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Khanh Embarks on Morale-Raising Trip in South Vietnam

Feb. 2, 1964 - Major General Nguyen Khanh (right), the new leader of South Vietnam’s military Government, left Saigon today by hlicopter for a three-hour morale-raising visit to peasants and soldiers in the midst of an anti-guerrilla operation. Continuing the energetic pace with which he has taken up the reins of government since seizing power three days ago, Khanh turned his trip into just the sort of psychological gesture Americans had urged upon Vietnam’s former leaders.

Unlike his predecessors, the gregarious 36-year-old general needed no urging. Heavy artillery, firing into a Communist-infested marshland, frequently drowned out the stocky young general’s words as he joked with village children, gave pep talks to troops, and stressed his determination to do a better job fighting the Communists than did the military junta that preceded him.

“The essential point for defeating the Communists is to have the rural population with us,” Khanh said, “not just the people of Saigon. Here is where the people are suffering and need to be protected.”

American advisers and observers in South Vietnam, hearing Khanh argue points they have been trying to make for months, reacted favorably. “We know this man is a general,” said one American. “Maybe he can pull something off.”

Meanwhile, in Kontum, 260 miles northeast of Saigon, a Viet Cong assassination squad slashed its way into an American military compound early today, hurling grenades into an officer’s billet and wounding one U.S. officer. It was the first time Communist guerrillas had attempted such a daring raid in force on an American compound. Two of the guerrillas were shot dead by a sentry, Specialist 4, Gale Flinn, 24, of Fowler, Kansas. Nine Vietnamese civil guards who were detailed to guard the compound were absent without leave during the incident. An investigation was underway to determine if they were part of the plot.


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