Mai Huu Xuan

Mai Huu Xuan
Mai Hữu Xuân
Allegiance Vietnamese National Army, Army of the Republic of Vietnam
Years of service 1940s–1964
Rank Major General
Commands held National Police (November 1963 – January 1964)
Battles/wars 1963 South Vietnamese coup
Other work Mayor of Saigon (November 1963 – January 1964)

Major General Mai Hữu Xuân was a general of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and a participant in the November 1963 coup that deposed President Ngô Đình Diệm and ended in his assassination.

Xuân started his career in the Vietnamese National Army of the French-backed State of Vietnam and worked in military security and was made an ARVN general, but was later put into a minor job by Diệm. During the coup against Diệm, Xuân led trainee enlisted men in a successful attack on the headquarters of the National Police, and the secret police. Xuân then led a group that arrested Diệm and his brother and adviser Ngo Dinh Nhu after their hiding place was discovered. During the trip back to headquarters, the Ngo brothers were executed, leading to a debate over who gave the order.

Xuân was then a member of the ruling junta, and served as the Mayor of Saigon and the head of the National Police, during which time he was accused of arresting people for ransom. After three months, the junta was overthrown by General Nguyễn Khánh and Xuân was arrested along with Generals Trần Văn Đôn, Lê Văn Kim and Tôn Thất Đính, accused of plotting to make peace with the communists and making South Vietnam a neutral state. Khánh was able to find evidence and his military tribunal convicted them of “lax morality”, and being unqualified to command due to a “lack of a clear political concept”. Xuân and his colleagues were put under house arrest for a period, before being released and compulsorily retired after a service limit was introduced.

Contents

Early career

Xuân served under Prime Minister Nguyễn Văn Tâm during the French-backed State of Vietnam era in the 1950s in military security.[1] When Ngô Đình Diệm became Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam, Xuân fought for him as an officer in the Vietnamese National Army (VNA) in the Battle for Saigon in May 1955, against the Bình Xuyên organised crime syndicate that sought to take over the capital.[2] The VNA dismantled the Bình Xuyên and Xuân was made a general.[2] Xuân turned against Diệm after he was relegated to a minor job, and he readily joined the plot against Diệm as opposition to his rule grew in 1963.[3]

Diệm’s assassination

The ARVN conducted a coup against Diệm on November 1, and Xuân led some of the units. He used some newly enlisted troops from the Quang Trung Training Camp to capture the headquarters of the National Police, which also included the secret police under the direct control of Diem’s brother and adviser Ngo Dinh Nhu.[4]

The next morning Diem and Nhu, who had escaped from the siege on the palace, agreed to surrender. The coup leader, General Dương Văn Minh dispatched a convoy to pick them up from their hideout in Cholon. The convoy was led by Xuan and consisted of Colonels Nguyen Van Quan and Duong Ngoc Lam. Quan was the deputy of Minh and Lam had been the commander of Diem's Civil Guard until defecting mid-way through the coup once a rebel victory seemed assured. Two further officers made up the convoy: Major Duong Hieu Nghia and Captain Nguyen Van Nhung, Minh's bodyguard.[5]

When the officers arrived, Diem requested that the convoy stop at the palace so that he could gather personal items before being exiled. Xuan turned him down, clinically stating that his orders were to take the brothers directly to headquarters. Nhu expressed disgust that they were to be transported in an APC, asking "You use such a vehicle to drive the president?"[6] Xuan said that it was selected to protect them from "extremists". Xuan ordered the brothers' hands be tied behind their backs before shoving them into the carrier. One officer asked to shoot Nhu, but Xuan turned him down.[6]

After the arrest, Nhung and Nghia sat with the brothers in the APC. Before the convoy had departed for the church, Minh was reported to have gestured to Nhung with two fingers. This was taken to be an order to kill both brothers. An investigation by Don later determined that Nghia had shot the brothers at point-blank range with a semi-automatic firearm and that Nhung sprayed them with bullets before repeatedly stabbing the bodies with a knife.[7]

The generals were shocked to see the dead bodies and Tran Van Don ordered another officer to tell reporters that the brothers had died in an accident. He went to confront Minh in his office.[6]

  • Don: Why are they dead?
  • Minh: And what does it matter that they are dead?[6]

At this time, Xuan walked into Minh's office through the open door, unaware of Don's presence. Xuan snapped to attention and stated "Mission accomplie".[6] Although the blame was widely placed on Minh, US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. thought that Xuan was also partly culpable asserting that "Diem and Nhu had been assassinated, if not by Xuan personally, at least at his direction."[8]

Junta and overthrow

Under the military junta, Xuan served as the national police chief. He was accused of arresting people en masse, before releasing them in return for bribes and pledges of loyalty.[9]

Xuan did not survive long in his new post. General Nguyen Khanh, disgruntled that Minh and the other leading generals did not offer him a position in the 12-man junta, began to plot. Instead, Khanh was transferred to command I Corps, based around Huế and Da Nang in the far north of the Republic of Vietnam. It was speculated, that this was done to keep Khanh as far away from Saigon as possible, as the others regarded him as untrustworthy.[10][11] Khanh had wanted a transfer to the IV Corps in the Mekong Delta close to Saigon, close to the political intrigue.[11]

Khanh joined forces with other ambitious officers who resented the MRC for giving jobs they felt were insignificant. These included Brigadier General Do Mau,[11] the Minister of Information,[12] Colonel Nguyen Chanh Thi,[12] and General Tran Thien Khiem, who had been demoted from being Chief of Staff of the ARVN to the commander of the III Corps that surrounded Saigon, which meant that he controlled the troops near the capital.[12][13]

At the time, French President Charles de Gaulle was contemplating recognising the People's Republic of China and wanted Southeast Asia neutralised as part of his agenda to cultivate relations with the communist bloc. De Gaulle wanted the Americans out of South Vietnam.[14] Khanh told various American officials that Generals Xuan, Don, Minh and Le Van Kim were "pro-French and pro-neutralist" and part of de Gaulle's plan.[15]

Before dawn on January 30, Khanh and his colleagues seized power in a bloodless coup before dawn, catching the MRC completely off guard.[16] Khanh had Xuan arrested, along with Minh, Don, Kim and Ton That Dinh, claiming that they were part of a neutralist plot with the French. Khanh noted that they had served in the French-backed Vietnamese National Army in the early 1950s, although he did as well. The generals were flown to My Khe beach, near Da Nang and put under house arrest.[17]

Retribution by Khanh

Khanh tried Xuan and his colleagues in May.[17] The generals were interrogated for five and a half hours, mostly about details of the coup against Diem, rather than the original charge of promoting neutralism. As Khanh was involved in the plot as well, this did not reveal any new information. The court deliberated for over nine hours, and when it reconvened for the verdict, Khanh stated, "We ask that once you begin to serve again in the army, you do not take revenge on anybody".[17] The tribunal then "congratulated" Xuan and his colleagues, but found that they were of "lax morality", unqualified to command due to a "lack of a clear political concept".[17] Xuan and his fellow generals were chastised for being "inadequately aware of their heavy responsibility" and of letting "their subordinates take advantage of their positions".[18] They were allowed to remain in Da Lat under surveillance with their families.[17][18]

Xuan was barred from commanding troops, as were his colleagues. An office was prepared so that he could participate in "research and planning".[17] Worried that Xuan and his idle colleagues would plot against him, Khanh made arrangements to send them to the United States for military study, but this fell through.[18][19] In any case, the younger generation of officers forcibly retired Xuan and the other generals by making it compulsory for officers to retire after 25 years of military service. When Khanh was himself deposed in 1965, he handed over dossiers proving that Xuan and his colleagues were innocent.[20]

Notes

  1. ^ Hammer, p. 125.
  2. ^ a b Hammer, p. 298.
  3. ^ Karnow, p. 325.
  4. ^ Halberstam, David (1963-11-06). "Coup in Saigon: A Detailed Account". The New York Times. http://www.pbs.org/weta/reportingamericaatwar/reporters/halberstam/coup.html. Retrieved 2009-10-29. 
  5. ^ Hammer, pp. 297–298.
  6. ^ a b c d e Jones, p. 429.
  7. ^ Karnow, p. 326.
  8. ^ Jones, p. 436.
  9. ^ Shaplen, p. 221.
  10. ^ Karnow, pp. 354–355.
  11. ^ a b c Shaplen, p. 230.
  12. ^ a b c Shaplen, p. 231.
  13. ^ Karnow, p. 352.
  14. ^ Shaplen, pp. 232–233.
  15. ^ Logevall, p. 162.
  16. ^ Shaplen, p. 233.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Langguth, pp. 289–291.
  18. ^ a b c Shaplen, pp. 244–245.
  19. ^ Karnow, p. 355.
  20. ^ Langguth, p. 347.

References

  • Hammer, Ellen J. (1987). A Death in November: America in Vietnam, 1963. New York City, New York: E. P. Dutton. ISBN 0-525-24210-4. 
  • Jacobs, Seth (2006). Cold War Mandarin: Ngo Dinh Diem and the Origins of America's War in Vietnam, 1950–1963. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-7425-4447-8. 
  • Jones, Howard (2003). Death of a Generation: how the assassinations of Diem and JFK prolonged the Vietnam War. New York City, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505286-2. 
  • Kahin, George McT. (1979). "Political Polarization in South Vietnam: U.S. Policy in the Post-Diem Period". Pacific Affairs (Vancouver, British Columbia) 52 (4): 647–673. 
  • Karnow, Stanley (1997). Vietnam: A history. New York City, New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-670-84218-4. 
  • Langguth, A. J. (2000). Our Vietnam: the war, 1954–1975. New York City, New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-81202-9. 
  • Logevall, Fredrik (2006). "The French recognition of China and its implications for the Vietnam War". In Roberts, Priscilla. Behind the bamboo curtain : China, Vietnam, and the world beyond Asia. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804755027. 
  • Moyar, Mark (2006). Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954–1965. New York City, New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521869110. 
  • Shaplen, Robert (1966). The Lost Revolution: Vietnam 1945–1965. London: Andre Deutsch. 
  • Tucker, Spencer C. (2000). Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social and Military History. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-040-9. 




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