Added to Various — Lead up to Vietnam War

8 January
1926Twelve-year old Emperor Bao Dai ascends the throne as Emperor of Vietnam. Born Nguyen Phuc Vinh Thụy, was the 13th and final emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, which was the last dynasty of Vietnam. From 1926 to 1945, he was king of Annam. The Japanese ousted the Vichy-French administration in March 1945 and then ruled through Bao Dại. At this time, he restored the name of his country, “Vietnam”. He abdicated in August 1945 when Japan surrendered. He was the chief of state of the State of Vietnam (South Vietnam) from 1949 until 1955.

14 January
1950 – Ho Chi Minh declares that the only true legal government is his Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The Soviet Union and China extend recognition, and China will start supplying the Vietminh with modern weapons.

7 February
1930 – In Kowloon a unified Communist Party of Vietnam (Viet nam Cong Sang Dang) is founded under the leadership of Nguyen Ai Quoc. I Hong Kong the Indochinese Communist Party is also born under his leadership.
1950 – The United States and Great Britain extend de jure recognition to the Bao Dai regime. Vietnam is now effectively split between a communist-influenced north and an anti-communist south.

6 March
1946Ho Chi Minh signs an agreement with the French which recognizes the Democratic republic of Vietnam as a free state within the (as yet unformed) Indochinese Federation and the French Union. The new state is not precisely defined and the French leave details to be decided by future agreement. French forces are permitted to land in the north. Bao Dai, to eliminated his becoming a rallying point for opposing nationalist groups, departs on a ‘goodwill’ mission to China. Criticized by some Vietnamese for compromising, Ho Chi minh supposedly retorted, ‘It is better to sniff French dung for a while than to eat China’s all our lives.’

9 March
1945 – Alarmed by growing insurgent activity, the Japanese grant independence to Vietnam under Japanese protection and reinstall Bao Dai as head of state. Bao Dai is never able to gain much support for what is clearly a puppet government. He will abdicate on 23 August.

10 May
1941The Vietminh or Vietnam Independence League (Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh) is formed as a united front organization after the Eighth Plenum of the Communist party at Pac Bo, chaired by Nguyen Ai Quoc, adopts a policy of collaboration with all nationalists. by far the most effective nationalist organization of any kind working form within or without Vietnam, under the direction of Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietminh organizes guerrilla and intelligence networks to operate against the Japanese and the French.

21 June
1925 – In Canton, China, Nguyen Ai Quoc founds the Revolutionary Youth league of Vietnam, the first truly Marxist organization in Indochina. The Vietnam Nationalsit party (VNQDD) is founded at the same time in opposition to the Youth League.

30 July
1952 – President Truman promotes the American Legation in Saigon to an embassy. One sovereign country is dealing with another.

3 August
1950 – A US Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) of 35 men arrives in Vietnam to teach troops receiving US weapons how to use them.

16 August
1945Following the surrender of the Japanese, Ho Chi minh and his ‘People’s Congress’ create a National liberation Committee of Vietnam to form a provisional government. Bao Dai abdicates on 23 August and the Committee establishes the provisional government on the 29th, including Bao Dai as its ‘supreme advisor.’

17 August
1945Ho Chi Minh begins the first of a series of eight letters to President Harry Truman. Because of his relations with the OSS, collaborating against the Japanese, he regards the US as the friend of all struggling peoples. he asks for US aid in gaining Vietnam’s independence from France. There is no record of any US official ever answering these appeals. The US government is in a quandary, not wanting to support French colonialism, but not wanting to turn Vietnam over to a Communist administration.

25 August
1883The signing of a Treaty of Protectorate formally ends Vietnam’s independence. The name ‘Vietnam’ is officially eliminated, and the French divide Vietnam into northern and southern protectorates (Tonkin and Annam, respectively), both tightly under French control, although Annam retains its imperial Vietnamese administration. Southern Vietnam (Cochin China) has been a French colony since 1867. A general uprising in 1885 fails. In the Red River Valley of the north the French begin a period of twelve years of slaughter known as the ‘pacification’ of Tonkin.

7 September
1951The US signs an agreement with Saigon for direct aid to South Vietnam. American presence in Saigon is increased as civilian government employees join the military already there. general Jean de Lattre de Tassigny finds many in Washington who agree that France is preventing a ‘red tide’ from engulfing South Vietnam, the ‘barrier in Southeast Asia’ against Communism.

12 September
1945British troops arrive in Saigon to accept surrender of the Japanese according to the terms of the Potsdam Conference. Most Vietnamese expect the Allies to support their independence. While the United States in principle favors a provisional international trusteeship for Vietnam, after Roosevelt’s death the United States signs a credit agreement with France for supply of vehicles and relief equipment to French authorities in Indochina. This is seen as US endorsement of the French reconquest.

21 September
1945Four days of chaos in Vietnam, Saigon in particular, begins as British General Douglas Gracey declares martial law. The Vietminh, under Ho Chi Minh, are trying to enforce their control, but they are opposed by various nationalist Vietnamese groups, French colonials trying to regain power, and representatives of the French government determined to reassert sovereignty, while thousands of Nationalist Chinese troops are moving into northern Vietnam. Gracey allows Japanese troops to aid his British, Indian, and Ghurka troops, as well as arming 1,400 French troops who had been interred by the Japanese, most of them French Legionnaires, a combination that can have no effect but to ignite the passions of nationalist Vietnamese.

22 September
1940The Vichy government concludes an agreement permitting Japan to station troops and use facilities in Tonkin (northern Vietnam). Allegedly ignorant of the new agreement, Japanese troops cross the border from China and attack and take French-held Langson and Dong Dang after heavy fighting. The French order a halt to all resistance. Although the French administrative machinery is left intact to “rule,’ the Japanese by degrees consolidate their position until by opening of the general Asian War in December 1941, Vietnam is a virtual colony of Japan, and remains so for the duration of WWII.

24 September
1945 – General Jaques Philippe Leclerc, newly appointed as France’s military commander in Vietnam, arrives in Saigon to the general melee and a general strike called by the Vietminh. Leclerc declares, ‘We have come to reclaim our inheritance.’

26 September
1945In Saigon, LTC A. Peter Dewey, head of the American OSS mission in Vietnam, is driving a jeep to the airport when he is shot by Vietminh troops, who evidently mistook him for a Frenchman. Dewey is thus the first of some 60,000 American’s who will die in the Vietnam War.

30 September
1857Unable to obtain trading privileges in Vietnam through diplomacy, the French begin their campaign to take Vietnam. They attack Danang and take the city in early 1958. This fails to foment the uprising of oppressed Christians that they had expected. Decimated by disease, they push south to take Saigon by 1861. Vietnam is divided by a strong popular rebellion in the north, and under the weak Emperor Tu Duc, regional risings against the French are never coordinated successfully. Hanoi falls in 1883.
1953 – Eisenhower approves $385,000,000 over he $400,000,000 already budgeted for military aid for Vietnam. by April 1954 aid to Indochina reaches $1,133,000,000 out of a total foreign aid budget of $3,497,000,000.

4 November
1952With the election of Eisenhower as US President, the Indochina War ceases to be regarded as a colonial war, and the fighting in Vietnam becomes a war between Communism and the free world. The possibility of direct Chinese intervention becomes a mater of urgent preoccupation for many of Eisenhower’s closest advisors, in particular Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and Vice President Richard Nixon.

19 December
1946In Hanoi, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam launches its first attack against the French. Following months of steadily deteriaorating relations, a bloody ‘pacification’ of Haiphong in November, and unacceptable French demands including the disarmament of the Vietminh militia, the attack has the support of most Vietnamese and begins what comes to be known as the Indochina War.

22 December
1944 – With Ho Chi Minh’s support, Giap sets up an armed propaganda brigade of 34 Vietnamese and within two days will begin to attack French outposts in northern Vietnam. This is essentially the beginning of the Vietminh’s armed struggle against the French.

23 December
1950The United States signs a Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with France, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In 1951 military aid tops $500,000,000. Congressman John F. Kennedy asserts America has allied itself with a desperate French attempt to hang on to the remnants of its empire. By 1954 American military aid to Vietnam tops $2 billion.

31 December
1887 – The French have formed the Indochinese Union, administered by a governor general under the ministry of colonies in Paris. The Union consists of Tonkin, Annam, Cochin China, and Cambodia. Laos is added in 1893.
1919During the Versailles Peace Conference, a few Vietnamese residing in Paris draw up an eight-point program for their homeland’s independence. They have their program printed and send it to the conference secretariat, and one of the initiators, Nguyen Ai Quoc (‘Nguyen the Patriot’) who will later be better known as Ho Chi Minh, tries to meet with President Woodrow Wilson, who has inspired them with his 14-point program calling for independence for all peoples. But Nguyen is turned away and the eight points are never officially acknowledged.

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