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Tran Van Don

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Lieutenant general and head of the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam at the time of the overthrow of Diem, Tran Van Don became both 2nd deputy chairman of the Military Revolutionary Council (MRC) that replaced the Ngo Dinh Diem government, as well as Minister of Defense in the Provisional Government controlled by the MRC.

Acknowledged to be a personable and handsome man, the Central Intelligence Agency, on August 28, 1963, suggested he might be out of his death. Personally a Buddhist, he had excellent communications with all factions, but might be personally opportunist. [1]

Gen. Le Van Kim, his deputy in ARVN, was also his brother-in-law and a member of the MRC. The two had met, earlier, with then-ambassasor Frederick Nolting, who sent them away as disloyal, but did not report them.[2]

Nguyen Khanh, in the preparation for the January 1964 coup that replaced most of the November 1963 MRC coup leader, spread a rumor that Don and Kim were planning a coup to implement policies of the current French leader, Charles de Gaulle. Khanh explained that this was plausible because they had been part of the French colonial administration, but so had Khanh himself. After the Khanh coup, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. sent a message to Washington, explaining that coup after coup was not a good thing, "Don and Kim had never forsworn the possibility of a neutral solution. [3]

Khanh later arrested Don over the Gaullist charges, which were rejected by an ARVN court-martial, causing ill will against Khanh in the officer corps. He later reappointed them to apparently makework advisory jobs.

He escaped Vietnam in 1975, becoming a headwaiter and car salesman in the United States. [4]


  1. Office of Current Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency; annotations by McGeorge Bundy (August 28, 1963), "Cast of Characters in South Vietnam,", in Prados, John, JFK and the Diem Coup, vol. George Washington University National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 101, OCI 2703/63
  2. Frederick Nolting (November 11, 1982), Oral History interview by Ted Gittinger, Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, pp. I-21 to I-22
  3. Karnow, Stanley (1983), Vietnam, a History, Viking Press, pp. 337-338
  4. Karnow, p. 691