Notes on
Ho Chi Minh, A Life by William J. Duiker
For The U.S. War Against Asia
by William P. Meyers

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Page 2

Source: Ho Chi Minh, A Life by William J. Duiker. Hyperion, New York, ©2000, first edition. Numbers in brackets indicate page numbers for this edition.

Nguyen Ai Quoc [Ho Chi Minh] did a great deal of writing for Leninist publications in the late 1920s. However, the core of his ethics reflected Confucius more than Lenin: "be thrifty, be friendly but impartial, resolutely correct errors, be prudent, respect learning, study and observe, avoid arrogance and conceit, and be generous." [135]

Japan's war to control China began to intrude on the French colonies in Indochina in 1940. Chinese Kuomintang generals began to work with Vietnamese nationalists, including Ho. In the spring of 1940 the Japanese pressured the French authorities to cut off military shipments to the Kuomintang. Getting no support from the French government [this was before the fall of France], Governor-General Georges Catroux "requested U.S. fighter planes from the Philippines." FDR refused, saying the planes were not to be spared. Catroux then closed the border. After the fall of France the fascist Vichy government sacked Catroux for that, which is odd since in theory Vichy was an ally of Germany and therefore an ally of Japan [actually, Japan was still officially neutral as far as the European powers were concerned]. [243]

Admiral Jean Decoux replaced Catroux, then consented to Japan's request to station troops and use airfields in Indochina. The Japanese, joined by pro-Japanese Vietnamese nationalists, made one attack from China on French troops at the northern border. Ho's communists took advantage of the situation to attack the French, but then the French and Japanese banded together to crush the peasant-communist uprising, which was local, not national. [243-244]

At times (1943-1945) the Kuomintang/Chinese army, or parts of it, encouraged Ho Chi Minh to fight the Japanese and French. At one point Ho described China as a great friend to the Vietnamese who would help them achieve independence through peaceful means. Ho wanted to unite the communist-dominated Vietminh Front with the nationalists in the Dong Minh Hoi, and had the support of the Chinese general Zhang Fakui for the project [273-275]

By 1944 Ho and his organization, including the incipient Vietnamese Liberation Army, were growing confident they could win independence when the Japanese were defeated. On November 11, 1944 U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Rudolph Shaw was shot down near the Viet-Chinese border. The French (fascists allied with Hitler) chased him, but he was rescued by the Vietminh, who took him to Ho. After a few days rest, Shaw was escorted personally by Ho Chi Minh to safety in China. Ho had been looking for a way to ally with the U.S. since at least 1943. He had read the President Roosevelt had made statements about the French exploitation of Indochina. [He did not realize Roosevelt wanted U.S. economic control of Asia, as opposed to French and Japanese control]. [281-283 and 286-287]

The U.S. apparatus in China had become aware of the existence of Ho (and that he was in a Chinese prison) and the Vietminh as early as 1942, and saw them as potential anti-Japanese allies. However the "Free French" resistance in Indochina refused to recognize the Vietminh. In the summer of 1943 the Communist Party of China, in the person of Zhou Enlai, contacted the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS, predecessor to the CIA), and asked them to pressure China for Ho's release so he could help fight the Japanese. The U.S. did eventually make the request, and that might have influenced Zhang Fakui's decision to grant Ho limited freedom. Other Vietminh officials also met with the OSS. [283-284]

On August 18, 1944 the OSS predicted "considerable trouble in Indochina after the war if at least a substantial measure of self-government is not put into effect in that country at an early date." [285: quote is from the OSS report] But U.S. Consul General William Langdon wrote: "the Annamite people are citizens of France, who is fighting side by side with the United States . . . against the Axis. It would not make sense ... if America with one hand at great expenditures of life and treasure rescued and delivered France from German slavery and with the other undermined her Empire." [A masterpiece of racist and imperialist thinking] [285]

Charles de Gaulle in Washington in July 1944 said he would introduce the peoples of the French Empire to self-government. [285]

But basically, Langdon mis-assessed the abilities of the Vietminh; he did not see them as a potential credible force to fight the Japanese. [285-286]

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