1964: Nguyen Van Nhung, Diem executioner

Add comment January 31st, 2020 Headsman

Vietnamese General Nguyen Van Nhung was (apparently) executed on this date in 1964.

He was the victim of a South Vietnamese coup, after having been a key operative in the previous one. Back on 2 November 1963, he’d piled into the back of an armored personnel carrier with the fresh-deposed President Ngo Dinh Diem, and Diem’s brother Ngô Dình Nhu. When the APC arrived at its destination, Diem and Nhu were both dead.

According to the other putchist in the vehicle with him,

As we rode back to the Joint General Staff headquarters, Diem sat silently, but Nhu and the captain [Nhung] began to insult each other. I don’t know who started it. The name-calling grew passionate. The captain had hated Nhu before. Now he was charged with emotion … [and] lunged at Nhu with a bayonet and stabbed him again and again, maybe fifteen or twenty times. Still in a rage, he turned to Diem, took out his revolver and shot him in the head. Then he looked back at Nhu, who was lying on the floor, twitching. He put a bullet into his head too. Neither Diem nor Nhu ever defended themselves. Their hands were tied. (Source)

Nhung’s turn as executioner — no unfamiliar role; the guy was notorious for tallying his career kills in notches on his gun barrel — made his boss Duong Van Minh the new President … for all of three months. By all accounts he was a useless executive:

the ruling generals were paralyzed by ineptitude. They had formed a military revolutionary council, composed of twelve members who bickered endlessly. Their normal chairman, General Minh, boasted that the collegial arrangement would guarantee against the autocratic excesses of the old regime. In reality, Minh had contrived the committee in order to bolster his prestige without increasing his responsibility. He was a model of lethargy, lacking both the skill and the inclination to govern. As he confided to me one morning as we chatted in his headquarters, he preferred to play tennis and tend to his orchids and exotic birds than to preside over tedious meetings and unravel bureaucratic tangles … In a cable to Washington, [U.S. ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge] described Minh as a “good, well-intentioned man,” but added a prophetic note: “Will he be strong enough to get on top of things?”

On 30 January 1964, Minh was overthrown by another general, Nguyen Khánh, in a bloodless dawn coup. Well, virtually bloodless. The sole casualty was Nguyen Van Nhung, who paid for the assassination of Diem the next day via a pistol shot to the head at a Saigon villa. The official story promulgated by the new regime described him instead committing suicide in shame for the Diem murder.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,Executioners,History,No Formal Charge,Shot,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Vietnam,Wartime Executions

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1963: Ngo Dinh Diem

10 comments 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.

On this day..

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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