United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense/I. C. Ho Chi Minh: Asian Tito?
Among the more cogent critiques of U.S. policy toward Vietnam is the contention that the U.S. failed to recognize in Ho Chi Minh a potential Asian "Tito." This view holds that Ho has always been more concerned with Vietnam's independence and sovereign viability than with following the interests and dictates of Moscow and Peking. With U.S. support, the neutrality in the argument runs, Ho would have adopted some form of East–West conflict and maintained the DRV as a natural and durable bulwark against Chinese expansion southward. Thus, were it not for "U.S. communist blinders," Ho would have served the larger purposes of American policy in Asia. Though the focus of inquiry in this study is the period immediately following World War II, when it would have been relatively easy to support an anti-Japanese, anti-colonial Ho, it is often argued that the U.S. neglected another opportunity after the Geneva Conference of 1954 — and indeed, that U.S. acceptance of Ho, and a communist dominated Vietnam, may be the only path to peace in Southeast Asia today. The historical (1945–1954) argument has a persuasive ring. In the light of the present costs and repercussions of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, any prior way out can seem attractive. It is possible, however, that a dynamic and unified communist Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh could have been vigorously expansionist, thus causing unanticipated difficult problems in some ways comparable to current ones.
Many authors have advanced one version or another of the "Tito" hypothesis. Some develop the principal thesis that a different U.S. policy could have moved Ho to non-alignment and opposition to Peking; others stress the corollary that Ho was forced into dependence upon Peking and Moscow by American opposition or indifference. Whether Ho was a nationalist or a communist is not at issue; all of the authors quoted seem to accept that Ho was a communist, and that a communist Vietnam would probably have eventuated under his leadership. Rather, their arguments center on what they perceive to be Ho's willingness to subordinate communist goals, forms, and international discipline to attaining Vietnam's independence and unity. A few openly favor a communist Vietnam on the grounds that only a national communism led by Ho would be sufficiently strong to survive adjacent to China. They stress Ho's attempts in 1945 and 1946 to obtain Western backing, and point out that antipathy to China is a pillar of Viet nationalism. Many concede that the Tito analogy is not wholly appropriate. Unlike Tito, Ho came to power after the war without the aid of another communist state. More basically, there was no analogy to be made until late 1948, when the experiment with Tito seemed like it would work. Nonetheless, these authors point out that if the U.S. found it advantageous to set aside its repugnance to Tito's communism in the interest of stemming Russian expansion in Europe, it should have been willing to accommodate Ho Chi Minh's communism for similar ends in Asia. This critique generally ends with the accusation that the U.S. purpose in Southeast Asia is simply and solely to stop communism. (Tab 1)
An examination of Ho Chi Minh's political development through 1950 may provide a basis to narrow the range of speculation concerning Ho and U.S. policy. From such a review, it is evident that the man who in 1945 became President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was a mature, extraordinarily dedicated revolutionary who had undergone severe hardships serving the cause of Vietnam's freedom from France. Fifty-five years of age in 1945, he had been a communist for twenty-five years — one of the founding members of the French Communist Party — and a Comintern agent in Asia for fifteen years before World War II. He was originally of Nghe-An, a province traditionally a spawning ground of revolutionists; of a father imprisoned by the French for nationalist activism; and of a Hue school known for radical nationalism among its students. Exiled from Vietnam from 1910 to 1940, imprisoned in Hong Kong and in China, deprived of home, family, fame, fortune and companionship outside the Comintern's conspiratorial circles, he apparently devoted himself selflessly all those years to revolution in Vietnam. Ruth Fischer, a well-known German former communist who knew Ho during this period, has written, "It was Ho Chi Minh's nationalism which impressed us European Communists born and bred in a rather grey kind of abstract internationalism."
For Ho, now back in Asia, World war II opened new avenues to the attainment of his life-long goals. France discredited itself in Vietnam through Vichy's collaboration with the Japanese, and then in 1945 was toppled from power altogether by Japanese arms. In the meantime, Ho had built the Viet Minh into the only Vietnam-wide political organization capable of effective resistance to either the Japanese or the French. Ho was the only Vietnamese wartime leader with a national following, and he assured himself wider fealty among the Vietnamese people when in August–September, 1945, he overthrew the Japanese, obtained the abdication of Bao Dai, established the DRV, and staged receptions for in-coming allied occupation forces —in which the DRV acted as the incumbent Vietnamese government. For a few weeks in September 1945, Vietnam was — for the first and only time in its modern history — free of foreign domination, and united from north to south under Ho Chi Minh.
Ho became the focus of the nationalist fervor evoked by these and subsequent events. Leaders of the rival Vietnamese Nationalist Party (VNQDD) and the Revolutionary League (Dong Minh Hoi), although admitted to the DRV government, commanded no grass-roots organizations, and since they were closely associated with the Chinese Nationalists, shared in full measure in the anti-Chinese odium among the people of North Vietnam. In South Vietnam, French intrigue, and Vietnamese disunity precluded the emergence of a competitor to Ho. When France resorted to force to restore its control over Vietnam, Ho again became the head of Viet resistance, and the Viet Minh became the primary nationalist protagonists. Hence, Ho Chi Minh, both on his own merits and out of lack of competition, became the personification of Vietnamese nationalism.
Ho, nonetheless, found himself, his movement, and his government under intense pressure. From within the nation, the Chinese-backed Viet parties attacked communist domination of his government. For the sake of national unity, Ho dissolved the Communist Party, avoided communist cant, announced general elections, and assured the contending factions representation in the government well out of proportion to their popular support. External pressures from France and from China proved more difficult. The French capitalized on the relative weakness of the Viet Minh in South Vietnam, and the dissension among the Vietnamese there to overthrow the DRV government in Saigon, and to force the Viet Minh to resort to guerrilla warfare. In famine-wracked North Vietnam, Chinese hordes under booty-minded warlords descended on the DRV, supplanting its legal government with committees of their own sponsoring and systematically looting. Ho vainly sought aid abroad; not even the Soviet Union proved helpful. Ho eventually (March, 1946) negotiated with the French, accepting a French military presence in North Vietnam for a period of five years in return for vague French assurances to the DRV as a "Free State within the French Union." When Ho was attacked for this by the pro-Chinese elements within the DRV, he declared:
- "You fools! Don't you realize what it means if the Chinese stay? Don't you remember your history? The last time the Chinese came, they stayed one thousand years!
- "The French are foreigners. They are weak. Colonialism is dying out. Nothing will be able to withstand world pressure for independence. They may stay for a while, but they will have to go because the white man is finished in Asia. But if the Chinese stay now, they will never leave.
- "As for me, I prefer to smell French shit for five years, rather than Chinese shit for the rest of my life."
The unresolved historic problem, of course, is to what extent Ho's nationalist goals over-rode his communist convictions in these maneuvers. Ho seemed to place the former above the latter not solely as a matter of dissemblance, as he might have done in the dissolution of the Party and the simultaneous formation of a "Marxist Association," but possibly as a result of doubts about communism as a political form suitable for Vietnam. Bao Dai is reputed to have said that: "I saw Ho Chi Minh suffer. He was fighting a battle within himself. Ho had his own struggle. He realized communism was not best for his country, but it was too late. Ultimately, he could not overcome his allegiance to communism." During negotiations for a with the French in Paris in autumn, 1946, Ho appealed to the French to "save him from the extremists" within the Viet Minh by some meaningful concession to Vietnamese independence, and he told the U.S. Ambassador that he was not a communist. He is reputed to have asserted at that time that Vietnam was not ready for communism, and described himself as a Marxist. In reply to a journalist's inquiry, Ho claimed that he could remain neutral, "like Switzerland" in the developing world power struggle between communism and the West. But these and other such statements could have come either from a proper Leninist or a dedicated nationalist. Ho's statements and actions after 1939, and his eventual close alignment with the Sino-Soviet Bloc, support the Leninist construction. But, then, U.S. insistence on Ho's being a doctrinaire communist may have been a self-fulfilling prophesy. (Tab 2)
There remains, however, the matter of Ho's direct appeals for U.S. intervention in Vietnam, at which even a Leninist might have scrupled. These occurred (late 1945, early 1946) just after France has reasserted itself militarily in South Vietnam, while Chinese Nationalist warlords were ensconced in Hanoi, and before the 6 March 1946 Accord with France. Desperately, Ho turned to the United States, among other powers, asking for "immediate interference" in Vietnam.
There were, at least, eight communications from Ho to the President of the United States, or to the Secretary of State, from October, 1945, to February, 1946. Ho had conveyed earlier, in August and September, 1945, Atlantic Charter, the U.N. Charter, and a foreign policy address of President Truman in October, 1945, endorsing national self-determination. Ho's last direct communication with the U.S. was in September, 1946, when he visited the U.S. Ambassador in Paris to ask vaguely for U.S. assistance in obtaining independence for Vietnam within the French Union.O.S.S. channels, proposals that Vietnam be accorded "the same status as the Philippines," for an undetermined period of tutelage preliminary to independence. With the outbreak of hostilities in South Vietnam, September–October 1945, he added fonmal requests for U.S. and U.N. intervention against French aggression, citing the
There is no record of U.S. reply to any of Ho's appeals for aid. Extant instructions to a U.S. diplomat in contact with Ho in December, 1946, reveal U.S. preoccupation with his known communist background, and apprehension that he might establish a "communist-dominated, Moscow-oriented state." Two months later, when the Franco-Viet Minh war in North Vietnam was underway, Secretary of State Marshall emphasized that "we do not lose sight [of the] fact that Ho Chi Minh has direct Communist connections and it should be obvious that we are not interested in seeing colonial empire administrations supplanted by philosophy and political organizations emanating from and controlled by the Kremlin." In May, 1949, Secretary of State Acheson admitted that as a "theoretical possibility" the establishment of a "National Communist state on pattern Yugoslavia in any area beyond reach [of the] Soviet Army," but pointed out that:
- "Question whether Ho as much nationalist as Commie is irrelevant. All Stalinists in colonial areas are nationalists. With achievement national aims (i.e., independence) their objective necessarily becomes subordination state to Commie purposes and ruthless extermination not only opposition groups but all elements suspected even slightest deviation...."
When, in early, 1950, Ho's DRV lay within reach of Mao's Chinese Army, and Ho had openly embraced communism, Secretary Acheson declared that bloc recognition of the DRV "should remove any illusion as to the nationalist character of Ho Chi Minh's aims and reveals Ho in his true colors as the mortal enemy of native independence in Vietnam."
But Ho's behavior in 1949–1950, however convincingly it endorsed U.S. policy at that juncture, does not necessarily explain away his earlier eagerness for U.S. and U.N. intervention in Vietnam, nor otherwise gainsay the "Tito" hypothesis as applied to the 1945–1950 period. Of that period, it can be said that the U.S. offered Ho only narrow options. He received no replies to his appeals. After 1946, not only were Ho's direct communications with the U.S. cut, but also the signals he received from the U.S. were hardly encouraging. By the time the Indochina war began in earnest in late 1946, U.S. military equipment had already been used by French forces against the Vietnamese, and the U.S. had arranged credit for France to purchase $160 million worth of vehicles and miscellaneous industrial equipment for use in Indochina. Secretary of State George C. Marshall's public comment on the outbreak of war in January, 1947, was limited to a hope that "a pacific basis for adjustment of the difficulties could be found," and within six months the Marshall Plan threw even greater U.S. resources behind France.
The simple truth seems to be that the U.S. knew little of what was transpiring inside Vietnam, and certainly cared less about Vietnam than about France. Knowing little and caring less meant that real problems and variety of choices were perceived but dimly. For example, the U.S. could have asked itself — "Did we really have to support France in Southeast Asia in order to support a non-communist France internally and in Europe?" Another question we could have asked ourselves was — "If the U.S. choice in Vietnam really came down to either French colonialism or Ho Chi Minh, should Ho automatically be excluded?" Again, "If the U.S. choice was to be France, did France have any real chance of succeeding, and if so, at what cost?"
Even before World War II was over, Washington had placed the decision on Ho's fate in the hands of France. It can be argued, nonetheless, that the U.S. could have insisted that Paris buy Ho and provide Indochinese independence without endangering the more basic relationship between the U.S. and France in Europe. Just as the U.S. came to recognize the prime importance of Europe over any policy it pursued elsewhere, so the French government would have soon realized (if it had not already done so) that nothing should be done to impair seriously U.S. acceptance of common interests in European recovery and collective security. Moreover, it was not as if there were not sizeable segments of the French community which would not have supported graceful U.S. attempts to extricate France from Indochina. It may well be, however, that the "Tito hypothesis" assumes a compliance from France of which France was demonstrably incapable. No French government is likely to have survived a genuinely liberal policy toward Ho in 1945 or 1946; even French communists then favored redemption of control in Indochina. From '46 on, however, bloodshed hardened policy in France. As before, the Ho alternative was never seriously contemplated.
French representations to the contrary notwithstanding, Ho Chi Minh possessed real political strength among the people of Vietnam. While calling Ho another George Washington may be stretching the point, there is no doubt about his being the only popularly-recognized wartime leader of the Vietnamese resistance, and the head of the strongest and only Vietnam-wide political movement. There can be no doubt either that in a test by ballot only Ho's Viet Minh could have delivered votes at the hamlet level. Washington and Paris, however, did not focus on the fact of Ho's strength, only on the consequences of his rule. Paris viewed Ho as a threat to its regaining French economic, cultural and political prerogatives in Indochina. The U.S., wary of Ho's known communist background, was apprehensive that Ho would lead Vietnam into the Soviet, and later Chinese, orbit. President Eisenhower's later remark about Ho's winning a free election in Vietnam with an 80% vote shone through the darkness of our vision about Vietnam; but U.S. policy remained unillumined.
In the last speculation, U.S. support for Ho Chi Minh would have involved perspicacity and risk. As clear as national or independent or neutral communism may seem today, it was a blurred vision in 1945–1948. Even with the benefit of seeing Tito successfully assert his independence, it would have been hard for Washington to make the leap from there to an analogy in Asia. Recourse to "national communism" in Vietnam as an eventual bulwark against China, indeed, would have called for a perspicacity unique in U.S. history. The risk was there, too. The reality of Ho's strength in Vietnam could have worked seriously against U.S. interests as well as against Chinese Communist interests. Ho's well-known leadership and drive, the iron discipline and effectiveness of the Viet Minh, the demonstrated fighting capability of his armies, a dynamic Vietnamese people under Ho's control, could have produced a dangerous period of Vietnamese expansionism. Laos and Cambodia would have been easy pickings for such a Vietnam. Ho, in fact, always considered his leadership to extend to Indochina as a whole, and his party was originally called the Indochinese Communist Party. Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, and even Indonesia, could have been next. It could have been the "domino theory" with Ho instead of Mao. And, it could have been the dominoes with Mao. This may seem implausible, but it is only slightly less of a bad dream than what has happened to Vietnam since. The path of prudence rather than the path of risk seemed the wiser choice. (Tab 3)
Following are extracts from authors who have advanced arguments that Ho Chi Minh, with the stimulus of U.S. support, might have adopted a non-aligned or, at least, counter-Peking foreign policy. The corollary contention is that Ho was forced to accept dependency on Moscow and Peking by American opposition or indifference.
(1) None argue that Ho was not a communist or that a communist Vietnam would not have eventuated under Ho's leadership.
(2) Rather, they point out that Ho demonstrated willingness to subordinate communist goals and forms to attaining nationalist objectives. They accept a communist Vietnam, indeed even favor it, on the grounds that only a national communism led by Ho would be sufficiently strong to maintain independence of the Chinese.
(3) They stress the historic Vietnamese antipathy to the Chinese as a pillar of Viet nationalism, and point to Ho's attempts in 1945 and 1946 to obtain Western backing.
(4) No really close parallel can be drawn between the origins of Ho Chi Minh and Tito, since unlike Tito, Ho fought his way to power in virtual isolation, without the intervention of an external communist power. However, it can be accurately said that U.S. policies in Europe have generally been directed at widening the split between Tito and Moscow, while in Asia, our policy has tended to force Ho into closer relations with Peking and Hanoi.
(5) The "Tito" issue raises pointedly the question of whether U.S. strategy in Asia is anti-communist or anti-Chinese. Since to block Soviet expansion in Europe the U.S. set aside its repugnance to Tito's communism, it is argued, the U.S. should similarly renounce its opposition to Ho to serve its larger strategic interests in Asia.
|In 1947, Ho was motivated by a deep nationalism aimed principally at independence, and was sorely disenchanted with communism, having received little or no help or encouragement from foreign parties. Literally the U.S. was the only power to whom Viet nationalists could turn with hope, but even then the U.S. actions in support of France stood in contrast to its principled pronouncements in favor of self-determination and against colonialism.||C-11
|There was a strong possibility in 1945 and 1946 that French and American policy could have "Titofied" Ho Chi Minh, and that Vietnam—albeit under left-wing leadership—might have been a bulwark against Communist Chinese expansion. But the possibility of Vietnam's now becoming a Yugoslavia is remote.||C-14|
|A Communist government in Vietnam is the best avenue for improving the lot of the Vietnamese; Ho Chi Minh's dictatorship would be preferable to any elitist dictatorship in South Vietnam. If the U.S. wants to contain China, the U.S. should recognize that Ho Chi Minh would strive to maintain his independence, and thus would accomplish what our military force cannot.||C-18|
|1954: China is most important problem facing Vietnam. Double-satellite relationship affords the DRV potential independence. Diem's fanaticism obtruded.||C-20|
|Sacks, Milton; "Marxism in Southeast Asia."|
|1946–1949: Ho attempted to preserve neutrality, although this conflicted with his desire for international support and recognition for DRV.||C-21|
|1946–1947: Ho realized that he could not rally Vietnamese to his struggle for independence with the banner of communism. Hence, the facade of democracy to lend righteousness to the forceful communist campaign to align the people with the Viet Minh and the DRV.||C-23|
|Kennedy, John F., quoted in Schlesinger, Arthur M.,., .|
|1951: U.S. has joined France in a desperate attempt to preserve empire. U.S. must not rely on arms alone to halt southward thrust of communism, but must harness nationalism.||C-24|
|Schlesinger, Arthur M.;.|
|The most effective bulwark against an aggressive communist state may well be national communism. A rational U.S. policy aimed at containing China could have recognized connnunist Vietnam in 1954,backing a shaky Saigon regime led by right-wing mandarins or generals.||C-25|
|Fall, Bernard B.;.|
|The Vietnamese Communists had to conduct their revolution without aid from abroad, even from French Communists.||C-26
|Eden, Anthony, Earl of Avon;.|
|The Ho–Peking relationship is not a close parallel to the Tito–Moscow one. Yet Ho has much to gain from neutrality, and much at risk in failing to maintain its Moscow links, or to open a way to American withdrawal.||C-27|
|Fulbright, Senator J. William;.|
|Ho Chi Minh is the only truly national leader of the Vietnamese; he is also a communist. Vietnamese communism is perhaps the only potential bulwark against Chinese domination. Hence, the U.S. should try to come to terms.||C-28|
|Reischauer, Edwin O.; "What Choices Do We Have In Vietnam?"|
|The U.S. could have taken a stand against colonialism in 1945, refused to support France in 1950, backed the Geneva settlement in 1954, and declined to increase its military commitment in 1961. Four Presidents rejected the alternative of furthering Ho Chi Minh's cause, but had any done so, the outcome would have been a highly nationalist Vietnam fiercely independent of China. Moreover, Ho's cordial World War II relations with the U.S. indicated a potential for a Tito-like U.S.–Vietnam relationship of no more baleful consequences for Southeast Asia than the present war-torn states. But a nationalist Vietnam would be far preferable, from the U.S. viewpoint, to .||C-29|
Excerpt from by Robert Shaplen
Chapter II – Ho Chi Minh – the Untried Gamble, pp. 27, 46–50
Excerpt from , 1967, by Howard Zinn
Excerpt from by Victor Bater, 1965
Excerpt from "Marxism in Vietnam" by Milton Sacks, in , Frank N. Trager, ., 1959.
Excerpts from ) by Joseph Buttinger, 1967
Excerpt from Arthur M. Schlesinger, , Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1965, p. 321.
Excerpt from , 1967, by Arthur M. Schlesinger
Excerpt from by Bernard B. Fall
July 1965 – pages 119–120
Excerpt from , 1966, by Anthony Eden, Earl of Avon
Excerpt from , 1966, by Senator J. William Fulbright
Excerpt from "What Choices Do We Have in Vietnam?" by Edwin O. Reischauer
, September 19, 1967, page 27
I. C. 2.
|1. Forming the Political Man||C-32|
|2. Comintern Agent||C-35|
|3. Prison and Obscurity||C-36|
|4. Wartime Leader||C-38|
|5. Head of State||C-38|
|6. Ho, Again the Nationalist||C-40|
|7. U.S. Perceptions of Ho||C-41|
|8. Ho, Asian Neutral?||C-46|
|9. Ho, Realist||C-47|
|10. Ho Chi Minh Chronology||C-48|
There have been two periods in the life of Ho Chi Minh, President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), in which he ostensibly devoted himself wholly to Vietnamese Nationalism. The first period was in the early years before 1920 when Ho Chi Minh was an avid anti-colonialist, but not yet caught up in the communist revolution. The second period of seeming nationalist preoccupation was from 1945 to 1950, when Ho tried to negotiate with the French, appealed to the U.S., UK and China for intervention in Vietnam, denied being a communist, and avoided any ostensible link between the DRV and the Kremlin. The remainder of Ho Chi Minh's political life has been that of a classic communist, anti-colonial, nationalist revolutionary — exile, Moscow schools, prison, covert operations, guerrilla warfare, party politics. A chronology of his career through 1950 is attached, (pp. C-48 ff).
Ho Chi Minh was born Nguyen Van Thanh, 19 May 1890, in Kim-Lien in the northern Annam province of Nghe-An (in what is now North Vietnam). Ho was exposed early in life to bitter resentment of the French presence in Vietnam; his father was jailed at Poulo Condore for participation in nationalist activities. Ho's secondary education took place in a hotbed of nationalism, Hue's Lycee Quoc-Hoc. His schooling terminated around 1910 before he received a diploma, but still he acquired more education than most of his compatriots. His decision to work as a mess boy on a French liner in 1912 has been regarded by Bernard Fall as a key political decision — that is, Fall held that Ho, unlike most conservative fellow Nationalists, thereby opted for the West (republicanism, democracy, popular sovereignty, etc.), against the East (militarism, mandarinal society, etc.).1 If the going to sea were a significant decision at all, it probably showed only that Ho was not inclined to follow the normal path of Vietnamese nationalism. This fact was borne out by Ho's break with his father, Nguyen Tat Sac, who had given him a letter for Phan Chu Trinh, a veteran Viet nationalist, in Paris. Sac had hoped Phan would tutor Ho in Vietnamese , but Ho could not accept Phan's "peaceful cooperation with the French," and left Paris; thereafter he severed his ties with his father.2
As a young Asian struggling to earn a living in pre-World War I Europe and America, Ho had been exposed to the racial inequalities of the Western civilization and perhaps sought security when he joined the Chinese-dominated Overseas Workers Association, a clandestine, anti-colonialist organization concerned with improving the working conditions of foreign laborers but increasingly a political force. Ho went to France from London in 1917 with the war in the forefront, and the Russian Leninist revolution in the background. Looking on himself as a political organizer and writer of sorts, Ho signed his articles Nguyen Ai Quoc (which means "Nguyen-the-Patriot") — an alias by which all Vietnam came to know him until be became Ho Chi Minh in 1943. As a Paris writer, anti-colonialist nationalism was the major theme for his back room newspaper — (The Soul of Vietnam). Ho also produced a widely-read attack on French colonial policy called , which purportedly became the "bible of nationalists" in Vietnam.3 Caught up in the patriotic fervor of the armistice, Ho produced an eight-point program to present at Versailles:
- "Attracted by the promise of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, spokesmen of the various peoples who wanted independence followed the leaders of the victorious Allies to Paris in 1919. Along with the Indians, the Koreans, the Irish, and the Arabs, Ho Chi Minh came with a list of Vietnamese grievances and a plea for Vietnamese autonomy. He arrived at Versailles in rented evening clothes to deliver his appeal. But the statesman assembled in Paris had no time for the problems of the subject peoples of the French Empire, and nothing came of it."4
This was Ho's last major fling at non-communist nationalism before 1920, since increasingly he began to move in the circles of Leon Blum, , Marius Moutet, and other left-wing political figures, and became a member of the French Socialist Party. In May, 1920, Ho was a delegate at the Socialist Congress in Tours, and joined in the founding of the French Communist Party. Ho much later in life recalled those days in describing "The Path Which Led Me To Leninism."
- "After World War I, I made my living in Paris, now as a retoucher at a photographer's, now as painter of 'Chinese antiquities' (made in France!). I would distribute leaflets denouncing the crimes committed by the French colonialists in Viet-Nam.
- "At that time, I supported the October Revolution only instinctively, not yet grasping all its historic importance. I loved and admired Lenin because he was a great patriot who liberated his compatriots; until then, I had read none of his books.
- "The reason for my joining the French Socialist Party was that these 'ladies and gentlemen' — as I called my comrades at that moment — had shown their sympathy toward me, toward the struggle of the oppressed peoples. But I understood neither what was a party, a trade-union, nor what was Socialism or Communism.
- "Heated discussions were then taking place in the branches of the Socialist Party, about the question of whether the Socialist Party should remain in the Second International, should a Second-and-a-half International be founded, or should the Socialist Party join Lenin's Third International? I attended the meetings regularly, twice or thrice a week, and attentively listened to the discussions. First, I could not understand thoroughly. Why were the discussions so heated? Either with the Second, Second-and-a-half, or Third International, the revolution could be waged. What was the use of arguing then? As for the First International, what had become of it?
- "What I wanted most to know — and this precisely was not debated in the meetings — was: Which International sides with the peoples of colonial countries?
- "I raised this question — the most important in my opinion — in a meeting. Some comrades answered: It is the Third, not the Second, International. And a comrade gave me Lenin's 'Thesis on the National and Colonial Questions,' published by , to read.
- "There were political terms difficult to understand in this thesis. But by dint of reading it again and again, finally I could grasp the main part of it. What emotion, enthusiasm, clearsightedness, and confidence it instilled into me! I was overjoyed to tears. Though sitting alone in my room, I shouted aloud as if addressing large crowds: 'Dear martyrs, compatriots! This is what we need, this is the path to our liberation!' After then, I had entire confidence in Lenin, in the Third International.
- "Formerly, during the meetings of the Party branch, I only listened to the discussion; I had a vague belief that all were logical, and could not differentiate as to who were right and who were wrong. But from then on, I also plunged into the debates and discussed with fervor. Though I was still lacking French words to express all my thoughts, I smashed the allegations attacking Lenin and the Third International with no less vigor. My only argument was: 'If you do not condemn colonialism, if you do not side with the colonial people, what kind of revolution are you waging?'
- "Not only did I take part in the meetings of my own Party branch, but I also went to other Party branches to lay down 'my position.' Now I must tell again that Comrades Marcel Cachin, Vaillant Couturier, Monmousseau, and many others helped me to broaden my knowledge. Finally, at the Tours Congress, I voted with them for our joining the Third International.
- "At first, patriotism, not yet Communism, led me to have confidence in Lenin, in the Third International. Step by step, along the struggle, by studying Marxism–Leninism parallel with participation in practical activities, I gradually came upon the fact that only Socialism and Communism can liberate the oppressed nations and the working people throughout the world from slavery.
- "There is a legend, in our country as well as in China, on the miraculous 'Book of the Wise.' When facing great difficulties, one opens it and finds a way out. Leninism is not only a miraculous 'book of the wise,' a compass for us Vietnamese revolutionaries and people: it is also the radiant sun illuminating our path to final victory, to Socialism and Communism."
Later in 1920 Ho Chi Minh also attended the Baku Conference (First Conference of the Peoples of the Far East) on his first visit to Russia. It is also likely that he took part in the Conference of Workers of the Far East in 1922 in Moscow which was concerned with establishing communism in the Far East. He returned to France and
- "Ho Chi Minh stayed on in France until 1923, when the French Communist Party chose him as its delegate to the Congress of the Peasant International (the Krestintern) which met in Moscow that October...he did not leave the Soviet Union after the meeting, but remained there for more than a year, studying Communism, its techniques, and its organization, first-hand. He came to know many of Communism's great and near-great during this period, as before he had come to know the leaders of the Left-Wing movement in Paris."5
In 1924, Ho became a student at the Eastern Workers University and studied Marxism-Leninism and bolshevik tactics.6
In 1925, he accompanied Michael Borodin, the Comintern delegate to the Kuomintang to Canton, China, as a Chinese translator to the Soviet consulate. After a few months, Ho had organized the Association of Vietnamese Revolutionary Young Comrades.7 The Whampoa Political and Military Academy in Canton, which had attracted revolutionaries, especially Vietnamese, was the center of Ho's training program of revolution and Marxism. Ho is alleged to have displayed political ruthlessness in exposing a rival nationalist, , a renowned Vietnamese patriot and idealist; Ho is supposed to have received 100,000 piasters from the security police for his betrayal. Ho also set up a personnel security system which reputedly impaired other Vietnamese nationalist organizations. He and his assistant, one Lam Duc Thu, required two photographs of each incoming recruit to Whampoa Academy. Upon graduation, if the student had joined Ho's Youth League, he returned to Vietnam in secrecy. If the student displayed interest in other parties, Thu sold his photograph to the French consulate, which would then have the student arrested at the border. Thus Ho strengthened his own secret cells, while weakening his nationalist opposition.8 At Whampoa in 1926 Ho wrote that "only a communist party can [ultimately] insure the well-being of Annam."9
In 1927, Chiang Kai-shek broke with the communists, and Borodin was forced to return to Moscow. Ho Chi Minh returned to Moscow with him, but before departing turned over leadership of the Youth League to a trusted assistant who was arrested within the year. The League leadership then fell to Thu, who was still living sumptiously in Hong Kong on French blood money. Thu called a congress in Hong Kong in 1929 which resulted in the Vietnam delegates walking out in disgust, and forming an Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) in Tonkin. The émigré leadership of the League conceded the necessity of organizing a communist party, but in reality, was unwilling to deviate from the political line set by Ho Chi Minh — which was to build a revolutionary nationalist party with socialist tendencies.10 As the ICP grew in strength, the Youth League adopted the name "Annamese Communist Party."
After leaving China in 1927, Ho Chi Minh travelled to Moscow, Berlin, and in 1929 was in Thailand working secretly with 30,000 Viet émigrés. Ho returned to Hong Kong in January, 1930, and resolved the disunity among the several Indochinese Communist factions. A new party was set up, with a central committee at Haiphong, named the Vietnam Communist Party. In October, 1930, at Comintern insistence, it was renamed the Indochinese Communist Party, to include Cambodian and Laotians; the Central Committee was transferred to Saigon.11 French police repression of communists shortly after nearly destroyed the organization; a number of Ho's lieutenants, Pham van Dong, Giap and others, were sent to Poulo Candou for long prison terms.
Ho, who had been sentenced to deathby the French, was arrested in Hong Kong in 1931 by the British. Bernard Fall wrote this account:
- "Legality, however, prevailed in the genteel world of Hong Kong's Anglo-Saxon law. Defended by Sir Stafford Cripps before Britain's Privy Court, Ho was found not subject to extradition since he was a political refugee. Still, the British did not want him and he was a marked man. He slipped out of Hong Kong, into the nearby but isolated Chinese province of Fukien.
- "Somehow, only a year later, Ho was in Shanghai, the only foreign place in Asia then where a substantial Vietnamese community could be found. He was desperately seeking contact with the Comintern apparatus, which was now prudently concealing its operations in China. It was understandable that what was left of the Chinese Communist Party outside of Mao's forces was not about to advertise its presence all over Shanghai. But there may have been another reason as well for Ho's difficulties in making contact with the Communists: Ho had been released from British prison for reasons which a suspicious Communist might find difficult to swallow. To a Communist apparatus emerging from the blows it had been subjected to in the early Thirties, it was normal procedure to isolate Ho Chi Minh as a potential until more was known about what he had said and done while in British custody.
- "Finally, Ho made contact and early in 1934 the Communist apparatus smuggled him back to Moscow, where he had been preceded by a fairly large group of Vietnamese trainees studying in many fields, from engineering to plain agitprop (agitation and propaganda). He naturally turned to the latter.
- "Ho first attended the Institute for National and Colonial Questions in Moscow, and then the famous 'graduate school' for senior Communist leaders, the Lenin School. Moscow, in 1935–38, also provided an education of a far different sort: the Stalin purges. It would be interesting to know what Ho's feelings were as he saw some of his best friends accused, convicted, and executed for crimes which they patently had not committed. What is remarkable is that Ho, as a well-known member of the Comintern group, was not purged right along with them, for hundreds of thousands of people of lesser distinction than he became victims of Stalin's mania."12
The record of Ho's travels in the period of 1933–1939 is otherwise obscure; the communist movement in Vietnam was led by Tran Van Giau and others during those years.
Ho emerged from his retreats in 1939, a difficult year. Ho, as a disciplined communist had to follow the Party's tactical guidance, which was intended to safeguard the Soviet Union as the base of the international movement, even when this brought him into temporary conflict with his long term goals for Vietnam. Of the period just preceding World War II, Fall has written:
- "...Ho probably was then unconditionally loyal to Stalin, and Stalin knew it. This became particularly clear when Nazism began to loom as a threat and the Communist parties decided in 1936 to apply the policy of 'popular fronts' with the Western democracies.
- "This policy was a bitter pill for the colonial Communist governments such as that of Indochina, for it meant giving up advocacy of outright independence in favor of a policy of cooperation with the French colonial regime. But Ho, returning to Communist bases in Northwest China in 1937, gritted his teeth and rammed this line down the throat of his reluctant following in its most minute vagaries, and his report on the results, addressed to the in 1939, demonstrated his success.
- "It was probably Ho's lowest point. He had to forswear publicly all he had stood for, had to cooperate with the French, the people he hated most, and had to sell out the Trotskyist allies who had helped the Communists from time to time in beating French-sponsored candidates for elections in CochinChina (a French colony, then part of the Federation of Indochina which, as a protectorate, enjoyed a measure of legislative representation). And the worst was not yet over. Not authorized by the Comintern to expose himself through a premature return to Vietnam, he now worked only as a low-level communications operator to the Chinese communist 8th Route Army, then fighting the Japanese."13
In 1940 Ho was reported in Liuchow, Kwang-Si Province, South China, engaged in training guerrillas under the sponsorship of the local warlord. Shortly thereafter Ho, with the remnants of the central committee of the ICP, crossed into Vietnam, and in 1941 began organizing a resistance movement on a large scale. The ICP prepared for, and advocated, armed insurrection against French Imperialism and Japanese Fascism. However, Ho Chi Minh organized thc Viet Minh as a Vietnamese nationalist movement of resistance. The Viet Minh program centered on collaboration with the Allies to defeat Japan and liberate Indochina. In the course of his work, Ho was arrested in May 1942 by Chinese nationalists, under mysterious circumstances, and in June 1943 was as mysteriously released. Ho re-joined the Viet Minh, re-entered Vietnam, and led the Viet Minh to power in August, 1945.
Ho, at the time he became President of the DRV, was undoubtedly a communist in the sense that he had spent twenty-five years in the embrace of Party discipline and doctrine, and that he had been an agent of the Communist International. He was also a dedicated revolutionary nationalist whose cause had exacted of him years of hardship, imprisonment, exile, and conspiratorial isolation. In his, he wrote:
"People who come out of prison can build up a country.
Misfortune is a test of people's fidelity.
Those who protest at injustice are people of true merit.
When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out."14
Whatever else he was, Ho was a leader and organizer par excellence, an astute manipulator of men who had successfully threaded a way through the tangle of international intrigue in China to political power for himself and his followers of the ICP and the Viet Minh. He came to power in North Vietnam under the aegis of the Allies, and by popular acclaim. He did not establish a communist government, although besides himself in the Presidency, he had arranged that communist lieutenants would hold the portfolios of interior, national defense, finance, propaganda, education, and youth. The communists, although thus centrally placed, were in a minority, and full account had been taken of independents and several of the principal non-communist nationalist parties in determining representation on the cabinet.15
In November, 1945, Ho disestablished the Indochinese Communist Party; and Association for Marxist Studies was formed when the ICP was abolished, but it was not until 1951 that the Communist Party again asserted itself openly in DRV politics.16 Ho ostensibly threw his entire energies into the Viet Minh, which he described in 1945 as having:
- "...millions of members from all social strata: intellectuals, peasants, workers, businessmen, soldiers, and from all nationalities in the country..."17
Subsequently, he moved to cut down the number of communists in cabinet posts within the government, and otherwise to enhance its coalition nature. Ho, the Viet Minh, and the DRV government stressed their identity with the people, and their patriotic, democratic and nationalist goals, foregoing communist cant. Ho's own writings of the period are to point:18
- "October, 1945: We must realize that all Government organs, from the Central to the Communal level, are the people's servants, that is to say they are appointed to work for the sake of the whole peoples interests.
- "October, 1945: We neither dislike nor hate the French people. On the contrary, we respect them as a great people who were first to propagate the lofty ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
- "November, 1945: The colonialists...have run counter to the promises concerning democracy and liberty that the Allied powers have proclaimed. They have of their own accord sabotaged their fathers' principles of liberty and equality. In consequence, it is for a just cause, for justice of the world, and for Vietnam's land and people that our compatriots throughout the country have risen to struggle, and are firmly determined to maintain their independence.
- "January, 1946: With a view to winning complete independence and bringing about a close cooperation between the various political parties to further strengthen the Government, it is now named the Provisional Coalition Government. At this moment, if all parties unite together, the Government can overcome difficulties.
- Political Objectives: To carry out satisfactorily the elections...to unify the various administrative organs according to democratic principles.
- Economic Objectives: To endeavor to develop agriculture; to encourage cultivation and stock breeding in order to check famine.
- Military Objectives: To unify the various armed forces...
- "October 1946: We must show to the French Government and people and to the world at large that the Vietnamese people are already in posession of all the required conditions to be independent and free, and that recognition of our freedom and independence is a necessity...
- "December 1946: Compatriots! Rise up! Men and women, old and young, regardless of creeds, political parties, or nationalities, all the Vietnamese must stand up to fight the French colonialists to save the Fatherland...
- "April 1948: The nation has its roots in the people. In the Resistance War and national reconstruction, the main force lies in the people..."
The sincerity of Ho's nationalism, then and since, seems as beyond question as that of Stalin, or Harry Truman. Among his countrymen, Ho was preeminent among all nationalists. Ho had led the forces which welcomed the Allies as they entered Indochina to accept the surrender of Japanese forces there; Ho headed the DRV in 1945–1946 when national unity, independence, and peace seemed close at hand. Ho was popular, respected, even revered. He cultivated an image calculated to appeal to the peasant: venerable age, rustic austerity, and humility. He insisted on "Uncle Ho" in introducing himself, and it was an "Uncle Ho" that the countryside came to regard him. No other Vietnamese was so widely known, or so universally respected.19 Moreover, unlike any of his competitors, he had at his service a disciplined political organization of national scope, trained in the arts of revolution, and skilled in the techniques of mobilizing opinion and stimulating political action. In truth, then, Ho was, to the extent that such existed in 1945 or 1946, the embodiment of Vietnamese nationalism.20
The historical problem, of course, is to what extent Ho's nationalist goals might have modified his communist convictions. To many observers of the day, Ho seemed to place the former above the latter not solely as a matter of dissemblance, as he might have done in the simultaneous dissolution of the Party and the formation of the Marxist Association, but as a result of deeply held doubts about the validity of communism as a political form suitable for Vietnam. Sainteny who negotiated the 6 March 1946 Accord with Ho for France wrote that: "His proposals, his actions, his attitude, his real or assumed personality, all tended to convince that he found a solution by force repugnant..." Bao Dai is reputed to have said that: "I saw Ho Chi Minh suffer. He was fighting a battle within himself. Ho had his own struggle. He realized communism was not best for his country, but it was too late. Ultimately, he could not overcome his allegiance to communism."21 During the negotiations for a with the French in Paris in autumn, 1946, Ho appealed to the French to "save him fram the extremists" within the Viet Minh by some meaningful concession to Vietnamese independence.22 In reply to a journalist's inquiry, Ho claimed that he could remain neutral, "like Switzerland" in the developing world power struggle between communism and the West.23
Personally, Ho was charming, and he was especially captivating with Americans. Ho's public statements resonated well with the anti-colonial sentiments of most Americans, and he presented an appealing figure, fragile, humble, ascetic, yet humorous and cosmopolitan.24 General Gallagher, who was the senior U.S. officer in contact with Ho in 1945, was impressed with Ho's resoluteness and nationalist dedication. Upon his return, he told State Department officials that "Ho was willing to cooperate with Great Britain, USSR, or the United States and would perhaps even settle for French tutelage if that were subordinated to control by other nations."
- "Asked how 'communist' the Viet Minh were, General Gallagher replied that they were smart and successfully gave the impression of not being communist. Rather, they emphasized their interest in independence and their interest in independence and their Annamese patriotism. Their excellent organization and propaganda techniques, General Gallagher pointed out, would seem to have the earmarks of some Russian influence. General Gallagher stated that the minority Cao Dai group were definitely Communist. In his opinion, however, the Viet Minh should not be labeled full-fledged doctrinaire communist."
On 11 September, 1946, the U.S. Ambassador in Paris reported a visit from Ho:
- "I have the honor to report that , I received a visit this morning from M. Ho Chi-minh, 'President of the Republic of Viet-Nam', who confirmed the news published in the local press that the Fontainebleau negotiations between the Viet-Nam representatives and the French representatives have practically broken down and the Viet-Nam delegation will be returning to Indochina within the next few days....He said that he and his party aspired to Viet-Nam 'independence' in an 'Union Francaise'. He said that they would like to receive some 'help' from us, but did not specify what he meant by that.
- "From the general fuzziness of his remarks, I gathered that he would like us to get into the game and he would be very pleased if he could use us in some way or other in his future negotiations with the French authorities.
- "I expressed our interest in Indochina and the people of Indochina but made no commitments."25
Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson, for one, was not altogether persuaded by Ho's representations. In December, 1946, he cabled a U.S. diplomat in Hanoi the following instructions:
- "Assume you will see Ho in Hanoi and offer following summary our present thinking as guide.
- " Least desirable eventuality would be establishment Communist-dominated, Moscow-oriented state Indochina in view DEPT, which most interested INFO strength non-communist elements Vietnam. Report fully, repeating or requesting DEPT repeat Paris....
- "If Ho takes stand non-implementation promise by French of Cochinchina referendum relieves Vietnam responsibility compliance with agreements, you might if you consider advisable raise question whether he believes referendum after such long disorder could produce worthwhile result end whether he considers compromise on status Cochinchina would possibly be reached through negotiation.
- "May say American people have welcomed attainments Indochinese in efforts realize praiseworthy aspirations greater autonomy in framework democratic institutions and it would be regrettable should this interest and sympathy be imperilled by any tendency Vietnam administration force issues by intransigence and violence.
- "May inform Ho [U.S. Ambassador, Paris] discussing situation French similar frankness....
- "Avoid impression US Govt making formal intervention this juncture. Publicity any kind would be unfortunate."26
In response to Under Secretary Acheson's telegram, the following was reported to Washington on December 17, 1946 — just before the outbreak of hostilities in Hanoi:
- "After conversations with French and Vietnamese officials and British, Chinese and US Consuls Hanoi Mr. Abbot Moffat, who is at present in SEA, has developed views in which Consul Saigon occurs along the following lines:
- "The Vietnam Government is in control of a small Communist group possibly in indirect touch with Moscow and direct touch with Yenan. A nationalist group is utilizing Communist party techniques and discipline with which they are familiar. The people are conservative landowners and attempts to communize the country are secondary and would await successful operation of a nationalist state. Apparently some leaders, like Ho Chi Minh, consider collaboration with the French essential; those like Giap (Vo Nguyen Giap, Minister of National Defense) would avoid collaboration fearing French domination but might not reject French influence and aid. Nationalist sentiment runs deep among the Vietnamese and does opposition to the French, and they might easily turn against all whites. French influence is important not only as an antidote to Soviet influence but to protect Vietnam and SEA from future Chinese imperialism. Delay in achieving a settlement will progressively diminish the possibility of ultimate French influence.
- "The honesty of both French and Vietnamese officials is questionable in connection with recent incidents. O'Sullivan (U.S. Vice-Consul, Hanoi) believes the Vietnamese were responsible for the November 20 incident, but it seems clear that with a different French commander at Haiphong than Colonel Debes, who is notorious for graft and brutality and who has admitted that he cannot control his own troops, the trouble might have been confined to the original incidents.
- "According to the French, the Vietnamese enlarge their claims after each agreement and are so impractical and doctrinaire that all conversations are ineffectual.The Vietnamese feel that the French renege on each agreement and are trying to reestablish control. However, both say they have approximately the same objectives, although Giap says Vietnam opposes a political Indochinese federation but favors a federation dealing with common economic problems. Moffat has mentioned to the French three apparent basic troubles: (a) complete mutual distrust, (b) failure of the French to resolve their own views on 'free state within French Union', (c) almost childish Vietnamese attitude and knowledge of economic questions and vague groping for 'independence'. Agreement cannot be reached by trying to reach accords on incidental problems. Basic Vietnam powers and relations with France must first be established. Not only new faces are needed but neutral good offices or even mediation may be essential."
The U.S. official position remained essentially unchanged thereafter. A few months later, after fighting broke out in North Vietnam, Secretary of State Marshall stated that:
- "Furthermore, trend, and French themselves took cognizance of it both in new Constitution and in their agreements with Vietnam. Fact does remain, however, that a situation does exist in Indochina which can no longer be considered, if it ever was considered, to be of a local character.27 Action Brit in India and Burma and Dutch in Indonesia are outstanding examples this
In May, 1949, Dean Acheson, then Secretary of State, instructed the U.S. representative in Hanoi to warn Vietnamese nationalists against any acceptance of a coalition with Ho and the Viet Minh:
- "You may take following line as representing consensus informed Americans:
- "In light Ho's known background, no other assumptions possible but that he outright Commie so long as (1) he fails unequivocally repudiate Moscow connections and Commie doctrine and (2) remains personally singled out for praise by internat'l Commie press and receives its support. Moreover, US not impressed by nationalist character red flag with yellow stars. Question whether Ho as much nationalist as Commie is irrelevant. All Stalinists in colonial areas are nationalists. With achievement nat'l aims (i.e., independence) their objective necessarily becomes subordination state to Commie purposes and ruthless extermination not only opposition groups but all elements suspected even slightest deviation. On basis examples eastern Eur it must be assumed such wld be goal Ho and men his stamp if included Baodai Govt. To include them in order achieve reconciliation opposing polit elements and QTE national unity UNQTE wld merely postpone settlement issue whether Vietnam to be independent nation or Commie satellite until circumstances probably even less favorable nationalists than now. It must of course be conceded theoretical possibility exists estab National Communist state on pattern Yugoslavia in any area beyond reach Soviet army. However, US attitude cld take acct such possibility only if every other possible avenue closed to preservation area from Kremlin control. Moreover, while Vietnam out of reach Soviet army it will doubtless be by no means out of reach Chi Commie hatchet men and armed forces.28
Ho may indeed have never been other than a crafty Leninist, seeking a passing accommodation with the French or the U.S. while he gathered strength. His word and deed after 1949 support such a construction: In January 1950, the DRV declared itself to be the "only lawful government of the entire Vietnamese people,"29 joined the Sino-Soviet Bloc, and began attacks on the U.S. "imperialists" and "interventionalists."30 Early in 1951, the DRV legalized the Lao Dong Party, expressly communist.31
There remains, however, irresolvable doubt concerning Ho's earlier predilection for neutralism, or even a western affiliation. It can be said that, whatever Ho might have preferred, he was offered only narrow options. No reputable Westerner is known to have interviewed Ho face to face fram an abortive French attempt in 1947 to negotiate a Cochinchina settlement through late 1954.32 Ho had no direct means of communication with the U.S. after 1946, and the signals he received from the U.S. could hardly have been encouraging.33 By 1947, U.S. military equipment had already been used by French and British forces against the Vietnamese, and the U.S. had arranged credit for French purchase of $160 million worth of vehicles and miscellaneous industrial equipment for use in Indochina.34 Secretary of State George C. Marshall's January, 1947, public statement on Vietnam had been confined to a hope that "a pacific basis for adjustment of the difficulties could be found,"35 and the Marshall Plan for Europe definitely U.S. resources behind France. But assurances from the Russians were not materially stronger. While the Soviets excoriated colonial powers other than France, potential imminence of a French Communist government muffled even their verbal backing of Ho, let alone recognition and aid.36
As a political realist, Ho must have been impressed that the DRV was as unlikely to rise in priority over France in U.S. foreign policy, as Vietnam was to assert claims on Soviet support over Russian preoccupation with Europe. In 1946 he put his plight in these terms: "We apparently stand quite alone; we shall have to depend on ourselves."37 After 1947, events conspired to alter Ho's isolation, for while prospects for U.S. support dimmed, and in 1950, vanished, Mao Tse Tung — in whose service Ho had spent eight years — was moving from triumph to triumph, and by late 1949, was in a position to render direct assistance to Ho across his northern border.38 Faced with an increasingly serious military threat, Ho gravitated quickly toward the Bloc. From Viet Minh jungle hideouts came blasts at the U.S. "Marshallization of the world," taking note that the Russians opposed "Marshallization."39 In 1949, after the U.S. had publicly welcomed the formation of Bao Dai's "new and unified state of Viet Nam," Ho sent delegates to a Peking conference where Liu Shao-Chi, in the keynote speech, declared that only the Communist Party could lead a "national liberation movement."40 Ho and Mao exchanged messages of amity, and neutralist Tito was taken under attack by the Viet Minh radio. In January, 1950, in response to Ho's declaration that the DRV was Vietnam's only legitimate government, Mao tendered formal recognition, and Stalin's followed immediately thereafter.41 The die was cast: U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared in February, 1950, that these recognitions "should remove any illusion as to the nationalist character of Ho Chi Minh's aims and reveals Ho in his true colors as the mortal enemy of native independence in Indochina."42 Ho responded in August, 1950, to the first shipments of U.S. aid to French forces in the following sharp language.
- "Since the beginning of the war the Americans have tried to help the French bandits. But now they have advanced one more step to direct intervention in Viet Nam. Thus we have now one principal opponent — the French bandits — and one more opponent — the American interventionalists...
- "On our side, a few years of resistance have brought our country the greatest success in the history of Viet Nam — recognition of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam as an equal in the world democratic family by the two biggest countries in the world — the Soviet Union and democratic China — and by the new democratic countries. That means we are definitely on the democratic side and belong to the anti-imperialist bloc of 800 million people.43
|1890||On 19 May born Nguyen Van Thanh, youngest son of three children of Nguyen Tat Sac, a minor government official ond revolutionary, in Kim Lien Village, Nghe An Province, Annam (Central Vietnam).|
|1895||Attended village school and French lycee at Vinh (14 miles from Kim Lien). Carried messages for anti-French underground. Noted for his political tirades (Fall).|
|1904–1905||(Russo-Japanese War. Japanese victory greatly influenced Vietnamese political developments.)|
|1905||Dismissed from school for reasons of politics (NVN historians), or poor grades (teachers).|
|1906–1910||Transferred to Lycee Quoc Hoc, a prestigious high school, in Hue. Quoc Hoc was a hotbed of Vietnamese resistance to outside influence; among its graduates were Ndo Dinh Diem, Vo Nguyen Giap, and Pham van Dong. (To this day, the students of Hue continue to strongly influence Vietnamese politics,, Hue riots against Ky in 1966.)|
|1910–1911||Left school without a diploma; taught school at Lycee Dac-Thanh in Phan-Thiet. Left Phan Thiet in October to attend trade school (probably cooks and bakers) in Saigon.|
|1912||Worked as messboy aboard French lineron Saigon-Marseille run. Ho carried letter of introduction to Phan Chu Trinh, prison mate of Ho's father at Poulo Condore and veteran nationalist of Dong Bao (Haircutters) movement in 1907. Failing to accept Trinh's nationalism, Ho returned to working on liners travelling the world.|
|1913||Worked in kitchens of Carlton Hotel in London under Escoffier, famous French chef. Joined Overseas Workers Union, a clandestine anti-colonialist group dominated by Chinese.|
|(1914–1916 is an obscure period — sometime during the period Ho went back to sea and visited New York, later writing on the U.S. race problem in.)|
|1917||Ho turned up in Paris, France, to spread influence of anti-colonialist nationalism to Indochinese conscripted for war service in France. Communist revolution in Russia under Lenin which promised national independence for colonials stimulated Ho to deeper involvement in politics.|
|1918||Conducted a photograph retouching business and advertised in Socialist Party's newspaper under the name of Nguyen Ai Quoc (The Patriot).
|1919||(A Vietnamese sailor, Ton Duc Thang, mutinied with another communist to turn over a French ship to Russia. Thang was imprisoned at Poulo Condore and today is Ho's Vice President in North Vietnam.) Ho prepared a 8-point program of colonial grievances to present to the Versailles Peace Conference, but his offerings were rejected.|
|1920||Attended Baku Conference (First Conference of the Peoples of the Far East) on first visit to USSR. On return to France, Ho attended 18th National Congress of the Socialist Party as an Indochinese Delegate in December. There he opted for the Third International over the Second, because of the former's position against colonialism, and thus became a founding member of the French Communist Party (PCF).|
|1921||Organized "Union Intercoloniale" — started as a "front" to attract members to the Party from colonial territories — which published periodical; edited (Soul of Vietnam) which was smuggled to Indochina.|
|1922||Attended first Comintern-sponsored conclave (Conference of the Workers of the Far East) devoted to communist organization of the Far East in Moscow.|
|1923||Left France in June to attend several congresses of Kresintern (Peasants International) in Moscow as a PCF delegate in October. Lived in USSR for 18 months as colonial representative on Kresintern permanent directing committee.|
|1924||In Moscow Ho attended Eastern Workers' University and served on Kresintern.|
|1925||Assigned to Soviet consulate at Canton under Michael Borodin as "Chinese translator" — a cover for organizing Indochina Communist Party into communist groups. Launched Vietnam Revolutionary Youth League (), a training school for Indochinese students and emigres in June. Ho published a brochure which was carried into Vietnam and became the student "nationalist" bible. Also in June, Ho is alleged to have betrayed Phan Boi Chau, a prominent Vietnamese nationalist, progenitor of the Vietnamese Nationalist Party (VNQDD), to the French security police. Ho's intent said to be desire for martyr to produce a surge of patriotic sentiment for revolution in Annam — which it did.|
|1926||Translated Marxist terminology into Sino-Annamite. Stated that "only a communist party can insure the well-being of Annam." Selected members of Ho's youth organization were enrolled in Whampoa Military Academy, where Chinese nationalists and communists were trained as future leaders for Kuomintang. Conspired to betray Vietnamese "nationalist" students who did not join his Youth League at Whampoa.|
|1927||Departed Canton in April with Borodin after break between Chiang Kai-shek and Mao's communists. In Hong Kong transferred leadership of Youth League.|
|1928||Attended Communist Congress Against Imperialism at Brussels. Travelled to Thailand, and there often disguised himself as a Buddhist monk. Acted as an agent of Third International.|
|1929||In July, Ho worked in a colony of Vietnamese emigres numbering 30,000 in Thailand. Organized Annamite Fraternity of Siam (). Ordered to Hong Kong to organize Indochina Communist Party. His own Youth League the previous May had split into two factions — one called "Indochinese Communist Party"; the other, later, the Annamese Communist Party.|
|1930||Ho arrived in Hong Kong in January. Fused Indochinese Communist Party, Annamese Communist Party and Indochinese Communist Alliance into Vietnam Communist Party (South Seas Communist Party in Singapore in April. French sentenced Ho Chi Minh to death , probably as a result of the aftermath of the Yen Bay insurrection in February.) by March. Central Committee transferred to Haiphong. In October, per Comintern wishes, adopted new name of Indochinese Communist Party ( ). Ho attended Third Conference of the|
|1931||Arrested by British in Hong Kong and imprisoned in June. British acted on French pressure which was suppressing communist/nationalist unrest in Vietnam at the time. Entire apparatus of Indochinese Communist Party was smashed.|
|1932||After series of trials in British courts (including appeal on Ho's behalf by Sir Stafford Cripps in England), Ho was released from Hong Kong Prison in late 1932. Went to Singapore, arrested again and sent back to Hong Kong. Admitted to hospital for tuberculosis.|
|1933||Nguyen Ai Quoc reported dead in Hong Kong by French records. Disappeared without a trace. Believed he was released to work secretly for British Intelligence Service.
(Congress of ICP held in Ban-Mai, Thailand in April.)
(Attempts to reconstitute ICP were under leadership of Tran van Giau, who had studied at Moscow's Oriental Institute.)
|1934||Ho returned to Moscow in early 1934 for attendance at political schools. First attended Institute for National and Political Questions in Moscow. Later attended "graduate school" for senior communist leaders, the Lenin School.
(Stalin purges 1935–1938 did not involve Ho. Apparently, unconditionally loyal to Stalin, Ho had to adopt new party line of "popular front" as a result of emerging Nazism.)
|1937||With Chinese Communist Eighth Route Army in China. Also located in Kunming at one time.|
|1938||With Eighth Route Army as communications operator. (Popular Front collapsed in France.)|
|1939||(French Communist Party dissolved in September at outbreak of World War II.) Ho addressed report to Comintern on success of "popular front" policy in Far East. ICP Central Committee at November congress adopted new Comintern "anti-war" line of Stalin-Hitler pact.|
|1940||In late 1940, Ho was Political Commissar of a Chinese Communist guerrilla training mission under General Yeh Chien-ying training nationalists at Liuchow, Kwang-Si Province.
(In June, France fell to Hitler.)
Ho headed external directing Bureau of ICP in Kunming, China, in September.
(French crushed Saigon insurrection of ICP, 22 November 1940. Numerous arrests followed.)
|1941||Ho turned up in Moscow, and thence travelled to Yenan with Nguyen Thanh Toan, Vietnamese teacher at Moscow University. Crossed into Vietnam at Cao Bang Province in February. Organized Viet Minh (Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi) on 19 May, as a "united front" group of Vietnamese nationalists in China. Organized resistance movement in northern Tonkin.|
|1942||Ho was arrested by Chinese warlord on August 28 as a French spy (and jailed for 13 months) after crossing border into China to make contact with Chinese and emigre groups.
(October 10, the KMT-controlled Vietnam Revolutionary League — Dong Minh Hoi — was recognized by Chinese Marshal Chang Fa-kuei.
|1943||In prison until 16 September, Ho was released to gather information on Japanese troop movements in Indochina for Chinese. Adopted the name "Ho Chi Minh" (He Who Enlightens). Still leader of Viet Minh, Ho became a member of Central Committee — and temporary Chairman — of Dong Minh Hoi (Vietnam Revolutionary League). Both groups received support from China and U.S. Ho returned to Tonkin clandestinely, devoting efforts to the Viet Minh.|
|1944||Ho operated in the jungles in North Vietnam. He constantly sought aid from the U.S. through the O.S.S.|
|1945||May 1945 established liberated zone of six provinces in Tonkin and was visited by U.S. officer of O.S.S. In June, Ho called for National Congress, but convening was postponed to August at Tan Trao. Viet Minh program:
(1) disarm Japs before Allied entry
|1946||Appealed to U.S., U.K. USSR and China in February. Wrote letters to President Truman on 16 and 18 February.
Ho formed "coalition" government under Chinese occupation on March 2, 1946. Exercised personal prestige to gain acceptance 6 March 1946 Agreement providing for French replacement of Chinese in Tonkin.
|1947||On April 30, Ho relinquished the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to his Socialist Under Secretary. Ho had Vietnam government reshuffled twice to form broadest coalition possible against French and to avoid "extremist" label by foreigners.
(French negotiated with Bao Dai to split resistance.)
|1948||(Giap appointed Minister of National Defense by Ho.)|
|1949||In March, Ho denounced the charge of "Communist domination" of DRV as pure French imperialist propaganda.
In interview by
|1950||Ho appeals for international recognition of DRV.
(Russia and China recognize DRV.)
I. C. 3.
Ho's earliest representations to the United States werethe O.S.S. teams assigned to work with the Viet Minh. The Americans found Ho genial, and cooperative. One American officer subsequently reported his experiences with Ho to Robert Shaplen:
- "There are many facets to the story of Ho's relations with the West during and after the Second World War. Let us start with the somewhat naive but at the same time revealing account of a former young lieutenant in the United States Army—I shall have to refer to him only as John—who in May, 1945, parachuted into Ho's jungle headquarters near the village of Kim Lung in northern Tonkin on a mission to establish an underground that would help Allied personnel escape to freedom. Kim Lung lies on the edge of a heavy rain forest, thickly underlaid by brush. Amid sugar-loaf formations of mountains lie tiny valleys, and it was in one of these, near a small stream half-way up a tall hill, that Ho Chi Minh's camp, consisting of four huts, lay sequestered. Each of the huts was twelve feet square, set four feet off the ground on bamboo stakes, and Ho's was as bare as the others.
- "In this crude revolutionary cradle, deep in Japanese territory, John had the unique experience of living and working with Ho for several months. He found Ho completely co-operative in lending the support of his guerrillas for scouting and raiding parties, including one to rescue some French internees near the Chian border. John used his portable radio to put Ho in preliminary touch with French negotiators who were in Kunming, China, and who would soon be debating Indochina's postwar future with Ho in Hanoi, but John himself played a more immediate role in Vietnamese affairs by informally helping Ho frame a Declaration of Independence.
- "'He kept asking me if I could remember the language of our Declaration,' John says. 'I was a normal American, I couldn't. I could have wired up to Kunming and had a copy dropped to me, of course, but all he really wanted was the flavor of the thing. The more we discussed it, the more he actually seemed to know about it than I did. As a matter of fact, he knew more about almost everything than I did, but when I thought his demands were too stiff, I told him anyway. Strange thing was he listened. He was an awfully sweet guy. If I had to pick out one quality about that little old man sitting on his hill in the jungle, it was his gentleness.'
- "He and John exchanged toasts and shared stewed tiger livers. John now admits his naiveté in being ready to believe that Ho was not a Communist. But even if he was, John felt certain that Ho was sincere in wanting to co-operate with the West, especially with France and the United States. Some of Ho's men impressed John less. 'They go charging around with great fervor shouting 'independence,' but seventy-five percent of them don't know the meaning of the word,' he wrote in his diary. John still has two letters in English Ho sent him in the jungle. One of them, written soon after the Japanese surrender, when the Vietminh was about to sieze control of the nationalist movement, reads as follows:
- Dear Lt. [John],
- I feel weaker since you left. Maybe I'd have to follow your advice—move to some other place where food is easy to get, to improve my health....
- I'm sending you a bottle of wine, hope you like it.
- Be so kind as to give me foreign news you got.
- ...Please be good enuf to send to your H.Q. the following wires.
- 1. Daivet [an anti-Vietminh nationalist group] plans to exercise large terror against French and to push it upon shoulder of VML [Vietminh League]. VML ordered 2 millions members and all of its population be watchful ande stop Daivet criminal plan when & if possible. VML declares before the world its aim is national independence. It fights with political & if necessary military means. But never resorts to criminal & dishonest act.
Signed— NATIONAL LIBERATION COMMITTEE
- 2. National Liberation Committee of VML begs U.S. authorities to inform United Nations the following. We were fighting Japs on the side of the United Nations. Now Japs surrendered. We beg United Nations to realize their solemn promise that all nationalities will be given democracy and independence. If United Nations forget their solemn promise & don't grant Indochina full independence, we will keep fighting until we get it.
Signed— LIBERATION COMMITTEE OF VML
- Thank you for all the troubles I give you....Best greetings!
Yours sincerely, Hoo [sic]."
In October, warfare between Vietnamese and French forces began in South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh thereupon dispatched a series of communications to the U.S., to China, and to the other great powers, denying France's right to speak on behalf of Vietnam in the U.N. or other international forums, and denouncing its "aggression" in Vietnam. Ho, in a telegram on 17 October 1945, called President Truman's attention to the "facts" that establishment of the U.N. Far East Advisory Commission overlooked Vietnam membership, that France was not entitled to membership, and that the DRV qualified for nation status under the Atlantic Charter. Requesting the U.S. to convey his points to the United Nations, Ho threatened that absence of Vietnam would bring forth instability in the far East. The telegram was referred from the White House to State which duly noted "SEA considers that no action should be taken...." Within a week, Ho Chi Minh appealed via Radio Hanoi to Truman, Attlee, and De Gaulle and stated that the "Annamite Nationalist Government" intended to hold a plebiscite to give a constitution to Indochina. (The French took the view that they were not opposed to Ho, but wanted assurance that Ho represented the entire population of Indochina.) Ho repeatedly referred to President Truman's Navy Day address on foreign policy of 21 October 1945, and pleaded for application of its principles to Vietnam and the DRV. In that speech, the President dld not refer to Indochina in any fashion, but the following passage evidently stirred Ho's hopes:
- "The foreign policy of the United States is based firmly on fundamental principles of righteousness and justice. In carrying out those principles we shall firmly adhere to what we believe to be right; and we shall not give our approval to any compromise with evil.
- "But we know that we cannot attain perfection in this world overnight. We shall not let our search for perfection obstruct our steady progress toward international cooperation. We must be prepared to fulfill our responsibilities as best we can, within the framework of our fundamental principles, even though we recognize that we have to operate in an imperfect world.
- "Let me restate the fundamentals of that foreign policy of the United States:
- "1. We seek no territorial expansion or selfish advantage. We have no plans for aggression against any other state, large or small. We have no objective which need clash with the peaceful aims of any other nation.
- "2. We believe in the eventual return of sovereign rights and self-government to all peoples who have been deprived of them by force.
- "3. We shall approve no territorial changes in any friendly part of the world unless they accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned.
- "4. We believe that all peoples who are prepared for self-government should be permitted to choose their own form of government by their own freely expressed choice, without interference from any foreign sources. That is true in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, as well as in the Western Hemisphere.
- "5. By the combined and cooperative action of our war allies, we shall help the defeated enemy states establish peaceful democratic governments of their own free choice. And we shall try to attain a world in which Nazism, Fascism, and military aggression cannot exist.
- "6. We shall refuse to recognize any government imposed upon any nation by the force of any foreign power. In some cases it may be impossible to prevent forceful imposition of such a government. But the United States will not recognize any such government.
- "7. We believe that all nations should have the freedom of the seas and equal rights to the navigation of boundary rivers and waterways and of rivers and waterways which pass through more than one country.
- "8. We believe that all states which are accepted in the society of nations should have access on equal terms to the trade and the raw materials of the world.
- "9. We believe that the sovereign states of the Western Hemisphere, without interference from outside the Western Hemisphere, must work together as good neighbors in the solution of their common problems.
- "10. We believe that full economic collaboration between all nations, great and small, is essential to the improvement of living conditions all over the world, and to the establishment of freedom from fear and freedom from want.
- "11. We shall continue to strove to promote freedom of expression and freedom of religion throughout the peace-loving areas of the world.
- "12. We are convinced that the preservation of peace between nations requires a United Nations Organization composed of all the peace-loving nations of the world who are willing jointly to use force if necessary to insure peace.
Ho Chi Minh forwarded to the Secretary of State the D.R.V. Declaration of Independence, Bao Dai's abdication rescript, general DRV foreign policy declarations, and its expressed position on the war in South Vietnam. He cited the Atlantic Charter as the "foundation of future Vietnam" and the San Francisco Charter as eradicating colonial oppression. Ho appealed for "immediate interference" and submitted several requests — the key one being that the United Nations should recognize the full independence of Vietnam. Again, in November, he made three points: (1) the French had ignored all treaties at the end of the war, and attacked Saigon in September; (2) the Vietnamese people were willing to support the United Nations, but would fight any French troops coming into Vietnamese territory; and (3) any bloodshed would be the responsibility of the French. Two weeks later, Ho appealed to President Truman and UNRRA for assistance to combat starvation caused by flood, drought, and French conflict. Also in November, Ho wrote to the Secretary of State asking to establish cultural relations with the U.S. by sending fifty Vietnamese students to the U.S., and to complain of the absence of Vietnamese representation at the Washington Conference for the Far East. Prompted by Truman's appointment of General Marshall as special representative in China, early in 1946 Ho Chi Minh again appealed for direct intervention by the U.S. to provide an immediate solution of the Vietnamese issue. On 16 February 1946, a tone of irritation was introduced: Ho wrote once more to President Truman implying "complicity, or at least, the connivance of the Great Democracies" in the French aggression; but still Ho pleaded with the U.S. to take a "decisive step" in support of Vietnamese independence asking only what had been "graciously granted to the Philippines." Ho then addressed an urgent broadcast appeal to the U.S., China, Russia, and Great Britain for "interference" by the Big Four to stop the bloodshed and to bring the Indochina issue before the United Nations.
It became abundantly clear, however, that the U.S. would do nothing to aid the Viet Minh. Assuming the sincerity of Ho Chi Minh's appeals, the most opportune time for the U.S. to have intervened in Vietnam passed in autumn, 1945, and prospects for U.S. action dimmed as DRV negotiations with the French proceeded in February–March 1946. Paradoxically, it was the possibility of communist accession to power in France that both added to Ho's incentive to negotiate with the French, and stimulated stronger U.S. support for France. Ultimately, the U.S. was deterred from backing Viet Minh anti-colonialism (though the U.S. pressured France for concessions to Viet nationalism) because its interests seemed more directly engaged in shoring up the French as a key part of its assistance to European recovery. On the other hand, Ho Chi Minh continued to hope for a new France, breaking away from its old colonialist policies under a Socialist or Communist government.Ho Chi Minh's correspondence with the U.S. ceased after the 6 March 1946 Accord with France, although Ho Chi Minh did visit the U.S. Embassy in Paris on 11 September 1946.
|August 22, 1945:||Memorandum for the Secretary of State from the Director, O.S.S. Reports a liberal French attitude towards Indochina (based on assertions of Major Sainteny) and desire of Vietnamese for protectorate status under U.S. (based on assertions of Viet Minh and Dong Minh Hoi representatives).||C-66|
|September 29, 1945:||Telegram from U.S. Embassy, Chungking, to Secretary of State, dated October 18, 1945. Summarizes letter from Ho Chi Ming to President of U.S., expressing sympathy at the death of Colonel Peter Dewey, O.S.S. Commander in Saigon. Enjoins President to provide advance notice of movements of American nationals, but expresses appreciation for "U.S. stand for international justice and peace."|
|October 17, 1945:||Telegram, Ho Chi Minh to President Truman. Appeals for DRV membership on UN Advisory Commission for the Far East, citing Atlantic Charter to advance its claims to membership vice those of France.||C-71|
|October 22, 1945:||Letter, Ho Chi Minh to U.S. Secretary of State, calls for immediate interference by the UN. Appealing to the Atlantic Charter and the UN Charter, and warning of general warfare in Far East, Ho calls for UN action to interfere with France, including an "Inquiry Commission."||C-80|
|October 23, 1945:||U.S. Ambassador in Paris reports newspaper reports of radio appeal of Ho to President Truman and other western leaders, announcing plan to hold plebescite. French government announces it would not oppose in principle such a plebescite if Ho Chi Minh represents all of Indochina and not merely Viet Minh.||C-75|
|November 1, 1945:||Letter from Ho Chi Minh to James Byrnes, Secretary of State, proposing to send a delegation of 50 Viet youths to the U.S. to promote friendly cultural relations and to study at U.S. universities.||C-90
|November 5, 1945:||Despatch, Philip D. Sprouse, U.S. Consul, Kunming, to Secretary of State. Incloses 22 October letter of Ho, surveys situation in Vietnam based on reports of Colonel Nordlinger, USA, and reports Ho and Bao Dai attempt to visit Chiang Kai-shek.||C-76|
|November 8, 1945:||U.S. Embassy, Chungking summarizes Ho Chi Minh letter addressed to President Truman and Chiang Kai-shek underscoring French loss of sovereignty, DRV acquisition of same, and aggression by French to regain it. Asserts French bear onus of resuming war of aggression in Far East.||C-84|
|November 23, 1945:||Telegram from U.S. Embassy, Chungking, paraphrases letters from Ho Chi Minh to President Truman and Director General of UNRRA, describing famine in North Vietnam, and appealing for relief.||C-87|
|November 26, 1945:||Despatch from U.S. Embassy, Chungking, inclosing Ho's letter of 1 November; letter of 28 October from Ho to Chiang Kai-shek urging Chiang to stop the British–French–Japanese action in Cochinchina; and an undated telegram to tho Secretary of State protesting that France did not have the right to speak for Vietnam in international councils, and appealing to all free nations of the world to stop conflict in South Vietnam.||C-89|
|January 18, 1946:||Telegram from U.S. Embassy, Chungking, dated 13 February 1946, paraphrasing letter from Ho to President Truman, dated 18 January 1946, reminding that peace is indivisible and requesting President Truman's intervention for immediate resolution of the Vietnam issue. Telegram describes identical letter to General Marshall, same date.||C-93|
|February 16, 1946:||Letter signed by Ho Chi Minh to President of the U.S. cites the principle supported by the U.S. before, during and after the war, and in the UN, to call for U.S. aid to Vietnam in the face of French aggression. Ho asks what has been granted the Philippines — "like the Philippines our goal is full independence and full cooperation with the UNITED STATES."||C-95
|February 18, 1946:||Note from the DRV to Governments of China, USA, USSR, and Great Britain, calls attention to Vichy–French collaboration with Japan in Indochina, and to policies which led to famine among the Vietnamese. Again on March 9, 1945, the French acceded to the Japanese seizure of power. By contrast, the Vietnamese resistance had fought the Japanese all through the years, and in August, 1945, ousted Nippon's regime, and founded the DRV. The DRV is based on principles enunciated by Sun Yat Sen and President Truman. Impressive progress has been achieved by the DRV in North Vietnam, but in South Vietnam, French aggression has obtruded. DRV urgently appeals for interference by allies to halt the conflict, and the placing of the Indochina issue before the UN.||C-98|
|February 27, 1946:||Telegram from Assistant Chief of the Division of Southeast Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State (Landon), to the Secretary of State, from Hanoi, received in Washington February 27. Summarizes state of negotiations between French (Sainteny) and DRV. Reports that Ho Chi Minh handed Landon two letters addressed to President of the U.S., asserting that Vietnamese will fight until UN intervenes in Vietnam. Requests U.S. support Vietnamese independence "according to Philippines example."||C-101|
|September 11, 1946:||Memorandum of conversation with Ho Chi Minh by the First Secretary, U.S. Embassy, Paris, dated September 12, 1946. Ho describes his O.S.S. contacts, denies having communist connections and indicates that he hoped to obtain aid from the United States. He refers specifically to economic aid, but hints at military and naval assistance,., mentions the naval base at Cam Ranh Bay.||C-102|
OFFICE OF STRATEGIC SERVICES
WASHINGTON 25, D. C.
22 August 1945
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE:
The OSS representative in Kunming has transmitted the following information concerning the French attitude toward the Indo-Chinese Provisional Government. The provisional government was the subject of our two memoranda of 21 August.
The French Government has decided to adopt a passive diplomatic attitude toward the reoccupation of Indo-China because of their inability to make an entry with a powerful show of arms. A committee of three has been appointed by the French Government in Paris, composed of the chief of the Kunming DGER [French Intelligence Service], the Minister of Colonies, and the Administrator General of Colonies. Its mission is to contact Annamite leaders and negotiate with them on terms favorable to the Indochinese, according to Major Sainteny, who will represent the committee in Hanoi. The French policy will be one of liberal administration in the capacity of advisors to the Indo-Chinese Provisional Government, to be established by the Kuomintang Annamite and the Vietminh, which together form a committee of national liberation. (The Vietminh is a 100% Communist party, with a membership of approximately 20% of the active political native element. The Kuomintang Party comprises six minority parties and a score of independent ones.) The French Committee has been charged with the task of negotiating directly with Indo-Chinese leaders and deciding on the best modus operandi. It has full powers of signing treaties in the name of France. The committee will in turn report to Paris, which retains the prerogative of making minor amendments to the general agreement. Annamite leaders in Kunming and representatives of the Central Liberation Committee recently from Hanoi, have expressed a desire to bring Imgin [Annam?] in Indo-China under the status of an American protectorate, and are hoping that the US will intercede with the United Nations for the exclusion of the French, as well as Chinese, from the reoccupation of Indo-China.
Well-informed French and Annamese sources state that the Central Committee has been negotiating with local Japanese military authorities for the purchase of guns and ammunition, with the intent of using them, should either the French or Chinese attempt to reoccupy their areas. The Indo-Chinese fear a Chinese reoccupation because they feel the Chinese will become squatters living off the land, pillaging, raping, and looting. The French concur in this opinion only in so far as to wish exclusive administrative ringts for themselves. The leader of the Annamite Kuomintang Party in China and a direct representative of the Central Liberation Committee in Hanoi, made the following statement on 15 August:
- "Should the French attempt to return to Indo-China with the intention of governing the country, and to act once more as oppressors, the Indo-Chinese people are prepared to fight to the end against any such reoccupation. On the other hand, if they came as friends to establish commerce, industry, and without aspirations to governmental rule, they will be welcomed the same as any other foreign power. The Central Committee wishes to make known to the United States Government that the Indo-Chinese people first of all desire the independence of Indo-China, and are hoping the United States, as a champion of democracy, will assist her in securing this independence in the following manner: (1) Prohibiting, or not assisting the French to enter Indo-China; (2) keeping the Chinese under control, in order that looting and pillaging will be kept to a minimum; (3) sending technical advisors to assist the Indo-Chinese to exploit the resources of the land; and (4) developing those industries that Indo-China is capable of supporting.
- "In conclusion, the Indo-Chinese would like to be placed on the same status as the Philippines for an undetermined period."
The French representative in Kunming, Major Sainteny, is now receiving material aid from tho at the airfield, they were confronted with Chinese and American military police posted about the plane, prohibiting them from leaving the airfield. In conversation later that day with Major Sainteny, he expressed the thought that the French had been betrayed by the Americans. He stated further that the Americans in China have right along been playing the Chinese game, although unwittingly. When questioned concerning his intentions from now on, he reluctantly stated there was nothing for the French to do but await instructions from Chungking. The French DGER in Kunming had infiltrated teams of men into Haiphong under the leadership of a Captain Blanchard. He has made contact with Lt. Col. Kamiya, former liaison officer between the Japanese military headquarters in Hanoi and Admiral Decoux' administration. Kamiya detained this team in Haiphong, confining their activities to transmitting messages concerning the surrender and meteorological data to the French headquarters in Kunming.(SLFEO) Calcutta in making arrangements and readying personnel for the re-entry into Indo-China. His group were prepared to leave on the morning of 17 August. However, on arrival
Reports from Kandy state that Col. Roos, Chief of the SLFEO in Calcutta, is now en route to Saigon to take part in the Japanese surrender on the staff of the British representatives. With Col. Roos is Col. Fay, formerly French Air Attache in Kunming, whose exact status is undetermined, but who is a member of Lord Mountbatten's staff.
William J. Donovan
This telegram must be closely paraphrased before being communicated to anyone. (SECRET)
|Chungking via War
Dated October 18, 1945
Rec'd 1 p.m.
|Secretary of State
There follows summary of letter dated at Hanoi September 29 addressed to President of US by Ho Chi Minh who signed as "President of Provincial Govt of Republic of Viet-Nam"; letter was delivered to US General Gallagher head of Chinese Combat Command Liaison Group with Chinese forces in North Indochina and forwarded to Embassy through US Army channels:
Saigon radio September 27 reported killing of US Colonel Peter Dewey in course of French instigated clash between Viet-Namese nationalists and French aggressors in Cochin China. As Saigon is in hands of Franco–British forces report cannot be investigated now but we hope sincerely it is not true. But if correct incident may have been due to confusion in darkness or other unfortunate circumstances or may have been provoked by French or British. No matter what the case news moves us deeply and we will do utmost to search out culprits and punish them severely. Measures are being taken to prevent further such incidents.We assure you we are as profoundly affected by death of any American resident in this country as by that of dearest relatives.
We ask only of your representatives in this country to give us advance notice of movements of your nationals and to be more cautious in "trespassing" fighting areas. This will avoid accidents and aid in welcoming demonstrations. (Sent to Dept repeated to Paris)
I assure you of admiration and friendship we feel toward American people and its representatives here. That such friendly feelings have been exhibited not only to Americans themselves but also to impostors in American uniform is proof that US stand for international justice and peace is appreciated by entire Viet-Namese nation and "governing spheres".
I convey to you Mr. President and to American people expression of our great respect and admiration (END OF SUMMARY).
STANDARD FORM NO. 01
Office Memorandum • UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT
DATE: Nov. 15, 1945
|TO||:FE – Mr. Vincent|
|FROM||:SEA – Mr. Moffat|
|SUBJECT||:Telegram to President Truman from Ho Chi Minh.
SEA considers that no action should be taken on the attached telegram from Ho Chi Minh to the President requesting membership of the so-called Viet-Nam Republic on the Far Eastern Advisory Commission.
THE WHITE HOUSE
October 17, 1945
Respectfully referred to the Secretary of State.
1 .N RA. 349- Via RCA
Hanoi, Via Kunming, October 17, 1945
M. Ho Chi Minh President of the Provisional of , Washington.
Establishment of advisory commission for the far east is heartily welcome by Vietnamese people in principle Stop. Taking into consideration primo the strategical and economical importance of Vietnam Secundo the earnest desire which Vietnam deeply feels and has unanimous manifested to cooperate with the other democracies in the establishment and consolidation of world peace and prosperity we wish to call the attention of the Allied Nations on the following points Colon
First Absence of Vietnam and presence of France in the advisory commission leads to the conclusion that France is to represent the Vietnamese people at the commission stop . Stop. De Jure no allegiance exists any more between France and Vietnam Colon Baodai abolished treaties of 1884 and 1863 comma Baodai voluntarily abdicated to hand over govern-ment to democratic republican government comma Provisional government rectorated abolishment of treaties of 1884 and 1863 Stop De Facto since March ninth France having handed over governing rule to Japan has broken all the administrative links with Vietnam, since August 18, 1945, provisional government has been a de facto independent government in every respect, recent incidents in Saigon instigated by the French roused unanimous disapproval leading to fight for independence.
Second France is not entitled because she had ignominiously sold indo China to Japan and betrayed the allies Third and subsequently peace agreement and by her goodwill and her unflinching stand for democracy to be represented at the Advisory Commission. Stop We are convinced that Vietnam at Commission will be able to bring effective contribution to solution of pending problems in Far East whereas her absence would bring forth and temporary character to solutions otherwise . Therefore we express earnest request to take part in advisory commission for Far East. Stop. We should be very grateful to your excellency and Premier Attlee Premier Stalin Generalissimo Tchang Kai Shek for the conveyance of our Desiderata to the
This telegram must be paraphrased before being communicated to anyone other than a Government Agency. (RESTRICTED)
Dated Oct. 23, 1945.
Rec'd 12:48 a.m., 24th.
|Secretary of State,
Number of papers today carry similar article reporting Ho Chin Minh, president of Viet Minh, has appealed over Hanoi radio to President Truman, Prime Minister Attlee and General de Gaulle and announced "Annamite Nationalist Govt" intends to hold plebiscite within two months to give constitution to Indo-China.
Article continues "official French circles" remark it does not seem likely Viet Minh will be able to hold such plebiscite. However, French Govt is not opposed in principle to such plebiscite if Ho Chin Minh represents entire population of Indo-China and not merely Viet Party.
Only contacts which French authorities have had with Viet Minh, concludes article, have been undertaken solely to stop bloodshed and it would be inexact to speak of real negotiations.
Kunming, China, October 24, 1945.
Subject: Letters from Annamite Leaders;
Situation in Indochina.
- The Secretary of State
- Washington, D. C.
Referring to the Consulate General's despatch No. 21 of September 27, 1945, in regard to the situation in Indochina, I have the honor to enclose: (a) copy of a letter addressed by HO Chi Minh, President of the "Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam" to the CHEN Cheng, Chinese Minister of War; and (c) translation of a letter dated addressed by Ho Chi Minh (Wade romanization written HU Chih-ming) and YUAN Yung-jui (Annamite ex-Emperor Pao Tai) to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.(b) translation of a letter dated October 22, 1945, addressed by HSIAO Wen, Division of Overseas Affairs official serving with the Chinese Occupation Forces in Indochina, to General
The originals of these messages were brought to Kunming on October 24 by two United States Army officials who have been serving in the Hanoi area since the latter part of August as members of a G-5 Team for prisoner of war rescue work., Commanding Officer of the Team, informs me that he is carrying with him to Washington the original of the letter to the Secretary of State for appropriate delivery upon his arrival there. The originals of the letters to General Chen Cheng and to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek in a sealed envelope addressed by the senders to General Cheng are being forwarded by this office to the Embassy at Chungking for delivery through United States Army channels. The officers who brought these messages to Kunming were not told by Ho Chi Minh of the contents thereof and the information contained in the letters to General Cheng and the Generalissimo will ostensibly be known only to the Chinese authorities. The Consulate General was requested to make a transation of the letters in as much as it was believed that they might contain information of a military nature of concern to the United States Army authorities.
realization of the He makes four requests: (1) The situation should be discussed at the first meeting of the Far Eastern Advisory Commission; (2) Annamite delegates should be allowed to present the views of the "Vietnamese Government"; (3) an investigation committee should be sent to Indochina; and (4) the United Nations should recognize Annamite independence.He refers to French oppression of the Annamites and the desire of the Annamites for
The Chinese Overseas Affairs official states that Ho Chi Minh and Pao Tai desire to proceed secretly to Chungking to talk with the Generalissimo and asks that a plane be sent to Indochina for that purpose. In the letter from the Annamite leaders to the Generalissimo, they express their desire to proceed to Chungking to pay their respects to him and ask for a reply.
The United States Army officers describe conditions in Indochina as follows:
The situation is complicated by the food problem, aggravated by the failure of the Chinese Occupation Forces to bring food supplies with them. There are estimated to be approximately 100,000 Chinese troops in Indochina at present and they have taken over large rice stocks in the Haiphong area which otherwise might have been used to relieve the suffering. The French have expressed their willingness to transport rice from Saigon, which they wish to give to dealers in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas for sale, as the most effective method of distribution. Ho Chi Minh is willing to permit the transport of such rice and has agreed to see to its distribution as a gift of the French people but not as a gift from the French Government. Floods have caused a fifty percent loss in crops in the north while in Saigon there are large excess stocks of rice. The Chinese are now endeavoring to arrange for the transport of rice overland from Saigon but that will, of course, be a slow process, given the present condition of communications facilities.
The Annamites have bee guilty of excesses, having killed 20 to 30 Frenchchildren held as hostages at Saigon and having taken many other French hostages in Hanoi–Haiphong and Vinh–Hue areas. In Hanoi Annamite armed squads are continually searching French homes for hidden weapons and the sight of Frenchmen standing against the wall outside their homes under guard by armed Annamites while others search the house is a frequent one.
Americans are extremely popular with the Annamites, who do everything possible to convince them of the justice of their cause. There are still evidences of pro-Vichy sentiment in the Hanoi area and those French who have not been held prisoner in the citadel are apt to be suspect to
to those who played a part in the resistance movement.
The reason for the failure of the French representative, General Allessandri, to participate in the Japanese surrender ceremonies at Hanoi was the display of the Annamites of all United Nations flags except that of the French at the place of the ceremony. The Annamites refused to display the French flag on the grounds that the French had collaborated with the Japanese in Indochina and the Chinese authorities supported the Annamites in the contention. This feeling against the French was seen in monster mass meetings held frequently in Hanoi, the Annamites having taken over all administration buildings and public utilities in that area. They placarded the city with signs and slogans, such as those reading "Kill the French" — some of them in English for the eyes of Americans.
The French can, of course, return to Indochina but it will be a mistake unless they are prepared to reenter in strength sufficient to overpower the Annamite resistance in short order. If the French attempt to return to Indochina without overwhelming forces and impressive air support, the struggle will be long and bloody. The Annamites only have light arms — rifles, carbines and hand grenades — and could not stand up against heavy weapons. These have been provided them by the Americans as well as by the Japanese, the American arms having been given for use against the Japanese prior to the latter's surrender. Trouble at present is confined largely to the Hanoi–Haiphong and Vinh–Hue areas with the Saigon area somewhat better because of the presence of large numbers of British troops. Laos and Cambodia are practically free of Annamite influence.
The Chinese Occupation Forces have been circumspect and hav compelled the Annamites in some cases, at American suggestion, to release French political prisoners. They have given no arms to the Annamites, being interested in obtaining as many as possible for themselves. The Chinese have, however, now brought in their own Annamite puppet, one Ngu Yen Hai Tan, who is a member of the Annamite Revolutionary League sponsored by the Kuomintang in China. He is said to have been an exile in China for the past twenty-five years. He is associated with the independence movement, as is his party, but has no place in the Government.
Colonel Nordlinger, the sources of most of the foregoing information, states that he is proceeding to Washington shortly and that he will call at the Department in connection with the delivery of Ho Chi Minh's letter to the Secretary of State.Enclosures:
|1.||Letter from Ho Chi Minh to the Secretary of State, October 22, 1945.|
|2.||Translation of Letter from Hsiao Wen to General Chen Cheng, October 22, 1945.|
|3.||Translation of Letter from Ho Chi Minh and Pao Tai to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, October 22, 1945.|
Original and hectograph to the Department.
Copy to Embassy, Chungking.
PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF THE DEMOCRATIC
REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM
- The Minister of Foreign Affairs
to the SECRETARY OF STATE DEPARTMENT
- WASHINGTON, D. C.
The situation in South Vietnam has reached its critical stage, and calls for immediate interference on the part of the United Nations. I wish by the present letter to bring your Excellency some more light on the case of Vietnam which has come for the last three weeks into the international limelight.
First of all, I beg to forward to your Government a few documentary data, among which our Declaration of Independence, the Imperial Rescript of Ex-Emperor BAO DAI on the occasion of his abdication, the declaration of our Government concerning its general foreign policy and a note defining our position towards the South Vietnam incident.
As those documents will show your Excellency, the Vietnamese people has known during the last few years an evolution which naturally brings the Vietnamese nation to its present situation. After 80 years of French oppression and unsuccessful though obstinate Vietnamese resistance, we at last saw France defeated in Europe, then her betrayal of the Allies successively on behalf of Germany and of Japan. Though the odds were at that time against the Allies, the Vietnamese, leaving aside all differences in political opinion, united in the Vietminh League and started on a ruthless fight against the Japanese.
Charter and San Francisco Charters and have them carried out by other nations.
France, to whom the colonialists have long concealed the truth on Indochina, instead of entering into peaceable negotiations, resorted to an aggressive invasion, with all the means at the command of a modern nation. Moreover, having persuaded the British that the Vietnamese are wishing for a return of the French rule, they obtained, first from the British command in Southeast Asia, then from London, a tacit recognition of their sovereignty and administrative responsibility as far as South Vietnam is concerned. The British gave to understand they had agreed to this on the ground that the reestablishment of French administration and, consequently, of Franco–Vietnamese collaboration would help them to speed up the demobilization and the disarmament of the Japanese. But subsequent events will prove the fallacy of the argument. The whole Vietnamese nation rose up as one man against French aggression. The first street-sniping which was launched by the French in the small hours of September 23rd soon developed into real and organized warfare in which losses are heavy on both sides. The bringing in of French important reinforcements on board of the most powerful of their remaining warships will extend the war zone further. As murderous fighting is still going on in Indonesia, and as savage acts on the part of Frenchmen are reported every day, we may expect the flaring up of a general conflagration in the Far-East.imperialism and all forms of colonial oppression. This was unfortunately contrary to the interests of some Frenchmen, and
The establishment of the Consultative Commission for the Far-East has been enthusiastically welcomed here as the first effective step towards an equitable settlement of the pending problems. The people of Vietnam, which only asks for full independence and for the respect of truth and justice, puts before your Excellency our following desiderata:
1o – the South Vietnam incident should be discussed at the first meeting of the Consultative Commission for the Far-East;
2o – Vietnamese delegates should be admitted to state the views of the Vietnamese Government;
3o – An Inquiry Commission should be sent to South Vietnam;
4o – the full independence of Vietnam should be recognized by the United Nations.
I avail myself of this opportunity to send your Excellency my best wishes.
President HO CHI MINH
Enclosure no. 2 to despatch no. 38
dated October 24, 1945 from Kunming
- First Front Army
- Hanoi, October 22, 1945.
- Minister Ch'en.
I have the honor to report that all the officials and people as well as the various parties and factions throughout Indochina have been unanimously united. I have been approached by Mr. HU Chih-ming, Chairman of the Provisional Government of Indochina, and Mr. YUAN Yung-jui, who was formerly Emperor Pao Ta of Annam, with the request that arrangements be made whereby they may be secretly conducted to Chungking to call on you and to be introduced to His Excellency Chairman Chiang at an interview.
With your approval, I respectfully request that an airplane be sent to Indochina in order that I may accompany Messrs. Hu and Yuan on their trip to Chungking. The joint letter from Messrs. Hu and Yuan is transmitted herewith. Your instructions are requested for my guidance in the premises.
- I have the honor to be, Sir,
- Your obedient servant,
- (sealed) HSIAO WEN
38 dated October 24, 1945
Hanoi, October 22, 1945.
- Chairman Chiang Kai-shek,
- Care of Minister Chen.
We have the honor to state that we — HU Chih-ming, chairman of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Indochina, and High Adviser YUAN Yung-jui (former Emperor Pao Ta) — desire to proceed to Chungking to pay our respects to your Excellency and to call on Minister Ch'en. If this meets with your approval, we shall appreciate your being good enough to favor us with a reply.
- We have the honor to be, Your Excellency,
- Your obedient servants,
- We have the honor to be, Your Excellency,
- HU CHIH-MING
- YUAN YUNG-JUI
This telegram must be closely paraphrased before being communicated to anyone. (SECRET)
|Chungking via Navy
Dated November 8, 1945
Rec'd 9:15 p.m., 9th
|Secretary of State,
There follows substance of letter addressed to President Truman by Ho-Chi-Minh who signs as "President ofGovernment of Republic of Viet-Nam": Letter was given to General Gallagher and forwarded to Embassy through U.S. Army Channels: (Embassy's to Department repeated to Paris).
I wish to give following information concerning situation of Viet-Nam:
(1) When Japanese came to Indo-China from September 1940 to September 1941 France, by protocol July 1941 and secret military pact December 8, 1941, gave up sovereignty and took position opposed to Allies. On Japanese drive March 9, 1945 French either fled or surrendered to pledges contained in protective 1874 and June 1884, thus breaking and administrative ties with people of Indo- . Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam was set up August 19, 1945 after independence of entire country was wrested from Japanese. After Japanese surrender, while Viet-Nam Provisional Government in capacity of an independent Government was carrying out a building-up program in conformity French, ignoring deliberately all peace treaties concluded by United Nations at end of World War II, attacked us treacherously in Naigon, September 23, and are planning a war of aggression against Viet-Nam. (Sent to Department repeated to Paris.)
(2) Japan in 1941, are determined never to permit French to return to Indo China. If French troops coming either from China where they fled during Japanese occupation of Indo-China or from other places put foot on any part of Viet-Namese territory the people of Viet-Nam are determined to fight them under any circumstances.willing to cooperate with erection of lasting world peace and, having suffered so severely under direct domination of French and much more from bargain made by French with
(3) If, therefore, disorder, bloodshed or general conflagration due to causes mentioned above in paragraph (2) break out in Far Eastern Asia entire responsibility must be imputed to French. (End substance letter).
Identical message from Ho-Chi-Minh addressed to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek has also been received by same army channels. Embassy will not deliver message to Gimo unless so directed by Department.
This telegram must be closely paraphrased before being communicated to anyone. (SECRET)
|Chungking via Army
Dated November 23, 1945
Rec'd. 12:25 a.m., 24th
|Secretary of State,
Below is given substance of identical communications addressed by Ho-Chi-Minh to President Truman and to Director General of UNRRA;were given to General Gallagher and forwarded to Embassy through US Army channels (Embassy's 1952, Nov 9 to Dept repeated to Paris):
I wish to invite attention of your Excellency for strictly humanitarian reasons to the following matter. Two million Vietnamese died of starvation during winter of 1944 and spring 1945 because of starvation policy of French who seized and stored until it rotted all available rice (Sent Dept; repeated Paris). Three-fourths of cultivated land was flooded in summer 1945, which was followed by a severe drouth; of normal harvest five-sixths was lost. The presence of Chinese occupational army
increases number of persons who must be fed with stocks not already sufficient. Also transport of rice from Cochinchina is made impossible by conflict provoked by French. Many people are starving and casualties increase every day. Everything possible has been done under these circumstances by Provisional Government of Vietnam Republic. Unless great world powers and international relief organizations bring us immediate assistance we face imminent catastrophe. I earnestly appeal to Your Excellency, therefore, for any available assistance. I request your Excellency to accept my heartfelt and anticipated thanks in name of my people.
THE FOREIGN SERVICE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Chungking, November 26, 1945
- No. 890
Subject: Transmittal of copies of communications from the "Provisional Government of the Republic of Vietnam".
The Charge d'Affaires a.i. has the honor to refer to recent telegrams from the Embassy regarding Indochina and to transmit copiesfrom President Ho Chi-minh of the "Provisional Government of the Republic of Vietnam". These communications were delivered to General Gallagher, United States Army, head of the Chinese Combat Liaison Group with the Chinese forces in North Indochina, and forwarded to the Embassy through United States Army channels.
The communication for Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek will not be delivered to him by the Embassy unless so instructed by the Department.
1. Copy of letter from President Ho Chi-minh, Vietnam Democratic Republic to Secretary of State dated November 1, 1945.
2. Copy of telegram to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek dated October 28, 1945.
3. Copy of telegram to Secretary of State, undated.
Original and hectograph to the Depantment.
Copy for Embassy, Paris, through Department.
Enclosure No. 1 to despatch no. 890 dated November 26, 1945
from Embassy, Chungking, China
Hanoi 1st of November 1945
President HochiMinh of Provisional Government of Viet-Nam
- Democratic Republic
to His Excellency James Byrnen
Secretary of State Department of the United States of America
On behalf of the Vietnam cultural Association, I beg to express the desire of this Association to send to the United States of America a delegation of about fifty Vietnam youths with a view to establishing friendly cultural relations with the American youth on the one hand, and carrying on further studies in Engineering, Agriculture as well as other lines of specialisation on the other.
The desire which I am conveying to your Excellency has been expressed to me by all the Vietnam Engineers, Lawyers, Professors, as well as other representatives of our intelligentsia whom I have come across.
They have been all these years keenly interested in things American and earnestly desirous to get into touch with the American people whose fine stand for the noble ideals of international Justice and Humanity, and whose modern technical achievements have so strongly appealed to them.
I sincerely wish that this plan would be favored by your approbation and assistance and avail myself of this opportunity to express to your Excellency my best wishes.
Enclosure no. 2 to despatch no. 890 dated November 26, 1945 from Embassy, Chungking
Hanoi October 28th 1945
HOCHIMINH President of PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT of VIETNAM REPUBLIC
to Marshall CHIANG KAI SHEK
In the name of the Provisional Government of Vietnam Republic we emphatically protest against use of Japanese troops by British Indian army under command of General Gracey and by French army under command of General Leclerc in the repression of Vietnamese national liberation movement in South Indochina stop
Under pretense of disarming the Japanese Generals Gracey and Leclerc dispersed Japanese troops throughout South Vietnam provinces as vanguard to British Indian and French troops with view to reestablishing French domination over Indochina stop.
The Vietnamese people having ruthlessly fought against Japanese fascism and having just established democratic regime throughout its country feels greatest indignation in presence of such unjustifiable behaviour on the part of British and French stop
Therefore we strongly appeal to and eagerly request your Excellency to
primo issue order to stop massacre of a people defending its legitimate rights according to principles laid down in Atlantic and San Francisco charters
secundo recognize full independence of Vietnam Republic final stop
HO CHI MINH
Enclosureto despatch no. 890, dated November 26, 1945 from Embassy, Chungking.
HochiMinh President Provincial Government Vietnam Republic to His Excellency the Secretary of State Department Washington D.C.
On occasion of inauguration Washington Conference for the Far East we regret absence of Vietnamese delegation Stop Once again, we deny France every right to speak on behalf of Vietnamese people Stop France under cover of British–Indian and Japanese troops having perpetrated an aggression on Vietnamese Republic in order to impose her domination has deliberately violated all principles proclaimed in Atlantic and San Francisco Charters Stop Vietnamese fighting for more than a month despite bloody opposition of Anglo–Indian French and Japanese Troops has proclaimed their will to live free and independent under democratic construction Stop The Vietnamese people expresses sincere hope that all free nations in world comma carrying out high ideal of generosity and humanity expressed incomma recognize independence of Vietnam republic and put a stop to conflict in South Vietnam Stop Respectfully HochiMinh
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Paraphrase before communicating to anyone.
Chungking via War
Dated February 13, 1946
Rec'd. 6:18 a.m., 14th
Secretary of State,
- 281, Feb 13, 10 a.m.
There follows substance of letter dated Jan 18, 1946 addressed to President Truman by Ho Chi-Minh just received by Embassy through US Army channels: he extends congratulations to President on occasion of opening of first Assembly of United Nations in London, and on efforts of American Govt to maintain peace and security throughout world.
- EMBTEL 1948 Nov 8, 6 p.m.
Since peace is indivisible and Far East is receiving particular consideration by appointment of General Marshall as Special Representative in China, he believes it his duty to inform President of developments in Indochina and consequences for world security of French aggression.
- Sent Dept as 281 repeated Paris as 1.
In 1941 Vietnam rose up to oppose Japanese Fascism and sided with Allies. After Japan surrendered a provisional government was set up to eradicate Fascism in Vietnam and restore order. Supported by whole nation, it carried out a democratic program, and restored order and discipline. Under difficult circumstances general elections for national Congress were held on Jan 6, 1946. Ninety percent of the nine million electors voted. French colonialists on contrary surrendered to Japan in Sept 1941 and for four years cooperation with Japanese against the Allies and in oppression of Vietnam. By second surrender March 9, 1945, five months before Japanese defeat, French lost all right and control in Indochina.French attacked population of Saigon on Sept 23, 1945 while Vietnam Democratic Republic was endeavoring to carry out reconstruction program. It was followed by systematic destruction and murderous warfare. Each day brings new reports of looting, violence, assassination of civilians, and indiscriminate bombing of non-strategical places by military planes. It is French intention to invade entire country and reestablish their domination.
After "offer of interference (intervention?)" made by Mr. John Carter Vincent, people of Vietnam enthusiastically welcomed President Truman's address of October 28, 1945 in which he set forth the principles of self-determination and equality of status laid down in Atlantic and San Francisco Charters. Since then, French have greatly increased their fighting forces with result that millions will suffer, thousands will die and invaluable properties will be destroyed unless United States intervenes to stop bloodshed and unlawful aggression.
On behalf of people and Govt of Indochina, he requests President's intervention for an immediate solution of Vietnamese issue. People of Vietnam earnestly hope that the great American Republic will help them achieve full independence and support them in their reconstruction work.
Thus, with assistance of China and United States, in capital and technique, Vietnam Republic will be able to contribute her share to building up world peace and prosperity.
Another letter was received addressed to General Marshall which is identical with one addressed to President, except that opening paragraph extends Ho Chi-Minh's congratulations to General Marshall on his appointment to China and expressed conviction that an understanding of real situation in Vietnam can make some small contribution to task in China which confronts him.
Shown to WO 8:45 p.m. Feb 14.
VIỆT-NAM DÂN-CHỦ CỘNG-HÒA
President HO CHI MINH,
Provisional Government of
VIETNAM DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC,
To the PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
- DEAR MR PRESIDENT,
I avail myself of this opportunity to thank you and the people of United States for the interest shown by your representatives at the United Nations Organization in favour of the dependent peoples.
Our VIETNAM people, as early as 1941, stood by the Allies' side and fought against the Japanese and their associates, the French colonialists.
From 1941 to 1945 we fought bitterly, sustained by the patriotism of our fellow-countrymen and by the promises made by the Allies at YALTA, SAN FRANCISCO and POTSDAM.
When the Japanese were defeated in August 1945, the whole Vietnam territory was united under a Provisional Republican Government which immediately set out to work. In five months, peace and order were restored, a democratic republic was established on legal bases, and adequate help was given to the Allies in the carrying out of their disarmament mission.
But the French colonialists, who had betrayed in war-time both the Allies and the Vietnamese, have come back and are waging on us a murderous and pitiless war in order to reestablish their domination. Their invasion has extended to South Vietnam and is menacing us in North Vietnam. It would take volumes to give even an abbreviated report of the crimes and assassinations they are committing every day in the fighting area.
This aggression is contrary to all principles of international law and to the pledges made by the Allies during the World War. It is a challenge to the noble attitude shown before, during and after the war by the United States Government and People. It violently contrasts with the firm stand you have taken in your twelve point declaration, and with the idealistic loftiness and generosity expressed by pour delegates to the United Nations Assembly, MM BYRNES, STATTINIUS and J.F. DULLES.
The French aggression on a peace-loving people is a direct menace to world security. It implies the complicity, or at least, the connivance of the Great Democracies. The United Nations ought to keep their words. They ought to interfere to stop this unjust war, and to show that they mean to carry out in peace-time the principles for which they fought in war-time.
Our Vietnam people, after so many years of spoliation and devastation, is just beginning its building-up work. It needs security and freedom, first to achieve internal prosperity and welfare, and later to bring its small contribution to world-reconstruction.
These security and freedom can only be guaranteed by our independence from any colonial power, and our free cooperation with all other powers.and champions of World Justice to take a decisive step in support of our independence.
What we ask has been graciously granted to the Philippines. Like the Philippines our goal is full independence and full cooperation with the UNITED STATES. We will do our best to make this independence and cooperation profitable to the whole world.
- I am, Dear Mr PRESIDENT,
HO CHI MINH
|Viet-Nam Dan Chu Cong Hoa|
|DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM
to the Governments of CHINA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, UNION OF SOCIALIST SOVIET REPUBLICS and GREAT-BRITAIN.
|Chinh Phu Lam Thoi
BO NGOAI GIAO
I.– In 1940, the French in Indochina betrayed the Allies. They deliberately opened the doors of Indochina to the Japanese troops, signed with the latter a military, political and economic pact. The Nippo–French cooperation policy, promoted and carried out with conviction and industry by JEAN DECOUX, former Governor-General of Indochina, was directed against the democratic movements inside Indochino and the Allied Nations outside. In fact the French put at the disposal of the Japanese forces the strategic bases, the economic and financial resources of Indochina. The technical services, especially the Indochinese Intelligence Service supplied the Japanese with precious informations. The French airfields of GIALA, TAYSONNHAT and others were handed over to the Japanese air forces, new metalled tracts were created with the collaboration of French technicians at TRAICUT, SONIA, PHUTHO, BACGIANG, PHANHOA, PHUCTHO, PHUCYEN, VINHYEN. French launched violent propaganda campaigns against the Allies, and personal instructions were given by Governor-General Decoux to the I.P.P. (Information, Press, Propaganda Service) to that effect. The French administration requisitioned considerable stocks of rice, thus starving a population of 20 million inhabitants among whom 2,000,000 died of famine and hardships, in the course of five months (from January to May 1945), all this to feed the Japanese army in their Western and Southern operations.
In the meanwhile, the Vietnamese nationalist parties made repeated appeals to the French for a joint action against the Japanese. These appeals were ignored by the French Government.
On March 9, 1945, the French surrendered to the Japanese, after a sham fight which did not last a couple of days. Stocks of arms, ammunitions, fortifications, airfields, millions of liters of oil were handed over to the Japanese. This extraordinary carelessness denoted, if not complicity, at least an obvious goodwill on the part of the French. Thus, twice in the course of five years, the French have willingly helped the fascists in their fight against the democracies. Twice the French have willingly handed over to the Japanese capital strategic, economical and technical advantages, for the prosecution of the Pacific Battle.
II.– In August 1945, the Japanese surrendered to the Allies. The popular forces of Vietnam which, since 1940, had made incessant attacks on the Japanese forces, and which had, in 1944, succeeded in creating a "Free Zone" in Northern Indochina, went down to conquer the capital-city and the governing rule. The population, fired with democratic aspirations and spirit, enthusiastically welcomed them and manifested their desire to maintain their unity for the grandeur of the Fatherland once lost and now found again. On September 2, 1945, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was solemnly proclaimed. Twice, first through Emperor Bao-Dai of the NGUYEN Dynasty, then, through the solemn proclamation of the new Government on Independence Day, the new State abrogated all the treaties formerly forced upon us by the French victors. The new Republic of Vietnam, thus legally instituted, is in the reconstruction of the world a factor of peace and progress. She is entitled for her safeguard to refer to the most sacred principles of SAN FRANCISCO and ATLANTIC Charters. She is based upon and draws her strength from, the first of SUN YAT SEN's Three Principles and the second, fourth, sixth points of President TRUMAN's twelve-point declaration.
III.– But, on September 23, 1945, the French troops attacked Saigon, starting an invasion which is now in its fifth month. That invasion is menacing North Vietnam and French troops have begun to filter through our Chinese frontier. That aggression, carried on by an experienced and numerous army, fully equipped with the most recent inventions of modern warfare, has brought about the destruction of our towns and villages, the assassination of our civilian population, the starving of a great part of our country. Untold atrocities have been committed, not as reprisals upon our guerrillas troops, but on women and children and unarmed old people. These atrocities are beyond imagination and beyond words, and remind one of the darkest ages: assault on the sanitary formations, on Red Cross personnel, bombing and machine-gunning of villages, raping of women, looting and indiscriminate pillaging of Vietnam and Chinese houses, etc... Yet despite the maltreatments of the civilian population, we have, for 5 long months, opposed a stubborn resistance, fought in the worst conditions, without food, medicine and without clothings. And we shall carry on, sustained by our faith in international honour, and in our final victory.
IV.– In the free zone of our national territory, especially in the area under Chinese control, North of the 16th parallel, our civilians have set out to work. The results of these five months of building-up work are most favourable and give rise to the brightest hopes.
First of all, democracy has been established on solid foundations. On January 6 last, general elections were organized with the greatest success. In a few days 400 representatives of the entire country will hold the first session of the Constituent National Assembly. A new administrative organization has replaced the old mandarinate system. The most unpopular taxes have been abolished. The anti-illiteracy campaign organized along efficient lines, has yielded unexpectedly optimistic results. The primary and secondary schools as well as the University have been reopened to more and more numerous students. Peace and order are restored and smoothly maintained.
In the economic field, the situation is bettering every day. All the vexatory measures imposed by colonial planned economy have been abrogated. Commerce, production, and the transformation and consummation of raw materials, once subjected to very strict regulations, are now operated on an entirely free basis. The shortage of rice, though still critical, has been relieved by the intensive production of other foodstuffs and the price of rice has been reduced some 40% of its 1945 figures. Cereals, matches, salt, tobacco, once monopolized by speculators, are now offered on the normal markets at prices within reach of the common man. All public services have resumed their prewar activities, and the Vietnamese staff under their Vietnamese Directors, are working with industry and efficacy. The communications have been reestablished, the dam system not only mended but still fortified.
All this program was carried out while in the South, the French aggression has intensified every day. The Vietnam people, despite the difficulties of the present, and the heavy heritage of five years of correspondents and members of the Allies Missions who have come to the country can bear witness to the new life in regenerated Vietnam, to our capacity to self-government, our desire to live free and independent, and our faith in the ATLANTIC and SAN FRANCISCO Charters.
For those reasons, we think it our duty to send this note to the Great Powers — which had led the anti-fascist crusade to final victory and which had taken up the reconstruction of the world with a view to definitely outlawing war, oppression and exploitation on the one hand, misery, fear and injustice on the other. We request of these great powers:
a) To take all proper steps to stop by an urgent interference, the bloodshed that is taking place in South Vietnam, and to arrive at an urgent and fair settling of the Indochinese issue. We are confident in their mediation that may be given to us in this Pacific World a status worthy of a people that had fought and suffered for the democratic ideals. So doing, they will give a solid foundation to peace and security in this part of the world, and fulfill the hopes that the oppressed peoples had placed in them. While waiting with confidence for a positive measure from the Governments of WASHINGTON, MOSCOW, LONDON, and CHUNGKING, we have determined to fight to our last drop of blood against the reestablishment of French imperialism.
b) To bring the Indochinese issue before the United Nations' Organization. We only ask full independence, independence that is so far a fact, and that will enable us to cooperate with the other nations in the building-up of a better world and lasting peace. Such aspirations are but legitimate and the cause of world peace must be defended.
Hanoi, February 18, 1946.
[Received February 27 – 11:45 a.m.]
From Landon for Moffat and Culbertson.
1. Sainteny stated that in conversation with Ho Chi Minh he offered Annamese complete independence within French community: That this meant that Annamese would have benefit of French advisers in every department of Government: That for instance Annamese Foreign Office would express its policies through French channes: That Annamese Army and War Ministry wold be coordinated with French Army and War Ministry: And that Annamese if [in?] Finance and Commerce Ministries would heed French advisers as Annamese were inexpert in these matters and might jeopardize [apparent garble] French investment. Sainteny said that Annamese in Cochin China would probably prefer to remain French Colony rather than come under northern Annamese Government. In this connection Ho Chi Minh said that French officials had conferred with him but that they were vague in their comments and had avoided the real issues of Annamese independence so that he had asked them to get specific terms from Paris which would make clear whether the French really offered Annamese independence or were merely using new language to describe usual French control Annamese affairs.
2. Ho Chi Minh handed me two letters addressed to President of USA, China, Russia, and Britain, identical copies of which were stated to have been forwarded to other governments named. In two letters Ho Chi Minh requests USA as one of United Nations to support idea of Annamese independence according to Philippines example, to examine the case of the Annamese, and to take steps necessary to maintenance of world peace which is being endangered by French efforts to reconquer Indochina. He asserts that Annamese will fight until United Nations interfere in support of Annamese independence. The petition addressed to major United Nations contains:
a. Review of French relations with Japanese where French Indochina allegedly aided Japs:
b. Statement of establishment on 2 September 1945 of [Provisional Government of?] Democratic Republic of Viet Minh:
c. Summary of French conquest of Cochin China begun 23 Sept 1945 and still incomplete:
d. Outline of accomplishments of Annamese Government in Tonkin including popular elections, abolition of undesirable taxes, expansion of education and resumption as far as possible of normal economic activities:
e. Request to four powers: (1) to intervene and stop the war in Indochina in order to mediate fair settlement and (2) to bring the Indochinese issue before the United Nations Organization. The petition ends with statement that Annamese ask for full independence in fact and that in interim while awaiting UNO decision the Annamese will continue to fight the reestablishment of French imperialism. Letters and petition will be transmitted to Department soonest.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Paris, September 12, 1946.
Subject: Transmitting Memorandum of Conversation with Ho Chi-minh.
- The Secretary of State,
I have the honor to refer to my despatch No.6131 dated September 11, 1946, regarding my conversation with Ho Chi-minh, President of the Republic of Viet-Nam, and to enclose herewith a memorandum prepared by First Secretary George N. Abbott covering his conversation with Ho Chi-minh later in the day.
- Respectfully yours,
- Jefferson Caffery
- Memorandum of conversation with Ho Chi-minh prepared by First Secretary George M. Abbott
Original and hectograph to Department
Copies to Saigon, London, and Moscow
Paris, September 12, 1946.
To: The Ambassador
From: George M. Abbott
In accordance with your request, I called last night on Ho Chi-minh and had a conversation lasting an hour.
Ho Chi-minh first discussed his contacts with Americans dating back to his guerrilla warfare against the Japanese when the OSS and Army officers were parachuted into his jungle headquarters and culminating with his talk with you. He emphasized his admiration for the United States and the respect and affection for President Roosevelt which is found even in the remote villages of his country. He referred particularly toward the Philippines and pointed out that it was only natural that his people, seeing and independent Philippines on one side and India about to gain its freedom on the other, should expect France to understand that similar measures for Indochina are inevitable.
He then took up the question of his supposed Communist connections which he, of course, denied. Ho Chi-minh pointed out that there are no Communist ministers in his government and that the Viet-Nam constitution opens with a guarantee of personal liberties and the so-called rights of man and also guarantees the right to personal property. He admits that there are Communists in Annam but claims that the Communist Party as such dissolved itself several months ago.
The President then outlined his relations with France in general and the developments during the Fontainebleau Conference in particular. He pointed out that all of the various provisions of the preliminary agreement of March 6, 1946, had been fulfilled except the provisions regarding a referendum in Cochinchina. The Viet-Nam has its own government, its parliament, its army, and controls its finances. Regarding Cochinchina, however, the French have been unwilling to set a date fro the referendum or to agree to the proposal that a joint Viet-Nam–French commission should be named to arrange for and supervise the referendum. At the same time the French authorities in Indochina have not respected the truce in Cochinchina and have continued military operations against resistance elements loyal to the Viet-Nam.
Ho Chi-minh realizes that the present French Government is a provisional one and that until a French constitution was adopted, the outlines of the French Union established, and a permanent government chosen, it was difficult for French officials to sign any permanent treaty or agreement with the Viet-Nam. For that reason he was quite willing to adjourn the Fontainebleau Conference until January or thereabouts.
With regards to the modus vivendi which should have been signed September 10, 1946, Ho Chi-minh said that agreements had been reached regarding French economic and cultural rights in the Viet-Nam, a customs union for Indochina, and a common currency, although there had been some difficulty over the drafting since he refused to allow the phrase "Indochinese Federation" since it does not yet exist. The French, however, have not accepted the Viet-Nam demand that "democratic liberties" be restored in Cochinchna. Ho Chi-minh explained that by this he meant freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the release of political prisoners. The Viet-Nam also insists that they be permitted to send a delegation to Cochinchina to make sure that the French live up to these provisions and to cooperate with the French in bringing about the end of guerrilla warfare. He admitted that there are many unsavory elements within the resistance movement in Cochinchina, but argued that if his representatives could go through the country and talk to local leaders it would be possible to distinguish between bandits and patriots, and the former could then be liquidated by either his or the French forces.
Ho Chi-minh stated that he still hoped to reach an agreement with the French before his departure on September 14, but that in any case he must return on that date since he had already been too long away from his country.
Ho Chi-minh spoke at various times of the aid which he hoped to get from the United States, but was vague except as regards economic aid. With regard to the latter,he explained that the riches of his country were largely undeveloped, that he felt that Indochina offered a fertile field for American capital and enterprise. He had resisted and would continue to resist the French desire for a continuation of their former policy of economic monopoly. He was willing to give the French priority in such matters as advisers, concessions, and purchases of machinery and equipment, but if the French were not in a position to meet his country's needs he would insist on the right to approach other friendly countries. He hinted that the policy might apply to military and naval matters as well and mentioned the naval base at Cam Ranh bay.
As I left, Ho Chi-minh stated that he hoped that through his contacts with the Embassy the American public would be informed of the true situation in Indochina.
George M. Abbott
- Article written in April, 1960, for the Soviet review , for the 90th anniversary of Lenin's birth. From Fall, , 5–7.
- From Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Richard L. Sharp, of the Division of Southeast Affairs, Department of State, dated January 30, 1946.
- U.S. Department of State Telegram, from Washington, 17 December 1946.
- Robert Shaplen, , (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 28–30.
- (Harry S. Truman, April–December 1945), 433–434.