South Vietnam’s Nguyen Cao Ky was a Man of Impeccable Style

By | May 17, 2015

South Vietnam’s Nguyen Cao Ky wore many hats during the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War.  He was also a man of impeccable and unique style.

The below two photos illustrate a flair for style that would have been equally at home in 1975 at the Monaco Grand Prix, London’s swinging West End, or Hollywood.  Trust me, this uniform is one-off bespoke tailoring as opposed to standard South Vietnamese military issue.  Note the aviator scarf Air Vice Marshall Ky is wearing.

"Air Vice Marshal Ky arrives on the USS Midway" by USS Midway - www.history.navy.mil. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Air_Vice_Marshal_Ky_arrives_on_the_USS_Midway.jpg#/media/File:Air_Vice_Marshal_Ky_arrives_on_the_USS_Midway.jpg

“Air Vice Marshal Ky arrives on the USS Midway” by USS Midway – www.history.navy.mil. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Air_Vice_Marshal_Ky_arrives_on_the_USS_Midway.jpg#/media/File:Air_Vice_Marshal_Ky_arrives_on_the_USS_Midway.jpg

"Nguyễn Cao Kỳ on USS Midway (CVA-41) in 1975" by USN - U.S. Navy photo [1] from the USS Midway (CV-41) 1975-76 cruise book available at Navysite.de. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nguy%E1%BB%85n_Cao_K%E1%BB%B3_on_USS_Midway_(CVA-41)_in_1975.jpg#/media/File:Nguy%E1%BB%85n_Cao_K%E1%BB%B3_on_USS_Midway_(CVA-41)_in_1975.jpg

“Nguyễn Cao Kỳ on USS Midway (CVA-41) in 1975” by USN – U.S. Navy photo [1] from the USS Midway (CV-41) 1975-76 cruise book available at Navysite.de. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nguy%E1%BB%85n_Cao_K%E1%BB%B3_on_USS_Midway_(CVA-41)_in_1975.jpg#/media/File:Nguy%E1%BB%85n_Cao_K%E1%BB%B3_on_USS_Midway_(CVA-41)_in_1975.jpg

Nguyen Cao Ky also lived his life with a unique style and flair.  He saw action on the French side in the First Indochina War which ended with the fall of Dien Bien Phu.  The French sent him to Morroco to train as a pilot.  He was an important historical figure during the United States’ Vietnam War, serving as the commanding general of South Vietnam’s air force and then as the Prime Minister of South Vietnam.  Later, he served as Vice President.  After the fall of Saigon, he flew a helicopter himself to a United States Navy vessel  to escape.  He settled in California and operated a liquor store, living in relative anonymity outside of the Vietnamese community.  His daughter has achieved a degree of celebrity herself as a host of the Vietnamese-language television variety show, Paris By Night.

25th Infantry Division Vietnam Veteran Coffee Mugs

1st Cav Vietnam Vet Two-Tone Coffee Mug

To see the complete Los Angeles Times obituary of Nguyen Cao Ky which is a source of some of the above information, please visit this link:

Nguyen Cao Ky dies at 80; wartime leader of South Vietnam

For additional anecdotes on Nguyen Cao Ky’s unique life and style, please see the following link, especially the section entitled “Style,” which is also a source of some of the above information:

Nguyễn Cao Kỳ

If you would like to see more photos of the Nguyen Cao Ky style, I would encourage you to check out these links below which are well worth it.  You can see more of the aviator style that he was know for.  I swear, somewhere in my memory banks, I remember seeing a picture of him in the aviator uniform wearing a pistol belt with sidearms in holsters on each side.  Pearl handles?  Leather tie-down straps on the thighs?  Theatrical speculation?  Perhaps.  Unfortunately, I can’t find said picture.  There are also pictures from the liquor store in California.  As for suits,  there are photos of high, three-button suits, working buttonholes on the cuffs, and perfect tailoring that would be the envy of Savile Row.  As for the ever present cigarette, there is one photo of a very continental Nguyen Cao Ky in deep consultation with a very worried and stressed-out looking, President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson.  Oh, to have been a fly on the wall that day in Hawaii.  Enjoy:

Photos in category “Nguyen Cao Ky”

Images of Nguyen Cao Ky

Leave a Reply