November 2nd 1963: Diem assassinated
On this day in 1963, South Vietnamese President Ngô Ðình Diệm was assassinated. Diem was the first President of South Vietnam following Vietnamese independence from France. He was anti-communist and therefore had the support of the United States, who feared the fall of the region to Communism would lead to a ‘domino effect’ in the region. Diem was a Catholic, and pursued an aggressive policy towards Buddhists in his country, which led to high level of protests in Vietnam. These protests included self-immolation by Buddhist monks, and one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century was Malcolm Browne’s Pulitzer prize winning photograph of the self-immolation of Thich Quang Duc. The United States withdrew their support for South Vietnam amidst the protests, and soon after Diem was assassinated in a military coup. The United States had been steadily increasing its military presence in the country, trying to stem the tide of communist influence. In 1964, after the Tonkin Gulf Incident, the United States became fully engaged in the war effort against Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Cong, thus beginning America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The Americans began withdrawing troops in the early 1970s, and in 1975 Saigon ultimately fell to the Communists.