1918-1939 1945-1954

World War II : French Indochina

A.) Franco-Japanese Cooperation

Early in 1940, HO CHI MINH had returned from Paris to Vietnam, where he became a leading figure of the ICP (Indochinese Communist Party) and founded the VIET MINH.
After 8 months of a PHONEY WAR (Sept. 1939 - May 1940) and 6 weeks of fighting, General Henri Philippe Petain, acting for France, signed an armistice. Petain was to head a French government dependent on and collaborating with Germany, the so-called VICHY-REGIME.
French Indochina now was paralyzed, the mother country unable to come to it's aid. On August 30th 1940, the MATSUOKA-HENRY-PACT was signed between Vichy-France and Japan. It permitted the Japanese to station troops in French Indochina. The French hesitated, only ratifying the pact on Sept. 22nd; on Sept. 23rd the Japanese occupied Langson and bombarded Haiphong, in order to intimidate both the French administration and the Thai government. The French administration was merely tolerated by the Japanese. Early in 1941 it ceded territory in western Laos and Cambodia to Thailand. On August 29th 1941, the Franco-Laotian Treaty of Protectorate was signed; the territory of the KINGDOM OF LUANG PRABANG was enlarged (still not covering all of Laos). Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese coerced the Vichy-French administration to sign another agreement, which virtually ceded the administrastion of Indochina to the Japanese, in all but in name.

B.) Declarations of Independence

On June 6th the allied forces landed in Normandy, beginning the liberation of France, which was accomplished by the end of 1944. The Japanese could not count on the continuing collaboration of a Vichy-French administration. On March 9th 1945, the Japanese disempowered the French administration. Soon afterward, the Japanese encouraged Emperor BAO DAI to declare Vietnam independent, King SISAVANG VONG of Luang Prabang to declare Laos independent (April 8th), King NORODOM SIHANOUK to declare Cambodia independent (March 13th). For the time being, all three of them were Japanese vassal states.
In the final days of World War II in Asia, on August 13th-16th, the ICP decided to organize a revolution. Within hours, they had the Red River basin under their control, when they learned of Japan's surrender (August 16th).

C.) The Indochinese Economy during WW II

In the period when Japanese troops were stationed here (1940-1945), French Indochina had to supply Japan with vast amounts of rice, corn and a monetary tribute. The economic extortion of French Indochina caused a significant inflation, in part by the Japanese having had excessve amounts of paper money printed by the Bank of Indochina to be used to purchase the goods Japan needed from Indochina.
In an attempt to address their fuel shortage, the Japanese in 1944 forced many Vietnamese farmers to grow peanuts, ricinus, cotton and other oil and fibre plants (instead of the traditional crop of rice), causing a severe famine; matters only were made worse by a partuial crop failure due to pest. Estimates for the number of victims in the northern regions of Vietnam range between 300,000 and 2,000,000.

Franco-Thai Conflict in WW 2, from Weird Wars
DOCUMENTS Yosuke Matsuoka Japan's Foreign Minister's Address at Opening of Thai-French Indo-China Border Dispute Mediation Conference, Tokyo, February 7, 1941, from Words of Peace, Words of War
Exchange of Letters between the French Ambassador, Charles Arsene-Henry and Yosuke Matsuoka, Japanese Foreign Minister, March 11 1941, from Words of Peace, Words of War
Mediation Terms of the Thai-French Indo-China Border Dispute, March 11, 1941, from Words of Peace, Words of War
Acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles' Statement on Japanese-French Collaboration in Indochina, July 24, 1941, from Words of Peace, Words of War
Agrement between Japan and France Pledging Military Co-Operation in Defense of Indo-China, Tokyo, July 29, 1941, from Words of Peace, Words of War
Statement by Japanese Board of Information on "Reinforcing Japanese Forces in Indo-China", Tokyo, August 1, 1941, from Words of Peace, Words of War
REFERENCE Pham Quoc Su, Negative Consequences caused by Japanese Fascism in Vietnam (in the Second World War), pp.138-154 in : Korean Society for Western History (ed.), Modern History as Described in Japanese Histoy Textbooks and Basic Direction of History Education, Seoul 2005
Article : French Indochina, in : Americana Annual 1943 p.308 (on events of 1942) [G]
Article : French Indochina, in : Americana Annual 1944 pp.295-296 (on events of 1943) [G]
Article : French Indochina, in : Americana Annual 1945 pp.304-305 (on events of 1944) [G]
Article : French Indochina, in : Americana Annual 1946 pp.307-308 (on events of 1945) [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on September 25th 2006

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