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1963: Ngo Dinh Diem

November 2nd, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1963, Ngo Dinh Diem, the first president of South Vietnam, was executed in the back of an armored personnel carrier along with his younger brother and secret police chief, Ngo Dinh Nhu, the day after their government had been overthrown in a military coup.

Born into the Buddhist country’s Catholic elite, Diem was brought up as a French colonial administrator but fled Vietnam in 1950 under a death sentence from Ho Chi Minh’s nascent Vietminh. Over several years living and lecturing in the United States, he established his anti-communist bona fides with influential conservatives and was returned to his native country as Prime Minister when the U.S. inherited the foundering French war against nationalist guerrillas.

Fearing communist victory at the polls, Diem blocked scheduled 1956 elections to unify North and South Vietnam, making an interim division permanent. But Diem made an inconsistent American client, often spurning Washington’s advice and alienating the Buddhist majority with heavy-handed authoritarianism that eventually prompted Buddhist monks to begin public self-immolation as a form of protest.

The government responded by arresting monks.

By now more a liability than an asset, Diem was ousted with the blessing of a fellow Catholic head of state, John F. Kennedy.

This first successful coup — Diem had already quashed attempted putsches in 1960 and 1962 — began a cycle of internecine revolts in which weak South Vietnamese governments were toppled in rapid succession … leaving Saigon ever more visibly the puppet of Washington, and dragging the United States ever more deeply into the Vietnam War.

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Heads of State,Mature Content,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Power,Shot,Summary Executions,Vietnam

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10 Responses to “1963: Ngo Dinh Diem”

  1. 1
    Dr. Thinus Coetzee Says:

    FANTASTIC article! I personally think that the Vietnam war was wrong and that many US soldiers died in vain and are forgotten today.

  2. 2
    DW Says:

    Morbid in a good way? Informatively morbid? In any event, I enjoy your blog. The depth and breadth of your research is impressive.

  3. 3
    ExecutedToday.com » 1960: Hoang Le Kha, NVA cadre Says:

    [...] demonstrative device was redeployed in 1959 by Ngo Dinh Diem — a man whose obliviousness to blowback would soon land him in these pages — for [...]

  4. 4
    Sammy Sullivan Says:

    Kewl site man…

    keep up the good work man…….

  5. 5
    Phil nguyen Says:

    The US government do not understand the other people, so let their leader govern that people at their way. In these countries, the people are at least 100 years behind in democracy knowledge compared to US citizens.

  6. 6
    Phil nguyen Says:

    The US government do not understand the other people, so let their leader govern their way. If President Diem was not overthrown, Vietnam could be much better than a communist
    country.

  7. 7
    ExecutedToday.com » 1964: Nguyen Van Troi, Viet Cong urban guerrilla Says:

    [...] when the South Vietnamese client president whose guests these men ostensibly were was being shot in an armored personnel carrier with the Americans’ blessing, Ngo Dinh Diem might have had cause to wish this youth’s [...]

  8. 8
    ExecutedToday.com » Executioner-in-Chief: a tour of U.S. Presidents and the death penalty Says:

    [...] to date … as well as the overthrow (and summary execution) of troublesome South Vietnam ruler Ngo Dinh Diem. Lyndon Baines Johnson and his Defense Secretary Robert McNamara reaped the whirlwind for [...]

  9. 9
    ExecutedToday.com » 1964: Preap In, Khmer Serei operative Says:

    [...] a rival of the late Vietnamese ruler Ngo Dinh Diem, he can’t have welcomed that man’s ouster and execution with the blessing of the superpower sitting right next door with so much [...]

  10. 10
    Chris Johnson Says:

    Read Charles McCarry’s novel, The Tears of Autumn.

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