Pham Ngoc Thao

Pham Ngoc Thao

Colonel Phạm Ngọc Thảo (IPA:, ), also known as Albert Thảo (1922–1965), was a communist agent of the Vietminh (and, later, of the Vietnam People's Army) who infiltrated the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and also became a major provincial leader in South Vietnam. In 1962, he was made overseer of Ngô Ðình Nhu's Strategic Hamlet Program in South Vietnam and deliberately forced it forward at an unsustainable speed, causing the production of poorly equipped and poorly defended villages and the growth of rural resentment toward the regime of President Ngô Đình Diệm, Nhu's elder brother.

During the First Indochina War, Thảo was a communist officer in the Vietminh and helped oversee various operations in the Mekong Delta in the far south, at one point commanding his future enemy Nguyễn Khánh, who briefly served the communist cause. After the French withdrawal and the partition of Vietnam, Thảo stayed in the south and made a show of renouncing communism. He became part of the military establishment in the anti-communist south, and rose quickly up the ranks. Nominally Catholic, Thảo befriended Diệm's elder brother, Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục; the devoutly Roman Catholic Ngô family strongly favored co-religionists and had great trust in Thảo, unaware that he was still loyal to the communists. He went on to serve as the chief of Bến Tre Province, and gained fame after the area—traditionally a communist stronghold—suddenly became peaceful and prosperous. Vietnamese and American officials, as well as journalists, hostile and supportive of Saigon, misinterpreted this as a testament to Thảo's great ability, and he was promoted to a more powerful position where he could further his sabotage. Thảo and the communists in the local area had simply decided to stop fighting, so that the communists could quietly recuperate, while Thảo would appear to be very skillful and be given a more important job where he could do more damage.

Through intrigue, Thảo also helped destabilise and ultimately unseat two South Vietnamese regimes—Diem's and the military junta of Khánh. As the Diệm regime began to unravel in 1963, Thảo was one of the officers planning a coup. His plot was ultimately integrated into the successful plot, his activities promoted infighting which weakened the government and distracted the military from fighting the Vietcong insurgency. Throughout 1964 and 1965, as South Vietnam was struggling to establish a stable state after the ouster of Diệm, Thảo was involved in several intrigues and coup plots which diverted the government and army's efforts from fighting the Vietcong and building the nation. In 1965, he went into hiding after a failed attempt to seize power from Khánh and was sentenced to death in absentia. Although this coup also failed, the subsequent chaos forced Khánh's junta to collapse. Thảo died the same year he was forced into hiding; it is believed that he was murdered after a bounty was placed on his head. After Vietnam was reunified at the end of the Vietnam War, the victorious North Vietnamese communists claimed Thảo as one of their own and posthumously made him a one-star general.

Read more about Pham Ngoc Thao:  Early Vietminh Years, Undercover Communist in The South Vietnamese Army, Strategic Hamlet Program, The Fall of Diệm, Participation in Military Junta, 1965 Attempted Coup, In Hiding, and Death, Legacy

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Pham Ngoc Thao - Legacy
... Thảo was posthumously promoted by the ARVN to the rank of one–star general and awarded the title of Heroic war dead (Vietnamese Liệt sĩ) ... After the Fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the communist government awarded him the same title and paid war pensions to his family, claiming him as one of their own ...