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The End of the War

Ho Chi Minh had worked closely during the war with American intelligence forces in Indochina in fighting the Japanese; he apparently considered the United States something like an ally. When the war ended in 1945, he began writing to President Truman asking for support in his struggle against the French. He received no reply to his letters, probably because no one in the State Department had heard of him.

  • US President Truman was under heavy pressure from both the British and the French to support France in its effort to reassert control in Vietnam.

  • The French argued that without Vietnam, their domestic economy would collapse.

  • The economic revival of Western Europe was quickly becoming one of Truman's top priorities.

  • The United States did nothing to stop the French as they moved back into Vietnam in 1946

  • The French began to struggle with the Vietminh to reestablish control over the country

The French reestablish themselves

At first, the French had little difficulty reestablishing control. They drove Ho Chi Minh out of Hanoi and into hiding in the countryside.

In 1949, they established a nominally independent national government under the leadership of the former emperor, Bao Dai.

Emperor Bao Dai

Bao Dai was the 13th and last ruler of the Nguy?n Dynasty. He served as king of Annam from 1926 until 1945 and as Emperor of Vietnam from 1945 until 1949.

  • Bao Dai was an ineffective, westernized playboy unable to assert any real independent authority.

  • The real power remained in the hands of the French.

  • The Vietminh continued to challenge the French dominated regime and slowly increased its control over large areas of the countryside.

  • The French appealed to the United States for support.

  • In February 1950, the Truman administration formally recognized the Bao Dai regime and agreed to provide it with direct military and economic aid.

For the next four years, during what has become known as the First Indochina War, Truman and Eisenhower continued to support the French military campaign against the Vietminh. By 1954, the United States was paying 80% of the France's war costs.

  • In 1953, Vietminh forces engaged the French in a major battle in the far northwest corner of the country, at Dien Bien Phu, an isolated and almost indefensible site.

The French were surrounded, and the battle turned into a prolonged and horrible siege, with the French position steadily deteriorating. It was at this point that the Eisenhower administration decided not to intervene to save the French. The defense of Dien Bien Phu collapsed and the French government decided the time had come to get out.

The First Indochina War came come to an end.        

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