Years Leading Up to Ho?s Leadership
????????? As a young man, Ho Chi Minh?s interest in political reform first begins to develop with his employment as a chef?s assistant in the French merchant fleet.? As he travels and visits port cities in the United States, Ho is becoming familiar with the principles laid out in the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
??????? When his job as cook?s assistant comes to a close, Ho begins living in Paris where he encounters many Vietnamese nationalists making efforts toward gaining independence from France (Hay 124).? Ho?s interest in the Vietnamese independence effort is beginning to grow.? In 1919 and 1920, he attends the Paris Peace Conference in hopes of advancing the cause.? Ho is not aware of the fact that the Western nations at the conference disagree with the idea of colonial independence.? He decides to seek help from the Communist Soviet Union.? In 1924, Communist International, also known as Comintern, sends Ho to Guangzhou, China.? There he is to work on organizing the Vietnamese Communist movement.? Ho stays in China for two years while writing his first manifesto, entitled ?Revolutionary Path.?? During this time he also establishes the Vietnam Revolutionary Youth League.? After being forced to leave China by the nationalist government, he begins living in Hong Kong where he has a role in helping the Indochina Communist Party.? His tasks in the beginning stages of the party include propaganda, education, and enlisting new members.
????????? In 1941, Ho returns to his homeland and begins the Viet Minh, an organization devoted to the struggle for Vietnamese independence.? After the Japanese begin occupying Indochina, Ho returns to China.? He has hopes of obtaining support from the nationalist Chinese in his efforts against the Japanese, considering the new circumstances due to World War II.? Instead of offering their support, the Chinese detain him because they are fearful of their own Communists under current leader Mao Tse-tung.? Ho is released shortly after in 1943.? By this time, the war has reached a turning point, and the Chinese, along with their British and American allies, begin to recognize Ho?s potential as an anti-Japanese resistance leader.? Eventually, he reconstructs the Viet Minh as a nationalist force fighting on the side of Vietnam against the Japanese and the French (Hay 126).
????????? It is believed that during the war, Ho was working closely with the American Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, in preserving links between Viet Minh underground operatives and Allied authorities.? He is supposedly involved in a wide range of jobs, from organizing logistics to (see ?Years?)
assisting in rescuing American pilots downed in the northern half of Vietnam.? Records are not clear, but Ho may be? recruited by the OSS as a certified counterintelligence agent.
????????? Four days after the Japanese surrender, Ho joins the Allied forces as they enter Hanoi.? The OSS apparently realizes that the Viet Minh is their best chance at having post-Japanese leadership as soon as possible.? All of the events occurring during this time are known as the August 1945 Revolution (Hay 126).
Ho Chi Minh Claims Presidency of Free Vietnam
The beginning of the August 1945 Revolution begins with a simple declaration made by Ho Chi Minh, stating that he is the president of free Vietnam (Hay 32).? Ho used actual phrases taken from the American Declaration of Independence verbatim, and officers from the American Office of Strategic Services were present during Ho?s speech (Hay 126).
At this time, Ho iss leading the Viet Minh, a Communist force that opposes the Japanese occupation of Vietnam.? Ho was briefly enlisted as an operative in the American OSS, which gave its support to the Viet Minh.? With all of this in place, Ho decides to seize the opportunity and claim the presidency during the time lapse between the Japanese surrender and the powerful return of the French.
Ho is capable of supporting his presidential claim when the Viet Minh takes control of Hanoi on August 19, and also on August 24 when the Viet Minh makes its first attempt at taking over Saigon (Hay 32).? Ho sent comrades to stress Viet Minh authority in this Vietnamese city.? France wants its colony back and returns in 1946 to take control of Vietnam and the rest of Indochina.? Ho is not capable of reaching a compromise with the French in the Ho-Sainteny Agreement, which potentially could have made Vietnam into an autonomous state under the French Union.? After failing to reach a compromise, the First Indochina War begins.? It is an eight-year struggle between the French and the Viet Minh, and marks the beginning of almost thirty years of fighting before Vietnam receives its independence (Hay 127).
(?Time 100:? Ho Chi Minh.?)
Ho Chi Minh Trail Proves to Be Useful
????????? On May 19, 1959, Major Vo Ban of the North Vietnamese Army is ordered (See ?Trail?)?
to establish a supply route leading into South Vietnam.? The route is to use some of the ancient footpaths that already exist in the mountainous regions of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.? Officials in Hanoi know that supplies are essential to the uprising in South Vietnam, as are troops and intelligence information.? The North Vietnamese Army sent approximately 30,000 civilians and 500 regular troops to begin enlarging and connecting the ancient footpaths along a range of mountains called the Annamite chain.? The team, called Unit 559, also began to build supply depots and command posts at regular intervals along the footpaths.? At the end of 1959, nearly 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers infiltrate South Vietnam after making their way down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.? The first supplies are also delivered to Viet Cong fighters in the south during the same year (Hay 130).? Approximately sixty tons of supplies are received each day as a result of the Ho Chi Minh Trail (?Ho Chi Minh Trail.?).? This enormous flow of supplies and troops will remain steady for the next fifteen years and is one of the key reasons why the Communists prevail in the Vietnam War.
????????? The original Ho Chi Minh Trail is expanded between 1960 and 1963.? New branches are built onto the trail, stretching into strategically important areas that are in need of a constant flow of supplies and men.? A second major route is also established to the west of the original trail.? By the end of 1963, this intricate web consists of over 600 miles of roads (Hay 130).? The trail is nearly impossible to identify from the air because of thick jungle cover.? The United States Air Force has made several attempts at destroying the Ho Chi Minh Trail in order to cut off the vital flow of supplies, but they have not yet been successful (?Ho Chi Minh Trail.?).
????????? As the conflict escalates, the North Vietnamese Army continues to expand the trail for the remainder of the war.? Engineers and workers are paving certain parts of the route, allowing large trucks and other vehicles to use the trail.? Rivers are forded, extensive supply depots and tunnel networks are built, and a system of communications is upheld as the Ho Chi Minh Trail becomes a fundamental part of the North Vietnamese war effort.? Around 70,000 North Vietnamese troops will defend the trail while approximately 10,000 tons of supplies and 8,000 men will move along it every month.
????????? Officials in the United States understand the great importance of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.? Around 1964, closing the trail down becomes one of the chief goals of the United States military.? The first attacks made by the U.S. use small units of American and South Vietnamese soldiers. ?These are ground attacks and are not successful.? U.S. Air Force bombers also make attempts at bombing sections of the trail from the air, but these are unsuccessful also (Hay 131).? Major air attacks on the trail came four years later, when bombings are supplemented with attempts to cause landslides and create blockages, elimination of jungle areas, and even some attempts at (See ?Trail 2? on page 4)
seeding clouds in order to lengthen the rainy season.? During parts of the rainy season, the route is impassable.? One strange attempt at slowing down the stream of supplies on the Ho Chi Minh Trail is the dropping of electronic sensors at various locations as part of a 1967 effort to build an electronic defense network.? These sensors, when driven over or stepped on, will send the location back to U.S. Air Force computers.? Pilots are then able to? bomb specific sites.
None of these efforts to stop the trail have much effect.? The Ho Chi Minh Trail continues to be North Vietnam?s greatest military advantage.? When the last American troops leave Vietnam in 1973, the trail is so large that it is basically like a highway that connects North Vietnam with numerous points in the south.? The trail has been very well maintained and allowed the North Vietnamese Army to move much more quickly than the South Vietnamese army.? For example, when Hanoi launches its last offensive against Saigon in 1975, North Vietnamese soldiers numbering in the hundreds of thousands will find it fairly simple to move to their tactical destinations in the south.
????????? After the war ends, the Ho Chi Minh Trail falls into disuse.? It is not located near any important population centers, yet plans have surfaced to use portions of the trail to build a massive highway system in Vietnam?s interior (Hay 132).
The Second Indochina War Begins
????????? Following the conclusion of the First Indochina War, Ho finds himself forced into the arms of his fellow Communists elsewhere.? The only nations that agreed to recognize the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as a legitimate state, along with Ho as a national leader, are most of the Soviet-bloc nations in Eastern Europe and also Mao Tse-tung?s People?s Republic of China, after 1949.? This fact makes it simple for the French to claim that they are fighting the spread of communism, which is a goal shared by (See ?Second Indochina War?)
Second Indochina War
many Western powers.? Ho is considered to be a potential threat to democracy and freedom, and the conflict in Indochina becomes a cold war battle.? In the meantime, Ho continues to be a successful organizer and propagandist as well as a leader of men.? The Viet Minh is able to hold off the French for many years to the surprise of much of the world, in spite of the arrival of American money and war materials to aid the French.
????????? Eventually, Vo Nguyen Giap, Ho?s military leader ends the war by accomplishing a decisive victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu.? Both sides entered into a truce called the Geneva Accords on July 20, 1954.? The Geneva Accords confirm the Democratic Republic of Vietnam with Ho as the president as the legitimate government of the nation.? This represents a major step for Ho by removing the French from Indochina and establishing independent regime in both northern and southern Vietnam.? Independent regimes are also established in Cambodia and Laos.
????????? In 1954, Ho secures his authority in North Vietnam as the leader of the Lao Dong, which the Indochina Communist Party is renamed in 1951.? He begins to reform society along the lines that are laid out by himself and other Communist officials.? Ho dissolves the estates of large landlords and makes attempts at nationalizing both manufacturing and agriculture.? Oppressive measures are taken against anyone who resists.? As a result, thousands of North Vietnamese are imprisoned or sent to reeducation camps.
????????? In 1959, Ho decides that he is ready to take action in reuniting North and South Vietnam.? He has already assisted in forming groups of Communist cadres in the south and has authorized them to join in deposing the South Vietnamese rule of Ngo Dinh Diem.? With the help of some former Viet Minh fighters as well as that of unorganized individuals opposed to Ngo Dinh Diem, these cadres make up the first versions of the Viet Cong.? By 1960, Viet Cong fighters have recruited villagers and assassinated local authorities that are loyal to Diem.? The National Liberation Force is formed to provide political leadership to the Viet Cong as well as to provide coordination between the southern cadres and the Hanoi government (Hay 127).
Ho Chi Minh believes that the Second Indochina war began slowly.? The United States has made a commitment to support the Republic of Vietnam, or South Vietnam, by bringing in American combat troops and engaging in ?nation building.?? Ho now faces his most difficult challenge yet, although he has remained confident that his goal of reunification is ultimately in reach.? From his experiences with the French, Ho has learned that Westerners do not like drawn out, protracted fighting, especially when in a difficult terrain and amidst foreign cultures.
????????? Lyndon Johnson, American president at this time, has made it known in 1965 that he is prepared to enter into peace (See ?Second Indochina War 2? on page 6)
Second Indochina War 2
negotiations with Ho Chi Minh, but the Communist leader demanded very strict conditions, including the recognition of the National Liberation Front as both the political and the military leadership of South Vietnam.? Americans can make no sense of this condition, assuming that the National Liberation Front is under the command of Ho?s regime.? Agreeing to grant the National Liberation Front leadership in the south will mean permitting Vietnam to be reunified under control of the Communists.? Eventually the American military effort stalls after 1965 (Hay 128).
Ho Chi Minh?s Death and Prestige
????????? Ho?s reputation has grown not only within Vietnam but also across the globe, just three or four years before his death in 1969.? He is considered by many people to be a major world leader.? Ho has even become a type of counterculture hero, similar to revolutionaries like Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Mao Tse-tung.? Ho is also a true national hero in his homeland.? As Ho neared his death, he tried to use his reputation to maintain the war effort.? During the preparations for the 1968 Tet Offensive, Ho Chi Minh made his first public appearance in months.? He remains influential enough to temporarily suppress the arguments among other leaders of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Hay 128).? Ho proves to be skillful in foreign policy as well, navigating a middle course between the two Communist superpowers, China and the Soviet Union.? When peace talks among the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the United States began in 1968, Ho worked with negotiators to tweak the demands of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam while vowing to continue the struggle on the battlefield.
????????? On September 2, 1969, Ho Chi Minh dies.? He did not live to see Vietnam reunified.? However, he does remain as an important symbol.? The Lao Dong and his old comrade, Vo Nguyen Giap, feel the need to honor the memory and accomplishments of Ho Chi Minh.? After North Vietnamese tanks enter into Saigon in April of 1975, Ho?s vision of a reunified Vietnam is realized.? To help consolidate the new Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Lao Dong leaders continue using Ho Chi Minh?s name and prestige.? Saigon is renamed to Ho Chi Minh City.? In Hanoi, he is deified in memorials, including a large museum commemorating both his life and his role in the history of international Communism.? A memorial is also made out of a house where he briefly lived.? The most popular memorial is a vast mausoleum where his embalmed body remains open for viewing during most of the year.? Tens of thousands of people visit the mausoleum each year in order to honor the memory of this extraordinarily influential leader (Hay 129).