Assassination of Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem Part 3

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



They shared the back seat with a headstrong officer who got into a violent argument with Nhu. In a fit of pique, he drew his bayonet and stabbed Nhu again and again. Then he took out his revolver and shot Diem in the back of the head. He looked at Nhu, who was lying on the floor twitching, and he put a bullet in his head, also.

At staff headquarters, Dinh and his lieutenants were shocked at the murder, but claimed publicly that both men had died by their own hand; "accidentally," they later added. The downfall of the Ngos touched off widespread exuberance throughout the beleaguered capital. So intent were the conspiring generals on concealing the circumstances under which the Ngo brothers died that they had them buried in an unmarked grave in a prison cemetery near Saigon airport, identifying them on the death certificates, not as high-ranking government officials, but as "Chief of Province and Chief of Library Services," respectively--the ranks to which they had risen during the French presence in Indochina.

The Assassin: Of the actual assassin, little is known, except that he was a major in the tank corps and had once been affiliated with the Dai Viet party, a minority faction that opposed both the Communists and Diem. There are some who believe that the major had wanted to kill Nhu ever since he had executed a close friend of his.

Big Minh, the mastermind of the coup, had received his education in France, like so many of his fellow generals. An outstanding student at L'Ecole de Chartres, he had returned to his native land and joined the army, there to work for a French-influenced Vietnam. But the Diem regime proved antagonistic to his goals and prompted him to engineer a takeover. However, his junta proved ineffectual and was itself overthrown by a rival faction led by Gen. Nguyen Khanh. Minh was retained as head of state, only to be replaced by a civilian in 1964 and forced into exile. He ran for president in 1966 but was disqualified because he was not a resident. He tried again in 1971 but withdrew his candidacy after claiming that his opponent, Nguyen Van Thieu, was making a travesty of the supposedly free election. Thieu ran unopposed.

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