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In this Vietnamese name, the family name is Nguyễn, but is often simplified to Nguyen in English-language text. According to Vietnamese custom, this person should properly be referred to by the given name Khánh.
Nguyễn Khánh
Born November 8, 1927 (1927-11-08) (age 82)
My Tho, French Indochina

Nguyễn Khánh (born November 8, 1927) is a former Chief of State and Prime minister of South Vietnam. He was a General, Commander-in-chief, Chief of Staff in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and Ambassador.

On January 2, 2005, he was appointed to serve as the Chief of State of the Government of Free Vietnam, an anti-communist organisation which seeks to overthrow the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam. The organisation is not recognised by any country.

Contents

Biography

He was born at Tra Vinh Province, Vietnam. The son of a nightclub owner in Da Lat, he had joined the Viet Minh, led by Hồ Chí Minh to liberate Vietnam from French colonialism. He abandoned them after learning of their aspirations of governing Vietnam under a Communist system. He then joined the Vietnamese National Army under the leadership of Emperor Bảo Đại in the First Indochina War against the Viet Minh.

Military career

In 1946, he graduated from the French Military Academy Saint-Cyr/Coetquidam and was promoted to "Indochine", and Ecole des Troupes Aéroportées (Airborne forces) in France.

In 1947, he graduated from Vien Dong (Dap Da) Military Academy and Saint Saumur (France) Military Academy, rank of Lieutenant. His first assignment was as a Platoon Leader at 1st Battalion, Attache Officer to the Prime Minister.

In 1949-52, he was a Lieutenant and commanded the only first Parachutists Company in Vietnam. He was then promoted to Captain and commanded first Parachutists Battalion, participating in the Hoa-Binh Operation in Northern Vietnam under the command of General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny.

In 1953-55, he was a Major in command of the 13th ARVN and subdivision of Can Tho, South Vietnam. He was then promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and commanded the Group Mobile 11th Light Division. He commanded the "Zone de l'Ouest" transfer from the French Command and became the first Commander of Vietnamese Armed Forces.

In 1956-57, he was promoted to Colonel and commanded the First Infantry Division stationed at the 17th Parallel. He was chosen to attend the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, U.S. Joint & Combined School in Okinawa, Japan and he graduated from the U.S. High Command as Chief of Staff in France.

In 1957, he was assigned as Region Commander of Hau Giang consisting of Kien Hoa, My Tho, and Vinh Long. The following year he commanded the IV Corps Tactical Zone and served as General Secretary for National Defense.

He was appointed Secretary General of the Defense Ministry in 1959, and, in 1960, he was promoted to Major General and assigned to Inter-Arms Chief of Staff.

In 1962, President Ngô Đình Diệm assigned him as II Corps Commander and, on Dec 11, 1963, he was promoted to Lieutenant General to command I Corps.

On November 1, 1963, he joined General Dương Văn Minh and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) generals in a coup d'etat against President Ngô Đình Diệm which led to the President's death. General Khánh was transferred from the II Corps to the I Corps, further away from Saigon because the other generals found him to be distrustful.

Thereafter, he began to plot against General Dương Văn Minh's government. Khanh alleged that Generals Dương Văn Minh and Tran Van Don were supporting a neutralist position for South Vietnam.

Political career

On January 30, 1964, General Nguyen Khanh led a coup d'etat replacing Dương Văn Minh as Prime Minister. General Dương Văn Minh was placed under house arrest, but was allowed to remain as a figurehead chief-of-state. General Nguyen Khanh assumed the leadership from the junta as chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council that took over after Ngô Đình Diệm's assassination. During this time, Khanh's regime suffered several military setbacks such as the Battle of Long Dinh.

On July 19, 1964, during the Vietnam War at a rally in Saigon, General Nguyễn Khánh made a statement "calling for expanding the war into North Vietnam."

In August 1964, General Nguyen Khanh was faced with an attempted coup, rioting and demonstrations in the northern provinces, a massive labor strike in Saigon, and an armed revolt by Montagnards.

On September 26, 1964, the Vietnamese Revolutionary Council elected Phan Khắc Sửu as Chief of State and the former mayor of Saigon, Trần Văn Hương, as Premier, but General Nguyen Khanh retained real power under the title of commander in chief of the armed forces.

On September 13, 1964, the South Vietnamese Air Force, under the leadership of Air Marshal Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, crushed a coup plot against General Nguyễn Khánh. Nguyễn Cao Kỳ's political star began to rise.

During his time in power, General Nguyễn Khánh established a new constitution, which the U.S. Embassy helped to draft, and Premier Trần Văn Hương drafted a statement that his country's differences with the United States arising from the military seizure of power on December 20 had been eliminated.

General Nguyen Khanh was appointed to deal with the crisis caused by current Anti-government demonstrations. The day before this takeover, a 17-year-old Buddhist girl had burned herself to death in protest against the Trần Văn Hương regime. A struggle for political power began between General Nguyen Khanh and the activist Buddhist leader, Thich Tri Quang.

On February 19, 1965, several dissident South Vietnamese Generals moved their battalions into Saigon with the intention of ousting General Nguyen Khanh. General Khanh escaped to Da Lat with the aid of Air Marshal Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, which enabled him to crush any coups that were launched against the new regime. He threatened to bomb Saigon and Tan Son Nhut Airport unless the rebel troops were withdrawn, but was dissuaded from this by General William Westmoreland, Commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.

In February 1965, General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu joined forces with Air Vice-Marshal Nguyễn Cao Kỳ in a coup d'etat against General Nguyen Khanh's government that lasted for (260 days) from January 1964-October 1964, with the support of a neutralist coalition. Air Marshall Nguyễn Cao Kỳ appointed Dr. Phan Huy Quat to form a new government.

On June 19, 1965, the National Leadership Committee headed by General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu appointed Kỳ to the office of premier, the highest political office in South Vietnam.

Life in exile

On February 25, 1965, under disagreement with the United States government's policy toward South Vietnam, he accepted an Ambassadorship when Air Marshall Nguyễn Cao Kỳ appointed him as Ambassador to France. After the demise of South Vietnam, he remained in France and worked for Soditee Inc. as a special consultant.

He and his wife, Nguyen Le Tran (maiden name: Pham Le Tran), along with four of their six children immigrated to the United States in 1977. He has worked for DSC Communications Corp. in Texas, Global Development Group in San Francisco, Aeroservicios Ltd. in Honduras, Global Economic Support in California and Vietnamese-American corporations and private enterprises.

In the 1990s he traveled abroad, meeting with Vietnamese communities worldwide and also with officials in Paris, Washington, D.C., Beijing and Honduras regarding the future of Vietnam.

In 1991 General Khánh was invited to a private visit to the Special Economic Zones of the People's Republic of China.

Since 1993, General Khánh has participated in lecturing at different Civilian and Military Universities, including the U.S. Army War College, the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, Texas Tech University, and the University of Denver, about the Vietnam War and the future of the nation.

On January 2, 2005, Khánh was selected as Chief of State of the Government of Free Vietnam, an anti-communist organization located in Little Saigon, Westminster, California.

Quotes

  • "The army is the father of the state!" - 1964
  • "I am bringing a handful of dirt from the homeland, I will definitely return someday" - 1965, when forced into exile
  • "We make sacrifices for the nation's independence and the people's liberty, not to pursue the policy of any foreign country."
  • "I left my country in honor that day, not like Thiệu who fled later. My cabinet, my troops, the whole diplomatic corps were there at the airport to bid me farewell."
  • "I took with me in my hand on the departing plane a bag of sand, a bag of earth from the soil of a free South Vietnam. My Western hero had always been Gen. Douglas MacArthur who made the famous promise ‘I shall return’ after he lost a battle in the Philippines."-- “I have a promise to keep — to return to a free and democratic Vietnam.”
  • "China believes it is the center of the universe; look at its flag: one big star surrounded by satellite stars: Arrogance!" - referring to the PRC flag
  • "Vietnam is the next dragon in Asia"

External links

Preceded by
Duong Van Minh
President of the Republic of Vietnam
1964
Succeeded by
Phan Khac Suu
Preceded by
Nguyen Ngoc Tho
Prime Minister of the Republic of Vietnam
1964
Succeeded by
Tran Van Huong
Preceded by
Nguyen Huu Chanh
Government of Free Vietnam
2005-(a)
Succeeded by
Current Incumbent







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