Khanh Nguyen, 86, a South Vietnamese general who briefly gained control of the government in a coup and went on to lead a "government in exile" in California, died Jan. 11 at a San Jose hospital after struggling with
In November 1960, Nguyen helped thwart a coup against South Vietnam's U.S.-backed president, Ngo Dinh Diem, when he mistook the rebels for Viet Cong soldiers and rushed to the president's defense.
"Because I thought it was a Viet Cong attack, I sent orders to the troops to help us," he said in a 1981 interview with WGBH in Boston. "At that time, I saw it was a coup managed by some of the paratroopers — not all of them, but some."
South Vietnamese generals overthrew Diem's regime three years later, starting a volatile period of political unrest.
Nguyen was born in 1927 and trained at a French military academy. He himself briefly took control of the government in a Jan. 30, 1964 coup, but he left Vietnam the next year after being forced out of power by other generals amid growing tension with
Nguyen was a leader in the Government of Free Vietnam in Exile, founded in 1995.
— Times wire reports