Year
1967

Thieu becomes president

The South Vietnamese Armed Forces Council resolves rival claims to the presidency in favor of Nguyen Van Thieu, Chief of State. Former Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, who had announced on May 11 that he would run for president, was forced to accept second place on the presidential ticket.

Thieu had been an Army officer in command of the 5th Infantry Division near Saigon when he and other senior South Vietnamese officers led a coup against President Ngo Dinh Diem. Following the coup, a series of groups jockeyed for power. In June 1965, another coup against the civilian government momentarily in power resulted in a 10-man Military National Leadership Committee, which elected Ky as premier and Thieu as Chairman and Chief of State. When elections were held in 1967, the situation was reversed and Thieu became president. In 1971, Ky would choose not to run against Thieu and Thieu would be re-elected to the presidency, although charges of a rigged election surfaced.

Pressured by the United States to agree to the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, which left the North Vietnamese in control of large segments of South Vietnam, President Thieu’s position was further undermined when the U.S. Congress cut promised military aid. After an open North Vietnamese attack on Phuoc Long Province in November 1974, President Gerald Ford failed to honor U.S. promises to come to the aid of the South Vietnamese in the case of such an attack. With four North Vietnamese corps closing in on Saigon and all hope of outside assistance gone, President Thieu resigned, and on April 25, 1975, he left South Vietnam, flying to Taiwan and then to Great Britain.

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