17 August. With little inkling of the nationalist fervour gripping his country’s lost Asian territories, Charles de Gaulle announces two key appointments for the recovery of Indochina: Admiral Georges Thierry d’Argenlieu as high commissioner and General Philippe Leclerc as commander of French armed forces in the Far East. Plans are also afoot to land French agents in the territory. At this stage, however, authority for the reoccupation of Indochina lies with China and Britain, not France. Moreover, fewer than 1,000 French troops are immediately available in Ceylon to be included in the SEAC contingent being sent to Saigon. More troops can soon be sent but there is a serious shortage of transport and equipment available to French forces.
20 August. Although some Chinese forces are already in northern Laos, it will be several weeks before China’s occupation army actually enters Indochina. The Japanese are supposed to maintain order in Laos until they can formally surrender to incoming Allied forces. The reality is a fragmentation of authority. Meanwhile, Free French forces previously in exile in southern China and northern Burma are already active in the north-west. Some Japanese units hand over arms and other equipment to militia groups dominated by ethnic Vietnamese living in urban centres along the Mekong. Determined to prevent a French return, Lao Issara and Lao-pen-Lao nationalist groups also move to fill the power vacuum. They take control of Savannakhet and Thakhek with the assistance of Viet Kieu Salvation Association forces from both sides of the Mekong. Popular anti-French protests are aired in other areas while British and American personnel in northeastern Thailand are lobbied in support of the Lao nationalist cause.
25 August. A small French commando force led by Colonel Hans Imfeld enters Luang Prabang and takes charge. It is supported by the Lao king, who seeks a return to the situation before April when, under Japanese pressure, he renounced the French protectorate. His vision is a gradual transition to independence. Lao Issara activists, having heard De Gaulle’s calls for the restoration of the French Empire, remain sceptical.
24 August. Addressing a press conference in Washington, D.C., the French president ignores a personal appeal sent to him days earlier from Emperor Bao Dai, which warned France to abandon its Indochinese ambitions. Rather, says De Gaulle in a call from ‘the Mother Country addressed to her children’, the French position is simple; ‘France means to recover its sovereignty over Indochina.’
27 August. Reacting to local takeovers by French or nationalist forces, the viceroy and head of the Laotian government, Prince Phetsarath, takes control of the country’s administrative capital, Vientiane. The Japanese troops previously running the city are repatriated across the Mekong into Thailand to begin their long journey home via Bangkok. Phetsarath immediately authorizes creation of a Lao Issara Army out of the forces Japan had organized into a civic guard. Next day, he notifies all provincial governors that Lao independence remains an immediate goal and warns them to resist foreign intervention. This is part of Phetsarat’s strategy of unifying the Kingdom of Luang Prabang with the territories of central and southern Laos, which had been administered as colonies rather than protectorates under the authority of the French résident supérieur . This action creates a rift between traditional conservatives and progressive nationalists, who differ in their schedule and framework for the realization of Lao independence.
30 August. Two days after an advance party of U.S. Army airborne forces secures Atsugi aerodrome near Tokyo, General MacArthur arrives by plane. Meanwhile U.S. marines come ashore in Tokyo Bay in full combat gear and clearly prepared for Japanese treachery. The next day MacArthur assumes command of the Japanese government in Tokyo. This is the first time in its history that Japan is occupied by a foreign power.
30 August. At the urging of French commissioner Hans Imfeld, King Sisavangvong retracts the declaration of Lao independence he made under Japanese coercion four months earlier and repeats his support for a French protectorate. Coming two days after Prince Phetsarath’s pro-independence moves, this lays bare the rift between the regal and vice-regal lines of the royal family. Divisions are also apparent between those seen as collaborating with the Japanese during the occupation and those who remained faithful to the French, and between traditional conservatives and progressive nationalists who differ on how and when Lao independence can be realized.
19 August. A Japanese delegation arrives in Manila for a meeting with General Douglas MacArthur and U.S. officials to finalize surrender details. While travelling to and from the airport, the Japanese have to be protected from angry Filipinos threatening to attack them. At the same time, the Philippine Army begins demobilizing. Its units are no longer needed to invade Japan.
20 August. In preparation for the Chinese occupation of Indochina north of the 16th Parallel, advance units of Chinese troops begin crossing into Vietnam. In the upper Red River region they encounter severe flooding and some Viet Minh resistance.
20 August. Representatives from the military and the newly formed civilian ‘Japanese Association’ select a site for an internment camp where Japanese civilians in Syonan can await repatriation. Japanese propaganda papers announce publically that Japan has surrendered, printing the imperial rescript on surrender in its entirety. Similar internment camps were constructed throughout Asia.