We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Cauldron of Resistance

Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and 1950s Southern Vietnam

by Jessica M. Chapman

Publication Year: 2013

In 1955, Ngo Dinh Diem organized an election to depose chief-of-state Bao Dai, after which he proclaimed himself the first president of the newly created Republic of Vietnam. The United States sanctioned the results of this election, which was widely condemned as fraudulent, and provided substantial economic aid and advice to the RVN. Because of this, Diem is often viewed as a mere puppet of the United States, in service of its Cold War geopolitical strategy. That narrative, Jessica M. Chapman contends in Cauldron of Resistance, grossly oversimplifies the complexity of South Vietnam's domestic politics and, indeed, Diem's own political savvy.

Based on extensive work in Vietnamese, French, and American archives, Chapman offers a detailed account of three crucial years, 1953-1956, during which a new Vietnamese political order was established in the south. It is, in large part, a history of Diem's political ascent as he managed to subdue the former Emperor Bao Dai, the armed Hoa Hao and Cao Dai religious organizations, and the Binh Xuyen crime organization. It is also an unparalleled account of these same outcast political powers, forces that would reemerge as destabilizing political and military actors in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Chapman shows Diem to be an engaged leader whose personalist ideology influenced his vision for the new South Vietnamese state, but also shaped the policies that would spell his demise. Washington's support for Diem because of his staunch anticommunism encouraged him to employ oppressive measures to suppress dissent, thereby contributing to the alienation of his constituency, and helped inspire the organized opposition to his government that would emerge by the late 1950s and eventually lead to the Vietnam War.

Published by: Cornell University Press


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 2-7


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. ix-xii

A few notes on language and sources are necessary at the outset. Readers familiar with the Vietnamese language will notice the absence of diacritics and tone markers on Vietnamese words in the pages of this book. These marks are, of course, critical for understanding and identifying Vietnamese words. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. xiii-xiv

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 1-12

In February 1957, Hollywood director Joseph Mankiewicz arrived at the Cao Dai Holy See in Tay Ninh to film one of the organization’s colorful festivals for the original cinematic version of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. The previous year, Cao Dai pope Pham Cong Tac—the group’s religious leader and one of southern Vietnam’s most notable nationalist politicians— ...

read more

1. Anticolonialism in Vietnam’s Wild South

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 13-39

A group of rebel forces drawn from the millenarian Buddhist organization, Buu Son Ky Huong, was among the last holdouts against France’s colonizing army in the Mekong Delta. The organization appeared in the delta in the 1840s and quickly grew in popularity as its charismatic leader Doan Minh Huyen offered healing amulets amidst the latest in a series of devastating cholera epidemics ...

read more

2. The Crucible of Southern Vietnamese Nationalism and America’s Cold War

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 40-60

On February 1, 1950, a U.S. State Department working group penned the following justification for providing American military aid to France for its war in Indochina: ...

read more

3. “Sink or Swim with Ngo Dinh Diem”

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 61-85

As the French war approached its denouement, the United States identified as one of its key objectives the “development of indigenous leadership which will be truly representative and symbolic of Indo-Chinese national aspirations and win the loyalty and support of the people.”1 ...

read more

4. The “Sect” Crisis of 1955 and America’s Miracle Man in Vietnam

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 86-115

The “sect” crisis of March and April 1955 was the culmination of the open confl ict between politico-religious forces and Ngo Dinh Diem’s government that began with the Hinh crisis the previous fall.1 In the prior standoff, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, and Binh Xuyen leaders had backed down on realizing that American sympathy for their cause would not be forthcoming, ...

read more

5. Destroying the Sources of Demoralization: Ngo Dinh Diem’s National Revolution

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 116-145

In the aftermath of Ngo Dinh Diem’s dramatic and unexpected victory in the sect crisis, American observers celebrated his leadership as nothing less than a miracle.1 Pressmen and politicians alike were awed by his unlikely triumph over what they viewed as forces of chaos, greed, and depravity. ...

read more

6. A Different Democracy: South Vietnam’s Referendum to Depose Bao Dai

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 146-172

On October 23, 1955, amid the government’s military and propaganda campaigns against the politico-religious organizations, South Vietnam’s citizens took to the polls to choose between the country’s obsolete emperor Bao Dai and its far-from-popular prime minister Ngo Dinh Diem.1 ...

read more

7. The Making of a Revolution in South Vietnam

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 173-195

The government of Ngo Dinh Diem reached a critical turning point at the beginning of 1956. He had deposed Bao Dai, established a new republican government in South Vietnam, and validated his leadership through an ostensibly democratic referendum. ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 196-204

When Washington replaced France as the predominant Western power in Vietnam in 1954, it stepped into the middle of a civil struggle over the nature of Vietnam’s postcolonial political order, the lines of which had already been contorted by French intervention. ...

Appendix: Select Vietnamese Names with Diacritics

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 205-206


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 207-250


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 251-268


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 269-276

E-ISBN-13: 9780801467417
E-ISBN-10: 0801467411
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801450617
Print-ISBN-10: 0801450616

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 826855580
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cauldron of Resistance

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Vietnam (Republic) -- Politics and government.
  • Ngô, Đình Diệm, 1901-1963.
  • Vietnam (Republic) -- Foreign relations -- United States.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Vietnam (Republic).
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access