Ngo Dinh Diem (Vietnamese: Gioan Baotixita Ngô Đình Diệm), (Jan. 3, 1901, Quang Binh province, Vietnam — Nov. 2, 1963, Saigon, Vietnam), a Vietnamese political leader who served as President of South Vietnam from 1955 until his assassination.
Diem was born into one of Vietnam’s noble families. His ancestors in the 17th century had been among the first Vietnamese converts to Roman Catholicism. Diem and his younger brother Nhu, attended the prestigious National Academy of Literature in Ha Noi, a school that hailed many future leaders of nationalist and communist movements such as Ho Chi Minh, Vo Nguyen Giap ...etc... He was on friendly terms with the Vietnamese Imperial family (Vietnamese: Hoàng Phái) in his youth, and in 1933 he served as the Emperor Bao Dai’s Minister of the Interior, but he resigned that same year in frustration at French unwillingness to countenance his legislative reforms. Relinquishing his titles, he spent the next 12 years living quietly in Hue. In 1945 Diem was captured by the communist forces. Ho Chi Minh invited him to join his independent government in the North, hoping that Diem’s presence would win Catholic support. But Diem rejected the proposal, citing he would never trust Communists who murdered his older brother. Ho Chi Minh expressed regret that he had no knowledge of such an affront and let Diem go. Diem went into self-imposed exile, living abroad for most of the next decade. He spent most of his time in monasteries in the United States, praying, meditating, and doing menial labor like any other monks, instead of a foreign visitor. This brought him to the attention of the United States, during President Eisenhower's Administration, who was looking for a leader for the newly formed South Vietnam.
In 1954 Diem returned at Emperor Bao Dai’s request to serve as Prime Minister of a U.S.-backed government in South Vietnam. After Bao Dai abdicated in 1955, Diem won the presidency of the newly declared Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), and formed the First Republic. Though initially favored and supported by the United States, the First Republic soon fell out of favor, especially with the international press. In 1963, he was finally assassinated after many attempted coups by the military, along with his brother and advisor. They both were buried in a Catholic Church in Saigon. Most of the First Republic accomplishments were ignored and replaced by criticisms of dictatorships, oppressions and corruptions.
In 1971, President Nguyen Van Thieu, declared Diem a National Hero and had a large memorial site erected in Mac Dinh Chi National Cemetary. After the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, Diem and his brother's graves were moved out of Saigon, with tombstones marked as "Siblings - Elder and Younger". After 2005, the Vietnam government allowed local residents to fully engrave Diem and Nhu grave markers.
Today, John Baptist Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother rest in the land that they long sought to unite.
1. Britannica Encyclopedia