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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mathilde Aussant, French supercentenarian, oldest person in France died she was 113,

Mathilde Aussant was a French supercentenarian who was at the time of her death the oldest verified person in France

(27 February 1898 – 23 July 2011)


She was born in Donges, France,[4] the fifth of eleven children born to François Gaudet and Hélène Halgand. Following the death of her mother, she left Donges for Paris in 1923. She worked as a housekeeper and babysitter. She married a railroad worker from Gare Saint-Lazare, who died in 1936. In 1946, she married another railroad worker, René Aussant, who died in 1961. Their only daughter died in 2007, leaving Aussant without any immediate family.[2] In 1999, she moved to a retirement home. In 2008 she was awarded the Medal of the city of Donges. She died at a hospital in Vendôme on Saturday, 23 July 2011.

Longevity records

  • On 6 March 2009, Mathilde Aussant aged 111 years 7 days moved into Gerontology Research Group list for Guinness World Records.
  • On 4 November 2010 Eugénie Blanchard died, and Mathilde Aussant aged 112 years 250 days became the oldest person in France.
  • On 7 November 2010, Mathilde Aussant aged 112 years 253 days became one of the top 50 oldest known people from Europe ever.
  • On 27 February 2011, Mathilde Aussant aged 113 years became the 12th known person in the history of France to reach the age of 113.
  • On 21 June 2011 Maria Gomes Valentim died, Mathilde Aussant aged 113 years 114 days became one of the top 10 oldest living people in the world.
  • On 23 July 2011 at 5.45 CET, Mathilde Aussant died at age 113 years 146 days, at the time she was the 10th oldest living person.


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Robert Ettinger, American cryonicist, died from respiratory failure he was , 92.

Robert Chester Wilson Ettingerwas an American academic, known as "the father of cryonics" because of the impact of his 1962 book The Prospect of Immortality  died from respiratory failure he was , 92. He is considered by some a pioneer transhumanist on the basis of his 1972 book Man into Superman.
Ettinger founded the Cryonics Institute and the related Immortalist Society and until 2003 served as the groups' president. His body has been cryopreserved, like the bodies of his first and second wives, and his mother.

(December 4, 1918 – July 23, 2011)

Personal background

Ettinger was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants.[7] He served as a second lieutenant infantryman in the United States Army during World War II. Severely wounded in battle in Germany, he received the Purple Heart[1] and recovered after several years spent in a Michigan hospital.[8] He earned two Master's degrees from Wayne State University (one in physics, one in mathematics) and spent his working career teaching physics and mathematics at both Wayne State University and Highland Park Community College in Michigan.[1]
Ettinger had two children with his first wife, Elaine, David (1951) and Shelley (1954).[1] David gave his first cryonics interview to journalists at the age of 12 and is an attorney. He currently serves as legal counsel to the Cryonics Institute and the Immortalist Society. Robert Ettinger's daughter has had no interest in cryonics.
Ettinger met his second wife, Mae Junod, in 1962 when she attended one of his adult education courses in basic physics. Junod typed and assisted with editing the manuscripts for both The Prospect of Immortality and Man into Superman. She became active in the Cryonics Society of Michigan (CSM) and edited and was production manager for the CSM monthly newsletter, The Outlook. In the 1970s The Outlook was renamed The Immortalist and Junod continued editorship until the mid-1990s. The Outlook is the longest continuously published cryonics magazine. Junod was an author, feminist, and marriage counselor.
Ettinger married Junod in 1988 after the death of his first wife.[1] Ettinger described his time with Junod as one of the most satisfying and tranquil times in his life. The couple moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in 1995 and enjoyed a period of domestic life during which time the couple began to ease into retirement from over 30 years of cryonics activism and the attendant burdens of work and controversy.[1] Mae Ettinger suffered a debilitating stroke in 1998 from which she never fully recovered followed by a lethal stroke in 2000, which resulted in her cryopreservation.
Ettinger died on July 23, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan of natural causes, and was cryopreserved.[9][2]

Roots of cryonics in science fiction

Ettinger grew up reading Hugo Gernsback's Amazing Stories.[10] Ettinger was particularly affected when he was 12 years old by a Neil R. Jones story, "The Jameson Satellite," which appeared in the July 1931 issue of Amazing Stories,[10] in which one Professor Jameson had his corpse sent into earth orbit where (as the author mistakenly thought) it would remain preserved indefinitely at near absolute zero. And so it did, in the story, until millions of years later, when, with humanity extinct, a race of mechanical men with organic brains chanced upon it. They revived and repaired Jameson's brain, installed it in a mechanical body, and he became one of their company.[1]
Ettinger assumed that one day — long before he grew old — biologists would learn the secret of eternal youth. As he grew out of boyhood in the 1930s, he began to suspect it might take a little longer since no scientists were yet working on this particular endeavor.[10] If immortality is achievable through the ministrations of technologically advanced aliens repairing a frozen human corpse, then Ettinger thought everyone could be cryopreserved to await later rescue by our own medically more sophisticated descendants.[10]
In 1947 while in the hospital for his battle wounds, Ettinger discovered that research in the area of cryogenics was being done by French biologist Jean Rostand; Ettinger wrote a short story elucidating the concept of human cryopreservation as a pathway to more sophisticated future medical technology: in effect, a form of one-way medical time travel. The story, "The Penultimate Trump," was published in the March 1948 issue of Startling Stories[1] and definitively establishes Ettinger's priority as the first person to have promulgated the cryonics paradigm, principally that contemporary medical/legal definitions of death are relative, not absolute, and are critically dependent upon the sophistication of available medical technology. Thus, a person apparently dead of a heart attack in a tribal village in the Amazon will soon become unequivocally so, whereas the same person with the same condition in the emergency department of large, industrialized city's hospital, might well be resuscitated and continue a long and healthy life. Ettinger observed that criteria for death will vary not just from place to place, but from time to time, and so today's corpse could be tomorrow's patient.

Launching the cryonics movement

Ettinger waited expectantly for prominent scientists or physicians to come to the same conclusion he had, and to take a position of public advocacy. By 1960, Ettinger finally made the scientific case for the idea, which had always been in the back of his mind. Ettinger was 42 years old and said he was increasingly aware of his own mortality.[10] In what has been characterized as an historically important mid-life crisis,[10] Ettinger summarized the idea of cryonics in a few pages, with the emphasis on life insurance, and sent this to approximately 200 people whom he selected from Who's Who in America.[10] The response was very small, and it was clear that a much longer exposition was needed — mostly to counter cultural bias. Ettinger correctly saw that people, even the intellectually, financially and socially distinguished, would have to be educated into understanding his belief that dying is usually gradual and could be a reversible process, and that freezing damage is so limited (even though fatal by present criteria) that its reversibility demands relatively little in future progress. Ettinger soon made an even more troubling discovery, principally that "a great many people have to be coaxed into admitting that life is better than death, healthy is better than sick, smart is better than stupid, and immortality might be worth the trouble!"[10]
In 1962, Ettinger privately published a preliminary version of The Prospect of Immortality, in which he said that future technological advances could be used to bring people back to life. This finally attracted attention of a major publisher, which sent a copy to Isaac Asimov; Asimov said that the science behind cryonics was sound,[8] and the manuscript was approved for a 1964 Doubleday hardcover and various subsequent editions which launched cryonics.[1] The book became a selection of the Book of the Month Club and was published in nine languages.[8]
Ettinger became an "overnight"[10] media celebrity, discussed in The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, Paris Match, Der Spiegel, Christian Century, and dozens of other periodicals. He appeared on television with David Frost, Johnny Carson, Steve Allen, and others. Ettinger also spoke on radio programs coast-to-coast to promote the idea of human cryopreservation.
Since the commercial publication of The Prospect of Immortality, all those active in cryonics today can trace their involvement, directly or indirectly, to the publication of one or both of Ettinger's books.[citation needed] While Ettinger was the first, most articulate, and most scientifically credible person to argue the idea of cryonics,[citation needed] he was not the only one. In 1962, Evan Cooper had authored a manuscript entitled Immortality: Scientifically, Physically, Now under the pseudonym Nathan Duhring.[11] Cooper's book contained the same argument as did Ettinger's, but it lacked both scientific and technical rigor and was not of publication quality.[citation needed]

Organizational activities

Following publication of The Prospect of Immortality, Ettinger again waited for prominent scientists, industrialists, or others in authority to see the wisdom of his idea and begin implementing it. By contrast, Cooper was an activist and must be credited with forming the first cryonics organization (although the word "cryonics" was not to be coined until 1965) the Life Extension Society (LES). LES advocated immediate action to implement human cryopreservation and established a nationwide network of chapters and coordinators to develop a grassroots capability for delivering cryopreservation on an emergent basis. Cooper left cryonics activism in 1969, and was lost at sea in 1983. But his activities with LES provided the basis for the formation of the first Cryonics Societies.
In 1966 the Cryonics Societies of California and Michigan were formed. Ettinger was elected President of the Cryonics Society of Michigan (CSM). In 1970s CSM was transformed under the direction of Ettinger into the Cryonics Institute (CI) and the Immortalist Society (IS). In 1977, Ettinger's mother, Rhea Ettinger, became CI's first patient[12]. Ettinger was President of both CI and IS until 2003.
From 1964 until circa 1990 the growth of the cryonics movement was slow. During this period cryonicists suffered from lack of consistent or quality professional medical, legal, philosophical, business or financial support. Admission of interest in, or advocacy of cryopreservation, uniformly resulted in reactions of revulsion, ridicule, or both. Media and public perception were consistently negative. This external pressure was exacerbated by the anxiety and fear felt as cryonicists experienced the death of cohorts and loved ones and were, of necessity, forced to provide whatever level of care they could manage on a more or less mutual aid basis. Cryonics, contrary to public perception at this time, was (and still is) a middle class undertaking, and the resources available were those of mortuary personnel and equipment and procedures which cryonicists were able to construct and devise themselves. An additional worry was the uncertain legal status of cryonics and the ever present possibility of governmental interdiction.
The growth of the internet has made a crucial difference to the spread of cryonics as an idea, which, despite much media coverage, seems to be mainly dependent upon personal contact and personal investigation.


Ettinger died in suburban Detroit on July 23, 2011 at his home in Clinton Township, Michigan. He was 92. The cause was respiratory failure. Ettinger’s body was placed in a cryonic capsule and frozen at minus 371 degrees Fahrenheit, after several days of cooling preparation. Mr. Ettinger was the institute’s 106th client.

Quotes by Ettinger

"I had and have, no credentials worth mentioning being only a teacher of college physics and math. It is precisely this that prevented me, for so long, from doing more: I knew I carried no weight, had no formal qualifications, and was not suited for a leadership role. But as the years passed and no one better came forward, I finally had to write, and later felt I had to form organizations (although others had come into existence). This tragedy, in various manifestations, may persist. Potentially effective leaders may have turned aside because I (and later a few other obscure people) reluctantly preempted leadership. Business people and investors may have hesitated because the small, poorly capitalized organizations already in the field have had such limited (although increasing!) success in attracting participants."
"Tragedy is in the eye of the beholder. As Sid Caesar (or maybe Mel Brooks – one of those really heavy thinkers) said: 'The difference between comedy and tragedy? When the saber tooth tiger eats Moe, that's comedy. When I get a hangnail, that's tragedy.' And if the Tiger of Death eats you, that is the ultimate tragedy; that is when the world ends, when the cosmos disappears, when Everything becomes Nothing."
"The 'tragedy' of the slow growth of immortalism pertains mostly to them, and perhaps to you – not so much to me or to us, the committed immortalists. We already have made our arrangements for cryostasis after clinical death – signed our contracts with existing organizations and allocated the money. We will have our chance, and with a little bit of luck will 'taste the wine of centuries

Books by Ettinger


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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fran Landesman, American lyricist and poet died she was , 83

 Fran Landesman was an American lyricist and poet died she was , 83.

(October 21, 1927 — July 23, 2011)

Early life

Born Frances Deitsch in New York City, her father was a dress manufacturer, her mother was a journalist. Her brother Sam Deitsch went on to open and run bars in St Louis before establishing, with partner Ed Moose, The Washington Square Bar and Grill in San Francisco.
She attended private schools, and later Temple University and the Fashion Institute of Technology, in whose fashion industry she initially worked. While in New York she met writer Jay Landesman, the publisher of the short-lived Neurotica magazine, whom she married on July 15, 1950. They had two sons, Cosmo Landesman and Miles Davis Landesman. Producer Rocco Landesman is their nephew.


She and her husband moved to St. Louis, Missouri, his home town, where he and his brother Fred started the Crystal Palace nightclub.[1] This was a successful venture, attracting big-name acts as well as producing avant-garde theatre.
Fran Landesman's experiences sitting in the bar of the Crystal Palace, listening to musicians and audiences, led her to begin writing song lyrics in 1952. One of her best-known is "Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most", her exploration of T. S. Eliot's "April is the cruelest month..." The Palace's pianist Tommy Wolf set her lyrics to music, and the song became a hit, leading to more Landesman–Wolf collaborations. He wrote the melodies for the songs for The Nervous Set, a musical with a book by Jay Landesman, which had a brief run on Broadway,[2] which featured "Spring" and "The Ballad of the Sad Young Men". Molly Darling, a musical by Jay Landesman and Martin Quigley, was produced by the St. Louis MUNY Opera. She wrote the lyrics for A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren.[3]
In 1960, she began composing with singer/pianist/composer Bob Dorough who had been brought to St. Louis by Tommy Wolf to play the lead in A Walk on the Wild Side. Their song "Nothing Like You" was recorded by Miles Davis and included on his 1967 album Sorcerer. "Small Day Tomorrow" has been recorded by many singers and was the title of Dorough's 2007 CD which featured 12 songs with Landesman lyrics.[4]
In 1964 the Landesmans moved to London, where she wrote lyrics for a number of well-known musicians (with an emphasis on jazz) such as Pat Smythe, Georgie Fame, Tom Springfield, Richard Rodney Bennett and Dudley Moore. She continued to write with composers in the USA, most notably John Simon and Roy Kral. She wrote lyrics for another of her husband's musicals, Dearest Dracula, produced at the Dublin Theatre Festival[5] in 1965.[6]
In the 1970s, Fran Landesman began writing and publishing poetry,[7] for which she became better known, in the UK, than for her lyrics (though there was, of course, much overlap between the two). She published several volumes of poetry, as well as performing pieces at festivals and on BBC Radio.
In 1994 she met British composer Simon Wallace with whom she collaborated for the rest of her life writing some 300 songs. [8] Theatre shows based on Landesman/Wallace songs include There's Something Irresistible in Down (1996) produced at the Young Vic by members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Forbidden Games (1997) at the Ustinov Theatre Bath, the Pleasance Theatre Edinburgh and the Gdansk Shakespeare Festival and Queen of the Bohemian Dream (2007) produced at the Source Theatre in Washington D.C. The Decline of the Middle West (1995) at The Supper Club in Manhattan featured Landesman's lyrics. In 1996 the BBC received a number of complaints[9] when Fran Landesman appeared on Desert Island Discs and requested a supply of cannabis seeds as her luxury item.[10]
In 1999 Landesman donated her papers to the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where they are held in the Western Historical Manuscript Collection.[11] In 2006, Circumstantial Productions published a new collection of her lyrics and poems, Small Day Tomorrow, edited by Richard Connolly.
In the last 10 years of her life she performed more frequently, reciting her poetry, singing her songs and occasionally talking about her life and work. In 2003 she appeared in New York at Joe's Pub with Jackie Cain and Bob Dorough and in October 2008 returned to St Louis to do a one woman show at the Gaslight Theatre. Throughout 2010 and 2011 she made bi-monthly appearances at RADA for Farrago poetry and every six months hosted a lunchtime concert at The 606 Club in London. In May 2010 the South Bank Centre presented 'A Night Out with Fran Landesman' at the Purcell Room and in April 2011 the Leicester Square Theatre presented 'An Evening with Fran Landesman' as part of the Art of Song Festival. Her last appearance was at RADA on July 21, 2011, two days before her death at the age of 83.[12]


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Butch Lewis, American boxing promoter, died from a heart attack he was , 65.

Ronald "Butch" Everett Lewis was an American boxing promoter and manager died from a heart attack he was , 65.. He is best known for having managed the careers of boxing brothers Leon and Michael Spinks.

(June 26, 1946 - July 23, 2011)

Lewis died of a massive heart attack at his home in Bethany Beach, Delaware.[2]


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Bill Morrissey, American singer-songwriter died he was , 59.

Bill Morrissey was an American folk singer/songwriter from New Hampshire died he was , 59.. Many of his songs reflect the harsh realities of life in crumbling New England mill towns.

(November 25, 1951 – July 23, 2011)


Morrissey was born in Hartford, Connecticut. He seems to have found his craft and his own voice in the American country blues of Mississippi John Hurt and Robert Johnson, the pure country of Hank Williams, the Kansas City jazz of Count Basie and Lester Young, and the New York folk songwriters of the 1960s.[citation needed] His eponymous (ie., self-titled) first album released in 1984 on the Reckless label, and then re-recorded for the Philo label, includes the song "Small Town on the River", a song about a small town in New Hampshire after the mill closes.
Over the course of his long career, two of Morrissey's eleven albums received Grammy nominations and several earned 4-star reviews in Rolling Stone.[1] Stephen Holden, for the New York Times, wrote, "Mr. Morrissey's songs have the force of poetry...a terseness, precision of detail and a tone of laconic understatement that relate his lyrics to the stories of writers like Raymond Carver and Richard Ford.[2] He is also the author of the novel Edson (Random House/Alfred A. Knopf 1996) and the recently completed Imaginary Runner.
Although Morrissey expresses admiration for Carver's stories,[3] he credits a fellow New Hampshire writer as a more important mentor and influence:
Bill’s most recent album Come Running, produced by Bill Morrissey and Billy Conway of Morphine, was released in 2007 by Bill Morrissey on his label, Turn and Spin Media. Come Running features guitar work by Dave Alvin and the remaining members of Morphine, Billy Conway and Dana Colley. Bill planned on releasing a full collection of albums, books and guitar tabs on this new label.
Morrissey, best known for his depressing lyrics, also occasionally wrote such humorous songs as "Party at the U.N." ("It's such a happy community / Everyone's got diplomatic immunity") and "Grizzly Bear", about a frustrated working-class gentleman dating a wealthy young woman who wants to "dance till we dehydrate", while he just wants to "take her home and dance the grizzly bear".


Morrissey died of heart disease in Dalton, Georgia on July 23, 2011, during a tour of the Southern US.[4][5][6][7]


  • Bill Morrissey (1984)
  • North (1986)
  • Standing Eight (1989)
  • Bill Morrissey (re-recording of the 1984 album) (1991)
  • Inside (1992)
  • Friend of Mine (with Greg Brown) (1993)
  • Night Train (1993)
  • You'll Never Get to Heaven (1996)
  • Songs of Mississippi John Hurt (1999)
  • Something I Saw Or Thought I Saw (2001)
  • Bill Morrissey: The Essential Collection (2004)
  • Come Running (2007)



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Monday, December 5, 2011

Nguyen Cao Ky, Vietnamese air force chief and political leader, Prime Minister of South Vietnam (1965–1967) died he was , 80.

Nguyễn Cao Kỳ served as the Chief of the Vietnam Air Force in the 1960s, before leading the nation as the Prime Minister of South Vietnam in a military junta from 1965 to 1967 died he was , 80.. Then, until his retirement from politics in 1971, he served as Vice President to bitter rival General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, in a nominally civilian administration.

(8 September 1930 – 23 July 2011)

Born in northern Vietnam, Kỳ joined the Vietnamese National Army of the French-backed State of Vietnam and started as an infantry officer before the French sent him off for pilot training. After the French withdrew from Vietnam and the nation was partitioned, Kỳ moved up the ranks of the Vietnam Air Force to become its leader. In November 1963, Kỳ participated in the coup that deposed President Ngô Đình Diệm and resulted in his execution. During 1964, Kỳ became prominent in junta politics, regarded as part of a group of young, aggressive officers dubbed the “Young Turks”. Over the next two years, there were repeated coup attempts, many of which were successful, and Kỳ was a key player in supporting or defeating them. In September 1964, he helped put down a coup attempt by Generals Lâm Văn Phát and Dương Văn Đức against Nguyễn Khánh, and the following February he thwarted another attempt by Phát and Phạm Ngọc Thảo. Kỳ’s favored tactic in such situations was to send fighter jets into the air and threaten large-scale air strikes, and given his reputation for impetuosity, he usually attained the desired backdown.
After the latter attempt, he also had the weakened Khánh forced into exile and eventually took the leading position in the junta in mid-1965 by becoming prime minister, while General Thiệu was a figurehead chief of state. During his period at the helm, Kỳ gained notoriety for his flamboyant manner, womanizing, risky and brash behavior, which deeply concerned South Vietnam’s American allies and angered the Vietnamese public, who regarded him as a “cowboy” and a “hooligan”.[3] He cared little for public relations, and on occasions, publicly threatened to kill dissidents and opponents, as well as flattening parts of North Vietnam and South Vietnamese units led by rival officers with bombings, although none of this materialized. However, a public threat to rig elections, if necessary, was fulfilled.
Nevertheless, Kỳ and Thiệu were able to end the cycle of coups, and the Americans backed their regime. In 1966, Kỳ decided to purge General Nguyễn Chánh Thi, another officer in the junta regarded as his greatest rival, from a command role. This provoked major unrest, particularly in South Vietnam, where some units joined with Buddhist activists supportive of Thi and hostile to Kỳ in defying his junta’s rule. Three months of large-scale demonstrations and riots paralyzed parts of the country, and after much maneuvering and some military battles, Kỳ’s forces finally put down the uprising, and Thi was exiled, entrenching the former’s grip on power.
In 1967, a transition to elected government was scheduled and after a power struggle within the military, Thiệu ran for the presidency with Kỳ as his running mate—both men had wanted the top job. To allow the two to work together, their fellow officers had agreed to have a military body controlled by Kỳ shape policy behind the scenes. The election was rigged to ensure that Thiệu and Kỳ’s military ticket would win, and strong executive powers meant that junta effectively still ruled. Leadership tensions persisted and Thieu prevailed, sidelining Kỳ supporters from key military and cabinet posts. Thiệu then passed legislation to restrict candidacy eligibility for the 1971 election, banning almost all would-be opponents; Kỳ and the rest withdrew as it was obvious that the poll would be a sham; Thiệu went on to win more than 90% of the vote and the election uncontested, while Kỳ retired.
With the fall of Saigon, Kỳ fled to the U.S. He continued to heavily criticize both the communists and Thiệu, and the former prevented him from returning. However, in 2004, he became the first South Vietnamese leader to return, calling for reconciliation between communists and anti-communists.


Early years and rise up the ranks

A northerner, Kỳ was born in Sơn Tây, a town west of Hanoi. After completing his secondary schooling in Hanoi, he enlisted in the French-backed Vietnamese National Army of the State of Vietnam and was commissioned in the infantry after attending an officers’ training school.[4] After a brief period in the field against the communist Việt Minh of Hồ Chí Minh during the First Indochina War, the French military hierarchy sent Kỳ, then a lieutenant, to Marrakech in Morocco to train as a pilot. Kỳ gained his wings on September 15, 1954.[4]
The French defeat at the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ and the Geneva Conference ended the colonial presence in Indochina, and Kỳ came back to the new Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). The commander of a transport squadron, Kỳ was put in charge of Tân Sơn Nhứt Air Base, the main aerial facility in the capital, Saigon.[4] Kỳ then went to the United States to study for six months at the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Field in Alabama, where he learned to speak English. He returned to Vietnam and continued to rise up the ranks.[4]
A soldier in the Vietnamese National Army who eventually became commander of the South Vietnam Air Force, Prime Minister and Vice President of the Republic of Vietnam, Kỳ early on had little political experience or ambition. After flight training by the French, he returned to Vietnam in 1954 and held a series of commands in the South Vietnam Air Force. Under the regime of Dương Văn Minh, whose coup Kỳ had supported, he was made an air marshal, replacing Colonel Do Khac Mai as the head of the Vietnam Air Force.[5]

Rise to prominence in junta

In January 1964, General Nguyễn Khánh deposed Minh,[6] and it was under Khánh’s one-year rule that Kỳ rose to become one of the leading powers in the junta.
Having been demoted, disgruntled Generals Lâm Văn Phát and Dương Văn Đức launched a coup attempt against Nguyễn Khánh before dawn on September 13, using ten army battalions that they had recruited.[7] Their faction consisted mainly of Catholic elements.[8] They took over the city without any firing, and used the national radio station to proclaim the deposal of Khánh’s junta. There was little reaction from most of the military commanders.[9] Kỳ had two weeks earlier promised to use his planes against any coup attempt, but there was no reaction to begin with.[10]
Some time after the plotters had made their broadcast, Kỳ consolidated the troops on Saigon’s outskirts at Tân Sơn Nhứt Air Base, the largest in the country and where the military was headquartered. He barricaded the soldiers into defensive positions and vowed a “massacre” if the rebels attacked the base.[11] A stand-off of tanks and troops around the perimeter of the base occurred, but it petered away without any violence as the rebels were withdrawn.[11] Kỳ had apparently been angered by comments made by a rebel source who claimed that he was part of the coup attempt.[12] At the same time, Kỳ was also well-known for his hawkish attitude and close relations with the U.S. military establishment in Vietnam, and American opposition to the coup was thought to have been conveyed to him efficiently.[13] Đức mistakenly thought that Kỳ and his subordinates would be joining the coup, but was wrong.[14]
The announcement of U.S. support for the incumbent helped to deter ARVN officers from joining Lâm and Đức. Khánh returned to Saigon and put down the putsch, aided mainly by Kỳ and the Air Force. Kỳ decided to make a show of force as Phát and Đức began to wilt, and he sent jets to fly low over Saigon and finish off the rebel stand.[10] He also sent two C-47s to Vũng Tàu to pick up two companies of South Vietnamese marines who remained loyal to Khánh. Several more battalions of loyal infantry were transported into Saigon.[10] Kỳ’s political star began to rise.[15]
As the coup collapsed, Kỳ and Đức appeared with other senior officers at a news conference where they proclaimed that the South Vietnamese military was united, and announced a resolution by the armed forces, signed by them and seven other leading commanders, claiming a united front against corruption.[16] The officers contended that the events in the capital were misinterpreted by observers, as “there was no coup”.[11] Kỳ claimed that Khánh was in complete control and that the senior officers involved in the stand-off “have agreed to rejoin their units to fight the Communists”,[11] and that no further action would be taken against those who were involved with Đức and Phát’s activities,[16] but Khánh arrested them two days later.[16]
Kỳ and Nguyễn Chánh Thi’s role in putting down Phát and Đức’s coup attempt gave him more leverage in Saigon’s military politics. Indebted to Kỳ, Thi and the Young Turks for maintaining his hold on power, Khánh was now in a weaker position. Kỳ’s group called on Khánh to remove “corrupt, dishonest and counterrevolutionary” officers, civil servants and exploitationists, and threatened to remove him if he did not enact their proposed reforms.[14] Some observers accused Kỳ and Thi of deliberately orchestrating or allowing the plot to develop before putting it down in order to embarrass Khánh and allow himself to gain prominence on the political stage.[13][15] In later years, Cao Huy Thuần, a professor and Buddhist activist based in the northern town of Đà Nẵng, claimed that during a meeting with Kỳ and Thi a few days before the coup, the officers had discussed their plans for joining a coup against Khánh.[17]

December 1964 South Vietnamese coup

Kỳ was part of a group of younger officers called the Young Turks—the most prominent apart from himself included IV Corps commander General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, commander of I Corps Thi and Admiral Chung Tấn Cang, the head of the Republic of Vietnam Navy. They and Khánh wanted to forcibly retire officers with more than 25 years of service, as they thought them to be lethargic, out of touch, and ineffective. However, the unspoken and most important reason was because they viewed the older generals as rivals for power and wanted to conceal this real motive.[18] Specific targets of this proposed policy were Generals Minh, Trần Văn Đôn, Lê Văn Kim and Mai Hữu Xuân.
The signature of Chief of State Phan Khắc Sửu was required to pass the ruling, but he referred the matter to the High National Council (HNC), a junta-appointed civilian advisory body, to get their opinion.[19] The HNC turned down the request. This was speculated to be due to the fact that many of the HNC members were old, and did not appreciate the generals’ negativity towards seniors.[20] On December 19, the generals dissolved the HNC and arrested some of the members as well as other civilian politicians,[18] and the older generals, who were removed from the military.[21] The actual arrests were made by a small force commanded by Thi and Kỳ. The deposal prompted U.S. Ambassador Maxwell D. Taylor to angrily berate Thiệu, Thi, Kỳ and Cang in a private meeting and threaten to cut off aid if they did not reverse their decision. Kỳ later admitted to being stung by Taylor’s comments.[22] However, this galvanized the officers around the embattled Khánh for a time and they ignored Taylor’s threats without repercussions as the Americans were too intent on defeating the communists to cut funding.[23]
In January 1965, the junta-appointed Prime Minister, Trần Văn Hương, introduced a series of measures to expand the anti-communist war effort, notably by widening the terms of conscription. This provoked widespread anti-Hương riots across the country, mainly from conscription-aged students and pro-negotiations Buddhists.[24] Reliant on Buddhist support, Khánh did little to try to contain the protests.[24][25] Khánh then decided to have the armed forces take over the government. On 27 January, Khánh removed Hương in a bloodless putsch with the support of Thi and Kỳ. He promised to leave politics once the situation was stabilized and hand over power to a civilian body. It was believed that some of the officers supported Khánh’s increased power so that it would give him an opportunity to fail and be removed permanently.[24][26]
By this time, Taylor’s relationship with Khánh had already broken down over the issue of the HNC,[27] and the U.S. became more intent on a regime change as Khánh was reliant on Buddhist support, which they saw as an obstacle to an expansion of the war. Knowing that he was close to being forced out, Khánh tried to start negotiations with the communists, but this only increased the plotting.[28] In the first week of February, Taylor told Kỳ, who then passed on the message to colleagues in the junta, that the U.S. was “in no way propping up General Khanh or backing him in any fashion”.[29] Taylor thought his message had been effective.[29]


Between January and February 1965, Colonel Phạm Ngọc Thảo was locked in a power struggle with junta leader General Nguyễn Khánh, and began plotting a coup against Khánh, who he thought was trying to kill him.[30] Thảo consulted Kỳ—who wanted to seize power for himself—before the plot, and exhorted him to join the coup, but the air force chief claimed that he was remaining neutral. Thảo thus believed that Kỳ would not intervene against him.[31] Kỳ had actually been preparing his own coup plans for a fortnight and was strongly opposed to the likes of Thảo and Phát.[32] The likes of Kỳ, and the American-preferred Thiệu, and Cang were not yet ready to make a coup, and their preparations were well behind that of Thảo, an endless creator of plots.[33]
Shortly before noon on 19 February, Thảo and General Lâm Văn Phát used around fifty tanks, and some infantry battalions, to seize control of the military headquarters, the post office and the radio station of Saigon. He surrounded the home of General Khánh and Gia Long Palace, the residence of head of state Phan Khắc Sửu.[30][34] The ground troops also missed capturing Kỳ, who fled in a sports car with his wife and mother-in-law.[35] Kỳ ended up at Tân Sơn Nhứt, where he ran into Khánh, and the pair flew off together, while some of their colleagues were arrested there.[31][32][36] Thảo made a radio announcement, stating that the sole objective of his military operation was to get rid of Khánh, whom he described as a “dictator”,[30] while some of his fellow rebels made comments eulogizing Diệm and indicated that they would start a hardline Catholic regime, something that did not impress Kỳ.[37]
Phát was supposed to seize the Biên Hòa Air Base to prevent Kỳ from mobilising air power against them.[30][38] The attempt to seize Biên Hòa failed, as Kỳ got there first and took control, before circling Tân Sơn Nhứt, threatening to bomb the rebels.[30][31]
A CIA report and analysis written after the coup concluded that “Ky’s command of the air force made him instrumental” in preventing Khánh from being overrun, “until Ky changed his mind” on Khánh’s continuing hold on power.[39] Most of the forces of the III and IV Corps surrounding the capital disliked both Khánh and the rebels, and took no action.[40]
The Americans decided that while they wanted Khánh out, they did not approve of Thảo and Phát, so they began to lobby Kỳ and Thi, the two most powerful officers outside Khánh, to defeat both sides.[41] They unofficially designated Kỳ the duty of moderating between the coup forces and Khánh’s loyalists, preventing bloodshed and keeping them apart until some further action was planned. Kỳ’s work slowed the advance of several Khánh-loyalist units into the capital.[39] During all of these moves, Kỳ’s hand was strengthened by the mistaken belief of Khánh and his faction that the air force commander supported them.[39]
At 20:00, Phát and Thảo met Kỳ in a meeting organised by the Americans, and insisted that Khánh be removed from power. The coup collapsed when, around midnight, loyal ARVN forces swept into the city from the south and some loyal to Kỳ from Biên Hòa in the north. Whether the rebels were defeated or a deal was struck with Kỳ to end the revolt in exchange for Khánh’s removal is disputed, but most analysts believe the latter.[30][42][43] Before fleeing, Thảo managed a final radio broadcast, stating that the coup had been effective in removing Khánh. This was not the case yet, but later in the morning, Kỳ and Thi led the Armed Forces Council in adopting a vote of no confidence in Khánh, and they assumed control of the junta.[30][44]
In May 1965, a military tribunal under Kỳ sentenced both Phát and Thảo, who had gone into hiding, to death in absentia. As a result, Thảo had little choice but to attempt to seize power from Kỳ in order to save himself.[45]
On 20 May, a half dozen officers and around forty civilians, predominantly Catholic, were arrested on charges of attempting to assassinate Prime Minister Phan Huy Quát and kidnap Kỳ, among others. Several of the arrested were known supporters of Thảo and believed to be abetting him in evading the authorities. In July 1965, he was reported dead in unclear circumstances; an official report claimed that he died of injuries while on a helicopter en route to Saigon, after having been captured north of the city. However, it is generally assumed that he was hunted down and murdered or tortured to death on the orders of some officials in Kỳ’s junta.[45][46] In his memoirs, Kỳ claimed that Thảo was jailed and “probably [died] from a beating”.[47]
In 1965, 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 Phan Huy Quát, who had been installed by the military. South Vietnam’s system of government shifted to that of a strong prime minister, with General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu becoming a figurehead president.[48] Kỳ ended the cycle of coups that plagued South Vietnam following the overthrow of Diệm.
Kỳ and Thiệu’s military junta decided to inaugurate their rule by holding a “no breathing week”.[48] They imposed censorship, closed many newspapers that published material deemed unacceptable, and suspended civil liberties. They then sidelined the civilian politicians to a “village of old trees” to “conduct seminars and draw up plans and programs in support of government policy”.[49] They decided to ignore religious and other opposition groups “with the stipulation that troublemakers will be shot”.[49]
The generals began to mobilize the populace into paramilitary organizations.[49] After one month, Thích Trí Quang began to call for the removal of Thiệu because he was a member of Diệm’s Catholic Cần Lao Party, decrying his “fascistic tendencies”, and claiming that Cần Lao members were undermining Kỳ.[49]

Power struggle with Thi and Buddhist Uprising

Kỳ’s greatest struggle came in 1966, when he dismissed General Thi, resulting in a Buddhist Uprising and military revolt in Thi’s I Corps. Within the junta, Thi was seen as Kỳ’s main competitor for influence. Many political observers in Saigon thought that Thi wanted to depose Kỳ, and regarded him as the biggest threat to the other officers and the junta’s stability.[50] According to Kỳ’s memoirs, Thi was a “born intriguer” who had “left-wing inclinations”.[51] Time magazine published a piece in February 1966 that claimed that Thi was more dynamic than Kỳ and could seize power at any time.[52] The historian Robert Topmiller thought that Kỳ may have seen the article as destabilizing and therefore decided to move against Thi.[52]
The historian Stanley Karnow said of Kỳ and Thi: “Both flamboyant characters who wore gaudy uniforms and sported sinister moustaches, the two young officers had been friends, and their rivalry seemed to typify the personal struggles for power that chronically afflicted South Vietnam. But their dispute mirrored more than individual ambition.”[53] Both were also known for their colourful red berets.[54]
There were reports that Thi was showing insubordination towards Kỳ. The U.S. military commander in Vietnam, General William Westmoreland, said that Thi once refused to report to Kỳ in Saigon when requested.[52] On one occasion, Kỳ came to I Corps to remonstrate with him in early March, Thi addressed his staff and asked mockingly, “Should we pay attention to this funny little man from Saigon or should we ignore him?”[50] Thi made this comment rather loudly, within earshot of Kỳ, and the Vietnamese politician Bùi Diễm thought that the prime minister viewed Thi’s comment as a direct challenge to his authority.[52]
A native of central Vietnam,[55] Thi was the commander of I Corps, which oversaw the five northernmost provinces of South Vietnam and the 1st and 2nd Divisions.[55] He was known to have the “deep-rooted” loyalty of his soldiers.[51] A large part of the South Vietnamese military was the Regional and Popular Forces, which were militias who served in their native areas, and they appreciated a commander with a regionalistic rapport.[51] The support from the Buddhists, his troops and the regional tendencies gave Thi a strong power base and made it hard for the other generals and the Americans to move against him.[51]
Time magazine said that Thi “ran it [I Corps] like a warlord of yore, obeying those edicts of the central government that suited him and blithely disregarding the rest”.[50] Historian George McTurnan Kahin said that Kỳ may have feared that Thi would secede from Saigon and turn central Vietnam into an independent state. CIA analyst Douglas Pike, who worked in Vietnam, speculated that this would have been a large part of Ky’s thinking, as Vietnamese people often had strong regional tendencies.[52]
A combination of those factors resulted in Thi’s dismissal.[54] Kỳ mustered the support of eight of the generals on the 10-man junta, meaning that along with his vote, there were nine officers in favour of Thi’s removal.[55] With Thi the only non-supporter, Kỳ and his colleagues removed Thi from the junta and his corps command on March 10, 1966.[54] Kỳ threatened to resign if the decision was not unanimous, claiming that the junta needed a show of strength, so Thi decided to vote for his sacking.[56] The junta put Thi under house arrest pending his departure from the country, and then appointed General Nguyen Van Chuan, the erstwhile commander of 1st Division and a Thi subordinate, as the new I Corps commander.[56]
At first, Kỳ said that Thi was leaving the country to receive medical treatment for his nasal passages.[54] An official announcement said that the junta “had considered and accepted General Thi’s application for a vacation”.[50] Thi retorted that “The only sinus condition I have is from the stink of corruption.”[54] Kỳ then gave a series of reasons for dismissing Thi, accusing him of being too left-wing, of ruling the central regions like a warlord, of having a mistress who was suspected of being a communist, and being too conspiratorial.[52] Kỳ did not say that Thi supported negotiations as a means of ending the war, but he did have a history of removing officials and military figures who promoted such a policy.[52]
Despite Thi’s good relations with the Buddhists in his area, most notably the leading activist monk Thích Trí Quang, Kỳ reportedly had the monk’s support for Thi’s removal. If Kỳ thought that Thích Trí Quang would not orgnaize demonstrations against Thi’s dismissal, he turned out to be wrong, as the monk used to crisis to highlight Buddhist calls for civilian rule.[57] There were claims that Thích Trí Quang had always intended to challenge Kỳ, regardless of whether or not Thi had been cast aside.[58]
The Americans were supportive of Kỳ and his prosecution of the war against the communists, and they opposed Thi, regarding him as not being firm enough against communism.[51] On the other hand, Thi did have the support of Marine Lieutenant General Lewis Walt, who commanded American forces in I Corps and was the senior adviser to Thi’s ARVN forces. This caused problems during the dispute.[51]
The dismissal caused widespread demonstrations in the northern provinces.[54] Civil unrest grew, as civil servants, disaffected military personnel, and the working under-class joined the anti-government demonstrations led by the Buddhists.[57] At first, Kỳ tried to ignore the demonstrations and wait for them to peter out,[57] but the problem escalated and riots broke out in some places.[54][59]
Kỳ gambled by allowing Thi to return to I Corps, ostensibly to restore order.[60] Kỳ claimed that he allowed Thi to return to his old area of command as a goodwill gesture, to keep central Vietnamese happy, and because he promised Thi a farewell visit before going into exile.[60] However, Thi received a rousing reception and the anti-Kỳ protesters became more fervent.[54][60] Kỳ then sacked the police chief of Huế, a Thi loyalist. The local policemen responded by going on strike and demonstrating against their chief’s removal.[61]
The Buddhists, and other anti-junta civilian activists joined together with I Corps units supportive of Thi to form the Struggle Movement, leading to civil unrest and a halt in I Corps military operations. On April 3, Kỳ held a press conference during which he claimed that Đà Nẵng was under communist control and vowed to stage a military operation to regain the territory. He thus implied that the Buddhists were communist agents.[51] He then vowed to kill the mayor of Đà Nẵng, saying “Either Da Nang’s mayor is shot or the government will fall.”[61] The following evening, Kỳ deployed three battalions of marines to Đà Nẵng. The marines stayed at Đà Nẵng Air Base and made no moves against the rebels.[51] Soon after, they were joined by two battalions of Vietnamese Rangers,[62] as well as some riot police and paratroopers.[63] Kỳ took personal command and found that the roads leading into the city had been blocked by Buddhist civilians and pro-Thi portions of the I Corps.[63] After a stand-off, Kỳ realized that he could not score a decisive victory and had lost face. He arranged a meeting and media event with Thi loyalist officers, and various Struggle Movement supporters.[63]
The humiliated Kỳ arrived back in Saigon, where he met with Buddhist leaders for negotiations. The Buddhists demanded an amnesty for rioters and mutinous soldiers, and for Kỳ to withdraw the marines from Đà Nẵng back to Saigon.[57] The monks said they would order the Struggle Movement “temporarily suspend all forms of struggle to prove our good will”.[57][61]
After a period of tension and further tensions, Kỳ’s forces gained the upper hand in May, pressuring most Struggle Movement members to give up and militarily defeating the rest. He then put Thích Trí Quang under house arrest and finally had Thi exiled, cementing his junta’s grip on power and ending the Buddhist movement as a political force.[64][65]
During his rule, Kỳ made many foreign state visits to bolster South Vietnam’s legitimacy. One visit to Australia in 1967 was somewhat controversial. Over time, Australian attitudes towards South Vietnam became increasingly negative, despite a contribution of ground troops to assist the fight against the communists. Over time, the bipartisanship of the 1950s evaporated.[66] The centre-left Australian Labor Party became more sympathetic to the communists and their leader, Arthur Calwell, stridently denounced Kỳ as a “fascist dictator” and a “butcher” ahead of his 1967 visit.[67] Despite the controversy leading up to the visit, Kỳ’s trip was a success. He dealt with the media effectively, despite hostile sentiment from some sections of the press and public.[68]
During the trip to Australia, a power struggle with General Nguyễn Hữu Có, the Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister, climaxed.[69] Kỳ saw Có as a political threat and a magnet for dissidents,[69] while Có deemed Kỳ to be “immature”.[55] At the same time as his visit to Australia, Kỳ sent Có to Taiwan, ostensibly to represent the junta at a ceremonial event. With Có out of the country and unable to stage a coup, and Kỳ not within striking distance in case anyone wanted to capture him, news of Có’s removal was broken in Saigon.[69] Có expressed a desire to return to Saigon, but was threatened with arrest and trial, and soldiers were deployed to the airport.[69] Có was allowed to return in 1970 after Kỳ’s power had waned.[55]

1967 elections

In the presidential election that was held in 1967, the military junta, which Kỳ chaired, intended to endorse only one candidate for the presidency. Kỳ intended to run, but at the last minute changed his mind and backed Thiệu,[70] a move he now calls “the biggest mistake of my life”.[71] Thiệu nominated Kỳ as his running mate and the two were elected with 35% of the vote in a rigged poll.[70] American policymakers heard rumors that the generals had agreed to subvert the constitution, and The New York Times revealed the formation of a secret military committee that would control the government after the election.[3] What had happened was that in the negotiations within the military, Kỳ had agreed to stand aside in exchange for behind-the-scenes power through a military committee that would shape policy and control the civilian arm of the government.[72] Kỳ flatly denied these reports to Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, and the U.S. Embassy notified Washington that The New York Times’ story was baseless.[3] However, the story was later vindicated, as intelligence sources obtained the charter that told of the functions of the secret Supreme Military Committee (SMC).[73] Walt Rostow briefed President Johnson and concluded that the SMC was “in effect, a scheme for ‘guided democracy’ in which a half dozen generals would decide finally what was good and bad for the country.”[74]
The campaign was overshadowed by U.S. media criticism of Kỳ and Thiệu’s unfair electoral practices and sneaky tricks. All the candidates were scheduled to attend a rally at Quảng Trị in the far north of the country on August 6. Due to the security situation and the possibility of communist attacks, the politicians were transported to joint campaign events by the military, rather than being free to go to separate events as their strategy dictated.[75] However, the Quảng Trị event had to be canceled after the candidates’ plane landed 23 km away at an air base in Đông Hà.[76] Believing that the mishap was a deliberate attempt to make them look chaotic and disorganized—Thiệu and Kỳ had decided not to attend rallies—the candidates boycotted the event and flew back to Saigon. There they denounced the government bitterly. The leading opposition candidate, Trần Văn Hương, claimed that Thiệu and Kỳ “purposefully arranged the trip to humiliate us and make clowns out of us.”[76] As air force chief, Kỳ had previously stranded opposition politicians on a trip to the central highlands.[76] Kỳ and Thiệu maintained that no malice was involved, but their opponents did not believe it.[76] None of the candidates made good on their threat to withdraw, but their strident attacks over the alleged dirty tricks dominated the media coverage of the election for a period.[76]
The negative coverage embarrassed Washington; instead of hearing reports about progress and good governance in South Vietnam, most reports focused on corruption and fraud.[76] The heavy and negative coverage of the election provoked angry debate in the U.S. Congress, criticising Kỳ’s junta and Johnson’s policies. Such sentiment came from both houses and political parties. On August 10, 57 members of the House signed a statement condemning Kỳ’s electoral malpractices and threatening a review of U.S. policy in Vietnam.[74]
Kỳ and Thiệu were reluctant to campaign and meet the populace as they saw such events as liabilities rather than opportunities to win over the public, and showed little interest in gaining popular support in any case, as they could always count on a rigging of the ballot.[77] The CIA reported that the pair had no intention of participating on the arranged rallies with the civilian candidates because they felt that “possible heckling from the audience that would be too humiliating”.[3] Thiệu and Kỳ were correct; they made one public campaign appearance at a rally, where a very disapproving crowd in Huế assailed Kỳ as a “hooligan” and “cowboy leader”.[3]
Kỳ and Thiệu decided to campaign indirectly by appearing at set piece ceremonial appointments, such as transferring land titles to peasants, as hostile elements from the general population were less likely to be present.[3] Thiệu took a restrained and more moderate stance during the campaign towards the issue of demoncracy, while Kỳ, the public face of the ticket and the incumbent government, went on the attack, damaging the pair’s image and supposed commitment to democracy.[3] Kỳ did not hide his distaste for democracy or his opponents and “described the civilian candidates as ‘ordure’ [dirt, filth, excrement], ‘traitors’, and ‘destroyers of the national interest’”.[3] Kỳ went on to say that if his opponents continued to attack him, he would cancel the poll.[3]
In the accompanying senate election, Kỳ openly endorsed 11 slates, but only one was successful in gaining one of the six seats.[78]

1967–1971: Vice President

He served as Vice President to President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, although behind the scenes there was a fierce rivalry that left Kỳ marginalized. In the aftermath of the Tết Offensive, Thiệu enforced martial law and used the situation to consolidate his personal power.[79] Kỳ supporters in the military and the administration were quickly removed from power, arrested, or exiled, ending any hopes of Kỳ exerting any power through the SMC or elsewhere.[80][81]
Alienated from Thiệu, Kỳ intended to oppose him in the 1971 elections, but Thiệu introduced laws to stop most of his rivals from running. Realizing that the poll would be rigged, Kỳ withdrew from politics. Thiệu ran unopposed and took 94% of the vote.[82]

Life in exile

After the defeat of South Vietnam by North Vietnam, on the last day of the fall of Saigon in 1975, Kỳ left Vietnam aboard the USS Blue Ridge and fled to the U.S. and settled in Westminster, California, where he ran a liquor store.[83][84]
Kỳ wrote two autobiographies: How We Lost the Vietnam War and Buddha's Child: My Fight to Save Vietnam. Historian James McAllister openly questioned Kỳ’s honesty, saying that Buddha's Child, as Kỳ called himself, “is filled with unverifiable conversations and arguments that do not at all correspond with the historical record. Like his earlier memoir, it is often a self-serving attempt to continue his ongoing feud with the late President Nguyen Van Thieu.”[85] He said that “with everything Ky writes about Vietnam … skepticism is in order”.[86]
He made headlines in 2004 by being the first South Vietnamese leader to return to Vietnam after the reunification, a move that was seen as a shameful one by many anti-communist group in the Vietnamese American community .[87][88][89] Kỳ had previously been critical of the Vietnam government while in exile and had been denied a visa on several occasions.[88] Upon setting foot on Vietnam, Kỳ defended his actions by saying that the Vietnam War was “instigated by foreigners, it was brothers killing each other under the arrangements by foreign countries”.[87][88] He added that “In another 100 years, the Vietnamese will look back at the war and feel shameful. We should not dwell on it as it will not do any good for Vietnam’s future. My main concern at the moment is Vietnam’s position on the world map.”[87][88] Kỳ said that he only wanted to help build up Vietnam and promote national harmony, and assailed critics of his return, saying that “Those who bear grudges only care about themselves”.[87][88]
Kỳ later moved back to Vietnam permanently and campaigned for increased foreign investment.[90][91] Kỳ was involved in organizing trips to Vietnam for potential U.S. investors.[92][93]


Kỳ was well-known for his flamboyant and colorful personality[88] and dress during his younger days. His trademark fashion accessory before he faded from public view in the 1970s was a purple scarf, which he wore with his black flight suit. He often raised eyebrows when he was the military prime minister by arriving at events to meet civilians with his wife in matching black flight suits, boots, blue caps and purple scarves.[4] He was rarely seen without a cigarette.
He was notorious for his love of gambling, women and glamour, something that made American officials wary of him. One official called him an “unguided missile”.[88] When he was a young pilot, Kỳ once landed a helicopter in the road in front of a girlfriend’s house in order to impress her, causing the locals to panic and earning the ire of his commander for misusing military equipment.[87] On one occasion, Kỳ was said to have pulled a handgun on a journalist whose questions annoyed him.[87]
Many in the South Vietnamese public service, military and the general public hated his tempestuous and impetuous style and regarded him as a “cowboy”,[87] and “hooligan”.[3] During his only public campaign appearance during the 1967 presidential election, the large crowd repeatedly heckled him loudly, calling him a “cowboy leader” and “hooligan” and as a result he did not make any more appearances at rallies.[3]
Kỳ met and married his first wife, a Frenchwoman, in the 1950s when he was training as a pilot in France. Soon after, he divorced her and married an Air Viet Nam flight attendant, who was his spouse during his years in power.[4] He later married for the third time.[94]
Kỳ’s daughter from his second marriage, Nguyễn Cao Kỳ Duyên, is a well-known personality in the overseas Vietnamese entertainment industry as a master of ceremonies and occasional singer on the music variety show Paris by Night. Many Vietnamese Americans called for her sacking from the role after her father returned to Vietnam.[95]


Kỳ died on early Saturday 23 July 2011 at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he was receiving treatment for "respiratory complications."[96]


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