30 August. In an emotionally charged event marking the end of a thousand years of Vietnamese monarchy, Bao Dai reads the text of his edict to a huge crowd in Hue during the formal abdication ceremony. ‘I would prefer to be a citizen of an independent country rather than Emperor of an enslaved one’, he states. Although the ex-emperor agrees to become ‘supreme advisor’ to the provisional government, he is allowed to go into exile in March 1946.
2 September. Speaking to a massive crowd in Hanoi’s Botanic Gardens, the Viet Minh leader calls on the Allies to recognize the new Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Even if they don’t, Ho asserts that Vietnam will fight for its freedom.
7 September. ICP attempts to consolidate power in the south backfire when the southern Viet Minh supremo, Tran Van Giau, orders the disarming of all unofficial organizations; all weapons to be surrendered to the Viet Minh ‘Republican Guard’. The decree is directed not only at the religious sects and factory-based self-defence groups led by the Trotskyists but also at the ICP’s erstwhile Vanguard Youth allies. Trotskyists issue a call to arms. Next day there is a violent clash in Can Tho, a key town in the lower Mekong Delta, between Hoa Hao demonstrators and a force of Vanguard Youth and ICP troops. Contestants provide contradictory accounts of the clash and its origins but it ends with many Hoa Hao dead. Subsequently, Hoa Hao followers are incensed when the ICP arrests many fellow members and executes the key leaders of the demonstration. Tension is also building with the Cao Dai, partly because of Viet Minh imprisonment of its leaders and the mass killing of Cao Dai followers in Quang Ngai province.
5 September. Prince Phetsarath is contacted by his half-brother, Prince Souphanouvong, who for the last 16 years has been working as a civil engineer in Vietnam. Souphanouvong explains he is in Hanoi negotiating Vietnamese support for the Lao independence struggle. The viceroy rejects the overture; he has long held anti-Vietnamese views and is already concerned about Viet Kieu involvement in the nationalist movement. Indeed, only days earlier Viet Minh-allied forces in Thakhek organized local youth into armed units to oppose the French. These Lao–Viet units will become the model for future joint Lao Issara and Viet Minh collaboration.
7 September. Faced with hyperinflation in Malaya as a result of massive printing by the Japanese of their wartime currency, the British Military Administration (BMA) demonetizes the currency; only pre-war and a new post-war currency are legal tender. The widespread economic pain this causes is alleviated by government handouts. However, due to the financial and economic upheaval caused by the demonetization policy, the BMA would come to be derogatorily known as the ‘Black Market Administration’ owing to the widespread corruption of its staff.
9 September. Finally, after a long delay, the main body of Chinese troops enters northern Indochina to disarm the Japanese and maintain order. It also proceeds to plunder the local populace or pay for supplies with Chinese currency at a highly inflated exchange rate. The commander of Chinese forces, General Lu Han, arrives in Hanoi by air on the 14th and establishes himself in the former governor-general’s palace. Ho Chi Minh is swiftly summoned here. However, unlike the British, the Chinese are amenable to an accommodation with the Viet Minh.
11 September. Occupation authorities in Japan designate 39 former Japanese leaders as war criminals and order their arrests. Among their number is General Tōjō Hideki, who as prime minister presided over Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Tōjō has already attempted suicide before being taken to prison. He is later found guilty at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal and hanged in December 1948. Eventually 5,700 Japanese military personnel will be tried in war crimes tribunals throughout Asia.
2 September. In parallel with Ho Chi Minh’s independence declaration in Hanoi, a massive demonstration is staged in Saigon. Local reconciliation is hard ly promoted when ICP and Vanguard Youth leaders exclude Trotskyists and the Hoa Hao Buddhist group from any lead role in the event. The vast demonstration (as many as one million people, it is later claimed) is mostly peaceful but, after shots are fired at the crowd, some violence breaks out against French residents and those perceived to be their associates and collaborators. A French version of events reaches Rangoon, souring British attitudes towards the Viet Minh in advance of Gracey’s departure for Saigon.
4 September. Tasked to investigate war crimes, protect U.S. property, locate and assist Allied POWs and gather intelligence on southern Indochina, an Office of Strategic Services team led by Lt.-Col. Peter Dewey enters Saigon more than a week earlier than General Gracey and his British-led force. The Americans are greeted cordially by Japanese authorities in the city and are immediately approached by DRV adherents with a letter making the case for Vietnamese independence. Within a fortnight, the team accomplishes the release and repatriation of several hundred U.S. POWs. Its continued presence in Saigon thereafter will annoy Gracey, who opposes any American presence in Indochina. He is also angered by Dewey’s willingness to engage with the Viet Minh.
8 September. Within days of its establishment, the DRV provisional government agrees on procedures to establish a 300-member National People’s Assembly. All Vietnamese citizens 18 years of age or older – men and women alike – will have the right to vote and stand for election, with the exception of individuals stripped of their citizenship rights or persons not of sound mind. One committee will formulate regulations for the first national election while another will draft a constitution for submission to the assembly.