There have been countless books written about the war in Vietnam as the United States was involved in a very costly war in terms of human loss and what the conflict did to tear apart our country as a whole. But could the war in Vietnam have been avoided in the first place? In the closing days of World War II, the US’ OSS (Office of Strategic Services) had sent a team in Indochina to work with the Viet Minh and Ho Chi Minh. He pleaded to the US and President Truman to help Vietnam gain its independence. His pleas were ignored, Truman and the US backed the French to take back their colonial empire and the rest is history.

Was Ho’s plea a clever Communist tactic just to get economic support from the US and help a fledgling country get on its feet? Or was he, as tried to portray himself, a fervent Vietnamese nationalist who just wanted to free his people? The answer may never be known completely but the truth may be a little bit of both.

Ho Chi Minh traveled in his formative years, gained an education from the French school in Hue and traveled abroad first on a steamer to France and later lived in the United States for a short time working menial jobs in Harlem and Boston.

After World War I, he went to France, got into politics, especially when it came to Vietnamese independence. He wrote letters to French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, and US President Woodrow Wilson at the Versailles peace talks asking for civil rights for the Vietnamese people. Ho pointed out that the self-determination proposed in the peace talks should include Vietnam and end the French colonial rule there. He asked for freedom of the press, freedom of association and assembly. Supposedly he claimed that his hero was George Washington who freed America from British colonial rule. But it all fell on deaf ears.

During this time, he fell under the sway of French socialists and became a member of the  Parti Communiste Français (FCP). He studied in Moscow and moved to China where he taught young people at Whampoa Military Academy. He bounced between Europe and Asia until World War II broke out and in 1941, Ho returned to Vietnam to take control of the Viet Minh Independence Movement.

Ho commanded 10,000 guerrillas of the Viet Minh known as the “men in black” in fighting not only the Japanese occupation forces but those of the Vichy French as well. In April 1945, Ho met with Archimedes Patti the OSS Station Chief in Kunming, China. The two struck a deal where the Viet Minh would provide intelligence on the Japanese and rescue downed US aircrews. The US would supply them with communications gear, and small arms as well as the training to properly use them.

In July of 1945, the OSS parachuted a team into Vietnam codenamed the “Deer” team, about 70 miles west of Hanoi. They were met by the Viet Minh and treated as heroes. They were brought to the austere headquarters of the Viet Minh where the team found Ho close to death suffering from malaria and dysentery. He was treated by the medics where he made a full recovery.

During the training to teach the Viet Minh how to use the US bazookas, light machine guns and hand grenades, the OSS’ interpreter PFC Henry Prunier, from Worcester, Mass. was teaching a Viet Minh, named Mr. Van how to throw grenades with the overhand lob which was foreign to the Vietnamese. Mr. Van’s real name was Vo Nguyen Giap who later defeated the French and led the war against the Americans. Once Ho learned Prunier was from Massachusetts, he regaled him with his stories about his time in Boston.