It was patriotism, not communism that inspired me.

–       
Ho
Chi Minh

 

The First
Indochina War began in French Indochina on December 19, 1946 and lasted until
August 1, 1954. The fight was between French forces and their Viet Minh
opponents.  Most of the fighting took
place in Tonkin in North Vietnam, but the war involved the entire country and
parts of Cambodia and Laos. 

 

In the late
1940s, France struggled to control its Asian colonies leading to the First
Indochina War. France acquired Vietnam in the year 1887.  Vietnam became unhappy with being governed by
France.  In 1919, Ho Chi Minh went to the
United States for help to win independence from France.  The first time he attempted was at the Paris
Peace Conference at the end of World War I. 
Allied Forces met to set peace terms for the defeated nations.

 

Nguyen Ai
Quoc, one of Ho Chi Minh’s aliases, sent this letter to the Secretary of State,
Robert Lansing.

 

To His Excellency, the
Secretary of the Republic of the US

Delegate to Peace Conference

Excellency,

            We take the liberty of submitting to you the accompanying
memorandum setting forth the clams of the Vietnamese people on the occasion of
the Allied victory.  We count on your
great kindness to honor our appeal by your support whenever the opportunity
arises.  We beg your Excellency
graciously to accept the expression of our profound respect. 

            From the group of Vietnamese Patriots

            (Signed) Nguyen Ai Quoc (Nguyen the Patriot)

 

This letter
contains the enclosure “Revendications du Peuple Annamite” (Claims of the
Annamite People).  The French forbid the
use of “Vietnamien” (Vietnamese) to describe the nationality of the people
because they were to be seen as French citizens.  The petition was published in L’Humanite, a
French socialist newspaper, with copies distributed in Paris in addition to all
the way back in Hanoi.

 

In September
1940, Japan launched its invasion of French Indochina mirroring its ally
Germany’s conquest of metropolitan France. 
They kept the French in charge, but the Japanese were controlling
them.  The emperor of Vietnam worked with
the Japanese, just like he had done with the French, and as far as Vietnamese
nationalists were concerned, this was a double puppet government. 

 

In 1941 Ho
Chi Minh created the Viet Minh as an umbrella organization for all the
nationalist resistance movements de-emphasizing his communist social
revolutionary background.

 

In 1945, Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day) is
celebrated.  September 2, 1945 the
signing of surrender documents occurred, officially ending World War II.  The same day,
Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence from France. He purposefully borrowed
from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, saying
“We hold the truth that all men are created equal, that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and
the pursuit of happiness.”

 

In February
of 1946, China agreed to withdraw from North Vietnam in exchange for a deal
with the French at several Chinese ports.

 

Ho Chi Minh then
sent the following telegram to United States President Harry S Truman
requesting support for Vietnamese independence.

           

(Hanoi, February 28, 1946)

President Ho Chi Minh
Vietnam Democratic Republic Hanoi

To the President of the
United States of America, Washington D.C.

 

On behalf of Vietnam
Government and people I beg to inform you that in course of conversations
between Vietnam Government and French Representatives the latter require the
secession of Cochinchina and the return of French troops in Hanoi.

Meanwhile French
population and troops are making active preparations for a Coup de Pain in
Hanoi and for military aggression.  I
therefore most earnestly appeal to you personally and to the American people to
interfere urgently in support of our independence and help making the
negotiations more in keeping with the principles of the Atlantic and San
Francisco charters.

Respectfully

(Signed) Hochiminh

 

With
no reply from the United States Government, Ho Chi Minh allowed French troops
to temporarily return to Hanoi in exchange for France to officially recognize
his Democratic Republic of Vietnam as the governing body of Vietnam.  The Chinese troops then departed from
Vietnam.

 

Ho
Chi Minh then spent four months in France to negotiate full independence of
Vietnam.  France refused to Ho Chi Minh’s
proposal of independence during his time there. 
Instead, they installed a French controlled government in South Vietnam
(The Republic of Cochinchina).  Ho Chi
Minh saw this as a huge insult to his request to recognize Vietnam’s
independence.  Unfortunately he was
forced to sign the Fountainbleau Agreements which organized Vietnam as an
autonomous state in the French Union.

 

With
the Chinese Military out of Vietnam, fighting soon began between the Viet Minh,
and the French.  As the fighting became
worse, the French bombarded Haiphong Harbor and then occupy Hanoi.  This forced the Viet Minh into the
jungle.  Ho Chi Minh could no longer
believe that the French would allow Vietnam to gain its independence.  He declared war on the French Union.

 

 

At the beginning of
December, thirty thousand Viet Minh start their first large-scale attack on the
French troops in Hanoi.  “The resistance will
be long and arduous, but our cause is just and we will surely triumph,”
declared Viet Minh military commander Vo Nguyen Giap. “If these people
want a fight, they’ll get it,” French military commander Gen. Etrienne
Valluy stated.

 

The Vietnam National Army were armed
mostly with machetes and muskets and fought by smoking out their opponents with straw
bundled with chili pepper, destroying armored vehicles with “lunge
mines” (a hollow-charge warhead on the end of a pole, that was exploded by jamming the
charge against the side of a tank killing the soldiers and the fighter) and Molotov
cocktails, holding off attackers by using roadblocks, landmines and
gravel.

 

At the beginning of
the war, Ho Chi Minh reportedly told a French visitor, “You can kill ten
of my men for every one I kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose
and I will win.”

 

After 8 years of
fighting, the French were defeated by the Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, and
withdrew from the region. 

 

At the end
of the First Indochina War, 75,867 French soldiers had lost their lives and
three billion dollars had been spent in a war that led to the withdrawal of
French Troops.  In 1954 the Geneva
Accords were signed ending France’s control over Indochina, Cambodia, and
Laos.  North Vietnam above the 17th
Parallel North was given to Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh creating North
Vietnam, while the southern part Emperor B?o ??i appointed Ngô ?ình Di?m as Prime Minister of South Vietnam. 
In 1955 with support from the United States,
Ngô
?ình Di?m used a referendum to
remove the former Emperor and declare himself the president of the Republic of
Vietnam.

 

The Geneva Accords also promised
elections in 1956 to determine a united government for all of Vietnam.  When the elections did not happen as
scheduled, Viet Minh spies who stayed in South Vietnam secretly began actively
fighting the government.  North Vietnam
then invaded, and then escalated to the Second Indochina War, or what is more
commonly known as the Vietnam War.

 

At the
beginning of the war, the United States was neutral.  They then began to gradually support the
French in the war.  After the Communist
party won control of China, the United states began to fear the spread of
Communism.  They refused to assist the
Vietnamese people because of the Communist beginnings of Ho Chi Minh and the
Viet Minh.  This shaped politics, or the
way that countries talk to each other throughout the world on a daily basis.

 

Even
though history shows Ho Chi Minh as an evil man looking to spread Communism,
that is not how the Vietnamese people saw him. 
The French fought with him to defend their empire, and the United States
fought with him to prevent Communism from spreading throughout the globe.  The Vietnamese people wanted nothing more
than to get their country back for themselves. 
Ho Chi Minh was the patriot for the job. 
He said:

“When our people are united as one,
our nation is independent and free. Likewise, when our people are not united,
our nation is invaded by foreign enemies.”

Ho Chi Minh fought and succeeded for
the Vietnamese people.  The cost was
millions of not only his people’s lives, but those of foreign fighters as well.

Many people will disagree, but I
think that Ho Chi Minh was a brave leader who fought for his country’s
independence and for what he believed was right.  I do not think that you can negatively judge
a man that lived and died for his country. 
Even as the war destroyed more and more of Vietnam, he remained
committed to his country’s independence. 
He made incredible sacrifices and his patriotism was admirable and
something we can all aim for.  Millions
of Vietnamese fought and died to attain the goal of independence.  If Ho Chi Minh was alive today, I have no
doubt that we would all look up to him and hope to be like him.