Japanese invasion of French Indochina

Japanese troops entering Saigon

Japanese troops entering Saigon

Summary: In 1940, Japan had complete control of China’s coastal ports and cut off supplies by sea transport of the Chinese government. To further cut China’s arms supply lines and forced the Chinese out of the war, Japan invaded French Indochina in order to cut off supply routes from there to China. While France, owing to its defeat in the European theater, was unable to compete against Japan. Ultimately the Japanese troops successfully occupied the Indochina region and cut off China’s transportation routes through there. However, the United Kingdom, after the situation in Europe became stable, reopened the Burma Road that was threatened by Japan and therefore closed, making the blockade measures fail to receive great results.

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The Japanese invasion of Indochina, one year before the outbreak of the Pacific War itself, resulting in the occupation of part of French Indochina by the Empire of Japan during World War II.


Japan in war against China since 1937, has not yet managed to stop the resistance armies of Chiang Kai-shek. These include resupplied by the Yunnan Railway, which passes through Haiphong. However, the French government on the eve of the war in Europe, is committed not to allow the transit of military equipment to the Republic of China, but the Japanese are not satisfied.

The Japanese government took advantage of the French defeat in Europe in June 1940 to send an ultimatum to the French. Three divisions of the Kwantung Army are pressing the Tonkin border: the threat seems obvious enough for the governor Catroux he orders himself on June 16, the prohibition of gas traffic to Kunming.

Dissatisfied with the initiative Catroux, the Vichy government sacked and replaced by Admiral Decoux, close to Admiral Darlan. The handover took place on July 22 (Catroux benefit the stopover in Singapore to join Free France). But in the meantime, Catroux had engage in discussions with a Japanese military mission arrived in Hanoi, on the right of way of the Imperial Japanese Army on the Indochinese territory. Encroachment on French sovereignty multiply, and August 30, Vichy sign an agreement in principle with the Japanese, recognizing the special position and interests of Japan in the Far East.


A military convention must then regulate the procedures for implementation of the agreement, but soon be signed. Admiral Decoux trying to gain time, but September 19th, Japan issued an ultimatum, demanding the signing of the agreement and threatening to come into force at midnight Indochina 22 if its demand is not met. In extremis, an agreement is reached, providing to three airfields available to Japanese (Gia Lam Phu Lao Kay and Lang) and allow a maximum of six thousand soldiers of the Imperial Army to pass through Tonkin, north Red River. But despite the signing of the agreement (General Martin represents France and General Nishiara, Japan) to fifteen hours on 22, the command of the Kwantung Army commits hostilities evening. Twenty-five thousand men – which is a figure much higher than that of the agreement – the Division of the Japanese army swept into seventy kilometers from the Chinese border: the French can align across five miles 9 men RIC of 19 RIC of 3 Tonkinese Rifle Regiment and of the Foreign Legion.

For four days, the fighting took place around Lang Son (forty kilometers from the Chinese border), and turn to the disadvantage of French. A bombing took place on the peninsula Do the south of Haiphong. The Second Bureau transmits false information, giving the Japanese soldiers as demoralized and exhausted, leading to what the French are caught unawares. The material of the French troops in Indochina is not also not up against the Japanese. Episodes of chaos, in which the French artillery fires on its own troops, and defections of native soldiers, worse. On September 26, while Lang Son has just fallen, new Japanese troops landed on the beach and walk on Dong Tac Haiphong. Hostilities cease on the same day, the Imperial General Headquarters ordered the cease-fire. Decoux is forced to accept the situation and allow the Japanese to park at their leisure. Japanese troops took possession of the Gia Lam Airport, and the path near the border of Guangxi iron. Of Japanese soldiers stationed especially in Hanoi and Haiphong. The important thing for them now is to fight the forces of Chiang Kai-shek in China.

Despite their hold in fact, the Japanese nevertheless undertake to respect the sovereignty in French Indochina. On October 5, the French prisoners are released. The Japanese also allow the French to take over the administration of the province of Lang Son: October 25 at the ceremony site to French General Government General Nakamura read a message from the Emperor Hirohito, expressing. In this way, a little-known and active Franco-Japanese collaboration is taking place in Indochina, on the model of the city with ongoing.

Over time, the Japanese no longer maintain a light force in Indochina, and in 1942-1943, there were only eight thousand soldiers across the country. In fact, the French government remains in place and for the entire population, no fundamental change has occurred.


Recognition by Japan of French sovereignty

A month later, Thailand, noting the easy victory of Japan against France, triggers the Franco-Thai War, annexing several provinces. Japan, eager to ally with Thailand plays mediators to reach a cease-fire. To remedy this dangerous situation for the French colonial term maintenance, the Vichy government Decoux encouraged applying as soon as the National Revolution in Indochina in order to strengthen the link between the city and its Asian colony. Thus, the authorities allow Indochinese identity nationalism under French control to oppose the Japanese and Thai influences.

On 16 May 1941 an agreement with Vichy recognizes Japan clause of the most favored nation, as well as significant benefits in kind, including mining concessions and rice shipments. On 29 July is signed the Franco-Japanese protocol (or agreements Darlan-Kato), negotiated by Jacques Benoist-Méchin, which recognizes the sovereignty and French as a common military defense, while allowing Japanese troops stationed in the rest of Indochina. Indochina remained under the authority of the Vichy regime until the liberation of France. The Vichy government is still in place in March 1945, even though the regime of Marshal Petain has already ceased to exist in Europe. The territory during most of the conflict a parking place and passage of the troops of the Japanese Imperial Army.

Services pro-Allied Information

From the beginning of the entry of Japanese Forces parking in Tonkin in 1940, French intelligence networks are set up to transmit the services of Singapore English information on the movements of Japanese troops. Then throughout the Japanese occupation, which extends south of Indochina in June 1941, the French military intelligence and civilian inform the Allies and receive by airdrops of weapons and radios.

The Pacific War itself started in December 1941. Indochina remains aloof, being governed by agreements in September 1940 and July 1941, before the entry of Japan into the war against the Allies. It also remains true to the last Vichy French colony, while the rest of the French colonial empire has fallen into the camp of resistance in mid-1943.

During the standstill period, the French military intelligence and the French resistance inform members of the Free France settled in China, as well as the services of the OSS and the Chinese and British services, movements the Japanese fleet and units stationed in Indochina. American pilots killed were recovered by the French and smuggled into China, with few exceptions driver delivered as prisoners of war by the Japanese authorities of the General Government.

U.S. attacks: Japan gives independence to Indochina

From July 1944, Indochina began to be bombed by aircraft of the U.S. Air Force operating from southern China and the Philippines. In January 1945, the Task Force 38 makes two devastating naval raids on the coast of Indochina and runs an important part of the Japanese merchant fleet and Vietnamese junks supply, also bombing Saigon, Phnom Penh and other cities. The French fleet stationed in Indochina, the old cruiser La Motte-Picquet, was bombed and sunk by the U.S. navy and air force. In early 1945, as a result of the U.S. bombing of the stations, railroad tracks, and fleets Vietnamese junks supply North-South Indochina, a terrible famine broke out in the northern and central Vietnam current Nam and several thousands of victims.

The Japanese are still uncertain about the government shifts from the free in metropolitan France (still at war against Japan from Pearl Harbor) and facing a likely Allied landing on the coast of Indochina. Within the Japanese staff, opinions are divided between advocates of a hard line who want Japan arises Asian people cope with European colonialism, and those with far more pragmatic maintained the status quo with Vichy France, despite some excesses of the army, as in Lang Son in 1940. Finally get the first win, because of the defeats of the Axis before the advance of the Allies in Europe and Asia. In late 1944, the Japanese military and political authorities are in agreement to put an abrupt end to the French in Indochina parenthesis (only European colonial powers maintained since 1940) by the operation Meigo Sakusen (“action flash moon”) organized March 9, 1945, called by the French.

The Japanese ambassador to Matsumoto has Norodom Palace Saigon to nineteen hours on 9 March 1945, to Admiral Decoux, which is actually an ultimatum to the French forces in Indochina to go the authority of the Mikado, that the French admiral refused. At the same time the French authorities are invited to the evening meal organized throughout Indochina. Japan then capture the French officials and attacks unexpectedly and the French troops Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the units of the Indochinese Guard). While some French and Indochinese units courageously resisting the coup is rapid in one night, the French colonial authority disappears. It was then that the United States believes to later replace the French in Indochina.

The French colonial administration was essentially destroyed: the Indochinese countries, while Japan received their independence and try to build their new nations. Based on the ruins of French colonialism, but also the National Revolution of Vichy, the new puppet of Japan country (plus the kingdom of Siam, an ally of Japan) trying to manage an economic, political and social explosive situation. Bao Dai was appointed emperor of Vietnam (he was previously king of Annam, according to the French). He abdicated on 25 August.

If Japan lost interest quickly in these areas due to a conflict he can no longer control, Indochina falls on it in a revolutionary cycle and warrior: the Viet Minh from the Japanese surrender, seized the north Vietnamese territory in August 1945, Cambodia experienced a coup and the French prepare their return, which, however, take place in October 1945.

Battle of 1941

French Indochina


Asia-Pacific Front

History of France during the Second World War


Relations between France and Japan

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