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28 September 2017


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Such an interesting & fascinating biographical/historical account! Thank you. Thank you very much! From Baudelaire to Ho to tonsils and a planned parachute drop. I am sending this to my 91 year old friend (& former professor of French Literature) who studied in Paris.
On a side note it seems Ho Chi Minh was galaxies beyond any type of leader we've experienced, anyplace, within the U.S. sphere of influence.


Fascinating Richard.

Sam Peralta

Thank you Richard. Fascinating.

My interest in Vietnam has been rekindled since watching the Ken Burns documentary.

It is my belief that Ho Chi Minh was more a nationalist than a communist. He had an affinity for the communists primarily because they supported the anti-colonial liberation movements. I doubt he really cared for the Marxist-Lenninst-Maoist worldview and economic ideology. I would believe that if the US had engaged with Ho Chi Minh, he may have shed his communist leanings as he related well to the American experience of self-determination. After all he began his speech declaring Vietnamese independence quoting Thomas Jefferson.

I would be very interested to learn more about the personal dynamics and the political intrigue in Hanoi when Ho Chi Minh lost power to Le Duan. Uncle Ho it seems became more a symbol of Vietnamese independence than the head of state after the French left Vietnam.


He died the day I rotated back to the world.



IMO the idea that HCM was not as much a communist as a nationalist dishonors his memory. His boys thought he was a communist. pl


Riveting account. Loved the Baudelaire notebooks note.


turcopolier -- I had always viewed him as a nationalist and not a Communist. Guess I should learn more and read more widely.



Ah, that is why you thought we were such bastards. It would not have mattered to me. I would have been glad to fight the British if sent to do so. pl


Thank you so much for sharing this Mr. Sale. Your portrait of Ho resonates with me.

I visited Vietnam on holiday for the first time earlier this year. SWMBO booked it without telling me or we would not have gone. I considered writing something about it for SST but gave up after considering my own inadequacies compared to the experiences of Col. Lang and other members of SST.

Sufficient to say Neitzche was right - what didn't kill them made them stronger, the Vietnamese, for all their problems, are an independent sovereign nation with a sense of their own identity. Col. Lang may disagree as to the cause, but I was struck by strength of their national character. They are not a servile, lilly livered lot. They are proud of beating the USA but not in a chest beating way. There is iron and backbone in them unlike some other countries I could name and we put it there. I plan to go back.

Like Vietnam, I suspect that our "nation building" efforts against Syria, Iraq and Iran are going to make them stronger and more resilient despite our ministrations


In my view, one could be both a nationalist and a communist as a Vietnamese.

Being a communist meant friendship and goodies from the Soviet Union, better known as that big powerful country which borders the traditional Chinese threat.
Bonus points for lacking the power projection and the interest to actually intervene in internal North Vietnamese affairs.
That they gave him an opportunity to get the equivalent of a PhD in revolutionary warfare heped as well.

Communist was at that time also quite appealing in terms of rapidly jumpstarting industrialization.


AI Schmelzer

How boringly pro-communist, Ho Chi Minh and his people murdered thousands of anti-communist Vietnamese for the purpose of destroying Vietnamese society and staring over on a Marxist-Leninist basis. Did you march with a VC flag? pl

Green Zone Café

As always from Mr. Sale, a recounting of raw truth.

I was just too young for the war- I turned 18 in 1974 and enlisted the end of that year.

I just went to Vietnam last July. The online visa is easy. I flew into Hanoi, spent a week there. It is now fully calibrated for "travelers," backpackers, artisanal sightseers. A very pleasant city, and the best value for money I have experienced in a long time. Some good restaurants for short money. I took the tour, we went to Ho's tomb, but it was closed that day. We did see his offices and apartments nearby.

KFC, McDonalds, Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks, etc., are all in Hanoi now.

The exhibits at the "Hanoi Hilton" are more oriented to vilifying the French. I also did the war museums, saw a lot of B-52 wreckage.

Took a flight on Vietnam Airways to Dong Hai. A tranquil market town.

From there on the train to Hue. The Citadel and more war museums. The DMZ bar with cute war decor. Mr. Bean's Bar. Baskin Robbins.

Da Nang, I wish I spent more time there. A $25 hotel that would be 4-star in the USA.

Saigon, did the war museum, the Heart of Darkness Brewery with Kurtz's extreme IPA.

While the museums convinced me that Ho did indeed present his government as a Stalinist regime, overall the trip convinced me that the war was a horrible mistake.


YOUR boy said it, not me.


I don't see where the two are mutually exclusive. I see no reason that HCM could not have been both a communist and a nationalist.


Ho murdered the pro-nationalists who were anti-communist. Communist countries were always authoritarian; democratic socialists, on the other hand, were voted in by the people wherever they were the dominant party. The communist party never became the dominant party in a democratic country that I know of. I could be wrong.



I think the idea that X is more nationalist than communist, or variations on such themes, assumes that the two, at least in their minds, are distinct things that don't mix. Last century in Asia had "nationalists" who destroyed traditions and cultural building blocks of their countries for "nationalistic" reasons that they apparently honestly believed, "anti-communist" leaders who were fairly avowed believers in communist approach to organizing their society and economy, sincerely nationalist collaborators of a colonialist regime, and many other contradictions, and many of these contradictions aren't even limited to Asia or the 20th century--successful politicians and demagogues (same things?) exploit these things and honestly believe that they are doing the "right thing." Ho was a good demagogue--and I don't mean that in the usual derogatory sense, but in the sense that he successfully sold many people, in Vietnam and elsewhere on a bill of goods and he sincerely believed, as far as one can tell, that everything he sold was good stuff.


Great reminiscence, Mr. Sale! Thank you.

There were some people, and I guess I'm one though not on the basis of any deep research, who thought Ho Chi Minh could have been the Asian Tito. Of course, any action based on that view would have had to come before the abandonment of the Geneva Accords.

Very long webpage, which is skeptical but not dismissive of the analogy: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/United_States_%E2%80%93_Vietnam_Relations,_1945%E2%80%931967:_A_Study_Prepared_by_the_Department_of_Defense/I._C._Ho_Chi_Minh:_Asian_Tito%3F

-- sixpacksongs

Philippe T.

There is no contradiction being a communist and a nationalist. In the marxist ideology, "internationalism" has nothing to do with the "mondialism" of the liberals.

Cameron Ramey

Wouldn't Paul Mus have been close to forty at the start of the Nazi occupation of France? Did I miss the point of the button story?


Vietnam, after working with the US to kick out the Japanese, then kicking out the French, then kicking out the americans after US occupation seems no better nor worse than any other sovereign country.
Two books I read mid 90's, written by two Australian serviceman, some time apart, who had served in Vietnam. They went into the history, and then went and met with Vietnamese who had been in units that they had actually fought against.
Their history of Vietnam was very similar to R.S's history of Vietnam.


Thanks Richard. "Shy but a risk taker." This seemed to be a formative experience.



I agree that the US war in Indochina was a horrible mistake. that does not change the nature of the government there. they have moved to economic liberalism? So have the Chinese. That does not make them any less a totalitarian government. pl


Cameron -

Yes I caught that too. Wasn't he born in 02? And as a boy he was raised in Hanoi. Or are there two named Paul Mus?



someone here said something about Giaps guerrillas who fought the French at DBP. that is completely wrong. The Vietminh division who fought at DBP were not IN any WAY "guerrillas." pl

Philippe T.

Is the love for democracy/the aversion for totalitarism a universal pattern of human communities, or a specific singularity linked to a specific culture, at a certain time ? After all, not so long time ago, Voltaire and most of the Enlightenment was promoting the "despotes éclairés" (enlightened despots) like Frederic II of Prussia or Catherine II of Russia... IMO, NATO and USA made a terrible mistake (besides a huge mission creep) by willing to spread "wester-type democracy" in Afghanistan, where the search for consensus is the name of the game, rather than the majority/minority games. "Uncle Ho" had a strong knowledge of the french cultural history and maybe (maybe) he made a choice adapted to what he knew on the vietnamese sociopolitical patterns. I do not make this comment for the sole pleasure of intellectual exchanges, or to defend the vietnamese régime, but because the "defense/spreading of democracy is the main public argument (pretext) for western interventions in ME and elsewhere in the world.
Philippe Tr.

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