First Indochina War
The First Indochina War (generally known as the Indochina War in France, and as the Anti-French Resistance War in contemporary Vietnam) began in French Indochina on 19 December 1946 and lasted until 1 August 1954. Fighting between French forces and their Viet Minh opponents in the South dated from September 1945. The conflict pitted a range of forces, including the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps, led by France and supported by Emperor Bảo Đại's Vietnamese National Army against the Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh and its People's Army of Vietnam led by Vo Nguyen Giap. Most of the fighting took place in Tonkin in Northern Vietnam, although the conflict engulfed the entire country and also extended into the neighboring French Indochina protectorates of Laos and Cambodia.At the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, the Combined Chiefs of Staff decided that Indochina south of latitude 16° North was to be included in the Southeast Asia Command under British Admiral Mountbatten. Japanese forces located south of that line surrendered to him and those to the north surrendered to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. In September 1945, Chinese forces entered Tonkin and a small British task force landed at Saigon. The Chinese accepted the Vietnamese government under Ho Chi Minh, created by resistance forces of the Viet Minh, then in power in Hanoi. The British refused to do likewise in Saigon, and deferred to the French there from the outset, against the ostensible support of the Viet Minh by American OSS representatives. On V-J Day, September 2, Ho Chi Minh had proclaimed in Hanoi the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). The DRV ruled as the only civil government in all of Vietnam for a period of about 20 days, after the abdication of Emperor Bảo Đại, who had governed under Japanese rule and thus was considered by Vietminh a ""Japanese puppet"". On 23 September 1945, with the knowledge of the British Commander in Saigon, French forces overthrew the local DRV government, and declared French authority restored in Cochinchina. Guerrilla warfare began around Saigon immediately.The first few years of the war involved a low-level rural insurgency against French authority. However, after the Chinese communists reached the northern border of Vietnam in 1949, the conflict turned into a conventional war between two armies equipped with modern weapons supplied by the United States and the Soviet Union. French Union forces included colonial troops from the whole former empire (Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Laotian, Cambodian, and Vietnamese ethnic minorities), French professional troops and units of the French Foreign Legion. The use of metropolitan recruits was forbidden by the government to prevent the war from becoming even more unpopular at home. It was called the ""dirty war"" (la sale guerre) by the Left intellectuals in France.The strategy of pushing the Viet Minh into attacking a well-defended base in a remote part of the country at the end of their logistical trail was validated at the Battle of Nà Sản. However this base was relatively weak by the lack of construction materials like concrete and steel, limited usefulness of armored tanks in a jungle environment, lack of strong air forces for air cover and carpet bombing and use of recruited foreign forces from other French colonies (mainly from Algeria, Morocco and even Vietnam), caused by the unpopularity of this war in France which proscribed the use of regular French recruits. On the other hand, Giap used efficient and novel tactics of direct fire artillery, convoy ambushes and amassed anti-aircraft guns to impede land or air supply deliveries together with a strategy based on recruiting a sizable regular army facilitated by wide popular support, a guerrilla warfare doctrine and instruction developed during China revolution and the use of simple and reliable war material provided by the Soviet Union. This combination proved fatal for this base defenses, culminating in a decisive French defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.At the International Geneva Conference on July 21, 1954 the new socialist French government and the Viet Minh made an agreement that was denounced by the government of Vietnam and by the United States, but which effectively gave the Communists control of North Vietnam above the 17th parallel. Control of the north was given to the Viet Minh under Ho Chi Minh, and the south continued under Emperor Bảo Đại. A year later, Bảo Đại would be deposed by his prime minister, Ngô Đình Diệm, creating the Republic of Vietnam. Soon an insurgency backed by the North developed against Diệm's government. The conflict gradually escalated into the Vietnam War.