20 August 1945. In Thai Nguyen to the north of Hanoi, discussions for a peaceful transfer of authority from Japanese to Viet Minh have been underway for a day. The mood sours abruptly when Vo Nguyen Giap arrives with a Liberation Army unit and demands that the Japanese and a local Civil Guard detachment surrender forthwith. The guardsmen quickly comply but the Japanese refuse. Subsequent Viet Minh attacks are ineffectual. The situation is only defused after news arrives on the 22nd of the dramatic events in Hanoi. Giap then swiftly departs for the city with the bulk of his force.
20 August 1945. 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 1945. Speaking in Parliament in response to Thai Regent Pridi Phanomyong’s disavowal four days earlier of his country’s war declaration, Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin declares that Britain, which has considered itself at war with Thailand, would base its treatment of the country on Thai willingness to make restitution for Allied losses and contribute to the economic rehabilitation of the region.
20 August 1945. 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.
20 August 1945. 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’.
20 August 1945. Japanese propaganda papers, including Syonan Shimbun, announce publically that Japan has surrendered, printing the imperial rescript on surrender in its entirety. Representatives from the military and the newly formed civilian ‘Japanese Association’ select a site where Japanese civilians in Syonan can be interned while awaiting repatriation.
20 August 1945. 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.’
20 August 1945. 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.