General Toan Was Assigned MR3 Commander

The following three cablegrams - two from the US Embassy in Saigon and one from the Secretary of State, commented about General Nguyen Van Toan's February 05, 1975 assignment as MR3 Commander.

05 February 1975

O R 051100Z FEB 75

FM AMEMBASSY SAIGON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2533

E.O. 11652: GDS
TAGS: PINT PINS PINR MILI VS PFOR PARM ICRC

SUBJ: EMBASSY SAIGON'S MISSION WEEKLY FOR JANUARY 30 - FEBRUARY 5, 1975 WEEKA ITEMS

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B. NEW COMMANDER FOR III CORPS

IN A SUDDEN CHANGE OF COMMAND, LTG NGUYEN VAN TOAN HAS BEEN DESIGNATED MR-3. COMMANDER IN RELIEF OF LTG DU QUOC DONG. THE TURNOVER BECAME EFFECTIVE FEBRUARY 5 AT A CEREMONY AT BIEN HOA. TOAN WAS COMMANDER OF MR-2 UNTIL HIS REASSIGNMENT IN NOVEMBER 1974 WHEN THREE OF THE FOUR CORPS COMMANDERS WERE CHANGED.

COMMENT: GENERAL TOAN'S TALENTS AS AN AGGRESSIVE MILITARY COMMANDER OBVIOUSLY WEIGHED HEAVILY IN HIS NEW APPOINTMENT. WHILE CHANGE OF COMMAND WAS SUDDEN, IT WAS NOT WHOLLY UNEXPECTED SINCE MILITARILY MR-3 HAS BEEN VERY HARD PRESSED RECENTLY. THE PROBABILITY OF CHANGE WAS UNDERSCORED BY THE FACT THAT LTC DONG, ONLY RECENTLY APPOINTED, HAD SHOWN INCREASING SIGNS OF BEING OUT OF HIS DEPTH.

07 February 1975

R 070043Z FEB 75

FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO ALL EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC DIPLOMATIC POSTS

E.O. 11652: N/A
TAGS: FOR, XC, US

SUBJECT: FEBRUARY 6 EA PRESS SUMMARY

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THIEU REPLACED COMMANDER OF VITAL MIL AREA AROUND SAIGON, LTGEN DONG, WITH LTGEN TOAN. DONG RECENTLY SUFFERED SIGNIFICANT REVERSES WITH LOSS OF PHUOC LONG PROVINCE AND IMPORTANT MOUNTAIN IN TAY NINH. TOAN WAS TRANSFERRED THREE MONTHS AGO AS GESTURE TO DEMANDS FOR CLEANUP OF ARMY AND HAS REPUTATION FOR CORRUPTION BUT ALSO KNOWN AS AGGRESSIVE COMMANDER (NYT).

17 February 1975

R 171004Z FEB 75

FM AMEMBASSY SAIGON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 2802

UNCLAS SAIGON 1771

E.O. 11652: N/A
TAGS: PINT VS

SUBJECT: NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE "THIEU SETS BACK HIS SAIGON OPPONENTS"

1. WE HAVE NOTED JAMES MARKHAM'S BYLINED NEW YORK TIMES STORY FROM SAIGON, PLAYED BACK IN WIRELESS FILE OF FEBRUARY 13, UNDER THE HEADLINES "THIEU SETS BACK HIS SAIGON OPPONENTS." THIS PARTICULAR STORY IS AN INTERESTING EXAMPLE OF PUBLIC DISTORTION OF THE HISTORICAL RECORD INSOFAR AS IT PERTAINS TO OPINIONS OF THIS MISSION DESPITE THIS EMBASSY'S WILLINGNESS TO ASSIST THE JOURNALIST CONCERNED SPECIFICALLY WITH HIS STORY.

2. THE STORY (REFERRING TO CHARGES OF CORRUPTION AGAINST GENERAL TOAN) SAYS "IN A MOVE KNOWN TO HAVE CHAGRINED MEMBERS OF THE AMERICAN MISSION MR. THIEU NAMED LT. GENERAL NGUYEN VAN TOAN TO HEAD THE IMPORTANT AND POLITICALLY SENSITIVE MILITARY REGION THAT SURROUNDS SAIGON." ABOUT A WEEK BEFORE THE STORY APPEARED ITS AUTHOR REQUESTED A BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY AN EMBASSY OFFICER ON CURRENT POLITICAL EVENTS IN VIETNAM. THE REQUEST WAS APPROVED IN ACCORDANCE WITH MISSION PROCEDURES AND THE BACKGROUND INTERVIEW TOOK PLACE ON FEBRUARY 7. AT THAT TIME THE THEME OF MR. MARKHAM'S STORY WAS DISCUSSED. FORTUNATELY THE EMBASSY BRIEFING OFFICER MADE A RECORD OF HIS BRIEFING WELL BEFORE THE STORY APPEARED. THAT RECORD SHOWS THAT ON THE SUBJECT OF GENERAL TOAN THE EMBASSY OFFICER TOLD THE A RESPONSE TO AN URGENT NEED FOR A PROVEN AND DEMONSTRABLY SUCCESSFUL CORPS COMMANDER TO MEET AN IMMEDIATE MILITARY THREAT." THIS IS OF COURSE EXACTLY THE TRUTH AND AT NO TIME HAS ANY RESPONSIBLE MISSION OFFICIAL (OR ANY US OFFICIAL WE KNOW OF) EXPRESSED "CHAGRIN" AT THIS PARTICULAR APPOINTMENT.

3. MR. MARKHAM'S STORY GOES ON TO SAY "IN 1972, WHEN MR. THIEU INDICATED THAT HE WAS GOING TO NAME GENERAL TOAN TO THE HIGHLANDS COMMAND, THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR. ELLSWORTH BUNKER, VIGOROUSLY BUT UNSUCCESSFULLY OPPOSED THE APPOINTMENT." THIS QUESTION WAS NEVER RAISED BY THE JOURNALIST DURING DISCUSSIONS WITH US MISSION OFFICIALS. THE AVAILABLE INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY AT THIS MISSION DOES NOT RECALL AMBASSADOR BUNKER HAVING "VIGOROUSLY OPPOSED" GENERAL TOAN'S APPOINTMENT IN 1972. ON THE CONTRARY THE AVAILABLE INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY AS WELL AS THE WRITTEN RECORD SHOWS THAT BOTH AMBASSADOR BUNKER AND GENERAL ABRAMS WELCOMED GENERAL TOAN'S APPOINTMENT TO MILITARY REGION II IN MAY 1972 PRECISELY FOR THE SAME REASON WHICH APPLIES TO HIS LATEST APPOINTMENT IN FEBRUARY 1975, I.E., HIS PROVEN EFFECTIVENESS AS A MILITARY COMMANDER IN A TOUGH SITUATION. WE WOULD HAVE HAD NO HESITATION IN MAKING THIS INFORMATION AVAILABLE TO THE NEW YORK TIMES HAD WE BEEN ASKED.

4. JOURNALISTIC FALSIFICATION OF THE HISTORICAL RECORD IS OF COURSE AN OLD STORY WHEN IT COMES TO VIETNAM. FOR THE SAKE OF THE TRUE RECORD THIS EPISODE IS REPORTED AND MAY PERHAPS BE USEFUL AS WE TRY TO RIGHT THE BALANCE.

LEHMANN

UNCLASSIFIED

These documents were declassified/released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 05 JUL 2006

Nguyen Van Tin
05 October 2008

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