Ngo Dinh Diem

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Ngo Dinh Diem (January 3, 1901 – November 2, 1963) was the first president of South Vietnam (1955–1963). Diem was a devout Catholic throughout his life.

Diem served as interior minister for Emperor Bao Dai, but resigned to protest French influence in 1933. At this time, Vietnam was part of French Indochina and Bao Dai was a French puppet. The resignation earned Diem a reputation as an uncompromising nationalist (or as an unreasonably stubborn politician). In 1954, when it became clear that the French would withdraw from Indochina, Bao Dai asserted his independence by appointing Diem premier.

Ngo Dinh Diem
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese Ngô Đình Diệm

When the French withdrew, Vietnam was split at the 17th parallel. North Vietnam was ruled by the communists, while South Vietnam, headed by Bao Dai and Diem, was backed financially by the United States. Vietnamese Catholics fled the North. This created a base of support for Diem in the South. In 1955, Diem ousted the unpopular Bao Dai and declared himself president. Diem never married. Madame Nhu, Diem's sister-in-law, played the role of first lady. She did much to promote Vietnamese fashion, including the ao dai.

In the late 1950s, the North Vietnamese began to encourage communists in South Vietnam to revolt. The Vietcong launched a campaign of assassination and terrorist attacks in 1957. The first large unit military action was in September 1959. This was the beginning of the Vietnam War.

When Vietnam's Buddhist majority protested Diem's pro-Catholic policies, U.S. President John Kennedy decided to overthrow him. In November 1963, South Vietnamese generals with the help of US ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge junior took over South Vietnam and assassinated him.[1]



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