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NGUYỄN KHÁNH (1927–)

Born in southern Vietnam, Nguyen Khanh completed his primary studies in Tra Vinh and Saigon between 1931 and 1937. Between 1938 and 1944, he attended secondary school in Cambodia (and perhaps in Saigon, too). Despite growing up in a very Francophile family (he may have had French citizenship), he joined the Viet Minh in 1945 and fought the French for over a year. For unclear reasons, he crossed over to French Union forces in 1947. In July of that year, he graduated from the first and only class of the École militaire d’Extrême-Orient in Dalat and was commissioned to the 1st Regiment of the South Vietnamese National Guard. In late 1947, he travelled to France to attend the French Army’s Infantry School in Auvours. He completed his coursework there in 1948 before studying at the Airborne School in Pau. In July 1948, he became a first lieutenant. Having finished his airborne training in mid-1949, he became an aide de camp to the minister of National Defense for the newly created Associated State of Vietnam. In May 1950, Nguyen Khanh became chief of the security section at the Imperial Palace in Hanoi. In February 1951, he took command of the 1st Vietnamese Parachute Company and fought the Viet Minh. In March 1952, he moved up to command the 22nd Vietnamese Battalion. Between June 1952 and June 1953, he attended the French Staff School in Hanoi, rubbing shoulders with Nguyen Van Thieu and Cao Van Vien. Promoted major in July 1953, he took command of the 13th Vietnamese Battalion and later in the year commanded the 11th Groupe Mobile operating in the highlands of central Vietnam. His unit was involved in combat operations against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s forces as the Indochina War drew to a close in June 1954. See also CROSSOVER; DESERTION.