Ly Tu Trong, whose real name is Le Van Trong, originally comes from Thach Minh commune, Thach Ha district, Ha Tinh province but was born in Ban May village, Nakhon province, Thailand in a patriotic family. His father is Le Huu Dat, and his mother is Nguyen Thi Som. In 1923, Ly Tu Trong, at the age of 10, was sent to China for study; he studied very well and spoke Mandarin and English fluently. He served in the Revolutionary Youth Association.
In 1929, Ly Tu Trong returned to Vietnam with the hard mission of founding the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union and connecting the South Region Party Committee with the Vietnam Communist Party. He was a liaison officer for communists abroad while working on ships to Sai Gon seaport. On February 09, 1931, at the one-year anniversary of Yen Bai rebellion, he shot dead a French spy, Legrand, who rushed to arrest the man hoisting the flag and speaking. He was immediately arrested then barbarously tortured.
In 1931, he was taken from the Catina military post to the court for the death conviction. However, the prominent seventeen-year old youth used the bar as a stage to condemn the ruling class and appeal to people for rebellion. His defence counsel asked for toleration because the habitué was under maturity, leading to immature action. Ly Tu Trong self-confidently declared: “I act not for no thought. I understand my action. I act for revolutionary purpose. I am still not mature, but I have enough knowledge to realize the way of youths is no one but only revolutionary way. I believe if you (the ruling class) think carefully, you should liberate the nation, liberate the hard-working class like me.”
The tribunal president, a French colonial ruler, returned Ly Tu Trong a dead verdict. Ly Tu Trong was still caml. The French colonial ruler asked him if he repented, but Ly Tu Trong, standing in the bar, looking ahead, spoke only one word “ no repentance!”.
Kept in the Kham Lon cell, Sai Gon, Ly Tu Trong experienced his last days of life gloriously. All details of a “guillotine” prisoner named “ Trong con” ( small Trong) were sent out by prison guards with high respect and deep admiration. “Sir. Nho (small) does exercise everyday. Seen from outside, he seems not to wait for guillotine death”.
His face shows sturdiness and determination. He recalled his childhood in Thailand, where his parents came from the other bank of Mekong River to avoid power’s suppression then gave birth to him. Ly Tu Trong imagined the Chinese Communists were shot dead on Chau Giang river bank in Guǎngzhōu by Kuomingtan betrayers after the Guǎngzhōu Commune failure. He recalled his joint visit to comrade Pham Hong Thai’s grave in Hoang Hoa Cuong area with other comrades. In 1926, the patriotic youth named Pham Hong Thai carried out a suicide bomb attack to kill the French Indo-china governor, Meclanh in the French concession; he then plunged dead into Chau Giang River to avoid capture.
He intensively fretted the first time to step in O Cap area, to revolutionarily act in his beloved country, exciting study time, short time conversation with comrades at localities, the time in enermy’s control...However, the enermy’s barbarous tortures couldn’t change him any more. In the dead cell, he made friends with Truyen Kieu, which came from the wife of a prison guard. The pure six-eight word lines of verse in Truyen Kieu by Great poet Nguyen Du made him mix into the nation’s soul.
Despite incoming guillotine death, Ly Tu Trong loved his nation, people, comrades and much love life and lived his last days of life perfectly and meaningfully. The clonialists found all ways to win his heart, but all their seduction was wasteful.
Madam Andre Violet wrote about his last time of life, “On November 21, 1931, Huy (Trong) was executed to death. Sai Gon was so moved. The martial law must be declared on that day. The shriek by political prisoners was sent from Kham Lon cell to streets. Their hearted words accompanied him to the place of execution. Soldiers and firemen were sent to repress them. There used to be the same situation in Kham Lon cell. Before the guillotine, Ly Tu Trong intended to deliver a speech, but 2 gendarmes rushed to shut him up. People only heard he shouted “Vietnam, Vietnam”.”
The international Anthem has become a popular song to the Socialist Revolutionists. It was translated into many languages including Vietnamese. People often sang loudly with firm fist hung high. This is also the song sung by Ly Tu Trong just prior his death.
Before standing on guillotine, Ly Tu Trong repeated “Vietnam, Vietnam” several times and sang “the International Anthem” like “revolt, all slaves in the world”, and he kept his forever fighting will until his last breath. After 30 years, October 15, 1964, at Chi Hoa cell, Nguyen Van Troi also shouted “Long lives Vietnam, Long live Ho Chi Minh!” before his death.
There are still simple but profound words of typical patriotic soldiers at all generation in every corner of Sai Gon. Currently, in the heart of Ho Chi Minh city (formly Sai Gon), there is a road named Ly Tu Trong passing the place where he shot dead the French spy Legrand, and he seems still to be there, at the age of 17 and with strong passion on enjoying life.