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Ngo Dinh Diem

Ngo Dinh Diem

Ngo Dinh Diem (1901-1963) was South Vietnam's first premier and president. Leader of South Vietnam after the 1954 partition, he initially provided inspiring leadership but later became dictatorial when pressed by the Vietcong assault against his government.

The son of a minister and councilor to a former Vietnamese emperor, Ngo Dinh Diem was born Jan. 3, 1901, near Hue. In the 17th century his ancestors had been converted to Catholicism by missionaries to their Buddhist homeland, subsequently suffering much persecution.

Graduating from the government's school of administration at Hue, Diem rose to be governor of Phan Thiet province at the age of 28. Four years later he was named minister of interior in Emperor Bao Dai's central administration of the protectorate of Annam at Hue. Diem soon resigned his post, however, because neither the French nor Bao Dai would support reforms he advocated. For 21 years, from 1933 to 1954, Diem played no role of importance in Vietnam. His reputation as a nationalist grew nonetheless, largely based on his abandonment of high position in protest of French colonial rule.

Twice during the wartime Japanese occupation, Diem refused invitations to serve as premier. Held captive by Ho Chi Minh's Communist Viet Minh at the war's end, he was offered the post of interior minister in Ho's government but refused. He also declined to participate in Bao Dai's pro-French government of limited "independence" in 1949.

Diem traveled to the United States in 1950, the first year of American aid to still French-ruled Vietnam. He returned after a brief stay in France and lobbied for American support of full independence for Vietnam. He left the United States a year later and took up residence in a Belgian monastery.

Following the fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, Diem returned to Vietnam to accept the premiership, which he assumed on July 7, two weeks before the Geneva Accords divided the country. Long opposed to Emperor Bao Dai, Diem defeated him in a noncontested election in 1955, declaring South Vietnam a republic and becoming its first president.

Diem at first displayed outstanding leadership, building new schools and roads and surprisingly quickly rehabilitating a badly shattered economy. He refused to acquiesce in the 1956 reunification elections set by the Geneva Accords, however. The Communists subsequently inaugurated a strategy of armed revolt.

Diem became more autocratic as the war years progressed. His family had always been clannish, and he became increasingly dependent on the advice of his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, whose attractive and assertive wife also played a major role in his government. Diem's lack of judgment was particularly evident in 1963, when government forces fired on Buddhist demonstrators in Hue, killing eight and precipitating a crisis in which several monks subsequently burned themselves to death. The Americans, who had heretofore strongly supported Diem, gave evidence of wavering, and this was all that a group of soldiers needed to depose him. Diem was overthrown and murdered on Nov. 2, 1963.

Further Reading

Probably the most accurate, although unsympathetic, portrait of Diem is in Willard A. Hanna, Eight Nation Makers (1964), which is a volume of portraits of major Southeast Asian leaders of the late 1950s and early 1960s. A longer and too laudatory treatment is Anthony T. Bouscaren, The Last of the Mandarins: Diem of Vietnam (1965). A more balanced account is in Denis Warner, The Last Confucian (1963; rev. ed. 1964). Robert Shaplen's excellent The Lost Revolution: TheU.S. in Vietnam, 1946-1966 (1965; rev. ed. 1966) contains a perceptive study of Diem. □

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Diem, Ngo Dinh

Ngo Dinh Diem (nō dĬn dyĕm), 1901–63, president of South Vietnam (1955–63). A member of an influential Roman Catholic family, he was a civil servant before World War II and was connected with the nationalists during the war. He repeatedly refused high office with the government of Bao Dai until 1954, when he became prime minister. In 1955 he controlled a referendum that abolished the monarchy and emerged as South Vietnam's ruler. With strong backing from the United States, Diem initially made some progress, but his favoritism toward his family and toward Roman Catholics over Buddhists caused substantial criticism by the early 1960s. Opposition grew as Diem's authoritarianism increased and as South Vietnam's position in the Vietnam War deteriorated. With the apparent connivance of the U.S. government, a group of dissident generals staged a coup in 1963, and Diem was murdered during the takeover.

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"Diem, Ngo Dinh." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Diem, Ngo Dinh." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/diem-ngo-dinh

Diem, Ngo Dinh

Diem, Ngo Dinh (1901–63) Vietnamese statesman, prime minister of South Vietnam (1954–63). In 1955 he formed a republic, forcing Bao Dai into exile. At first, Diem received strong US support but corruption and setbacks in the Vietnam War led to growing discontent. With covert US help, army officers staged a coup in which he was murdered.

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Ngo Dinh Diem

Ngo Dinh Diem: see Diem, Ngo Dinh.

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"Ngo Dinh Diem." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Ngo Dinh Diem." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ngo-dinh-diem

Ngo Dinh Diem

Ngo Dinh Diem See Diem

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