Born Phan Dinh Khai
on October 14, 1911
in the Nam Ha
province of Indochina
, Le would go on to become one of the most pivotal figures in the modern history of Vietnam
Le was one of the men who founded the Communist Party of Vietnam in 1930, while the country was still under the rule of France. The colonial government imprisoned him for six years: after his release in 1936, he continued with his subversive activity until the French again imprisoned him in 1939, shortly before the Japanese Empire arrived in Indochina. After getting out of jail for the second time, in 1945, Le became the ranking officer of the Viet Minh independence organization in South Vietnam, where he served until the Geneva Accords in 1954.
Le moved to North Vietnam and became a member of the Politburo there, but soon returned to South Vietnam to become the commander of the Viet Cong guerrillas. During the early days of the Vietnam War, he remained in hiding in the South, keeping the Viet Cong connected to the ruling Politburo in Hanoi.
Between 1970 and 1973, Le Duc Tho was the principal Vietnamese negotiator in the cease fire negotiations with Henry Kissinger that eventually completed the Vietnamization process and removed the last American GI's from Nam. For this accomplishment, Le and Kissinger were each awarded half of the 1973 Nobel Prize for Peace, but Le chose to decline his half.
Rightfully so—in 1975, it was Le who led North Vietnamese forces into South Vietnam and orchestrated the fall of Saigon, and in 1978, it was Le who ordered Vietnamese troops into Cambodia. After the invasion of Cambodia, Le returned to the North, occupying his seat on the Politburo until 1986: he died in 1990.