20 August. With Hanoi and its administrative structure in its hands, the Viet Minh begins using the existing machinery of government to inform, exhort and increasingly control the populace. At the same time that all political parties are invited to join with the new government in preparing to resist any return of the French, upriver from Hanoi in nearby Son Tay, Viet Minh forces are hunting down and killing ‘pro-Japanese’ Dai Viet groups. On the 25th, all armed groups are ordered to disband and enrol in the Vietnam Liberation Army. Three days later, citizens are told that henceforth all outdoor meetings, demonstrations or armed training exercises will require government authorization. More restrictions follow in mid-September when two nationalist groups and a youth movement are banned for being ‘pro-Japanese organizations’.
22 August. Two French ‘commissioners of the Republic’, one for Tonkin, the other for Cochinchina, are parachuted into Vietnam. Pierre Messmer (a future French prime minister) is dropped north of Hanoi. Soon captured by Viet Minh but rescued by Chinese troops, it will be late October before he reaches Hanoi. Jean Cédile lands 85 km northwest of Saigon. He and his three teammates are surrounded by local farmers who give way only when a Japanese platoon arrives on the scene. Stripped naked, force marched, interrogated and threatened with decapitation, Cédile and team present quite a spectacle as they are eventually driven by truck through the streets of Saigon. The arrival in Hanoi on the same day of Jean Sainteny, Messmer’s future replacement as Tonkin commissioner, is quite different. He hitches a ride from Chungking on a U.S. flight carrying an OSS mission sent to locate and free Allied POWs. Heading the mission is Archimedes Patti who in following weeks will tussle with Sainteny and, despite his official neutrality, attempt to influence American policy in support of the Vietnamese against their colonial masters.
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.’
20 August. Emperor Bao Dai sends messages to the Allies opposing the return of French rule in Indochina. He also makes a special appeal to De Gaulle himself: ‘You would understand better if you could see what is happening here, if you could feel this desire for independence which is in everyone’s heart … . Even if you come to re-establish a French administration here, it will no longer be obeyed; each village will be a nest of resistance, each former collaborator an enemy, and your officials and colonists will themselves ask to leave this atmosphere which they will be unable to breathe.’
25 August. Although only four days earlier they had joined with fellow Cao Dai, Trotskyist and Hoa Hao members of the United Front in a mass demonstration in Saigon, after days of turmoil the Vanguard Youth now forms a new alliance with the now-openly ICP-led Viet Minh. At a giant demonstration in Saigon, this rickety coalition launches an insurrection in the name of the Southern Provisional Administrative Committee. By the end of the day, the city is secured and Imperial Delegate Nguyen Van Sam is under guard. Further seizures of power follow in cities and towns across the south. However, the situation is far from settled; other groups are angered that the ruling committee has only ICP members or supporters.
26 August. Having travelled on foot, by boat and finally by commandeered automobile, the Viet Minh leader reaches a secret residence in the city. Remarkably, this is Ho’s first time in Hanoi. He immediately invites OSS Major Archimedes Patti to lunch, probing for some sign of U.S. help amidst worries that the French, British and Chinese in tandem will jeopardize the independence of Vietnam. Patti is sympathetic but admits that he can only help by conveying messages expeditiously. Next day, Ho convenes the first cabinet meeting of the recently formed provisional government (composition of which is announced on the 28th). It is agreed that Vietnamese independence will formally be declared on the following Sunday (2 September).
27 August. Concerned about the power vacuum and growing disorder across Southeast Asia, Lord Mountbatten first protests against the restrictions imposed on SEAC by General Order No. 1 then evades them. He instructs Field Marshal Terauchi to send a delegation to Rangoon, where a preliminary surrender agreement is signed. Next day, Mountbatten names General Douglas Gracey as commander of the Allied forces (including French troops) to be despatched to Saigon.
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.
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.
23 August. Reversing the sequence in Hanoi four days earlier, Viet Minh leaders in the royal capital first send groups to occupy public buildings and Civil Guard barracks and then follow up with a mass meeting in the late afternoon. People notice that many lesser members of the royal family are participating. Moreover, ICP squads hunt down and arrest specific ‘traitors’, including the former premier Pham Quynh, as well as the former minister Ngo Dinh Khoi and his son, who are brother and nephew of the prominent nationalist (and future South Vietnamese president), Ngo Dinh Diem. No attempt is made to enter the royal palace itself but an ultimatum is delivered that Bao Dai cede power to the Viet Minh. The emperor accepts and next day issues an edict of abdication.