A Tale of Vietnam: The Dragon and the Phoenix Mk 2

Chapter 1
Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today – Thich Nhat Hanh

It is hard to imagine that the present Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang (“VNQDD”) is the same party that was originally conceived as a revolutionary party. The present incarnation is a world away from their original goal to:

The aim and general line of the party is to make a national revolution, to use military force to overthrow the feudal colonial system, to set up a democratic republic of Vietnam. At the same time we will help all oppressed nationalities in the work of struggling to achieve independence, in particular such neighboring countries as Laos and Cambodia.

The seeds of change followed the abortive uprising at Yen Bai and the subsequent reprisals by the French authorities. Those members that were not captured by the Surete fled into Yunnan and a previously disciplined organisation was riven by internal bickering which threatened to consign the party into irrelevance. It was here that the demoralised members of the VNQDD first encountered the remnants of Vietnamese Restoration League.

It was fortuidous for Vietnamese independence that at a time of weakness a patriot of the standing of Phan Boi Chau [1]emerged to unite the disparate nationalist groups into a single political entity. Perhaps if the Yen Bai uprising had not failed as clearly, the leadership cadre of the VNQDD would not have been as receptive to change and the history of Vietnam significantly different. In what has become known as the Gejiu pact the VNQDD absorbed the remnants of the Vietnamese Restoration League and installed Phan Boi Chau as their leader.

Their inaugural congress established several principles to restore Vietnamese independence, particularly by focusing their effort at a village level through uniting and educating the nha que[2]. As the Vietnamese peasants remained politically unaware, respected institutions such as the monarchy would be utilised as a tool to broaden their support base. The decision to create a political base within the peasantry was to prove instrumental in the later success of the VNQDD.

At the congress the then unknown Le van Nhuan[3] made a speech that changed the long term independence strategy for the VNQDD and the future of Vietnam. He urged his fellow members to recognise with the destruction of their political infrastructure in Tonkin and Annam, combined with the closure of the Chinese / Vietnamese border meant that they must consider all alternatives to attain independence. His proposal was for the VNQDD to create a political base in Cochin China and to expand north when French attention inevitably waned. Although his proposal was initially greeted with derision, after several days of robust bargaining his proposal became policy. Other organisations such as the Vietnamese – Chinese business society were created to finance their revolutionary activities.

Their success at rebuilding their support base is illustrated in the biography ‘Hanoi adieu’ by a former French army officer of his first encounter with a VNQDD supporter in 1940.

The sounds of the prisoners’ truck jarred me out of my trancelike state. It seemed to take an age for the vehicle to enter the quarry and come to a halt. Guards jumped out and began to open the back door. Suddenly someone shouted, one of the prisoners: ‘Down with Imperialism! Independence for Vietnam!’ I looked across as the men were marched to the marks I had set. They turned to face us – and my heart missed a beat. It couldn’t be. How could it be? I peered at the man and knew I had been right. It was Nguyen Nga, my friend.

Author's notes:

[1] Author of a ‘History of the Loss of Vietnam,’ founder of the Vietnamese Restoration and ‘Visit to the East’ society

[2] Peasant, traditionally used in a perjorative way.

[3] Better known in OTL as Le Duan.
Chapter 2: An Army for the Revolution
An army for the revolution

Remember, the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and their stability – Anon.

An army of independence was originally conceived by the Vietnamese Restoration League with standing orders constituted, rates of pay established and a training plan drafted. However they lacked men, material and an opportunity.

Although the age of the military governor was drawing to a close in Nationalist China, their various armies still required a constant supply of manpower. An agreement was reached with the governor of Yunnan, Long Yun, to establish an infantry company comprised of Vietnamese volunteers. Although the company would be under his operational control, they were subject to their internal code of discipline. Officers would have the opportunity to train at the military academy in Yunnan and for a privileged few the military academy in Nanjing. The costs of maintenance would be borne equally between the military of Yunnan and shadowy Vietnamese – Chinese business associations. This marked the emergence of the military’s involvement with the business community and allegations of crony capitalism.

The ‘old dragon[1] was receptive to the idea of a Vietnamese unit as the Vietnamese provided him with a willing supply of soldiers that were both loyal and effective in battle. Surprisingly the French authorities provided tacit support for the concept, as it removed potential trouble makers from Indochina. Long Yun summarised his position with this quote that provoked much mirth over the dining table, ‘The Vietnamese give me soldiers and the French provide me subsidies for using them.’

However, the VNQDD did not establish an embryonic army for the sole benefit of a military Governor. They seized an opportunity to create a cadre of experienced soldiers to await the chance to liberate Vietnam from the French. It also provided an overt distraction for the Surete to concentrate on, while unknowingly ignoring the greater threat posed by the resurrection of the VNQDD political network across Vietnam.

Surprisingly, one of the largest influences on the embryonic army was an American Brigadier General Carson Evans the father of the Marine Raiders. Fresh from his experiences with the Communist guerrillas with Edgar Snow, he unsuccessfully advocated for the adoption of their tactics by the Nationalists against the Japanese. Although his arguments were ignored by the majority of the Nationalist army he found willing converts within the VNQDD.

His legacy was displayed by well planned and aggresively executed attacks. These tactics caused numerous problems for the Japanese Army in China, Vietnam and notably in Burma with the OSS Detachment 101. His input into their doctrine was not his only contribution. He also provided further professional military opportunities for Vietnamese soldiers notably a young guerrilla leader named Do Mau, who upon graduating from the Virginia Military Institute unofficially became the first Vietnamese graduate of a Western military academy due to being enrolled as a Chinese citizen.

The first opportunity to pursue their goal of independence was presented during the occupation of Vietnam in 1940 by the Japanese Empire. Recognising their chance, the VNQDD established a small liberated zone in an isolated part of Northern Vietnam. The French were powerless to stop them, the Imperial Japanese Army did not care, but for the Vietnamese this was their first breath of freedom in fifty three years.

Author's notes:

[1] A term of affection for the Military Governor of Yunnan.
Chapter 3: The Arsenal of Democracy
The Arsenal of Democracy

The leaders of the VNQDD understood that as General Long Yun controlled their supply of arms he maintained a vice like grip on their future. If they were to regain their freedom an independent source of arms must be found. September 1940 heralded the Japanese invasion of French Indochina and inexorably the escalation of World War II. However the invasion had a severe impact on the Nationalist armies in Yunnan and Guangxi, isolating them from their previous supply route from the port of Haiphong. Similar to the Roman outposts left behind in Britain, they were forced to look to their own defence.

The VNQDD located their base of operations high in the mountainous Ha Giang province, and commenced planning to construct an arsenal. At this embryonic stage of planning an eccentric one armed former British Army engineer[1] offered his services. One Armed Sutton or General Sutton to use his formal title had narrowly escaped Japanese captivity in Shanghai and with a sense of adventure previously confined to stories written by Rudyard Kipling was soon creating an arsenal around a speck on a map known as Meo Vac.

Having worked in China for over two decades General Sutton held strong views as to the treatment most weapons would receive from a peasant soldier. As the army was built around a light infantry force, he focused on weapons that would act as a force multiplier. Accordingly the first weapon produced by the arsenal was a modified Stokes mortar. The mortar was constructed to withstand the tender mercies of the nha que and simple enough to be wielded with deadly effect by a soldier with a modicum of training. This weapon soon became the first and last sound many Japanese soldiers heard.

Next on the development list was the Model 43 sub machine gun, a weapon that became synonymous with the Army and their fight against the Imperial Japanese Army. Despite its official designation it became known as the Duck by the OSS due to its sound made when firing. Aesthetically it bore a strong resemblance to the Australian Owen gun.

It is a testament to the work of the Vietnamese and General Sutton, an OSS Colonel[2] attached to the VNQDD referred to the arsenal as a system to rival any Ford production line.

Author's notes:
[1] General F.A. Sutton was also known as ‘One Armed Sutton’ and all of his exploits are detailed in his biography entitled ‘General of Fortune.’

[2] Colonel Archimedes Patti
So...a nationalist right-wing independence movement dominating the Vietnamese independence struggle instead of Communists? Color me interested (and subscribed).
Chapter 4: The United Front
The United Front

‘We have no permanent allies, only permanent interests.

It was pressure from the Office of Strategic Services and their Chinese Nationalist counterparts that created a Vietnamese United Front against the Japanese. Reluctantly, the VNQDD incorporated guerrilla bands from the Dai Viet and their smaller rival the Indochinese Communist Party (“ICP”) into their war against the Japanese. Wary of the mistakes their Chinese Nationalist counterparts had made, the ICP and Dai Viet sent representatives to Meo Vac to liaise with the VNQDD so a coordinated war could be waged against the Japanese. Each representative was monitored closely by the VNQDD internal security apparatus.

The United Front was sealed over a five course dinner in Gejiu, marked with numerous celebratory toasts for both sides. Chairman Chau in an example of good will proposed a toast to Nguyen Ai Quoc, despite the latter cooperating with the Suretee to have him arrested. It appeared to the western onlookers this decision had been forgiven as Chairman Chau and Nguyen Ai Quoc embraced, although in the long term it was to mark a brief cessation in long term hostilities.

For two parties that held such divergent political outlooks it should be unsurprising that both identified two key areas for reform. The first was for complete Vietnamese independence from France post war. An example of this was the categorical refusal to work with French Jedburgh teams, which in several cases led to French operative’s being disarmed and placed into ‘protective custody’ for the duration of the mission. Both parties lobbied their American advisors on their right to self determination and illustrated the similarities with the American Revolutionary war. Following the defeat of the Japanese, both parties agreed in principle to the formation of a unified government, which would govern the country until elections could be held.

After several days of debate it was the eloquent arguments of Nguyen Van Giap*, [1]widely seen as the father of the Vietnamese constitution, which led to the adoption of a Westminster parliamentary system. In his biography he described his affection for Emperor Bonaparte not as a General but for his introduction of a comprehensive legal code to Europe. It was this admiration for Emperor Bonaparte’s role as a lawmaker that led to Mr Giap's legal career and his tireless work representing mulitple peasant farmers' claims against rapacious landlords. Accordingly, after he had drafted the Vietnamese consititution he became the inaugral Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Vietnam in 1949.

The second issue was land reform, although each proposed method was markedly different. The ICP advocated seizure by the state and immediate redistribution to the Nha Que, the VNQDD proposed a land value tax combined with recommendations from the Rural Reconstruction Team in China.

The details of the United Front were dictated by the VNQDD through virtue of larger numbers, although in a spirit of bipartisanship they conceded graciously on several unimportant points. The sheer dominance of the VNQDD created a sense of bitterness within the ICP at their policy exclusion. Perhaps if the VNQDD had been more inclusive than Vietnam would not have been divided, or perhaps partition was inevitable at this point.

Author's notes:

[1] In OTL considered becoming a Lawyer, in TTL he does.
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Hmm interesting update, Nguyen Van Giap as a lawyer is an interesting twist. I hope you have some equally good generals in the pipe for the Vietnamese to use against the French!
In OTL because of his revolutionary activities Mr Giap's wife and close family were murdered by the French. From the accounts that I have read in his biography, although he subsequently remarried he experienced a profound sense of grief at the loss of his family. So ITTL it is my attempt to give him a happier outcome.

As for capable General's, ITTL as in OTL the Vietnamese will not lack for capable soldiers or Generals.
In OTL because of his revolutionary activities Mr Giap's wife and close family were murdered by the French. From the accounts that I have read in his biography, although he subsequently remarried he experienced a profound sense of grief at the loss of his family. So ITTL it is my attempt to give him a happier outcome.

As for capable General's, ITTL as in OTL the Vietnamese will not lack for capable soldiers or Generals.

Very good, glad Mr. Giap is getting a better outcome ITTL. Loving this TL so far, Vietnam is one of those places that I really wish could have gone differently post WWII. There were good chances and the world just screwed it up.
Chapter 5: The Guns of August
The Guns of August

‘The blossoms in spring are the fruit in autumn’

Several historians have written about the Hung Dao Dai Vuong offensive launched by the Nationalist Revolutionary Army and VNQDD at the end of World War Two. It has been compared to, ‘Operation August Storm,’ the Soviet invasion of Manchuria due to its impact at the start of the Cold War.

The offensive was conceived as an additional objective to the second Guangxi campaign by Colonel Van Tien Dung[1], the head of the Vietnamese General Staff, and General Li Zongren. Colonel Dung briefed General Zhang Fakuai[2] commander of the Second Front Army on his proposal and recommended integrating the Vietnamese brigade following the battle of West Hunan. Surprisingly Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek agreed with their proposal to expand the Guangxi campaign for two reasons. The first was to elevate his post war credentials and the second to secure his southern border including reasserting control over Yunnan. The schedule of operations drafted by General Li and Colonel Dung called for two phases.

The initial phase commenced with dispersed guerrilla attacks on isolated Imperial Japanese Army (“IJA”) garrisons and their logistical train, which forced the IJA to concentrate their forces. This coincided with a disinformation campaign, which suggested the attacks were intended to distract the IJA forces prior to an Allied invasion in Cochin China.

The second phase commenced on 25 July 1945 with one column from the Chinese Second Front Army assaulting into Vietnam from Guangxi and the second from the Fifth Chinese Army in Yunnan. The vanguard of the Second Army was the battle hardened Vietnamese brigade. The Chinese advance was characterised by their drive south which sought to isolate and encircle several IJA formations. An unremarked upon aspect of their campaign is the work of the VNQDD is route preparation, victual supply and bivouac preparation. This prevented the famine being exacerbated by rapacious Chinese soldiers and increasing the hardship suffered by the Nha Que.

Upon liberation by the Allied forces a provisional revolutionary council was immediately established from the village up to the provincial level. One of their initial acts was for rice stockpiles to be placed under armed guard and distributed to the local community. Although the rations were inadequate for a normal adult, they were sufficient to prevent starvation.

With their total air superiority negated by inclement weather the combined offensive reached the outskirts of Hanoi on 3 August 1945. The battle for Hanoi was surprisingly brief with the city being declared liberated on 7 August 1945. The National Revolutionary Army and the Vietnamese brigade resumed their southward advance reaching Vinh at the date of the Japanese surrender on 15 August 1945.

On September 12 1945 a military parade was held in Ba Dinh square in Hanoi to celebrate the unconditional surrender of Imperial Japan and the liberation of Vietnam. National Revolutionary Army M – 3 Stuart tanks trundled past, followed by the combined armies. After the parade Chairman Chau made his famous declaration of independence for Vietnam. His speech was punctuated by the roar of two Ki –43 Hayabusa’s, featuring hastily painted Vietnamese flags, whom due to low cloud cover were forced to fly at rooftop height much to the delight of the thronging crowd [3]. It was noteworthy that the curfews imposed by the Japanese on French civilians ostensibly for their own safety were not relaxed by the Vietnamese.

In Saigon the formal surrender of Japanese forces to the Allies was chaired by Major General Douglas Gracey, who belatedly accommodated the request by General Li Zongren representing the Nationalist Chinese and Le Van Nhuan representing the VNQDD. Although the 20th Indian Division had re imposed order in Saigon, they were powerless in the countryside as the VNQDD moved quickly to assume control. Recognising the potential for the situation to explode, it was General Gracey’s efforts and political pressure from the United States that prevented a wider scale conflict.

Several units of the Japanese Army, their air service and the Imperial Japanese Navy surrendered independently to Vietnamese forces. Selective individuals and units accepted the opportunity to continue to serve. 12 September 1945 is commemorated by the Royal Vietnamese Navy as their birthday, symbolised by the historic lowering of the Imperial Japanese Naval ensign on HIJMS Etorfu, and the hoisting of the Vietnamese Naval Jack.

To the Vietnamese the only flag that mattered, was the same flag fluttering proudly at the bow of RVNS Etorfu.

Author's Notes:
[1]Author of the Ho Chi Minh offensive in 1975 and the attack by the PAVN on Kampuchea in 1979.

[2] General Zhang in OTL advocated the liberation of Vietnam to remove the French and to install a government friendly to Nationalist China.

[3] In OTL American P - 38's roared overhead, ITTL Vietnamese Ki - 43's. Incidentally if anyone wants to photoshop some aircraft for me that would be much appreciated.
Nice update, good touch by replacing the USAAF aircraft with Vietnamese aircraft.

Thanks, I was attempting to convey a darker feeling to Vietnamese independence. For example land redistribution programs have been implemented in regional areas under VNQDD control, to the dismay of several landowners. Particularly French plantation owners who have had their assets seized and have been placed in protective custody in a resort town or have been persuaded to visit their relatives in major centres.

Unfortunately this will be my last update for about a month, as my next professional accreditation exam happens at the end of April and the subject is ridiculously hard.

Although I am always happy to discuss my TL.
Now that I am back from my professional accreditation exams, I will have an update on the agreement with France within the next week and then the butterflies really begin.
Can't wait for the next update. In the meanwhile, I do have a little point of curiosity: what does the Vietnamese flag look like ITTL? Is it the same gold star on a red background, or has the VNQDD got their own design?
I have been thinking about the flag issue for some time. I may opt with the original yellow base bisected by two red stripes, perhaps even keeping the rampant blue dragon as that is pretty cool.

The VNQDD flag will remain as is.


As for my update, I am quietly confident my boss is trying to induce a heart attack in myself and my colleagues as we have been doing crazy hours to get multiple reports out the door. So I don't know when I will be able to update.
Chapter 6: Winning the Peace
Winning the peace

“The great secret of success in life is for a man to be ready when his opportunity comes.”

— Benjamin Disraeli

The unilateral declaration of independence by Vietnam by Prime Minister Chau was unsurprisingly not greeted with universal enthusiasm by its former colonial master France. French domestic opinion ranged from bemusement to bellicose calls for a military intervention to reassert their dominance over this recalcitrant colony.

However, despite the shrill calls for an armed intervention in Indochina from several conservative politicians, the socialist government grasped the situation clearly. Metropolitan France had suffered from four years of brutal occupation from the Bosche and was in dire financial straits. Accordingly, the cost in manpower and to the coffers of the Fourth Republic would be stark for a military campaign on the other side of the world. The scarce resources available to the Fourth Republic would be more appropriately expended on restoring the country’s desiccated infrastructure.

Throughout Indochina each colony was in revolt and independent governments were established. In Hanoi the VNQDD government in conjunction with their embryonic military staff prepared to face the mighty French Far East Expeditionary Corps in battle. The bulk of their military train was quietly moved westwards, away from the guns and aircraft of the prowling French Fleet waiting in the Tonkin Gulf. The grim spectre of war again hovered over Indochina.

The French Republic led by Leon Blum, in a final effort to avoid war dispatched an ambassador with a military attaché named Colonel Sairigne to attempt to resolve the issue one last time. It was the report made by Colonel Sairigne that compelled the government to come to a political agreement with the VNQDD. He noted the Vietnamese were united, disciplined and resolved to fight. His comment on the outcome of a war was seized upon, notably that ‘France may triumph in every battle, but would eventually run out of men or money or both.’

The commander of the expeditionary corps General LeClerc had echoed similar sentiments earlier to the President and reinforced Indochina’s infrastructure had been largely destroyed by the Japanese army, Vietnamese partisans and American bombing. Tonkin was suffering from famine and they were ‘theoretically’ opposed by a battle hardened Vietnamese – Nationalist Chinese force. The situation was clearly a mess and the prudent course would be to seek a political solution.

International opinion also entered the fray, President Roosevelt exerted subtle pressure on the French to adhere to their promises of fraternity, equality and liberty and allow their colony the right to attain independence. The Nationalist Chinese although having resumed their fratricidal war against the Chinese Communists deployed two squadrons of fighter aircraft to Hanoi, establishing their intent clearly.

Both sides recognised the futility of conflict and in November 1945 a Vietnamese delegation was ferried to the French heavy cruiser Suffren to sign the articles of Independence onboard the destroyer escort RVNS Etorfu. The articles of independence set Vietnamese independence for 1 January 1946. As simple as that, France washed her hands of her Indochinese possessions and focused her attention on the looming crisis in Algeria.

It is strange that the speech made by Prime Minister Chau was so magnamonious after he had fought for four decades to attain Vietnamese independence. Or as some academics argued he realised the French power was in decline and would be ultimately irrelevant to the future of Vietnam. An excerpt of his speech is listed below:

‘With France in particular, a country famous for its glorious tradition of liberty, the Kingdom of Vietnam ardently desires to form ties of confidence and friendship, which are indispensable to the restoration of peace in Vietnam and the settlement of all related questions. We stand for the establishment of economic and cultural relations with France on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. We need peace to enable us to work towards national reconstruction. We shall faithfully and strictly carry out all the terms of the agreement which we have signed. We hope and that France will do the same. We all need to maintain and consolidate the peace which has just been achieved.’

On 1 January 1946 up and down the length of the country the French tricolor was lowered for the final time and Vietnam was once again an independent united nation. It was to be, unfortunately, a brief interlude.