(The UN and INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENTS – continued)
Japan was still In Vietnam in March 1945, when it revoked its treaty with France regarding Indochina and moved against the French there. The Japanese disarmed and imprisoned the small French force, seized administrative offices, banks, communications centers and industries. In June, under the noses of the Japanese, guerrillas known as the Viet Minh established revolutionary committees across the country. Under Communist leadership it established a provisional government. It abolished forced labor (the corvée), began training local militia and began giving to peasants the lands that had been owned by the French.
Relations between the Viet Minh and Americans were good, the Viet Minh having helped downed American pilots and U.S. military intelligence appreciating the Viet Minh's struggle against the Japanese.
On August 21, 1945, a few days after the war with Japan ended, Charles de Gaulle flew to Washington. There he talked with President Truman for about seven hours and pledged eventual self-determination for France's dependencies. Concerning Indochina, Truman spoke of the U.S. not opposing a French return – amid de Gaulle's assurances that independence would be granted after the pre-war status quo was restored – as the U.S. had planned for the Philippines.
On August 25, the Viet Minh took control of Saigon, and Japan's puppet emperor there, Bao Dai, abdicated to the provision government of the Viet Minh. On August 28 the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was announced. On September 2, the president of the provisional government, Ho Chi Minh, read the Declaration of Vietnamese Independence to a crowd of 500,000 gathered in Hanoi. And Ho Chi Minh appealed for recognition by the Allied powers.
On September 12, British troops arrived in Saigon to receive the surrender of the Japanese and to find out what was happening in Vietnam. The Viet Minh did not want to start killing the British and instead tolerated their presence. But fighting did erupt against the French, and, on September 22, the British took it upon themselves to free French troops who had been imprisoned by the Japanese.
In accordance with an Allied agreement, Chinese troops arrived in North Vietnam. Their purpose according to the agreement with the Allies was to restore order. It was another faulty Allied decision. The Nationalist Chinese were not to contribute to order in Vietnam but to chaos. They did not interfere with Ho Chi Minh's government, but they were seen by the Vietnamese as a swarm of locusts, stealing what they could.
Eighty thousand French troops arrived at Saigon in early October, with orders from de Gaulle to stay in the southern half of Vietnam. By December, the French controlled the southern half of Vietnam – to the 16th parallel. In March 1946, after having accomplished nothing, the Chinese in Vietnam returned to China, where they had problems enough.
Ho Chi Minh was seeking favor from the Allied powers. Rather than warring against Westerners, he wanted them to recognize his government and Vietnam's independence. With the French he entered into discussions. The French recognized Ho as Vietnam's chief of state and Vietnam as a part of an Indochinese federation and the French Union. In May, 1946, France's commissioner in Vietnam, Admiral Thierry d'Angenlieu, proclaimed northern Vietnam for Ho and the Viet Minh and he proclaimed south Vietnam as "Provisional Republic of Cochin China." The Vietnamese felt they were being betrayed. Talks between Ho and the French broke down.
In November the French tried to seize the custom's office at the port of Haiphong, near Hanoi. In December, French naval units, claiming that they had been attacked, bombarded the city, killing 6,000. The United Nations stood by as war in Vietnam progressed. Ho warned the French that "for every ten men that you kill, we will kill one of yours. It is you who will have to give up in the end." Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh returned to guerrilla warfare.
Copyright © 2000-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.