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Ngo Dinh Diem

By Finbarr
  • Birth

    Born of mandarin family from Hue, Catholic since conversion by Portuguese missionaries in 17th century. Third of nine children, educated in French Catholic school and considered priesthood. Remained celibate. Trained in French School of Law and Administration for bureaucrats.
  • Period: to

    Life story

  • Early employment

    Employed in French bureaucracy until 1933
  • Reaches rank of provincial governor

    Significant responsibility at a young age.
  • Reaches Ministerial rank.

    Reaches Ministerial rank.
    Becomes Minister of Interior in French-sponsored Bao Dai government. Encourages Bao Dai to rule rather than obey, but unsuccessfully. Develops anti-French, but also anticommunist attitudes. A genuine nationalist, he resigns and lives under French surveillance for 2o years in Hue, on his family's income. Stamp shows Emperor Bao Dai.
  • Captured by Vietminh.

    Captured by Vietminh but recognised as a genuine patriot. Refuses Ho's invitation, unlike Bao Dai, to join Vietminh in Japanese-sponsored independence. Escapes.
  • Sentenced to death by Vietminh.

    Sentenced to death by Vietminh, who had already killed one of Diem's brothers and a nephew.
  • Lives in US monastery.

    Lives in US monastery.
    Lives in monastery in New Jersey, USA. Gains important introductions, especially to the then Senator John F Kennedy.
  • Leaves for a seminary in Belguim

    Decides to live in a Belgian Catholic seminary.
  • Geneva Conference after Dien Bien Phu

    In France during the Geneva Conference, invited by Bao Dai to be Prime Minister of South Vietnam.
  • Installed as PM of South Vietnam.

    Installed as PM
  • 1955 policies

    Settles 900000 refugees, mainly catholics from Nth Vietnam in enclaves around Saigon. Formally denounces the Geneva Accords. Ends monarchy through referendum and dethrones Bao Dai. Apponits himself President and Min. for defence. Unleashes warfare in Saigon to crush his enemies' private armies. They then join the NLF
  • 1956 policies.

    1956 policies.
    uses nepotism to appoint many of his family members to prominent positions of authority. Appoint his brother Nhu to run the secret police which he uses to terrorise his opposition. Diem reverses the land reform introduced by the Vietminh. Installs Catholics into prominent positions.alienates Chinese people within Vietnam.allows US to control the army budget.
  • Begins campaign against communists

    Ordinance 47 makes it illegal to be, or to be associated with, communists. It becomes a capital offence. Uses torture and terror to convict.
  • Miracle Man of Asia.

    Miracle Man of Asia.
    described in the US press as the miracle man of Asia for his stand against communism. Begins State planning of economy with state control over former French cement sugar and textile production.
  • Strategic Hamlets

    special villages set up to Channel US aid and eliminate anti government elements
  • First Coup fails

    coup attempt by army officers against Diem fails.
  • LBJ visit to Saigon.

    LBJ visit to Saigon.
    VP Johnson describes him as the Winston Churchill of Asia during a visit to Saigon. Opposition through the NLF grows. By 1960, the NLF controls 80% of the countryside.
  • 1962 repression

    loses 500 troops per month to the Vietcong. Introduces laws banning dancing, prostitution, contraception and cockfighting. These laws seem to be inspired by an ultra right-wing Catholic ethos.
  • Buddhist protests.

    Buddhist protests.
    Buddhists begin widespread protests against his regime. His soldiers respond by opening fire on unarmed monks in Hue.
  • First Buddhist self-immolation

    First Buddhist self-immolation
    First Buddhist immolation as a unique form of protest.
  • Diem responds by sacking Buddhist Pagodas.

    Continues to ignore US advice and responds to protests by sacking Buddhist pagodas.
  • Coup and assassination.

    Coup and assassination.
    Saigon generals with US compliance assassinate Diem and his brother Nhu in military coup.