A U.S. national intelligence estimate prepared for President John F. Kennedy declares that South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and the Republic of Vietnam are facing an extremely critical situation. As evidence, the reports cites that more than half of the rural region surrounding Saigon is under communist control and points to a barely failed coup against Diem the preceding November.
Not only were Diem’s forces losing to the Viet Cong on the battlefield, the report alleged that he had not effectively dealt with the discontent among a large segment of South Vietnamese society, which had given rise to the coup against him. The report questioned Diem’s ability to rally the people against the communists. Kennedy wondered what to do about Diem, who was staunchly anticommunist but did not have a lot of credibility with the South Vietnamese people because he was Catholic while the country was predominantly Buddhist. Kennedy and his advisers tried to convince Diem to put in place land reform and other measures that might build popular support, but Diem steadfastly refused to make any meaningful concessions to his opponents. He was assassinated in November 1963 during a coup by a group of South Vietnamese generals.