27 February 1962: Ngô Đình Diệm’s Palace Bombed

On 6 February 1962, the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (MACV) was formed in aid of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). Under the programme, US military presence in South Vietnam increased to roughly 9,000 troops, compared with fewer than 800 during the 1950s.

On 27 February, Republic of Vietnam Air Force (RVAF) pilots Phạm Phú Quốc and Nguyễn Văn Cừ bombed and strafed the Presidential Palace in Saigon in an attempt to kill Ngô Đình Diệm and his brother Ngô Đình Nhu. They flew American-made World War II-era planes. However, President Diệm and his brother Nhu escaped unharmed. Diệm attributed his survival to “divine protection.” This was the second attempt to oust President Diệm from office, highlighting the growing tensions in South Vietnam with Diệm’s increasingly discriminatory and oppressive regime.

Lieutenant Quốc was arrested after his plane crash-landed near Saigon. Lieutenant Cừ fled to Cambodia, where he remained until November 1963. The attack confirmed Diệm’s conviction that his main adversaries were domestic. As a result, he retreated deeper into himself, delegating more authority to his brother Nhu, who set about eradicating dissidents. As a result, dozens of Diệm’s political opponents disappeared and thousands more were sent to prison camps.

Diệm and his brother were eventually killed during the coup in November 1963.

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