Professor Tran Dai Nghia with the right choice ahead of historical times
The first generation of intellectuals of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam can be called "the elite and unique intellectual class" in terms of personality and talent. Our professor Tran Dai Nghia is the flag in that elite class of intellectuals.
Prof.Tran Dai Nghia (wearing glasses) and General Vo Nguyen Giap (in the right-handed side) at the Arms Exhibition of the Military Industry, 1950.
Looking back at the period 1930 to 1945, Confucian education declined, as described by Ngo Tat To in his work “Leu chong” and Vu Dinh Lien in the poem Old calligraphy master had to regret and lamented “Where is the soul of the great people?”
With the rise of Western education (learning French culture and Western science and technology), students competed for the Western Baccalaureate to find scholarships to study abroad in France. The case of Prof. Tran Dai Nghia belonged to the trend of Western studies.
This class of intellectuals mostly comes from the "well-off class" (upper class) with financial conditions, some families with academic tradition tried to send their children to school for earning opportunities to make a better living and get rid of poverty.
The number of intellectuals in this period was not much (about 250 people with university degrees, while professors and doctors only few, focusing on a number of professions to serve the government apparatus and to practice for a living, mainly medicine, law, agriculture, justice, pedagogy.
The class of Western-educated intellectuals had a fairly wide cultural background, was carefully selected for examinations, and had received basic training, so the vast majority were truly talented people, respectable personalities, rich in patriotism and national pride.
Thanks to their social status, they had the opportunity to exchange and interact with Western culture and technology. They soon realized that in order to gain a bright career it must follow the path of Western study (learning culture and studying in the Western science and technology). But even though they were influenced by Western study, they were still influenced by the "Confucian" tradition and turned to explore the essence of the East to enrich their knowledge. They could: “Hold a brush to write in Chinese characters Duong's poetry, Nguyen Trai's poetry, Nguyen Du's poetry; write French with a pen and discuss Montesquieu and Voltaire and Rousseau in French. They are people who "speak French better than their mother tongue". The case of Ta Quang Buu and Nguyen Khac Vien were typical examples.
The class of Western intellectuals was in a situation of being bound to "be indebted" to France for the economy (scholarships) and some preferential regimes during their studies such as accommodation, travel, medical examination and treatment, recruiting into the ranks of officials and civil servants with high salary regimes, etc.
A paradox was that the mother country France colonied Vietnam. Having the patriotic blood of Lac Hong, the motto of this young intellectual class was "The nation must be liberated". So, the bond of "be indebted to the motherland" was only secondary. When opportunities fulfilled a revolutionary political party and an intelligent leader would choose to stand in the team of the whole people to fight for national liberation.
Professor Tran Dai Nghia was also such an intellectual. Tran Dai Nghia’s father was a teacher with radical ideas, mother and sister had to work hard in the field to raise children and the younger sister. After he passed the native (Vietnamese) baccalaureate, he passed the Western baccalaureate (the mother country baccalaureate) and found a scholarship to study in France with the great support of journalist Duong Van Nguu. In 1935, he obtained an engineering degree, then obtained a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the Polytechnic University of Paris, the University of Mining, the University of Electricity, the University of Sorbone, the University of Bridge, and then went to work at the French Military Aviation School. In 1942, he moved to Germany to work at the Arms Factory. In 1945, World War II ended, he returned to France and met Uncle Ho and was brought back by Uncle Ho to serve the resistance war from the end of 1946. It took the professor 11 years (1935 - 1946) to accumulate knowledge to nurture his great spirit.
Therefore, when the August Revolution in 1945 taken place, the vast majority of intellectuals participated in many different forms and positions, contributing to the victory of the August Revolution, establishing the new Vietnam, with the new Democratic Republic, under the leadership of the Communist Party headed by President Ho.
The intellectual Tran Dai Nghia made the right choice before the historical turning point right after the signing of the French-Vietnamese Temporary Treaty (Fontainebleau) September 14, 1946, engineer Tran Dai Nghia, doctor Tran Huu Tuoc, engineer Vo Quy Huan boarded a ship to follow President Ho Chi Minh to return home to join the resistance war with "a fortune of 2 tons of books" ready to leave France with a comfortable life with a salary of 500 francs/month (equivalent to 22 taels of gold in 1946) to return to Vietnam to join the resistance war.
Prof. Dr. Phan Dinh Dieu wrote for Professor Tran Dai Nghia the poem “Great will” with the opening sentence "Great will returns to the country". This is the right choice ahead of time, before the country's destiny of Professor Tran Dai Nghia. Then, in turn, great intellectuals returned to serve the country such as: Dang Van Ngu, Tran Duc Thao, Le Tam, Le Van Thiem, Hoang Xuan Nhi, Luong Dinh Cua, Pham Huy Thong, Nguyen Khac Vien, Lam Ngoc Huan, Dang Chan Lieu, Vo Dinh Quynh, Vo Dinh Bong… and some other intellectuals haven’t been mentioned here.
Doctor Nguyen Khac Vien wrote an article in the Fatherland newspaper No. 394 introducing Vietnamese intellectuals to international friends about the "choice" of Vietnamese intellectuals as follows: “In 1956, Doctor Tran Huu Tuoc (who, along with Professor Tran Dai Nghia, and Professor Vo Quy Huan were brought back home by Uncle Ho in 1946) went to Paris in the university delegation to reestablish relations between Hanoi University and the University of Paris. Someone asked him: "Do you freely choose to leave Vietnam over staying in France?" Doctor Tuoc gave a short answer: "Freedom I chose 10 years ago".
The National Newspaper, June 1988, published the article "Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations" by Prof. Tran Dai Nghia
Thus, this correct choice is "the common choice of the generation of Western-educated intellectuals". After the August Revolution in 1945, they became the first revolutionary intellectual class of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam that Prof. Tran Dai Nghia, Prof. Tran Huu Tuoc, Prof. Vo Quy Huan were 3 bright and typical faces on the train to home with Uncle Ho at the end of 1946.
Another great intellectuals such as: Nguyen Xien, Hoang Minh Giam, Nguyen Van Huyen, Nguyen Tan Gi Trong, Nghiem Xuan Yem, Ta Quang Buu, Ho Dac Di, Dang Vu Hy, Ton That Tung, Do Xuan Hop, Pham Ngoc Thach, Nguyen Xuan Nguyen, Dang Van Chung, Do Tat Loi, Phan Anh, Nguyen Cao Luyen, Dang Phuc Thong, Dang Thai Mai, Tran Van Giau, Hoang Dao Thuy, Nguy Nhu Kom Tum, .... were the foundation bricks, were the series trainer for the next generation of revolutionary intellectuals. The first generation of intellectuals of the Vietnam can be called "the elite and unique intellectual class" (there is no second version) in terms of personality and talent. Our professor Tran Dai Nghia was the flag in that elite class of intellectuals.