Cauldron of Misalliances

Haydon Cherry, North Carolina State University

Jessica Chapman. Cauldron of Resistance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and 1950s Southern Vietnam. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 2013. 296 pp. $40 (cloth).

Edward Miller. Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. 432 pp. $40 (cloth/e-book).

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Just after midday on November 1, 1963, soldiers from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, also called South Vietnam, filled the streets of Saigon. They surrounded the post office, the police headquarters, and other government buildings. A coup was under way. Ngô Đình Diệm, the president of the republic, and Ngô Đình Nhu, his brother and closest adviser, retreated to a bunker beneath the presidential palace. As events unfolded, Nhu became increasingly agitated, but Diệm calmly smoked and drank tea. He had survived an abortive coup three years earlier and an attempt on his life in 1957. But as afternoon became evening, Diệm was unable to reestablish order in Saigon. At around eight o’clock, he and his brother left the bunker through a side door and climbed into a waiting Citroën “Deux Chevaux" . . .