Duong Van Minh

Duong Van Minh, the last president of the Republic of Vietnam, was born in 1916 in the Mekong Delta, in what was then the French colony of Cochin China. Trained by the French, Minh became in 1955 the ranking army officer in Ngo Dinh Diem's newly proclaimed Republic of Vietnam. He rose to prominence a year later as a result of defeating the Mekong Delta-based Hoa Hao sect, the leader of which was publicly guillotined. Minh's rising popularity combined with his outspokenness forced Diem to remove him from military command by promoting him to a largely honorific advisory position.

General Minh emerged from obscurity seven years later as the leader of a group of Vietnamese generals that staged the November 1963 military uprising, ending the regime of President Ngo Dinh Diem. During the uprising, Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu were assassinated, reportedly on Minh's orders. The generals replaced the Diem government with a Military Revolutionary Council, with Minh serving as nominal chairman. This remarkably ineffective group governed for only three months. In January 1971, the council and General Minh were ousted by a military coup led by General Nguyen Khanh.

After living in exile for several years, Minh returned to South Vietnam in 1968, when he came to be regarded as a potential leader of a non-Communist coalition of opponents of President Nguyen Van Thieu. Minh entered the 1971 presidential election, but he withdrew from the race when events eliminated any possibility of his defeating Thieu. Minh's last appearance on the Vietnamese political stage occurred in April 1975, during the last days of the crumbling Republic of Vietnam. On April 21, Thieu resigned the presidency. His elderly vice president, Tran Van Huong, shortly thereafter appointed Minh to the presidency as North Vietnamese units converged on Saigon. The Minh administration lasted two days. On April 29, 1975, Minh was taken into custody, after surrendering unconditionally to the North Vietnamese Army unit that had occupied the presidential palace. Duong Van Minh, the last president of the Republic of Vietnam, was permitted to immigrate to France in 1983.