Ho Chi Minh is one of the most well-known Vietnamese because of his leading role in the war between North and South Vietnam, commonly known as the Vietnam War (1954-1975), as well as the eternal spiritual leader of the current Vietnamese Communist regime. Despite his reputation, very few people know hidden details about his life.
Many still believe in the biography which has been published by the Vietnamese Communist regime. Until now, his real life is still a mistery even though some of Ho's traits have been discovered. This article will contribute some collective facts about Ho Chi Minh.
Ho's given name at birth was Nguyen Tat Thanh. He also had another name - Nguyen Van Ba. Ho used this name when he worked as a steward in a ship, the La Touche Treville, on his overseas trip from Saigon to Marseilles, France. He changed back to Nguyen Tat Thanh after his arrival in France.
Ho has been known by many aliases. His first alias, second well-known after Ho Chi Minh, was Nguyen Ai Quoc. This alias was picked by Phan Chu Trinh, a famous patriot, and used as a joint pen-name of four others: Phan Van Truong a lawyer; Nguyen The Truyen , an engineer who married to a princess of Belgium; Nguyen An Ninh , a journalist, and Phan Chu Trinh. However, Ho was the only one that publicly used the name Nguyen Ai Quoc.
Contradictory to his official biography, Ho could not write very well in French (according to Nguyen The Truyen, to the owner of Khanh Ky Photo Shop, Paris, and J. H Roy - an Indian communist, who was Ho's classmate in Moscow). Ho dropped the name Nguyen Ai Quoc after betraying Phan Boi Chau's whereabouts to the French authorities for Hong Kong $10,000. (Phan Boi Chau was the most well-known Vietnamese activist at the early half of 1900's who peacefully struggled for independence of Vietnam from French).
Ho also had around ten other aliases such as: Ly Thuy, Vuong, Tran, etc. Those names however, were not very well-known.
In fact, Ho Chi Minh was a real name of an old Chinese man who was believed to be a beggar.with unlocated relatives. When he died, he left nothing but his identification card. Later, Nguyen Tat Thanh bought this document. Using identification card of the dead was quite popular in Chinese outlaw society at that time. When Ho was arrested by the Chinese Kuomintang, he used this name - Ho Chi Minh.
The patriot Nghiem Ke To broke the news of Ho's incarceration to Nguyen Hai Than, a Vietnamese nationalst leader who contributed great assistance to the Kuomintang government and won deep respect from Chinese leaders, including the Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek. Nguyen Hai Than promptly requested Chang Kai Sheik to release Ho. After the release, Ho still used the name Ho Chi Minh to work with the American OSS (Office of Strategic Services) in Kunming, capital city of Yunnan Province, China, according to Vu Hong Khanh, a Vietnamese National Party leader who was put in re-ed camp after April 1975 and later died in exile at his place of birth in 1992.
While being the Party leader and president of North Vietnam, Ho used another alias Tran Dan Tien to extol himself through a biography in which Tran Dan Tien as a writer, interviewed Ho Chi Minh. (1) . Thus Tran Dan Tien was intended for a pen name but turned out to be an alias.
After the 1975 takeover of South Vietnam, Vietnamese communist leaders hurriedly renamed Saigon as Ho Chi Minh Cty in remembrance the place where Ho left and started his revolutionary cause..
There is a hypothesis that Ho left Saigon to Paris for neither the independence of Vietnam nor the revolutionary ideals as Ho himself and the Vietnamese Communist Party always claim. It was just for a desire to work for French and have a comfortable life.
In the early 1910's, the go-East Movement to gain independence for Vietnam, initiated by Phan Boi Chau, was widely endorsed and joined by many young Vietnamese. These young Vietnamese went East to Japan to attain modern education with great hope that they could gain independence for Vietnamese from the French.
Nguyen Tat Thanh's father was a friend of Phan Boi Chau. He expected Nguyen Tat Thanh would go East as others. However, Nguyen That Thanh went the opposite. At that time, whoever worked with French or went West, were seen as seeking favor from the French. This observation has also been pointed out by Richard Nixon in "No More Vietnam."
Another evidence of Ho initial desire to work for the French colonialists is the application form for a course at the French "Colonial Administrative School" which Ho filled out right after he arrived in Marseilles. This document is still preserved at the National Archives of France. Historian Nguyen The Anh has photocopied and published it in his book.
Before these recent reveals about Ho's life, authors like Stanley Karnow, Jean Laconture, etc. had praised Ho as a modest leader with great achievements. Later, Bui Tin has disclosed some mysteries about Ho Chi Minh such as his using the pen name Tran Dan Tien to write a book to idolize himself (2) These later facts have shown that Ho was always thirsty for fame even though he had gained the highest reputation..
They have also explained why Ho was the only Vietnamese among many in France in the 1910's who officially worked for the Soviet Union after a training, with salary, rank. (3) For the more important, they have explained why Ho could sell Phan Boi Chau's whereabouts to French for HK$10,000 while Phan Boi Chau was hiding in China (No More Vietnam, Richard Nixon).
Before his death, Ho wrote in his will about his early unfulfilled desire to meet Lenin. This is one of the enigmatic questions which puzzled many modern historians.
Next: - Ho Chi Minh and the Independence for Vietnam. - Ho Chi Minh and theVietnam War. - Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese communist regime. - Ho Chi Minh's Life. - A conclusion about Ho Chi Minh.
(1) Bui Tin, "Mat That" (The True Face), Turpin Press, Paris 1994.
(2) Bui Tin, "Stories about President Ho's Life," Van-Hoc, Ha-Noi Publisher, 1969; "Hoa Xuyen Tuyet, " Turpin Press, Paris 1994.
(3) - Nhu Phong (Le Van Tien), "Su. Tan Lu.i Cua Phong Trao Cong San Viet Nam va Nhung Di Lu.y" (The Disintegration of the Vietnamese Communist Movement and Its Consequences) Thoi Su magazine February, March,.April, 1995;
- Sophire Quinn Judge, "Ho Chi Minh's Trail in the Comintern Archives," Vietnam Forum Summer 1994., Yale University.