The Magazine

The Opening Act

‘Sink or swim with Ngo Dinh Diem.’

Jun 10, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 37 • By CHARLES TRUEHEART
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The first bird in question was the burly Duong Van “Big” Minh, whose potential leadership appealed to one U.S. policymaker because he was tall; Diem was short and stout. Minh lasted but three months, overthrown by other generals whose leader, Nguyen Khanh, lasted a year, before another coup or two installed Nguyen Cao Ky and, finally, Nguyen van Thieu, with whom the United States would swim and sink. After one of these successor coups, President Johnson directed Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to tell the new general in place: “No more of this coup s—t!” Indeed.

Oddly, Misalliance concludes abruptly before any of this had occurred—on the second day of the coup—as the Ngo brothers, hands tied behind their backs, entered the armored personnel carrier where they would die. 

Charles Trueheart, director of the American Library in Paris, is a contributing editor to the American Scholar.