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NGUYỄN GIÁC NGỘ (1897–?)

One of the leaders of the Hoa Hao forces who broke with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in the late 1940s. Born in Long Xuyen province in southern Vietnam, Nguyen Giac Ngo was a non-commissioned officer in the Cochinchinese Civil Guard between 1923 and 1943. Sometime in the early 1940s, he joined the Hoa Hao Buddhist faith. In 1943, the French interned and then deported him to Poulo Condor. He regained his freedom following the Japanese coup de force of 9 March 1945. Faced with the return of the French in late 1945, he allied his men with the army being put together under the leadership of the DRV’s Nguyen Binh. However, when the rift between the Hoa Hao and the Viet Minh came into the open in 1947, Nguyen Giac Ngo tried to work independently of the Viet Minh and the French. The French failed to get him to defect in September 1948. Instead Nguyen Giac Ngo became the leader of some three Hoa Hao dissidents now making up the Vietnamese National-Socialist Party (Dang Viet Nam Dan Chu Xa Hoi, or Dang Dan Xa for short). He enjoyed considerable popularity in the western reaches of southern Vietnam. In February 1950, as the Cold War intensified the Indochinese conflict, Nguyen Giac Ngo crossed over to the Associated State of Vietnam led by Bao Dai and swore loyalty to the former emperor in March. He was one of the rare dissident leaders at the time to agree to incorporate his forces into the national army under construction. See also BINH XUYEN; DESERTION.