What did the failure of an American client state ultimately mean, three decades on? Although the personnel and leaders of South Vietnam are today dismissed by the rulers of Vietnam as “puppets,” there were many in South Vietnam who resisted the Communists precisely because of their patriotism and their wish to lead lives free of Communist dogma. At the same time, the ranks of the South Vietnamese government, as well as its military, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), were thick with former French collaborators, gangsters, cowards, and buffoons. The insolvable corruption of South Vietnam was a problem throughout the entire course of the war. In this way, Nguyen Cao Ky, one of the war’s most fascinating characters, also serves as a perfect lens through which to approach the whole story.