Birthday: January 3, 1901
Died At Age: 62
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Also Known As: Ngô Đình Diệm
Born Country: Vietnam
Born in: Quảng Bình, French Indochina (present-day Vietnam)
Famous as: President of Vietnam
father: Ngo Dinh Kha
mother: Pham Thi Than
siblings: Ngo Dinh Nhu, Ngo Dinh Thi Giao, Ngo Dinh Thi Hiep, Ngo Dinh Thi Hoang, Ngô Đình Cẩn, Ngô Đình Khôi, Ngô Đình Luyện, Ngô Đình Nhu, Ngô Đình Thục
Died on: November 2, 1963
place of death: Saigon, South Vietnam
Cause of Death: Assassination
Founder/Co-Founder: Personalist Labor Revolutionary Party
education: School of Public Administration and Law
Ngo Dinh Diem was a Vietnamese politician who served as President of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1963. He was appointed by the then Emperor Bao Dai as the prime minister of the State of Vietnam in 1954. Diem joined the public office under the rule of Bao Dai and became the governor of Binh Thuan, a province of Vietnam, in the late 1920s. He eventually became the interior minister of Binh Thuan but didn’t like the way the emperor was associating with the French. Diem denounced the emperor and showed his support for Vietnamese nationalism. He was against the communist and colonialist culture, opposing both Ho Chi Minh (communist leader and former president of North Vietnam) and Bao Dai. Ngo Dinh Diem and his archivist cum politician brother Ngo Dinh Nhu founded the Personalist Labor Revolutionary Party in the early 1950s. Diem spent several years in exile before he was supported by Bao Dai, who was backed by the United States of America. He became the president and concentrated on rural development as well as emphasized on the industrial revolution. An unpopular figure, Diem faced numerous assassination attempts and eventually lost support from US. A major coup took place, orchestrated by the top generals, and Diem was murdered after he was captured while on the run.
Childhood & Early Life
Ngo Dinh Diem was born on January 3, 1901, in Quang Binh, French Indochina. He was the son of Ngo Dinh Kha, a Catholic mandarin to Emperor Thanh Thai in Hue. Diem had five brothers, including Ngo Dình Nhu, who was his political advisor and an archivist.
Diem was raised a Catholic and was a religious person. In his childhood, Diem worked in his family farm and studied in a French Catholic primary school. Later, he enrolled in a private school run by his father, where he studied literature, mostly French, Chinese and Latin.
After completing his schooling, Diem attended the French school, School of Public Administration and Law in Hanoi, where he prepared for colonial administration.
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Ngo Dinh Diem was influenced by his elder brother Ngo Dinh Thuc, who was very religious and became one of the top-ranked Catholic bishops in the country. It was thought that Diem would follow in his footsteps until he decided the monastic life to be too rigorous and unfruitful for him.
In a turn of events, Diem graduated and followed in the footsteps of another of his brothers, the eldest one, Ngo Dinh Khoi.
Diem joined the civil service as a junior official in the Thua Thien province. He was then promoted to provincial chief, taking charge of 300 villages in the process.
He received support from Nguyen Huu Bai, who was the highly regarded Catholic head of the Council of Ministers at the Hue court. The support also brought the French on his side as Huu Bai was very popular with the French.
Diem noticed the communists distributing leaflets filled with propaganda when he was strolling in the region. This was the first instance when Diem started to fall out with the communist ideology. He decided to make the public aware of the communist propaganda by making his own leaflets spreading anti-communist agenda.
Bao Dai made Diem his interior minister after he became the emperor. Three months into his job, Diem realized Bao Dai was not a man in control; rather, he was more of a tool for the French. He resigned when his proposal of a Vietnamese legislature, which would result in administrative reform, was rejected by the French.
For the most of the 1930s, Diem spent his life with his family, under surveillance from the French. He mostly lived like a private citizen, hunting, gardening, reading, and doing chores at the church.
In 1943, Diem got in touch with Prince Cuong De, who was also an anti-colonial activist. Together, they formed the Association for the Restoration of Great Vietnam, a political party dominated by Catholic allies.
In 1945, when the Japanese coup d'état in French Indochina happened, Diem was offered the post of prime minister of the Empire of Vietnam by the Japanese. He declined this offer.
In 1947, Diem formed the National Union Bloc which later transformed into the Vietnam National Rally.
After returning from a self-imposed exile, Diem became the prime minister after the head of the state Bao Dai offered him the role in 1954. However, in a turn of events, Diem ousted Bao Dai after defeating him in a referendum controlled by the government.
Diem became the president of the First Republic of Vietnam on 26 October 1955. He was affiliated with the Personalist Labor Revolutionary Party. Diem had previously refused the 1954 Geneva Accords which asked for a free election to be held in Vietnam. He appointed members from his own family in his dictatorial regime.
Aided by the west, Diem managed to provide settlement to thousands of refugees. However, he created differences with South Vietnam with his policies and religious faith. His dictatorship meant many people were jailed and even killed in the events of opposing him.
Major issues broke out with the Buddhist, mainly from South Vietnam. Things took an uglier turn when the government sent forces to control a rally of Buddhists celebrating Buddha’s birthday. The forces killed many Buddhists, which resulted in major protests from the followers with three monks and a nun immolating themselves in protest.
The United States couldn’t afford the turn of events affect their image, and with growing global pressure, they withdrew their support.
The Buddhist crisis changed everything for Diem. The non-communist Vietnamese nationalists prepared for a coup with the help of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). A CIA agent named Lucien Conein played the role of a liaison between the generals of ARVN and the US Embassy.
On November 1, 1963, the government was overthrown by a successful coup. Diem and his confidants escaped but couldn’t get much far. He was captured on November 2, 1963, and was assassinated along with his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu.