Nguyễn Khánh was a South Vietnamese military officer and Army of the Republic of Vietnam general who served in various capacities as head of state and prime minister of South Vietnam while at the head of a military junta from January 1964 until February 1965. He was involved in or against many coup attempts and successful, from 1960 until his defeat and exile from South Vietnam in 1965. Khánh lived out his years with his family, in exile in the United States, died of pneumonia and end-stage renal failure at a hospital in San Jose, California, on January 11, 2013. Khánh was born in Trà Vinh in the Mekong Delta region in the far south of Vietnam, his mother was a property manager in the Central Highlands resort town of Đà Lạt, lived away from the family home in the deep south. Khánh's father was a wealthy landlord who lived in the Mekong Delta with a mistress, the popular cải lương performer Phùng Há. Khánh was brought up by his de facto stepmother. Trà Vinh is the family moved between both countries.
Khánh began his education in Cambodia and when he grew up, he moved to Saigon to study at an elite French school, boarding with wealthy relatives. In 1945, Khánh finished his secondary studies and he and around 20 fellow high school graduates left Saigon to join the communist-dominated Việt Minh, led by Hồ Chí Minh, which sought to gain independence from French colonialism; the August Revolution had just occurred and Hồ had declared independence from France in the aftermath of World War II in September under the newly proclaimed Democratic Republic of Vietnam. In his early military years, Khánh came across many other young recruits who would rise up the ranks alongside him and variously become allies and bitter rivals. One of Khánh's Việt Minh instructors was his future enemy Phạm Ngọc Thảo, who joined the anti-communist forces while remaining a Việt Minh agent. Khánh's unit became the 410th Battalion and went on to fight near Cà Mau, the southernmost part of Vietnam, they had to capture or steal their weapons.
However, Khánh soon left Hồ's forces after 15 months. He claimed that he had left the Việt Minh because of its communist inclinations, but critics claimed that he was switching sides because the French-backed State of Vietnam offered him more opportunities for advancement. Another account says that Khánh's unit was relieved by a larger and stronger unit, better trained and indoctrinated in communist ideology, that Khánh's band were "too tired" after their tour of duty and did not have the "proper discipline". Khánh claimed. In 1946, he graduated from the French Military Academy Saint-Cyr/Coetquidam and was promoted to "Indochine", the Ecole des Troupes Aéroportées in France. In 1947, he graduated from the Vien Dong Military Academy and Saint Saumur Military Academy, with the rank of Lieutenant, his first assignment was as a Platoon Leader of the 1st Battalion, Attaché Officer to the Prime Minister. Khánh joined the Vietnamese National Army of the French-backed State of Vietnam under the leadership of former Emperor Bảo Đại.
The State of Vietnam was an associated state of the French Union and fought in the First Indochina War alongside French forces against the Việt Minh. Khánh was part of the first batch of Vietnamese officers trained by the French in the country. Of the 17 students who started the course, only 11 passed; the six that failed to finish and eight of the graduates joined the Việt Minh. Khánh was one of only three to join the VNA. Khánh claimed he tried to dissuade his classmates to not join the Việt Minh as they were communist, but he briefly rejoined Hồ's side before being commissioned with the VNA. From 1949 to 1952, he was a Lieutenant and commanded the first airborne unit in the VNA after being sent to France for training, he was promoted to the rank of captain and commanded the first VNA airborne, participating in the Hòa Bình Operation in northern Vietnam under the command of General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny. Khánh jumped with his paratroopers into the Hòa Bình after a heavy French defeat and carried out a rearguard action to cover the French retreat.
He was ended as a regimental combat team. After the partition of Vietnam, Khánh was chosen by President Ngô Đình Diệm as the inaugural commander of the Republic of Vietnam Air Force, he took a crash course in flying, took to the air unaccompanied after 11 hours of instruction. From 1956 to 1957, he was promoted to Colonel and commanded the First Infantry Division stationed at the 17th Parallel. In 1957, he was chosen to attend the U. S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, U. S. Joint & Combined School in Okinawa, he graduated from the U. S. High Command as Chief of Staff in France. In 1957, he was assigned as Region Commander of the Hậu Giang region, consisting of Kiến Hòa, Mỹ Tho and Vĩnh Long, he was appointed Secretary General of the Defense Ministry in 1959. In 1960, Khánh was made ARVN Chief of Staff. In November 1960, mutinous paratroopers attempted to depose Diệm, laid siege to Gia Long Palace. Khánh climbed over the palace wall to reach Diệm during the siege. Khánh lived close to the palace, the plotters had tried to put him under house arrest at the start of the coup, but were unaware that he moved houses.
Khánh proceeded to coordinate the loyalist defenders, along with Ky Quan Liem, the deputy director of the Civil Guard. During the standoff, Khánh met with rebel officers to keep abreast of their demands that Diệm share power, he advised Diệm to
Nationalist Party of Greater Vietnam
The Nationalist Party of Greater Vietnam known as Đại Việt or DVQDD, was a nationalist and anti-communist political party and militant organisation, active in Vietnam in the 20th century. The party continues to be active outside of Vietnam, with the goal of a multi-party democratic government for the country; the party was founded by Trương Tử Anh, known as "Anh Cả Phương". Among the original members were several prominent figures in Vietnam's politics, such as Dr. Phan Huy Quát and Dr. Nguyễn Tôn Hoàn. During the era of French colonialism, the Đại Việt engaged in military attacks in an effort to gain independence; some Đại Việt members were trained in Chinese military academies in Yunnan run by the Kuomintang, before the Communist revolution in China. The party was pro-Japanese during World War II. After the partition of Vietnam in 1954, the Đại Việt were banned in the communist North Vietnam, they continued to be active in South Vietnam as an opposition to President Ngô Đình Diệm, were implicated in coup plots against Diệm, led by Đại Việt officers in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.
Notable members included: Phan Huy Quát served in different capacities with several government cabinets of the State of Vietnam and of the Republic of Vietnam. His highest position was Prime Minister in 1965. Nguyễn Tôn Hoàn served as first Deputy Prime Minister in 1964. Hà Thúc Ký was Minister of Internal Affairs in 1964. Nguyễn Ngọc Huy, the party's theorist and founder of the Tân Đại Việt. Bùi Diễm was Ambassador to the US in the early 1970s. Dương Hiếu Nghĩa, who participated in the 1963 coup d'état, was one of the officers who deposed and assassinated President Ngô Đình Diệm and National Adviser Ngô Đình Nhu on 2 November 1963. Nationalist Party of Greater Vietnam
Ngo Dinh Diem
Ngô Đình Diệm was a South Vietnamese politician. A former mandarin of the Nguyễn dynasty, he was named Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam by Head of State Bảo Đại in 1954. In October 1955, after winning a rigged referendum, he deposed Bảo Đại and established the first Republic of Vietnam, with himself as president, he was opposed by Buddhists. In November 1963, after constant Buddhist protests and non-violent resistance, Diệm was assassinated during a CIA-backed coup d'état, along with his brother, Ngô Đình Nhu, by Nguyễn Văn Nhung, the aide of the leader of the Army of Republic of Vietnam, General Dương Văn Minh. Diệm has been a controversial historical figure in historiography on the Vietnam War; some historians portrayed him as a tool of the U. S. policymakers, some considered him an avatar of Vietnamese tradition. Some recent studies have portrayed Diệm from a more Vietnamese-centred perspective as a competent leader with his own vision on nation building and modernisation of South Vietnam.
Ngô Đình Diệm was born in 1901 in a province in central Vietnam. His family originated in a Catholic village adjacent to Huế City, his clan had been among Vietnam's earliest Catholic converts in the 17th century. Diệm was given a saint's name at birth, Gioan Baotixita, following the custom of the Catholic Church; the Ngô-Đình family suffered under the anti-Catholic persecutions of Emperors Minh Tự Đức. In 1880, while Diệm's father, Ngô Đình Khả, was studying in British Malaya, an anti-Catholic riot led by Buddhist monks wiped out the Ngô-Đình clan. Over 100 of the Ngô clan were "burned alive in a church including Khả's parents and sisters." Note that while he is referred to as Diệm in English, his family name is Ngô. Ngô Đình Khả was educated in a Catholic school in British Malaya, where he learned English and studied the European-style curriculum, he was a devout scrapped plans to become a Roman Catholic priest in the late 1870s. He worked for the commander of the French armed forces as an interpreter and took part in campaigns against anti-colonial rebels in the mountains of Tonkin during 1880.
He rose to become a high-ranking Mandarin, the first headmaster of the National Academy in Huế and a counselor to Emperor Thành Thái under the French colonial regime. He was appointed chamberlain and keeper of the eunuchs. Despite his collaboration with the French colonizers, Khả was "motivated less by Francophilia than by certain reformist ambitions". Like Phan Châu Trinh, Khả believed that independence from France could be achieved only after changes in Vietnamese politics and culture had occurred. In 1907, after the ouster of emperor Thành Thái, Khả resigned his appointments, withdrew from the imperial court, became a farmer in the countryside. After the tragedy of his family, Khả decided to married. After his first wife died childless, Khả remarried and had nine children—six sons and three daughters—by his second wife, Phạm Thị Thân; these were Ngô Đình Khôi, Ngô Đình Thị Giao, Ngô Đình Thục, Ngô Đình Diệm, Ngô Đình Thị Hiệp, Ngô Đình Thị Hoàng, Ngô Đình Nhu, Ngô Đình Cẩn, Ngô Đình Luyện.
As a devout Roman Catholic, Khả took his entire family to Mass each morning and encouraged his sons to study for the priesthood. Having learned both Latin and classical Chinese, Khả strove to make sure his children were well educated in both Christian scriptures and Confucian classics. During his childhood, Diệm laboured in the family's rice fields while studying at a French Catholic primary school in Huế, entered a private school started by his father, where he studied French and classical Chinese. At the age of fifteen he followed his elder brother, Ngô Đình Thục, who would become Vietnam's highest-ranking Catholic bishop, into a monastery. Diệm swore himself to celibacy to prove his devotion to his faith, but found monastic life too rigorous and decided not to pursue a clerical career. According to Moyar, Diệm's personality was too independent to adhere to the discipline of the Church. Diem inherited his father's antagonism toward the French colonialists who occupied his country. At the end of his secondary schooling at Lycée Quốc học, the French lycée in Huế, Diem's outstanding examination results elicited the offer of a scholarship to study in Paris.
He declined and, in 1918, enrolled at the prestigious School of Public Administration and Law in Hanoi, a French school that prepared young Vietnamese to serve in the colonial administration. 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 chose to persist with her vocation, entering a convent, he remained celibate for the rest of his life. Diệm's family background and education Catholicism and Confucianism, had influences on his life and career, on his thinking on politics and history. According to Miller, Diệm "displayed Christian piety in everything from his devotional practices to his habit of inserting references to the Bible into his speeches". After graduating at the top of his class in 1921, Diệm followed in the footsteps of his eldest brother, Ngô Đình Khôi, joining the civil service in Thừa Thiên as a junior official. Starting from the lowest rank of mandarin, Diệm rose over the next decade, he first served at the royal library in Huế, within one year was the district chief in both Thừa Thiên and nearby Quảng Trị province, presiding over
The Việt Cộng known as the National Liberation Front, was a mass political organization in South Vietnam and Cambodia with its own army – the People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam – that fought against the United States and South Vietnamese governments during the Vietnam War emerging on the winning side. It had both guerrilla and regular army units, as well as a network of cadres who organized peasants in the territory it controlled. Many soldiers were recruited in South Vietnam, but others were attached to the People's Army of Vietnam, the regular North Vietnamese army. During the war and anti-war activists insisted the Việt Cộng was an insurgency indigenous to the South, while the U. S. and South Vietnamese governments portrayed the group as a tool of Hanoi. Although the terminology distinguishes northerners from the southerners, communist forces were under a single command structure set up in 1958; the headquarters of the Viet Cong based at Memot came to be known as Central Office for South Vietnam or COSVN by its Military Assistance Command and South Vietnamese counterparts, a near-mythical "bamboo Pentagon" from which the Việt Cộng's entire war effort was being directed.
For nearly a decade the fabled COSVN headquarters, which directed the entire war effort of the Viet Cong was the target of the RVN/US war effort, which would have collapsed the insurgency war effort. US and South Vietnamese Special Forces sent to capture them were killed quickly or returned with heavy casualties to the point that teams refused to go. Daily B-52 bombings had failed to kill any of the leadership during Operation Menu despite flattening the entire area, as Soviet trawlers were able to forewarn COSVN, whom used the data on speed and direction to move perpendicular and to move underground. North Vietnam established the National Liberation Front on December 20, 1960, to foment insurgency in the South. Many of the Việt Cộng's core members were volunteer "regroupees", southern Việt Minh who had resettled in the North after the Geneva Accord. Hanoi gave the regroupees military training and sent them back to the South along the Hồ Chí Minh trail in the early 1960s; the NLF called for southern Vietnamese to "overthrow the camouflaged colonial regime of the American imperialists" and to make "efforts toward the peaceful unification".
The PLAF's best-known action was the Tết Offensive, a gigantic assault on more than 100 South Vietnamese urban centers in 1968, including an attack on the U. S. embassy in Saigon. The offensive riveted the attention of the world's media for weeks, but overextended the Việt Cộng. Two further offensives were conducted in the mini-Tet and August Offensive. In 1969 the Việt Cộng would establish the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, a shadow-country in South Vietnam intended to represent the organisation on the world stage and was recognised by the communist bloc and maintained diplomatic links with many nations in the Non-Aligned Movement. Communist offensives were conducted predominantly by newly mechanised PAVN forces, as the ability of the Việt Cộng to recruit among the South Vietnamese became much more limited; the Việt Cộng remained an active political front. The organisation was dissolved in 1976 when North and South Vietnam were unified under a communist government.
Political and military organization of the Việt Cộng was complex, with a series of well-constructed, overlapping networks and organisations, see strategy and structure. Material aid was provided through the well-established, ingenious Hồ Chí Minh trail which withstood the most sustained bombing campaign in history while expanding the war effort, see logistics and equipment, they had further developed a complex insurgency warfare method capable of countering overwhelmingly superior numbers and technology, retaining the strategic initiative during much of the war. According to the Pentagon Papers, 90% of large firefights were initiated by the PAVN/VC and 80% were well-planned VC operations throughout most of the war and as early as 1966 US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara expressed doubt about the US ability to win the war; the term Việt Cộng appeared in Saigon newspapers beginning in 1956. It is a contraction of Việt Nam Cộng-sản, or alternatively Việt gian cộng sản; the earliest citation for Việt Cộng in English is from 1957.
Media worldwide referred to them as "Vietcong". American soldiers referred to them as Victor Charlie or V-C. "Victor" and "Charlie" are both letters in the NATO phonetic alphabet. "Charlie" referred to communist forces in both Việt Cộng and North Vietnamese. The official Vietnamese history gives the group's name as the Liberation Army of South Vietnam or the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam. Many writers shorten this to National Liberation Front. In 1969, the Việt Cộng created the "Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam", abbreviated PRG. Although the NLF was not abolished until 1977, the Việt Cộng no longer used the name after PRG was created. Members referred to the Việt Cộng as "the Front". Today's Vietnamese media most refers to the group as the "People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam". By the terms of the Geneva Accord, which ended the Indochina War and the Việt Minh agreed to a truce and to a separation of forces; the Việt Minh had become the government o
South Vietnam the Republic of Vietnam, was a country that existed from 1955 to 1975, the period when the southern portion of Vietnam was a member of the Western Bloc during part of the Cold War. It received international recognition in 1949 as the "State of Vietnam", a constitutional monarchy; this became the "Republic of Vietnam" in 1955. Its capital was Saigon. South Vietnam was bordered by North Vietnam to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, Thailand across the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia across the South China Sea to the east and southeast; the Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed on 26 October 1955, with Ngô Đình Diệm as its first president, after having served as premier under Emperor Bao Dai, exiled. Its sovereignty was recognized by the United States and 87 other nations, it had membership in several special committees of the United Nations, but its application for full membership was rejected in 1957 because of a Soviet veto.
South Vietnam's origins can be traced to the French colony of Cochinchina, which consisted of the southern third of Vietnam, Cochinchina, a subdivision of French Indochina, the southern half of Central Vietnam or Annam, a French protectorate. After the Second World War, the anti-Japanese Viet Minh guerrilla forces, led by Ho Chi Minh, proclaimed the establishment of a Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi in September 1945, issuing a Declaration of Independence modeled on the U. S. one from 1776. In 1949, anti-communist Vietnamese politicians formed a rival government in Saigon led by former emperor Bảo Đại. Bảo Đại was deposed by Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm in 1955, who proclaimed himself president after a referendum. Diệm was killed in a military coup led by general Dương Văn Minh in 1963, a series of short-lived military governments followed. General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu led the country after a U. S.-encouraged civilian presidential election from 1967 until 1975. The beginnings of the Vietnam War occurred in 1959 with an uprising by the newly organized National Liberation Front for South Vietnam and supported by the northern Democratic Republic of Vietnam, with other assistance rendered by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact communist satellites, along with neighboring People's Republic of China and North Korea.
Larger escalation of the insurgency occurred in 1965 with the landing of United States regular forces of Marines, followed by Army units to supplement the cadre of military advisors guiding ARVN southern forces. A regular bombing campaign over North Vietnam was conducted by offshore U. S. Navy airplanes and aircraft carriers joined by Air Force squadrons through 1966 and 1967. Fighting peaked up to that point during the Tet Offensive of February 1968, when there were over a million South Vietnamese soldiers and 500,000 U. S. soldiers in South Vietnam. On the war turned into a more conventional fight as the balance of power became equalized. An larger, armored invasion commenced during the Easter Offensive following US ground-forces withdrawal, had nearly overran some major northern cities until beaten back. Despite a truce agreement under the Paris Peace Accords, concluded in January 1973, after a torturous five years of on and off negotiations, fighting continued immediately afterwards; the North Vietnamese regular army and Viet Cong launched a major second combined-arms invasion in 1975, termed the Spring Offensive.
Communist forces overran Saigon on 30 April 1975. On the day President Duong Van Minh declared RVN cease to exist, five ARVN generals, one Saigon police chief, numbers of ARVN soldiers and officers commit suicide to avoid being humiliated surrender. On July 2, 1976, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam merged to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; the official name of the South Vietnamese state was Việt Nam Cộng hòa and the French name was referred to as République du Viêt Nam. The North was known as the "Democratic Republic of Vietnam". Việt Nam was the name adopted by Emperor Gia Long in 1804, it is a name used in ancient times. In 1839, Emperor Minh Mạng renamed the country Đại Nam. In 1945, the nation's official name was changed back to "Vietnam"; the name is sometimes rendered as "Viet Nam" in English. The term "South Vietnam" became common usage in 1954, when the Geneva Conference provisionally partitioned Vietnam into communist and non-communist parts.
Other names of this state were used during its existence such as Free Vietnam and the Government of Viet Nam. Before World War II, the southern third of Vietnam was the concession of Cochinchina, administered as part of French Indochina. A French governor-general in Hanoi administered all the five parts of Indochina while Cochinchina was under a French governor, but the difference from the other parts was that most indigenous intellensia and wealthy were naturalized French The northern third of Vietnam (then the colony of Tonkin was under
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City known by its former name of Saigon, or Prey Nokor in Khmer name, is the most populous city in Vietnam with a population of 8.4 million as of 2017. Located in southeast Vietnam, the metropolis surrounds the Saigon River and covers about 2,061 square kilometres. Under the name Saigon, it was the capital of French Indochina from 1887 to 1902 and again from 1945 to 1954. Saigon would become the capital of South Vietnam from 1955 until its fall in 1975. On 2 July 1976, Saigon merged with the surrounding Gia Định Province and was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after revolutionary leader Hồ Chí Minh. Ho Chi Minh City is the financial centre of Vietnam and is classified as a Beta+ World City by Globalization and World Cities Research Network, it is home to the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange, the largest stock exchange by total market capitalization in Vietnam and the headquarters of many national and international banks and companies. Ho Chi Minh City is the most visited city in Vietnam, with 6.3 million visitors in 2017.
Many of the city's landmarks which are well known to international visitors include the Bến Thành Market, Ho Chi Minh City Hall, Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, Independence Palace and the Municipal Theatre. The main passenger airport serving the metropolitan area is Tan Son Nhat International Airport, it is the busiest airport in Vietnam handling 36 million passengers in 2017. Ho Chi Minh City has gone by several different names during its history, reflecting settlement by different ethnic and political groups. In 1623, Khmer king Chey Chettha II allowed Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Trịnh–Nguyễn War further to the north to settle in the area, which they colloquially referred to as Sài Gòn, to set up a custom house at the city known as Prey Nôkôr. In the 1690s, Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh, a Vietnamese noble, was sent by the Nguyễn rulers of Huế to establish Vietnamese administrative structures in the Mekong Delta and its surroundings. Control of the city and the area passed to the Vietnamese, who gave the city the official name of Gia Định.
This name remained until the time of French conquest in the 1860s, when the occupying force adopted the name Saïgon for the city, a westernized form of the traditional name, although the city was still indicated as 嘉 定 on Vietnamese maps written in Chữ Hán until at least 1891. After the communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975, a provisional government renamed the city after Hồ Chí Minh, the late North Vietnamese leader. Today, the informal name of Sài Gòn/Saigon remains in daily speech both domestically and internationally among the Vietnamese diaspora. However, there is a technical difference between the two terms: Sài Gòn is used to refer to the city center in District 1 and the adjacent areas, while Ho Chi Minh City is referred more to the entire modern city with all its urban and rural districts. An etymology of Saigon is that Sài is a Sino-Vietnamese word meaning "firewood, twigs; this name may refer to the many kapok plants that the Khmer people had planted around Prey Nokor, which can still be seen at Cây Mai temple and surrounding areas.
It may refer to the dense and tall forest that once existed around the city, a forest to which the Khmer name, Prey Nokor referred. Other proposed etymologies draw parallels from Tai-Ngon, the Cantonese name of Cholon, which means "embankment", Vietnamese Sai Côn, a translation of the Khmer Prey Nokor. Prey means forest or jungle, nokor is a Khmer word of Sanskrit origin meaning city or kingdom, related to the English word'Nation' – thus, "forest city" or "forest kingdom". Truong Mealy, says that, according to a Khmer Chronicle, The Collection of the Council of the Kingdom, Prey Nokor's proper name was Preah Reach Nokor, "Royal City"; the current official name, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, abbreviated Tp. HCM, is translated as Ho Chi Minh City, abbreviated HCMC, in French as Hô-Chi-Minh-Ville, abbreviated HCMV; the name commemorates the first leader of North Vietnam. This name, though not his given name, was one he favored throughout his years, it combines a common Vietnamese surname with a given name meaning "enlightened will", in essence, meaning "light bringer".
The earliest settlement in the area was a Funan temple at the location of the current Phung Son Pagoda, founded in the 4th century AD. A settlement called; when the Cham Empire was invaded by the Khmer people, Baigaur was renamed Prey Nokor. This meant "Forest City". An alternative name was Preah Reach Nokor which, according to a Khmer Chronicle meant "Royal City", it was succeeded a small fishing village known as the area that the city now occupies was forested, was inhabited by Khmer people for centuries before the arrival of the Vietnames
Nguyễn Văn Thiệu
Nguyễn Văn Thiệu was the president of South Vietnam from 1965 to 1975. He was a general in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, became head of a military junta, president after winning a scheduled election, he established rule over South Vietnam until he resigned and left the nation a few days before the fall of Saigon and the ultimate North Vietnamese victory. Nguyễn Văn Thiệu was born on 5 April 1923 in Phan Rang in the South Central Coast region of Vietnam. Thiệu was a descendent of the Tran Dinh dynasty of Annamese nobles, he joined the communist-dominated Việt Minh of Hồ Chí Minh but quit after a year and joined the Vietnamese National Army of the French-backed State of Vietnam. He rose up the ranks and, in 1954, led a battalion in expelling the communists from his native village. Following the withdrawal of the French, the VNA became the ARVN and Thiệu was the head of the Vietnamese National Military Academy for four years before becoming a division commander and colonel. In November 1960, he helped put down a coup attempt against President Ngô Đình Diệm.
During this time, he converted to Roman Catholicism and joined the regime's secret Cần Lao Party. Despite this, Thiệu agreed to join the coup against Ngô Đình Diệm in November 1963 in the midst of the Buddhist crisis, leading the siege on Gia Long Palace. Diệm was captured and executed and Thiệu made a general. Following Diệm's death, there were several short-lived juntas. Thiệu moved up the ranks of the junta by adopting a cautious approach while other officers around him defeated and sidelined one another. In 1965, stability came to South Vietnam when he became the figurehead head of state, while Air Marshall Nguyễn Cao Kỳ became prime minister, leading a junta that ended the cycle of coups with two years of continuity, although the men were rivals. In 1967, a transition to elected government was scheduled. To allow the two to work together, their fellow officers had agreed to have a military body controlled by Kỳ shape policy behind the scenes; the opposition claims that the election was rigged, though an article in Time magazine from 1967 quotes South Vietnamese citizens saying that they thought the election was more fair than any under Diệm.
Leadership tensions became evident, Thiệu prevailed, sidelining Kỳ supporters from key military and cabinet posts. Thiệu passed legislation to restrict candidacy eligibility for the 1971 election, banning all would-be opponents, while the rest withdrew as it was obvious that the poll would be a sham. During his rule, Thiệu was accused of turning a blind eye to and indulging in corruption, appointing loyalists rather than competent officers to lead ARVN units. In 1968, he was caught out by the Tết Offensive due to complacency, during the 1971 Operation Lam Sơn 719 and the communists' Easter Offensive, the I Corps in the north of the country was under the command of his confidant, Hoàng Xuân Lãm, whose incompetence led to heavy defeats until Thiệu replaced him with Ngô Quang Trưởng. After the signing of the Paris Peace Accords—which Thiệu opposed—and the American withdrawal, South Vietnam resisted the communists for another two years until the communists' final push for victory, which saw the South invaded by the entire North Vietnamese Army.
Thiệu gave contradictory orders to Trưởng to stand and fight or withdraw and consolidate, leading to mass panic and collapse in the south of the country. This allowed the communists to generate much momentum and within a month they were close to Saigon, prompting Thiệu to resign and leave the country aboard an American helicopter, just before the communists completed their conquest, he settled near Boston, Massachusetts, USA, preferring not to talk to the media, until his death in 2001. Born in Phan Rang on the south central coast of Vietnam, Thiệu was a son of a small, well-off landowner who earned his living by farming and fishing. Thiệu was the youngest of five children. According to some reports, Thiệu was born in November 1924, but adopted 5 April 1923, as his birthday on grounds that it was a more auspicious day, his elder brothers raised money so that he could attend the elite schools run by France, who were Vietnam's colonial rulers. Although not yet a Catholic, Thiệu attended Pellerin, a French-run Catholic school in Huế, the imperial seat of the Nguyễn dynasty.
He returned to his hometown after graduating. During World War II, Imperial Japan seized control. Ninh Thuận was taken over by the Japanese in 1942, but the reaction from the locals was muted, Thiệu continued to work the ricelands alongside his father for another three years; when World War II ended, Thiệu joined the Việt Minh, led by Hồ Chí Minh, whose goal was to gain independence for Vietnam from France. With no rifles, Thiệu's class of Việt Minh recruits trained in jungle clearings with bamboo, he rose to be district chief, but left the movement after just one year, following the return of the French to southern Vietnam in 1946 to contest Việt Minh control. Thiệu said, "By August of 1946, I knew... They shot people, they overthrew the village committee. They seized the land." He defect