Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 






The World Wars and Interwar Period 

1914-1945


 


The first half of the 20th century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.


 



Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937

 

 

 


Imperial Japan and Southeast Asia 
 


1914-1945
 

 

Aggressive expansionist policies and increasingly fascistic nationalism characterized the politics of the Japanese empire from 1914 to 1945. Beginning in 1931, Japan waged a brutal war of conquest against China that lasted almost 15 years. Japan overextended itself with its surprise attack on the United States in 1941, and despite its military strength, supremacy over the whole of east Asia was clearly unsustainable. The country's inevitable defeat was hastened when the US destroyed two Japanese cities with atomic bombs. Most of the southeast Asian nations won their independence after the war, though some had to fight prolonged conflicts with the Western colonial powers.

 


The Struggle for East Asia in World War II
 

Japan fought the Allies for hegemony over the entire East Asian region in the War in the Pacific of 1941-1945. The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced Japan into unconditional surrender.

 

The outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 did not alter Japan's imperialist aims: the project of "reordering east Asia." Its goal was to unite the entire region—from India to Manchuria to Australia— as the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" under the political and economic hegemony of Japan, using the "divine emperor" Hirohito to legitimize this claim to dominance ideologically.

As a safeguard against interference, Japan signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy on September 27,1940, although it did not commit itself to aid in case of war. Japan also signed a neutrality pact with the Soviet Union on April 14,1941. An attempt at rapprochement with the United States, which had canceled its trade agreement with Japan in 1939, failed. When Japanese troops marched into Saigon in July 1941, US president Roosevelt imposed an oil embargo on Japan. As a result, Prime Minister Konoe resigned, and his extremely nationalist successor, General Hideki Tojo, decided to attack the Americans.

On December 7,1941, the Japanese bombed the US Pacific Fleet base at 1 Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The resulting entry of the United States into the hostilities turned the European war into a world war.

 

Pearl Harbor attack


1 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941


Main
Japanese-United States history

(Dec. 7, 1941), surprise aerial attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on Oahu Island, Hawaii, by the Japanese that precipitated the entry of the United States into World War II. The attack climaxed a decade of worsening relations between the United States and Japan. Japan’s invasion of China in 1937, its subsequent alliance with the Axis powers (Germany and Italy) in 1940, and its occupation of French Indochina in July 1941 prompted the United States to respond that same month by freezing Japanese assets in the United States and declaring an embargo on petroleum shipments and other vital war materials to Japan. By late 1941 the United States had severed practically all commercial and financial relations with Japan. Though Japan continued to negotiate with the United States up to the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, the government of Prime Minister Tōjō Hideki decided on war.

Adm. Yamamoto Isoroku, the commander in chief of Japan’s Combined Fleet, had planned the attack against the U.S. Pacific Fleet with great care. Once the U.S. fleet was out of action, the way for the unhindered Japanese conquest of all of Southeast Asia and the Indonesian Archipelago would be open. On November 26 a Japanese fleet, under Vice Adm. Nagumo Chuichi and including 6 aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, and 11 destroyers, sailed to a point some 275 miles (440 km) north of Hawaii. From there, about 360 planes in total were launched.

The first Japanese dive bomber appeared over Pearl Harbor at 7:55 am (local time). It was part of a first wave of nearly 200 aircraft, including torpedo planes, bombers, and fighters. The reconnaissance at Pearl Harbor had been lax; a U.S. Army private who noticed this large flight of planes on his radar screen was told to ignore them, since a flight of B-17s from the United States was expected at that time. The anchored ships in the harbour made perfect targets for the Japanese bombers, and since it was Sunday morning (a time chosen by the Japanese for maximum surprise) they were not fully manned. Similarly, the U.S. military aircraft were lined up on the airfields of the Naval Air Station on Ford Island and adjoining Wheeler and Hickam Fields to guard against sabotage, and many were destroyed on the ground by Japanese strafing. Most of the damage to the battleships was inflicted in the first 30 minutes of the assault. The Arizona was completely destroyed and the Oklahoma capsized. The California, Nevada, and West Virginia sank in shallow water. Three other battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers, and other vessels were also damaged. More than 180 aircraft were destroyed. U.S. military casualties totaled more than 3,400, including more than 2,300 killed. The Japanese lost from 29 to 60 planes, five midget submarines, perhaps one or two fleet submarines, and fewer than 100 men.

The Pearl Harbor attack severely crippled U.S. naval and air strength in the Pacific. However, the three aircraft carriers attached to the Pacific Fleet were not at Pearl Harbor at the time and thus escaped. Of the eight battleships, all but the Arizona and Oklahoma were eventually repaired and returned to service, and the Japanese failed to destroy the important oil storage facilities on the island. The “date which will live in infamy,” as U.S. Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt termed it, unified the U.S. public and swept away any earlier support for neutrality. On December 8 Congress declared war on Japan with only one dissenting vote (Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana, who had also voted against U.S. entry into World War I).

The extent of the disaster and the unpreparedness of the U.S. military provoked considerable criticism. Adm. Husband Kimmel and Gen. Walter Short, the Navy and Army commanders on Oahu, were relieved of duty, and official investigations were begun at once. Some historians and others went so far as to accuse President Roosevelt of having invited the attack (or at least done nothing to stop it) in order to bring the United States into the war against the Axis. (See Sidebar: Pearl Harbor and the “back door to war” theory.) However, later investigations indicated that, while U.S. officials had been aware that an attack by Japan was probable, they had no knowledge of the time or place at which it would occur.

Encyclopaedia Britannica
 


Battleship USS California sinking; Destroyer USS Shaw exploding after her forward magazine was detonated;
Aftermath: USS West Virginia (severely damaged), USS Tennessee (damaged), and the USS Arizona (sunk).
 


In the 2, 3 War in the Pacific, Japan was able to conquer all of east Asia by 1942.


2 Japanese destroyer opens fire on British cruiser, 1943


3 US war plane takes off from an
aircraft carrier, 1944

In rapid succession, Japan occupied the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Burma. It advanced to India's borders and was on the brink of conquering Australia. The situation finally began to change with the British invasion of Burma in 1943.

Then, after American landings in the Mariana Islands and the crushing defeat in the aircraft carrier battle at 4 Saipan, the war cabinet under Tojo stepped down.

When the Americans captured the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and cut off fuel supplies, Japan's defeat became inevitable, as the desperate deployment of 5 kamikaze pilots showed.

Despite this Japan refused to surrender on the terms that the Allies demanded.

On August 6 and 9,1945, the US dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a demonstration that forced Hirohito to announce Japan's 6 unconditional surrender.


4 US troops march across the island of Saipan, 1944


5 Japanese kamikaze pilots praying before their final flight, 1945


6 Japanese soldiers taken prisoner
in Guam, 1945

 

 

Atomic Attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The United States ended World War II with the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ushered in the nuclear age. The devastating destructive force of the new weapon shocked the world. Between them the two bombs are thought to have caused more than 200,000 civilian deaths, perhaps half instantly and half in the fallout.

The morality of the attacks are still disputed. Strategically, it saved the lives of US soldiers and served as a demonstration of American power, improving the US position in negotiations over the postwar world order.



The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the dropping of Little Boy;

The Fat Man mushroom cloud resulting from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rises 18 km (11 mi, 60,000 ft) into the air from the hypocenter.



Enola Gay and crew members. Paul Tibbets in the middle, Theodore Van Kirk on his right;

The Bockscar and its crew, who dropped the "Fat Man" atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

 

 

 

 

Hiroshima


Hiroshima after the bombing

Main
Japan

city and capital of Hiroshima ken (prefecture), southwestern Honshu, Japan, on Hiroshima Bay of the Inland Sea. The city is situated on the delta of the Ōta River, whose six channels divide it into several islets. Hiroshima, whose name means “Broad Island,” was founded as a castle town by the feudal lord Mōri Terumoto in the 16th century. From 1868 onward it was a military centre, and on Aug. 6, 1945, it became the first city in the world to be struck by an atomic bomb, which was dropped by a B-29 bomber of the U.S. Air Forces. Most of the city was destroyed, and estimates of the number killed outright or shortly after the blast have ranged upward from 70,000. Deaths from radiation injury have mounted through the years.

Reconstruction under a comprehensive city-planning scheme was begun about 1950 with the rebuilding of the Inari Bridge. Now the largest industrial city in that section of Japan encompassed by the Chūgoku (western Honshu) and Shikoku regions, Hiroshima contains many administrative offices, public-utility centres, and colleges and universities. Industries produce steel, automobiles, rubber, chemicals, ships, and transport machinery. The city is Japan’s major needle producer.

Hiroshima has become a spiritual centre of the peace movement for the banning of nuclear weapons. In 1947 the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (since 1975 the Radiation Effects Research Foundation) began to conduct medical and biological research on the effects of radiation in Hiroshima. Five public hospitals and 40 private clinics give free treatment to victims of the bombing. Hiroshima Castle was restored in 1957 and houses a museum of city history. Peace Memorial Park, located at the epicentre of the atomic blast, contains a museum and monuments dedicated to those killed by the explosion. The cenotaph for victims of the bombing is shaped like an enormous saddle, resembling the small clay saddles placed in ancient Japanese tombs; it contains a stone chest with a scroll listing the names of those killed. A commemorative service is held at the park every August 6th. The museum and cenotaph were designed by the Japanese architect Tange Kenzō, and two peace bridges at the park were sculpted by the American artist Isamu Noguchi. Millions of paper cranes, the Japanese symbol of longevity and happiness, are heaped about the Children’s Peace Memorial throughout the year; this tradition was inspired by a 12-year-old girl who contracted leukemia and died as an aftereffect of the bombing. Atomic Bomb Dome (Genbaku dōmu), which was designated a World Heritage site in 1996, is the remains of one of the few buildings not obliterated by the blast. Pop. (2005) 1,154,391.

Encyclopaedia Britannica
 


Hiroshima after the bombing

 

 

Nagasaki


Nagasaki after the bombing


Main
Japan

capital and largest city, Nagasaki ken (prefecture), western Kyushu, Japan, at the mouth of the Urakami-gawa (Urakami River) where it empties into Nagasaki-kō (Nagasaki Harbour). The harbour is composed of a narrow, deep-cut bay, formed at the meeting point of Nomo-saki (Cape Nomo; south) and Nishisonoki-hantō (Nishisonoki Peninsula; northwest). The city is shaped like an amphitheatre, with its crooked streets and tiered houses clinging to the hillsides that enclose the inner bay. Reclaimed land at bayside and the Urakami Basin provide some level land. Although the perception is that the city is totally modern and rebuilt since 1945, actually Nagasaki has a number of areas where old buildings and temples remain.

Nagasaki was Japan’s second oldest port open to foreign trade (after Hirado). It was the only Japanese port permitted by the Tokugawa shogunate (military government) between 1639 and 1859 when all other ports were closed. Portuguese traders (who introduced Roman Catholicism and guns to Japan) first arrived there in the mid-16th century. Soon after the introduction of Catholicism, large groups of Japanese converted to the new religion. Feeling threatened by this new faith, the shogunate began persecuting Christians, including 26 martyrs—6 Franciscan missionaries and 20 Japanese laypeople—who were crucified in Nagasaki in 1597. The martyrs were canonized by the Vatican in 1862, and the Oura Roman Catholic Church, built in Gothic style, was erected in 1864 to commemorate them.

By the 1600s, tensions had risen to such a state that the Portuguese were expelled, along with the Protestant English; trade was then restricted to the Dutch and, to a lesser degree, the Chinese and Koreans. Over the next 200 years, as the rest of Japan was closed to the West, Nagasaki became a centre for information on Western technology and science. When Nagasaki was fully reopened to the West in the 1850s, it became a major port for trade. It was a leading East Asian coaling station and served as the winter port of the Russian Asiatic fleet until 1903.

In the early 20th century the city became a major shipbuilding centre; it was this industry that led to Nagasaki’s being chosen as a target for the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan by the United States in World War II. The bomb was dropped on August 9, 1945, and destroyed the innermost portion of Nagasaki; between 60,000 and 80,000 persons were killed. Exact figures are difficult, however, for many records were destroyed by the bomb and the overall devastation of the area made accurate accounting for casualties impossible. Still, estimates indicate that some 40,000 people were killed immediately with the rest dying within the next few months because of burns, injuries, or radiation exposure. The terrain and smaller size of Nagasaki reduced the destruction of life and property as compared to that of the atomic bomb explosion over Hiroshima, although the bomb dropped on Nagasaki was significantly more powerful. About 40 percent of the city’s buildings were completely destroyed or severely damaged. Since World War II, the city has been rebuilt and is significant as a spiritual centre for movements to ban nuclear weapons.

Nagasaki is an important tourist centre; its industry is still based upon its large shipyards, which are grouped along the western and inner parts of the harbour. The city also contains numerous historic sites. The Sofuku-ji (Chinese Temple; 1629) is a fine example of Chinese Ming dynasty architecture, inhabited by Chinese Buddhist monks. A fine view of Nagasaki-kō is offered by the Glover Mansion, the home of a 19th-century British merchant and reputed to be the site of Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly. Peace Park, on the Urakami-gawa, was established under the point of detonation of the bomb. The Roman Catholic cathedral of Urakami (built in 1959 to replace the original 1914 cathedral that was destroyed by the bomb) overlooks the park. Pop. (2005) 455,206.

Encyclopaedia Britannica



Nagasaki before and after the bombing

 

 

 

 

Manhattan Project


A mock-up of the plutonium bomb, Fat Man


Main
United States history

U.S. government research project (1942–45) that produced the first atomic bombs.

American scientists, many of them refugees from fascist regimes in Europe, took steps in 1939 to organize a project to exploit the newly recognized fission process for military purposes. The first contact with the government was made by G.B. Pegram of Columbia University, who arranged a conference between Enrico Fermi and the Navy Department in March 1939. In the summer of 1939, Albert Einstein was persuaded by his fellow scientists to use his influence and present the military potential of an uncontrolled fission chain reaction to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In February 1940, $6,000 was made available to start research under the supervision of a committee headed by L.J. Briggs, director of the National Bureau of Standards. On December 6, 1941, the project was put under the direction of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, headed by Vannevar Bush. After the U.S. entry into the war, the War Department was given joint responsibility for the project, since by mid-1942 it was obvious that a vast array of pilot plants, laboratories, and manufacturing facilities would have to be constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers so that the assembled scientists could carry out their mission. In June 1942 the Corps of Engineers’ Manhattan District was initially assigned management of the construction work (because much of the early research had been performed at Columbia University, in Manhattan), and in September 1942 Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves was placed in charge of all Army activities (chiefly engineering activities) relating to the project. “Manhattan Project” became the code name for research work that would extend across the country.

It was known in 1940 that German scientists were working on a similar project and that the British were also exploring the problem. In the fall of 1941 Harold C. Urey and Pegram visited England to attempt to set up a cooperative effort, and by 1943 a combined policy committee with Great Britain and Canada was established. In that year a number of scientists of those countries moved to the United States to join the project there.

If the project were to achieve success quickly, several lines of research and development had to be carried on simultaneously before it was certain whether any might succeed. The explosive materials then had to be produced and be made suitable for use in an actual weapon.

Uranium-235, the essential fissionable component of the postulated bomb, cannot be separated from its natural companion, the much more abundant uranium-238, by chemical means; the atoms of these respective isotopes must rather be separated from each other by physical means. Several physical methods to do this were intensively explored, and two were chosen—the electromagnetic process developed at the University of California at Berkeley under Ernest Orlando Lawrence and the diffusion process developed under Urey at Columbia University. Both of these processes, and particularly the diffusion method, required large, complex facilities and huge amounts of electric power to produce even small amounts of separated uranium-235. Philip Hauge Abelson developed a third method called thermal diffusion, which was also used for a time to effect a preliminary separation. These methods were put into production at a 70-square-mile (180-square-km) tract near Knoxville, Tennessee, originally known as the Clinton Engineer Works, later as Oak Ridge.

Only one method was available for the production of the fissionable material plutonium-239. It was developed at the metallurgical laboratory of the University of Chicago under the direction of Arthur Holly Compton and involved the transmutation in a reactor pile of uranium-238. In December 1942 Fermi finally succeeded in producing and controlling a fission chain reaction in this reactor pile at Chicago.

Quantity production of plutonium-239 required the construction of a reactor of great size and power that would release about 25,000 kilowatt-hours of heat for each gram of plutonium produced. It involved the development of chemical extraction procedures that would work under conditions never before encountered. An intermediate step in putting this method into production was taken with the construction of a medium-size reactor at Oak Ridge. The large-scale production reactors were built on an isolated 1,000-square-mile (2,600-square-km) tract on the Columbia River north of Pasco, Washington—the Hanford Engineer Works.

Before 1943, work on the design and functioning of the bomb itself was largely theoretical, based on fundamental experiments carried out at a number of different locations. In that year a laboratory directed by J. Robert Oppenheimer was created on an isolated mesa at Los Alamos, New Mexico, 34 miles (55 km) north of Santa Fe. This laboratory had to develop methods of reducing the fissionable products of the production plants to pure metal and fabricating the metal to required shapes. Methods of rapidly bringing together amounts of fissionable material to achieve a supercritical mass (and thus a nuclear explosion) had to be devised, along with the actual construction of a deliverable weapon that would be dropped from a plane and fused to detonate at the proper moment in the air above the target. Most of these problems had to be solved before any appreciable amount of fissionable material could be produced, so that the first adequate amounts could be used at the fighting front with minimum delay.

By the summer of 1945, amounts of plutonium-239 sufficient to produce a nuclear explosion had become available from the Hanford Works, and weapon development and design were sufficiently far advanced so that an actual field test of a nuclear explosive could be scheduled. Such a test was no simple affair. Elaborate and complex equipment had to be assembled so that a complete diagnosis of success or failure could be had. By this time the original $6,000 authorized for the Manhattan Project had grown to $2 billion.

The first atomic bomb was exploded at 5:30 am on July 16, 1945, at a site on the Alamogordo air base 120 miles (193 km) south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was detonated on top of a steel tower surrounded by scientific equipment, with remote monitoring taking place in bunkers occupied by scientists and a few dignitaries 10,000 yards (9 km) away. The explosion came as an intense light flash, a sudden wave of heat, and later a tremendous roar as the shock wave passed and echoed in the valley. A ball of fire rose rapidly, followed by a mushroom cloud extending to 40,000 feet (12,200 metres). The bomb generated an explosive power equivalent to 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT; the tower was completely vaporized and the surrounding desert surface fused to glass for a radius of 800 yards (730 metres). The following month, two other atomic bombs produced by the project, the first using uranium-235 and the second using plutonium, were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

 

Enrico Fermi


Enrico Fermi

Main
Italian-American physicist

born Sept. 29, 1901, Rome, Italy
died Nov. 28, 1954, Chicago, Ill., U.S.

Italian-born American scientist who was one of the chief architects of the nuclear age. He developed the mathematical statistics required to clarify a large class of subatomic phenomena, explored nuclear transformations caused by neutrons, and directed the first controlled chain reaction involving nuclear fission. He was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize for Physics, and the Enrico Fermi Award of the U.S. Department of Energy is given in his honour. Fermilab, the National Accelerator Laboratory, in Illinois, is named for him, as is fermium, element number 100.

Early life and education
Fermi’s father, Alberto Fermi, was a chief inspector of the government railways; his mother was Ida de Gattis, a schoolteacher. In 1918 Enrico Fermi won a scholarship to the University of Pisa’s distinguished Scuola Normale Superiore, where his knowledge of recent physics benefited even the professors. After receiving a doctorate in 1922, Fermi used fellowships from the Italian Ministry of Public Instruction and the Rockefeller Foundation to study in Germany under Max Born, at the University of Göttingen, and in The Netherlands under Paul Ehrenfest, at the State University of Leiden.

European career
Fermi returned home to Italy in 1924 to a position as a lecturer in mathematical physics at the University of Florence. His early research was in general relativity, statistical mechanics, and quantum mechanics. Examples of gas degeneracy (appearance of unexpected phenomena) had been known, and some cases were explained by Bose-Einstein statistics, which describes the behaviour of subatomic particles known as bosons. Between 1926 and 1927, Fermi and the English physicist P.A.M. Dirac independently developed new statistics, now known as Fermi-Dirac statistics, to handle the subatomic particles that obey the Pauli exclusion principle; these particles, which include electrons, protons, neutrons (not yet discovered), and other particles with half-integer spin, are now known as fermions. This was a contribution of exceptional importance to atomic and nuclear physics, particularly in this period when quantum mechanics was first being applied.

This seminal work brought Fermi an invitation in 1926 to become a full professor at the University of Rome. Shortly after Fermi took up his new position in 1927, Franco Rasetti, a friend from Pisa and another superb experimentalist, joined Fermi in Rome, and they began to gather a group of talented students about them. These included Emilio Segrè, Ettore Majorana, Edoardo Amaldi, and Bruno Pontecorvo, all of whom had distinguished careers. Fermi, a charismatic, energetic, and seemingly infallible figure, clearly was the leader—so much so that his colleagues called him “the Pope.”

In 1929 Fermi, as Italy’s first professor of theoretical physics and a rising star in European science, was named by Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini to his new Accademia d’Italia, a position that included a substantial salary (much larger than that for any ordinary university position), a uniform, and a title (“Excellency”).

During the late 1920s, quantum mechanics solved problem after problem in atomic physics. Fermi, earlier than most others, recognized that the field was becoming exhausted, however, and he deliberately changed his focus to the more primitively developed field of nuclear physics. Radioactivity had been recognized as a nuclear phenomenon for almost two decades by this time, but puzzles still abounded. In beta decay, or the expulsion of a negative electron from the nucleus, energy and momentum seemed not to be conserved. Fermi made use of the neutrino, an almost undetectable particle that had been postulated a few years earlier by the Austrian-born physicist Wolfgang Pauli, to fashion a theory of beta decay in which balance was restored. This led to recognition that beta decay was a manifestation of the weak force, one of the four known universal forces (the others being gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong force).

In 1933 the French husband-and-wife team of Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie discovered artificial radioactivity caused by alpha particles (helium nuclei). Fermi quickly reasoned that the neutral neutron, found a year earlier by the English physicist James Chadwick, would be an even better projectile with which to bombard charged nuclei in order to initiate such reactions. With his colleagues, Fermi subjected more than 60 elements to neutron bombardment, using a Geiger-Müller counter to detect emissions and conducting chemical analyses to determine the new radioactive isotopes produced. Along the way, they found by chance that neutrons that had been slowed in their velocity often were more effective. When testing uranium they observed several activities, but they could not interpret what occurred. Some scientists thought that they had produced transuranium elements, namely elements higher than uranium at atomic number 92. The issue was not resolved until 1938, when the German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann experimentally, and the Austrian physicists Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch theoretically, cleared the confusion by revealing that the uranium had split and the several radioactivities detected were from fission fragments.

Fermi was little interested in politics, yet he grew increasingly uncomfortable with the fascist politics of his homeland. When Italy adopted the anti-Semitic policies of its ally, Nazi Germany, a crisis occurred, for Fermi’s wife, Laura, was Jewish. The award of the 1938 Nobel Prize for Physics serendipitously provided the excuse for the family to travel abroad, and the prize money helped to establish them in the United States.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

 

Leslie Richard Groves


General Leslie Groves (left) was appointed
the military head of the Manhattan Project,
while Robert Oppenheimer (right) was the
scientific director.
 

Main
United States general

born Aug. 17, 1896, Albany, N.Y., U.S.
died July 13, 1970, Washington, D.C.

American army officer in charge of the Manhattan Engineer District (MED)—or, as it is commonly known, the Manhattan Project—which oversaw all aspects of scientific research, production, and security for the invention of the atomic bomb.

Groves was the son of an army chaplain and grew up on military posts throughout the United States. He attended the University of Washington at Seattle for one year and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at Cambridge, Mass., for two years before entering the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in June 1916. In an effort to supply more officers to American forces in Europe, several West Point classes were accelerated. Groves graduated on Nov. 1, 1918, 10 days prior to the armistice ending World War I. He ranked fourth in his class and chose the Corps of Engineers as his branch. For the next 20 years, he was assigned various engineering duties throughout the United States and Hawaii. He also attended Engineer School, the Command and General Staff School, and the Army War College, completing the schooling of those expected to hold high command and staff positions. During the mobilization period for World War II, from 1940 to 1942, Groves eventually oversaw all army construction in the United States, a mammoth task involving building camps, munitions plants, airfields, depots, and the Pentagon to support an army that grew from 135,000 during the interwar period to an eventual 8,000,000 during World War II.

In mid-1942, the Army Corps of Engineers was put in charge of the U.S. atomic bomb project—known as the Manhattan Engineer District (MED) or Manhattan Project—and Groves was selected as its head on Sept. 17, 1942. Over the next three years, his responsibilities grew considerably. First, he oversaw the construction of plants and factories to make the key atomic bomb materials—highly enriched uranium and plutonium. He also chose the site and the key personnel for an isolated laboratory at Los Alamos, N.M., to research, develop, and fabricate the bomb. To ensure secrecy, he oversaw a vast security, intelligence, and counterintelligence operation with domestic and foreign branches. He became involved in many key high-level domestic policy issues and in several international ones as well. To prepare for the combat missions, he had several dozen B-29 aircraft specially modified to carry the five-ton atomic bombs, initiated the creation of a special air force unit (known as the 509th Composite Group) to deliver them, and saw to establishing a domestic training base at Wendover, Utah, and an overseas staging base at Tinian, an island north of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. These actions put Groves at the centre of the planning, targeting, and timing of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

On Dec. 31, 1946, Groves turned over the MED to the civilian Atomic Energy Commission, created by the Atomic Energy Act of 1946. After a final assignment as chief of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, he retired from the army in February 1948 and took a position with Remington Rand. He wrote Now It Can Be Told (1962), describing his experience of running the Manhattan Project.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

 

J. Robert Oppenheimer


Julius Robert Oppenheimer

Main
American physicist
in full Julius Robert Oppenheimer

born April 22, 1904, New York, New York, U.S.
died February 18, 1967, Princeton, New Jersey

American theoretical physicist and science administrator, noted as director of the Los Alamos laboratory during development of the atomic bomb (1943–45) and as director of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (1947–66). Accusations of disloyalty led to a government hearing that resulted in the loss of his security clearance and of his position as adviser to the highest echelons of the U.S. government. The case became a cause célèbre in the world of science because of its implications concerning political and moral issues relating to the role of scientists in government.

Oppenheimer was the son of a German immigrant who had made his fortune by importing textiles in New York City. During his undergraduate studies at Harvard University, Oppenheimer excelled in Latin, Greek, physics, and chemistry, published poetry, and studied Oriental philosophy. After graduating in 1925, he sailed for England to do research at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, which, under the leadership of Lord Ernest Rutherford, had an international reputation for its pioneering studies on atomic structure. At the Cavendish, Oppenheimer had the opportunity to collaborate with the British scientific community in its efforts to advance the cause of atomic research.

Max Born invited Oppenheimer to Göttingen University, where he met other prominent physicists, such as Niels Bohr and P.A.M. Dirac, and where, in 1927, he received his doctorate. After short visits at science centres in Leiden and Zürich, he returned to the United States to teach physics at the University of California at Berkeley and the California Institute of Technology.

In the 1920s the new quantum and relativity theories were engaging the attention of science. That mass was equivalent to energy and that matter could be both wavelike and corpuscular carried implications seen only dimly at that time. Oppenheimer’s early research was devoted in particular to energy processes of subatomic particles, including electrons, positrons, and cosmic rays. Since quantum theory had been proposed only a few years before, the university post provided him an excellent opportunity to devote his entire career to the exploration and development of its full significance. In addition, he trained a whole generation of U.S. physicists, who were greatly affected by his qualities of leadership and intellectual independence.

The rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany stirred his first interest in politics. In 1936 he sided with the republic during the Civil War in Spain, where he became acquainted with Communist students. Although his father’s death in 1937 left Oppenheimer a fortune that allowed him to subsidize anti-Fascist organizations, the tragic suffering inflicted by Joseph Stalin on Russian scientists led him to withdraw his associations with the Communist Party—in fact, he never joined the party—and at the same time reinforced in him a liberal democratic philosophy.

After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939, the physicists Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard warned the U.S. government of the danger threatening all of humanity if the Nazis should be the first to make a nuclear bomb. Oppenheimer then began to seek a process for the separation of uranium-235 from natural uranium and to determine the critical mass of uranium required to make such a bomb. In August 1942 the U.S. Army was given the responsibility of organizing the efforts of British and U.S. physicists to seek a way to harness nuclear energy for military purposes, an effort that became known as the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer was instructed to establish and administer a laboratory to carry out this assignment. In 1943 he chose the plateau of Los Alamos, near Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he had spent part of his childhood in a boarding school.

For reasons that have not been made clear, Oppenheimer in 1942 initiated discussions with military security agents that culminated with the implication that some of his friends and acquaintances were agents of the Soviet government. This led to the dismissal of a personal friend on the faculty at the University of California. In a 1954 security hearing he described his contribution to those discussions as “a tissue of lies.”

The joint effort of outstanding scientists at Los Alamos culminated in the first nuclear explosion on July 16, 1945, at the Trinity Site near Alamogordo, New Mexico, after the surrender of Germany. In October of the same year, Oppenheimer resigned his post. In 1947 he became head of the Institute for Advanced Study and served from 1947 until 1952 as chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission, which in October 1949 opposed development of the hydrogen bomb.

On December 21, 1953, he was notified of a military security report unfavourable to him and was accused of having associated with Communists in the past, of delaying the naming of Soviet agents, and of opposing the building of the hydrogen bomb. A security hearing declared him not guilty of treason but ruled that he should not have access to military secrets. As a result, his contract as adviser to the Atomic Energy Commission was cancelled. The Federation of American Scientists immediately came to his defense with a protest against the trial. Oppenheimer was made the worldwide symbol of the scientist, who, while trying to resolve the moral problems that arise from scientific discovery, becomes the victim of a witch-hunt. He spent the last years of his life working out ideas on the relationship between science and society.

In 1963 President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Oppenheimer with the Enrico Fermi Award of the Atomic Energy Commission. Oppenheimer retired from the Institute for Advanced Study in 1966 and died of throat cancer the following year.

Michel Rouzé

Encyclopaedia Britannica
 

 

 


East Asia's Path to Independence
 

The states of east Asia emerged from Japanese rule and decades of colonial domination following the end of World War II.

 

At the beginning of the 20th century, nearly all of east Asia was ruled by the western colonial powers: Indochina belonged to France; the Philippines to the United States; India, 7 Malaya, and the northern part of Borneo to Great Britain; and today's Indonesia to the Netherlands.


7 Japanese inspect a captured British plane, Malaya, 1941

On the mainland, only 8 Siam (present-day Thailand) was officially independent, but even it was subject to French and Japanese influence.

Korea had been a Japanese protectorate since 1905.

Internally, resistance groups such as the communists, which appeared for the first time in Indonesia in 1914 and in other East Asian countries toward the end of the 1920s, posed little threat to the colonial rulers. Only in Burma in 1937 did domestic dissent achieve a significant goal, when an uprising of nationalist students triggered the country's breaking away from the British Indian empire, and Burma was granted partial autonomy.

Japan's plans for a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere implied driving the Europeans out of the region, which all east Asian resistance groups welcomed in principle. But it also promoted a split in the anticolonial resistance. Left-wing groups did not want to be ruled by a Japanese divine emperor and formed anti-Japanese communist people's armies, for example, in the Philippines and Malaya. In contrast, nationalists hoped that a pro-Japanese position would help them gain national sovereignty more quickly.

A 9 volunteer army in Burma supported the Japanese, and there was a similar body in India. The reaction in present-day Vietnam was different.

When Japan occupied the eastern part of the country in 1941, the nationalists and communists joined together against the Japanese under the leadership of
10
Ho Chi Minh in the League for the Independence of Vietnam, the Viet Minh.

Following Japan's surrender in 1945, the colonial powers gradually withdrew from the region. Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, and Burma proclaimed themselves sovereign states by the end of the 1940s. Malaya gained independence only in 1957. The humiliating loss of British Singapore and Hong Kong greatly reduced the power and prestige of the colonialist powers in southeast Asia.


8 Bangkok, capital of Siam, ca. 1930


9 Japanese soldiers in Burma, 1944


10 Ho Chi Minh (foreground) with
Viet Minh forces, 1950

 

 

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh ("He who enlightens") was the charismatic leader of the Vietnamese liberation movement and in 1945 became the first president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. In the 1960s he was the figurehead of the Vietnamese struggle against the military intervention of the United States.

Ho was born in 1890 in Annam, went to France in 1917, and was a founding member of the Communist Party there. After his deportation to Moscow in 1923, he became the Comintern functionary in Southeast Asia.

 An advisor to the Chinese Kuomintang troops in the Soviet Union in 1938, he returned to his homeland only after the Japanese invasion in 1941.


Ho Chi Minh

 

 

 

Ho Chi Minh
 


Ho Chi Minh

Main
president of North Vietnam
original name Nguyen Sinh Cung, also called Nguyen Tat Thanh, or Nguyen Ai Quoc

born May 19, 1890, Hoang Tru, Vietnam, French Indochina
died Sept. 2, 1969, Hanoi, Vietnam

founder of the Indochina Communist Party (1930) and its successor, the Viet-Minh (1941), and president from 1945 to 1969 of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). As the leader of the Vietnamese nationalist movement for nearly three decades, Ho was one of the prime movers of the post-World War II anticolonial movement in Asia and one of the most influential communist leaders of the 20th century.

Early Life.
The son of a poor country scholar, Nguyen Sinh Huy, Ho Chi Minh was brought up in the village of Kim Lien. He had a wretched childhood, but between the ages of 14 and 18 he was able to study at a grammar school in Hue. He is next known to have been a schoolmaster in Phan Thiet and then was apprenticed at a technical institute in Saigon.

In 1911, under the name of Ba, he found work as a cook on a French steamer. He was a seaman for more than three years, visiting various African ports and the American cities of Boston and New York. After living in London from 1915 to 1917, he moved to France, where he worked, in turn, as a gardener, sweeper, waiter, photo retoucher, and oven stoker.

During the six years that he spent in France (1917–23), he became an active socialist, under the name Nguyen Ai Quoc (“Nguyen the Patriot”). He organized a group of Vietnamese living there and in 1919 addressed an eight-point petition to the representatives of the great powers at the Versailles Peace Conference that concluded World War I. In the petition, Ho demanded that the French colonial power grant its subjects in Indochina equal rights with the rulers. This act brought no response from the peacemakers, but it made him a hero to many politically conscious Vietnamese. The following year, inspired by the success of the communist revolution in Russia and Vladimir Lenin’s anti-imperialist doctrine, Ho joined the French Communists when they withdrew from the Socialist Party in December 1920.

After his years of militant activity in France, where he became acquainted with most of the French working-class leaders, Ho went to Moscow at the end of 1923. In January 1924, following the death of Lenin, he published a moving farewell to the founder of the Soviet Union in Pravda. Six months later, from June 17 to July 8, he took an active part in the fifth Congress of the Communist International, during which he criticized the French Communist Party for not opposing colonialism more vigorously. His statement to the congress is noteworthy because it contains the first formulation of his belief in the importance of the revolutionary role of oppressed peasants (as opposed to industrial workers).

In December 1924, under the assumed name of Ly Thuy, Ho went to Canton, a Communist stronghold, where he recruited the first cadres of the Vietnamese nationalist movement, organizing them into the Vietnam Thanh Nien Cach Menh Dong Chi Hoi (“Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association”), which became famous under the name Thanh Nien. Almost all of its members had been exiled from Indochina because of their political beliefs and had gathered together in order to participate in the struggle against French rule over their country. Thus, Canton became the first home of Indochinese nationalism.

When Chiang Kai-shek, then commander of the Chinese army, expelled the Chinese Communists from Canton in April 1927, Ho again sought refuge in the Soviet Union. In 1928 he went to Brussels and Paris and then to Siam (now Thailand), where he spent two years as a representative of the Communist International, the world organization of Communist parties, in Southeast Asia. His followers, however, remained in South China.


Founding of the Indochinese Communist Party
(PCI)
Meeting in Hong Kong in May 1929, members of the Thanh Nien decided to form an Indochinese Communist Party. Others—in the Vietnamese cities of Hanoi, Hue, and Saigon—began the actual work of organization, but some of Ho’s lieutenants were reluctant to act in the absence of their leader, who had the confidence of Moscow. Ho was brought back from Siam, therefore, and on Feb. 3, 1930, he presided over the founding of the party. At first it was called the Vietnamese Communist Party, but after October 1930, Ho, acting on Soviet advice, adopted the name Indochinese Communist Party. In this phase of his career, Ho acted more as an arbiter of conflicts among the various factions, allowing the organization of revolutionary action, rather than as an initiator. His prudence, his awareness of what it was possible to accomplish, his care not to alienate Moscow, and the influence that he already had achieved among the Vietnamese Communists can be seen in these actions.

The creation of the PCI coincided with a violent insurrectionary movement in Vietnam. Repression by the French was brutal; Ho himself was condemned in absentia to death as a revolutionary. He sought refuge in Hong Kong, where the French police obtained permission from the British for his extradition, but friends helped him escape, and he reached Moscow via Shanghai.

In 1935 the seventh Congress of the International, meeting in Moscow, which he attended as chief delegate for the PCI, officially sanctioned the idea of the Popular Front (an alliance with the non-Communist left against Fascism)—a policy Ho had advocated for some time. In keeping with this policy the Communists in Indochina moderated their anticolonialist stance in 1936, allowing for cooperation with “antifascist colonialists.” The formation of Premier Léon Blum’s Popular Front government in France in the same year allowed leftist forces in Indochina to operate more freely, although Ho, because of his condemnation in 1930, was not permitted to return from exile. Repression returned to Indochina with the fall of the Blum government in 1937, and by 1938 the Popular Front was dead.


World War II and the founding of the Vietnamese state.
In 1938 Ho returned to China and stayed for a few months with Mao Zedong at Yen-an. When France was defeated by Germany in 1940, Ho and his lieutenants, Vo Nguyen Giap and Pham Van Dong, plotted to use this turn of events to advance their own cause. About this time he began to use the name Ho Chi Minh (He Who Enlightens). Crossing over the border into Vietnam in January 1941, the trio and five comrades organized in May the Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi (League for the Independence of Vietnam), or Viet Minh; this gave renewed emphasis to a peculiarly Vietnamese nationalism.

The new organization was forced to seek help in China from the government of Chiang Kai-shek. But Chiang distrusted Ho as a Communist and had him arrested. Ho was then imprisoned in China for 18 months, during which time he wrote his famed Notebook from Prison (a collection of short poems written in classic Chinese, a mixture of melancholy, stoicism, and a call for revolution). His friends obtained his release by an arrangement with Chiang Fa-k’uei, a warlord in South China, agreeing in return to support Chiang’s interests in Indochina against the French.

In 1945 two events occurred that paved the way to power for the Vietnamese revolutionaries. First, the Japanese completely overran Indochina and imprisoned or executed all French officials. Six months later the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and the Japanese were totally defeated. Thus, the two strongest adversaries of the Viet Minh and Ho Chi Minh were eliminated.

Ho Chi Minh seized his opportunity. Within a few months he contacted U.S. forces and began to collaborate with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS; a U.S. undercover operation) against the Japanese. Further, his Viet Minh guerrillas fought against the Japanese in the mountains of South China.

At the same time, commandos formed by Vo Nguyen Giap, under Ho’s direction, began to move toward Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, in the spring of 1945. After Japan’s surrender to the Allies, they entered Hanoi on August 19. Finally, on September 2, before an enormous crowd gathered in Ba Dinh Square, Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam independent, using words ironically reminiscent of the U.S. Declaration of Independence: “All men are born equal: the Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty, and happiness. . . !”

All obstacles were not removed from the path of the Viet Minh, however. According to the terms of an Allied agreement, Chiang Kai-shek’s troops were supposed to replace the Japanese north of the 16th parallel. More significantly, France, now liberated and under the leadership of Charles de Gaulle, did not intend to simply accept the fait accompli of an independent Vietnam and attempted to reassert its control. On October 6 the French general Jacques Leclerc landed in Saigon, followed a few days later by a strong armoured division. Within three months, he had control of South Vietnam. Ho had to choose between continuing the fight or negotiating. He chose negotiations, but not without preparing for an eventual transition to war.

Ho Chi Minh’s strategy was to get the French to make the Chinese in the north withdraw and then to work for a treaty with France in which recognition of independence, evacuation of Leclerc’s forces, and reunification of the country would be assured. Negotiations began in late October 1945, but the French refused to speak of independence, and Ho was caught in a stalemate. In March the deadlock was broken: on his side, Ho Chi Minh allowed parties other than the Viet Minh to be included in the new government, in an attempt to gain a wider base of support for the demands made on the French; at the same time, the French sent a diplomatic mission to China to obtain the evacuation of the Chinese soldiers. This was done, and some of Leclerc’s troops were also removed from Haiphong, in the north. Having secured the withdrawal of the Chinese, Ho signed an agreement with the French on March 6. According to its terms, Vietnam was recognized as a “free state with its own government, army, and finances,” but it was integrated into a French Union in which Paris continued to play the key role. Twelve days later, Leclerc entered Hanoi with a few battalions, which were to be confined to a restricted area.


The First Indochina War.
The agreement was unsatisfactory to extremists on both sides, and Ho Chi Minh went to France for a series of conferences (June to September 1946) and concluded a second agreement with the French government. But the peace was broken by an incident at Haiphong (Nov. 20–23, 1946) when a French cruiser opened fire on the town after a clash between French and Vietnamese soldiers. Almost 6,000 Vietnamese were killed, and hope for an amicable settlement ended. Sick and disillusioned, Ho Chi Minh was not able to oppose demands for retaliation by his more militant followers, and the First Indochina War began on December 19.

After a few months, Ho, who had sought refuge in a remote area of North Vietnam, attempted to reestablish contact with Paris, but the terms he was offered were unacceptable. In 1948 the French offered to return the former Annamese (Vietnamese) emperor Bao Dai, who had abdicated in favour of the revolution in August 1945. These terms were more favourable than those offered to Ho Chi Minh two years earlier, because the French were now attempting to weaken the Viet Minh by supporting the traditional ruling class in Vietnam. But this policy was not successful. The Viet Minh army, commanded by Giap, was able to contain the French and Bao Dai’s forces with guerrilla tactics and terrorism, and by the end of 1953 most of the countryside was under Viet Minh control, with the larger cities under a virtual state of siege. The French were decisively defeated at Dien Bien Phu on May 7, 1954, and had no choice but to negotiate.


The Geneva Accords and the Second Indochina War.
From May to July 21, 1954, representatives of eight countries—with Vietnam represented by two delegations, one composed of supporters of Ho Chi Minh, the other of supporters of Bao Dai—met in Geneva to find a solution. They concluded with an agreement according to which Vietnam was to be divided at the 17th parallel until elections, scheduled for 1956, after which the Vietnamese would establish a unified government.

It is difficult to assess Ho’s role in the Geneva negotiations. He was represented by Pham Van Dong, a faithful associate. The moderation exhibited by the Viet Minh in accepting a partition of the country and in accepting control of less territory than they had conquered during the war follows the pattern established by the man who had signed the 1946 agreements with France. But this flexibility, which was also a response to pressures exerted by the Russians and Chinese, did not achieve everything for the Viet Minh. Hanoi lost out because the elections that were to guarantee the country’s reunification were postponed indefinitely by the United States and by South Vietnam, which was created on a de facto basis at this time.

North Vietnam, where Ho and his associates were established, was a poor country, cut off from the vast agricultural areas of the south. Its leaders were forced to ask for assistance from their larger Communist allies, China and the Soviet Union. In these adverse conditions Ho Chi Minh’s regime became repressive and rigidly totalitarian. Attempted agricultural reforms in 1955–56 were conducted with ignorant brutality and repression. “Uncle” Ho, as he had become known to the North Vietnamese, was able to preserve his immense popularity, but he abandoned a kind of humane quality that had distinguished some of his previous revolutionary activities despite ruthless purges of Trotskyists and bourgeois nationalists in 1945–46.

The old statesman had better luck in the field of diplomacy. He traveled to Moscow and Peking (1955) and to New Delhi and Jakarta (1958), skillfully maintaining a balance between his powerful Communist allies and even, at the time of his journey to Moscow in 1960, acting as a mediator between them. Linked by old habit, and perhaps by preference, to the Soviet Union, but aware of the seminal role China had played in the revolution in Asia, preoccupied with using his relations with Moscow to lessen China’s influence in Asia, and, above all, careful to assert Vietnamese rights, Ho Chi Minh skillfully maintained a balance between the two Communist giants. When the war was resumed, he obtained an equal amount of aid from both.

Beginning about 1959, North Vietnam again became involved in war. Guerrillas, popularly known as the Vietcong, were conducting an armed revolt against the U.S.-sponsored regime of Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam. Their leaders, veterans of the Viet Minh, appealed to North Vietnam for aid. In July 1959, at a meeting of the central committee of Ho Chi Minh’s Lao Dong (Worker’s Party), it was decided that the establishment of socialism in the North was linked with the unification with the South. This policy was confirmed by the third congress of the Lao Dong, held shortly thereafter in Hanoi. During the congress, Ho Chi Minh ceded his position as the party’s secretary-general to Le Duan. He remained chief of state, but, from this point on, his activity was largely behind-the-scenes. Ho certainly continued to have enormous influence in the government, which was dominated by his old followers Pham Van Dong, Truong Chinh, Vo Nguyen Giap, and Le Duan, but he was less actively involved, becoming more and more a symbol to the people. His public personality,which had never been the object of a cult comparable to that of Joseph Stalin, Mao, or even Josip Broz Tito, is best symbolized by his popular name, Uncle Ho. He stood for the essential unity of the divided Vietnamese family.

This role, which he played with skill, did not prevent him from taking a position in the conflict ravaging his country, especially after American air strikes against the North began in 1965. On July 17, 1966, he sent a message to the people (“nothing is as dear to the heart of the Vietnamese as independence and liberation”) that became the motto of the North Vietnamese cause. On Feb. 15, 1967, in response to a personal message from U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, he announced: “We will never agree to negotiate under the threat of bombing.” Ho lived to see only the beginning of a long round of negotiations before he died. The removal of this powerful leader undoubtedly damaged chances for an early settlement.


Ho Chi Minh’s importance
Among 20th-century revolutionaries, Ho waged the longest and most costly battle against the colonial system of the great powers. One of its effects was to cause a grave crisis in the national life of the mightiest of capitalist countries, the United States. As a Marxist, Ho stands with the Yugoslav leader Tito as one of the progenitors of the “national Communism” that developed in the 1960s and (at least partially) with Communist China’s Mao Zedong in emphasizing the role of the peasantry in the revolutionary struggle.

Most of Ho Chi Minh’s writings are collected in the two-volume Selected Works, published in Hanoi in 1960, in the series of Foreign Language Editions.

Jean Lacouture

Encyclopaedia Britannica
 

 

 

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