Nguyễn Văn Thiệu (5 April 1923 – 29 September 2001) was the president of South Vietnam from 1965 to 1975. He was a general in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), became head of a military junta, and then president after winning a scheduled election. He established rule over South Vietnam until he resigned and left the nation a few days before the fall of Saigon and the ultimate communist victory.
Born in Phan Rang, Thiệu was a descendent of the Tran Dinh dynasty of Annamese nobles. Thiệu initially joined the communist-dominated Việt Minh of Hồ Chí Minh but quit after a year and joined the Vietnamese National Army (VNA) of the French-backed State of Vietnam. He gradually rose up the ranks and, in 1954, led a battalion in expelling the communists from his native village. Following the withdrawal of the French, the VNA became the ARVN and Thiệu was the head of the Vietnamese National Military Academy for four years before becoming a division commander and colonel. In November 1960, he helped put down a coup attempt against President Ngô Đình Diệm. During this time, he also converted to Roman Catholicism and joined the regime’s secret Cần Lao Party; Diệm was thought to give preferential treatment to his co-religionists and Thiệu was accused of being one of many who converted for political advancement, although he claimed to have converted because his wife was a Roman Catholic...
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