Le Duc Tho Biography

Le Duc Tho was a Vietnamese politician and co-recipient in 1973 (with Henry Kissinger) of the Nobel Prize for Peace, which he declined.


Born on October 14, 1911, in the Nam Ha province of Vietnam, Le Duc Tho joined and lead the region's Communist organizations, agitating against the French during the 1930s and '40s. During the Vietnam War, he and U.S. national security advisor Henry Kissinger negotiated the '73 Peace Accords. The two won the Nobel Peace Prize that same year, with Tho declining the award. He died in Hanoi, Vietnam, on October 13, 1990.


Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho was believed to have been born on October 14, 1911, in his country's Nam Ha province, with some sources giving his date of birth as October 10, 1911. His original birth name was Phan Dinh Khai, and he later took on the Tho alias. With much of his early history unknown to the general public, it has both been reported that Tho grew up poor and that he was raised in a middle class household.

Tho eventually worked in postal services and helped form the Indochinese Communist Party in 1929. He rallied against French occupation of Indochina (the regions of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) and was jailed for many years in two stints, from the early to mid-1930s and the late '30s to mid-'40s. By 1945, based in the South, he became a top official in the Viet Minh, which was formed by Ho Chi-Minh and called for independence from colonialism; Tho was a leader of Minh group forces during the subsequent Indochina War.

Vietnam War

Tho settled in North Vietnam and joined the Communist Party Politburo in 1955, becoming its Central Committee secretary by the start of the new decade. More conflict broke out in the region, with the U.S. supporting anti-Communist South Vietnam and drastically increasing its military presence in the region by the mid-1960s in what became known as the Vietnam War.

With staggering civilian and military casualties, Tho, who had returned to South Vietnam as an ally of the Viet Cong, was called upon to join the Paris peace negotiations in June, 1968. He and U.S. national security adviser Henry Kissinger eventually met in secret in 1969 and several years later negotiated the January 1973 Peace Accords after the U.S. December bombing raids on Hanoi and Haiphong.

Declines Nobel Peace Prize

For their work, both Kissinger and Tho were honored with the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, though Tho declined to accept his award, with the Nobel Committee stating that he saw treaty agreements as having been violated.

Fighting continued in the region, and North Vietnamese forces under Tho invaded Saigon in 1975, with the country thus joined under a Politburo government. Tho later directed the invasion of nearby Cambodia in 1978.

Kissinger and Tho would have an openly antagonistic relationship during the '80s, with Tho accusing Kissinger of lies and Kissinger accusing Tho of manipulating Western media. Tho remained part of his party's leadership until 1986 when he resigned, with a newer generation of leaders seeking economic change.

Having reportedly suffered from cancer, Le Duc Tho died on October 13, 1990, in Hanoi, Vietnam.

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