On the eve of the war against the South Vietnamese regime in 1964, the communist party strove to carve out a new productivist and political elite from the towns and villages of the country. According to a categorization of patriotic exemplarity devised by Ho Chi Minh, avant-garde workers, exemplary soldiers and new heroes would fill the ranks of a new model society, one in which political virtue would serve as the principle to mobilize the masses. This study presents and analyzes the process by which new heroes were invented. It first develops a picture of what constituted heroes in Vietnamese tradition and history, and then shows how the new model, effectively a Sino-Soviet import, was imposed, only to be slowly distorted by its own cultural rationale and by specific objectives. Far from being a transitory phenomenon, this model has contributed for more than half a century to the reconstruction of the national imagination and the development of a new collective, patriotic and communist memory in Vietnam.