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From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Vietnam, an ally of America in WW2?
Date: 18 Sep 1997

Roosevelt's state department suspected the French Indochinese government,
led by Jean Decoux, of being pro-fascist.  Milton Miles, who worked for the
Office of Naval Intelligence, set up an intelligence network in Indochina
in 1943, headed by Cmdr. Robert Meynier, an anti-Vichy French naval officer
who had escaped from Algeria. Meyneir's wife was Vietnamese with good
contacts in the Vietnamese ruling class.  Meynier apparently even had
double agents working in the French intelligence agency, the Deuxieme
Bureau,  in Indochina.
There was also an ad hoc civilian American espionage network in Indochina
run by Lawrence Gordon, who worked for Cal-Tex, the big oil company.
Apparently, this was a bigger and better organized effort than that put on
by the U.S. government, at least in the early years, spanning all of
Indochina and thoroughly infiltrating the French colonial government.
The British, on the other hand, appear to have directed their attention to
getting the French colonial government to turn against the Japanese (they
were quite cozy with them).  They tried to get the Vichyites and the
Gaulists to quit squabbling and direct their attention to harassing the
Japanese.  The British wanted to get a southeast Asian version of the
Maquis going, and the SOE parachuted in French officers, weapons and
explosives. They seem to have had some success, but they were betrayed to
the  Japanese by somebody, presumably Vietnamese who did not like the idea
of a strengthened French colonial government.  In a swift coup, the
Japanese overthrew the Decoux government and attacked the French colonial
armed forces.  The Japanese move was so sudden that some French units were
caught asleep in their barracks and surrendered without a fight.  Those who
did fight were massacred to the last man, except for some units stationed
near the border with China, who were able to escape into China.  Some units
that surrendered without fighting may also have been massacred.
The SOE continued to drop French agents into Indochina after the Japanese
coup, but they were routinely betrayed by the Vietnamese, who really just
did not like the French. The ONI operation fizzled, as it was directed at
the French colonial government, which was kaput. The Cal-Tex spy network
was also crippled.  But the OSS was able to work with Ho Chi Minh and his
boys.  The Vietnamese hated the French, but they loathed and feared the
Japanese, so the Viet Minh were happy to  supply the U.S. with intelligence
and rescue downed allied airmen.  In return, the OSS supplied
communications equipment, weapons, medicine and OSS instructors to teach
the Viet Minh how to use it all.
The British seem to have resented American activity in southeast Asia,
seeing it as an effort to establish political influence after the war.  The
SOE did not cooperate with the OSS, even refusing when asked by Albert
Wedemeyer (who replaced Gen. Stillwell, and was formerly with the War
Department's General  Staff Operations Division and chief of staff to Lord
Mountbatten) to explain  what they were doing in Indochina. This was a
major snub by the British.  The infuriated Wedemeyer closed Kunming
airfield to the British as a result.  The British continued their
under-cover operations, flying agents in from eastern Indian bases.  Three
of these RAF flights were intercepted and shot down by fighters of the U.S.
14th Air Force.  Wedemeyer said sorry about that, big mistake, but if you
boys would give us a clue as to what you are doing, we could avoid such
regrettable incidents.
It seems the British were jockeying for a post-war showdown of some sort
with America for control of the spoils of war, which in this case included
not only the Japanese empire, but the prostrate French empire, and they
wanted to keep their activities secret.

The publication "Pacific Historical Review" had some in-depth articles on
the USA-Indochina relationship in WWII some years ago, and the Air Force
Historical Research Center at Maxwell AFB has a bunch of documentary
material on file.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Vietnam, an ally of America in WW2?
Date: 24 Sep 1997

>The Southeast Asian Theater was under British
>command. The Americans should have cooperated with the British efforts,
>not gone ahead with an independent operation

The British SOE covert operations were a failure, mainly because they were
directed at the French colonial government, which the Japanese co-opted.
The OSS covert operations, which were directed at Vietnamese nationals,
were highly successful and resulted in the rescue of numerous downed allied
airment--British as well as American--as well as the acquisition of
information useful in target selection for bombing raids.  The British
would not treat with the "natives," a prejudice that  helped them lose
Malaya and Singapore in the first place.  The Americans did so with
enthusiasm, and were running a very successful insurgency campaign in the
Philippines using indigenous irregulars, and they worked closely with
Chinese forces.  It was only natural that they would want to do the same
OSS boss Bill Donavan didn't have much use for the bureaucratic mindset
that would allow people to die when they could be saved.  That the British
command would allow its own aircrew to be killed by friendly fire when all
it would take to prevent their deaths was a brief notice to American
fighter command that RAF aircraft would be in such and such an area at such
and such a time hints at a deep distrust of their supposed ally, presumably
based on postwar plans to maintain, but perhaps even expand the British
empire.  The Roosevelt administration, however, had made it quite clear
that one of its chief postwar goals was decolonization and the end of the
European empires.  It is one of the ironies of history that, as it turned
out, the British ended up dismantling their own empire more or less
voluntarily, while the United States, erstwhile anti-colonial champion,
took up the mantle of European colonialism, if only half-heartedly and in
reaction to a greater threat (another variety of European-originated

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