Saturday, November 2, 2013


November 2, 2013


Saigon, South Vietnam (JFK+50)  Fifty years ago today, November 2, 1963,  Ngo Dinh Diem, President of South Vietnam, and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, were executed as part of a military coup supported by the Kennedy administration and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The brothers had escaped the Palace by an underground tunnel, making it safely to a refuge in Cholon, but they were captured at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church just after 10 a.m.

Diem and Nhu were then placed in the back of a personnel carrier where they were beaten and shot to death.

Ngo Dinh Diem was 62 years old.  Ngo Dinh Nhu was 53.

Ike, JF Dules & Ngo Dinh Diem

Dr. John Prados wrote...

"The South Vietnamese government (was) plagued by corruption, political intrigues, and constant internal squabbling."

Dr. Prados goes on to describe Ngo Dinh Diem as an...

"autocratic, nepotistic ruler who valued power more than his relations with the Vietnamese people or progress in fighting the communists."

As a Catholic, Diem's authoritarian rule was opposed by South Vietnam's Buddhist population.

50 years ago the State Department denied any involvement by the United States in the coup, but evidence uncovered a decade ago by Dr. Prados proves otherwise.

Documents published by Dr. Prados show that while the Kennedy administration "had a considerable role in the coup," there was no evidence to show that JFK or his advisers planned for the executions.

St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church
Photo by Bui Thuy Dao Nguyen (2008)

According to General Maxwell Taylor, President John F. Kennedy learned of the deaths of Diem and Nhu at a cabinet meeting.  

Taylor said:

"Kennedy leaped to his feet and rushed out of the room with a look of shock and dismay on his face...."

Assistant Secretary of State Averell Harriman said:

"It was a great shock to everybody they were killed."*

Historian Howard Jones, however, wrote that CIA director, John McCone (was) "amazed" that JFK should be so shocked on hearing the news of the killings "given the unpredictability of coups."

Dr. Prados argued that President Kennedy and his advisers...

"overestimated their ability to control the South Vietnamese generals who directed the coup."

Dr. Prados referenced a document which showed that the CIA provided $42,000 in support to South Vietnamese generals who plotted the coup.

*The Church Committee found no evidence to indicate JFK gave any prior consideration to killing Diem, but did discover evidence of involvement by the administration and the CIA in the coup.


"JFK and the Diem Coup" by John Prados , The National Security Archive, 2003


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Despite a premature Chicago Tribune  headline to the contrary, President Harry S Truman defeated Republican challenger Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York in what was to go down as " the greatest upset in presidential election history."

Truman, who took office on the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, was even unpopular in his own party.

Unwilling to "dump" Truman at the 1948 Democratic Convention, some delegates wore buttons which read...

 "I'm Just Mild About Harry"

...a play on the popular song of the day "I'm Just Wild About Harry."

Truman, woefully behind in all the polls, went on a whistle stop campaign across the nation.

At many of his stops, speaking from a platform on the rear car of his train, Truman said:

"Any working man or farmer who votes against the Democratic party ought to have his head examined."

Truman on Whistle-Stop Campaign
           Truman Library Photo

The final electoral vote totals were...

                        Truman (D)          303
                        Dewey (R)              189
                      *Thurmond (C)       39

*Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was the nominee of the Dixiecrats, Southern Democrats who bolted the party in protest of Truman's stance on civil rights.