1. Family and education in Vietnam

Born 19th May 1890 as Nguyen Sinh Cung, third child of Nguyen Sinh Sac in a small village in the province of Nghe An Annam.

This area was intensely populated and had a long history of scholars and revolutionaries.
  • Nationalists such as Phan Boi Chau and Phan Chu Trinh came from this area
  • It was from here in the 8th and 15th centuries that China had been driven out.
  • Traces of Chinese citadel still remained in the village
  • Here in 1885, the last bastion of the ‘Scholars’ Revolt’ held out.

Simplistic rural lifestyle.
  • Many people in his village were conscripted and died building the ‘road of death’ to Laos.

Ho’s father was an orphan who was adopted by a scholar when he was 15.
  • Earned a masters degree and doctorate in Confucian examinations.
  • Opened a small school in his village rather than assuming work (as was expected) for the hated French government.
  • Saw mandarins as corrupt and incompetent; agents of French oppression.

Tutored by father’s scholar friends àinfluenced him to believe that scholars must lead their people to abandon the traditional imperial system and adopt modern institutions.
  • Ho had been taught fierce partiotism
  • Like Meiji Japan.
  • i.e. To defeat the French, you must understand them.

Ho studied French language and culture.
  • In 1906, Ho’s father took an official position at the Hue Court.
  • In 1907, Ho and his brother gained entry to the Quoc Hoc (National) Academy of Hue – the top Franco-Vietnamese school at the time.
  • Expelled in 1908 for translating for peasants’ protests against French corvée and taxation.

Family imprisoned and impoverished.
  • Brother arrested and imprisoned in 1914.
  • Sister, likewise for stealing arms and ammunition for guerilla nationalists.
  • Father sent South as a magistrate in 1909 later dismissed and made a living selling medicinal herbs and teaching Chinese.
  • Ho also moved south in 1910, taught at a nationalist school.
2. Western influences and travels

Gained employment as a steward on a French steamship in 1911.
  • Travelled to
    • N and W Africa (Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Sengal, Sudan),
    • Saudi Arabia, India, France,
    • [1912] South America (Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires),
    • North America (New York: worked as a labourer, domestic servant and attended black activist meetings in Harlem.) àlater claims he witnessed a lynching.
    • [1913] England (London: worked as a snow-sweeper, boiler operator and kitchen worker. Studied English, impressed by Irish Rebellion of 1916. Joined Overseas Workers Association),
    • Returned to France in 1917.

  • Joined Club du Fanburg, a speaking group where he gained confidence public speaking.
  • Worked as a photo retoucher and read widely.
American Influence – Supported Wilson’s ideals of “self-determination”, worked closely with the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and Charles Fenn fighting against the Japanese.
  • Pilot rescue scheme.
  • Intelligence network.
  • 25 boxes of ammunition, arms and radio equipment.

Influence of American revolutionary history – founding forefathers – is apparent:
  • Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, 2nd September 1945: Ho quoted parts of the American Declaration of Independence.
    • “All men are created equal.”
    • Talked about “unalienable rights” of human beings
    • Band played the Star Spangled Banner.
    • US airforce flyby.