2 SEPTEMBER 1945: VIETNAM INDEPENDENCE PROCLAIMED
Hours after Japan's surrender in World War II, Vietnamese communist Ho Chi Minh
declares the independence of Vietnam
from France. The proclamation paraphrased
the U.S. Declaration of Independence in declaring, "All men are born equal:
Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty, and happiness!" and was
cheered by an enormous crowd gathered
in Hanoi's Ba Dinh Square. It would be 30
years, however, before Ho's dream of a united, communist Vietnam became reality.
Born in 1890, Ho Chi Minh left Vietnam as a cook on a French steamer in 1911.
After several years as a seaman, he
lived in London and then moved to France,
where he became a founding member of the French Communist Party in 1920. He
later traveled to the Soviet Union, where he studied revolutionary tactics and
took an active role in the Communist
International. In 1924, he went to China,
where he set about organizing exiled Vietnamese communists. Expelled by China
1927, he traveled extensively before returning to Vietnam in 1941.
There, he organized a Vietnamese guerrilla organization--the Viet Minh--to fight
for Vietnamese independence. Japan
occupied French Indochina in 1940 and
collaborated with French officials loyal to France's Vichy regime. Ho,
made contact with the Allies and aided operations against the
Japanese in South China. In early 1945, Japan ousted the
in Vietnam and executed numerous French officials.
When Japan formally surrendered to the Allies on September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh
felt emboldened enough to proclaim
the independent Democratic Republic of
Vietnam. French forces seized southern Vietnam and opened talks with the
communists. These talks collapsed in 1946, and French warships
bombarded the northern Vietnamese city of Haiphong, killing
In response, the Viet Minh launched an attack against the French in Hanoi on
December 19, 1945--the beginning of
the First Indochina War. During the
eight-year war, Mao Zedong's Chinese communists supported the Viet Minh, while
United States aided the French and anti-communist Vietnamese forces. In
1954, the French suffered a major defeat at Dien
Bien Phu, in northwest Vietnam,
prompting peace negotiations and the division of Vietnam along the 17th parallel
a conference in Geneva. Vietnam was divided into northern and southern
regions, with Ho in command of North Vietnam and
Emperor Bao Dai in control of
In the late 1950s, Ho Chi Minh organized a communist guerrilla movement in the
South, called the Viet Cong. North
Vietnam and the Viet Cong successfully
opposed a series of ineffectual U.S.-backed South Vietnam regimes and beginning
in 1964 withstood a decade-long military intervention by the United States. Ho
Chi Minh died on September 2, 1969,
25 years after declaring Vietnam's
independence from France and nearly six years before his forces succeeded in
North and South Vietnam under communist rule. Saigon, the capital of
South Vietnam, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after
it fell to the communists in
1969: Ho Chi Minh dies
President Ho Chi Minh of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam dies of a heart
attack in Hanoi. North Vietnamese officials
announced his death the next day.
Ho Chi Minh had been the heart and soul of Vietnamese communism since the
earliest days of the movement. Born in
1890, he was the son of a Vietnamese
government official who resigned in protest against French domination of his
He was educated in Hue and as a young man worked as a cook on a French
steamship, travelling to the United States, Africa,
and then Europe, where he
took work in London and Paris.
In 1920, having accepted Marxist Leninism because
of its anticolonial stance,
he changed his name to Nguyen Ai Quoc ("Nguyen the Patriot")
and helped found the French
Communist Party. He traveled to Moscow
in 1923 for study and training. In 1924, he went to Canton, China, to meet with
Phan Boi Chau, one of the leading Vietnamese nationalists of the era. While in
China, Ho played the leading role in
the founding of the Indochinese Communist
Party in 1929. Ho spent most of the next 10 years writing and organizing, all
while outside Vietnam.
When the Japanese invaded Vietnam at the beginning of
World War II, he changed
his name to Ho Chi Minh ("Ho, the Bringer of Light")
and moved his revolutionary group to the caves of Pac Bo in northern
There, in May 1941, he organized the Viet Minh, a nationalist and communist
organization created to mobilize
During World WAR II, Ho and the Viet Minh entered into an alliance with the
American Office of Strategic Services
(OSS), helping to rescue downed American
pilots. In 1945, when the Japanese surrendered, the Viet Minh seized power and
proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam with Ho as president. However, the
French, wanting to reimpose colonial
rule, refused to grant independence to the
Vietnamese. In late 1946, war broke out between the Viet Minh and the French.
lasted for eight bloody years, ending finally with the Viet Minh defeating the
French at the Battle of Dien Bien
Phu in 1954.
The subsequent Geneva Accords divided Vietnam into North and South Vietnam.
Ho devoted his
efforts to constructing a communist society in North Vietnam.
In the early 1960s, a new war broke out in the
South, where communist-led guerrillas
mounted an insurgency against the U.S.-supported regime in Saigon.
United States intervened militarily, Ho directed his forces in a protracted war against the Americans.
During this period, Ho continued to provide inspirational leadership to his
people, but as his health deteriorated,
he increasingly assumed a more
ceremonial role as policy was shaped by others. Still, he was the embodiment of
revolution and remained a communist icon after his death in 1969.