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Ngo Dinh Diem

Ng nh Di m (; 3 January 1901 2 November 1963) was the first president of South Vietnam (1955 1963). In the wake of the French withdrawal from Indochina as a result of the 1954 Geneva Accords, Di m led the effort to create the Republic of Vietnam. Accruing considerable U.S. support due to his staunch anti-Communism, he achieved victory in a 1955 plebiscite, which was fraudulent.[1] A Roman Catholic, Di m pursued policies against the Republic's Montagnard natives and its Buddhist majority that were met with protests, epitomized in Malcolm Browne's Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of the self-immolation of Buddhist monk Th ch Qu ng c in 1963.[2]

Amid religious protests that garnered worldwide attention, Di m lost the backing of his U.S. patrons and was assassinated, along with his brother, Ng nh Nhu by Nguy n V n Nhung, the aide of ARVN General D ng V n Minh on 2 November 1963, during a coup d' tat that deposed his government.

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Family and childhood

Di m was born in Hu , the original capital of the Vietnamese Nguy n Dynasty. His family originated in the central Vietnamese village of Ph C m. Portuguese missionaries had converted his family to Roman Catholicism in the 17th century, so Di m was given a saint's name at birth, following the custom of the Catholic Church. His full name was Jean Baptiste Ng nh Di m. He would often claim that he had descended from a blue-blooded family of mandarins who were so revered that people believed that it was a great honour and good luck to be buried alongside his ancestors. Most historians dismiss this as false and believe that his family were of low rank until his father passed the imperial examinations.

His father, Ng nh Kh , scrapped plans to become a Roman Catholic priest and became a mandarin and counselor to Emperor Th nh Th i during the French colonisation. He rose to become the minister of the rites and chamberlain, and keeper of the eunuchs. Kh had six sons and three daughters by his second wife, whom he married after his first died childless. Devoutly Roman Catholic, Kh took his entire family to Mass every morning. The third of six sons, Di m was christened Jean-Baptiste in the cathedral in Hu . In 1907, the French deposed the emperor on the pretext of insanity, because of his complaints about the colonisation. Kh retired in protest and became a farmer. Di m laboured in the family's rice fields while studying at a French Catholic school, and later entered a private school started by his father. At age fifteen he followed his elder brother, Ng nh Th c, later to become Vietnam's highest ranking Catholic bishop, into a monastery. After a few months he left, finding monastic life too rigorous.

At the end of his secondary schooling, his examination results at the French lyc e in Hu saw him offered a scholarship to Paris but declined to contemplate becoming a priest. He dropped the idea, believing it to be too rigorous. He moved to Hanoi to study at the School of Public Administration and Law, a French school that trained Vietnamese bureaucrats. It was there that he had the only romantic relationship of his life when he fell in love with one of his teacher's daughters. After she persisted with her vocation, entering a convent, he remained celibate.[3][4]

Early career

After graduating at the top of his class in 1921, Di m followed in the footsteps of his eldest brother, Ng nh Kh i, joining the civil service. Starting from the lowest rank of mandarin, Di m steadily rose. He first served at the royal library in Hu , and within one year was the district chief, presiding over seventy villages. Di m was promoted to be a provincial chief at the age of 25, overseeing 300 villages. Di m's rise was helped by Kh i's marriage to the daughter of Nguy n H u B i, the Catholic head of the Council of Ministers. B i was highly regarded among the French, and Di m's religious and family ties impressed him. The French were impressed by his work ethic but were irritated by his frequent calls to grant more autonomy to Vietnamese. Di m said that he contemplated resigning but encouragement from the populace convinced him to persist. He first encountered communists distributing propaganda while riding horseback through the region near Qu ng Tr . Di m involved himself in anti-communist activities for the first time, printing his own pamphlets.

In 1929, he helped to round up communist agitators in his administrative area. He was rewarded with the promotion to the governorship of B nh Thu n Province, and in 1930 and 1931 suppressed the first peasant revolts organised by the communists, in collaboration with French forces. During the violent events, many villagers were raped and murdered.[5] In 1933, with the return of B o i to ascend the throne, Di m was appointed by the French to be his interior minister following lobbying by B i. After calling for the French to introduce a Vietnamese legislature, he resigned after three months in office when this was rejected. He was stripped of his decorations and titles and threatened with arrest.[3][6]

For the next decade, Di m lived as a private citizen with his family, although he was kept under surveillance. He was to have no formal job for 21 years. He spent his time on reading, meditating, attending church, gardening, hunting and amateur photography. A conservative by nature, Di m confined his nationalist activities to occasional trips to Saigon to meet with Phan B i Ch u. With the start of the Second World War in the Pacific, he attempted to persuade the invading Japanese forces to declare independence for Vietnam in 1942 but was ignored. He founded a secret political party, the Association for the Restoration of Great Vietnam. When its existence was discovered in the summer of 1944, the French declared Di m to be a subversive and ordered his arrest. He fled to Saigon disguised as a Japanese officer.

In 1945, the Japanese offered him the premiership of a puppet regime under B o i which they organised upon leaving the country. He declined initially, but regretted his decision and attempted to reclaim the offer. B o had already given the post to another candidate and Di m avoided the stigma of being a collaborationist. In September 1945, after the Japanese withdrawal, H Ch Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, his Vi t Minh began fighting the French. Di m attempted to travel to Hu to dissuade B o i from joining H , but was arrested by the Vi t Minh along the way and exiled to a highland village near the border. He might have died of malaria, dysentery and influenza had the local tribesmen not nursed him back to health. Six months later, he was taken to meet H in Hanoi, but refused to join the Vi t Minh, assailing H for the death of his brother, Kh i, who was reportedly buried alive by Vi t Minh cadres.[3][6]

Di m continued to attempt to gather support for himself on an anti-Vi t Minh platform. Despite having little success, H was sufficiently irritated to order Di m's arrest, which Di m narrowly evaded. Di m was given a respite in November 1946 when clashes between the French and the Vi t Minh escalated into full scale war, forcing the Vi t Minh to divert their resources. Di m then moved south to the Saigon region to live with Th c. Di m co-founded the Vietnam National Alliance, which called for France to grant Vietnam dominion status similar to the Commonwealth of Nations. The alliance was sufficient to generate support to fund newspapers in Hanoi and Saigon respectively. Both were shut down; the editor in Hanoi was arrested and hit men were hired to kill his Saigon counterpart.

Di m's activities garnered substantial publicity and when France decided to make concessions to placate nationalist agitators, they asked him to lobby B o i to join them. Di m gave up when i made a deal which he felt to be soft, and returned to Hu . In the meantime, the French had started the State of Vietnam and Di m refused B o i's offer to become the Prime Minister. He then published a new manifesto in newspapers proclaiming a third force different to communism and French colonialism, but raised little interest. In 1950, the Vi t Minh lost patience and sentenced him to death in absentia, and the French refused to protect him. Ho's cadres tried to kill him while he was traveling to visit his elder brother Th c, bishop of the V nh Long diocese in the Mekong Delta. Di m left Vietnam in 1950.[3][6]

Exile

Di m applied for permission to travel to Rome for the Holy Year celebrations at the Vatican. After gaining French permission he left in August with Th c, apparently destined to become a politically irrelevant figure. Before going to Europe, Di m went to Japan, where he intended to meet C ng to enlist support to seize power. Neither this nor an attempt to woo help from General Douglas MacArthur, the American supreme commander in occupied Japan, yielded meetings. A friend managed to organise a meeting with Wesley Fishel, an American academic who had done consultancy work for the United States government. Fishel was a proponent of the anti-colonial, anti-communist third force doctrine in Asia and was impressed with Di m and helped him organise contacts and meetings in the United States to enlist support.[7] It was an opportune time for Di m, with the outbreak of the Korean War and McCarthyism helping to make Vietnamese anti-communists a sought after commodity in America. Di m was given a reception at the State Department with the Acting Secretary of State James E. Webb. He reportedly gave a weak performance, in which Th c did most of the talking. As a result, no further audiences with notable officials were afforded to him. However, he did meet Francis Cardinal Spellman, regarded as the most politically powerful cleric of his time. Spellman had studied with Th c in Rome in the 1930s and was to become one of Di m's most powerful advocates.

Di m obtained an audience with Pope Pius XII in Rome before further lobbying across Europe. He attempted to convince B o i to make him the Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam but was turned down. Di m returned to the United States to continue lobbying and in 1951 was able to secure an audience with Secretary of State Dean Acheson. During the next three years he lived at Spellman's Maryknoll seminary in Lakewood Township, New Jersey and occasionally at another seminary in Ossining, New York.[8]

Spellman helped Di m to garner support among right-wing and Catholic circles. Di m toured the East Coast, speaking at universities, arguing that Vietnam could only be saved for the "free world" if the US sponsored a government of nationalists who were opposed to both the Vi t Minh and the French. He was appointed as a consultant to Michigan State University's Government Research Bureau, where Fishel worked. MSU was administering government-sponsored assistance programs for cold war allies, and Di m helped Fishel to lay the foundation for a program later implemented in South Vietnam, the Michigan State University Vietnam Advisory Group. As French power in Vietnam declined, Di m's support in the U.S. rose.[9]

With the fall of i n Bi n Ph in 1954 to the Viet Minh, French control of Vietnam collapsed and B o i needed foreign help to sustain his State of Vietnam. Realising Di m's popularity among American policymakers, he chose Di m's youngest brother Ng nh Luy n, who was studying in Europe at the time, to be part of his delegation at the 1954 Geneva Conference to determine the future of Indochina. Luyen represented B o i in his dealings with the Americans, who understood this to be an expression of interest in Di m. With the backing of the Eisenhower administration, B o i named Di m as the Prime Minister. The appointment was widely condemned by French officials, who felt that Di m was incompetent, with the Prime Minister Mendes-France declaring Di m to be a "fanatic".

The Geneva accords resulted in Vietnam being partitioned temporarily at the 17th parallel, pending elections in 1956 to reunify the country. The Vietminh controlled the north, while the French backed State of Vietnam controlled the south with Di m as the Prime Minister. French Indochina was to be dissolved at the start of 1955. Di m's South Vietnamese delegation chose not to sign the accords, refusing to have half the country under communist rule, but the agreement went into effect regardless. Di m arrived at T n S n Nh t airport in Saigon on 26 June where only a few hundred people turned out to greet him, mainly Catholics. He managed only one wave after getting into his vehicle and did not smile.[10]

Consolidation of power

The accords allowed for freedom of movement between the two zones until October 1954; this was to put a large strain on the south. Di m had only expected 10,000 refugees, but by August, there were over 200,000 waiting in Hanoi and Haiphong to be evacuated; the migration helped to strengthen Di m's political base of support. Before the partition, the majority of Vietnam's Catholic population lived in the north. After the borders were sealed, this majority was now under Di m's rule. The US Navy program Operation Passage to Freedom saw up to one million North Vietnamese move south, most of them Catholics. The CIA's Edward Lansdale, who had been posted to help Di m strengthen his rule,[11] led a propaganda campaign to encourage as many refugees to move south as possible. Di m also used slogans such as "Christ has gone south" and "the Virgin Mary had departed from the North", alleging anti-Catholic persecution under H Ch Minh. Over 60% of northern Catholics moved to Di m's South Vietnam, providing him with a source of loyal support.

Di m's position at the time was weak; B o i disliked Di m and appointed him mainly to political imperatives. The French saw him as hostile and hoped that his rule would collapse. At the time, the French Expeditionary Corps was the most powerful military force in the south; Di m's Vietnamese National Army was essentially organized and trained by the French. Its officers were installed by the French and the chief of staff General Nguy n V n Hinh was a French citizen; Hinh loathed Di m and frequently disobeyed him. Di m also contended with two religious sects, the Cao i and H a H o, who wielded private armies in the Mekong Delta, with the Cao i estimated to have 25,000 men. The Vi t Minh was also estimated to have control over a third of the country. The situation was worse in the capital, where the B nh Xuy n organized crime syndicate boasted an army of 40,000 and controlled a vice empire of brothels, casinos, extortion rackets, and opium factories unparalleled in Asia. B o i had given the B nh Xuy n control of the national police for $1,250,000 USD, creating a situation that the Americans likened to Chicago under Al Capone in the 1920s. In effect, Di m's control did not extend beyond his palace. In August, Hinh launched a series of public attacks on Di m, proclaiming that South Vietnam needed a "strong and popular" leader; Hinh bragged that he was preparing a coup. This was thwarted when Lansdale arranged overseas holiday invitations for Hinh's officers. Fearing Di m's collapse, nine members of his government resigned during Hinh's abortive bid for power. Despite its failure, the French continued to encourage Di m's enemies in an attempt to destabilize him.

Establishment of the Republic of Vietnam

Di m's appointment came after the French had been defeated at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and were ready to withdraw from Indochina. At the start of 1955, French Indochina was dissolved, leaving Di m in temporary control of the south.[12] A referendum was scheduled for 23 October 1955 to determine the future direction of the south. It was contested by B o i, the Emperor, advocating the restoration of the monarchy, while Di m ran on a republican platform. The elections were held, with Di m's brother and confidant Ng nh Nhu, the leader of the family's C n Lao Party, which supplied Di m's electoral base, organising and supervising the elections.[13][14] Campaigning for B o i was prohibited, and the result was rigged, with i supporters attacked by Nhu's workers.

Di m recorded 98.2% of the vote, including 605,025 votes in Saigon, where only 450,000 voters were registered. Di m's tally also exceeded the registration numbers in other districts.[13][15] Three days later, Di m proclaimed the formation of the Republic of Vietnam, naming himself President. Under the 1954 Geneva Accords, Vietnam was to undergo elections in 1956 to reunify the country. Di m, noting that South Vietnam was not a party to the convention, canceled these. Criticising the Communists, he justified the electoral cancellation by claiming that the 1956 elections would be "meaningful only on the condition that they are absolutely free", despite his numerically impossible tally in the 1955 contest.[16]

After coming under pressure from within the country and the United States, Di m agreed to hold legislative elections in August 1959 for South Vietnam. Newspapers were not allowed to publish names of independent candidates or their policies, and political meetings exceeding five people were prohibited. Candidates were disqualified for petty reasons such as acts of vandalism against campaign posters. In the rural areas, candidates who ran were threatened using charges of conspiracy with the Vi t C ng, which carried the death penalty. Phan Quang n, the government's most prominent critic, was allowed to run. Despite the deployment of 8,000 ARVN plainclothes troops into his district to vote, n still won by a ratio of 6 1. The busing of soldiers occurred across the country, and when the new assembly convened, n was arrested.[17][18]

Presidency

Ng nh Di m, accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, arrives at Washington National Airport in 1957. Di m is shown shaking the hand of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Madame Nhu, the wife of Di m's younger brother Nhu, was South Vietnam's First Lady, and a Catholic convert herself, led the way in Di m's programs to reform Saigon society in accordance with Catholic values. Brothels and opium dens were closed, divorce and abortion made illegal, and adultery laws strengthened. Di m won a street war with the private army of the B nh Xuy n organised crime syndicate of the Cholon brothels and gambling houses who had enjoyed special favors under the French and B o i. He further dismantled the private armies of the Cao i and H a H o religious sects, which controlled parts of the Mekong Delta. Di m was passionately anti-Communist. Tortures and killings of communist suspects were committed on a daily basis. The death toll was put at around 50,000 with 75,000 imprisonments, and Di m's effort extended beyond communists to anti-communist dissidents and anti-corruption whistleblowers.[19]

As opposition to Di m's rule in South Vietnam grew, a low-level insurgency began to take shape there in 1957. Finally, in January 1959, under pressure from southern Viet Cong cadres who were being successfully targeted by Di m's secret police, Hanoi's Central Committee issued a secret resolution authorizing the use of armed insurgency in the South with supplies and troops from the North. On 20 December 1960, under instructions from Hanoi, southern communists established the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF) in order to overthrow the government of the south. The NLF was made up of two distinct groups: South Vietnamese intellectuals who opposed the government and were nationalists; and communists who had remained in the south after the partition and regrouping of 1954 as well as those who had since come from the north, together with local peasants. While there were many non-communist members of the NLF, they were subject to the control of the party cadres and increasingly side-lined as the conflict continued; they did, however, enable the NLF to portray itself as a primarily nationalist, rather than communist, movement, despite being in almost direct control by the Northern regime. The cornerstone of Di m's counterinsurgency effort was the Strategic Hamlet Program, which called for the consolidation of 14,000 villages of South Vietnam into 11,000 secure hamlets, each with its own houses, schools, wells, and watchtowers. The hamlets were intended to isolate the NLF from the villages, their source of recruiting soldiers, supplies and information.[20]

Assassination attempts

The communists in southern Vietnam resolved that "if we are able to kill Ng nh Di m, the leader of the current fascists dictatorial puppet government, the situation would develop along lines more favourable to our side."[21] On 22 February 1957, when Di m made a visit to an economic fair in Bu n Ma Thu t, a communist cadre named Ha Minh Tri carried out a directive to assassinate the president. He approached Di m and fired a pistol from close range, but missed, hitting the Secretary for Agrarian Reform's left arm. The weapon jammed and security overpowered Tri before he was able to fire another shot. Di m was unmoved by the incident.[22] There was a further attempt to assassinate Di m and his family in 1962 when two air force officers acting in unison bombed the presidential palace.

Land policy

During the 1946 54 war against the French Union forces, the Vi t Minh, having gained control of parts of southern Vietnam, initiated land reform. During the period of war, rent collection, which hovered at around 50 70%, was impossible in some parts of the country, or the Vi t Minh had compelled landlords to seek safety in the city and confiscated their land, distributing it to the peasants. When Di m came to power, he reversed these re-allocations as upper-class landowners were part of his ideological support base. In the Mekong Delta, 0.025% of landowners owned 40% of the land; most of the land was owned by absentee landlords and worked by tenant farmers.

This generated resentment among the populace, as land ownership was highly valued by Vietnamese society. Di m declared that landlords could collect no more than 25%, but this was not enforced and in some cases the rent levels were higher than those under French colonisation. Under U.S. pressure, in 1956, he limited individual land holdings to 1.15 km , and reimbursed the landlords for the excess, which he sold to peasants. Many landlords evaded the redistribution by transferring the property to the name of family members. Additionally, the ceiling limit was more than 30 times that allowed in South Korea and Taiwan, and the of the Catholic Church s landownings in Vietnam were exempted. As a result, only 13% of the South Vietnam s land was redistributed, and by the end of his regime, only 10% of the tenants had received any land, at a high cost. This policy failure generated anger, and in turn sympathy to the Vi t Minh who had given the peasants free land. At the end of Di m s rule, 10% of the population owned 55% of the land.[23]

Believing the central highlands were of strategic importance to the Vi t C ng or subject to a potential invasion by North Vietnam, Di m decided to construct a Maginot Line of settlements. The area, inhabited by Montagnard indigenous people, had been largely allowed local autonomy in previous times, and the locals distrusted ethnic Vietnamese. Di m initiated a program of internal migration where 210,000 Vietnamese, mainly Catholics, were moved to Montagnard land in fortified settlements.[24] When the Montagnards protested, Di m s forces confiscated their spears and bows, which they used to hunt for daily sustenance.[25] Since then, and to the present day, Vietnam has been faced with a Montagnard insurgent separatist movement.[26]

Government policy towards Buddhists

In a country where surveys of the religious composition estimated the Buddhist majority to be between 70 and 90 percent,[27][28][29][30][31][32][33] Di m s policies generated claims of religious bias. As a member of the Vietnamese Catholic minority, he is widely regarded by historians as having pursued pro-Catholic policies that antagonized many Buddhists, since the Catholic community is virulently anti-Communist. Specifically, the government was regarded as being biased towards Catholics in public service and military promotions, as well as the allocation of land, business favors and tax concessions.[34] Di m once told a high-ranking officer, forgetting that the man was from a Buddhist background, Put your Catholic officers in sensitive places. They can be trusted. Many officers in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam converted to Catholicism in the belief that their military prospects depended on it.[35]

The distribution of weapons to village self-defense militias intended to repel Vi t C ng guerrillas saw weapons only given to Catholics. Buddhists in the army were often denied promotion if they refused to convert to Catholicism.[36] Some Buddhist villages converted en masse in order to receive aid or avoid being forcibly resettled by Di m s regime.[37] The Catholic Church was the largest landowner in the country, and the private status that was imposed on Buddhism by the French, which required official permission to conduct public Buddhist activities, was not repealed by Di m.[38]

Catholics were also de facto exempt from the corv e labor that the government obliged all citizens to perform; U.S. aid was disproportionately distributed to Catholic majority villages. Under Di m, the Catholic Church enjoyed special exemptions in property acquisition, and in 1959, Di m dedicated his country to the Virgin Mary.[39] The white and gold Vatican flag was regularly flown at all major public events in South Vietnam.[40] U.S. Aid supplies tended to go to Catholics, and the newly constructed Hu and Dalat universities were placed under Roman Catholic authority to foster a Catholic-skewed academic environment.[41]

Buddhist crisis

The regime s relations with the U.S. worsened during 1963, as discontent among South Vietnam s Buddhist majority was simultaneously heightened. In May, in the heavily Buddhist central city of Hu , where Di m s elder brother was the archbishop, the Buddhist majority was prohibited from displaying Buddhist flags during Vesak celebrations commemorating the birth of Gautama Buddha when the government cited a regulation prohibiting the display of non-government flags.[42] A few days earlier, however, Catholics had been encouraged to fly religious flags at another celebration. This led to a protest led by Th ch Tr Quang against the government, which was suppressed by Di m s forces, killing nine unarmed civilians. Di m and his supporters blamed the Vi t C ng for the deaths and claimed the protesters were responsible for the violence.[43][44] Although the provincial chief expressed sorrow for the killings and offered to compensate the victims families, they resolutely denied that government forces were responsible for the killings and blamed the Vi t C ng.[45]

The Buddhists pushed for a five point agreement: freedom to fly religious flags, an end to arbitrary arrests, compensation for the Hu victims, punishment for the officials responsible and religious equality. Di m labeled the Buddhists as damn fools for demanding something that, according to him, they already enjoyed. He banned demonstrations, and ordered his forces to arrest those who engaged in civil disobedience. On 3 June 1963, protesters attempted to march towards the T m pagoda. Six waves of ARVN tear gas and attack dogs failed to disperse the crowds, and finally brownish-red liquid chemicals were doused on praying protesters, resulting in 67 being hospitalised for chemical injuries. A curfew was subsequently enacted.

thumb The turning point came in June when a Buddhist monk, Th ch Qu ng c, set himself on fire in the middle of a busy Saigon intersection in protest of Di m s policies; photos of this event were disseminated around the world, and for many people these pictures came to represent the failure of Di m s government.[46] A number of other monks publicly self-immolated, and the U.S. grew increasingly frustrated with the unpopular leader s public image in both Vietnam and the United States. Di m used his conventional anti-communist argument, identifying the dissenters as communists. As demonstrations against his government continued throughout the summer, the special forces loyal to Di m s brother, Nhu, conducted a brutal August raid of the X L i pagoda in Saigon. Pagodas were vandalised, monks beaten, the cremated remains of Th ch Qu ng c, which included his heart, a religious relic, were confiscated.[47]

Simultaneous raids were carried out across the country, with the T m pagoda in Hu looted, the statue of Gautama Buddha demolished and a body of a deceased monk confiscated.[48] When the populace came to the defense of the monks, the resulting clashes saw 30 civilians killed and 200 wounded.[48] In all 1,400 monks were arrested, and some thirty were injured across the country. The U.S. indicated their disapproval of Di m s administration when ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. visited the pagoda ex post facto.[49] No further mass Buddhist protests occurred during the remainder of Di m s rule (which would amount to less than five months).[50]

During this time, Di m s sister-in-law, Madame Nhu, a Catholic convert and former Buddhist, the de facto first lady because of Di m s unmarried status, inflamed the situation by mockingly applauding the suicides, referring to them as barbecues , stating, If the Buddhists want to have another barbecue, I will be glad to supply the gasoline. [51] The pagoda raids stoked widespread public disquiet in Saigon. Students at Saigon University boycotted classes and rioted, which led to arrests, imprisonments and the closure of the university; this was repeated at Hu University. When high school students demonstrated, Di m arrested them as well; over 1,000 students from Saigon s leading high school, most of them children of Saigon civil servants, were sent to re-education camps, including, reportedly, children as young as five, on charges of anti-government graffiti.

Di m s foreign minister V V n M u resigned, shaving his head like a Buddhist monk in protest.[52] When he attempted to leave the country on a religious pilgrimage to India, he was detained and kept under house arrest.

Coup and assassination

180px

Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., the American ambassador to South Vietnam, refused to meet with Di m. Upon hearing that a coup d tat was being designed by ARVN generals led by General D ng V n Minh, and supported by the CIA, Lodge gave secret assurances to the generals that the U.S. would not interfere. Lucien Conein, a CIA operative, provided a group of South Vietnamese generals with US$40,000 to carry out the coup with the promise that U.S. forces would make no attempt to protect Di m.[53] D ng V n Minh and his co-conspirators overthrew the government on 1 November 1963 in a swift coup. On 1 November, with only the palace guard remaining to defend Di m and his younger brother, Nhu, the generals called the palace offering Di m exile if he surrendered. However, that evening, Di m and his entourage escaped via an underground passage to Cholon, where they were captured the following morning, 2 November. The brothers were assassinated together in the back of an armoured personnel carrier with a bayonet and revolver by Captain Nguy n V n Nhung while en route to the Vietnamese Joint General Staff headquarters.[54] Di m was buried in an unmarked grave in a cemetery next to the house of the U.S. ambassador.[55]

Aftermath

Upon learning of Di m s ouster and death, H Ch Minh reportedly said, I can scarcely believe the Americans would be so stupid. [56] The North Vietnamese Politburo was more explicit, predicting: The consequences of the 1 November coup d tat will be contrary to the calculations of the U.S. imperialists   ... Di m was one of the strongest individuals resisting the people and Communism. Everything that could be done in an attempt to crush the revolution was carried out by Di m. Di m was one of the most competent lackeys of the U.S. imperialists  ... Among the anti-Communists in South Vietnam or exiled in other countries, no one has sufficient political assets and abilities to cause others to obey. Therefore, the lackey administration cannot be stabilized. The coup d' tat on 1 November 1963 will not be the last. [56]

Di m s presidency was regarded as having the most political, economic and social stability seen throughout South Vietnam s history, with the level of violence and deaths held starkly lower compared to the Vietnam War period. The South Vietnamese economy rapidly grew under his presidency.[57] After Di m s assassination, South Vietnam was unable to establish a stable government and numerous coups took place during the first several years after his death. While the U.S. continued to influence South Vietnam s government, the assassination bolstered North Vietnamese attempts to characterize the South Vietnamese as supporters of colonialism.[58]

See also

References

Sources

Further reading

External links

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