I came across a document that a British military officer, Lieutenant Colonel P. J. F. Chapman-Walker, wrote after visiting Hanoi in December 1945. The document was later given to a US government official based in China, and eventually it was declassified.

At the time, Chapman-Walker was based in Chongqing, China where he was serving as an aide to Lieutenant-General Adrian Carton de Wiart, the personal representative at Chongqing of the British prime minister.

While he was in Hanoi, Chapman-Walker apparently met with Hồ Chí Minh twice. At the time, Hồ Chí Minh was attempting to enable Vietnam to become fully independent, but the domestic and international contexts were extremely complex.

Chapman-Walker described Hồ Chí Minh as “a very impressive man with the ascetic face of a selfless visionary.”

He claimed that “In 1918 Ho-chi-min walked from Canton to Moscow, where he became the friend and disciple of Lenin.”

That information is of course inaccurate. In the early 1920s, Hồ Chí Minh did travel the other direction, from Moscow to Canton. However, I doubt that he walked the entire way. . .

One very interesting point that Chapman-Walker records concerned a possible plan for essentially buying off the French by letting American businesses exploit Vienam’s raw materials.

Chapman-Walker says that Hồ Chí Minh “proposed to recompense France over a period of seven years for the money she had invested in Indo-China. He thought that this would not be difficult, as already he had been approached by certain American interests for granting mineral concessions and he was only too aware of the potential wealth of Indo-China.”

If that was in fact a possible plan, it was of course never successfully implemented.

Finally, Chapman-Walker noted that war was a definite possibility, and that in such a scenario Hồ Chí Minh would “retire into the hinterland of Tongkin and continue resistance from the mountains, having behind him the tacit and maybe active support of the entire native population of Indo-China.”

While Chapman-Walker was therefore unsure to what extent the native population would actively participate in a war of resistance, he was confident that Hồ Chí Minh would execute a war capably.

He concluded by saying of Hồ Chí Minh that “His magnificently intelligent face made me believe that such resistance would be effectively directed and his sincerity assured me that it would be fanatical.”

I find any account like this by a person who was actually there at the time to be fascinating. In the particular case of Chapman-Walker’s account, however, what I find interesting are all of the words he uses that have religious connotations to them (ascetic, disciple, fanatical). Clearly Hồ Chí Minh made an impression on him.