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Well, you're right. He was the President of South Vietnam who was friendly to the West, but he was also heavily corrupt and had also failed to live up to his promises to his own people in things such as land reform.
But because he was hugely anti-communist and was also independently wealthy and seen by many as one of the "elite", he was seen as a friend to the US. The election that saw him into power was also controversial with accusations of fraud. And needless to say, he didn't connect with the common peasant working the rice fields of South Vietnam, but he was in charge.
He also ruled South Vietnam like a dictator, imprisoning thousands and carrying out a feverish war against anything Communist. Yet to the US, he was seen as one of their best friends in the far East because of his stance against Communism.
The guy was later assassinated in a coup in 1963 after being in office since 1955 leaving a power vacuum in South Vietnam for awhile until someone else stepped up to take power.