Vietnam Revolution 1945 V

Program Information

Series: A Moment in Time
Duration: 00:04:16
Year Produced: 2010

In September 1945 Ho Chi Minh, in the wake of Japan's defeat, declared Vietnamese independence. It turned out to be a futile gesture.

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Lead: In September 1945 Ho Chi Minh, in the wake of Japan's defeat, declared Vietnamese independence. It turned out to be a futile gesture.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Two months before at the Potsdam Conference in Germany, the victorious Allies had promised Charles de Gaulle and the Free French that they could reclaim their Indochinese colonies. To prepare the way, the British would move into South Vietnam to disarm the Japanese and ship them home. In the North, the Chinese would do the same. It was a prescription for disaster.

Suddenly, during the fall of 1945, Vietnam was in chaos. The Free French were trying to return. The British favored the French but did not have enough troops to enforce their preference or keep the peace. Chinese troops in the north--largely illiterate and starving, like a hoard of locusts--engaged in promiscuous rape and pillage. Various factions of the native Vietnamese were fighting each other, the Chinese or the French. All the while, Ho Chi Minh was trying to put together the combination of forces that could keep the French from returning and get the Chinese out.

He failed. The United States, focusing on Europe, refused his pleas and continued to back the French. The Soviet Union, concentrating its efforts on gobbling up most of Eastern Europe, did not even recognize his regime. Ho's only alternative seemed accommodation but, by the end of 1946, French troops were back in strength. Ho escaped to the jungle and the first Vietnam War had begun.

In Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare has Brutus utter the famous lines, "There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries." Hindsight tempts those of us who live in the first decade of the twenty-first century to wonder if the United States--the one power in 1945 which counted--had come to the aid of the then more nationalist than Communist Ho Chi Minh, seized the flood, and told the French to stay home, perhaps much of the misery of the next three decades in Vietnam could have been prevented. By 1947, the hysteria of the Cold War Era would have made that political suicide but, for a few months in 1945, such a solution appears to have been possible.

At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.