Ho Chí Minh
Who was he: Ho Chí Minh was born Nguyen Sinh Cung. He was a Vietnamese Marxist revolutionary leader as well as prime minister and president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, or North Vietnam. He was a crucial figure in the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945, as well as the People's Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front at the time of the Indochina Wars.
Ho led the Viet Minh liberation movement from 1941 onward, instituting the communist-governed Democratic Republic of Vietnam and routing the French Union in 1954 at Ðien Biên Phu. In 1955, he lost his political power, when he was replaced as Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, but remained the extremely visible figurehead of North Vietnam as president for the rest of his life. Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was renamed Ho Chí Minh City in honor of the nationalist leader when Saigon fell to the North.
Background: Nguyen Sinh Cung was born on May 19th, 1890 in Hoàng Trù Jackson Village, Vietnam, his mother's hometown. He grew up in his paternal hometown of Kim Liên Village, Nam Ðàn District, Nghe An Province, Vietnam starting in 1895. Cung studied with his father as a young child, before more official lessons with a scholar named Vuong Thuc Do. Cung swiftly mastered Chinese writing, vital knowledge for any serious study of Confucianism, and honed his conversational Vietnamese writing at the same time. He was fond of adventure, loved flying kites and fishing, as well as his studies. Following Confucian custom, at the age of 10 his father gave him a new moniker: Nguyen Tat Thành, meaning "Nguyen the Accomplished." In respect toward his father, Cung received a French education and attended Lycée in Hue, the college of his future followers, Pham Van Ðong and Võ Nguyên Giáp. After he graduated from his studies, he chose to teach at Duc Thanh school in Phan Thiet.
In 1912, Cung traveled to the United States while working as a cook on a ship. From 1912 to 1913, he lived in the Harlem neighborhood of New York and in Boston, working as a baker at Boston's Parker House Hotel. Amongst a succession of menial jobs, he also claimed to have worked for an affluent family in Brooklyn between 1917 and 1918. During this period in his life, Mihn was influenced by Marcus Garvey, from Harlem. It is quite possible that while he resided in the United States, Mihn made contact with Korean nationalists, an experience that helped form his political outlook.
From 1919 to 1923, while he lived in France, Nguyen Sinh Cung embraced communism with the encouragement of his friend, Marcel Cachin. Cung claimed to have arrived in Paris in London in 1917, but French police only have documents of his arrival in June of 1919. After World War I, under the name of Nguyen Ái Quoc, or "Nguyen the Patriot," Mihn lobbied the Western supremacies at the Versailles peace talks for recognition of the civil rights of the Vietnamese people in French Indochina, but his pleas went ignored. Citing the language and the essence of the United States Declaration of Independence, Mihn petitioned US President Woodrow Wilson for assistance in removing the French from Vietnam and replacing them with a new and nationalist government. His appeal was again ignored.
In 1920, during the Congress of Tours in France, Nguyen Ái Quoc became a founding member of the Parti Communiste Français, or the French Communist Party. In May 1922, Mihn wrote an editorial for a French periodical that criticized the use of English by French sportswriters. The article beseeched Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré to outlaw such Franglais as "le manager," "le round" and "le knock-out."
In 1923, Cung went to Moscow and started working for the Comintern as the primary theoretician on colonial warfare. He took part in the Fifth Comintern Congress in June 1924, before traveling to Canton, China, in November 1924. During 1925 and 1926 he organized 'Youth Education Classes' and sometimes gave talks at the Whampoa Military Academy about the revolutionary movement in Indochina. He moved around the world until he returned to Vietnam in 1941.