May 19 - Ho Chi Minh's Birthday in Vietnam

Posted on May 19, 2020

Today is apparently one of the most important holidays in Vietnam. Of course the global pandemic is putting a damper on the usual celebrations, big-time, right now; on the other hand, Vietnam is one of the nations doing the best against the virus. Also, many of the normal celebrations for Ho Chi Minh's birthday are safe to carry on in a socially distanced world.

Ho Chi Minh banners and Vietnamese flags will no doubt be raised and draped and proudly displayed. The usual documentaries will be aired on TV. It's possible that a few masked dignitaries will place the ritual wreaths at the mausoleum - but probably televised, rather than having crowds of people watching. 

So...who was Ho Chi Minh?

Born in a village on this date in 1890, "Uncle Ho" grew up in a Vietnam that was ruled by France. He did well at his studies, but his father was demoted from a local position and refused to work for the French, so Ho Chi Minh lost hope for a governmental scholarship to continue his studies. Instead, he traveled south to Saigon and got a job working in the kitchen on a French steamer. He arrived in France in 1911 and applied to go to the French Colonial Administrative School - and was rejected. 

He again turned to travel, and he began working on a variety of ships to visit as many countries as possible. He probably lived in the United States for a year - and certainly did at least visit the US aboard a ship. He also lived and worked in the United Kingdom; he apparently worked as a pastry chef in a London hotel, for example.

Ho Chi Minh became interested in politics and joined a group of Vietnamese patriots in France. They agitated for independence for civil rights, and they asked for these things specifically as a part of the peace talks after World War I. They were ignored.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was one of the leaders who ignored the letters from Ho Chi Minh and other Vietnamese leaders. If only, if only Wilson and the other Western leaders had acknowledged the letters, spoken to the independence seekers, and taken up their cause in the peace talks - then Ho Chi Minh would undoubtedly have become more pro-American and possibly less radical. Probably there would have been no Vietnamese War, and more than a million people would not have died in a terrible and deeply unpopular war!

There are many - way too many - heartrending and disturbing
photos of the Vietnamese War. But I don't want to post super
terrible photos. I just want to state firmly that the war WAS terrible.
Ho Chi Minh returned from France and led the Vietnamese independence movement. He was a key figure in North Vietnam during their victory over France; he established Communist rule and served as the first President and Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (aka North Vietnam). He continued to lead as the U.S. and other nations embarked on the long and terrible Vietnamese War.

Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, around six years before the Vietnam War ended and the U.S. forces and their supporters left in defeat.

Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. 

1 comment: