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U.S. Advisers Express Shock and Dismay at Diem Regime’s Buddhist Crackdown

Aug. 22, 1963 - Some of the U.S. military advisers helping President Ngo Dinh Diem in his war against Communist guerrillas in South Vietnam expressed shock today at his crackdown on Buddhist leaders. “In one night, he lost all the good will that we had helped to build up here in the past eighteen months,” a U.S. captain said when he heard that Buddhist pagodas had been ransacked and that hundreds of monks and nuns had been arrested. One officer in the U.S. security force said: “Some Vietnamese Army officers are telling us that it is necessary to crack down on the Buddhists because they are influenced by the Communists. But from what I’ve seen, nearly all the people in Vietnam are Buddhists. If they’re Communists, what are we Americans doing here at all?” Americans riding into Saigon from an airfield last night were openly contemptuous of South Vietnamese troops who stood guard at all intersections to enforce martial law. One G.I. called out: “They have their bayonets and grenades ready to shoot girls, monks, and nuns. Why don’t they try shooting up some Viet Cong for a change?” The soldiers, who apparently could not understand English, waved at the G.I. and laughed.

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