SAIGON -- Air Force commander Nguyen Cao Ky took over today as premier of a new war government deter mined to press the fight against the Viet Cong. He warned that the situation is "critical and our enemy is cunning."
It was the ninth government since the overthrow of President Ngo Dinh Diem less than two years ago. It was formed at the height of a Communist monsoon offensive that has scored the biggest Red victories of the civil war.
Ky, a 34-year-old "young turk" who figured in many of the coups and counter-coups of the past few years had been opposed by the United States. But in the end of the U.S. Embassy apparently bowed to the will of the military.
Maj. Gen. Nsuyen Van Thieu, former defense minister, became chairman of a leading committee of 10 generals and to all practical purposes the chief of state. The premier is subservient to the committee but the young air vice marshal holds tremendous powers.
Fight To End
Both Ky and Thieu issued pessimistic statements on the state of the war. But both pledged the war government would fight to the end. Both promised to end the crisis of leadership they said had brought South Viet Nam to the brink of tragedy.
Perhaps significant was the fact the new government threw out the previous seals of office -- a spray of bamboo shoots resembling a Chinese painting. In its place they adopted a great white eagle with olive branches symbolic of Ky's position with the air force.
While Saigon seethed witn politics, the fight against the Viet Cong continued. There were some small government successes but the cost in American lives continued to mount. Four U.S. helicopter crewmen apparently were killed today in one incident.
A U.S. paratrooper was killed and 15 wounded in the accidental explosion of a hand grenade at Phuoc Vinsh, 40 miles north of Saigon. A U.S. Marine was shot and killed by a buddy Friday night when he failed to heed a challenge at Da Nang. Three other Americans were wounded when a terrorist bomb exploded in a milk bar at Back Liu, 125 miles southwest of Saigon.
The American death toll was rising toward the 450 mark. In the air war American jets hammered away at bridges, highways and ferries in 26 sorties over North Viets warn today. They encountered intense antiaircraft fire but a U.S. spokesman said all returned safely. Other planes bombed North Viet Nam during the night.