Remembering a trainer of legendary spies

June 13, 2020 - 09:38

The spy mastermind will be remembered for years to come for his contributions to the national intelligence community.


Former president Nguyễn Minh Triết (left) visits Mười Hương on the occasion of the lunar new year in 2009.  — VNA/VNS File Photo

HÀ NỘI — “The biggest difficulty of intelligence agents is to get over yourself,” Trần Quốc Hương, an intelligence mastermind of Việt Nam once said.

The spy mastermind will be remembered for years to come for his contributions to the national intelligence community.

The so-called ‘teacher of legendary intelligence agents’ passed away at the age of 96 on Thursday.

Trần Quốc Hương (real name Trần Ngọc Ban) was born in Vụ Bản Commune, Bình Lục District, northern Hà Nam Province to a family of patriots and joined revolutionary activities at an early age.

When he was 14-15 years old, he participated in the democratic youth movement.

After finishing first grade at Phủ Lý Primary School, he moved to Hà Nội to study at a school on Nhà Chung Street. During this time, he changed his name to Trần Quốc Hương.

In 1941, Hương was arrested by the French colonialists for flying the Communist flag and distributing leaflets. He was imprisoned for more than a year before going to a French military court. Because of his young age, Hương was freed with a warning from a French spy: "Don't see him as a child and look down him.”

In 1943, Hương became a member of the Communist Party.

Before and after the August Revolution, he served as a personal secretary of Party General Secretary Trường Chinh and helped prepare for the national premiere of President Hồ Chí Minh and the provisional Government at Ba Đình Square on September 2, 1945.

In July 1954, Hương was assigned new tasks in the south. His time in the south was expected to last for six months only, but in fact, it spanned more than 10 years.

In the south, he chose Mười Hương as his alias and was in charge of training intelligence agents.

However, this was also an extremely difficult period for building forces and intelligence operations as key cadres like Nam Xuân (Mai Chí Thọ) and Cao Đăng Chiếm were known to the enemy.

At this time, when enemies had not gained much knowledge about himself, Mười Hương built forces, networks and sent spies south. As a person with a profound, comprehensive and sophisticated vision of each person's strengths, intelligence and qualities, he became an "architect" who created an intelligence network, including legendary intelligence agents such as Major General Vũ Ngọc Nhạ; Colonel, Hero of the People's Armed Forces Lê Hữu Thúy; Colonel, Hero of the People's Armed Forces Phạm Ngọc Thảo; and Major General, Hero of the People's Armed Forces Phạm Xuân Ẩn.

Thanks to Hương’s strategies, Phạm Ngọc Thảo approached Ngô Đình Diệm and used his personal talents to be quickly trusted by Diệm, then became a senior military officer who had a voice and great influence on Sài Gòn politics. 

Thảo organised a series of coups that shook southern politics in 1964-65, severely destabilising the Sài Gòn regime, creating favourable conditions for the southern revolution.

Mười Hương also saw the innate ability of Phạm Xuân Ẩn. Hương and Mai Chí Thọ decided to send Phạm Xuân Ẩn to the US to study journalism to return home and serve the revolution.

Thanks to this opportunity, the talented intelligence agent Phạm Xuân Ẩn had the opportunity to meet many important figures, then got to know and analysed the enemy’s secrets and strategies, helping our troops destroy enemy schemes and liberate the south.

When talking about those achievements, Hương humbly credited the success to “the leadership of the central and the revolutionary forces, the talent and courage of intelligence agents”.

“I'm only the one assigned to connect the agents. Intelligence activities are like acting and the intelligence agents performed their roles excellently,” he said.

After the south's liberation, he took on important positions such as deputy head of Central Organisation Committee; deputy secretary of HCM City Party Committee; deputy secretary of Hà Nội Party Committee; director-general of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism and head of Party Commission for Internal Affairs.

He was a member of Party Central Committee during 4th and 5th tenures and Party secretary of the 6th tenure.

Trần Quốc Hương was awarded the Gold Star Order, Hồ Chí Minh Order, First Class Independence Order, Military Exploit Order, a 75-year Party membership badge and many other noble rewards for his contributions. — VNS