Eventually, the Kennedy administration grew increasingly frustrated with Diem. In an embarrassing incident
that was widely reported in the US press, Diem's forces launched a violent crackdown on Buddhist monks. Since Vietnam was a predominantly Buddhist nation while Diem and much of the ruling structure of South Vietnam
was Roman Catholic, this action was viewed as further proof that Diem was completely
out of touch with his people.
Fed up with continuing Buddhist demonstrations, the South Vietnamese ruler imprisoned hundreds of Buddhist
clerics and destroyed their temples. To protest, several Buddhist monks and nuns publicly burned themselves to death. Horrified,
American officials urged Diem to stop the persecutions, but Diem refused.
US messages were sent to South Vietnamese generals encouraging them to act against Diem's excesses.
Though there is some debate as to whether or not this was Kennedy's intention, the South Vietnamese military interpreted these
messages as a call to arms, and staged a violent coup d'état, overthrowing and killing Diem on November