CIA Archives: Man of the Month - Ho Chi Minh (1966)
DVD: Há»“ ChÃ Minh, born Nguyá»…n Sinh Cung and also known as Nguyá»…n Ãi Quá»‘c (19 May 1890 -- 2 September 1969) was a Vietnamese Marxist revolutionary leader who was prime minister (1945--1955) and president (1945--1969) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). He formed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and led the Viá»‡t cá»™ng during the Vietnam War until his death. Há»“ led the Viá»‡t Minh independence movement from 1941 onward, establishing the communist-governed Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 and defeating the French Union in 1954 at Äiá»‡n BiÃªn Phá»§. He lost political power in 1955â€”when he was replaced as Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnamâ€”but remained the highly visible figurehead of North Vietnamâ€”through the Presidencyâ€”until his death. The capital of South Vietnam, Saigon, after the Fall of Saigon, was renamed Há»“ ChÃ Minh City in honor of the communist leader. The 1954 Geneva Accords, concluded between France and the Viá»‡t Minh, provided that communist forces regroup in the North and non-communist forces regroup in the South. Há»“'s Democratic Republic of Vietnam relocated to Hanoi and became the government of North Vietnam, a communist-led single party state. The Geneva accords also provided for a national election to reunify the country in 1956, but this provision was rejected by South Vietnam's government and the United States. The U.S. committed itself to oppose communism in Asia beginning in 1950, when it funded 80 percent of the French effort. After Geneva, the U.S. replaced France as South Vietnam's chief sponsor and financial backer, but there never was a treaty between the U.S. and South Vietnam. Main article: Operation Passage to Freedom Following the Geneva Accords, there was to be a 300-day period in which people could freely move between the zones of the two Vietnams. Some 900,000 to 1 million Vietnamese, mostly Roman Catholic, as well as many anti-communists, intellectuals, former French colonial civil servants and wealthy Vietnamese, left for South Vietnam, while a much smaller number, mostly communists, went from South to North. This was partly due to propaganda claims by a CIA mission led by Colonel Edward Lansdale that the Virgin Mary had moved South out of distaste for life under communism. Some Canadian observers claimed that some were forced by North Vietnamese authorities to remain against their will. During this era, Há»“, following the communist doctrine initiated by Stalin and Mao, started a land reform in which thousands of people accused of being landlords were summarily executed or tortured and starved in prison. With the backing of the U.S., the 1956 elections were canceled by Diem. Há»“ ChÃ Minh's regime oversaw clumsy land reform in the North, causing thousands of deaths and starvation. At the end of 1959, LÃª Duáº©n was appointed acting party boss and began sending aid to the Vietcong insurgency in South Vietnam. This represented a loss of power by Há»“, who is said to have preferred the more moderate GiÃ¡p for the position. The so called Hochiminh Trail was built in 1959 to allow aid to be sent to the Vietcong through Laos and Cambodia, thus escalating the war. Duáº©n was named permanent party boss in 1960, leaving Há»“ a figurehead president and symbol of Vietnamese Communism. In 1963, Há»“ corresponded with South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in the hope of achieving a negotiated peace. This correspondence was a factor in the U.S. decision to tacitly support a coup against Diem later that year. In late 1964, North Vietnamese combat troops were sent southwest into neutral Laos. During the mid to late 1960s, LÃª Duáº©n permitted 320,000 Chinese volunteers into northern North Vietnam to help build infrastructure for the country, thereby freeing a similar number of North Vietnamese forces to go south.