Chí Minh ( , Chữ
Nôm:胡志明), born Nguyễn Sinh Cung and also known
as Nguyễn Ái Quốc (19 May 1890 – 2 September 1969)
was a Vietnamese Communist revolutionary and statesman who was prime
minister (1946–1955) and president (1945–1969) of the Democratic Republic of
Vietnam (North Vietnam).
Hồ led the
Viet Minh independence movement from 1941
onward, establishing the communist-governed Democratic Republic of
Vietnam in 1945 and defeating the French
Union in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu.
- For the city named after him, see
Ho Chi Minh
He lost political power inside North
Vietnam in the late 1950s, but remained as the highly visible
figurehead president until his death. The former capital of
South Vietnam, Saigon, after the
Fall of Saigon, was renamed Hồ Chí Minh
City in his honor.
Nguyễn Sinh Cung was born in 1890 in Hoàng Trù Village, his
mother's hometown. From 1895, he grew up in his paternal
hometown of Kim Liên Village, Nam Đàn District, Nghệ An
He had three siblings, his sister Bạch Liên (or
Nguyễn Thị Thanh), a clerk in the French
, his brother Nguyễn Sinh Khiêm
Tất Đạt), a geomancer
herbalist, and another brother (Nguyễn Sinh Nhuận) who died in his
infancy. Following Confucian
traditions, at the age of 10 his father named him Nguyễn Tất Thành
(Nguyễn the Accomplished).
Cung's father, Nguyễn Sinh Sắc, was a Confucian scholar, small time
teacher and later an imperial magistrate in a small remote district
Binh Khe (Qui Nhon). He was later demoted for abuse of power after
an influential local figure died several days after receiving 100
canes as punishment. This however was merely a pretense by the
French-controlled government to get rid of Sac, whose sons had been
involved in nationalist, Anti-French activities at the Duc Thanh
school, founded in 1907 by patriotic scholars who hoped to imitate
the success of the Hanoi Free School. Deferent to his father, Cung
received a French education, attended lycée in Huế, the alma mater
of his later disciples, Phạm Văn Đồng
Võ Nguyên Giáp
later left his studies and chose to teach at Dục Thanh school in
First sojourn in France
On 5 June 1911, Nguyễn Sinh Cung left Vietnam on a French steamer,
, working as a kitchen helper.
in Marseille, France, he applied
for the French
Colonial Administrative School but his application was
During his stay, he worked as a cleaner, waiter,
and film retoucher. Cung spent most of his free time in public
libraries reading history books and newspapers to familiarize
himself with Western
In the USA
again working as the cook's helper on a ship, Cung traveled to the
States. From 1912 to 1913, he lived in New York (Harlem) and
Boston, where he worked as a baker at the Parker House Hotel. He worked in menial
jobs and later claimed to have worked for a wealthy family in
Brooklyn between 1917 and 1918, and during this time he may
have heard Marcus Garvey speak in
It is believed that while in the United
States he made contact with Korean
, an experience that developed his political
various points between 1913 and 1919, Cung lived in West Ealing, west London, and later
End, Hornsey, north London.
He is reported to have worked
as a chef at the Drayton Court Hotel, on The Avenue, West Ealing.
claimed that Ho trained as a pastry chef under the legendary French
master, Escoffier, at the Carlton Hotel in the Haymarket, Westminster, but there is no evidence to support this.
the wall of New Zealand House, home of the New Zealand High Commission, which now stands on the
site of the Carlton Hotel, displays a Blue
Plaque, stating that Cung worked there in 1913 as a
Political education in France
1919–1923, while living in France, Nguyễn Sinh
Cung embraced communism, through his
friend Marcel Cachin (SFIO).
Cung claimed to have arrived in Paris from London in 1917 but
French police only have documents of his arrival in June 1919.
Following World War I
, under the name of
Nguyễn Ái Quốc (Nguyen the Patriot), he petitioned for recognition
of the civil rights of the Vietnamese people in French Indochina
to the Western powers at
peace talks, but was
ignored. Citing the language and the spirit of the U.S. Declaration of
, Quốc petitioned U.S. President Woodrow Wilson for help to remove the French
from Vietnam and replace
it with a new, nationalist government.
His request was
during the Congress of Tours, France,
Nguyễn Ái Quốc became a founding member of the Parti Communiste
Français (French Communist
Party) and spent much of his time in Moscow afterwards,
becoming the Comintern's Asia hand and the
principal theorist on colonial warfare.
During the Indochina
War, the PCF would be involved with anti-war propaganda, sabotage
and support for the revolutionary effort.
In May 1922, Quốc wrote an article for a French magazine
criticizing the use of English words by French sportswriters. The
article implores Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré
to outlaw such
as le manager
and le knock-out
. While living in Paris, he had
a relationship with dressmaker Marie Brière.
In the Soviet Union and China
Quốc left Paris for Moscow, where he
was employed by the Comintern, and
participated in the Fifth Comintern Congress in June 1924, before
arriving in Canton (present day Guangzhou), China, in November 1924.
In June 1925, he betrayed
Phan Bội Châu
, head of a rival
revolutionary faction, to French police in Shanghai for 100,000
piastres.Davidson, Phillip B., Vietnam at War: The History: 1946-1975
Hoang Van Chi
, From Colonialism to
(1964), p. 18. Hồ later claimed that he did this
because he expected Chau's trial to stir up anti-French resentment
and because he needed the money to establish a communist
organization. Châu never denounced Quốc, so it seems there was no
ill-feeling between them. During 1925-26 he organized 'Youth Education
Classes' and occasionally gave lectures at the Whampoa
Military Academy on the revolutionary movement in
He married a Chinese woman, Tăng Tuyết Minh
on 18 October 1926.Brocheux, Pierre (2007). Ho Chi Minh: A
, pp. 39-40, Cambridge University Press.
Duiker, William J., (2000). Ho Chi Minh: A Life,
Hyperion. When his comrades objected to the match, he told them, "I
will get married despite your disapproval because I need a woman to
teach me the language and keep house." She was 21 and he was 36.
They married in the same place where Zhou Enlai had married earlier
and then lived together at the residence of Comintern
. Chiang Kai-shek
anti-communist 1927 coup triggered a new round of wanderings for
left Canton again in April 1927 and returned to Moscow, spending
some of the summer of 1927 recuperating from tuberculosis in the Crimea, before
returning to Paris once more in November. He then returned to
Asia by way of Brussels, Berlin, Switzerland, Italy, from where
he took a ship to Bangkok in Thailand, where he arrived in July 1928.
have been separated for almost a year, our feelings for each other
do not have to be said in order to be felt," he reassured Minh in
an intercepted letter.
remained in Thailand, staying in the Thai village of Nachok, until
late 1929 when he moved on to Hong Kong, and Shanghai.
1931, he was arrested in Hong Kong.
To reduce French pressure for extradition,
it was announced in 1932 that Quốc had died. The British quietly
released him in January 1933. He then made his way back to the Soviet Union, where he spent several more years recovering from
tuberculosis. In 1938, he returned
to China and served as an adviser with Chinese Communist armed forces, which
later forced China's
government to the island of Taiwan.
Around 1940, Nguyễn
Ái Quốc began regularly using the name "Hồ Chí Minh", a Vietnamese
name combining a common Vietnamese surname (Hồ, 胡
) with a given name meaning "enlightened
will" (from Sino-Vietnamese 志明
; Chí meaning
'will' (or spirit), and Minh meaning 'light'), in essence, meaning
"bringer of light".
In 1941, Hồ returned to Vietnam to lead the Việt Minh
independence movement. He oversaw many
successful military actions against the Vichy French
and Japanese occupation of Vietnam
during World War II
, supported closely
but clandestinely by the United States Office of Strategic Services
and also later against the French bid to reoccupy the country
(1946-1954). He was also jailed in China for many months by
's local authorities.
After his release in 1943, he again returned to Vietnam. He was
treated for malaria and dysentery by American OSS
doctors. In the highlands
in 1944, he lived with Do Thi Lac, a woman of Tay
ethnicity. Lac had a son in 1956.
After the August Revolution
organized by the Việt Minh, Hồ became Chairman of the Provisional
Government (Premier of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) and
Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of
that borrowed much from the French and American
declarations. Though he convinced Emperor Bảo
to abdicate, his government was not recognized by any
country. He repeatedly petitioned American President Harry Truman
for support for Vietnamese
independence, citing the Atlantic
, but Truman never responded.
In 1945, in a power struggle, the Viet Minh killed members of rival
groups, such as the leader of the Constitutional Party, the head of
the Party for Independence, and Ngo Dinh
's brother, Ngo Dinh Khoi
Purges and killings of Trotskyists
rival anti-Stalinist communists, have also been documented. In
1946, when Hồ traveled outside of the country, his subordinates
imprisoned 25,000 non-communist nationalists and forced 6,000
others to flee. Hundreds of political opponents were also killed in
July that same year. All rival political parties were banned and
local governments purged to minimise opposition later on.
Birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
On 2 September 1945, after Emperor Bao Dai
abdication, Hồ Chí Minh read the Declaration of Independence of
Vietnam, under the name of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. With
violence between rival Vietnamese factions and French forces
spiraling, the British commander, General
Sir Douglas Gracey
declared martial law. On 24 September, the
Viet Minh leaders responded with a call for a general strike.
September 1945, a force of 200,000 Chinese Nationalists arrived in
Hồ Chí Minh made arrangement with their
general, Lu Han, to dissolve the Communist Party and to hold an
election which would yield a coalition government. When Chiang
Kai-Shek later traded Chinese influence in Vietnam for French concessions
Hồ Chí Minh had no choice but to sign an agreement with France on 6
March 1946, in which Vietnam would be recognized as an autonomous
state in the Indochinese Federation and the French Union
. The agreement soon broke down.
The purpose of the agreement was to drive out the Chinese army from
North Vietnam. Fighting broke out with the French soon after the
Chinese left. Hồ Chí Minh was almost captured by a group of French
soldiers led by Jean-Etienne
at Việt Bắc
was able to escape.
February 1950, Hồ met with Stalin and
Mao in Moscow after the Soviet Union recognized his government.
They all agreed
that China would be responsible for backing the Viet Minh
. Mao's emissary to Moscow stated in
August that China planned to train 60-70,000 Viet Minh in the near
future. China's support enabled Hồ to escalate the fight against
According to a story told by Journalist Bernard Fall
, after fighting the French for
several years, Hồ decided to negotiate a truce. The French
negotiators arrived at the meeting site, a mud hut with a thatched
roof. Inside they found a long table with chairs and were surprised
to discover in one corner of the room a silver ice bucket
containing ice and a bottle of good Champagne which should have
indicated that Hồ expected the negotiations to succeed. One demand
by the French was the return to French custody of a number of
Japanese military officers (who had been helping the Vietnamese
armed forces by training them in the use of weapons of Japanese
origin), in order for them to stand trial for war crimes committed
during World War II
. Hồ replied that
the Japanese officers were allies and friends whom he could not
betray. Then he walked out, to seven more years of war.
after the important defeat of French paratroopers at the Battle of Điện
Biên Phủ, France was forced to give up its empire in
Hồ Chí Minh with East German Sailors,
The 1954 Geneva Accords
concluded between France and the Vietminh, provided that communist
forces regroup in the North and non-communist forces regroup in the
South. Ho's Democratic
Republic of Vietnam
relocated to Hanoi and became the
government of North Vietnam, a Communist
. The Geneva accords also provided for a national
election to reunify the country in 1956, but this provision was
rejected by South Vietnam
United States. The U.S. committed itself to oppose Communism in
Asia beginning in 1950, when it funded 80 percent of the French
effort. After Geneva, the U.S. replaced France as South Vietnam's
chief sponsor and financial backer, but there never was a treaty
between the U.S. and South Vietnam.
Following the Geneva
, there was to be a 300-day period in which people could
freely move between the zones of the two Vietnams. Some 900,000 to
1 million Vietnamese, mostly Catholic
, left for South Vietnam
, while a much smaller number,
mostly communists, went from South to North. This was partly due to
propaganda claims by a CIA mission led by Colonel Edward Lansdale
that the Virgin Mary
had moved South out of distaste for
life under communism
. Some Canadian
observers claimed that some were forced by North Vietnamese
authorities to remain against their will. During this era, Hồ,
following the communist doctrine initiated by Stalin and Mao,
started a land reform in which hundreds of thousands of people
accused of being landlords were summarily executed or tortured and
starved in prison. This also caused millions of people to flee to
At the end of 1956, Lê Duẩn
appointed acting party boss and began sending aid to the Vietcong
insurgency in South Vietnam. This
represented a loss of power by Hồ, who is said to have preferred
the more moderate Giáp for the position. The so called Hochiminh Trail
was built in 1959 to allow
aid to be sent to the Vietcong through Laos and Cambodia, thus
escalating the war. Duẩn was named permanent party boss in 1960,
leaving Hồ a figurehead president and symbol of Vietnamese
In 1963, Hồ corresponded with South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh
Diem in the hope of achieving a negotiated peace. This
correspondence was a factor in the U.S. decision to tacitly support
a coup against Diem later that year.
1964, North Vietnamese combat troops were sent southwest into
During the mid to late 1960s, Lê Duẩn permitted 320,000 Chinese
volunteers into northern North Vietnam
to help build infrastructure for the country, thereby freeing a
similar number of North Vietnamese forces to go south.
By early 1965, U.S. combat troops began arriving in South Vietnam
to counter the threat imposed by both the local Viet Cong
and the North Vietnamese troops in the
border areas. As the fighting escalated, widespread bombing of
North Vietnam by the U.S. Air Force and Navy escalated as Operation Rolling Thunder
remained in Hanoi for most of the duration of his final years,
stubbornly refusing to negotiate with the Americans and demanded
nothing but an unconditional withdrawal of all foreign troops in
South Vietnam. By July, 1967, Hồ and most of the Politburo of North
Vietnam met in a high-level conference where they concluded that
the war was not going well for them since the American military
blunted every attempt by the Peoples Army of Vietnam to make gains,
and inflicted heavy casualties. But Hồ and the rest his government
knew that there were two weaknesses: there was still no disguising
the continuing ineffectiveness of large portion of the South
Vietnamese army, shielded by U.S. firepower, and that American
public opinion was not wholeheartedly in favor of the war. With
Hồ's permission, the North Vietnamese army and politicians planned
to execute the Tet Offensive
gamble to take the South by force and defeat the U.S.
Although the offensive was a huge tactical failure which resulted
in the decimation of whole units of Viet Cong, the end result was a
moral victory for it broke the U.S. will to fight the war and
public opinion in the U.S. turned against the government which
resulted in the bombing of North Vietnam halted, and negotiations
with U.S. officials opening as to how to end the war.
By 1969, with negotiations still dragging on, Hồ's health began to
deteriorate from multiple health problems, including diabetes
among other ailments, which prevented him
from participating in further active politics. However, he insisted
that his forces in South Vietnam continue fighting until all of
Vietnam was reunited under his government, regardless of the length
of time that it might take, believing that time and politics were
on his side.
outcome of the Vietnam War still in
question, Hồ Chí Minh died on the morning of 2 September 1969, at his
home in Hanoi at age 79
from heart failure.
Hồ Chí Minh statue
News of his death was withheld from the North Vietnamese public for
nearly 48 hours due to not wanting to announce his death on the
anniversary of the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
He was not initially replaced as president, but a "collective
leadership" forming up of several ministers and military leaders
took control of North Vietnam to continue his goal of conquering
South Vietnam to unite it under Hồ's founding government.
Six years after his death, when the communists were successful in
conquering South Vietnam, several North Vietnamese tanks in Saigon
displayed a poster with the following quote,"You are always
marching with us, Uncle Hồ".
former capital of South Vietnam,
Saigon, was renamed Hồ Chí Minh City on 1 May 1975 shortly after its capture which
officially ended the war.
Minh's embalmed body is on display in a granite mausoleum modeled after Lenin's Tomb in Moscow.
This is similar to other
Communist leaders who have been similarly displayed before and
since, including Mao Zedong
, Kim Il-Sung
, and for a time, Joseph Stalin
, but the "honor" violated Hồ's
last wishes (as well as the three leaders mentioned above). Several
months before his death, he wished to be cremated and his ashes
buried in three urns on three different hilltops of Vietnam (the
North, Central and South areas). He wrote, "Not only is cremation
good from the point of view of hygiene but also it saves
Hồ Chí Minh
Museum in Hanoi is dedicated to his life and
In Vietnam today, he is regarded by the Communist government with
almost god-like status in a nationwide personality cult
, even though the
government has abandoned most of his economic policies since the
mid-1980s. He is still referred to as "Uncle Hồ" or just "Uncle"
) in Vietnam. Hồ's image appears on the front of every
note, and Hồ's
portrait and bust is featured prominently in many of Vietnam's
public buildings, classrooms and even temples. In 1987, UNESCO officially
recommended to Member States that they "join in the commemoration
of the centenary of the birth of President Hồ Chí Minh by
organizing various events as a tribute to his memory", considering
"the important and many-sided contribution of President Ho Chi Minh
in the fields of culture, education and the arts" and that Hồ Chí
Minh "devoted his whole life to the national liberation of the
Vietnamese people, contributing to the common struggle of peoples
for peace, national independence, democracy and social
In contrast, some Vietnamese who lived through the war accuse Hồ
Chí Minh for bringing chaos to the country. Vietnamese people
living outside of Vietnam, commonly known as Overseas Vietnamese
who fled communist
rule after 1975, and some political dissidents have more hostile
opinions of Hồ Chí Minh. Some even view Hồ as a murderer by
persecuting tens of thousands during the land reform and a dictator
who ruined Vietnam by starting the war with the US.
- "Nothing is more valuable than independence and freedom."
- "Those who wish to seize Vietnam, must kill us to the last man,
woman, and child"
- "I follow only one party: the Vietnamese party."
- "You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours.
But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win." - referring
to France and America in their wars in Vietnam.
- "It is better to sacrifice everything than to live in
- "The Vietnamese people deeply love independence, freedom and
peace. But in the face of United States aggression they have risen
up, united as one man."
- "We have to win independence at any cost, even if the Truong
Son mountains burn."
- "In (Lenin's Theses on the National and Colonial Questions)
there were political terms that were difficult to understand. But
by reading them again and again finally I was able to grasp the
essential part. What emotion, enthusiasm, enlightenment and
confidence they communicated to me! I wept for joy. Sitting by
myself in my room, I would shout as if I were addressing large
crowds: "Dear martyr compatriots! This is what we need, this is our
path to liberation!" Since then (the 1920s) I had entire confidence
in Lenin, in the Third International!"
- "When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly
- "It was patriotism, not communism, that inspired me."
- "Remember, the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the
cypress to show their strength and their stability."
- "My only desire is that all of our Party and people, closely
united in struggle, construct a peaceful, unified, independent,
democratic and prosperous, and make a valiant contribution to the
world Revolution." (Hanoi, 10 May 1969.)
- Duiker p. 41
- Hồ applied for the French Colonial Administrative
- Sophie Quinn-Judge, Hồ Chí Minh: The Missing Years,
University of California Press, 2002 ISBN 0-520-23533-9
- Brocheux Pierre (2007). Ho Chi Minh: A Biography, pp.
21, Cambridge University Press.
- Brocheux, Pierre (2007). Ho Chi Minh: a biography,
pages 44 and xiii.
- Brocheux Pierre (2007). Ho Chi Minh: A Biography, pp.
57-58, Cambridge University Press.
- Brocheux, Pierre (2007). Ho Chi Minh: A Biography, pp.
39-40, Cambridge University Press.
- Joseph Buttinnger, Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled, vol.
1. (New York: Praeger, 1967)
- See: The Black Book of
- Cecil B. Currey, Victory At Any Cost (Washington:
Brassey's, 1997), p. 126
- Spencer Tucker, Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: a
political, social, and military history (vol. 2), 1998
- John Colvin, Giap: the Volcano under the Snow (New
York: Soho Press, 1996), p.51
- Stanley Karnow, Vietnam a History
- Luo Guibo, pp. 233-6
- Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Chronology," p. 45.
- Fall, Bernard, Last reflections on a War, p. 88. New
- Marcus Raskin & Bernard Fall, The Viet-Nam Reader,
p. 89; William Duiker, U. S. Containment Policy and the
Conflict in Indochina, p. 212; Hue-Tam Ho Tai, The Country
of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late Socialist Vietnam (2001)
p. x notes that "totalitarian governments could not promise a
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, State of the World's Refugees, Chapter
4, "Flight from Indochina".
- Thakur, p. 204
- Communist Party of Vietnam, Kinh nghiệm giải quyết vấn đề
ruộng đất trong cách mạng Việt Nam (Experience in land reform
in the Vietnamese Revolution), available online:
- Cheng Guan Ang, Ann Cheng Guan, The Vietnam War from the
Other Side, p. 21. (2002).
- Lind, 1999
- Brocheux, Pierre, Claire Duiker Ho Chi Minh: A
Biography, p. 174 ISBN 0521850622.
- Davidson, Vietnam at War: the history, 1946–1975,
- Chen Jian, "China's Involvement in the Vietnam Conflict,
1964-69," China Quarterly, No. 142 (June 1995), pp.
- " Hồ Chí Minh poster angers Vietnamese
- Bernard B. Fall, ed., 1967. Ho Chi Minh on
Revolution and War, Selected Writings 1920-1966. New American
- William J. Duiker. 2000. Ho Chi Minh: A
- Jean Lacouture. 1968. Ho Chi
Minh: A Political Biography. Random House.
- N. Khac
Huyen. 1971. Vision Accomplished? The Enigma of Ho
Chi Minh. The Macmillan Company.
- David Halberstam. 1971.
Ho. Rowman & Littlefield.
- Hồ chí Minh toàn tập. NXB chính trị quốc gia
- Sophie Quinn-Judge. 2003.
Ho Chi Minh: The missing years. C. Hurst & Co. ISBN
- Ton That Thien, Was Ho Chi
Minh a Nationalist? Ho Chi Minh and the Comintern
Information and Resource Centre, Singapore, 1990
The Viet Minh, NLF & the Democratic Republic of
The War in Vietnam
American foreign policy