Assassination of Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem Part 2

About the assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, history of the coup and resulting murder.


The Victim: NGO DINH DIEM,

Nhu included Dinh in an ingenious plan to solidify his and his brother's power. He would stage a full-scale revolt, then crush it dramatically to demonstrate Diem's muscle and righteousness. The scheme was dubbed Operation Bravo, scheduled for Nov. 1, All Saints' Day, and it went like this: Le Quang Tung, a Diem loyalist and special forces commander, would join with dissident police officers to bring off the phony coup on the appointed date. Spontaneous violence would explode in the streets (or so it would seem), Diem and Nhu would flee the capital, and Tung would proclaim a rebel government to replace the fallen tyrants. All would be chaos for 24 hours, until Dinh and his troops, massed on the city's outskirts, would move in on Tung and company, smother the revolt, and reinstate Diem.

Meanwhile, Big Minh and the other generals had been plotting an overthrow of Diem with the sanction and advice of the U.S. government. Nhu's mock coup would provide an ideal cover for the real one. Dinh was approached with promises of a ministerial position in the new government and other dazzling baubles, but he did not commit himself until the coups actually took place.

Throughout the early morning hours of Nov. 1, Dinh jockeyed marine battalions, paratroopers, tanks, and other contingents into position in and around Saigon. As the sun rose, few of those troops knew for sure whether they would be laying siege to the presidential palace or protecting it. Nor did the Americans appear at this point to know what was happening.

The attack began as scheduled at 1:30 P.M. The marines rushed in, blood flowed, and Nhu and Diem watched it all from the cool rooms of the palace, assuming all was proceeding as planned. But when Dinh did not answer their phone calls to him at staff headquarters and the gunfire came perilously close to the palace windows, they began to see that they had been monstrously duped.

In the evening they packed a suitcase full of U.S. currency and quit the palace via an elaborate network of tunnels. A waiting car sped them to the home of a Chinese businessman. The next morning the brothers left the house to take refuge in the church of St. Francis Xavier. They telephoned Dinh and agreed to surrender. The rebels arrived within minutes and led the two men, hands tied behind their backs, out of the church to a car.

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