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🚨New Coup in Vietnam

Jan. 29, 1964 - The pro-American commander of South Vietnam’s 1st Army Corps seized power in a bloodless pre-dawn coup today to block an alleged neutralist plot in the key Southeast Asian nation. Maj. Gen. Nguyen Khanh, the coup leader, imprisoned four members of the ruling military junta and an alleged French agent after his paratroopers, backed by tanks and armored cars, took over junta headquarters and key points around Saigon. Gen. Khanh told Americans close to his 1st Army Corps that he acted to save South Vietnam from being forced into a Laotian-style neutrality. He hinted that the four arrested junta members had been plotting with alleged French agents in Saigon to push the country toward neutralism. French President Charles de Gaulle has suggested the reunification of North and South Vietnam, free of foreign influence, along neutralist lines. Khanh indicated to Americans in Saigon that the alleged neutralist plot was to coincide with de Gaulle’s recognition of Communist China, which took place Monday. The status of former junta chief Maj. Gen. Duong Van Minh was unclear. He was not imprisoned, but his house was surrounded by Khanh’s paratroopers, and it was reported he may be under house arrest.

Today’s lightning coup came just short of three months after the ousted junta itself overthrew the government of President Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, were assassinated in that uprising. These four top-ranking junta members were arrested: Maj. Gen. Tran Van Don, commander in chief; Maj. Gen. Le Van Kim, chief of staff of the general staff; Maj. Gen. Mai Huu Xuan, chief of the national police; and Maj. Gen. Ton That Dinh, interior minister.

U.S. military sources said Vietnamese troops from the 5th Division, stationed at Diem Hoa, 15 miles north of Saigon, had set up roadblocks along the main highway leading from the north into the capital. They were armed with recoilless rifles and heavy machine guns. Gen. Khanh was, according to sources, in complete control, and reportedly had support of the other three army commanders. Khanh moved into the junta headquarters on the edge of the city, near Saigon Airport, shortly after his troops grabbed control.


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