Born in 1890 in Vietnam under French colonialism to a committed nationalist father, Ho Chi Minh would grow up to lead not one, but two successful wars of independence to liberate his country. In his formative years, Ho traveled widely as a sailor and lived in Paris, Harlem, and Boston, where he worked as a cook, baker, and did menial jobs. In his travels, he made contact with other colonized people, communists and nationalists, and saw the Vietnamese under France as part of an international system of empire.
Returning to Vietnam to expel the French colonizers and emancipate his homeland, Ho Chi Minh looked to the United States, once a colony of the British, as a model—the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence is clearly modeled on the United States Declaration—but also as a potential ally. Ho wrote numerous times to American audiences, presidents and the American people, reaching out for support. But American elites, seeing France expelled and wary of independence movements "infecting" their own colonies, decided to punish Vietnam and engaged in a decades long war of almost unthinkable violence.
During this time, while Ho Chi Minh was demonized in the United States, he continued to push the United States to respect Vietnam's sovereignty. He passed away in 1969 at the age of 79, not living to see the eventual Vietnamese victory in 1975. In 1976, Vietnam's capital city, Saigon, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in his honor.
"All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.
The Declaration of The French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the Citizen also states: "All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights."
Those are undeniable truths.
Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow citizens. The have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice.
In the field of politics, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty.
They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three distinct political regimes in the North, the Center, and the South of Viet-Nam in order to wreck our national unity and prevent our people from being united.
They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly slain our patriots; they have drowned our uprisings in rivers of blood.
They have fettered public opinion; they have practiced obscurantism against our people.
To weaken our race they have forced us to use opium and alcohol.
In the field of economics, they have fleeced us to the backbone, impoverished our people and devastated our land.
They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests, our raw materials. They have monopolized the issuing of bank notes and the export trade.
They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty.
They have hampered the prospering of our national bourgeoisie, they have mercilessly exploited our workers.
In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese fascists violated Indochina's territory to establish new bases in their fight against the Allies, the French imperialists went down on their bended knees and handed over our country to them.
Thus, from that date, our people were subjected to the double yoke of the French and the Japanese. Their sufferings and miseries increased. The result was that, from the end of last year to the beginning of this year, from Quang Tri Province to the North of Viet-Nam, more than two million of our fellow citizens died from starvation. 9 March 1945, the French troops were disarmed by the Japanese. The French colonialists either fled or surrendered, showing that not only were they incapable of "protecting" us, but that, in the span five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese.
On several occasions before 9 March, the Viet Minh League urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese. Instead of agreeing to this proposal, the French colonialists so intensified their terrorist activities against the Viet Minh members that before fleeing they massacred a great number of our political prisoners detained at Yen Bay and Cao Bang.
Notwithstanding all this, our fellow citizens have always manifested toward the French a tolerant and humane attitude. Even after the Japanese Putsch of March, 1945, the Viet Minh League helped many Frenchmen to cross the frontier, rescued some of them from Japanese jails, and protected French lives and property.
From the autumn of 1940, our country had in fact ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession.
After the Japanese had surrendered to the Allies, our whole people rose to regain our national sovereignty and to found the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam.
The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese and not from the French.
The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which for nearly a century have fettered them and have won independence for the Fatherland. Our people at the same time have overthrown the monarchic regime that has reigned supreme for dozens of centuries. In its place has been established the present Democratic Republic.
For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government, representing the whole Vietnamese people, declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; we repeal all the international obligation that France has so far subscribed to on behalf of Viet-Nam, and we abolish all the special rights the French have unlawfully acquired in our Fatherland.
The whole Vietnamese people, animated by a common purpose, are determined to fight to the bitter end against any attempt by the French colonialists to reconquer their country.
We are convinced that the Allied nations, which at Teheran and San Francisco have acknowledged the principles of self-determination and equality of nations, will not refuse to acknowledge the independence of Viet-Nam.
A people who have courageously opposed French domination for more than eighty years, a people who have fought side by side with the Allies against the fascists during these last years, such a people must be free and independent.
For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam, solemnly declare to the world that Viet-Nam has the right to be a free and independent country and in fact it is so already. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their independence and liberty
Establishment of advisory commission for the far east is heartily welcome by Vietnamese people in principle. Taking into consideration primo the strategical and economical importance of Vietnam Secundo the earnest desire which Vietnam deeply feels and has unanimous manifested to cooperate with the other democracies in the establishment and consolidation of world peace and prosperity we wish to call the attention of the Allied Nations on the following points:
First Absence of Vietnam and presence of France in the advisory commission leads to the conclusion that France is to represent the Vietnamese people at the commission. Such representation in groundless either de jour or de facto. De Jure no allegiance exists any more between France and Vietnam: Baodai abolished treaties of 1884 and 1863, Baodai voluntarily abdicated to hand over government to democratic republican government, Provisional government rectorated[sic] abolishment of treaties of 1884 and 1863. De Facto since March ninth France having handed over governing rule to Japan has broken all the administrative links with Vietnam, since August 18, 1945, provisional government has been a de facto independent government in every respect, recent incidents in Saigon instigated by the French roused unanimous disapproval leading to fight for independence.
Second France is not entitled because she had ignominiously sold Indo China to Japan and betrayed the allies. Third Vietnam is qualified by Atlantic Charter and subsequently peace agreement and by her goodwill and her unflinching stand for democracy to be represented at the Advisory Commission. We are convinced that Vietnam at Commission will be able to bring effective contribution to solution of pending problems in Far East whereas her absence would bring forth unstability[sic] and temporary character to solutions otherwise reached. Therefore we express earnest request to take part in advisory commission for Far East. We should be very grateful to your excellency and Premier Attlee Premier Stalin Generalissimo Tchang Kai Shek for the conveyance of our Desiderata to the United Nations.
There follows summary of letter dated at Hanoi September 29 addressed to President of US by Ho Chi Minh who signed as "President of Provincial Govt of Republic of Viet-Nam"; letter was delivered to US General Gallagher head of Chinese Combat Command Liaison Group with Chinese forces in North Indochina and forwarded to Embassy through US Army channels:
Saigon radio September 27 reported killing of US Colonel Peter Dewey in course of French instigated clash between Viet-Namese nationalists and French aggressors in Cochin China. As Saigon is in hands of Franco–British forces report cannot be investigated now but we hope sincerely it is not true. But if correct incident may have been due to confusion in darkness or other unfortunate circumstances or may have been provoked by French or British. No matter what the case news moves us deeply and we will do utmost to search out culprits and punish them severely. Measures are being taken to prevent further such incidents. We assure you we are as profoundly affected by death of any American resident in this country as by that of dearest relatives.
We ask only of your representatives in this country to give us advance notice of movements of your nationals and to be more cautious in "trespassing" fighting areas. This will avoid accidents and aid in welcoming demonstrations. (Sent to Dept repeated to Paris)
I assure you of admiration and friendship we feel toward American people and its representatives here. That such friendly feelings have been exhibited not only to Americans themselves but also to impostors in American uniform is proof that US stand for international justice and peace is appreciated by entire Viet-Namese nation and "governing spheres".
I convey to you Mr. President and to American people expression of our great respect and admiration.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs
to the SECRETARY OF STATE DEPARTMENT
WASHINGTON, D. C.
EXCELLENCY, The situation in South Vietnam has reached its critical stage, and calls for immediate interference on the part of the United Nations. I wish by the present letter to bring your Excellency some more light on the case of Vietnam which has come for the last three weeks into the international limelight.
First of all, I beg to forward to your Government a few documentary data, among which our Declaration of Independence, the Imperial Rescript of Ex-Emperor BAO DAI on the occasion of his abdication, the declaration of our Government concerning its general foreign policy and a note defining our position towards the South Vietnam incident.
As those documents will show your Excellency, the Vietnamese people has known during the last few years an evolution which naturally brings the Vietnamese nation to its present situation. After 80 years of French oppression and unsuccessful though obstinate Vietnamese resistance, we at last saw France defeated in Europe, then her betrayal of the Allies successively on behalf of Germany and of Japan. Though the odds were at that time against the Allies, the Vietnamese, leaving aside all differences in political opinion, united in the Vietminh League and started on a ruthless fight against the Japanese. Meanwhile, the Atlantic Charter was concluded, defining the war aims of the Allies and laying the foundation of peace-work. The noble principles of international justice and equality of status laid down in that charter strongly appealed to the Vietnamese and contributed in making of the Vietminh resistance in the war zone a nation-wide anti-Japanese movement which found a powerful echo in the democratic aspirations of the people. The Atlantic Charter was looked upon as the foundation of a future Vietnam. A nation-building program was drafted which was later found in keeping with San Francisco Charter and which has been fully carried out these last years: continuous fight against the Japanese bringing about the recovery of national independence on August 19th, voluntary abdication of Ex-Emperor Baodai, establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, assistance given to the Allies Nations in the disarmament of the Japanese, appointment of a provisional Government whose mission was to carry out the Atlantic Charter and San Francisco Charters and have them carried out by other nations.
As a matter of fact, the carrying out of the Atlantic and San Francisco Charters implies the eradication of imperialism and all forms of colonial oppression. This was unfortunately contrary to the interests of some Frenchmen, and France, to whom the colonialists have long concealed the truth on Indochina, instead of entering into peaceable negotiations, resorted to an aggressive invasion, with all the means at the command of a modern nation. Moreover, having persuaded the British that the Vietnamese are wishing for a return of the French rule, they obtained, first from the British command in Southeast Asia, then from London, a tacit recognition of their sovereignty and administrative responsibility as far as South Vietnam is concerned. The British gave to understand tht they had agreed to this on the ground that the reestablishment of French administration and, consequently, of Franco–Vietnamese collaboration would help them to speed up the demobilization and the disarmament of the Japanese. But subsequent events will prove the fallacy of the argument. The whole Vietnamese nation rose up as one man against French aggression. The first street-sniping which was launched by the French in the small hours of September 23rd soon developed into real and organized warfare in which losses are heavy on both sides. The bringing in of French important reinforcements on board of the most powerful of their remaining warships will extend the war zone further. As murderous fighting is still going on in Indonesia, and as savage acts on the part of Frenchmen are reported every day, we may expect the flaring up of a general conflagration in the Far-East.
As it is, the situation in South Vietnam calls for immediate interference. The establishment of the Consultative Commission for the Far-East has been enthusiastically welcomed here as the first effective step towards an equitable settlement of the pending problems. The people of Vietnam, which only asks for full independence and for the respect of truth and justice, puts before your Excellency our following desiderata:
1o – the South Vietnam incident should be discussed at the first meeting of the Consultative Commission for the Far-East;
2o – Vietnamese delegates should be admitted to state the views of the Vietnamese Government; 3o – An Inquiry Commission should be sent to South Vietnam;
4o – the full independence of Vietnam should be recognized by the United Nations.
I avail myself of this opportunity to send your Excellency my best wishes.
Respectfully President HO CHI MINH
President HochiMinh of Provisional Government of Viet-Nam
to His Excellency James Byrnes
Secretary of State Department of the United States of America
On behalf of the Vietnam cultural Association, I beg to express the desire of this Association to send to the United States of America a delegation of about fifty Vietnam youths with a view to establishing friendly cultural relations with the American youth on the one hand, and carrying on further studies in Engineering, Agriculture as well as other lines of specialisation on the other.
The desire which I am conveying to your Excellency has been expressed to me by all the Vietnam Engineers, Lawyers, Professors, as well as other representatives of our intelligentsia whom I have come across.
They have been all these years keenly interested in things American and earnestly desirous to get into touch with the American people whose fine stand for the noble ideals of international Justice and Humanity, and whose modern technical achievements have so strongly appealed to them.
I sincerely wish that this plan would be favored by your approbation and assistance and avail myself of this opportunity to express to your Excellency my best wishes.
Below is given substance of identical communications addressed by Ho-Chi-Minh to President Truman and to Director General of UNRRA; communications' were given to General Gallagher and forwarded to Embassy through US Army channels (Embassy's 1952, Nov 9 to Dept repeated to Paris):
I wish to invite attention of your Excellency for strictly humanitarian reasons to the following matter. Two million Vietnamese died of starvation during winter of 1944 and spring 1945 because of starvation policy of French who seized and stored until it rotted all available rice (Sent Dept; repeated Paris). Three-fourths of cultivated land was flooded in summer 1945, which was followed by a severe drouth; of normal harvest five-sixths was lost. The presence of Chinese occupational army increases number of persons who must be fed with stocks not already sufficient. Also transport of rice from Cochinchina is made impossible by conflict provoked by French. Many people are starving and casualties increase every day. Everything possible has been done under these circumstances by Provisional Government of Vietnam Republic. Unless great world powers and international relief organizations bring us immediate assistance we face imminent catastrophe. I earnestly appeal to Your Excellency, therefore, for any available assistance. I request your Excellency to accept my heartfelt and anticipated thanks in name of my people.
T E L E G R A M
HochiMinh President Provincial Government Vietnam Republic to His Excellency the Secretary of State Department
On occasion of inauguration Washington Conference for the Far East we regret absence of Vietnamese delegation. Once again, we deny France every right to speak on behalf of Vietnamese people. France under cover of British–Indian and Japanese troops having perpetrated an aggression on Vietnamese Republic in order to impose her domination has deliberately violated all principles proclaimed in Atlantic and San Francisco Charters. Vietnamese fighting for more than a month despite bloody opposition of Anglo–Indian French and Japanese Troops has proclaimed their will to live free and independent under democratic construction. The Vietnamese people expresses sincere hope that all free nations in world comma carrying out high ideal of generosity and humanity expressed in President Truman's speech [Probably President Truman's October 21, 1945 Navy Day address on foreign policy -hiaw], recognize independence of Vietnam republic and put a stop to merderous conflict in South Vietnam Stop Respectfully HochiMinh
There follows substance of letter dated Jan 18, 1946 addressed to President Truman by Ho Chi-Minh just received by Embassy through US Army channels: he extends congratulations to President on occasion of opening of first Assembly of United Nations in London, and on efforts of American Govt to maintain peace and security throughout world.
Since peace is indivisible and Far East is receiving particular consideration by appointment of General Marshall as Special Representative in China, he believes it his duty to inform President of developments in Indochina and consequences for world security of French aggression.
In 1941 Vietnam rose up to oppose Japanese Fascism and sided with Allies. After Japan surrendered a provisional government was set up to eradicate Fascism in Vietnam and restore order. Supported by whole nation, it carried out a democratic program, and restored order and discipline. Under difficult circumstances general elections for national Congress were held on Jan 6, 1946. Ninety percent of the nine million electors voted. French colonialists on contrary surrendered to Japan in Sept 1941 and for four years cooperation with Japanese against the Allies and in oppression of Vietnam. By second surrender March 9, 1945, five months before Japanese defeat, French lost all right and control in Indochina.
French attacked population of Saigon on Sept 23, 1945 while Vietnam Democratic Republic was endeavoring to carry out reconstruction program. It was followed by systematic destruction and murderous warfare. Each day brings new reports of looting, violence, assassination of civilians, and indiscriminate bombing of non-strategical places by military planes. It is French intention to invade entire country and reestablish their domination.
After "offer of interference (intervention?)" made by Mr. John Carter Vincent, people of Vietnam enthusiastically welcomed President Truman's address of October 28, 1945 in which he set forth the principles of self-determination and equality of status laid down in Atlantic and San Francisco Charters. Since then, French have greatly increased their fighting forces with result that millions will suffer, thousands will die and invaluable properties will be destroyed unless United States intervenes to stop bloodshed and unlawful aggression.
On behalf of people and Govt of Indochina, he requests President's intervention for an immediate solution of Vietnamese issue. People of Vietnam earnestly hope that the great American Republic will help them achieve full independence and support them in their reconstruction work.
Thus, with assistance of China and United States, in capital and technique, Vietnam Republic will be able to contribute her share to building up world peace and prosperity.
Another letter was received addressed to General Marshall which is identical with one addressed to President, except that opening paragraph extends Ho Chi-Minh's congratulations to General Marshall on his appointment to China and expressed conviction that an understanding of real situation in Vietnam can make some small contribution to task in China which confronts him.
The letter was never answered and was not declassified until 1972
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT:
I avail myself of this opportunity to thank you and the people of the United States for the interest shown by your representantives at the United Nations Organization in favour of the dependent peoples.
Our VIETNAM people, as early as 1941, stood by the Allies' side and fought against the Japanese and their associates, the French colonialists.
From 1941 to 1945 we fought bitterly, sustained by the patriotism, of our fellow-countrymen and by the promises made by the Allies at YALTA, SAN FRANCISCO and POTSDAM.
When the Japanese were defeated in August 1945, the whole Vietnam territory was united under a Provisional Republican Government, which immediately set out to work. In five months, peace and order were restored, a democratic republic was established on legal bases, and adequate help was given to the Allies in the carrying out of their disarmament mission.
But the French Colonialists, who betrayed in wartime both the Allies and the Vietnamese, have come back, and are waging on us a murderous and pitiless war in order reestablish their domination. Their invasion has extended to South Vietnam and is menacing us in North Vietnam. It would take volumes to give even an abbreviated report of the crisis and assassinations they are committing everyday in this fighting area.
This aggression is contrary to all principles of international law and the pledge made by the Allies during World War II. It is a challenge to the noble attitude shown before, during, and after the war by the United States Government and People. It violently contrasts with the firm stand you have taken in your twelve point declaration, and with the idealistic loftiness and generosity expressed by your delegates to the United Nations Assembly, MM. BYRNES, STETTINIUS, AND J.F. DULLES.
The French aggression on a peace-loving people is a direct menace to world security. It implies the complicity, or at least the connivance of the Great Democracies. The United Nations ought to keep their words. They ought to interfere to stop this unjust war, and to show that they mean to carry out in peacetime the principles for which they fought in wartime.
Our Vietnamese people, after so many years of spoliation and devastation, is just beginning its building-up work. It needs security and freedom, first to achieve internal prosperity and welfare, and later to bring its small contribution to world-reconstruction.
These security and freedom can only be guaranteed by our independence from any colonial power, and our free cooperation with all other powers. It is with this firm conviction that we request of the United Sates as guardians and champions of World Justice to take a decisive step in support of our independence.
What we ask has been graciously granted to the Philippines. Like the Philippines our goal is full independence and full cooperation with the UNITED STATES. We will do our best to make this independence and cooperation profitable to the whole world.
I am Dear Mr. PRESIDENT,
(Signed) Ho Chi Minh
While this does not have an author, we strongly suspect it is written by Ho Chi Minh. —HIAW
Hanoi February 28, 1946
I.– In 1940, the French in Indochina betrayed the Allies. They deliberately opened the doors of Indochina to the Japanese troops, signed with the latter a military, political and economic pact. The Nippo–French cooperation policy, promoted and carried out with conviction and industry by JEAN DECOUX, former Governor-General of Indochina, was directed against the democratic movements inside Indochino and the Allied Nations outside. In fact the French put at the disposal of the Japanese forces the strategic bases, the economic and financial resources of Indochina. The technical services, especially the Indochinese Intelligence Service supplied the Japanese with precious informations. The French airfields of GIALA, TAYSONNHAT and others were handed over to the Japanese air forces, new metalled tracts were created with the collaboration of French technicians at TRAICUT, SONIA, PHUTHO, BACGIANG, PHANHOA, PHUCTHO, PHUCYEN, VINHYEN. French colonialis launched violent propaganda campaigns against the Allies, and personal instructions were given by Governor-General Decoux to the I.P.P. (Information, Press, Propaganda Service) to that effect. The French administration requisitioned considerable stocks of rice, thus starving a population of 20 million inhabitants among whom 2,000,000 died of famine and hardships, in the course of five months (from January to May 1945), all this to feed the Japanese army in their Western and Southern operations.
In the meanwhile, the Vietnamese nationalist parties made repeated appeals to the French for a joint action against the Japanese. These appeals were ignored by the French Government.
On March 9, 1945, the French surrendered to the Japanese, after a sham fight which did not last a couple of days. Stocks of arms, ammunitions, fortifications, airfields, millions of liters of oil were handed over to the Japanese. This extraordinary carelessness denoted, if not complicity, at least an obvious goodwill on the part of the French. Thus, twice in the course of five years, the French have willingly helped the fascists in their fight against the democracies. Twice the French have willingly handed over to the Japanese capital strategic, economical and technical advantages, for the prosecution of the Pacific Battle.
II.– In August 1945, the Japanese surrendered to the Allies. The popular forces of Vietnam which, since 1940, had made incessant attacks on the Japanese forces, and which had, in 1944, succeeded in creating a "Free Zone" in Northern Indochina, went down to conquer the capital-city and the governing rule. The population, fired with democratic aspirations and spirit, enthusiastically welcomed them and manifested their desire to maintain their unity for the grandeur of the Fatherland once lost and now found again. On September 2, 1945, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was solemnly proclaimed. Twice, first through Emperor Bao-Dai of the NGUYEN Dynasty, then, through the solemn proclamation of the new Government on Independence Day, the new State abrogated all the treaties formerly forced upon us by the French victors. The new Republic of Vietnam, thus legally instituted, is in the reconstruction of the world a factor of peace and progress. She is entitled for her safeguard to refer to the most sacred principles of SAN FRANCISCO and ATLANTIC Charters. She is based upon and draws her strength from, the first of SUN YAT SEN's Three Principles and the second, fourth, sixth points of President TRUMAN's twelve-point declaration.
III.– But, on September 23, 1945, the French troops attacked Saigon, starting an invasion which is now in its fifth month. That invasion is menacing North Vietnam and French troops have begun to filter through our Chinese frontier. That aggression, carried on by an experienced and numerous army, fully equipped with the most recent inventions of modern warfare, has brought about the destruction of our towns and villages, the assassination of our civilian population, the starving of a great part of our country. Untold atrocities have been committed, not as reprisals upon our guerrillas troops, but on women and children and unarmed old people. These atrocities are beyond imagination and beyond words, and remind one of the darkest ages: assault on the sanitary formations, on Red Cross personnel, bombing and machine-gunning of villages, raping of women, looting and indiscriminate pillaging of Vietnam and Chinese houses, etc... Yet despite the maltreatments of the civilian population, we have, for 5 long months, opposed a stubborn resistance, fought in the worst conditions, without food, medicine and without clothings. And we shall carry on, sustained by our faith in international honour, and in our final victory.
IV.– In the free zone of our national territory, especially in the area under Chinese control, North of the 16th parallel, our civilians have set out to work. The results of these five months of building-up work are most favourable and give rise to the brightest hopes.
First of all, democracy has been established on solid foundations. On January 6 last, general elections were organized with the greatest success. In a few days 400 representatives of the entire country will hold the first session of the Constituent National Assembly. A new administrative organization has replaced the old mandarinate system. The most unpopular taxes have been abolished. The anti-illiteracy campaign organized along efficient lines, has yielded unexpectedly optimistic results. The primary and secondary schools as well as the University have been reopened to more and more numerous students. Peace and order are restored and smoothly maintained.
In the economic field, the situation is bettering every day. All the vexatory measures imposed by colonial planned economy have been abrogated. Commerce, production, and the transformation and consummation of raw materials, once subjected to very strict regulations, are now operated on an entirely free basis. The shortage of rice, though still critical, has been relieved by the intensive production of other foodstuffs and the price of rice has been reduced some 40% of its 1945 figures. Cereals, matches, salt, tobacco, once monopolized by speculators, are now offered on the normal markets at prices within reach of the common man. All public services have resumed their prewar activities, and the Vietnamese staff under their Vietnamese Directors, are working with industry and efficacy. The communications have been reestablished, the dam system not only mended but still fortified.
All this program was carried out while in the South, the French aggression has intensified every day. The Vietnam people, despite the difficulties of the present, and the heavy heritage of five years of correspondents and members of the Allies Missions who have come to the country can bear witness to the new life in regenerated Vietnam, to our capacity to self-government, our desire to live free and independent, and our faith in the ATLANTIC and SAN FRANCISCO Charters.
For those reasons, we think it our duty to send this note to the Great Powers — which had led the anti-fascist crusade to final victory and which had taken up the reconstruction of the world with a view to definitely outlawing war, oppression and exploitation on the one hand, misery, fear and injustice on the other. We request of these great powers:
a) To take all proper steps to stop by an urgent interference, the bloodshed that is taking place in South Vietnam, and to arrive at an urgent and fair settling of the Indochinese issue. We are confident in their mediation that may be given to us in this Pacific World a status worthy of a people that had fought and suffered for the democratic ideals. So doing, they will give a solid foundation to peace and security in this part of the world, and fulfill the hopes that the oppressed peoples had placed in them. While waiting with confidence for a positive measure from the Governments of WASHINGTON, MOSCOW, LONDON, and CHUNGKING, we have determined to fight to our last drop of blood against the reestablishment of French imperialism.
b) To bring the Indochinese issue before the United Nations' Organization. We only ask full independence, independence that is so far a fact, and that will enable us to cooperate with the other nations in the building-up of a better world and lasting peace. Such aspirations are but legitimate and the cause of world peace must be defended. Hanoi, February 18, 1946.
Hanoi February 28, 1946
President Ho Chi Minh Vietnam Democratic Republic Hanoi
To the President of the United States of America Washington DC
On behalf of Vietnam government and people I beg to inform you that in course with conversations between Vietnam government and French representatives the latter require the succession of Cochinchina and the return of French troops in Hanoi STOP meanwhile French population and troops are making active preparations for a coup de main in Hanoi and for military aggression STOP I therefore 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
Ho Chi Minh
Paris, September 12, 1946.
In accordance with your request, I called last night on Ho Chi-minh and had a conversation lasting an hour.
Ho Chi-minh first discussed his contacts with Americans dating back to his guerrilla warfare against the Japanese when the OSS and Army officers were parachuted into his jungle headquarters and culminating with his talk with you. He emphasized his admiration for the United States and the respect and affection for President Roosevelt which is found even in the remote villages of his country. He referred particularly toward the Philippines and pointed out that it was only natural that his people, seeing and independent Philippines on one side and India about to gain its freedom on the other, should expect France to understand that similar measures for Indochina are inevitable.
He then took up the question of his supposed Communist connections which he, of course, denied. Ho Chi-minh pointed out that there are no Communist ministers in his government and that the Viet-Nam constitution opens with a guarantee of personal liberties and the so-called rights of man and also guarantees the right to personal property. He admits that there are Communists in Annam but claims that the Communist Party as such dissolved itself several months ago.
The President then outlined his relations with France in general and the developments during the Fontainebleau Conference in particular. He pointed out that all of the various provisions of the preliminary agreement of March 6, 1946, had been fulfilled except the provisions regarding a referendum in Cochinchina. The Viet-Nam has its own government, its parliament, its army, and controls its finances. Regarding Cochinchina, however, the French have been unwilling to set a date fro the referendum or to agree to the proposal that a joint Viet-Nam–French commission should be named to arrange for and supervise the referendum. At the same time the French authorities in Indochina have not respected the truce in Cochinchina and have continued military operations against resistance elements loyal to the Viet-Nam.
Ho Chi-minh realizes that the present French Government is a provisional one and that until a French constitution was adopted, the outlines of the French Union established, and a permanent government chosen, it was difficult for French officials to sign any permanent treaty or agreement with the Viet-Nam. For that reason he was quite willing to adjourn the Fontainebleau Conference until January or thereabouts.
With regards to the modus vivendi which should have been signed September 10, 1946, Ho Chi-minh said that agreements had been reached regarding French economic and cultural rights in the Viet-Nam, a customs union for Indochina, and a common currency, although there had been some difficulty over the drafting since he refused to allow the phrase "Indochinese Federation" since it does not yet exist. The French, however, have not accepted the Viet-Nam demand that "democratic liberties" be restored in Cochinchna. Ho Chi-minh explained that by this he meant freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the release of political prisoners. The Viet-Nam also insists that they be permitted to send a delegation to Cochinchina to make sure that the French live up to these provisions and to cooperate with the French in bringing about the end of guerrilla warfare. He admitted that there are many unsavory elements within the resistance movement in Cochinchina, but argued that if his representatives could go through the country and talk to local leaders it would be possible to distinguish between bandits and patriots, and the former could then be liquidated by either his or the French forces.
Ho Chi-minh stated that he still hoped to reach an agreement with the French before his departure on September 14, but that in any case he must return on that date since he had already been too long away from his country.
Ho Chi-minh spoke at various times of the aid which he hoped to get from the United States, but was vague except as regards economic aid. With regard to the latter, he explained that the riches of his country were largely undeveloped, that he felt that Indochina offered a fertile field for American capital and enterprise. He had resisted and would continue to resist the French desire for a continuation of their former policy of economic monopoly. He was willing to give the French priority in such matters as advisers, concessions, and purchases of machinery and equipment, but if the French were not in a position to meet his country's needs he would insist on the right to approach other friendly countries. He hinted that the policy might apply to military and naval matters as well and mentioned the naval base at Cam Ranh bay.
As I left, Ho Chi-minh stated that he hoped that through his contacts with the Embassy the American public would be informed of the true situation in Indochina.(Emphasis by History Is A Weapon) George M. Abbott
This telegram must be closely paraphrased before being communicated to anyone. (SECRET) Chungking via Navy
Dated November 8, 1945
Rec'd 9:15 p.m., 9th
Secretary of State,
1948, November 8, 6 p.m.
There follows substance of letter addressed to President Truman by Ho-Chi-Minh who signs as "President of Provisinal Government of Republic of Viet-Nam": Letter was given to General Gallagher and forwarded to Embassy through U.S. Army Channels: (Embassy's 1820 October 16 to Department repeated to Paris). I wish to give following information concerning situation of Viet-Nam:
I wish to give following information concerning situation of Viet-Nam:
(1) When Japanese came to Indo-China from September 1940 to September 1941 France, by protocol July 1941 and secret military pact December 8, 1941, gave up sovereignty and took position opposed to Allies. On Japanese drive March 9, 1945 French either fled or surrendered to Japanese contrary to pledges contained in protective treaties March 1874 and June 1884, thus breaking all legal and administrative ties with people of Indo-China. Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam was set up August 19, 1945 after independence of entire country was wrested from Japanese. After Japanese surrender, while Viet-Nam Provisional Government in capacity of an independent Government was carrying out a building-up program in conformity with Atlantic and San Francisco Charters, French, ignoring deliberately all peace treaties concluded by United Nations at end of World War II, attacked us treacherously in Naigon, September 23, and are planning a war of aggression against Viet-Nam. (Sent to Department repeated to Paris.)
(2) People of Viet-Nam are willing to cooperate with United Nations in erection of lasting world peace and, having suffered so severely under direct domination of French and much more from bargain made by French with Japan in 1941, are determined never to permit French to return to Indo China. If French troops coming either from China where they fled during Japanese occupation of Indo-China or from other places put foot on any part of Viet-Namese territory the people of Viet-Nam are determined to fight them under any circumstances.
(3) If, therefore, disorder, bloodshed or general conflagration due to causes mentioned above in paragraph (2) break out in Far Eastern Asia entire responsibility must be imputed to French. (End substance letter).
Identical message from Ho-Chi-Minh addressed to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek has also been received by same army channels. Embassy will not deliver message to Gimo unless so directed by Department.
On the occasion of the New Year, I would like to convey to the American people cordial wishes for peace and happiness.
The Vietnamese and American peoples should have lived in peace and friendship. But the U.S. Government has brazenly sent over 400,000 troops along with thousands of aircraft and hundreds of Warships to wage aggression on Vietnam. Night and day it has used napalm bombs, toxic gas, fragmentation bombs and other modern weapons to massacre our people, not sparing even old persons, women and children, it has burnt down or destroyed villages and towns and perpetrated extremely savage crimes. Of late, U.S. aircraft have repeatedly bombed Hanoi, our beloved capital.
It is because of the criminal war unleashed by the U.S. Government that hundreds of thousands of young Americans have been drafted and sent to a useless death for from then homeland, on the Vietnamese battlefield. In hundreds of thousands of American families, parents have lost their sons, and wives their husbands.
Nevertheless, the U.S. Government has continually clamoured about "peace negotiations' in an attempt to deceive the American and world peoples. In fact, it is daily expanding the war. The U.S. Government wrongy believes that with brutal force it could compel our people to surrender. But the Vietnamese people will never submit. We love peace, but it must be genuine peace in independence and freedom. For independence and freedom, the Vietnamese people are determined to fight the U.S. aggressors through to complete victory, whatever the hardships and sacrifices may be.
Who has caused these sufferings and mournings to the Vietnamese and American people? It is the U.S. rulers. The American people have realized this truth. More and more Americans are valiantly standing up in a vigorous struggle, demanding that the American Government respect the Constitution and the honour of the United States, stop the war of aggression in Vietnam and bring home all U.S. troops. I warmly welcome your just struggle and thank you for your support to the Vietnamese people's patriotic fight. I sincerely wish the American people many big successes in their struggle for peace, democracy and happiness.
Letter from President Johnson to Ho Chi Minh, President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to you in the hope that the conflict in Vietnam can be brought to an end. That conflict has already taken a heavy toll-in lives lost, in wounds inflicted, in property destroyed, and in simple human misery. If we fail to find a just and peaceful solution, history will judge us harshly.
Therefore, I believe that we both have a heavy obligation to seek earnestly the path to peace. It is in response to that obligation that I am writing directly to you.
We have tried over the past several years, in a variety of ways and through a number of channels, to convey to you and your colleagues our desire to achieve a peaceful settlement. For whatever reasons, these efforts have not achieved any results. . . .
In the past two weeks, I have noted public statements by representatives of your government suggesting that you would be prepared to enter into direct bilateral talks with representatives of the U.S. Government, provided that we ceased "unconditionally" and permanently our bombing operations against your country and all military actions against it. In the last day, serious and responsible parties have assured us indirectly that this is in fact your proposal.
Let me frankly state that I see two great difficulties with this proposal. In view of your public position, such action on our part would inevitably produce worldwide speculation that discussions were under way and would impair the privacy and secrecy of those discussions. Secondly, there would inevitably be grave concern on our part whether your government would make use of such action by us to improve its military position.
With these problems in mind, I am prepared to move even further towards an ending of hostilities than your Government has proposed in either public statements or through private diplomatic channels. I am prepared to order a cessation of bombing against your country and the stopping of further augmentation of U.S. forces in South Viet-Nam as soon as I am assured that infiltration into South Viet-Nam by land and by sea has stopped. These acts of restraint on both sides would, I believe, make it possible for us to conduct serious and private discussions leading toward an early peace.
I make this proposal to you now with a specific sense of urgency arising from the imminent New Year holidays in Viet-Nam. If you are able to accept this proposal I see no reason why it could not take effect at the end of the New Year, or Tet, holidays. The proposal I have made would be greatly strengthened if your military authorities and those of the Government of South Viet-Nam could promptly negotiate an extension of the Tet truce.
As to the site of the bilateral discussions I propose, there are several possibilities. We could, for example, have our representatives meet in Moscow where contacts have already occurred. They could meet in some other country such as Burma. You may have other arrangements or sites in mind, and I would try to meet your suggestions.
The important thing is to end a conflict that has brought burdens to both our peoples, and above all to the people of South Viet-Nam. If you have any thoughts about the actions I propose , it would be most important that I receive them as soon as possible.
Lyndon B. Johnson
PRESIDENT HO CHI MINH'S REPLY TO PRESIDENT JOHNSON'S LETTER
February 15, 1967
Excellency, on February 10, 1967, I received your message. Here is my response.
Viet-Nam is situated thousands of miles from the United States. The Vietnamese people have never done any harm to the United States. But, contrary to the commitments made by its representative at the Geneva Conference of 1954, the United States Government has constantly intervened in Viet-Nam, it has launched and intensified the war of aggression in South Viet-Nam for the purpose of prolonging the division of Viet-Nam and of transforming South Viet-Nam into an American neo-colony and an American military base. For more than two years now, the American Government, with its military aviation and its navy, has been waging war against the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam, an independent and sovereign country.
The United States Government has committed war crimes, crimes against peace and against humanity. In South Viet-Nam a half-million American soldiers and soldiers from the satellite countries have resorted to the most inhumane arms and the most barbarous methods of warfare, such as napalm, chemicals, and poison gases in order to massacre our fellow countrymen, destroy the crops, and wipe out the villages. In North Viet-Nam thousands of American planes have rained down hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs, destroying cities, villages, mills, roads, bridges, dikes, dams and even churches, pagodas, hospitals, and schools. In your message you appear to deplore the suffering and the destruction in Viet-Nam. Permit me to ask you: Who perpetrated these monstrous crimes? It was the American soldiers and the soldiers of the satellite countries. The United States Government is entirely responsible for the extremely grave situation in Viet-Nam.
The U.S. war of aggression against the Vietnamese people constitutes a challenge to the countries of the socialist camp, a threat to the national independence movement, and a serious danger to peace in Asia and the world.
The Vietnamese people deeply love independence, liberty, and peace. But in the face of the American aggression they have risen up as one man, without fearing the sacrifices and the privations. They are determined to continue their resistance until they have won real independence and liberty and true peace. Our just cause enjoys the approval and the powerful support of peoples throughout the world and of large segments of the American people.
The United States Government provoked the war of aggression in Viet-Nam. It must cease that aggression, it is the only road leading to the re-establishment of peace. The United States Government must halt definitively and unconditionally the bombings and all other acts of war against the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam, withdraw from South Viet-Nam all American troops and all troops from the satellite countries, recognize the National Front of the Liberation of South Viet-Nam and let the Vietnamese people settle their problems themselves. Such is the basic content of the four-point position of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam, such is the statement of the essential principles and essential arrangements of the Geneva agreements of 1954 on Viet-Nam. It is the basis for a correct political solution of the Vietnamese problem. In your message you suggested direct talks between the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam and the United States. If the United States Government really wants talks, it must first halt unconditionally the bombings and all other acts of war against the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam. It is only after the unconditional halting of the American bombings and of all other American acts of war against the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam that the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam and the United States could begin talks and discuss questions affecting the two parties.
The Vietnamese people will never give way to force, it will never accept conversation under the clear threat of bombs.
Our cause is absolutely just. It is desirable that the Government of the United States act in conformity to reason.
Ho Chi Minh
July 15, 1969
Dear Mr. President:
I realize that it is difficult to communicate meaningfully across the gulf of four years of war. But precisely because of this gulf, I wanted to take this opportunity to reaffirm in all solemnity my desire to work for a just peace. I deeply believe that the war in Vietnam has gone on too long and delay in bringing it to an end can benefit no one—least of all the people of Vietnam. My speech on May 14 laid out a proposal which I believe is fair to all parties. Other proposals have been made which attempt to give the people of South Vietnam an opportunity to choose their own future. These proposals take into account the reasonable conditions of all sides. But we stand ready to discuss other programs as well, specifically the 10-point program of the NLF.
As I have said repeatedly, there is nothing to be gained by waiting. Delay can only increase the dangers and multiply the suffering.
The time has come to move forward at the conference table toward an early resolution of this tragic war. You will find us forthcoming and open-minded in a common effort to bring the blessings of peace to the brave people of Vietnam. Let history record that at this critical juncture, both sides turned their face toward peace rather than toward conflict and war.
[His Excellency Ho Chi Minh, President, Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Hanoi]
August 25, 1969
To His Excellency Richard Milhous Nixon President of the United States Washington
I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter.
The war of aggression of the United States against our people, violating our fundamental national rights, still continues in South Vietnam. The United States continues to intensify military operations, the B-52 bombings and the use of toxic chemical products multiply the crimes against the Vietnamese people. The longer the war goes on, the more it accumulates the mourning and burdens of the American people. I am extremely indignant at the losses and destructions caused by the American troops to our people and our country. I am also deeply touched at the rising toll of death of young Americans who have fallen in Vietnam by reason of the policy of American governing circles.
Our Vietnamese people are deeply devoted to peace, a real peace with independence and real freedom. They are determined to fight to the end, without fearing the sacrifices and difficulties in order to defend their country and their sacred national rights. The overall solution in 10 points of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam is a logical and reasonable basis for the settlement of the Vietnamese problem. It has earned the sympathy and support of the peoples of the world.
In your letter you have expressed the desire to act for a just peace. For this the United States must cease the war of aggression and withdraw their troops from South Vietnam, respect the right of the population of the South and of the Vietnamese nation to dispose of themselves, without foreign influence. This is the correct manner of solving the Vietnamese problem in conformity with the national rights of the Vietnamese people, the interests of the United States and the hopes for peace of the peoples of the world. This is the path that will allow the United States to get out of the war with honor.
With good will on both sides we might arrive at common efforts in view of finding a correct solution of the Vietnamese problem.
HO CHI MINH