA planned and directed the operation under the guise of running Sea Supply, a trading company with the cable address "Hatchet."

In Rangoon public resentment at the CIA's role became so pervasive that the most irrelevant incidents -- an isolated shooting, a power failure -- were routinely ascribed to American meddling. Sebald persisted in his denials, but by March, 1953, they had turned so threadbare that Burma threw the issue into the United Nations.

In New Delhi, Chester Bowles, finishing his first tour as Ambassador to India, had also been beset by the rumors. To silence the anti-American rumbling, Bowles, like Sebald, sought assurances from Washington. The response was the same: the United States was not involved in any way. Bowles conveyed this message to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who stated publicly that, on Bowles' word, he had convinced himself that the United States was not supporting the Nationalist guerrillas.

At the UN, Burma produced captured directives from Taipeh to the Chinese guerrillas, but Nationalist China insisted it had "no control over the Yunnan Anti-Communist and National Salvation Army." At the same time, it conceded paradoxically that Taipeh did have "some influence over General Li Mi" and would exercise its "moral influence" to resolve the problem.

With the UN on the verge of an embarrassing inquest and the Nationalist Chinese in a more conciliatory mood, Sebald's pleas finally began to be heard in Washington. He was instructed to offer the services of the United States in mediating the issue between Burma and Taipeh.

In May the United States suggested that Burma, Nationalist China and Thailand join with it in a four-power conference to discuss the problem. After first balking at sitting down with Nationalist China, Burma finally agreed. A four-nation joint military commission convened in Bangkok on May 22. Full accord on an evacuation plan was reached on June 22. The procedure called for the Nationalist guerrillas to cross over into Thailand for removal to Formosa within three or four weeks.

But the guerrillas refused to leave unless ordered to do so by Li Mi. When the commission demanded his presence in Bangkok, the general pleaded illness, then announced he would under no condition order his troops out.

Negotiations and fighting continued inconclusively throughout the summer of 1953, and Burma again brought the issue before the UN in September.

"Without meaning to be ungrateful," said the chief Burma delegate, U Myint Thein, "I venture to state that in dealing with authorities on Formosa, moral pressure is not enough. If something more than that, such as the threat of an ouster from their seat in the United Nations, were conveyed to the authorities on Formosa, or if the United States would go a step further and threaten to suspend aid, I assure you the Kuomintang army would disappear overnight."

Nevertheless, Burma agreed reluctantly to a cease-fire when Nationalist China pledged to disavow the guerrillas and cut off all aid to them after those willing to be evacuated had started out by way of Thailand. The withdrawal, which began on November 5, was disturbing to the Burmese from the start. The Thai police were under the control of General Pao, the Interior Minister, who was involved with the guerrillas' in the opium trade. And he refused to allow Burmese representatives to accompany other members of the joint military commission to the staging areas.

The suspicions of the Burmese were stirred anew when "Wild Bill" Donovan, the wartime boss of the OSS and then Ambassador to Thailand, arrived on the scene, flags waving, to lead out the Nationalist troops.

The evacuation dragged on through the winter of 1953-1954. It was largely bungled, in the view of U.S. officials in Rangoon, mainly because Washington failed to exert enough pressure on Taipeh. About 7,000 persons were flown to Formosa, but a high percentage of them were women, children and crippled noncombatants.

On May 30, 1954, Li Mi announced from Taipeh the dissolution of the Yunnan Anti-Communist and National Salvation Army, but by July fighting had resumed between the guerrillas and the Burmese Army.

Burma returned to the UN but soon realized that the evacuation of the previous winter "represented the limit of what could be accomplished by international action." On October 15 the issue was discussed in the UN for the last time.

Sebald resigned as ambassador on November 1, citing the ill health of his wife, and returned to Washington as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs. He was to spend the next three years struggling to open lines of communication between the State Department and the CIA so that the left hand of the United States might know what the right hand was up to in its international dealings.

But the repercussions of the CIA's operation remained to complicate United States relations in Burma. Despite the long and painful negotiations, half of the Nationalist guerrillas, and the best of them, were still deployed in Burma. They joined with other rebel factions and skirmished repeatedly with the Burmese Army. It was not until January of 1961 that they were driven into Thailand and Laos.

They left behind them, however, a new source of embarrassment to the incoming administration of President Kennedy. As the Burmese advanced, they discovered a cache of U.S.-made equipment, and the following month they shot down a U.S. World War II Liberator bomber en route from Formosa with supplies for the guerrillas.

The captured arms included five tons of ammunition packed in crates which bore the handclasp label of the "United States aid program. The discovery sent 10,000 demonstrators into the streets outside the American Embassy in Rangoon. Three persons were killed and sixty seriously injured before troops brought the situation under control. Premier U Nu called a press conference and blamed the United States for the continued support of the guerrillas.

Three U.S. military attaches were quickly dispatched to inspect the captured equipment. They reported that the ammunition crates bore coded markings, which were forwarded to Washington for scrutiny.

"If we can trace these weapons back," said an embassy official, "and show that they were given to Taiwan, the United States will have a strong case against Chiang Kai-shek for violating our aid agreement."

Taipeh refused to accept responsibility. It insisted the weapons had been supplied by the "Free China Relief Association" and flown to the guerrillas in private planes. The United States filed no formal charges against Nationalist China.

Behind the scenes, however, W. Averell Harriman, the new Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, moved quickly and forcefully. He was a bitter opponent of the United States policy in Asia during the Eisenhower years, particularly John Foster Dulles' decision to "unleash Chiang."

Harriman considered the Dulles decision a form of theatrics. Harriman felt that there was no hope of returning Chiang to the mainland but that Dulles was forced, nonetheless, to commit the United States to a policy of rolling back the Bamboo Curtain in order to redeem his pledges to Nationalist China and the domestic right wing. In Harriman's view, Dulles' decision led inevitably to the transfer of responsibility for Southeast Asian affairs from the traditional diplomatists in the State Department to the more militant operatives in the Pentagon and the CIA.

With the full backing of President Kennedy, Harriman set out to reverse the situation without delay. When informed of the new guerrilla incident in Burma, he directed that Taipeh be firmly impressed with the fact that such ventures were no longer to be tolerated by the United States.

The Nationalist Chinese quickly announced on March 5 that they would do their utmost to evacuate the remaining guerrillas.

But Harriman's forceful action had little effect in dispelling Burma's suspicions about United States policy. And conditions took a turn for the worse on March 2, 1962, when General Ne Win seized the government in a bloodless army coup. Ne Win had intervened briefly in 1958 to restore order and assure a fair election (the government was returned to civilian control early in 1960). In 1962, however, the general came to power with a determination to move the nation to the Left and to reduce its traditional ties of friendship with the West.

Burma's economy was rapidly becoming more socialistic: the rice industry, source of 70 percent of the nation's foreign exchange earnings, was nationalized; private banks, domestic and foreign, were turned into "peoples' banks"; and most Western aid projects were rejected. Communist China was invited in with 300 economic experts, an $84,000,000 development loan and technical assistance for twenty-five projects.

Burma, which had been created in the image of the Western democracies in 1948, was, a decade and a half later, turning toward Peking. In 1952, when Ne Win rebuked Sebald for the CIA's role in support of the guerrillas, Burma was struggling to maintain its neutrality despite the ominous closeness of a powerful and aggressive Communist neighbor, Now, with Ne Win in control, Burma found its independence increasingly threatened.

The leftward turn of Burma's policy might have baffled the American people, but it should not have puzzled the American Government.

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THE INDONESIAN anti-aircraft fire hit the rebel B-26 and the two-engine bomber plunged toward the sea, its right wing aflame. The pilot, an American named Allen Lawrence Pope, jumped clear and his parachute opened cleanly. But as he drifted down onto a small coral reef, the chute caught a coconut tree and Pope's right leg was broken.

It was May 18, 1958, and the twenty-nine-year-old pilot had just completed a bombing and strafing run on the Ambon Island airstrip in the Moluccas, 1,500 miles from Indonesia's capital at Jakarta. It was a dangerous mission and Pope had carried it off successfully. But when the Indonesians announced his capture, Ambassador Howard P. Jones promptly dismissed him as "a private American citizen involved as a paid soldier of fortune."

The ambassador was echoing the words of the President of the United States. Three weeks before Pope was shot down, Dwight D. Eisenhower had emphatically denied charges that the United States was supporting the rebellion against President Sukarno.

"Our policy," he said, at a press conference on April 30, "is one of careful neutrality and proper deportment all the way through so as not to be taking sides where it is none of our business.

"Now on the other hand, every rebellion that I have ever heard of has its soldiers of fortune. You can start even back to reading your Richard Harding Davis. People were going out looking for a good fight and getting into it, sometimes in the hope of pay, and sometimes just for the heck of the thing. That is probably going to happen every time you have a rebellion."

But Pope was no freebooting soldier of fortune. He was flying for the CIA, which was secretly supporting the rebels who were trying to overthrow Sukarno.

Neither Pope nor the United States was ever to admit any of this -- even after his release from an Indonesian jail in the summer of 1962. But Sukarno and the Indonesian Government were fully aware of what had happened. And that awareness fundamentally influenced their official and private attitude toward the United States. Many high-ranking American officials -- including President Kennedy -- admitted it within the inner circles of the government, but it is not something that they were ever likely to give public voice to.

Allen Pope, a six-foot-one, 195-pound Korean War ace, was the son of a moderately prosperous fruit grower in Perrine, just south of Miami. From boyhood he was active and aggressive, much attracted by the challenge of physical danger. He attended the University of Florida for two years but left to bust broncos in Texas. He volunteered early for the Korean War, flew fifty-five night missions over Communist lines as a first lieutenant in the Air Force, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war Pope returned to Texas, got married, had a daughter, and was divorced. He worked for a local airline but found it dull stuff compared with the excitement he had experienced as a combat pilot in the Far East. And so in March of 1954 Pope signed on with Civil Air Transport, an avowedly civilian airline based on Formosa. He spent two months flying through Communist flak to drop supplies to the French at Dienbienphu. CAT grew out of the Flying Tigers and inherited much of its technique and swagger.

Pope found the outfit congenial. After Dienbienphu he renewed his contract, rising in three years to the rank of captain with a salary of $1,000 a month. He met his second wife, Yvonne, a Pan American stewardess, in Hong Kong. They settled down in a small French villa outside Saigon and had two boys.

Big-game hunting in the jungles of South Vietnam was their most daring diversion. Pope was ready for an even more dangerous challenge when the CIA approached him in December, 1957. The proposition was that he would fly a B-26 for the Indonesian rebels, who were seeking to topple Sukarno. A half-dozen planes were to be ferried in and out of the rebel airstrip at Menado in the North Celebes from the U.S. Air Force Base at Clark Field near Manila. In the Philippines the planes would be safe from counterattack by Sukarno's air force.

The idea of returning to combat intrigued Pope, and he signed up. His first mission, a ferrying hop from the Philippines to the North Celebes, took place on April 28, 1958. That was two days before President Eisenhower offered his comments about "soldiers of fortune" and promised "careful neutrality ... We will unquestionably assure [the Indonesian Government] through the State Department," he declared, "that our deportment will continue to be correct."

But Sukarno was not to be easily convinced. A shrewd, fifty-six-year-old politician, he was a revolutionary socialist who led his predominantly Moslem people to independence after 350 years of Dutch rule. Sukarno knew he was deeply distrusted by the conservative, businesslike administration in Washington. A mercurial leader, he was spellbinding on the stump but erratic in the affairs of state. He was also a ladies' man (official Indonesian publications spoke openly of his "partiality for feminine charm" and quoted movie-magazine gossip linking him with such film stars as Gina Lollobrigida and Joan Crawford) and has had four wives.

In particular, Sukarno was aware of Washington's understandable annoyance with his sudden turn toward the Left: he had just expropriated most of the private holdings of the Dutch and had vowed to drive them out of West lrian (New Guinea); he had requested Russian arms; and he had brought the Communists into his new coalition government.

From the start of its independence in 1949 until 1951 Indonesia was a parliamentary democracy. The power of the central government was balanced and diffused by the local powers of Indonesia's six major and 3,000 minor islands stretching in a 3,000-mile arc from the Malayan peninsula. But in February, 1957, on his return from a tour of Russia and the satellites, Sukarno declared parliamentary democracy to be a failure in Indonesia. He said it did not suit a sharply divided nation of close to 100,000,-000 people. Besides, the government could not successfully exclude a Communist Party with over 1,000,000 members.


"I can't and won't ride a three-legged horse," Sukarno declared. His solution was to decree the creation of a "Guided Democracy," It gave him semi-dictatorial powers while granting major concessions to the Communists and the Army.

The Eisenhower Administration feared that Sukarno would fall completely under Communist domination. And that, of course, would be a genuine disaster for the United States. Although its per capita income of $60 was one of the lowest in the world, Indonesia's bountiful supply of rubber, oil and tin made it potentially the third richest nation in the world. And located between the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, Asia and Australia, it commanded one of the world's principal lines of communication.

Many of Indonesia's political leaders, particularly those outside of Java, shared Washington's apprehensions about Sukarno's compromises with the Communists. And many in the CIA and the State Department saw merit in supporting these dissident elements. Even if Sukarno were not overthrown, they argued, it might be possible for Sumatra, Indonesia's big oil producer, to secede, thereby protecting private American and Dutch holdings. At the very least, the pressures of rebellion might loosen Sukarno's ties with the Communists and force him to move to the Right. At best, the Army, headed by General Abdul Haris Nasution, an anti-Communist, might come over to the rebels and force wholesale changes to the liking of the United States.

On February 15, 1958, a Revolutionary Council at Padang, Sumatra, proclaimed a new government under the leadership of Dr. Sjafruddin Prawiranegara, a forty-seven-year-old Moslem party leader and former governor of the Bank of Indonesia. A multi-party cabinet was established, with representation from Java, Sumatra and Celebes.

Sukarno declared:

"There is no cause for alarm or anxiety. Like other countries, Indonesia has its ups and downs."

General Nasution promptly asserted his allegiance by dishonorably discharging six high-ranking officers who had sided with the rebels. A week later Indonesian Air Force planes bombed and strafed two radio broadcasting stations in Padang and another in Bukittinggi, the revolutionary capital forty-five miles inland. The attack, carried out by four old U.S. planes, succeeded in silencing the rebel radios.

In testimony to Congress early in March, John Foster Dulles reiterated the United States pledge of strict neutrality.

"We are pursuing what I trust is a correct course from the point of international law," he said. "And we are not intervening in the internal affairs of this country ..."

On March 12 Jakarta announced that it had launched a paratroop invasion of Sumatra, and the next week the rebels formally appealed for American arms. They also asked the United States and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization to recognize the revolutionary government.

On April 1 Dulles declared:

"The United States views this trouble in Sumatra as an internal matter. We try to be absolutely correct in our international proceedings and attitude toward it. And I would not want to say anything which might be looked upon as a departure from that high standard."

A week later, commenting on Indonesia's announcement that it was purchasing a hundred planes and other weapons from Communist Poland, Yugoslavia and Czechoslavakia, State Department spokesman Lincoln White declared:

"We regret that Indonesia turned to the Communist bloc to buy arms for possible use in killing Indonesians who openly opposed the growing influence of Communism in Indonesia."

Jakarta responded angrily that it had turned to the Communists only after the United States had refused to allow Indonesia to buy $120,000,000 worth of American weapons. Dulles confirmed the fact the same day but claimed the Indonesians were rebuffed because they apparently intended to use the weapons to oust the Dutch from West Irian.

"Later, when the Sumatra revolt broke out," Dulles added, "it did not seem wise to the United States to be in the position of supplying arms to either side of that revolution ...

"It is still our view that the situation there is primarily an internal one and we intend to conform scrupulously to the principles of international law that apply to such a situation."

During the night of April 11, some 2,000 Indonesian Army troops launched an offensive against the rebels in northwest Sumatra, and at sunrise on April 18 a paratroop and amphibious attack was hurled against Padang. Twelve hours later, after modest resistance, the rebel city fell. Turning his troops inland toward Bukittinggi, Nasution declared he was "in the final stage of crushing the armed rebellious movement."

Throughout that month Jakarta reported a series of rebel air attacks against the central government, but it was not until April 30 that the United States was implicated. Premier Djuanda Kartawidjaja then asserted that he had proof of "overt foreign assistance" to the rebels in the form of planes and automatic weapons.

"As a consequence of the actions taken by the United States and Taiwan adventurers," Djuanda commented, "there has emerged a strong feeling of indignation amongst the armed forces and the people of Indonesia against the United States and Taiwan. And if this is permitted to develop it will only have a disastrous effect in the relationships between Indonesia and the United States."

Sukarno accused the United States of direct intervention and warned Washington "not to play with fire in Indonesia ... let not a lack of understanding by America lead to a third war ...

"We could easily have asked for volunteers from outside," he declared in a slightly veiled allusion to a secret offer of pilots by Peking. "We could wink an eye and they would come. We could have thousands of volunteers, but we will meet the rebels with our own strength."

On May 7, three days after the fall of Bukittinggi,* the Indonesian military command charged that the rebels had been supplied weapons and ammunition with the knowledge and direction of the United States. The military command cited an April 3 telegram to the Revolutionary Government from the "American Sales Company" of San Francisco. Robert Hirsch, head of the company, confirmed that he had offered to sell the arms to the rebels but said he had done so without clearing it with the State Department. In any case, he said, the arms were of Italian make and none had been delivered.

The State Department flatly denied the accusation, and the New York Times editorialized indignantly on May 9:

"It is unfortunate that high officials of the Indonesian Government have given further circulation to the false report that the United States Government was sanctioning aid to Indonesia's rebels. The position of the United States Government has been made plain, again and again. Our Secretary of State was emphatic in his declaration that this country would not deviate from a correct neutrality. The President himself, in a news conference, reiterated this position but reminded his auditors, and presumably the Indonesians, that this government has no control over soldiers of fortune ...

"It is always convenient for a self-consciously nationalistic government to cry out against 'outside interference' when anything goes wrong. Jakarta ... may have an unusually sensitive conscience. But its cause is not promoted by charges that are manifestly false ...

"It is no secret that most Americans have little sympathy for President Sukarno's 'guided democracy' and his enthusiasm to have Communist participation in his government ...

"But the United States is not ready ... to step in to help overthrow a constituted government. Those are the hard facts. Jakarta does not help its case, here, by ignoring them."

The following week, one day after the United States officially proposed a cease-fire, Allen Pope was shot down while flying for the rebels and the CIA. However, the Indonesian Government withheld for nine days the fact that an American pilot had been captured. On May 18 it announced only that a rebel B-26 had been shot down.

Nevertheless, with Pope in Indonesian hands things began to move rapidly in Washington. Within five days: (1) the State Department approved the sale to Indonesia for local currency of 37,000 tons of sorely needed rice; (2) the United States lifted an embargo on $1,000,000 in small arms, aircraft parts and radio equipment -- destined for Indonesia but frozen since the start of the rebellion; and (3) Dulles called in the Indonesian ambassador, Dr. Mukarto Notowidigdo, for a twenty-minute meeting.

"I am definitely convinced," said the ambassador with a big smile as he emerged, "that relations are improving."

But the Indonesian Army was not prepared to remain permanently silent about Pope. On May 27 a news conference was called in Jakarta by Lieutenant Colonel Herman Pieters, Commander of the Moluccas and West Irian Military Command at Ambon. He announced that Pope had been shot down on May 18 while flying a bombing mission for the rebels under a $10,000 contract.

Pieters displayed documents and identification papers showing Pope had served in the U.S. Air Force and as a pilot for CAT. He said Philippine pesos, 28,000 Indonesian rupiahs, and U.S. scrip for use at American military installations were also found on the American pilot. Pieters said 300 to 400 Americans, Filipinos and Nationalist Chinese were aiding the rebels, but he did not mention the CIA.

Many Indonesian officials were outraged by Pope's activities, and accused him of bombing the marketplace in Ambon on May 15. A large number of civilians, church bound on Ascension Thursday, were killed in the raid on the predominantly Christian community. But the government did its best to suppress public demonstrations.

Pope was given good medical treatment, and he could be seen sunning himself on the porch of a private, blue bungalow in the mountains of Central Java. Although the Communists were urging a speedy trial, Sukarno also saw advantages in sunning himself -- in the growing warmth of United States policy. Pope's trial was delayed for nineteen months while Sukarno kept him a hostage to continued American friendliness.

Late the next year, however, Sukarno found himself in a quarrel with Peking over his decision to bar Chinese aliens from doing business outside of the main cities of Indonesia. The powerful Indonesian Communist Party was aroused over the issue and Sukarno may have felt the need to placate them.

Pope was brought to trial before a military court on December 28, 1959. He was accused of flying six bombing raids for the rebels and killing twenty-three Indonesians, seventeen of them members of the armed forces. The maximum penalty was death.

During the trial, which dragged on for four months, Pope pleaded not guilty. He admitted to flying only one combat mission, that of May 18, 1958. The other flights, he testified, were of a reconnaissance or non-combat nature. Contrary to the assertion that he had signed a $10,000 contract, Pope insisted he got only $200 a flight.

The court introduced a diary taken from Pope after his capture. It contained detailed entries of various bombing missions. Pope contended it listed the activities of all the rebel pilots, not just his. He replied to the same effect when confronted with a pre-trial confession, noting that he had refused to sign it.

Asked what his "real motive" had been in joining the rebels, Pope replied: "Your honor, I have been fighting the Communists since I was twenty-two years old -- first in Korea and later Dienbienphu ...

"I am not responsible for the death of one Indonesian-armed or unarmed," he asserted in his closing plea. "I have served long enough as a target of the Communist press, which has been demanding the death sentence for me."

On April 29, 1960, the court handed down the death sentence, but it seemed unlikely that the penalty would be imposed. It had not once been invoked since Indonesia gained its independence eleven years before.

Pope appealed the sentence the following November, and when it was upheld by the Appeals Court, he took the case to the Military Supreme Court. Mrs. Pope made a personal appeal to Sukarno on December 28 during the first of two trips to Indonesia, but she was offered no great encouragement despite the prospect of improved relations between Sukarno and President-elect Kennedy.

Sukarno received an invitation to visit Washington a month after Kennedy took office. The Indonesian leader had been feted by President Eisenhower during a state visit to the United States in 1956; and he had more or less forced a second meeting with Eisenhower at the United Nations in the fall of 1960. But on most of his trips to the United States, Sukarno felt snubbed. Kennedy's invitation clearly flattered and pleased him.

The two men sat down together at the White House the week after the Bay of Pigs. The meeting went well enough, but Kennedy was preoccupied with the CIA's latest failure at attempted revolution.

During the visit Kennedy commented to one of his aides: No wonder Sukarno doesn't like us very much. He has to sit down with people who tried to overthrow him.

Still Sukarno seemed favorably disposed toward the new Kennedy Administration. The following February, during a good-will tour of Indonesia, Robert Kennedy asked Sukarno to release Pope. (Secret negotiations were then far advanced for the exchange the next week of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and Soviet spy Rudolph I. Abel. And the White House was favorably impressed with the tight-lipped Mr. Pope as contrasted with Powers, a CIA pilot who talked freely about his employer.)

Sukarno's first reaction to Robert Kennedy's request was to reject it out of hand, but when the Attorney General persisted, he agreed to take it under consideration. Six months later, on July 2, 1962, Pope was freed from prison without prior notice and taken to the American Embassy for interrogation by Ambassador Jones and other officials. Then he was put aboard a Military Air Transport Service plane and flown back to the United States.

Pope was hidden away for seven weeks and the State Department did not reveal his release until August 22. Pope insisted there had been no secret questioning (such as that to which Powers was subjected by the CIA on his return from Russia). The State Department's explanation of the long silence was that Pope had asked that the release be kept secret so he could have a quiet rendezvous with his family.

Back in Miami, Pope settled down to what outwardly seemed to be a happy relationship with his family; but in December, Mrs. Pope filed for divorce, charging him with "extreme cruelty" and "habitual indulgence in a violent and ungovernable temper."

At the divorce hearing on July 2, 1963, Mrs. Pope testified that on his return from Indonesia, her husband insisted upon keeping a loaded .38-caliber pistol by their bedside, despite the potential danger to their two young boys. She also asserted that Pope had sent her only $450 since he had left her seven months before.

Mrs. Pope made no mention in the proceedings of her husband's work for the CIA. A security agent of the government had warned her that it would be detrimental to her case if she talked about her husband's missions. She did not, and Pope did not contest the divorce.

"There's an awful lot of cloak-and-dagger mixed up in this," said her Miami lawyer, Louis M. Jepeway, who otherwise refused to talk about the case. "I can understand it, but I don't have to like it."

Mrs. Pope won the divorce and custody of the children on grounds of cruelty. But she received no financial settlement because Pope was declared outside the jurisdiction of the court.

On December 4, 1962, Pope had put his things in storage -- some personal items, ten stuffed birds, four animal heads, one stuffed animal, antelope antlers and water-buffalo horns. Then he left the country to go to work for Southern Air Transport. The Pentagon described this airline as a civilian operation holding a $3,718,433 Air Force contract to move "mixed cargo and passenger loads on Far East inter-island routes." Its home address was listed as PO Box 48-1260, Miami International Airport. Its overseas address was PO Box 12124, Taipeh, Formosa.

However, when asked what sort of work Southern Air Transport did, the company's Miami attorney explained that it was a small cargo line which simply "flies chickens from the Virgin Islands."

The attorney was Alex E. Carlson, the lawyer for the Double-Chek Corporation that had hired the American pilots who flew at the Bay of Pigs.

* The rebels then moved their capital to Menado, which fell late in June.

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Winthrop G. Brown had been Ambassador to Laos for less than three weeks when the right-wing military government, created by the CIA and the Pentagon at a cost of $300,000,000, was overthrown without a shot by a twenty-six-year-old Army captain named Kong Le.

Brown, a tall, thin, gray-haired Yankee, had been transferred from New Delhi on short notice with only a superficial knowledge of the long, tortured and expensive history of the United States experiment in Laos. Yet even a quick look convinced him that the CIA and its Pentagon allies were wrong in their assessment of the captain.

The young paratrooper and his battalion of 300 men had taken over the capital city of Vientiane in a pre-dawn coup on August 9, 1960. They had not been paid in three months and were tired of being the only fighting unit in the quasi-pacifist army of 25,000. Kong Le was personally outraged by the high-living, CIA-backed regime of General Phoumi Nosavan. He decided to strike while Phoumi and his cabinet were out of town inspecting a sandalwood tree that was to be turned into a burial urn for the late king.

The CIA and the American military mission viewed the coup with horror. They considered Kong Le to be Communist-inspired, despite his many battles against the pro-Communist Pathet Lao. But Ambassador Brown, a fifty-three-year-old former Wall Street lawyer who tried to see things with detachment and a fresh eye, was inclined to accept the American-trained paratrooper for what he purported to be: a fine troop commander who lived with his men and shared their rations; a patriot weary of civil war.

"I have fought for many years," Kong Le said. "I have killed many men. I have never seen a foreigner die."

Laos is a pastoral land, blessed with magnificent scenery -- soaring mountains, swift rivers, verdant valleys -- and populated by a strange mixture of isolated tribes alike only in their distaste for physical labor. It is the "Land of the Million Elephants," whose only cash crop is opium, and whose people are 85 percent illiterate.

Almost all Laotians are Buddhists, peace-loving by instinct and precept. In battle, to the dismay of their American advisers, they were accustomed to aiming high in the expectation that the enemy would respond in kind.

In 1960 the principal attraction of Phoumi's royal army to a recruit was the pay -- $130 a year, twice the average national income. Although United States aid had amounted to about $25 a head for the two million Laotians, military pay was about all that filtered down to the average citizen. More than three fourths of the money went to equip a modern, motorized army in a nation all but devoid of paved roads. All of this, as formulated by John Foster Dulles, was meant to convert Laos from a neutral nation, vulnerable to left-wing pressures, into a military bastion against Communism.

When the French withdrew in 1954, after a futile eight-year war with the Vietnamese Communists, a neutralist government had been organized under Prince Souvanna Phouma, a cheerful, pipe-smoking, French-educated engineer. He held power for four years, unsuccessfully struggling to integrate the two Communist Pathet Lao provinces into the central government. Then, in 1958, after Communist election gains and signs of military infiltration by the North Vietnamese, he resigned.

Souvanna was followed by a series of right-wing governments in which General Phoumi emerged as the strong-man. Finally, Phoumi succeeded in easing out Premier Phoui Sananikone, an able man with advanced ideas about grass-roots aid and Village development; he was also firmly non- Communist but he had too many independent notions for the CIA. He was replaced by Tiao Somsanith, a thoroughly pliable politician.

Phoumi then rigged the 1960 elections -- not one Pathet Lao was elected -- and settled in for a long, U.S.-financed tenure. Even Kong Le's coup failed to dim his vision of permanent affluence. He still had his army intact with him at Savannakhet in the south. And he was unshakably convinced that the United States would put him back in power. As tangible support for that conviction, Phoumi could point to the personal contact man the CIA kept by his side.

He was Jack Hazey, an ex-OSS man and former French Legionnaire whose face was half shot away during World War II. Occasionally, Hazey would be challenged for being out of step with public statements of U.S. policy. Clearly implying that he was under higher, secret orders, Hazey would retort: "I don't give a damn what they say."

The conflict between the public and secret definitions of United States policy on Laos was particularly pronounced in the summer of 1960. Shortly after Phoumi and his puppet Premier were ousted, Kong Le called back Souvanna Phouma to form a coalition government. To reduce the chances of discord, Souvanna then asked Phoumi to join the government as Vice-Premier and Minister of Defense.

Ambassador Brown dashed off a cable to Washington urging unqualified support for Souvanna's new government.*1 But the CIA and the State Department decided to hedge: they announced formal recognition of Souvanna but continued substantive support for Phoumi. The decision served to reinforce Phoumi's conviction that the CIA and the American military mission would in the end put him back in power.

Brown persuaded himself that he had the complete backing of the CIA station chief, Gordon L. Jorgensen, and the leaders of the military mission; but Washington's ambivalent policy put the ambassador in an embarrassing predicament. He tried to make the best of it by seeking out Souvanna and asking him if he had any objections to the continued support of Phoumi by the United States. No, the princely Premier replied, provided the equipment was not used against him; he would need Phoumi's army to fend off the Pathet Lao.

Brown then sent emissaries to Phoumi, assuring him that Souvanna was not scheming to deprive him of his U.S. aid and pleading with him at least to return to Vientiane and negotiate. But this man who had been highly regarded by the CIA and the Pentagon for his fighting qualities was afraid of venturing beyond his closely guarded stronghold. He had a broken line in the palm of his hand and a fortuneteller had once warned him that he would die violently. Even under maximum security he wore a bullet-proof vest during all his diplomatic dealings.

Confronted by Phoumi's intransigence, Souvanna began to despair of his ability to carry on. He called in the Western ambassadors in mid-September and warned them that he urgently needed the support of the royal army. "I am at the end of my capacity to lead," he told them.

Souvanna's government was also in dire need of rice and oil, which had been cut off by a blockade imposed by Thailand's military strongman, Prime Minister Sarit Thanarat, a close friend of Phoumi. Washington said it was entreating Sarit to lift the blockade, but the vise continued to tighten around Souvanna.

Early in October, J. Graham Parsons, former Ambassador to Laos and then Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, flew to Vientiane and demanded that Souvanna sever his relations with the Pathet Lao. This amounted to a demand that the neutralist government abandon its neutrality. Souvanna refused.

Then a high-level mission from the Pentagon, including John N. Irwin, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs, arrived for secret talks with Phoumi.

Souvanna concluded that the United States was in the process of withdrawing all support from the neutralist government and again throwing its full power behind Phoumi. Early in December he made a final and unsuccessful appeal to Brown for rice and oil. In desperation, Souvanna turned to the Russians, who saw an irresistible opportunity: to achieve political dominance in Laos at a cut rate and, at the same time, to replace the Chinese as the principal Communist influence in Southeast Asia. Without delay the Soviets started an airlift from Hanoi on December 11, 1960.*2

Two days earlier Phoumi had ordered his troops northward; and on December 18 the royal army recaptured Vientiane. Souvanna fled to Cambodia and Kong Le retreated to the north, distributing close to 10,000 American rifles to the Pathet Lao along the way.

Phoumi quickly established a government, naming Prince Boun Oum, a middle-aged playboy, as Premier. But despite his recent military success, Phoumi failed to pursue Kong Le. Instead, he settled back into his old ways. He had never been within fifty miles of the front lines and he saw no need to break with this tradition.

The Russians, meantime, were moving in substantial amounts of weapons by air and truck. And the North Vietnamese began to infiltrate crack guerrilla troops in support of the Pathet Lao. Kong Le joined forces with them, and by early 1961 he had captured the strategic Plain of Jars with its key airstrip fifty miles from North Vietnam.

By the time President Kennedy was inaugurated, on January 20, it seemed as if only the introduction of U.S. troops could keep the Pathet Lao from overrunning Vientiane and the Mekong River Valley separating Laos from Thailand. Kennedy was so informed by President Eisenhower and Defense Secretary Thomas S. Gates, Jr., in his first Laos briefing on January 19. Eisenhower apologized for leaving such a "mess."

One of Kennedy's first official acts was to ask his military advisers to draw up a plan for saving Laos. They recommended that an Allied force, including U.S. troops, take over the defense of Vientiane under the sanction of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. The idea was to free Phoumi's army for a full-fledged campaign in the Plain of Jars.

While weighing the advice, Kennedy ordered the Seventh Fleet within striking distance of Laos and promised Phoumi substantial new support if his troops would show some determination to fight.

Early in March, however, a royal army detachment was easily routed from a key position commanding the principal highway in northern Laos. The new administration became skeptical of Phoumi at the outset.

The Allied occupation plan was further undermined when the British, French and other SEATO powers (with the exception of Thailand) balked at providing troops. In addition, the President could not obtain assurances from the Joint Chiefs of Staff that U.S. forces would be able to save Laos without resort to tactical nuclear weapons.

In a nationally televised news conference on March 23 Kennedy warned that the Western powers would "have to consider their response" if the Communist attack continued in Laos. The clear implication was that the United States was prepared to intervene with military force. But, privately, the President told Harriman that he decidedly did not want to be faced with the prospect of using troops, that he wanted a political settlement.

On April 1 the Russians, apparently wary of a direct confrontation with the United States, agreed in principle to a British proposal for a cease-fire. The next month a fourteen-nation conference on Laos was convened in Geneva. And in the only meeting of minds at their talk in Vienna in June, Kennedy and Khrushchev promised to work for a neutral and independent Laos.

By November the outlines of an agreement had been reached at Geneva: Souvanna Phouma was to be recalled to create a neutralist government including the three Laotian factions, the pro-Western royalists, the neutrals and the pro-Communist Pathet Lao.

But once again Phoumi balked. He refused to relinquish the Defense and Interior Ministries, as was decreed at Geneva. If he held out long enough, he reasoned, the CIA and the Pentagon would again come to his rescue.

President Kennedy rebuked him in private messages, but Phoumi steadfastly refused to submit. Had he not been told in 1960 that the United States was determined to have him join Souvanna's coalition? And in the end had not the CIA and the Pentagon supported him in his return to power? And, as in 1960, were not the CIA representatives still with him?

Washington was reluctant to yank out the CIA men abruptly. Precipitate action could only diminish the agency's prestige and usefulness. But Phoumi was proving so intractable that McCone, acting on Harriman's recommendation, ordered Hazey out of the country early in 1962.*3

Nevertheless, Phoumi's reliance on the CIA had become so firmly ingrained that he could not be budged, even after the United States cut off its $3,000,000-a-month budgetary assistance to his government in February of 1962.

That spring Phoumi began a large-scale reinforcement of Nam Tha, an outpost deep in Pathet Lao territory, twenty miles from the Chinese border. Ambassador Brown warned him personally that the reinforcement was provocative and that the royal troops were so badly deployed that they would be an easy mark for the Pathet Lao. In May, Brown's admonition proved accurate. The Communists retaliated against the build-up, smashed into Nam Tha and sent Phoumi's troops in wild retreat. Two of his front-line generals commandeered the only two jeeps in the area and fled into Thailand.

The Nam Tha rout finally convinced Phoumi that he could not go it alone; and the Pathet Lao, verging on a complete take-over, halted when President Kennedy ordered 5,000 U .S. troops to take up positions in Thailand near the Laos border on May 15.

The three Laotian factions finally agreed to the coalition government on June 11 and the Geneva Accords were signed on July 23. In October the United States withdrew the 666 military advisers assigned to Phoumi's army.

But Communist North Vietnam failed to comply with the Geneva agreement. It refused to withdraw about 5,000 troops stationed in Laos in support of the Pathet Lao. On March 30, 1963, the Communists launched a new offensive which brought much of the Plain of Jars under their control.

The United States responded predictably: the Seventh Fleet took up position in the South China Sea off Vietnam; some 3,000 troops were sent to Thailand for much-publicized war games; and Harriman flew to Moscow to confer with Khrushchev. The Russian leader reaffirmed his support for a neutral and independent Laos. He also seemed to agree with Harriman that the Pathet Lao was responsible for the renewed fighting. It was clear that Moscow had lost control of the situation in Laos to Peking and Hanoi.

At the same time, United States policy makers were becoming increasingly convinced that Laos was not the right place to take a stand in Southeast Asia. The assessment of the Kennedy Administration was that most of the country, particularly the northern regions, would never be of much use to anyone. Administration officials were fond of debunking the Dulles policy with the quip: "Laos will never be a bastion of anything." The administration felt, nonetheless, that certain areas would have to be retained at all cost: Vientiane and the Mekong Valley. But it opposed the use of U.S. troops on any large scale.

In the event the neutralist government was about to be completely overwhelmed, the official plan, as it was outlined at a briefing of Pentagon officials by Dean Rusk, called for the movement of a modest American force into Vientiane. This would be designed to provoke a diplomatic test of the Geneva Accords. Failing in that, the United States was prepared to strike against North Vietnam as dramatic evidence that the Communist forces in Laos could advance farther only at the risk of a major war.

So it was that by the start of 1964 after a decade of humiliating reverses and the expenditure of close to half a billion dollars, United States policy had come full circle: during the 1950s Souvanna Phouma and his plan for a neutral Laos had been opposed with all the power of the Invisible Government; now the United States was ready to settle for even less than it could have had five years earlier at a fraction of the cost.

Later, Brown's only regret was that, restrained by a newcomer's caution, he did not make the recommendation even more strong. A key diplomat agreed: "Now we'd gladly pay $100,000,000 for that government."

*2 Deputy Foreign Minister Georgi M. Pushkin told Harriman at the Laotian talks in Geneva in 1961 that the airlift had been organized and executed on the highest priority of any peacetime operation since the Russian Revolution.

*3 Hazey was then stationed in Bangkok, where he could be called upon quickly in a crisis.

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WHEN NGO DINH DIEM was deposed and assassinated in an Army coup on November 1, 1963, a bloody, frustrating decade came to a close for the Invisible Government.

For nearly ten years the intelligence and espionage operatives of the Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department had been intimately involved with Diem, attempting at every turn to shore him up as a buffer against Communism in Vietnam. But in his last months the Buddhist majority rose against the repressive policies of Diem, a Roman Catholic, and the Invisible Government was forced to reconsider its single-minded support. Now, with Diem dead, those very American agencies which had helped him stay in power for so long were accused by his supporters of having directed his downfall.

At the beginning, the Invisible Government had high hopes for Diem. In 1954, at the age of fifty- three, the pudgy five-foot, five-inch aristocrat returned to Vietnam from a self-imposed exile to become Emperor Bao Dai's Premier. He had served under Bao Dai in the early 1930s, but quit as Minister of the Interior when he discovered the government was a puppet for the French. The Japanese twice offered Diem the premiership during World War II, but he refused.

When the French returned after the war, he resumed his anti-colonial activities. He left the country in 1950, eventually taking up residence at the Maryknoll Seminary in Lakewood, New Jersey (he had studied briefly for the priesthood as a boy). He lobbied against United States aid to the French in Indochina and warned against Ho Chi Minh, the North Vietnamese Communist guerrilla leader.

Shortly after Diem's return to Vietnam, the French Army was routed at Dienbienphu and the Communists seemed on the verge of total victory in Indochina. President Eisenhower, aware of Ho Chi Minh's popularity,*1 was looking for an anti-Communist who might stem the tide.

Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles were impressed by Ramon Magsaysay's successful campaign against the Communist Huk guerrillas in the Philippines. They thought the same tactics might work in Vietnam and requested a briefing by Edward Lansdale, an Air Force colonel who had been a key figure in the CIA-directed operation in support of Magsaysay.

Lansdale was called back from the Philippines to appear before a special panel of intelligence and foreign-policy officials, including Foster Dulles. He emerged from the meeting with a mandate from Dulles to find a popular leader in Vietnam and throw the support of the Invisible Government behind him.

Lansdale arrived in Saigon just after the fall of Dienbienphu and found political and military chaos. He canvassed the various factions in the city and the countryside and concluded that Diem alone had enough backing to salvage the situation. He met with Diem almost daily, working out elaborate plans for bolstering the regime. He operated more or less independently of the American mission assigned to Saigon, although he communicated with Washington through CIA channels (the agency maintained a separate operation with a station chief and a large staff).

Lansdale's free-wheeling activities in Vietnam provoked a mixed reaction. To some, he seemed the best type of American abroad, a man who understood the problems of the people and worked diligently to help them. He was so represented under a pseudonym in the book The Ugly American. To others, he was the naive American who, failing to appreciate the subtleties of a foreign culture, precipitated bloodshed and chaos. Graham Greene patterned the protagonist in The Quiet American after him.

Lansdale thrust himself into the middle of Vietnam's' many intrigues. In the fall of 1954 he got wind of a plan by several high-ranking Vietnamese Army officers to stage a coup against Diem. He alerted Washington, and General J. Lawton Collins, former Army Chief of Staff, was rushed to Saigon as Eisenhower's personal envoy to help Diem put down the uprising.

The coup failed, but Collins became skeptical of the stability of the Diem regime. He favored a proposal to create a coalition government, which would represent all the power elements and factions in the country. The proposal was sponsored by the French, who were maneuvering to salvage their waning influence in the affairs of Indochina.

In the spring of 1955 Diem moved against the Binh Xuyen, a quasi-criminal sect which controlled the Saigon police. He ordered his troops to take over the gambling, opium and prostitution quarter run by the Binh Xuyen. But elements of the French Army which had not yet been evacuated from the country intervened for the avowed purpose of preserving order and preventing bloodshed. Collins sided with the French and a truce was declared.

Lansdale fired off a message to Washington through the CIA channel, taking strong exception to Collins' decision. Lansdale argued that Diem's move against the Binh Xuyen had broad popular support. He also discounted the fears of Collins and U.S. Army Intelligence that Diem's troops would turn against the regime.

Collins returned to Washington for consultation, then flew back to Saigon with the impression that his views would be sustained. But in his absence Lansdale had obtained a reaffirmation of the policy of support for Diem. Furious, Collins accused Lansdale of "mutiny." But the die was cast. Assured of the complete backing of the United States Government, Diem crushed the Binh Xuyen and the other warlike sects.

Then, at Lansdale's urging, Diem agreed to hold a referendum designed to give the regime a popular legitimacy. The ballot presented a choice between Diem and Emperor Bao Dai, who had been discredited as a tool of the French. Diem polled 98 percent of the vote on October 23, 1955, and was declared President of Vietnam. His brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, was established as his official political strategist.

Some measure of stability had now been achieved in South Vietnam. But Diem and Nhu refused to grant political freedom to the opposition parties, despite Lansdale's warning that the country would be plagued by conspiracy if legitimate parties were not permitted to operate openly.

Lansdale made a special trip to Washington in an effort to induce the Dulles brothers to apply pressure on Diem to institute political reforms in South Vietnam. But Lansdale failed. He was told that it had been decided that Diem provided the only practical alternative to a Communist takeover, and that he was to be supported without qualification.

Overruled, Lansdale lost his influence as the unofficial emissary of the Invisible Government in Vietnam. Thereafter, the CIA took his place as the secret link with the Diem regime. A CIA man was ordered to establish liaison with Nhu. It was the start of an intimate relationship which was to last until 1963.

During the next few years the United States committed itself increasingly to the support of the regime. More than a billion dollars in military and economic aid was provided between 1955 and 1960. But it was not until 1961 that the commitment became complete.

In the early years of Diem's role the Communist Viet-Cong conducted only a hit-and-run guerrilla campaign against him. In 1959, however, the Vietcong operations were greatly expanded. Two theories have been advanced in explanation. The official theory of the State Department was that Diem was bringing off a political and economic "miracle" and the Communists could not bear the contrast to their bad showing in North Vietnam.

Diem's critics offered a conflicting theory. They claimed the populace had become so disaffected by Diem's repression that the Communists decided the time was ripe for action. In 1960 a group of young, discontented Army officers felt the same way. They attempted a coup but Diem put them down without serious difficulty.*2

In any event, conditions had so disintegrated by 1961 that Diem's government was master of only a third of the territory of South Vietnam. In May of that year President Kennedy sent Vice- President Johnson to Saigon.

On May 13 Johnson and Diem issued a joint communique stating that aid would be provided for Vietnam on an expanded and accelerated basis. The United States agreed to underwrite the cost of an increase in the Vietnamese Army from 150,000 to 170,000 men, and to equip and support the entire 68,000-man Civil Guard (armed police) and the 70,000-man Self-Defense Corps.

But the Vietcong continued to advance, and in October, 1961, Kennedy sent General Maxwell D. Taylor to make "an educated military guess" as to what would be needed to salvage the situation.

Taylor recommended a greatly increased program of military aid. He also saw an imperative need for reform within the Army. He cited the political activities of the top military, failure to delegate enough authority to field commanders, and discrimination against younger officers on political and religious grounds.

Diem balked at Taylor's reforms and implied he might turn elsewhere for aid. However, on December 7 he applied for assistance, and the United States again came to his support.

No limit was placed on the aid either in terms of money or of men. In effect, the United States committed itself to a massive build-up for an undeclared war. At the same time, the administration took great precautions to keep the build-up a secret, perhaps because it violated the letter of the Geneva Accords,*3 perhaps because of the domestic political danger if Americans were sent into another Asian war.

When the new U.S. Military Assistance Command was created on February 8, 1962, about 4,000 American military men were already serving secretly in Vietnam. However, the Pentagon refused to comment on the troop level and attempted to imply that the 685-man Geneva ceiling was still in effect.

Additional thousands of troops poured into Vietnam, but the Defense Department continued the deception until June. Then Rear Admiral Luther C. (Pickles) Heinz, who was coordinating the operation for Defense Secretary McNamara at the Pentagon, permitted press spokesmen to say that "several thousand" U.S. military men were in Vietnam on "temporary duty."

In January, 1963, McNamara provided the first official figure. In testimony before Congress he confirmed that 11,000 troops were in Vietnam. But the Pentagon quickly reverted to generalities; asked in July to comment on reports from Saigon that the troop level had reached 14,000, it said that was "about the right order of magnitude."

The Pentagon also went to great lengths to obscure the fact that U.S. military men were involved in combat -- leading troops, and flying helicopters and planes. The official view was that the Americans were in Vietnam purely in "an advisory and training capacity." Despite eyewitness reports to the contrary, the Pentagon insisted that American troops were firing only in self-defense.

Military information officers were forced to ludicrous extremes in denying the obvious. When an aircraft carrier sailed up the Saigon River jammed with helicopters, a public information officer was compelled to say: "I don't see any aircraft carrier."

There was a great deal more that was not seen. In 1961 a campaign had been quietly started to put 90 percent of South Vietnam's 15,000,000 people into 11,000 strategic hamlets or fortified villages. The program, patterned after the successful "new villages" of the British anti-guerrilla campaign in Malaya, was designed to protect the peasants against Vietcong terror.

Many claimed credit for introducing the strategic-hamlet idea to Vietnam, including Nhu, who said he launched it with the blessing of the CIA (a former CIA man ran the program for the Agency for International Development). By 1964 more than three fourths of the Vietnamese were listed as being protected by the hamlets. But many of the peasants were forced into the program against their will and many of the forts were easily penetrated by the Communists.

The Communists had also been successful in keeping open a supply route from North Vietnam. Although the Vietcong's best weapons were captured U.S. equipment, they received some additional supplies by infiltration through Communist-held Laos, which borders on both halves of Vietnam.

To cut the supply routes, the CIA decided to train the Montagnards, primitive mountain tribesmen, as scouts and border guards. They were induced to exchange their spears and bows and arrows for modern weapons, including Swedish Schneisers (light machine guns).

Between 1961 and the start of 1963 the cost of the Montagnard program rose from $150,000 to $4,500,000. The CIA achieved considerable success in sealing the border, but in the process perhaps created a Trojan horse: ten percent of the trained Montagnards were judged to be Vietcong sympathizers, and the Vietnamese, who regarded the tribesmen as subhumans, were fearful that the weapons eventually would be used against them.

The Montagnard training was carried out by the Vietnamese Special Forces, an elite corps created by the CIA along the lines of the U.S. Army Special Forces. The CIA organized the Special Forces for the regime well before the 1961 build-up and supported them at the rate of $3,000,000 a year. They were chosen for their toughness and rugged appearance. They were trained in airborne and ranger tactics and were originally designed to be used in raids into Laos and North Vietnam. But inevitably they fell under the control of Nhu, who held the bulk of them in Saigon as storm troopers for the defense of the regime.

By 1963 more than 16,000 American military men were in Vietnam. United States aid had reached $3,000,000,000, and was running at an average of $1,500,000 a day. The government declared itself confident that victory was in sight despite the popular discontent with Diem's rule.

Two Vietnamese Air Force pilots had bombed Diem's palace in February, 1962. But the State Department discounted the significance of the attack: "The question of how much popular support Diem enjoys should be considered in terms of how much popular support his opponents command. Neither of the recent non-Communist attempts [1960 and 1962] to overthrow him appeared to have any significant degree of popular support." [1]

Admiral Harry D. Felt, the commander of the U.S. forces in the Pacific, predicted the South Vietnamese would triumph over the Communists by 1966. And only a month before Diem was toppled, President Kennedy and the National Security Council stated that "the United States military task can be completed by the end of 1965." [2]

But there were skeptics. In 1963 Senator Mike Mansfield returned from a tour of Vietnam and declared:

"What is most disturbing is that Vietnam now appears to be, as it was [in 1955], only at the beginning of a beginning in coping with its grave inner problems. All of the current difficulties existed in 1955 along with hope and energy to meet them ... yet, substantially the same difficulties remain if indeed they have not been compounded." [3]

The GIs in the rice paddies summed it up in a slogan: "We can't win, but it's not absolutely essential to pick today to lose."

This slogan reflected the awareness of many Americans in Vietnam that Diem's popular support, always tenuous, was rapidly disintegrating. The discontent broke into the open on May 8, 1963, in Hue, Diem's ancestral home, when the Buddhists staged a demonstration against the regime's ban on the flying of their flag.

Diem's troops opened fire, killing nine marchers. And in an effort to arouse world opinion, Buddhist monks responded by burning themselves to death in the streets in a series of spectacular public protests. Madame Nhu, Diem's sister-in-law, ridiculed the suicides as politically inspired "monk barbecue shows."

Diem was warned privately that the United States would condemn his treatment of the Buddhists unless he redressed their grievances. But to all outward appearances it seemed as if the United States might be supporting the Buddhist repressions. For on August 2 Nhu sent the Special Forces in a raid on the Buddhist pagodas. Hundreds of Buddhists were jailed and scores were killed and wounded in a brutal attack by forces which many Vietnamese knew were supported by CIA money.

Immediately after the raids, Henry Cabot Lodge, the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 1960, arrived in Saigon to be the new ambassador, replacing Frederick E. Nolting, Jr., who had been closely identified with the regime. Lodge quickly made it clear to Diem that the United States wanted his brother and Madame Nhu removed from power. After nearly a decade of support for the regime, the United States was reassessing its position.

Even though the CIA decided to continue its $250,000-a-month subsidy to the Special Forces during September, the funds were cut off in October. And on October 4 the CIA station chief in Saigon, John H. Richardson, was recalled to Washington at Lodge's request.

Richardson, a dapper, bald man with heavy horn-rimmed glasses, had served as the CIA's personal link with Nhu. He was also close to most of the regime's top officials, including those in the secret police. From his small second-floor office in the American Embassy, Richardson directed the agency's multifarious activities in Vietnam. A hard liner, he had little use for Diem's opponents, and was the very symbol of the Invisible Government's commitment to the regime. As long as he remained in Vietnam, it was all but impossible to convince either Diem or his enemies of any change in United States policy.

When Richardson was recalled, many took it as evidence that the CIA had been operating on its own in Vietnam in defiance of orders from Washington. But President Kennedy assured a news conference on October 9 that the "CIA has not carried out independent activities but has operated under close control." The implication was clear that Richardson's recall reflected a shift in policy, not displeasure with insubordination.

The implication was not lost on Nhu. He charged on October 17 that the CIA was plotting with the Buddhists to overthrow the regime. "Day and night," he declared, "these people came and urged the Buddhists to stage a coup. It is incomprehensible to me why the CIA, which had backed a winning program, should reverse itself."

The coup against the regime came on November 1, but it was by the Army, not the Buddhists. Diem and Nhu were assassinated. The United States denied any complicity in the coup or the deaths. But Madame Nhu, who had been in the United States bitterly attacking the Kennedy Administration, indicated her belief that her husband and brother-in-law had been "treacherously killed with either the official or unofficial blessing of the American Government ... No one," she said, "can seriously believe in the disclaimer that the Americans have nothing to do with the present situation in Vietnam."

The United States repeated its denial. But at least one distinguished American remained uneasy. President Eisenhower sought assurances on the assassinations before floating a trial balloon for Ambassador Lodge as the Republican nominee for President in 1964:

"General Eisenhower wanted to be assured on one paramount question," said Felix Belair in the New York Times on December 7, 1963. "He wanted to know of the ambassador whether anyone would ever be able to charge, with any hope of making it stick, that he had had any responsibility, even indirectly, in the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam and of his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu.

"Mr. Lodge was emphatic on the point. He said he had feared for the personal safety of the two men if the military coup was successful in that country. He said there was irrefutable proof that he had twice offered them asylum in the United States Embassy and that President Diem had refused the offer for them both."

What was intriguing about this account was the statement that President Eisenhower found it necessary to make an inquiry of this nature. But the former President, after all, had an intimate understanding of the tactics and workings of the Invisible Government.

In his book, Mandate for Change, Eisenhower wrote: "I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indo-Chinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly 80 percent of the population would have voted for Ho Chi Minh."

*2 In April, 1963. at the start of the CIA's reassessment of its links with the regime, Nhu accused the agency of being involved in the 1960 uprising. But the commander of the rebels, Colonel Nguyen Chanh Thi, who fled to Cambodia, said U.S. intelligence men tried to discourage the coup and persuaded the rebels not to kill Diem.

*3 The United States did not formally subscribe to the Geneva Accords, which divided Indochina into Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam after Dienbienphu. But Bedell Smith, the delegate to the negotiations, declared the United States would abide by them. The Accords set a limit of 685 on the number of U.S. military men permitted in Indochina.

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