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Historical Dictionary

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NGUYỄN NGỌC NHỨT (1918–1952)

Engineer and Cao Dai disciple who supported the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). In 1937, he left France to pursue his studies and returned to Vietnam in December 1946 with an engineering degree from the École centrale des arts et manufactures in Paris and a French wife. Following the end of World War II, the outpouring of patriotic fervor among the overseas Vietnamese in France, especially during Ho Chi Minh’s visit to France for the Fontainebleau Conference in mid-1946, deeply impacted upon him. He apparently met the new president of the DRV at this point. Nguyen Ngoc Nhut’s brother, Nguyen Ngoc Bich, had already joined the Viet Minh in southern Vietnam and urged his brother to support the resistance. In late 1946, Nguyen Ngoc Nhut returned home to southern Vietnam determined to fight for the nationalist cause. On 16 February 1947, he joined DRV zones in the south and began working in a weapons-manufacturing workshop war in Zone VIII (Khu VIII). In May 1947, he started organizing demolition and sabotage squadrons. He also represented intellectuals within the Resistance and Administrative Committee of the same zone. He called on intellectuals in Saigon to cross over to the Vietnamese nationalist cause led by the Viet Minh. Following the violent break between southern government forces and the Cao Dai, the DRV asked him to serve from November 1947 as the vice president of the Central Committee of the Unified National Salvation Cao Dai movement led by Cao Trieu Phat. In January 1948, Nguyen Ngoc Nhut was elected Commissioner for Social Affairs in Nam Bo, responsible for organizing relief and help for the indigent, refugees, and war wounded and their families. He also tended to questions of hygiene in cooperation with the government’s health services. In June 1949, during a French military operation, he was taken prisoner. Despite intensive French, Vietnamese, and family efforts to win over this Vietnamese nationalist to the cause of Bao Dai’s Associated State of Vietnam, Nguyen Ngoc Nhut refused to switch sides. Even the application of torture failed to persuade him to reconsider. Although he was finally released in 1952, he died shortly thereafter at the age of 34 in unclear circumstances. Albeit unconfirmed, one recent Vietnamese account of Nguyen Ngoc Nhut claims that he was “disposed of secretly” (thu tieu). See also COLLABORATION; DESERTION; DISEASE; OVERSEAS VIETNAMESE IN THAILAND.