On Sept 3d, 1969, Ho Chi Minh died in Hanoi, in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Born Nguyen Tat Thanh in Annam in central Vietnam in 1890, Ho, for over a half-century, was the leading nationalist and communist revolutionary in Vietnam, leading struggles for independence and socialism against the French, Japanese and Americans.
Ho was the son of an o`fficial who had resigned in protest against French domination of his country. In the 1910s he began to travel abroad, even spending a bnrief time in the US. In 1919, as an expat in Paris, he tried to meet with Woodrow Wilson at the Versailles Peace conference at the end of WWI to discuss Vnese indpendence.
In the 1920s and 30s, using the pseudonym Nguyen Ai Quoc (Nguyen the Patriot), Ho trained in the Soviet Union and China and was a founding member of the Indochinese Communist Party, and later, the Viet Minh, the armed movement fighting for national liberation against the French and Japanese in World War II.
During those years he was away from Vietnam and spent time in prison because of his political activities, and wrote poetically about it:
Being chained is a luxury to compete for/
the chained have somewhere to sleep, the unchained haven't/
the State treats me to its rice, lodges me in its palaces/
its guards take turns escorting me/
really the honor is too great
When WWII ended in 1945 and the Japanese and French were vanquished,
now calling himself Ho Chi Minh, or "he who enlightens," he proclaimed
Vietnamese independence on Sept. 2d, stating
"All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness"
This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence
of the United States of America m 1776. In a broader sense, this means:
All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have
a right to live, to be happy and free.
The Declaration of the French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the Citizen also states: "All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights." Those are undeniable truths.
Ho also tried to make overtures to Pres. Harry Truman about Vietnamese independence, but was ignored. So, within a year, the French returned to rule Vietnam and Ho and his comrades Vo Nguyen Giap, Truong Chinh, Pham Van Dong, and others began a long, armed struggle for sovereignty and socialism.
For eight years Vietminh guerrillas fought French troops in the mountains and rice paddies of Vietnam, finally defeating them in the decisive Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Ho, however, was deprived of his victory. Subsequent negotiations at Geneva divided the country, with only the North assigned to the Vietminh. The DRV, with Ho still president, now devoted its efforts to constructing a Communist society in North Vietnam and instituted land reform and other socialist programs.
In the early 1960s, however, conflict resumed in the South, where
Communist-led guerrillas mounted an insurgency against the U.S. puppet
regime in Saigon, establishing the National Liberation Front with northern
Throughout the 1960s Ho became a powerful and omnipresent symbol of anti-colonialism, national liberation, and socialist revolution. He spent a lifetime taking on the most powerful empires in the world and steered his country to the point where it would become independent after he died.
In his testament, Ho dreamed of rebuilding a Vietnam "ten times more beautiful," a task still undone because of the depth of the US-caused devastation during its long war in Vietnam. Still the legacy of Ho Chi Minh remains strong in Vietnam and the day of his passing, Sept. 3d, is now celebrated as a national holiday.
For more information, the best English-language books on Ho are by William Duiker and Jean Lacoutre.
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