Leaders of the Vietnam War

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The Leaders of the Vietnam War listed below comprise the important political and military figures of the Vietnam War.

Ho Chi Minh (19 May 1890 – 2 September 1969)[edit]

Ho Chi Minh whose birth name was Nguyen Sinh Cung and also known as Nguyen Tat Thanh and Nguyen Ai Quoc was a Vietnamese revolutionary leader following the path of communism.

He left his country on a French steamer in 1911 and traveled extensively around the world participating actively in the Communist International before returning to Vietnam in 1941. He then organized and led the Viet Minh to fight for Vietnamese Independence. He became more popular for his declaration of Vietnam independence from France, which paraphrased a part of the U.S declaration of independence that says "All men are created equal…" Since 1945, he became a prime minister and president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). In the late 1950s, Ho Chi Minh organized another communist guerrilla movement widely known as Viet Cong in South Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh was the key figure and held the main leadership of North Vietnam during both wars in the country. He remained as a great source of inspiration for the Vietnamese who were fighting for a united Vietnam as in his wish after he officially stepped aside in 1965 and even after his death in 1969. The final offensive against Saigon – the capital of South Vietnam in 1975 was named after him (the Ho Chi Minh Campaign). Vietnam was reunified under the Communist rule after the fall of Saigon in April 1975, nearly 30 years after Ho's declaration of independence and 6 years after his death. Soon after that, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh city in honour of his vast contributions to Vietnam.

Vo Nguyen Giap (August 25, 1911 – October 4, 2013)[edit]

Vo Nguyen Giap was a General, Commander in Chief of the Vietnam People's Army (VNA) and Vietnamese politician. He played a major role as a commander in the First Indochina War (1946-1954) and the Vietnam War (1960-1975) in which he was involved directly in many important campaigns such as the Border Campaign in Fall–Winter (1950), the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954), the Tet Offensive (1968), the Easter Offensive (1972), the final Ho Chi Minh Campaign (1975) which led to the fall of Saigon and South Vietnam. Giap, together with Ho Chi Minh, was the most prominent figure of North Vietnam during the wars in the country.

After the war, he was still the Minister of Defence until 1980 and served as a member of Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Vietnam until his retirement in 1991. Giap celebrated his 100th birthday in 2011 and becomes the oldest Vietnam political and military figure that have ever lived. He is also considered by both his partisans and opponents as one of the greatest military commanders in history.

Ngo Dinh Diem (3 January 1901 – 2 November 1963)[edit]

Diem was a Vietnamese politician served as an officer in the Nguyen Dynasty. Because of his drastic ideological of anti-communism, Diem received support from the United States and became the first President of the Republic of Vietnam in 1955. However, as a Catholic, Diem pursued the persecution of Buddhists which led to many religious protests notably the self-immolation of Thich Quang Duc in 1963. As a result, Diem gradually lost U.S support and was assassinated, together with his brother Nhu, in a coup in 1963.

Ngo Dinh Diem at Washington - ARC 542189.jpg

Nguyen Cao Ky (8 September 1930 – 23 July 2011)[edit]

Nguyen Cao Ky was a senior army officer and a former politician of Republic of Vietnam. He served as a prime minister (1965-1967) and Vice President (1967-1971) of the Republic of Vietnam. From an ally, he then became the opponent of President Nguyen Van Thieu and was mostly sidelined during Thieu's presidency. Ky had been seen as an aggressive anti-Communist person in the period before 1975 and but then was regarded as a symbol of national reconciliation by the Vietnamese Communist Party since 2004 when he became the first South Vietnamese leader returning to the country.

Nguyen Van Thieu (5 April 1923 – 29 September 2001)[edit]

Thieu was the Leadership Committee Chairman (1965-1967) and President of the Republic of Vietnam (1967-1975). In 1963, Thieu joined a military coup to overthrow Diem. During his years as president, Thieu was accused of indulging in corruption. His struggle for power with Ky led to the decisions of side-lining Ky's supporters and choosing loyalists instead of decent commanders to lead the Army of Public of Vietnam (APVN) forces. He strongly opposed the Paris Peace Accords (1973) and publicly blamed the U.S not keeping its promise for fall of Saigon and South Vietnam in 1975.

Anti-Communist forces[edit]

South Vietnam[edit]



United States of America[edit]


  • Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.
  • John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States from 1961 until his death in 1963.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th President of the United States from 1963 to 1969.
  • Richard Nixon was the 37th President of the United States from 1969 until he resigned in 1974.
  • Gerald Ford was the 38th President of the United States from 1974 to 1977.
  • Robert McNamara was the 8th Secretary of Defense, serving under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968.
  • Clark Clifford was the 9th Secretary of Defense, serving under President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1968 to 1969.
  • Melvin R. Laird was the 10th Secretary of Defense, serving under President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973.
  • James R. Schlesinger was the 12th Secretary of Defense, serving under President Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford from 1973 to 1975.
  • Henry Kissinger was the 8th National Security Advisor and the 56th Secretary of State, serving under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford from 1969 to 1977.


  • Earle Wheeler was a United States Army General who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1964 to 1970.
  • Thomas Hinman Moorer was a U.S. admiral who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1970 to 1974.
  • William Westmoreland was an American General who commanded American military operations in the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1968.
  • Creighton Abrams was an American General who commanded American military operations in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1972.
  • Frederick C. Weyand was a U.S. Army General who was the last commander of American military operations in the Vietnam War from 1972 to 1973.
  • Elmo Zumwalt was an American naval officer and commander of American naval forces in Vietnam.
  • William W. Momyer was commander of the U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Command and the commander of the 7th Air Force.
  • John S. McCain, Jr. was an American admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Command.
  • George Stephen Morrison was an American Rear Navy Admiral in Command during the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which escalated the U.S involvement in Vietnam.

Republic of Korea[edit]


New Zealand[edit]




Khmer Republic[edit]

Kingdom of Laos[edit]

  • Souvanna Phouma was the prince of Laos and a political figure.
  • Vang Pao was a major general in the Royal Lao Army and commander of the Hmong guerrilla forces that had a large impact on the war.


Communist forces[edit]

North Vietnam[edit]



  • Võ Nguyên Giáp was the Vietnamese General in the Vietnam People's Army (NVA), Commander-in-Chief of PAVN and was one of the most prominent military leaders during the war.
  • Văn Tiến Dũng was a Vietnamese general in the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), PAVN chief of staff (1954–1974); PAVN commander in chief (1974–1980); and Socialist Republic of Vietnam defense minister (1980–1986).
  • Hoàng Văn Thái was the General Staff formed National Army, after holding The first Chief of General Staff of the People's Army of Vietnam.
  • Nguyễn Hữu An was a general in the Vietnamese People's Army, commander of the 2nd Army Corps.
  • Lê Trọng Tấn was a general and key figure of the Vietnamese People's Army, he was the deputy commander of the Viet Cong and held senior commands in the Easter Offensive and the Ho Chi Minh campaign.
  • Hoàng Minh Thảo was a general and military theorist of Vietnamese People's Army and an advisor to the Viet Cong.

Viet Cong (National Liberation Front)[edit]

  • Nguyễn Hữu Thọ was the chairman of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam.
  • Hoàng Văn Thái was one of the leading commanders of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (1967–1973, during the U.S. buildup in South Vietnam), during the Tet Offensive he was the most senior North Vietnamese Officer in South Vietnam.
  • Trần Văn Trà was one of the leading commanders of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and a member of the Central Committee of the Lao Dong Party.
  • Tran Do was the deputy commander of the Viet Cong.
  • Nguyễn Văn Linh was a political leader of the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War who served as party secretary of South Vietnam for Communist Party of Vietnam.
  • Võ Chí Công was a Vietnamese Communist political figure who was one of the founding members of the Viet Cong.
  • Huỳnh Tấn Phát chairman of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam from 1969 to 1976.

Khmer Rouge[edit]

  • Pol Pot was the leader of the Cambodian communist movement known as the Khmer Rouge.
  • Khieu Samphan was the head of the CPNLAF, the Khmer Rouge armed forces.

Pathet Lao[edit]

  • Souphanouvong was the figurehead leader of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, and upon its successful seizure of power in 1975, he became the first President of the Lao People's Democratic Republic.
  • Phoumi Vongvichit was a leading figure of the Pathet Lao and an elder statesman of the Lao People's Democratic Republic.
  • Kaysone Phomvihane was the actual head of the LPRP from 1955 to his death in 1992 and Prime Minister and then President after the takeover.
  • Khamtai Siphandon was the military commander of the Pathet Lao and Defense Minister after the takeover before succeeding Kaysone Phomvihane.

People's Republic of China[edit]

  • Mao Zedong was the leader of the People's Republic of China from 1949 until his death in 1976.

Soviet Union[edit]

North Korea[edit]

  • Kim Il-sung was the leader of North Korea from 1948 until his death in 1994.