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One man’s letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette would forever change the way I viewed the Vietnam War.

By David Mould: Updated October 17th, 2017

Ambassador Adolph W. Schmidt
U.S. Ambassador to Canada: 1969 - 1974

Shortly after the publication of former Secretary of State Robert McNamara’s book: In Retrospect, The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (published in 1995) former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Adolph W. Schmidt, penned a letter to the Editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that carried the following headline:

“McNamara does not reveal the real cause for the U.S. participation in the Vietnam War.”

It went on to say:

“It is honorable for the sake of history that Robert McNamara was willing to make this admission, but most regrettable that he was not able to reveal the real cause for the United States’ participation in that tragic conflict. The real cause for our involvement was revealed by an earlier author, John Cooney, in 1984 in his best-selling book, The American Pope: The Life and Times of Francis Cardinal Spellman.

“Cooney concluded that the Vietnam War became an ‘American cause’ in large measure because of Cardinal Spellman’s public and private lobbying. Even before the France defeat at Dienbienphu (1954), the United States had underwritten 80% of the French War costs. Malachi Martin, a former Jesuit priest who worked in the Vatican during the years of escalating U.S. commitment to Vietnam, said: ‘Spellman’s Vietnam stance was in accordance with the wishes of Pope Pius XII.’ The pope was concerned about communism making more gains at the expense of the Roman Catholic minority of 10% in Vietnam.

Mixing Church & State
The Spellman Diem Connection

“Spellman discovered Diem when Diem was a student at the Catholic Maryknoll Seminary in Ossining, New York. Spellman nurtured Diem’s rise to power in a country 80 percent Buddhist, and with Joseph Kennedy (the president’s father) formed a pro-Diem lobby in Washington. I also recall the unusual circumstances of Diem’s first state visit to Washington in 1961. Instead of staying at Blair House, he went to Cardinal Spellman’s house in New York and then was led by him into the Oval Office in the White House to meet President Kennedy.

“The Vatican’s ‘holy war’ to save the only Catholic government on the Asian mainland cost 58,000 American and 2 million Vietnamese lives. The full story of this American tragedy remains still to be published.”


While Cardinal Spellman and Joseph Kennedy (the President’s father) may indeed have been the movers and shakers that ultimately put Diem in power in 1954; President Kennedy, on the other hand ― perhaps even before his own election in 1961― would have had ample reason to second guess the arrangement. At the expense of the Buddhist majority, President Diem and his repressive religious policies were painting a horrible picture about Catholic rule in Vietnam.

Desperate monks eventually took matters into their own hands by setting themselves ablaze. The first of these would be Thích Quảng Đức, on June 11th, 1963.

The Picture Seen Around The World
Thích Quảng Đức Protests Religious Persecution.

Here, according to several news sources, are the monk’s last words.

“Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngô Đình Diệm to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the sangha and the lay Buddhists to organize in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism.”

           Said President Kennedy:

“No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one.”

One of the reporters who witnessed the scene, David Halberstam of the NY Times, wrote:

“I was to see that sight again, but once was enough.  Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring.  In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly.  Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering.  I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think ... As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him.”

To these monks, Catholic persecution of the Buddhists, through the Diem regime, needed to be exposed for what it was ― i.e., nothing short of what Ambassador Schmidt declared the coming full-scale battle to be ― a “Holy War.”

Three years earlier (on September 12th, 1960, to be precise) concerned about the anti-Catholic sentiments being whipped up against his own Presidential campaign, Senator John F. Kennedy, while addressing the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, laid out his views of the type of America he envisioned.  In that speech are the following words:

"I Believe in America"
John F. Kennedy

“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

“For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

“Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end--where all men and all churches are treated as equal--where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice--where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind--and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood …”

With pictures of the self-immolation of Buddhist monks flashing across American television sets, the writing was on the wall. The Catholic President, whom his father and Cardinal Spellman helped install, had to go. Had the Diem regime continued much longer, President Kennedy’s own presidency might have been imperiled.

Is it any surprise, therefore, that after finally turning his back on President Diem, who (according to all the history I’ve watched on PBS, or on the History Channel, or read on-line) was assassinated in a CIA backed coup on November 2nd, 1963 … is it any surprise, I ask, that within 20 days of President Diem’s assassination, President John F. Kennedy, who had to have authorized the coup, was himself assassinated?

Whom had he offended?

While you are here …

Friend, not everyone will take lightly the disclosure of unpopular truth. There’s an inherent risk in running stories like these – a risk discovered most recently in Malta.

Bottom Line: In spite of the risk― if Ambassador Schmidt’s thesis is accurate (as I believe it is), then shouldn’t the world know?

  • Shouldn’t it have known decades ago?
  • And shouldn’t it know now – especially now that the movement to convene a radical Constitutional Convention in the U.S. quietly gains momentum?

Do we really want an America in which church and state speak as one?

On the separation of church & state…
America's Founding Fathers Got It Right.

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