National Geographic : 1965 Jun
victory in the most fateful guerrilla war of our day. But no government had yet managed to suppress the long-term rebels who call themselves the Front of Liberation. Those opposing them call them Viet Cong or "VC," meaning Vietnamese Communists. The governments in Saigon, one after an other, depended on money and arms-and increasingly on soldiers-from the United States; the Viet Cong drew support from Communist North Viet Nam, from Com munist China, and from the Soviet Union.* Would a war of the giants be ignited here? Saigon was now the tinderbox of the world. I had not budged from beside that tank. Now it turned and rolled away, its aerials swaying. The fighter-bombers roared off too, to menace some other part of Saigon. Such were the outward signs of the latest coup. Behind the clatter of the military gadg 836 etry, the generals and the colonels of South Viet Nam threatened and bluffed their way through negotiations, warily, via intermedi aries. As they jockeyed to bribe or to capture each other, their American advisers clung to the hope that there would be no massacre in Saigon this time. Or next time. For a counter coup seemed sure to come. Two Million People in One-story City Meanwhile life surged as usual in the streets and alleys and on the canals in one of the most crowded cities on the globe: 2,000,000 people bustling within 20 square miles. *For other NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC articles on this struggle, see: "South Viet Nam Fights the Red Tide," by Peter T. White, October, 1961; "Helicopter War in South Viet Nam," by Dickey Chapelle, November, 1962; "Slow Train Through Viet Nam's War," September, 1964, and "American Special Forces in Action in Viet Nam," Janu ary, 1965, both by Howard Sochurek. Pool of power at the end of the February coup: (First row, left to right) Maj. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, deputy prime minister and defense minis ter; ousted Lt. Gen. Nguyen Khanh; Maj. Gen. Tran Van Minh, armed forces commander in chief; Maj. Gen. Pham Xuan Chieu, chairman of Man of the moment: Prime Minister Phan Huy Quat led a coalition government in Feb ruary backed by the generals at right. Here, Quat praises former strong man Lt. Gen. Nguyen Khanh (first row, sec ond officer from left), while sounding his political and military obituary; thereafter, Khanh left the country as rov ing ambassador. Dr. Quat, a physician, head ed the seventh regime since President Ngo Dinh Diem's. Taking office, he said: "The situation of tiny Viet Nam has never been so complicated, but we will try to do our best."