In 1950, he graduated from Military school in Huế. He then attended College of Tactics and graduated in Hanoi in 1952. He went to the United States and attended Command and General Staff College and he graduated in 1958.
He was the commander of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 7th Division. He worked with Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann, most notably during the Battle of Ap Bac. He served as Senate First Vice President in the government of South Vietnam.
After the Fall of Saigon, he was left behind in South Vietnam and imprisoned until 1987. He came to the United States in 1990. He was a contributing writer for the Vietnam Magazine and the author of Vietnam: Today & Tomorrow.
He was married and had ten children and more than 19 grandchildren. He is remember for the quote "President Nixon can support President Thieu, but President Nixon cannot force the Vietnamese people to support President Thieu."
- Platoon Leader, 1950–51
- Company commander, 1951–52
- Battalion commander, 1953–54
- Chief of the Special Staff, Presidency 1955-57
- Commander, 13th Infantry Division, 1957–58
- Commander, 7th Infantry Division and Tien Giang Tactical Zone, 1959–62
- Chief negotiator, Vietnamese Delegation to Meeting with Cambodian Delegation on Vietnam-Cambodia Borders, March 1964
- General commissioner, Popular Complaints and Suggestions Office, 4 May 1964
- Chief, General Political Warfare Department, 1965–66
- Commanding General, First Corps, 16–30 May 1966
- Chairman, Social Democrat Bloc, Senate, 1967–1968
- Chairman, foreign Affairs and Information Committee, Senate, 1968
- First Deputy Chairman, Senate, 1970–1971
- Senator, 1971–1975
Decorations and awards
- Commander of the National Order of Vietnam
- Officer of the National Order of Vietnam with Gallantry Cross with Palm
- Knight of the National Order of Vietnam with Gallantry Cross with Palm
- "HUYN V. CAO Obituary: View HUYN CAO's Obituary by The Washington Post". Legacy.com. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?pid=163371112#fbLoggedOut. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
- "The Battle at Ap Bac Changed America's View of the Vietnam War". Historynet.com. 2010-05-21. http://www.historynet.com/magazines/vietnam/3417961.html. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
- iPad iPhone Android TIME TV Populist The Page (1971-10-04). "SOUTH VIET NAM: The Non-Contest". TIME. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,905427,00.html?iid=chix-sphere. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
- Nguyễn, Công Luận Nationalist in the Viet Nam Wars 2012 "General Huỳnh Văn Cao, commanding officer of the Polwar (General Political Warfare Department), and his chief of staff, Colonel Nguyễn Vĩnh Nghi,"
- "Signature Book Printing, Inc. - Book Printer - Vietnam Today and Tomorrow by Huynh Van Cao". Signature-book.com. http://www.signature-book.com/NewBooks/huynh.htm. Retrieved 2013-10-08.
- Vietnam:Today & Tomorrow
- Major General Huynh Van Cao
- Document 11. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State concerning Major General Huynh Van Cao
- The Battle at Ap Bac Changed America's View of the Vietnam War
- VIETNAM - History, Documents, and Opinion
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