French agents in Vietnam
22 August 1945. 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.