Ngo Dinh Diem

[ ngoh deen dyem, dzyem, noh deen ]


  1. 1901–1963, South Vietnamese statesman: president of the Republic of South Vietnam 1956–63.


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Who was Ngo Dinh Diem?

Ngo Dinh Diem was the first president of South Vietnam and served in this role from 1955 until his assassination in 1963.

Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia that was unofficially divided in 1954 after The First Indochina War between Vietnamese rebels and France, which had conquered the country in the late 1800s and made it part of its Asian colony commonly referred to as French Indochina.

Ngo Dinh Diem led South Vietnam during the outbreak of the Vietnam War. In 1955, he won a corrupt election that named him the leader of Vietnam instead of the emperor, Bao Dai. Diem openly defied the Geneva Accords and declared a Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) with himself as president. Despite leading a government known for oppression and incompetence, Diem was supported and protected by the United States due to his anticommunist stance.

Why was Ngo Dinh Diem important?

Ngo Dien Diem was born in 1901 to a noble Vietnamese family that was close to Bao Dai. Vietnam was under French control as part of French Indochima for much of Diem’s life until rebels, led by communist leader Ho Chi Minh, would force France to put forth the Geneva Accords in 1954. These documents unofficially divided Vietnam in two, with Minh’s communist forces ruling the north and Bao Dai and Ngo Dien Diem, who was Bao Dai’s prime minister, leading the south. The Geneva Accords stated that Vietnam was supposed to hold elections that would decide who would rule a united Vietnam, but Diem and the United States did everything they could, including fighting a war, to prevent Minh’s communist party from controlling Vietnam.

During his rule, Diem was extremely unpopular and his government was defined by corruption, oppression, and extraordinary levels of incompetence. Despite this, Diem was supported by the United States, which provided Diem’s government with military backing against Ho Chi Minh’s government in North Vietnam and protected Diem from numerous assassination attempts. In 1963, having lost his few remaining allies, Diem was assassinated by his own generals.

Did you know … ?

The Vietnam War continued after Diem’s death until April 1975, when South Vietnam surrendered after Ho Chi Minh’s forces captured South Vietnam’s city of Saigon.

What are real-life examples of Ngo Dinh Diem?

This silent footage shows President Ngo Dinh Diem going on a tour of Vietnam in 1955:

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Ngo Dinh Diem remains a controversial historical figure who is remembered for the Buddhist protests against his regime and his complicated relationship with the United States during the Vietnam War:


Quiz yourself!

What was Ngo Dinh Diem the leader of from 1955 to 1963?

A. Ho Chi Minh’s army
B. North Vietnam
C. South Vietnam
D. the Vietcong