11. French Indochina/Vietnam (1941-1954)

Pre-Crisis Phase (May 1, 1941-September 1, 1945):  The Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi (League for the Independence of Vietnam) or Viet Minh was established by Ho Chi Minh in May 1941.  The Vietminh established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on August 8, 1945. Viet Minh rebels took control of Hanoi on August 19, 1945.  Chinese government troops entered northern Vietnam in August 1945.

Crisis Phase (September 2, 1945-December 18, 1946):  Ho Chi Minh, leaders of the provisional government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, proclaimed Vietnam’s independence from France on September 2, 1945.  British troops intervened in support of the French government beginning on September 11, 1945.  The French government recognized the independence of Vietnam as a free state within the Indochinese Federation and the French Union on March 6, 1946, but the Viet Minh refused to accept the arrangement.  British troops withdrew from Vietnam in May 1946, and Chinese troops withdrew from Vietnam in July 1946.  French government troops clashed with Vietnamese nationalists in Haiphong on November 20-23, 1946, resulting in the deaths of 20 French government soldiers and 6,000 Vietnamese.

Conflict Phase (December 19, 1946-July 31, 1954):  Vietnamese nationalists launched a military offensive against French government troops in the Annam and Tongking provinces on December 19, 1946, and the French government declared martial law on December 20, 1946.  French government troops defeated the Vietnamese military offensive on February 19, 1947.  The French government lifted martial law on April 20, 1947.  French President Vincent Auriol and Emperor Bao Dai of Vietnam signed an agreement on March 8, 1949, which provided for provided for the transfer of administrative powers to the Vietnamese government.  The French government proclaimed the state of Vietnam within the French Union on July 5, 1949, and Bao Dai was installed as prime minister. On January 14, 1950, the Vietminh announced that it was “the sole government representing the legitimate aspirations of the Vietnamese people.”  The Chinese government provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the Vietminh and provided military assistance to the Vietminh beginning on January 19, 1950.  Nguyen Phan Long formed a government as prime minister on January 21, 1950.  The government of the Soviet Union provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the Vietminh and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on January 30, 1950.  The U.S. government provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the government of Prime Minister Nguyen Phan Long on February 7, 1950.  The U.S. government provided military assistance (35 military advisors) and economic assistance in support of the French government beginning on May 8, 1950.  Vietminh rebels captured Dongkhe in September 1950.  French government troops and Vietminh rebels clashed near Vinhyen in January 1951, resulting in the deaths of some 6,000 Vietminh rebels.  Vietminh rebels began a siege of French government troops in Dienbienphu on March 13, 1954.  The French government appealed to the U.S. and UK governments for military assistance on March 20, 1954, but both governments refused to intervene with troops.  The government of Switzerland facilitated negotiations between French and Vietminh representatives chaired by Anthony Eden of Britain and Vyacheslav Molotov of the Soviet Union in Geneva, Switzerland beginning on April 26, 1954. French government troops were defeated by Vietminh rebels near Dienbienphu on May 7, 1954.  French and Vietminh representatives signed a ceasefire agreement in Geneva on July 21, 1954, and the ceasefire went into effect in northern Vietnam on July 27, 1954 and central Vietnam on August 1, 1954.  Some 400,000 individuals, including some 75,000 French government soldiers, 125,000 civilians, 175,000 Vietminh rebels, and 40 British soldiers, were killed during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (August 1, 1954-December 29, 1954): Some 900,000 individuals fled from northern Vietnam to southern Vietnam, and some 100,000 individuals fled from southern Vietnam to northern Vietnam beginning in August 1954. On August 11, 1954, the International Commission for Supervision and Control (ICSC-Vietnam) was established to monitor the ceasefire agreement and to supervise the disengagement of French and  Vietminh military forces.  ICSC-Vietnam consisted of some 500 personnel from Canada (82 military and 68 diplomatic personnel), India, and Poland.  Under the Geneva Agreements, France agreed to withdraw its troops from Indochina, and agreed to the independence of South Vietnam and North Vietnam on December 29, 1954.

[Sources: Bercovitch and Jackson, 1997, 53-54; Brecher and Wilkenfeld, 1997, 180-182; Butterworth, 1976, 50-58; Clodfelter, 1992, 658-659, 1112-1123; Donelan and Grieve, 1973, 62-67; Facts on File, July 16-22, 1954, August 6-12, 1954; Jessup, 1998, 790-795; Keesing’s Record of World Events, January 24-31, 1948, January 28-February 4, 1950; Langer, 1972, 1324-1325; Tillema, 1991, 240-242; Weisburd, 1997, 64-68.]


Selected Bibliography

Thakur, Ramesh. 1984. Peacekeeping in Vietnam: Canada, India, Poland, and the International Commission. Edmonton, Alberta: The University of Alberta Press.