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Historical Dictionary

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TRẦN QUỐC HOÀN (NGUYỄN TRỌNG CẢNH, NAM ĐÀN, 1916–1986)

Became one of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s most powerful public security officers during the Indochina War. Born in Nghe An province, Tran Quoc Hoan became involved in radical politics in the early 1930s while working as a miner in the silver mines of Laos. In March 1934, he joined the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) in Laos. The French arrested him later that year and placed him under surveillance in Ha Tinh until the Popular Front period allowed him to relocate to Hanoi where he worked in communist papers such as Ban Dan, Thoi The, and the Ha Thanh Thoi Bao. During World War II, he worked clandestinely in the Hanoi area in close collaboration with Truong Chinh and served as the secretary of the Party’s Urban Committee for Hanoi. In June 1941, with the French police closing in on him, Tran Quoc Hoan organized the withdrawal of the party to “Secure Zones” (An Toan Khu) outside the city. While working as liaison between the Party and cells inside Hanoi, he fell into French hands in 1941 and ended up in Son La prison. There he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Tran Dang Ninh and Le Duc Tho.

Tran Quoc Hoan walked out of Son La following the Japanese overthrow of the French on 9 March 1945. He secretly returned to Hanoi where he became secretary of the ICP’s Territorial Committee for Tonkin (Xu Uy Bac Ky) and served as the Central Committee’s Special Committee envoy to Hanoi (Thanh Uy). He helped in preparations for the battle of Hanoi and was the handler for the agent that cut the electricity on the evening of 19 December 1946. He stayed in the capital city during much of the sixty-day battle of Hanoi, serving as the ICP’s special delegate. He remained undercover in Hanoi as the Central Committee’s special delegate to the occupied city, running a network of operatives and secretly mobilizing intellectuals and the youth against the French.

Between 1949 and 1951, he was political commissar for the provinces of Hanoi and Ha Dong. In 1949, he also became the director of the ICP’s “special zone” for Hanoi, a position he held until 1977. In 1951, during the Second Party Congress, he joined the Executive Committee of the Vietnamese Worker’s Party’s Central Committee. He was deeply involved in setting up and running the public security system in Hanoi. In 1952, the ICP appointed him to run the national security services. In 1953, he became the director of the newly created Ministry of Public Security, a position he would hold for years to come. In 1954–1955, he served on the Central Committee’s board in charge of the land reform. He presided over the Party and government’s return to Hanoi in late 1954. Rising to the top of the security forces during the Indochina War, he became one of the most powerful Vietnamese communists until his death in 1986. See also JEAN COUSSEAU; LE GIAN; POULO CONDOR; TRAN HIEU.