Cover image for Buddha's child : my fight to save Vietnam
Buddha's child : my fight to save Vietnam
Nguyẽ̂n, Cao Kỳ.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
376 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS556.93.N512 A3 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
DS556.93.N512 A3 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The history of the Vietnam War has rarely been told from the Vietnamese perspective-and never by a leader of that country. In Buddha's Child , Nguyen Cao Ky reveals the remarkable story of his tumultuous tenure as Premier of South Vietnam, and offers unprecedented insight into the war's beginning, escalation, and heartbreaking end.

A thirty-four year old pilot and Air Force commander, known for his fighter-pilot's moustache, flowing lavender scarf and his reputation as a ladies' man, Ky in 1965 agreed to lead South Vietnam after a series of coups had dangerously destabilized the nation. Ky's task was to unite a country riven by political, ethnic, and religious factions and undermined by corruption. With little experience in governing and none in international affairs, and while continuing to fly combat missions over Vietnam, Ky plunged into a war to save his homeland. He served as premier until 1967, continued to be active in the war after his resignation, and finally left Vietnam in 1975 during the fall of Saigon.

Buddha's Child offers Ky's perspective on the crucial events and memorable images of the Vietnam War: the coup against and execution of President Diem; the self-immolation by the Buddhist monk, and the radical Buddhists' attempt to topple Ky's government; the bloody and pivotal Tet Offensive; the shooting of a Vietcong prisoner, captured in one of the war's most notorious photographs; the Paris Peace talks that sold out South Vietnam; and the last, desperate days of Saigon. In frank language, Ky discusses his own successes and failures as a leader and dramatically relates the progress of the war as it unfolded on the ground and behind the scenes-including anecdotes about Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, William Westmoreland, Henry Cabot Lodge, William Colby, Henry Kissinger, and many others.

Buddha's Child is a revelatory, fascinating account of a nation at war by a most unusual man.

Author Notes

Nguyen Cao Ky lives in southern California.

Marvin J. Wolf is the author or coauthor of nine nonfiction books, including Where White Men Fear to Tread, the national bestselling memoir in collaboration with Native American activist Russell Means. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

For a period in the mid-1960s, the de facto leader of South Vietnam, Ky, presented a flamboyant contrast to the nominal leader and president, the cautious and--according to Ky--corrupt Nguyen Van Thieu. Sporting silk scarves and a pearl-handled revolver, the weapon a gift from John Wayne, Ky made good copy for the press. His memoir will attract interest for the accounts of dealings with U.S. ambassadors and, most of all, the political turmoil in Saigon that preceded and followed the military's overthrow and murder of Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963. Ky backed the coup and emerged from it as air force commander and then, by 1965, premier. In that office, he did crack down on graft and introduced a semblance of constitutional government. Against the background of the war, and expressions of his patriotism, Ky's recollections will certainly contribute to assessments of South Vietnam's viability and fate. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

The one man who knew how to defeat the communists in Vietnam in the 1960s and '70s and had the wherewithal to do so was Nguyen Cao Ky, the South Vietnamese Air Force general who was the unelected prime minister of that nation from 1965 to 1967 and vice president from 1967 to 1971. But Ky was thwarted by venal, incompetent and corrupt South Vietnamese politicians especially his successor, Nguyen Van Thieu, by the evil, double-dealing Vietnamese communists, and by wishy-washy, ignorant American political and military leaders. That's the version Ky presents in this self-serving, self-aggrandizing memoir. Ky says his plan to lead an invasion of North Vietnam in 1966, which "would have ended the war," was squelched by timid Johnson administration officials. His plans to introduce democracy were continually beaten back by his political enemies, including Buddhist leaders who Ky says acted as little more than communist dupes. Ky whitewashes his government's excesses, which included a violent crackdown on the protesting Buddhists, heavy-handed intimidation of the press and of his political enemies. Ky (with the aid of veteran author Wolf) provides an insider's look at the political machinations within South Vietnam during the American war. But that view is shown through his vehemently anticommunist and egocentric lens. In addition, his explanation of the most portentous event in his political life allowing his political archenemy Thieu to be nominated as the military directorate's candidate for president in 1967 is stupefyingly unbelievable. Ky claims that the reason he gave his blessing to Thieu to become president "remains a great mystery, even to me." That mystery led to Ky's political downfall and to eight years of a corrupt, ineffectual Thieu-led South Vietnamese regime. (May 8) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

attention. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
1. Premierp. 1
2. Childhoodp. 10
3. Soldierp. 23
4. Pilotp. 35
5. Wing Commanderp. 42
6. Coup d'Etatp. 71
7. Young Turksp. 100
8. Prime Ministerp. 126
9. Corruptionp. 158
10. Crisisp. 183
11. High Noonp. 208
12. Electionsp. 229
13. Tetp. 255
14. Diplomacyp. 275
15. Debaclep. 313
16. Exilep. 345
17. Fortune-Tellerp. 361
Epiloguep. 372
Indexp. 373