June 19

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Jun 19, 1965:

Ky becomes premier of South Vietnam

Air Vice-Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky assumes the premiership of the ninth government to be installed within the last 20 months in the country. The Armed Forces Council had chosen Ky as premier on June 11, and Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu was chosen for the relatively powerless position of chief of state.

Having risen to the rank of lieutenant general in the fledgling South Vietnamese Air Force, Ky was one of a group of officers who had seized power earlier in 1965 to end the anarchy that had followed in the wake of the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem in November 1963.

The new premier immediately took steps to strengthen the armed forces. He also instituted needed land reforms, programs for the construction of schools and hospitals, and price controls. Additionally, his government began a much-touted campaign to remove corrupt officials. At the same time, however, Ky instituted a number of unpopular repressive actions, including a ban on newspapers.

In 1966, Buddhists, among other political factions, demanded Ky's ouster, and protests took place in various cities. The disturbances ended partly as a result of a government crackdown and partly because of a loss of support for the Buddhists among dissident elements of the military. Ky continued in his post until the elections of 1967, when be became Vice President of South Vietnam and Thieu became president. Ky served in that position until 1971, when he chose not to run as an opposition candidate against President Nguyen Van Thieu. He reverted to the rank of Air Marshal in the air force.

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