Ngo Dinh Diem


Ngo Dinh Diem : biography

03 January 1901 – 02 November 1963


Upon learning of Diệm’s ouster and assassination, Hồ Chí Minh reportedly stated: “I can scarcely believe the Americans would be so stupid.” The North Vietnamese Politburo was more explicit:“The consequences of the 1 November coup d’état will be contrary to the calculations of the U.S. imperialists … Diệm was one of the strongest individuals resisting the people and Communism. Everything that could be done in an attempt to crush the revolution was carried out by Diệm. Diệm was one of the most competent lackeys of the U.S. imperialists  … Among the anti-Communists in South Vietnam or exiled in other countries, no one has sufficient political assets and abilities to cause others to obey. Therefore, the lackey administration cannot be stabilized. The coup d’état on 1 November 1963 will not be the last.”

After Diệm’s assassination, South Vietnam was unable to establish a stable government and several coups took place after his death. While the U.S. continued to influence South Vietnam’s government, the assassination bolstered North Vietnamese attempts to characterize the South Vietnamese as supporters of colonialism.Moyar, pp. 287–90


Diệm applied for permission to travel to Rome for the Holy Year celebrations at the Vatican. After gaining French permission he left in August with Thục, apparently destined to become a politically irrelevant figure. Before going to Europe, Diệm went to Japan, where he intended to meet Cường Để to enlist support to seize power. Neither this nor an attempt to woo help from General Douglas MacArthur, the American supreme commander in occupied Japan, yielded meetings. A friend managed to organize a meeting with Wesley Fishel, an American academic who had done consultancy work for the United States government. Fishel was a proponent of the anti-colonial, anti-communist third force doctrine in Asia and was impressed with Diệm and helped him organize contacts and meetings in the United States to enlist support. New York Times, 14 April 1966 It was an opportune time for Diệm, with the outbreak of the Korean War and McCarthyism helping to make Vietnamese anti-communists a sought after commodity in America. Diệm was given a reception at the State Department with the Acting Secretary of State James E. Webb. He reportedly gave a weak performance, in which Thục did most of the talking. As a result, no further audiences with notable officials were afforded to him. However, he did meet Francis Cardinal Spellman, regarded as the most politically powerful cleric of his time. Spellman had studied with Thục in Rome in the 1930s and was to become one of Diệm’s most powerful advocates.

Diệm obtained an audience with Pope Pius XII in Rome before further lobbying across Europe. He attempted to convince Bảo Đại to make him the Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam but was turned down. Diệm returned to the United States to continue lobbying. In 1951 he secured an audience with Secretary of State Dean Acheson. During the next three years he lived at Spellman’s Maryknoll seminary in Lakewood Township, New Jersey and occasionally at another seminary in Ossining, New York., Time (magazine), 4 April 1955. Retrieved 27 March 2008. "For the best part of two years (1951–53) he made his home at the Maryknoll Junior Seminary in Lakewood, N.J. often going down to Washington to buttonhole State Department men and Congressmen and urge them not to support French colonialism."

Spellman helped Diệm to garner support among right-wing and Catholic circles. Diệm toured the East Coast, speaking at universities, arguing that Vietnam could only be saved for the "free world" if the US sponsored a government of nationalists who were opposed to both the Việt Minh and the French. He was appointed as a consultant to Michigan State University’s Government Research Bureau, where Fishel worked. MSU was administering government-sponsored assistance programs for cold war allies, and Diệm helped Fishel to lay the foundation for a program later implemented in South Vietnam, the Michigan State University Vietnam Advisory Group. As French power in Vietnam declined, Diệm’s support in the U.S. increased.Jacobs, pp. 25–34