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Ho Chi Minh (1890 – 1969)

A man of humble background, Ho Chi Minh became one of the key figures in establishing communist rule in Vietnam and became notorious throughout the world as one of Communist’s strongest leaders. He organized the Communist revolution in Vietnam and can be given much of the credit for reuniting Vietnam under communist rule.

Ho Chi Minh was born Nguyen Tat Thanh in 1890 in the village of Kim Lien in Annam which is located in central Vietnam. His father, Nguyen Sinh Huy was a nationalist and raised his children to hate the French who controlled Vietnam. Ho was the youngest of three children all of which did their part in to overtake the French. His sister obtained a job in the French army and used her position to steal weapons for their eventual overthrow but she was caught and sentenced to life in prison.Though his father refused to learn French, he sent Ho to the National Academy school in Hue to learn be educated by the French in hopes that Ho could obtain knowledge that could be used against the French. When Ho finished school he became a teacher at a private school. He became a sailor and in traveling the world he learned that other countries were just as oppressed ads the French as Vietnam.

In 1917 he moved to Paris and studied the theories of Carl Marx. In 1920 he became one of the founding members of the French Communist Party. After being greatly inspired by the Russian Revolution, in 1924 he formed the League of Oppressed Peoples of Asia which soon developed into the South Seas Communist Party. Next he moved to China and formed the Vietnam Revolutionary League. When the communists were expelled from Guangzhou in 1927, Ho found refuge in the Soviet Union. In 1928 he moved to Siam and spent two years as a representative of the Comintern in Southeast Asia. He is one of the founders of the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) in 1930 but is arrested in Hong Kong by the British police in 1931. One year later when he is released from prison he flees to Moscow where he resides for seven years studying at the Lenin institute.

When the Japanese invaded Indochina thus initiating French surrender in 1940, Ho Chi Minh returned to Vietnam for the first time in over thirty years. He helped form Vietminh along with Vo Nguyen Giap, began a guerilla campaign against Japan. The Vietminh was greatly helped by the weapons received by Japanese enemies, the Soviet Union and the United States. In 1945, Ho Chi Min announced the formation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and officially gave himself the name Ho Chi Minh which means “the enlightener.”

When World War II ended Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin decided Vietnam would be spit in two, the North controlled by China and the South controlled by the British. In 1946 the French reestablished control and refused to acknowledge the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. This caused fighting to brake out between the French and Vietminh. Hoping to easily end the conflict, the French initiated the Dien Bien Phu conflict; however, the Vietminh showed surprising strength and genius military strategy thus dashing all French hope for an easy victory. This battle establish Vietnam division at the 17th parallel, the North being ruled by Ho Chi Minh and the South Vietnam being ruled by Ngo Dinh Diem, a strong opponent of communism.

In 1960 Ho Chi Minh helped form the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, more commonly known as the Vietcong. This was the army raised to combat the South Vietnamese and the United States with the goal to reunite the entire country under communist rule. Their main strategy was to gain the support of peasants in the North. Though Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, well before the end of the Vietnam War, he was a key element in the takeover of the country. When Saigon fell in 1975, it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in honor of the north’s fearless hero.

Researched by Kaitlin Coppola
Volunteer for Cold War Museum
Cosby High School


“Ho Chi Minh.” Asia Biogrpahy. Asia Source. 16 May 2008 .

“Ho Chi Minh.” Heros and Killers of the 20th Century. 04 Aug 2006. Moreorless. 16 May 2008 .

“Ho Chi Minh.” Spartacus Education. 05 May 2008. SchoolNet. 16 May 2008 .

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