Nguyen Van Thieu
Nguyễn Văn Thiệu (/nəˈɡuːjɨn væn ˈtjuː/; Southern vietnamese pronunciation : ; 5 April 1923 – 29 September 2001) was president of South Vietnam from 1965–75. He was a general in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), became head of a military junta, and then president after winning a scheduled election. He established rule over South Vietnam until he resigned and left the nation a few days before the fall of Saigon and the ultimate communist victory.
Born in Phan Rang-Tháp Chàm, Thiệu was a descendent of the Tran Dinh dynasty of Annamese nobles. Thiệu initially joined the communist-dominated Việt Minh of Hồ Chí Minh but quit after a year and joined the Vietnamese National Army (VNA) of the French-backed State of Vietnam. He gradually rose up the ranks and, in 1954, led a battalion in expelling the communists from his native village. Following the withdrawal of the French, the VNA became the ARVN and Thiệu was the head of the Vietnamese National Military Academy for four years before becoming a division commander and colonel. In November 1960, he helped put down a coup attempt against President Ngô Đình Diệm. During this time, he also converted to Roman Catholicism and joined the regime’s secret Cần Lao Party; Diệm was thought to give preferential treatment to his co-religionists and Thiệu was accused of being one of many who converted for political advancement, although he claimed to have converted because his wife was a Catholic.
Despite this, Thiệu agreed to join the coup against Diệm in November 1963 in the midst of the Buddhist crisis, leading the siege on Gia Long Palace. Diệm was captured and executed and Thiệu made a general. Following Diệm’s death, there were several short-lived juntas as coups occurred frequently. Thiệu gradually moved up the ranks of the junta by adopting a cautious approach while other officers around him defeated and sidelined one another. In 1965, stability came to South Vietnam when he became the figurehead head of state, while Air Marshall Nguyễn Cao Kỳ became prime minister, leading a junta that ended the cycle of coups with two years of continuity, although the men were rivals. In 1967, a transition to elected government was scheduled; and, after a power struggle within the military, Thiệu ran for the presidency with Kỳ as his running mate—both men had wanted the top job. To allow the two to work together, their fellow officers had agreed to have a military body controlled by Kỳ shape policy behind the scenes. The opposition claims that the election was rigged, though 16,9411 36,00.html from 1967 quotes South Vietnamese citizens saying that they thought the election was more fair than any under Diem. Leadership tensions became evident and Thiệu prevailed, sidelining Kỳ supporters from key military and cabinet posts. Thiệu then passed legislation to restrict candidacy eligibility for the 1971 election, banning almost all would-be opponents, while the rest withdrew as it was obvious that the poll would be a sham; Thiệu won more than 90 percent of the vote and the election was uncontested, while Kỳ retired from politics.
During his rule, Thiệu was accused of turning a blind eye to and indulging in corruption, and appointing loyalists rather than competent officers to lead ARVN units. In 1968, he was caught out by the Tết Offensive due to complacency, and during the 1971 Operation Lam Sơn 719 and the communists’ Easter Offensive, the I Corps in the north of the country was under the command of his confidant, Hoàng Xuân Lãm, whose incompetence led to heavy defeats until Thiệu finally replaced him with Ngô Quang Trưởng. After the signing of the Paris Peace Accords—which Thiệu opposed—and the American withdrawal, South Vietnam resisted the communists for another two years until the communists’ final final push for victory, which saw the South openly invaded by the entire North Vietnamese Army. Thiệu gave contradictory orders to Trưởng to stand and fight or withdraw and consolidate, leading to mass panic and collapse in the north of the country. This allowed the communists to generate much momentum and within a month they were close to Saigon, prompting Thiệu to resign and leave the country aboard an American helicopter, just before the communists completed their conquest. He eventually settled near Boston, Massachusetts, preferring not to talk to the media, until his death in 2001.
Read more about Nguyen Van Thieu: Early Years, Việt Minh and Vietnamese National Army, Army of The Republic of Vietnam, Role in Stopping 1960 Anti-Diệm Coup, Coup Against Diệm, Junta Member, Figurehead Chief of State, 1967 Presidential Election, Tết Offensive, Re-elected Unopposed and Stagnation, Collapse, Life in Exile, Death, Personal Life
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