Former Vice Chairman of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee, Ambassador Ha Huy Thong, spoke to VietNamNet about the story of Archimedes Patti, former Chief Representative of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) (the predecessor of the CIA).
“No one knows how many foreigners attended the September 2 ceremony 75 years ago because at that time there were tens of thousands of people. Perhaps Mr. Archimedes Patti was one of the most special witnesses as he might have been the only American at Ba Dinh Square at that time,” Mr. Thong said.
Patti was the former Chief Representative of the OSS in Kunming, China. He kept an eye on Japanese soldiers in Indochina from 1943-1944, and began meeting with President Ho Chi Minh.
In August 1945, Patti went to Hanoi to monitor the disarmament of the Japanese. He met President Ho Chi Minh again and was invited to attend the Declaration of Independence ceremony.
Later, in his memoirs published in 1980 entitled "Why Vietnam: Prelude to America's Albatross", Patti recounted his meeting with President Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese people's response to the Declaration of Independence, and the moment when President Ho Chi Minh asked, "Countrymen, can you hear me clearly?"
Ambassador Ha Huy Thong. Photo by Pham Hai
Meet an old friend, a great one
What was your impression while accompanying Mr. Patti during his return to Vietnam in 1982?
Thirty-seven years later, Mr. Patti returned to Vietnam in late August 1982. I was fortunate to have been assigned to accompany him, of course, along with many others. I was his interpreter.
Traveling with him, I understood that the places he visited were historic. Patti went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, President Ho Chi Minh’s house on stilts and fish pond, the house No.19-21 on Hai Ba Trung Street (formerly the headquarters of the US Consulate General, now the American Club) ...
I personally cannot forget the day he visited President Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. In 1982, it was not easy for an American to get a permit to visit the mausoleum. It was important to know why they wanted to pay a visit to the mausoleum. At that moment, Patti said words that I would remember forever. I think that statement was simple but very nice, and convincing. He said: "I go to see my old friend, my great friend again."
When Patti entered the Mausoleum, he saw the golden words in the lobby, and he asked me the meaning. I explained it was: “There is nothing more precious than independence, freedom.” Patti said it sounded like the Declaration of Independence of the United States drafted by the American Thomas Jefferson. He then emphasized that this is not just the thought of Americans, but the common value of humanity and Uncle Ho has used the quintessence of human values to summarize this into a short and concise sentence.
Returning to Vietnam after 37 years, Patti also visited the house N.48 Hang Ngang Street (Hanoi). When I took him there, he told me that he met Uncle Ho here. Uncle Ho asked him about the US Declaration of Independence. Patti then quoted the classic verse from the US Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776.
Later, in several interviews, Patti recounted that on September 2, 1945, when he attended the Declaration of Independence ceremony, he was not surprised to learn that President Ho Chi Minh named Vietnam with words indicating common human values that have been crystallized for thousands of years. That is democracy, republic, independence, freedom, happiness. He said it was the breath, the trend of the times and Patti understood what President Ho Chi Minh wanted when building a country right was in the Declaration of Independence.
After paying a visit to President Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, he visited the stilt house. He was very grateful when seeing a President who did not live in the Presidential Palace but had a simple life in harmony with nature. Patti told me "great people think alike". I really absorbed his deep thoughts about Uncle Ho.
In late 1989, while working for the Vietnam’s mission to the United Nations in New York, I received a call from Mr. Patti asking the mission to help him attend an international conference on President Ho Chi Minh in May 1990 in Hanoi. And he was able to return to Vietnam on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Uncle Ho's birth.
|American intelligence officer Patti visits Uncle Ho's house on stilts. Photo provided by Ambassador Ha Huy Thong|
The intelligence officer's vision of Vietnam-US relations
Mr. Patti has a lot of experience and associations with Vietnam. From a personal perspective, how do you see an American intelligence officer's vision of Vietnam after 1945?
According to documents, in 1945 Patti was perhaps the only person and the highest US official in Vietnam to attend the Declaration of Independence ceremony.
In interviews in the late 1990s, Mr. Patti said that after hearing President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence on September 2, 1945 and witnessing the response of thousands of people, he repeatedly sent telegrams to petition the White House and US agencies to recognize the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
He said Vietnam might be an enemy of France at that time, but a country that used to be an ally with the US against the fascists was now not an enemy of the United States, so the US needed to recognize an independent Vietnam.
But Patti also admitted that at that time America faced many challenges both globally and domestically, and he did not know how the White House reacted to his telegrams.
Some historians and commentators said that if the US government had then focused on Patti's telegrams, both countries would have avoided the "unhappy chapter" later in the Vietnam-US relationship.