* Ho believed the army’s job was largely going to be propaganda until the conditions were right for war.
* But he also decided that for propaganda purposes, they had to win a military victory within a month of being established, so on 25 December 1944 Giáp led successful attacks against a couple of French outposts.
* Two French lieutenants were killed and the Vietnamese soldiers in the outposts surrendered.
* The Viet Minh suffered no casualties.
* A few weeks later, Giáp was wounded in the leg when his group attacked another outpost at Dong Mu.
* Through the first half of 1945, Giáp’s military position strengthened as the political position of the French and Japanese weakened.
* On 9 March the Japanese removed the titular French regime and placed the emperor Bảo Đại at the head of a puppet state, the Empire of Vietnam.
* Bao Dai was the 13th and final Emperor of the Nguyễn dynasty, the last ruling family of Vietnam
* he renamed his country “Vietnam”
* He was 32
* Ho summed up the situation like this: “The Japanese became the real masters. The French became kind of respectable slaves. And upon the Indo-Chinese falls the double honor of being not only slaves to the Japanese, but also the slaves of the slaves—the French.”
* By April the Vietminh had nearly five thousand members, and was able to attack Japanese posts with confidence.
* In one of the ironies of history, between May and August 1945 the United States, keen to support anti-Japanese forces in mainland Asia, actively supplied and trained Giáp and the Viet Minh.
* The U.S. will work with anyone who is the enemy of their enemy.
* Just like they worked with Osama bin Laden and the Mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
* Captain Charles Fenn of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) sought out a meeting with Ho in early 1945.
* He had heard about Ho’s organization and about Ho’s role in helping locate downed American pilots and providing intelligence on Japanese troop movements.
* According to Fenn, Ho saved 17 US pilots before the war ended.
* He also heard that when Ho got out of prison in China, he used to drop by the Office of War Information in Kunming in Southern China to read Time Magazine.
* Ho was still hoping to get the support of the US.
* He believed they would be even more eager than the Soviets to help him get rid of the colonialists.
* After their first meeting in March 45, Fenn wrote the following description of the meeting in his diary:
* Ho came along with a younger man named Fam. Ho wasn’t what I expected. In the first place he isn’t really “old”: his silvery wisp of beard suggests age, but his face is vigorous and his eyes bright and gleaming. We spoke in French. It seems he has already met Hall, Blass, and de Sibour [OSS officers in Kunming], but got nowhere with any of them. I asked him what he had wanted of them. He said—only recognition of his group (called Vietminh League or League for Independence). I had vaguely heard of this as being communist, and asked him about it. Ho said that the French call all Annamites communists who want independence. I told him about our work and asked whether he’d like to help us. He said they might be able to but had no radio operators nor of course any equipment. We discussed taking in a radio and generator and an operator. Ho said a generator would make too much noise—the Japs were always around. Couldn’t we use the type of set with battery, such as the Chinese use? I explained they were too weak for distant operation, especially when the batteries run down. I asked him what he’d want in return for helping us. Arms and medicines, he said. I told him the arms would be difficult, because of the French. We discussed the problem of the French. Ho insisted that the Independence League are only anti-Jap. I was impressed by his clear-cut talk; Buddha-like composure, except movements with wrinkled brown fingers. Fam made notes. It was agreed we should have a further meeting. They wrote their names down in Chinese characters which were romanized into Fam Fuc Pao and Ho Tchih Ming.
* He later wrote:
* “Baudelaire felt the wings of insanity touch his mind; but that morning I felt the wings of genius touch mine.”
* Fenn, who had studied graphology, the study of handwriting analysis, also provided an analysis of Ho’s handwriting, from which he concluded:
* The essential features are simplicity, desire to make everything clear, remarkable self-control. Knows how to keep a secret. Neat, orderly, unassuming, no interest in dress or outward show. Self-confident and dignified. Gentle but firm. Loyal, sincere, and generous, would make a good friend. Outgoing, gets along with anyone. Keen analytical mind, difficult to deceive. Shows readiness to ask questions. Good judge of character. Full of enthusiasm, energy, initiative. Conscientious; painstaking attention to detail. Imaginative, interested in aesthetics, particularly literature. Good sense of humor.
* Faults: diplomatic to the point of contriving. Could be moody and obstinate.
* Graphology, BTW, is a load of crap.
* At their second meeting a few days later, Ho asked if Fenn could introduce him to Claire Chennault, adviser to Chiang Kai-shek, founder of the famed “Flying Tigers,” and commander of the Fourteenth Air Force
* The Flying Tigers were The First American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force in 1941–1942
* They used to paint shark faces on the front of their planes.
* There was a squadron of the Flying Tigers called the Hell’s Angels.
* The biker gang took their name from the squadron.
* Which in turn took its name from the Howard Hughes 1930 film Hell’s Angels about fighter pilots.
* Winston Churchill, upon seeing Chennault make his entrance at a conference earlier in the war and learning of his identity, whispered to an aide, “Well, thank God he’s on our side.”
* Fenn agreed to set up the meeting with Chennault on one condition:
* I agreed to arrange this if he would agree not to ask him for anything: neither supplies not promises about support.
* Ho agreed.
* A few days later, Ho had his meeting with Chennault.
* Chennault thanked Ho for his efforts to save U.S. pilots, and Ho responded by expressing his admiration for Chennault and the Flying Tigers.
* Before he left, Ho asked if he could get a photograph of Chennault.
* He wanted a selfie, but he hadn’t invented the iPhone yet.
* As Fenn recalled: There’s nothing Chennault likes more than giving his photograph.
* Chennault’s secretary pulled out a glossy and Chennault autographed it for him
* And Ho then waved it around like a flag everywhere he went, proof that he had the support of the USG.
* Which wasn’t far from the truth.
* Before he left Kunming to return to Vietnam, Ho provided his U.S. contacts with his interpretation of the Japanese coup in Indochina.
* In a note signed “Luc” that is now in the U.S. archives, he declared that it had brought an end to the French domination in Indochina, a domination that had begun eighty-seven years previously. \
* “Thus,” he said, “the French imperialist wolf was finally devoured by the Japanese fascist hyena.”
* He admitted that in the overall scheme of things in the world at war, this was only “a minute event,” but he claimed that it would have “a serious bearing on the World War in general, on Indo-China, France, Japan, and China in particular.”
* He was trying to persuade the Roosevelt administration to attack Japan in Indochina, which he called “Japan’s only road of retreat.”
* He wrote that “from Japan to New Guinea, the Japan force lays like a long snake whose neck is Indo-China. If the Allies knock hard on its neck, the snake will cease to move.”
* The OSS began to air-drop supplies, including medicine, a radio set, and a few weapons for training.
* In return, the Viet Minh provided the United States with intelligence reports and rescued several U.S. airmen.
* The OSS called its Vietnam operation the Deer Mission.
* On July 16, a Deer Team led by Colonel Allison Thomas parachuted into Ho’s new forward base, a tiny village in the jungle called Tan Trao, not far from the Thai Nguyen provincial capital.
* Claire and Allison.
* You didn’t need to have a woman’s name to be a senior U.S. military leader in WWII, but it helped.
* Many people don’t know that Douglas MacArthur’s first name was Shirley.
* Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first name was actually Mary.
* After disentangling himself from the banyan tree into which his parachute had slammed him, Thomas spoke a “few flowery sentences” to two hundred Viet Minh soldiers assembled near a banner proclaiming “Welcome to Our American Friends.”
* Ho, speaking in good English, cordially greeted the OSS team and offered supper, but it was clear to the Americans that he was ill, “shaking like a leaf and obviously running a high fever.”
* The next day Ho denounced the French but remarked that “we welcome 10 million Americans.”
* Thomas was impressed by what he heard.
* “Forget the Communist Bogy,” he radioed OSS headquarters in Kunming.
* “Viet Minh League is not Communist. Stands for freedom and reforms against French harshness.”
* He wasn’t the only one who was confused.
* The Soviets and the Chinese also weren’t sure if Ho was really leading a communist revolution.
* He played his cards very close to his chest.
* As Fidel Castro would 15 years later.
* Other OSS personnel soon parachuted into the Vietnamese countryside, including a medic who diagnosed Ho Chi Minh’s ailments as malaria and dysentery.
* Another theory is that he had contracted tuberculosis during his long months in Chinese prisons.
* Quinine and sulfa drugs restored his health a bit, but Ho remained frail.
* To a remarkable degree, he made a winning impression on these Americans, who invariably described him as warm, intelligent, and keen to cooperate with the United States. As a sign of friendship, they named him “OSS Agent 19.”
* Everywhere the Americans went, impoverished villagers thanked them with gifts of food and clothing, no doubt especially welcome after the devastating famine of that spring.
* The villagers interpreted the foreigners’ presence as a sign of U.S. anticolonial and anti-Japanese sentiments.
* Major Archimedes Patti, – real first name Bridget – head of the OSS base in Kunming, China, taught the Viet Minh to use flamethrowers, grenade launchers and machine guns.
* In a single month they succeeded in training around 200 hand-picked future leaders of the army they were to oppose a few decades later.
* Ho told the OSS that he hoped young Vietnamese could study in the United States and that American technicians could help build an independent Vietnam.
* He said “your statesmen make eloquent speeches about … self-determination. We are self-determined. Why not help us? Am I any different from … your George Washington?”
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