I am in the process of outlining my paper, but I have come in contact with an article printed in the New York Times dated 27 June 1963, that discusses a protest and accompanying photograph that the Times also ran on 27 June 1963. The article describes the protest held by eight Americans who were denouncing the government in Saigon, enraged at Diem’s treatment of Buddhists. Among the twelve American protestors was one Buddhist, eight Protestants, and three were Jewish. The article also identifies a request made to President Kennedy by the Prince of Cambodia for the United States to intervene in the South Vietnamese government’s mistreatment of Buddhists. President Kennedy apparently denied the request, calling it “inappropriate”.
This article is a tremendous find, and provides a twofold of information for my paper. First, I plan on using the protest of the twelve Americans to show how while many citizens did not fully understand the issues arising in Saigon, some did, and were outraged to see the misconduct by both Diem and his government, and the United States, who continued to back Diem. The protest illuminates not only disdain for the war (which was not uncommon) but also a worldly view of religion and politics – a view that many Americans undoubtedly shared. Perhaps even more important than the public uproar from the immolation was the decision of the Times to not only run the article, but a photo as well of the American protest. This leads me to believe that the Times may not has been as politically motivated as I had previously thought. While it remains factual that the Times turned down Browne’s image on the grounds of its disturbing portrayal, perhaps that was simply the only reason the image was not seen in the Times on 13 June 1963. In other words, political motivation may have taken a backseat to the shielding of the public from a graphic image. The last takeaway from the article is the small discussion of President Kennedy publically electing not to get involved with Diem’s mistreatment of the Buddhists. While the coup occurred later in 1963, it appears that in June of 1963, JFK still desired to allow Diem to govern as he saw fit. At this point, JFK seems content allowing Diem to remain as “the puppet who pulled his own strings”. The decision to remove Diem and remain further involved in Vietnam appears to have come after June of 1963.
12 U.S. Clergymen Assail Saigon on Religious Curbs
New York Times (1923-Current file); Jun 27, 1963; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2009) pg. 8