Notes on
Ho Chi Minh, A Life by William J. Duiker
For The U.S. War Against Asia
by William P. Meyers

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Page 5

Source: Ho Chi Minh, A Life by William J. Duiker. Hyperion, New York, ©2000, first edition. Numbers in brackets indicate page numbers for this edition.

The United States sent Kenneth Landon on a fact-finding mission to Hanoi in January 1946, just after the new Vietnamese government was elected. Ho Chi Minh handed Landon a letter addressed to President Truman noting that the U.S. was granting independence to its Philippines colony, and asking the President to support independence for Vietnam. The French were negotiating for a Chinese withdrawal from northern Vietnam. Meanwhile, also in January, de Gaulle resigned and was replaced by a coalition government headed by Socialist Party leader Felix Gouin. Ho's message to the French was: give us independence, or you will have a war. [356-357]

Meanwhile, the armed conflict between the French and the Vietnamese was escalating in the southern reaches of the country. In any event the only negotiations that had results were between the French and Chinese, who agreed French troops would replace withdrawing Chinese troops in the north. In return the French gave up their extraterritorial rights in mainland China. [358-360]

On March 5, 1946, the French fleet sailed into Tonkin Gulf. The Chinese had asked for more concessions. On March 6 Chinese troops fired on French ships near Haiphong, and the French fired back. French, Chinese and Vietnamese negotiators came together the same day. The Vietnamese government agreed to be a "free state," the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) within the French domains. France was to be limited to 15,000 troops in the north. [363-363]

Vietnamese nationalists (right-wing) used the agreement to accuse Ho Chi Minh and the communists of selling out to the French. [364] The French troops had military trucks & weapons provided by the United States. [365 and 367]

The U.S. government responded to the new situation by saying the new agreement "completes the reversion of all Indochina to French control." The Cold War with communism was on, and France was a valuable ally in Europe. [366-367]

In November 1946 control of the harbor in Haiphong led to a French massacre of Vietnamese civilians there and fighting with the Vietnamese militia. [389] The U.S. State Department was somewhat divided, but ended up accusing the government of Vietnam of being communist. Abbot Low Moffat was sent to Vietnam, arriving in Saigon on December 3, then meeting with Ho the following week. Moffat reported he thought the Vietnamese government was under communist control and in contact with Moscow and the Chinese communists (who were in a civil war with Chiang Kai-shek), but that Ho represented a pragmatic wing of the government, with other communists being hard-liners. [390-391]

Open warfare between the Vietnamese and the French began on December 17, 1946. [396]

Bao Dai offered the French to form a government in December of 1947. A provisional government was formed in March 1948, and on March 9, 1949 the French signed an agreement with Bao Dai recognizing Vietnam as an independent state within the French Union. But Bao Dai had little support among the Vietnamese, and the Vietminh had an increasingly battle-hardened army. [412-413]

By 1948 the Chinese Communists were winning the civil war against the Kuomintang, which was shifting the balance of power in the region. The French feared the Chinese would support the Vietnamese communists, and the U.S. was considering intervening to help the French. [414-415]

No longer believing the U.S. would promote independence or even stay neutral, Ho sought and received recognition of his government from the Soviet Union and Communist China in early 1950 [421-422]

The U.S. government reacted negatively to the Soviet endorsements of the Vietminh government, but also did not think the French were doing a good job, or that Bao Dai would be able to organize the Vietnamese against the dreaded communists. But in 1949 the U.S. had refused to recognize the Bao Dai government or give aid to the French. Within the State Department debate over which course to support continued. Truman himself was under fire from the right, who accused him of losing China to the communists. [423-425] Then in February 1950 the U.S. recognized the Bao Dai government. On March 10, 1950 President Truman announced $15 million would be spent to assist the French military in Indochina, and advisory missions would be sent there to help administer the program. [425]

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