Nguyen Van Thieu


Nguyen Van Thieu
/ngooh"yen" vahn" tyooh", nooh"yen"/
born 1923, South Vietnamese political leader: president 1967-75, when South Vietnam capitulated to North Vietnam.

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▪ 2002

      Vietnamese military leader and politician (b. April 5, 1923, Tri Thuy, French Indochina [now in Vietnam]—d. Sept. 29, 2001, Boston, Mass.), was president of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) from 1967 to 1975. Although he had U.S. support, he eventually blamed American policies for the collapse of South Vietnam. In 1945 Thieu, the son of a small landowner, joined the Viet Minh against the French. He soon left the Viet Minh, however, because of its communist orientation. In 1947 he entered the National Military Academy in Da Lat, and in 1949 he was commissioned as an officer in the army organized by the French. Thieu later undertook military studies in France, in the U.S., and elsewhere, and for four years beginning in 1954, he was head of the National Military Academy. In 1963 he helped organize a coup, undertaken with U.S. approval, against South Vietnamese Pres. Ngo Dinh Diem. Thieu emerged as chief of state in 1965. In 1967 he won election as president, and he was reelected without opposition in 1971. He headed the government during the period of the major U.S. intervention in the war against the Viet Cong and North Vietnam. An authoritarian president, he was at the same time generally considered to be a weak and indecisive political and military leader. He opposed the Paris peace agreements of 1973 but was forced to accept a cease-fire and the withdrawal of U.S. troops, with the promise that other military assistance would continue. By early 1975 North Vietnamese troops had overrun the northern and central provinces of South Vietnam. On April 21, 1975, only days before the fall of the capital, Saigon, he fled the country, leaving his successor, Duong Van Minh (q.v. (Duong Van Minh )), to surrender. Thieu lived at first in London and then in the U.S., where he remained almost entirely out of public view.

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▪ president of South Vietnam
born April 5, 1923, Tri Thuy, Ninh Thuan province, Vietnam
died September 29, 2001, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.

      president of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) from 1967 until the republic fell to the forces of North Vietnam in 1975.

      The son of a small landowner, Thieu joined the communist-oriented Viet Minh in 1945 but later fought for the French colonial regime against the Viet Minh. In 1954 he was put in charge of the Vietnamese National Military Academy and, after 1956, continued to serve under the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam. Thieu played an important part in a successful coup against Diem in 1963. In 1965 he became chief of state in a military government headed by Premier Nguyen Cao Ky. In 1967 he was elected president under a new constitution promulgated in that year. He was reelected without opposition in 1971.

      Thieu's emergence coincided with the beginning of major U.S. intervention in the war against the Viet Cong insurgents and North Vietnam. Despite criticism of the authoritarian nature of his regime, he retained the support of the United States throughout the administrations of the U.S. presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. He continued to consolidate his power after the peace agreements of 1973 (in which his government was a somewhat reluctant participant) and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Vietnam.

      Communist gains in South Vietnam's northern provinces early in 1975 prompted Thieu to recall troops to defend the capital city, Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). Badly managed, the retreat turned into a rout, allowing communist forces to surround the capital. After resisting for several days, Thieu was persuaded that his resignation might permit a negotiated settlement of the war. On April 21, 1975, in a speech denouncing the United States, he resigned in favour of his vice president, Tran Van Huong, and shortly afterward left the country. He went first to Taiwan and later to England, taking up residence in Surrey, before settling in the United States.

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Universalium. 2010.

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