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About these notes: because I have already taken notes from several books for the Vietnam portion of the War Against Asia, the notes here will be very selective. The focus is on U.S. policy, not on Ho's life.
Source: Ho Chi Minh, A Life by William J. Duiker. Hyperion, New York, ©2000, first edition. Numbers in brackets indicate page numbers for this edition.
The French did not attack Vietnam until 1858, so people just one generation younger than Ho Chi Minh remembered when it was independent.  Resistance to the French colonizers was particularly strong in Nghe An province, where Ho Chi Minh was born. 
Ho's father was Nguyen Sinh Sac, was an orphan who married the Hoang Thi Loan, the daughter of the scholar he studied under. Ho Chi Minh's birth (or milk) name was Nguyen Sinh Cung. He was born on May 19, 1890, the third of three children. His father, Sac, was a good student and passed examinations that entitled him to work in the civil service. He took his children with him to the imperial capital of Hue to take the higher level, imperial exams. The French ruled much of the nation through the native bureaucracy. Sac failed the exam and instead took a job as a teacher. [16-20]
At the age of eleven, by Vietnamese tradition, Cung was given a new name, Nguyen Tat Thanh, "he who will succeed." His father had finally passed the imperial exam; Thanh (Ho) was given to study. His father refused to become an official, and instead "took part in subversive activities against the puppet government in Hue." [22-23]
An important patriotic friend of his father, Phan Boi Chau, set up a Modernization Society, hoping that the Vietnamese could expel the French and become a modern country like Japan. [25-26]
In 1905 Ho started learning French. In 1906 his father finally accepted an official position in Hue. [27-28] In 1907, Thanh [Ho] and his brother enrolled in the National Academy (Quoc Hoc), the highest level Vietnamese-French school in Hue. As a student there he became involved in anti-French demonstrations, during which the French killed many protestors. Than was dismissed from school by orders from the French. [33-37]
In 1911 Ho, being sought for arrest by the French, enrolled as an assistant cook on a ship, and thus began a long exile from Vietnam. He visited many of the world's ports, and spent considerable time in France, Britain, and the United States. [46-57]
In France around 1919, Ho began to use the pseudonym Nguyen Ai Quoc (Nguyen the Patriot), which he would use for 3 decades.  He (with other Viet patriots) wrote a petition on behalf of the Vietnamese people which he submitted to the French government and to delegates at the Versailles Conference, including U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Ho received a reply from Colonel House, senior advisor to the U.S. delegation, thanking him for "sending it on the occasion of the allied victory." The author states [Woodrow Wilson] "was forced to accept compromises to reach a peace agreement, a decision that aroused anger and disappointment throughout the colonial world." [59-60] [WPM: in fact Wilson, a racist, believed only white people had a right to "national self-determination." He personally rejected a Japanese proposal to allow the world's colonized nations to become independent, thus leading later to the Japanese decision to liberate Asia by themselves]
"Nguyen Ai Quoc [Ho Chi Minh] complained to colleagues a decade later that many people had been deceived by Woodrow Wilson's 'song of freedom.'" 
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