Ngo Dinh Diem : biography
Ngô Đình Diệm ( 3 January 1901 – 2 November 1963) was the first president of South Vietnam (1955–1963).Spencer Tucker Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: a political, social, and military history – Volume 1 – Page xxi – 1998 "For Vietnamese personal names we have chosen to use the Vietnamese system of family name first, followed by middle name, then given name. Subsequent references are to the given name only. Thus, in the case of Ngô Đình Diệm, Ngô is the family name, Đình the middle name, and Diệm the given name. After the first reference I refer to him only as Diệm. This follows the common Vietnamese practice of using the first name.. " In the wake of the French withdrawal from Indochina as a result of the 1954 Geneva Accords, Diệm led the effort to create the Republic of Vietnam. Accruing considerable US support due to his staunch anti-communism, he achieved victory in a fraudulent 1955 plebiscite.
A Roman Catholic, Diệm pursued biased and religiously oppressive policies against the Republic’s Montagnard natives and its Buddhist majority that were met with protests, epitomized in Malcolm Browne’s Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of the self-immolation of Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức in 1963. Amid religious protests, Diệm lost the backing of his US patrons and was assassinated, along with his brother, Ngô Đình Nhu by Nguyễn Văn Nhung, the aide of ARVN General Dương Văn Minh on 2 November 1963, during a coup d’état that deposed his government.
Consolidation of power
The accords allowed for freedom of movement between the two zones until October 1954; this was to put a large strain on the south. Diệm had only expected 10,000 refugees, but by August, there were over 200,000 waiting in Hanoi and Haiphong to be evacuated; the migration helped to strengthen Diệm’s political base of support. Before the partition, the majority of Vietnam’s Catholic population lived in the north. After the borders were sealed, this majority was now under Diệm’s rule. The U.S. Navy program Operation Passage to Freedom saw up to one million North Vietnamese move south, most of them Catholics. The CIA’s Edward Lansdale, who had been posted to help Diệm strengthen his rule,Borthwick, p. 388. led a propaganda campaign to encourage as many refugees to move south as possible. Diệm also used slogans such as "Christ has gone south" and "the Virgin Mary had departed from the North", alleging anti-Catholic persecution under Hồ Chí Minh. Over 60% of northern Catholics moved to Diệm’s South Vietnam, providing him with a source of loyal support.
Diệm’s position at the time was weak; Bảo Đại disliked Diệm and appointed him mainly to political imperatives. The French saw him as hostile and hoped that his rule would collapse. At the time, the French Expeditionary Corps was the most powerful military force in the south; Diệm’s Vietnamese National Army was essentially organized and trained by the French. Its officers were installed by the French and the chief of staff General Nguyễn Văn Hinh was a French citizen; Hinh loathed Diệm and frequently disobeyed him. Diệm also contended with two religious sects, the Cao Đài and Hòa Hảo, who wielded private armies in the Mekong Delta, with the Cao Đài estimated to have 25,000 men. The Việt Minh was also estimated to have control over a third of the country. The situation was worse in the capital, where the Bình Xuyên organized crime syndicate boasted an army of 40,000 and controlled a vice empire of brothels, casinos, extortion rackets, and opium factories unparalleled in Asia. Bảo Đại had given the Bình Xuyên control of the national police for US$1,250,000, creating a situation that the Americans likened to Chicago under Al Capone in the 1920s. In effect, Diệm’s control did not extend beyond his palace. In August, Hinh launched a series of public attacks on Diệm, proclaiming that South Vietnam needed a "strong and popular" leader; Hinh bragged that he was preparing a coup. This was thwarted when Lansdale arranged overseas holiday invitations for Hinh’s officers. Fearing Diệm’s collapse, nine members of his government resigned during Hinh’s abortive bid for power. Despite its failure, the French continued to encourage Diệm’s enemies in an attempt to destabilize him.