who's Who in South Vietnam
Vietnam's last emperor ascended to the throne in 1932 and cooperated with the Japanese occupying Vietnam during World War II. After the war, he briefly joined ranks with Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh, only to flee into exile in Hong Kong and France from 1949-1955. He returned to Vietnam to rule under French control until he was ousted by South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem in a rigged election in 1954.
Duong Van Minh
Known popularly as "Big Minh," Duong led the South Vietnamese army under prime minister Ngo Dinh Diem. In 1963, he became leader of South Vietnam after a coup in which Diem was murdered. Duong's rule lasted after only two months, but he briefly led South Vietnam again in 1975 before surrendering the nation to Communist forces.
Ngo Dinh Diem
After refusing Ho Chi Monh's invitation to join the Communist movement, Ngo Dinh Diem led South Vietnam from 1954 to 1963, when he was killed by his generals in a coup. His autocratic rule, exemplified by the imprisonment and execution of hundreds of Buddhists, and his refusal to institute land reforms, probably contributed to increasing popular support for Ho Chi Minh.
Ngo Dinh Nhu
The younger brother and chief political advisor of South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem, Nhu ran his brother's regime of secret political movements, the Can Lao. He was assassinated, along with his brother, during the 1963 coup.
Khanh was the South Vietnamese general who overthrew coup leader Duong Van Minh in 1964 to become prime minister of South Vietnam. He held the position for only about a year, before being exiled to France by another general, Nguyen Cao Ky, who became prime minister in 1965.
Nguyen Van Thieu
Nguyen Van Thieu briefly joined the Communist forces before abandoning them and serving in the French-controlled Vietnamese army. He served as the South Vietnamese chief of state under Nguyen Cao Ky from 1965-67. In 1967, he ran successfully for president of South Vietnam and held that position until the fall of Saigon, South Vietnam's capital, became imminent in 1975. Just prior to the Communist victory, Thieu emigrated to Taiwan before taking up residence in England.