Nguyen Cao Ky

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Nguyen Cao Ky was commander of the Republic of Vietnam air force, Prime Minister from 1965 to 1967. He was moved out of power by Nguyen Van Thieu, and was vice president, a position with no power, from 1971.

As Air Force commander, Ky was a charismatic leader, who personally led a raid into North Vietnam before that became an all-U.S. effort.

When Ky held high-level political power, it was due to his ability to balance various interests. Attractive to the U.S. leadership, he was able to obtain substantial American support. When they met at the February 1966 Honolulu Conference, Lyndon Johnson liked and encouraged Ky, who returned to Vietnam with a sense of increased U.S. backing. [1]

Prior to the Honolulu meeting, it was understood he would resign in favor of an elected government, but deferred doing so. This triggered opposition, including from the Buddhist activist Tri Quang, who was allied with Gen. Nguyen Chanh Thi, II Corps tactical zone commander. In March, Ky fired Thi, triggering the Buddhist crisis of 1966.

After the fall of South Vietnam, he settled in the United States, but was not active in politics.


  1. Karnow, Stanley (1983), Vietnam, a History, Viking Press, pp. 444-446