Duong Van Minh

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For more information, see: Government of the Republic of Vietnam.

Duong Van Minh (1916-2001) was a Vietnamese general who led the 1963 overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem, was a power broker in several short-lived governments, and was the final President of the Republic of Vietnam in 1975. [1] He was called "Big Minh", as he was enormous by Vietnamese standards, nearly 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. Since there were other generals named Minh, a nickname was needed to avoid ambiguity.

Early South Vietnamese military

After joining the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam in 1954, he commanded the defeat of the private armies of several quasi-autonomous Southern groups, including the religious Hoa Hao and Cao Dai, and an organization somewhere between pirates and a quasi-state, the Binh Xuyen. While these took place under the unpopular Ngo Dinh Diem government, they were seen, by the population, as different that conflict with Buddhist majorities in 1963 and 1966.

Elements of these private forces may then have joined the NLF, not so much to be Communists as to fight Diem. [2]

1963 Coup

See also: Vietnam War, Buddhist crisis and military coup of 1963

He was the leader of the main generals, working through the conduit of CIA officer Lucien Conein to U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.. His government lasted until January 1964, when he was overthrown, without fighting, by another Vietnamese general. Minh may have been replaced for wanting a more neutralist Vietnam than did the U.S. and his replacement.

Fall of South Vietnam

On April 30, 1975, he told Bui Tin, leader of the People's Army of Viet Nam forces that took the Presidential Palace, "I have been waiting since early this morning to transfer power to you." The response was "There is no question of your transferring power. Your power has crumbled. You cannot give up what you do not have." He was arrested and held until 1983, when he moved to France, and then the United States, where he died in 2001.


  1. Butterfield, Fox (August 8, 2001), "Duong Van Minh, 85, Saigon Plotter, Dies", New York Times
  2. Douglas Pike (June 4, 1981), pp. I-11 to I-12