For five years starting from September 1940, Indochina—the areas in Southeast Asia that were used to refer Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand—was occupied by the Japanese troops.
Japan invaded Vietnam in a hope to block off the southern border of China to cease the supply of arms and materials to China since Japan itself was still in ongoing war with China since 1937.
Whereas, the occupation of Vietnam was not only based on Japan’s strategy to defeat China but also to realize their expansionist program called a Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, a Japan’s new order to portray its vision as a leading country within Asian nations. This idea was strongly based on militarism and its intention for financial gain.
The existence of Japanese troops in Vietnam was not without a struggle. From early 1940, Japan started to persuade the French administrators to cede Vietnam under the pretext of closing off one of the Chinese borders, yet France kept rejecting the requests.
However, it was not until the armed forces of Nazi Germany attacked France in 1940, making the influence of the French administration in Vietnam weakened. There was no other option left than allowing Japan to have access to control the border between China and Vietnam.
On September 2, 1945, not long after the announcement of the unconditional surrender of Japanese armed forces in World War II, Vietnam declared the birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The proclamation text was delivered by a Vietnamese Communist leader, Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh square.
A historical figure: Ho Chi Minh
Born on May 1890, Ho Chi-Minh was the president of North Vietnam from 1954 until 1969 and considered the founding father and very first leader of the nationalist movement of Vietnam. He had lived and been to some western countries before decided to return to Vietnam in 1941.
In 1911, he left Vietnam for France to work as a cook. He moved to London and back to France in 1920 where he was among the founding members of the French Communist Party.
His skills in revolutionary strategies and tactics were gained from his study in the Soviet Union where he decided to be more active in the sphere of Communist International.
In 1924 when many communists from Vietnam were deported and exiled to China, he left the Soviet Union and flew to China to organize the Vietnamese communists there. He then returned to Vietnam in 1941.
In May 1941, Ho Chi Minh initiated a nationalist alliance under the Communist Party, known as the Viet Minh. As part of Ho’s efforts in developing the organization, he cooperated with the Allies and assisted the movements against Japan by providing information regarding the Japanese mobility and activities in Indochina. By putting so much effort in the name of Viet Minh, Ho aimed to obtain an acknowledgement of the Viet Minh to become the valid representative of Vietnamese nationalist movement.
Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of the country only hours after the Japanese surrendered to the Allies. Nevertheless, the French troops did not give up easily as they forced to snatch southern Vietnam to restore their presence within Indochina.
In March 1946, negotiations between Vietnamese communists and the French were held, resulting in a peaceful agreement and recognition of the Viet Minh. Contrary to the agreement, in reality, the French still insisted on reestablishing their colonial existence in Vietnam and neglected even the further negotiations that followed.
November 1946 marked French warships bombarded Haiphong, a Vietnamese city. Responding to the attack, the Viet Minh defended by initiating a war against the French and is considered to be the beginning of the First Indochina War.
Marking the end of this war were the defeat of French troops and peaceful negotiations. However, it did not stop here since Vietnam was then divided into two regions, namely the North Vietnam and South Vietnam.
Another communist movement that was established by Ho Chi Minh in the southern region of Vietnam called the Viet Cong was born in the late 1950s with the aim to attacked the regimes in Southern Vietnam which were supported by the US and the organization restrained until the beginning of 1964.
Ho Chi Minh himself died right 25 years later after he proclaimed the independence of Vietnam from French administration which on September 2, 1969, to be exact. 1975 marked the end of the Vietnam War and the downfall of South Vietnam. Now, Ho Chi Minh City is the capital of Vietnam, to reminisce about the man behind the independence of the country.