Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013

The following timeline is not intended on being a fully complete list of all the major events in Mandela’s life, but hopefully there are enough listed to give the reader a fuller appreciation of Mandela’s heroic life including the advent and end of apartheid.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Madiba clan

Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in the village of Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape, on 18 July 1918. His mother was Nonqaphi Nosekeni and his father was Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, principal counselor to the Acting King of the Thembu people, Jongintaba Dalindyebo.

His primary school teacher gave Mandela the Christian name Nelson, as was the custom.

According to the Nelson Mandela dot org site:

He completed his Junior Certificate at Clarkebury Boarding Institute and went on to Healdtown, a Wesleyan secondary school of some repute, where he matriculated.

Mandela began his studies for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University College of Fort Hare but did not complete the degree there as he was expelled for joining in a student protest.

On his return to the Great Place at Mqhekezweni the King was furious and said if he didn’t return to Fort Hare he would arrange wives for him and his cousin Justice. They ran away to Johannesburg instead, arriving there in 1941. There he worked as a mine security officer and after meeting Walter Sisulu, an estate agent, he was introduced to Lazer Sidelsky. He then did his articles through a firm of attorneys – Witkin, Eidelman and Sidelsky.

He completed his BA through the University of South Africa and went back to Fort Hare for his graduation in 1943.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

ANC Youth League

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

On April 2, 1944,  Mandela and other activists formed the African National Congress Youth League after becoming disenchanted with the cautious approach of the older members of the African National Congress (The ANC had been formed on January 8, 1912)

The youth league’s formation marked the shift of the congress to a mass movement. But its manifesto, so charged with pan-African nationalism, offended some non-black sympathizers.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela


In 1948: the National Party took power in South Africa and set out to construct apartheid, a system of strict racial segregation and white domination.

Mandela began studying for an LLB, but he left the university without graduating. He had earned a two-year diploma in law which allowed him and Oliver Tambo, in August 1952, to open South Africa’s first black law practice.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela


December 5, 1956: South African authorities arrested Nelson Mandela at his home and charged him with treason, along with 155 others who had called for a nonracial state in South Africa.

March 21, 1960: police fired on a demonstration in Sharpeville, killing 69 people and wounding 181. After the shooting, the South African government banned black political groups and gatherings and arrested thousands. The African National Congress was among the banned groups. Its members went underground and began to plan a campaign of direct attacks on the apartheid government.

The 1956 Treason Trial ended on March 29, 1961.  Mandela and his co-defendants were acquitted of treason. Fearing he would be arrested again, Mandela went underground.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Umkhonto we Sizwe

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

December 16, 1961: Mandela and other A.N.C. leaders formed a military wing called Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation. Mandela became the first commander in chief of the guerrilla army. He trained to fight, work to obtain weapons for the group, and came to be known as the Black Pimpernel, but he would never see combat.

January 11, 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Mandela secretly left South Africa. He traveled around Africa and visited England to gain support for the armed struggle. He received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and returned to South Africa in July 1962.

August 5, 1962: Mandela was arrested after his returning to South Africa.  He was convicted of leaving the country illegally and ofincitement to strike, and sentenced to five years in prison.

November 6, 1962: the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 1761, which condemned Apartheid in South Africa and called on member-nations to boycott the country. The Resolution also set up a Special Committee against Apartheid.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Rivonia Trial

July 11, 1963: police raided a farm in Rivonia, outside Johannesburg, where the African National Congress had set up its headquarters. They find documents outlining the group’s plan for guerrilla warfare. Using the evidence found on the farm, the government charges Mandela and eight co-defendants with sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. The ensuing trial, which became known as the Rivonia trial, established Mandela’s central role in the struggle against apartheid.

October 9, 1963 Mandela joined 10 others on trial for sabotage.

April 20, 1964: Mandela delivered his famous “I am prepared to die” speech while on trial.

[exerpt] “Africans want to be paid a living wage. Africans want to perform work which they are capable of doing, and not work which the Government declares them to be capable of. We want to be allowed to live where we obtain work, and not be endorsed out of an area because we were not born there. We want to be allowed and not to be obliged to live in rented houses which we can never call our own. We want to be part of the general population, and not confined to living in our ghettoes. African men want to have their wives and children to live with them where they work, and not to be forced into an unnatural existence in men’s hostels. Our women want to be with their men folk and not to be left permanently widowed in the reserves. We want to be allowed out after eleven o’clock at night and not to be confined to our rooms like little children. We want to be allowed to travel in our own country and to seek work where we want to, where we want to and not where the Labour Bureau tells us to. We want a just share in the whole of South Africa; we want security and a stake in society.

Above all, My Lord, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy.

But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs as it certainly must, it will not change that policy.

This then is what the ANC is fighting. Our struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by our own suffering and our own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live.

During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” [full text]

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela


On June 11 Mandela and seven others [Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni] were convicted and on June 12 they were sentenced to life in prison.

Mandela was sent to Robben Island prison, seven miles off the coast of Cape Town. He would spend the next 18 years there.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Continued protests

August 18, 1964: the International Olympic Committee barred South Africa from participating in the Summer Olympics due to the country’s Apartheid policy. The nation would not be reinstated until 1992.

June 16, 1976: tens of thousands of students take to the streets of Soweto to oppose the use of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in black schools. The police fire on the protesters, setting off months of violence that will leave more than 570 people dead. The uprising is considered a turning point in the history of black resistance to apartheid.

November 9, 1976: The United Nations General Assembly approved 10 resolutions condemning apartheid in South Africa.

April 27, 1977: Anti-apartheid riots in Soweto, South Africa.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Steve Biko

August 18, 1977: In South Africa police arrested Steve Biko [headed the Black Consciousness Movement and was the country’s best known political dissident] and Peter Jones at Grahamstown.

August 31, 1977: Ian Smith, espousing racial segregation, won the Rhodesian general election with 80% of overwhelmingly white electorate’s vote.

September 11, 1977: a guard found Steve Biko semiconscious and foaming at the mouth. A doctor ordered him transported to a prison hospital in Pretoria.

September 12, 1977: Steven Biko died while in police custody. Police had driven him naked in a truck 700 miles to Pretoria where he died in a prison cell.

Peter Gabriel released the song Biko in 1980. Its success continued to keep the violence of South Africa’s apartheid system in the minds of many.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Mandela transferred

March 28, 1982: Mandela and four other A.N.C. leaders were transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison in the suburbs of Cape Town. While many believe the move was intended to lessen the influence of the famous prisoners, government officials later say they wanted a way to open a discreet line of communication with the men.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Sun City

In 1985, activist and performer Steven Van Zandt and record producer Arthur Baker organized a protest against apartheid in South Africa.

Sun City was a place where the South African government had allowed entertainment that was banned in most of the country.

Van Zandt wrote a song called Sun City and invited many recording artists to participate in its recording. Some of those who participated were:  including Kool DJ Herc, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Ruben Blades, Bob Dylan, Pat Benatar, Herbie Hancock, Ringo Starr and his son Zak Starkey, Lou Reed, Run–D.M.C., Peter Gabriel, Bob Geldof, Clarence Clemons, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Darlene Love, Bobby Womack, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, Jackson Browne, Daryl Hannah, Peter Wolf, Bono, George Clinton, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Bonnie Raitt, Hall & Oates, Jimmy Cliff, Big Youth, Michael Monroe, Stiv Bators, Peter Garrett, Ron Carter, Ray Barretto, Gil Scott-Heron, Nona Hendryx, Kashif, Lotti Golden, Lakshminarayana Shankar and Joey Ramone.

They vowed never to perform at Sun City, because to do so would in their minds seem to be an acceptance of apartheid.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Bishop Tutu/PW Botha

October 16, 1984: South African activist Bishop Desmond Tutu awarded Nobel Peace Prize.

February 10, 1985: South Africa’s president, P. W. Botha, offered to free Mandela if he renounced violence. Mandela refused, saying the government must first dismantle apartheid.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

More killings

March 21, 1985: police in Langa, South Africa, opened fire on blacks marching to mark the 25th anniversary of the Sharpeville shootings, killing at least 21 demonstrators.

April 15, 1985: South Africa ended its ban on interracial marriages.

July 20, 1985: P. W. Botha declares a state of emergency in 36 magisterial districts of South Africa amid growing civil unrest in black townships.

State of Emergency

June 12, 1986: the South African government declared a nationwide state of emergency, granting itself sweeping powers, including authorization for the police to use force against protesters and to impose curfews. The decree bans the promotion of unlawful strikes, boycotts and protests and puts tight restrictions on the press. More than 1,000 activists are detained.

September 7, 1986: Desmond Tutu became the first Black Anglican Church bishop in South Africa.

Reagan veto/override

September 26, 1986: President Reagan vetoed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. The law would have imposed sanctions against South Africa and stated five preconditions for lifting the sanctions that would essentially end the system of apartheid.

September 29, 1986: the House of Representatives voted to overrides the President Reagan’s veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act.

October 2, 1986: the US Senate overrode President Reagan’s veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act and the bill became a law.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Free Nelson Mandela Concert

June 11, 1988: the biggest charity rock concert since Live Aid three years earlier took place at London’s Wembley Stadium, to denounce South African apartheid. Among the performers were Sting, Stevie Wonder, Bryan Adams, George Michael, Whitney Houston and Dire Straits. Half the money raised went towards anti-apartheid activities in Britain, the rest was donated to children’s charities in southern Africa.

12 August 1988: Mandela was hospitalized with  tuberculosis. After more than three months in two hospitals he was transferred on December 7, 1988 to the Victor Verster Prison Farm, about 50 miles from Cape Town.

The South African government said he would not have to return to Pollsmoor Prison.


July 5, 1989: Mandela met informally with Mr. Botha at the presidential office in Cape Town. It is the first publicly acknowledged meeting between Mr. Mandela and a government official outside prison, and leads to speculation that he will soon be released. [NYT article]

August 15, 1989: F. W. de Klerk is sworn in as acting president of South Africa, replacing Mr. Botha. Saying the country is about to enter an era of change, Mr. de Klerk reaffirmed an earlier promise to phase out white rule.

October 15, 1989: the government freed eight of the country’s most prominent political prisoners, including Walter Sisulu, 77, a mentor to Mr. Mandela and his close friend, in a gesture that was widely seen as a trial run for Mandela’s release.

December 13, 1989: South African President F.W. de Klerk met for the first time with imprisoned African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, at de Klerk’s office in Cape Town.

February 2, 1990: South Africa President F.W. de Klerk  lifted the ban on the A.N.C. and several other political organizations, and lifted many of the restrictions put in place when the state of emergency was declared four years earlier. He promised that Mandela would be released shortly.


Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

February 11, 1990: Nelson Mandela, 71, released from Victor Verster Prison, near Cape Town, South Africa, after 27 years behind bars. [NYT article}

June 10, 1990: the Central Intelligence Agency played an important role in the arrest in 1962 of Nelson Mandela. The intelligence service, using an agent inside the African National Congress, provided South African security officials with precise information about Mr. Mandela’s activities that enabled the police to arrest him. The report quoted an unidentified retired official who said that a senior C.I.A. officer told him shortly after Mr. Mandela’s arrest: ”We have turned Mandela over to the South African Security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be.”

August 7, 1990: The A.N.C. announced that it ordered the immediate suspension of its guerrilla campaign against apartheid, which started in the early 1960s. While the war between the A.N.C. and the government had operated on a low level for years, the announcement was significant because it gave de Klerk political ammunition to use against the right-wing opposition to negotiations.

October 15, 1990: South Africa’s Separate Amenities Act, which had barred blacks from public facilities for decades, was scrapped.

June 17, 1991: South Africa repealed the Population Registration Act. Since its passage in 1950, the Act had required every South African to be racially classified at birth. These classifications, in turn, would determined the child’s social and political rights for the rest of his or her life in South Africa.

December 20, 1991: negotiations begin to prepare an interim constitution based on full political equality. de Klerk and Mandela traded recriminations, with de Klerk criticizing Mr. Mandela for not disbanding the A.N.C.’s inactive guerrilla operation and Mandela saying that the president “has very little idea of what democracy is.”

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

More killing

June 17, 1992: a mob descended on the black township of Boipatong, killing more than 40 people with guns, knives and axes. The A.N.C. contended that Zulu men and white police officers were responsible for the violence. (see June 23). The two sides do not return to negotiations until September.

June 23, 1992: the African National Congress announced that it was withdrawing from talks on the political future of South Africa until the white-controlled Government took steps to restore the trust shattered by the Boipatong massacre. The 90-member executive committee of the congress led by Nelson Mandela said it was halting the peace process, which seemed just a month ago to have brought South Africa to the brink of majority rule, because of what it called a systematic Government campaign to subvert democracy through violence.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Paul Simon

January 11, 1992: Paul Simon was the first major artist to tour South Africa after the end of the cultural boycott. [NYT article]

April 10. 1993: Chris Hani, a popular black leader of the South African Communist Party, was shot and killed by a white man. At least seven people were killed in clashes over the following days. Mandela appeared on national television and called for calm, urging a stronger commitment to negotiations, a contrast to the A.N.C.’s confrontational reaction to the massacre in Boipatong the year before.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Nobel Peace Prize

October 15, 1993: Mandela and FW de Klerk share the Nobel Peace Prize. The two men accept the award with the strained grace that characterized their relationship, and Mandela declined to repeat his much-quoted assessment of Mr. de Klerk as a man of integrity.

January 3, 1994: more than 7 million people received South African citizenship that had previously been denied under Apartheid policies.

April 27, 1994: general voting opened in the first election in South African history that included black participation. Despite months of violence leading up to the vote, not a single person was reported killed in election-related violence. When the voting concluded on April 29, the A.N.C. had won more than 62 percent of the vote, earning 252 of the 400 seats in Parliament’s National Assembly. Voters choes Mandela as president without opposition.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela


May 10, 1994:  Mandela sworn in as president of South Africa, making a speech of shared patriotism that summons South Africans’ communal exhilaration in their land and their relief at being freed from the world’s disapproval.

June 24, 1995:  South Africa’s national rugby team, the Springboks, won the World Cup final. The team had been banned from international competition until 1992, and was long seen as a symbol of oppression by many black South Africans. Mr. Mandela’s call for blacks to support the team is hailed as a masterly move toward racial reconciliation. He congratulated the team while wearing a green Springboks jersey, in a stadium full of cheering white rugby fans.

November 1, 1995: South Africans voted in their first all-race local government elections, completing the destruction of the apartheid system.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela


October 30, 1996: saying many of Eugene de Kock’s actions had been cruel, calculated and without any sympathy for the victims Judge Willem van der Merwe sentenced the former head of a South African police assassination squad to two life sentences and more than 200 years in jail. (see below, January 30, 2015)

December 10, 1996: Mandela signed into law a new democratic constitution, completing the country’s transition from white-minority rule to a non-racial democracy.

January 28, 1997: four apartheid-era police officers, appearing before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, admit to the 1977 killing of Stephen Biko, a leader of the South African “Black consciousness” movement.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Peaceful transfer

June 16, 1999: Thabo Mbeki inaugurated as Mandela’s successor as president of South Africa after another electoral victory for the A.N.C. After five years with Mr. Mandela at the helm, the country still faced serious problems of poverty and crime, but it had made the transition to democracy while maintaining widespread respect for the law and avoiding political revenge killings.

June 1, 2004: Mandela says he would severely reduce his public activities so he could spend his remaining years resting and writing. A month shy of 86, he was increasingly frail and had trouble walking.

December 8, 2012: Mandela was hospitalized for nearly 19 days, being treated for pneumonia and having an operation for gallstones.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

Mandela’s death

December 5, 2013: Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule and served as his country’s first black president, becoming an international emblem of dignity and forbearance, died. He was 95. [NYT editorial]

January 30, 2015:  the South African government granted parole to Eugene de Kock, a death squad leader for the apartheid state, after two decades in jail. “In the interest of nation building and reconciliation, I have decided to place Mr. de Kock on parole,” said Justice Minister Michael Masutha.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, a non-profit organization continues  to promote Mandela’s vision of freedom and equality for all.

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela

South Vietnam Leadership

South Vietnam Leadership

France was, of course, a long time American ally so it should come as no surprise that the United States supported France’s colonial policies.

French Indochina

Vietnam was one of France’s colonies. Under its rule, Bảo Đại, a member of the  Nguyễn dynasty, had succeeded as emperor in 1926 and was a figurehead ruler.

Japan ruled the area under Đại during World War II.

In 1944, optimistic of Allied success in the Pacific,  President Roosevelt wrote that “Indo-China should not go back to France…France has had the country…one hundred years, and the people are worse off than they were at the beginning.”

South Vietnam Leadership

August Revolution

On August 16, 1945, two days after Japan indicated a willingness to surrender, Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh issued an appeal to the Vietnamese people urging them to seize control of their country before Allied troops arrived in Indochina.

The uprising succeeded in overthrowing Bảo Đại and gaining control both Hanoi and Saigon. The uprising became known as the “August Revolution.”

September 2, 1945: Japan formally surrendered and Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh  proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. He paraphrased the U.S. Declaration of Independence: “All men are born equal: the Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty, and happiness!” and was cheered by an enormous crowd gathered in Hanoi.

The Allied powers disagreed and the British first then the French attempted to gain control of the region.

South Vietnam Leadership

Bảo Đại returns

South Vietnam Leadership

On March 8, 1949, France recognized an ‘independent’ State of Vietnam, with emperor Bảo Đại returning as head of government and on February 7, 1950  the United States recognized Vietnam under the leadership of Đại, not Ho Chi Minh.

The USSR and China had recognized Ho Chi Minh’s authority.

That same year, the United States announced military and financial support for the pro-French government in Vietnam.

South Vietnam Leadership

Indochina War

War broke out between the French and north Vietnam.

April 7, 1954: President Dwight D. Eisenhower coined one of the most famous Cold War phrases when he suggests the fall of French Indochina to the communists could create a “domino” effect in Southeast Asia.

April 26 – July 20, 1954: the Geneva Conference held. It was intended to settle Indochina’s political and territorial issues following World War II.

It was during the conference, on May 7, that Vietnamese forces occupied the French command post at Dien Bien Phu and the French commander ordered his troops to cease fire.

The battle had lasted 55 days. Three thousand French troops were killed, 8,000 wounded. The Viet Minh suffered much worse, with 8,000 dead and 12,000 wounded, but the Vietnamese victory shattered France’s resolve to carry on the war.

South Vietnam Leadership

Geneva Conference

South Vietnam Leadership

Three successor states were created from the partition of French Indochina: the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Kingdom of Laos, and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the state led by Ho Chi Minh and Viet Minh.

The State of Vietnam was reduced to the southern part of Vietnam. The division of Vietnam was intended to be temporary, with elections planned by July 1956 to reunify the country.

On June 4, 1954, French and Vietnamese officials signed treaties in Paris.

South Vietnam Leadership

Ngô Đình Diệm

South Vietnam Leadership

July 7, 1954: with Bảo Đại still emperor, Ngô Đình Diệm became Prime Minister and established his new government in South Vietnam with a cabinet of 18 people.

July 21, 1954: the Geneva Accords concluded the Geneva Conference with the division of Vietnam into two countries along the 17th parallel of latitude with elections scheduled for 1956.

October 24, 1954: President Eisenhower wrote to Diệm and promised direct assistance to his government. Eisenhower made it clear to Diệm that U.S. aid to his government during Vietnam’s “hour of trial” was contingent upon his assurances of the “standards of performance [he] would be able to maintain in the event such aid were supplied.”

Eisenhower called for land reform and a reduction of government corruption. Diệm agreed to the “needed reforms” stipulated as a precondition for receiving aid, but he never actually followed through on his promises. Ultimately his refusal to make any substantial changes to meet the needs of the people led to extreme civil unrest and eventually a coup by dissident South Vietnamese generals in which Diệm and his brother were murdered.

Battle of Saigon

April 27, 1955: The Battle of Saigon began.

President Eisenhower had previously decided to cease US support for Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm and let him be ousted, but on April 28, 1955, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles told the National Security Council to hold off on allowing the ousting of Diệm pending the outcome of the Battle of Saigon.

It was a month-long fight between the Vietnamese National Army  (VNA) of the State of Vietnam (later to become the Army of the Republic of Vietnam) and the private army of the Bình Xuyên organised crime syndicate.

At the time, the Bình Xuyên was licensed with controlling the national police by Emperor Bảo Đại. Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm issued an ultimatum for them to surrender and come under state control.

The VNA largely crushed the Bình Xuyên within a week.

Fighting was mostly concentrated in the inner city Chinese business district of Cholon. The densely crowded area saw some 500 – 1000 deaths and up to 20,000 civilians made homeless in the cross-fire.

In the end, the Bình Xuyên were decisively defeated, their army disbanded and their vice operations collapsed.

South Vietnam Leadership

National Referendum

July 7, 1955: on the first anniversary of his installation as Prime Minister, Diệm announced that a national referendum would be held to determine the future of the country.

July 16, 1955: Diệm announced his intention to not take part in the reunification elections negotiated in : “We will not be tied down by the [Geneva] treaty that was signed against the wishes of the Vietnamese people.”

October 6, 1955: Ngô Đình Diệm announced the referendum would be held on 23 October The election was open to men and women aged 18 or over, and the government arranged to have a polling station set up for every 1,000 registered voters.

Bảo Đại, who had spent much of his time in France and advocated a monarchy. Diệm ran on a republican platform.

October 23, 1955: Ngo Dinh Diệm reportedly received 98.2% of the votes, a difficult winning percentage to believe which was further supported by the fact that the total number of votes for exceeded the number of registered voters by over 380,000.

South Vietnam Leadership

President Ngô Đình Diệm

Republic of Vietnam

October 26, 1955: Ngô Đình Diệm  proclaimed the formation of the Republic of Vietnam, with himself as its first President.

In 1957, Diệm embarked on a two-week visit to the United States. He flew from Hawaii on President Dwight Eisenhower’s private plane, Columbine III. President Eisenhower personally greeted Diệm at the National Airport  where Diệm received full military honors including a 21-gun salute.

On May 9,  Diệm addressed a Joint Meeting, presided over by Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn of Texas and Vice President Richard M. Nixon of California. Diệm expressed gratitude to the United States for “moral and material aid.”

Five Year Miracle

July 7, 1959: on the fifth anniversary of Diệm’s coming to power, a NY Times editorial stated: a five year miracle has been carried out. Vietnam is free and becoming stronger in defense of its freedom and ours. There is reason today to salute president Ngo Dihn Diệm.”

South Vietnam Leadership

Attempted overthrows

November 11, 1960: Lieutenant Colonel Vương Văn Đông and Colonel Nguyễn Chánh Thi of the Airborne Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam led a failed coup attempt against Diệm .

February 27, 1962: Second Lieutenant Nguyễn Văn Cử and First Lieutenant Phạm Phú Quốc targeted Independence Palace, Diệm and his immediate family’s official residence.

The attempt failed. Cử escaped to Cambodia, but Quốc was arrested and imprisoned.

South Vietnam Leadership

Troubled waters

December 2, 1962: following a trip to Vietnam at President John F. Kennedy’s request, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-Montana) became the first U.S. official to refuse to make an optimistic public comment on the progress of the war.

Originally a supporter of  Diệm, Mansfield changed his opinion of the situation after his visit. He claimed that the $2 billion the United States had poured into Vietnam during the previous seven years had accomplished nothing. He placed blame squarely on the Diệm regime for its failure to share power and win support from the South Vietnamese people.

He suggested that Americans, despite being motivated by a sincere desire to stop the spread of communism, had simply taken the place formerly occupied by the French colonial power in the minds of many Vietnamese. Mansfield’s change of opinion surprised and irritated Kennedy.

South Vietnam Leadership

Diệm cracks down

Flags banned

May 6, 1963: President Diệm issued a proclamation banning the flying of all religious flags throughout the country. He said he found their use “disorderly,” but his actual aim was to keep the flags from becoming symbols of resistance to his regime.

Huế Phật Đản shootings

May 8, 1963: the deaths of nine unarmed Buddhist civilians in the  Huế at the hands of  Roman Catholic fundamentalist government Ngô Đình Diệm’s army and security forces.

The army and police fired guns and launched grenades into a crowd of Buddhists who had been protesting against the government ban on the flying of the Buddhist flag on the day of Phật Đản, which commemorates the birth of Gautama Buddha.

Diệm’s denial of governmental responsibility for the incident—he instead blamed the Việt Cộng—added to discontent among the Buddhist majority.

Quang Duc

June 11, 1963: Buddhist monk Quang Duc publicly burned himself to death in a plea for President Ngo Dinh Diệm to show “charity and compassion” to all religions. Diệm remained stubborn despite continued Buddhist protests and repeated U.S. requests to liberalize his government’s policies.

More Buddhist monks immolated themselves during ensuing weeks. Madame Nhu, the president’s sister-in-law, referred to the burnings as “barbecues” and offered to supply matches.

June 16, 1963: President Diệm and Buddhist negotiations issued a joint communique meant to defuse the religious conflict: the ban on religious flags would be eased and the Hue incident of May 8 would be fully investigated.

South Vietnam Leadership

Diệm cuts phone lines

August 21, 1963: after Diệm promised outgoing US Ambassador Frederick Nolting to take no further repressive steps against the Buddhists and before the new American ambassador, Henry Cabot Lodge, arrived, Diệm and his brother Ngô Đình Nhu (Diệm’s chief political adviser) ordered that phone lines of all the senor American officials in Saigon be cut and then sent out hundreds of their Special Forces into pagodas of Saigon, Hue, and other cities.

The Special Forces rounded up  and took away more than fourteen hundred monks and nuns, students, and ordinary citizens. Martial law was imposed, public meetings forbidden, and troops were authorized to shoot anyone found on the streets after nine o’clock.

South Vietnam Leadership


August 24, 1963: assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern affairs, Roger Hilsman Jr, took it upon himself to draft a cable to new US Ambassador to Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, stating that the US government could no longer tolerate the situation in which “power lies in Nhu’s hands.”

Lodge was to tell key military leaders that “we must face the possibility that Diệm himself cannot be preserved.” Kennedy on vacation and preoccupied with other domestic matters, approved the cable.

South Vietnam’s military leaders backed off from a coup.

South Vietnam Leadership

Military Revolutionary Council

November 1, 1963: South Vietnamese general Dương Văn Minh, acting with the support of the CIA, launched a military coup which removed Diệm from power.

November 2, 1963: Ngo Dinh Diệm and brother Ngô Đình Nhu surrendered, but were murdered.  ‘

The Military Revolutionary Council, as it called itself, dissolved Diệm’s rubber stamp National Assembly and the constitution of 1956. They vowed support free elections, unhindered political opposition, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, an end to discrimination, and that the purpose of the coup was to bolster the fight against the Vietcong.

November 5, 1964: South Vietnam’s five generals decided on a two-tier government structure with a military committee overseen by Dương Văn Minh presiding over a regular cabinet that would be predominantly civilian with Nguyễn Ngọc Thơ as Prime Minister, , Minister of Economy, and Minister of Finance.

November 8, 1964: US Government recognized the new South Vietnam government.

South Vietnam Leadership


General Nguyễn Khánh

January 30, 1964: General Nguyễn Khánh ousted General Dương Văn Minh from the leadership without firing a shot. It came less than three months after Minh’s junta had come to power in a bloody coup against then President Ngô Đình Diệm.

The coup was bloodless and took less than a few hours—after power had been seized Minh’s aide and bodyguard, Major Nguyễn Văn Nhung was arrested and summarily executed.

The New York Times reported, ““The bloodless coup d’état executed by the short, partly bald general apparently took Saigon by surprise.

Attempted Coup Deux

Before dawn on September 13, 1964, a coup attempt headed by Generals Lâm Văn Phát and Dương Văn Đức  threatened the ruling military junta of South Vietnam, led by General Nguyễn Khánh.

Generals Lâm Văn Phát and Dương Văn Đức  sent dissident units into the capital Saigon. They captured various key points and announced over national radio the overthrow of the incumbent regime. With the help of the Americans, Khánh was able to rally support and the coup collapsed the next morning without any casualties.

Rearrangement coup

December 19, 1964: a coup took place before dawn. The ruling military junta of South Vietnam led by General Nguyễn Khánh dissolved the High National Council (HNC) and arrested some of its members. The HNC was an un-elected legislative-style civilian advisory body they had created at the request of the United States.

Military coup

February 19, 1965: some units of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam commanded by General Lâm Văn Phát and Colonel Phạm Ngọc Thảo launched a coup against General Nguyễn Khánh.

Their aim was to install General Trần Thiện Khiêm, a Khánh rival who had been sent to Washington D.C. as Ambassador to the United States to prevent him from seizing power.

The attempted coup reached a stalemate, and although the trio did not take power, a group of officers led by General Nguyễn Chánh Thi and Air Marshal Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, and hostile to both the plot and to Khánh himself, were able to force a leadership change and take control themselves with the support of American officials, who had lost confidence in Khánh.

Phan Huy Quát was appointed Prime Minister.

South Vietnam Leadership

General Nguyễn Khánh

February 20, 1965: Nguyễn Khánh was able to get troops to take over from the insurgents without any resistance. Meanwhile, Air Vice Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky met with the dissident officers and agreed to their demand for the dismissal of Khanh.

South Vietnam Leadership


February 21, 1965: the Armed Forces Council dismissed Gen Nguyễn Khánh as chairman and as commander of the armed forces. General Lâm Văn Phát replaced him.

February 22, 1965: General Nguyễn Khánh announced that he had accepted the council’s decision. Although he was hastily given the title of ambassador at large, General Khánh would never again play a significant role in his country’s future.

Phan Huy Quát resigns

June 14, 1965: mounting Roman Catholic opposition to South Vietnamese Premier Phan Huy Quát’s government led him to resign.

National Leadership Committee

On the same day, a military triumvirate headed by Army General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu took over and expanded to a 10-man National Leadership Committee.

The Committee decreed the death penalty for Viet Cong (aka, National Liberation Front) terrorists, corrupt officials, speculators, and black marketeers.

Catholics  warned the military against favoring the Buddhists, who asked for an appointment of civilians to the new cabinet.

Nguyễn Cao Kỳ

On June 19, 1965, Nguyễn Cao Kỳ was appointed prime minister by a special joint meeting of military leaders following the voluntary resignation of civilian president Phan Khắc Sửu and Prime Minister Quát,

South Vietnam Leadership

Buddhist Struggle

May 15, 1966: on Premier Ky’s orders, without notifying  Thieu or the U.S., a pro-government military force arrived in Da Nang to take control of the city from the Buddhist Struggle movement protesting against the government and American influence.

May 18, 1966: U.S. Marines faced off against pro-Buddhist ARVN soldiers at a bridge near Da Nang. A few shots were exchanged and the ARVN soldiers attempted to blow up the bridge. General Lewis William Walt, the commander of the U.S. Marines in South Vietnam, was present and directed the Marines to secure the bridge.

May 24, 1966: the government of South Vietnam regained full control of Da Nang from the pro-Buddhist Struggle Movement. In the fighting, approximately 150 South Vietnamese soldiers were killed. 23 Americans were wounded.

South Vietnam Leadership

President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu

September 3, 1967: Nguyen Van Thieu, the candidate of the armed forces, won a four-year term as President of South Vietnam.

He was re-elected on October 2, 1971 without opposition in what was widely viewed as a rigged election.

He remained in power until April 21, 1975 when he resigned, condemning the United States for its lack of promised support following the US military withdrawal.

He will die in 2001.

South Vietnam Leadership

Roderick Rod Jerry Hicks

Roderick Rod Jerry Hicks

He was the last great bass player from the bebop era,” bassist Ralphe Armstrong.

July 1, 1941 – January 2, 2013

Roderick Jerry Hicks was born in Detroit, the sixth child of 13, to Bishop Robert and Emma Hicks. He attended Northwestern High School, a school whose graduates also included Motown bassist James Jamerson, blues  guitarist Johnnie Bassett, pianist Joe Weaver, and drummer Roy Brooks.

Hicks graduated from Northwestern in 1960 and joined the Army. After that stint, he played bass in the Queen of Soul’s band.

Roderick Rod Jerry Hicks

Roderick Rod Jerry Hicks

Dawn over Bethel

In 1969, Rod Hicks played with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band on day “3” of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.  I qualify the number 3 because the band came on at dawn on Monday 18 August which was actually the fourth day of the festival.

Roderick Rod Jerry Hicks
Fuzzy screen grab of Rod at Woodstock

What did Hicks think? A 2009  Metro Times article said: Hicks told us about looking out at night and seeing that audience estimated at 300,000 or more. With the darkness dotted with fires, he felt he was looking at the “biggest Indian pow-wow in the world.

Roderick Rod Jerry Hicks


Rod Hicks was a well-known Detroit bass player. When he died, a page on the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association: wrote:

Roderick Jerry Hicks, one of Detroit’s premier bassists, died on January 2, 2013. He was 71 years of age.

He died of cancer, which wore down his body but not his spirit.

Hicks worked with many singers and bands, including Aretha Franklin’s trio that included his lifelong friend, drummer George Davidson. He fit into many sounds and styles of music in addition to Franklin’s band; along with Davidson and pianist/arranger Teddy Harris, [Harris also played with Paul Butterfield at Woodstock] Hicks was the backbone of the particularly fine Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1969–71. Those three gentlemen were present at the Jazz Alliance of Michigan (J.A.M.) event which resurrected the style of Butterfield’s band. Hicks sang and played electric bass, and he could sing some fine blues as well as play solid bass.

Hicks worked for many years in Harris’ bands, including the very special 1993 edition at BoMac’s Lounge that included alto master Phil Lasley and drumming powerhouse Lawrence Williams. For nearly a year, that quartet (sometimes quintet with Dwight Adams added) was the best band in Detroit, bar none. Roderick, as Harris called him, was an amazing musician and a great gentleman, with a heart as large as his sound.

During a Detroit Jazz Alive appearance, Hicks insisted that he led “King Zook and the Zookateers,” and everybody in the studio broke up laughing, especially Hicks.

Rod was an easy guy to like, gifted with thoughtful opinions and knowledge on a variety of subjects.

Rest easy, King Zook. We will keep your spirit alive in our hearts.

Roderick Rod Jerry Hicks

Blog Spot

Paul Butterfield Blog Spot article:

Rod Hicks – The Detroit native joins the Butterfield Blues Band after six years with Aretha Franklin’s band, contributes fretless electric bass (a new instrument in the ’60’s), cello, vocals, and composition to Keep On Movin’Live, and Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin’.

After the Butterfield Band ends, he moves back to Detroit where he becomes a fixture in the local Jazz scene, and works as a road musician, appearing with Paul Butterfield’s Better Day’s several times. One of his songs, Highway 28, is used by Butterfield on the first Better Days album. Hicks also contributes to 1970’s studio albums by artists such as Peter Paul and Mary, & Peter Yarrow.  

Roderick Rod Jerry Hicks