February 19

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Feb 19, 1965:

South Vietnamese coup unsuccessful

Dissident officers move several battalions of troops into Saigon on this day with the intention of ousting Gen. Nguyen Khanh from leadership.

General Khanh escaped to Dalat with the aid of Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky, commander of the South Vietnamese Air Force, who then threatened to bomb Saigon and the Tan Son Nhut Airport unless the rebel troops were withdrawn. Ky was dissuaded from this by Gen. William Westmoreland, Commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, who told Ky that more political instability might have a negative impact on continued U.S. aid. Khanh was able to get troops to take over from the insurgents without any resistance on February 20.

Meanwhile, Ky met with the dissident officers and agreed to their demand for the dismissal of Khanh. On February 21, the Armed Forces Council dismissed Khanh as chairman and as commander of the armed forces. General Lam Van Phat replaced him. The next day, Khanh announced that he had accepted the council's decision, after which he was appointed a "roving ambassador," assigned first to go to the United Nations and present evidence that the war in South Vietnam was being directed from Hanoi by the North Vietnamese.

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