Introduction by Charles Fenn

When I first met Ho in China (in March 1945) I knew nothing of his background. I knew only one thing. With the help of his Viet Minh friends, Ho had rescued an American pilot shot down in northern Indo-China. Despite frantic Japanese opposition, he delivered the pilot safely back to base. This made Ho potentially pro-American and a possible ally in our war against Japan.

So it was that I found myself talking to a small, thin, rather elderly man in a threadbare cotton jacket. We spoke in French because I was unaware that he knew English, not to mention Russian, German, Siamese, two Chinese dialects, and, of course, Vietnamese. At first he made no particular impression on me. But once I registered the remarkable brightness of his eyes, I knew I was in the presence of an extraordinary man.

When I later instructed him in the art of military intelligence, I found that the promise in those bright eyes was amply fulfilled by his ready grasp of this quite complicated subject. I also discerned a quality Confucious designated by a Chinese character pronounced (roughly) shu, for which the nearest English equivalent would be “reciprocate;” or more simply, “my heart responding to yours,” the symbol for heart. Ho Chi Minh’s human warmth always shone through the shrewd, practical, balanced resolution that took him, after a lifetime of struggle, to achieve his final goal of a free Vietnam.

If we compare Ho with other major leaders of the 20th Century, we cannot fail to be struck by several significant facts: first, that long before Mao, Gandhi, Nehru, Roosevelt, Churchill or de Gaulle, were even heard of outside their own particular orbit, Ho had travelled worldwide and had begun to leave his mark on international events. Although his eventual fame would come after all these figures had reached their peak, it was a continuing process that began from nothing and during six decades reached a peak of success. His exemplary personal life, undeviating objective, and extraordinary achievement against overwhelming odds might well put him, in the world’s final judgment, near or at the top of the list.

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