Justin Corfield. The History of Vietnam. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.
Bao Dai (1913-1997). Emperor of Vietnam from 1926 until 1945; chief of state of the Associated State of Vietnam from 1949 until 1955. Born on October 22, 1913 at Hue as Prince Nguyen Vinh Khai; his father became Emperor Khai Dinh in 1916. His father died when he was 12, and he was chosen to succeed him as emperor. After studying in the Paris Lycée Condorcet and the École des Sciences Politiques, he returned to Vietnam in September 1932 and was crowned emperor. Initially he tried to introduce reforms but was blocked by the French, and he then spent much of the rest of his reign as a playboy. On March 11, 1945, the Japanese persuaded him to declare independence, and he ruled as emperor until August 25, when he abdicated at the urging of Ho Chi Minh to become the “Supreme Counsellor” to the new Communist government. Bao Dai then moved to Hong Kong and lived there until the French offered him the status as titular head of the Associated State of Vietnam, and on June 30, 1949, he returned to Vietnam where he headed a new government. For most of that period, Bao Dai lived in Dalat, which he tried to build into a gambling center. After the Geneva Peace Accords, Bao Dai, who was already living in France, remained in Europe and was deposed after the 1955 referendum that established the Republic of Vietnam. Bao Dai lived in his chateau at Cannes and maintained an apartment in Paris, a fleet of sports cars, and a 500-tonne steam yacht. He ended up living in Paris and died on July 31, 1997, at a military hospital in Paris. His eldest son, Prince Bao Long, was anointed as his successor if the Vietnamese royal family were restored.
Do Muoi (b. 1917). General secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam from 1991 until 1997. Do Muoi was born on February 2, 1917, at Dong My, to a family of artisans. In the late 1930s, he joined the Indochina Communist Party and was arrested by the French in 1941. In 1945, he took part in the proclamation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. After the Geneva Peace Accord he was appointed minister of domestic trade and a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam. From 1988 until 1991, Do Muoi was prime minister of the SRV, and on June 27, 1991, he was elected to replace Nguyen Van Linh as general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam. He was a supporter of reform and presided over a period when the Vietnamese economy was transformed. In 1997, he was succeeded by Le Kha Phieu and retired from politics the next year. Two years later he was involved in delaying the signing of the U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement.
Duong Van Minh (1916-2001). Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee and president of the Republic of (South) Vietnam from 1963 until 1964, in 1964 (twice), and in April 1975. Born on February 16, 1916, at My Tho, he was educated at Lycee Chasseloup Laubat in Saigon, and then joined the military, gaining the nickname “Big Minh.” During the French colonial period, he was one of only 50 Vietnamese officers to be commissioned and in 1954 became an important figure in the new South Vietnamese Armed Forces. Soon afterwards he led successful campaigns against the Hoa Hao sect and the Binh Xuyen gangsters, and then trained at the U.S. Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Serving as military adviser to Ngo Dinh Diem from 1962, he became the leader of the group known as the “Buddhist Generals” who staged the coup in 1963 that overthrew Diem. Minh seems to have been the person who ordered the murder of Diem and Nhu and then headed the military junta that took power. Overthrown by General Nguyen Khanh on January 30, 1964, he went into exile in Bangkok, but he returned to power from February 8 until August 16, 1964. Eleven days later he was a member of the Provisional Leadership Committee, serving until September 8, when he was appointed chairman of the committee and thus titular head of state until October 26, 1964. Remaining active in the military, he considered standing in the 1971 presidential elections and was regarded by many, especially the French, as the possible leader of a coalition government, as his brother Duong Van Nhut was a leading North Vietnamese general. He was president of South Vietnam from April 28-30, 1975, surrendering to the Communists. Living in seclusion in Saigon for eight years, in 1983 he migrated to France, living near Paris and then moving to Pasadena, California, where he died on August 6, 2001.
Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969). Chairman of the Indochina Communist Party from 1930 until 1951 and chairman of the Vietnam Workers’ Party from 1951 until 1969; president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 1945 until 1969. The major figure in Vietnam’s history during the twentieth century, Ho Chi Minh was born on May 19, 1890, in Nghe An province, central Vietnam, the son of a minor official, and was educated at the Quoc Hoc in Hue. From an early age he came to dislike French rule in Vietnam. He found work as a cook’s apprentice on a French ocean liner and using the name Nguyen Ai Quoc (Nguyen “The Patriot”), he traveled throughout much of the world. He lived in London and then in France where, in 1920, he became a founding member of the French Communist Party. He moved to Moscow in 1923, and then went to China and established links with the Chinese Communist movement. In 1930, he founded the Indochina Communist Party and the next year was arrested in Hong Kong, held in prison by the British, and then released, returning to the Soviet Union for recuperation and further training. In 1938, he started running the Vietnamese Communist movement and in 1941 formed the League for the Independence of Vietnam, working for the end of French colonial rule. In 1945, now known as Ho Chi Minh (“He who enlightens”), he worked against the French and established links with U.S. agents in China. Proclaiming Vietnam’s independence in September 1945, he was involved in negotiations with the French, and when they failed, from 1946 until 1954, he led the Viet Minh in the Indochina War. In 1954, he moved to Hanoi to run the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and led the country from then until his death in 1969. A devoted Communist, he sought the reunification of Vietnam by military means and wanted the Communist Party of Vietnam to maintain a stance independent of the Soviet Union and China. He died on September 3, 1969, and was embalmed, and his body placed in a mausoleum in Hanoi. After the defeat of South Vietnam in 1975, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in his honor.
Huynh Tan Phat (1913-1989). Leader of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam from 1969 until 1975, and president of the Republic of (South) Vietnam from 1975 until 1976. Born in 1913 at Mytho, Huynh Tan Phat studied architecture and joined the Communist movement as a young man and was placed in charge of the Information Service of the Southern Revolutionary Region. In 1960, he became one of the leaders of the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam and in 1964 was placed in charge of the organization, becoming leader of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam five years later. In this capacity he visited many other countries, and at the fall of the Saigon South Vietnamese government in 1975, he became the titular head of state of South Vietnam, a position he held for a year.
Le Duan (1908-1986). First secretary of the Vietnam Workers’ Party from 1960 until 1976, and general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam from 1976 until 1986. Born on April 7, 1908, in Quang Tri province (now Binh Tri Thien province) in central Vietnam, he was the son of a railway clerk. He joined the Revolutionary Youth League of Ho Chi Minh in 1928 and became a founding member of the Indochina Communist Party in 1930. From 1931 until 1936, he was jailed by the French and in 1939 was appointed as a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. From 1940 until March 1945, he was again held in jail by the French. Le Duan opposed the Geneva Agreements because he saw it as a betrayal of the southern Communists whom he had been appointed to organize. He became secretary of the party’s main bureau in the south, the central office for South Vietnam. In 1957, Le Duan was recalled to Hanoi to become a member of the politburo, after having become reconciled with rival Truong Chinh. He became a major player in the creation of the People’s Revolutionary Party, which led to the proclamation of the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam in 1960. With the formal reunification of North Vietnam and South Vietnam in 1976, Le Duan became general-secretary of the Communist Party and led the country through the confrontation with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia, and the Chinese invasion of Vietnam. In 1979, Le Duan was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize and tried to promote economic reforms. He died on July 10, 1986, in Hanoi.
Le Duc Anh (b. 1920). President of Vietnam from 1992 until 1997. Born on December 1, 1920, near Hue, he spent his youth working as a laborer and joined the Indochina Communist Party in 1938. He was in charge of militia operations in the First Indochina War and then was put in charge of soldiers along the Cambodian border during the Vietnam War. With the invasion of Cambodia in December 1978, Le Duc Anh took charge of the Vietnamese forces during the invasion and remained in command of the troops during the occupation of Cambodia. In 1985, he returned to Vietnam after having been promoted to full general; he was also given a seat in the politburo. In 1987, he was appointed minister of defense and helped to extricate the Vietnamese soldiers from Cambodia two years later. In 1992, he was appointed president of the SRV, a position he held for five years. During that time he ensured that the military had a significant role in the running of the country. He suffered a major stroke in 1996.
Le Kha Phieu (b. 1931). General secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam from 1997 until 2001. Born on December 27, 1931, at Dong Khe commune, Thanh Hoa, Le Kha Phieu served in the People’s Army of Vietnam and was put in charge of the army’s political department. In 1991, he was elected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam, and three years later was given a seat in the politburo. A protégé of Le Duc Anh, Le Kha Phieu was able to use his influence in the military to ensure that he took over as president at the retirement of his mentor. Le Kha Phieu was heavily criticized for his land border agreement with China, which was signed in 1999. He also had many enemies who saw him as an opponent of reform and may have used it as an excuse to ease him from office and replace him with Nong Duc Manh.
Ngo Dinh Diem (1901-1963). Prime minister of the Associated State of Vietnam from 1954 until 1955; president of the Republic of (South) Vietnam from 1955 until 1963. From a strong Roman Catholic family, Ngo Dinh Diem was born on January 3, 1901, in Hue. His father was a palace official who became headmaster of the Quoc Hoc, the school Diem was later to attend. Graduating in law from the University of Hanoi, Diem was appointed minister of the interior in 1933, but soon resigned when he realized that he had no real power. Removing himself from active politics for the next 12 years, he lived with his aged mother in Hue, and in 1945 he refused to join with Ho Chi Minh after his (Diem’s) eldest brother was murdered by the Vietminh. Diem then went to the United States, considering life as a monk, and in 1954 was appointed prime minister of the State of Vietnam during the last stages of the Geneva Conference. Returning to Saigon, Diem established the Republic of Vietnam in the following year and became its president. Although he tried to introduce land reforms and establish a democratic government, he was too conservative for many of the ideas he initially supported. Gradually managing to erode communist support in South Vietnam, he started to become unpopular with Buddhist generals who resented the influence of Diem’s younger brother Ngo Dinh Nhu. The generals, with U.S. support, staged a coup d’état on November 1, 1963, killing Diem and his brother on November 2.
Ngo Dinh Nhu (1910-1963). Minister of the interior of the Republic of (South) Vietnam from 1955 until 1963, and chief adviser of President Ngo Dinh Diem. Nhu was born in 1910 at Hue, the son of a palace official and the fourth of the six Ngo Dinh brothers. He attended university in France where he became interested in the French philosopher Emmanuel Mounier (1905-1950). Mounier had developed his own political concept of personalism, which would later become the state ideology of South Vietnam. On his return to Saigon, Nhu was active as an organizer of the Vietnamese Federation of Christian Workers, the Catholic labor union movement. He soon became the major power behind his brother Ngo Dinh Diem and engineered the sacking of General Nguyen Van Hinh as commander of the South Vietnamese Army in 1954. As minister of the interior, he helped establish the Personalist Labor Party, the Can Lao Nhan Vi, and became the man most associated with the Strategic Hamlets program, designed to isolate villagers from the Communist guerillas. In 1963, when he suspected that the U.S. government might be trying to undercut his power, he opened some lines of communication with the Communists and hinted that he might be prepared to negotiate with them. He was overthrown in a coup d’état on November 1, 1963, and assassinated, along with his brother, on the next day.
Nguyen Cao Ky (b. 1930). Vice president of the Republic of (South) Vietnam from 1967 until 1971. Born on September 8, 1930, at Son Tay, he left high school and joined the armed forces, training in France and French Morocco. He later transferred to the air force and became a colonel under Ngo Dinh Diem. In January 1964, Ky took part in the coup d’état that put Nguyen Khanh into power. He then took an active part in the political machinations over the next few years, joining up with Nguyen Van Thieu and taking power in June 1965. When Thieu was formally elected president in 1967, Ky was his vice presidential running mate. Ky’s relations with Thieu deteriorated, however, and a number of Ky’s prominent supporters were killed during the Tet Offensive in 1968. Ky remained popular with war veterans and planned to stand in the 1971 presidential elections, but he was disqualified. Although he was later allowed to stand, he decided to retire from politics. In 1975, he was critical of Thieu’s abandonment of the central highlands. Just before Saigon fell to the Communists, Ky fled to the United States and opened a liquor store in California. In 2004, he returned to Vietnam for a visit, his first since 1975.
Nguyen Co Thach (1923-1998). Foreign minister of Vietnam from 1980 until 1991. Born on May 15, 1923, to a peasant family in northern Vietnam, Nguyen Co Thach entered the Communist movement in the late 1930s. He was arrested and jailed by the French from 1941 until 1945. In 1954, he was a staff officer at Dien Bien Phu and then changed from a soldier to a diplomat. After 1954, he was a member of the North Vietnamese foreign ministry and became ambassador to India from 1956 until 1960. The protégé of Le Duc Tho, he had been involved in the secret talks with the United States that led to the Paris Peace Accord in 1973. In 1980, he was appointed minister of foreign affairs, becoming the first career diplomat in the politburo after he joined in 1982. Nguyen Co Thach wanted greater engagement with the West and had to deal with the diplomatic fallout from the continued Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia. He opposed restoring full ties with China, which led to his dismissal in 1991, as the Vietnamese government was eager to rebuild relations with their northern neighbor, which improved with the end of the Cambodian Civil War. He died on April 10, 1998.
Nguyen Khanh (b. 1927). President of the Republic of (South) Vietnam in 1964 (twice). Nguyen Khanh was born on November 8, 1927, in Tra Vinh Province; his father ran a nightclub in Dalat. During the early 1940s, Khanh joined the Viet Minh but soon ended up joining the French forces, studying at the Vietnamese military academy, and then in France and in the United States. He served in Vietnam as a parachutist, and when the French left in 1954, he became the first commander of the Vietnamese Armed Forces. Rising in the military, he was appointed as secretary general of the defense ministry in 1959 and in the next year was promoted to the rank of major general. Taking part in the military coup that overthrew Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963, he was given command of the army in the north of South Vietnam and, on January 30, 1964, led a bloodless coup that overthrew the government of Duong Van Minh. Khanh’s government lasted only a little more than a week, however, and on February 8, he was forced from office, although he returned as president from August 16 until August 27, 1964, and then became a member of the Provisional Leadership Committee, which ruled until September 8. Remaining commander-in-chief of the armed forces, in 1965 he was appointed as ambassador to France and was there during the collapse of South Vietnam. He then started working for a French company and, in 1977, migrated to the United States where he became active among the Vietnamese exile communities. On January 2, 2005, Nguyen Khanh was chosen as the chief of state of the government of Free Vietnam, an anticommunist government-in-exile operating from Westminster, California.
Nguyen Minh Triet (b. 1942). President of Vietnam from 2006. Born on October 8, 1942, at Ben Cat district, Binh Duong province, he studied mathematics at the University of Saigon, and, in the early 1960s, became associated with the Communist movement around Saigon. From 1963 until 1973, he was active in the South Vietnamese Communist organizations, and from 1974 until 1979, he was deputy director of the General Affairs Department of the Youth Union. After studying at Nguyen Ai Quoc Party School in Hanoi, he continued to be involved in youth groups and organizations, and in January 1997, he was appointed to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam. He was elected to the politburo in 1997 and president by the National Assembly on June 27, 2006.
Nguyen Tan Dung (b. 1949). Prime minister of Vietnam from 2006. Born on November 17, 1949, at Ca Mau, he studied law and joined the Communist Party of Vietnam on June 10, 1967. He served in the army and was the first deputy prime minister from September 29, 1997. On June 27, 2006, his nomination as prime minister was confirmed by the National Assembly.
Nguyen Van Linh (1915-1998). General secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam from 1986 until 1991. Born on July 1, 1915 near Hanoi, as “Nguyen Van Cuc,” he was a teenager when he joined the Communist movement and was arrested in 1930; he was released with the amnesty of 1936. He then worked in Haiphong and in Cochinchina for the Indochina Communist Party. He was arrested again by the French and spent the rest of the war in the Poulo Condore prison. He then worked under Le Duan, using the pseudonym “Muoi Cuc.” From 1961 until 1964, he was director of the Central Office for South Vietnam and was deputy director from 1964 until the end of the war. In 1976, Nguyen Van Linh was given a seat in the politburo and put in charge of the Party Committee for Ho Chi Minh City. He failed to implement the drastic economic plans drawn up for the South and was dismissed in 1978, but as the government wanted to reform in 1978, he was reinstated to the politburo. In December 1986, he was named to succeed Truong Chinh as general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, remaining in office for five years and presiding over a period of great economic reform. He died on April 27, 1998.
Nguyen Van Thieu (1923-2001). President of the Republic of (South) Vietnam from 1967-1975. Born on April 5, 1923 in Ninh Thuan province, Annam, Thieu spent World War 11 working on the family farm and then served briefly with the Viet Minh forces before joining the Vietnamese National Army of the Associated State of Vietnam. Commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1949, he was appointed the commandant of the National Military Academy with the establishment of the Republic of Vietnam in 1955. After military training in the United States, he took part in the 1963 coup d’état that overthrew Ngo Dinh Diem, leading the attack on the Gia Long Palace. Emerging as one of the “Young Turks,” he took part in the military coup of December 1964, and in 1965 he became deputy prime minister and minister of national defense. Promoted to major-general, he replaced Nguyen Khanh as chairman of the Armed Forces Council and then led the military coup of June 1965, heading the military junta, and becoming president. He promulgated the new constitution in April 1967 and in September won the presidential election and was sworn into office on October 31, 1967. From 1969, Thieu formed a close alliance with U.S. President Richard M. Nixon and became the focus for the U.S. involvement in South Vietnam. In October 1971, Thieu was reelected and opposed the U.S. negotiations with the Communists. He was against the Paris Peace Agreement of January 1973 but eventually signed under immense pressure. In January 1975, he was shocked by the Communist attacks and was angered by the U.S. refusal to become involved in the fighting. On April 21, 1975, Thieu fled Saigon, taking with him a large personal fortune. After a short period in Thailand, he moved to England, his house just outside London having been named “The White House” by a previous owner. He later moved to the United States and died on September 29, 2001, at his home in Newton, Massachusetts.
Nong Duc Manh (b. 1940). General secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam from 2001. Born in 1940, at Bac Can, northern Vietnam, from the Tay ethnic minority, he trained in forestry in the Soviet Union and then held a variety of Communist Party positions until 1986 when he was appointed to the Party’s Central Committee. In 1992, Nong Duc Manh was appointed chairman of the National Assembly and six years later to the politburo. In 2001, he was elected general secretary of the Communist Party and was the first person from an ethnic minority to hold such a position in Vietnam. He was also the first communist leader who was not involved in the Communist movement during World War 11.
Pham Hung (1912-1988). Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Vietnam from 1987 until 1988. Bon on June 11, 1912, at Vinh Long, as Pham Van Thien, from a wealthy middle class family, Pham Hung was a founding member of the Indochina Communist Party in 1930. The next year he was arrested and jailed at Poulo Condore Island until he was released by the Japanese in 1945. He worked under Le Duan in the First Indochina War and in 1955 moved to Hanoi, becoming a member of the politburo two years later. Using the name “Bay Cuong,” he took charge of the Central Office for South Vietnam in 1967, running the Communist movement in South Vietnam. By the end of the war, he was the fourth-ranking member of the politburo, and in 1979, he was appointed minister of the interior. Replaced in 1987, in June he was appointed chairman of the Council of Ministers, replacing Pham Van Dong; however, he died soon after, on March 10, 1998.
Pham Van Dong (1906-2000). Prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 1955 until 1976. Born on March 1, 1906, in Duc Tan village, Quang Ngai province, central Vietnam, Pham Van Dong was from a mandarin family, and his father was chief secretary to the Vietnamese Emperor Duy Tan. He was educated in Hue and at the University of Hanoi. In 1926, he traveled to Guangzhou, China, and trained at the Whampoa Military Academy. He was jailed by the French from 1931-1936. Using the alias Lam Ba Kiet (Lin Pai-chieh), he served under Ho Chi Minh during World War 11. In 1946, he was named minister of finance of the newly formed Democratic Republic of Vietnam and became a member of the politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam five years later. As minister of foreign affairs and vice premier in 1954, he led the Vietnamese Communist delegation to the Geneva Peace Talks in 1954, and became prime minister the next year. An effective administrator, he also became involved in the peace talks with Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. On July 2, 1976, after the formal reunification of North Vietnam and South Vietnam, Pham Van Dong was appointed chairman of the Council of Ministers, a position he held until June 18, 1987, when Pham Hung was appointed to that position. He resigned from the politburo in December 1986, and died on April 29, 2000, the day before the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, at the age of 94.
Phan Van Khai (b. 1933). Prime minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam from 1997 until 2006. Born on December 25, 1933, near Saigon, he was a teenager when he joined the Communist movement, and moved to North Vietnam at the time of the partition in 1954. After studying economics in the Soviet Union, he returned to Hanoi to take up a position in the State Planning Committee. Working on the economic structure of the country after reunification, he was back in his native Ho Chi Minh City from 1975 until 1989 when he moved back to Hanoi, becoming deputy prime minister. On September 24, 1997, he was elected prime minister of Vietnam. He was reelected in August 2002, and was a keen supporter of reform. He announced his resignation on June 24, 2006.
Ton Duc Thang (1888-1980). President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam 1969 until 1976. Born on August 19, 1888, at Long Xuyen, he became sympathetic with the communist cause as a teenager. In World War I he served in the French navy and was involved in the mutiny on the Waldeck-Rousseau in 1919. Returning to Vietnam he started working for the Communists and in 1929 was arrested and jailed at Poulo Condore prison, where he remained until 1945. A member of the first National Assembly, elected in 1945, he took an active part in the war against the French. After the Geneva Peace Agreement he led the Fatherland Front to unite Communists in South Vietnam, and in July 1960, he was appointed vice-president to Ho Chi Minh. Awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1967, at the death of Ho Chi Minh, Ton Duc Thang became president of North Vietnam on September 2, 1969, retaining that position until reunification in 1976, at which point he became president of the SRV, a position he held until his death on March 30, 1980.
Tran Duc Luong (b. 1937). President of Vietnam from 1997 until 2006. Born on May 5, 1937, in Quang Ngai Province, he went to school in Hanoi and then became a geologist and a cartographer. Joining the Communist Party of Vietnam in 1959, he continued to work as a geologist and during the 1970s was able to win a seat in the National Assembly. In 1987, he was appointed deputy prime minister and in June 1996, was given a seat in the politburo. Elected president on September 24, 1997, he was reelected in 2002. On June 24, 2006, he announced his resignation as president.
Tran Le Xuan (“Mme Nhu”) (b. 1924). The first lady of the Republic of (South) Vietnam from 1955 until 1963. Born as Tran Le Xuan, her father was Tran Van Chuong, and her mother was a member of the Vietnamese royal family. She was educated in Hanoi and Saigon and married Ngo Dinh Nhu, younger brother of Ngo Dinh Diem, in 1943. A devout Roman Catholic, she was a dedicated anticommunist. When Diem became prime minister of the Republic of Vietnam in 1954, her husband became his chief adviser, and when Diem became president, as he was unmarried, Mme Nhu, as she became known, assumed the role of “first lady” of the Republic. She established the Women’s Solidarity Movement and was active with Catholic and anticommunist groups in Saigon and Hue. Narrowly surviving the bombing of the presidential palace in 1960, she gained a reputation as a major influence on the policies adopted by the Diem government. In 1963, when she referred to the semi-immolation of Buddhist monks as “barbecues,” she received wide international press coverage and quickly became known as the “Dragon Lady.” She was in Los Angeles when Diem and her husband were assassinated and since then has lived in exile in Rome, Italy.
Iran Van Huong (1903-1982). Vice president of the Republic of (South) Vietnam from 1971 until 1975, and president in 1975. Born on December 1, 1903, at Vinh Long Province, Tran Van Huong was a school teacher who joined the Viet Minh and then served as mayor of Saigon. He was appointed prime minister of South Vietnam by General Nguyen Khanh on November 4, 1964. He quickly earned respect for his appointment of people to positions because of their capability rather than because they belonged to one or another faction. Deposed by the military in January 28, 1965, he was reappointed after the Tet Offensive, holding the premiership from May 28, 1968, until September 1, 1969. In the 1971 presidential elections, he was the vice presidential running mate of Nguyen Van Thieu, and he held the position until April 21, 1975, when Thieu resigned and Tran Van Huong became president. Tran Van Huong held office until April 28 and then allowed Duong Van Minh to take power. and Tran Van Huong remained in Saigon, refusing to have anything to do with the new Communist government. He died in 1982.
Truong Chinh (1907-1988). First secretary of the Indochina Communist Party from 1941 until 1951; the Vietnam Workers’ Party from 1951 until 1956; chairman of the State Council of Vietnam from 1981 until 1987; and general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam in 1986. The leading theoretician of the Vietnamese Communists, he was born Dang Xuan Khu on February 9, 1907, into a scholar-gentry family in Ha Nam Ninh Province, Vietnam. Educated in Hanoi, he took part in demonstrations against the French in 1928, which led to his expulsion from school. He then worked for the Communists, editing their newspaper in Hanoi. He was jailed from 1930 until 1936 and was active in the Communist leadership from 1941, taking the name Truong Chinh (“Long March”). He became the leading ideologue of the Communists but lost office in 1956 when he was held responsible for the failures of the land reform programs. In 1958, however, he became vice premier of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, retaining his seat on the politburo. He headed the party faction that opposed the liberalization of the economy, which he thought would undermine the role of the Communist Party. On the death of Le Duan on July 10, 1986, Truong Chinh took over the Communist Party but resigned on December 18, 1986. He stepped down from the politburo and died on September 30, 1988 in Hanoi.
Vo Chi Cong (b. 1913). Chairman of the State Council of Vietnam from 1987 until 1992. A longtime Vietnamese Communist activist, he became interested in the nationalist struggle against the French after meeting Phan Boi Chau. Arrested by the French in 1942, he was released in 1945 and played a minor role in the First Indochina War. In 1961, he emerged as a founder of the NFL, and was clearly one of the leading southern Communists. In 1976, with the reunification of Vietnam, he was appointed to the politburo, serving as deputy prime minister from 1976 until 1982, and also minister of fisheries from 1976 until 1977 and minister of agriculture from 1977 until 1978. From 1987 until 1992, he was the titular head of state of Vietnam. On September 22, 1992, he retired and now lives in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vo Nguyen Giap (b. 1911). Leading Vietnamese Communist general. From a farming family in central Vietnam, Vo Nguyen Giap attended the Quoc Hoc in Hue and in his late teens started taking part in demonstrations against the French. As a result, he was expelled from school and became involved in the Indochina Communist Party. Arrested in 1930, after two years in custody, he was released and studied law at the University of Hanoi. After a stint teaching history, he worked as a journalist in Hue and from World War 11 was active in the Viet Minh. Becoming a member of the politburo, he was soon the highest ranking general in the People’s Army of Vietnam. He led the Vietnamese Communists and the decisive battle of Dienbienphu in 1954, when the French were defeated. Remaining as minister of defense until 1975, he helped in the planning of the Tet Offensive, the final defeat of South Vietnam in 1975, and the invasion of Cambodia in 1978-1979. His influence waned, however, and in 1982 he was dropped from the politburo and now lives in retirement in Hanoi.
Vo Van Kiet (b. 1922). Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Vietnam from 1991 until 1992. Born on November 23, 1922, from a middle class family from Cantho, Vo Van Kiet joined the Communist movement in the early 1940s, and became active among the Communists in South Vietnam. He became secretary of the Saigon Municipal Party Committee in the early 1970s. At the end of the fighting in 1975, Vo Van Kiet became chairman of the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City. In 1976, when Nguyen Van Linh moved to Hanoi to take charge of the trade union movement, Vo Van Kiet became chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Party Branch. A moderate who supported economic reform, in 1982 Vo Van Kiet was elected as a full member to the politburo and was also appointed vice-chairman of the Council of Ministers. At the death of Pham Hung in March 1988, he served as acting prime minister, but failed to be elected in June when the National Assembly met. A leading reformer, he served as prime minister from August 8, 1991, until September 25, 1997.