End of Empire100 days in 1945 that changed Asia and the world.

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  • Viet Minh seize control of Hanoi

    19 August 1945. Early in the day, tens of thousands of villagers march towards the city to the sound of drums, cymbals and horns. A Viet Minh armed unit moves into the Opera House square to disarm or disperse the few police in the vicinity. The Japanese take no counter-measures. By 11:00 the square and adjacent streets are filled with some 200,000 people. Following a minute of silence for those who have fallen in the independence struggle, brief speeches and mass repetition of patriotic slogans, members of the Hanoi Revolutionary Military Committee give instructions over the microphone for the armed, but hopefully bloodless, seizure of a number of pre-selected installations. Two hundred royal civil guardsmen behind locked gates at the Viceroy’s Palace offer no resistance when youths scale the fence; they dump their rifles and walk away. Tran Tu Binh, the most senior Indochinese Communist Party member present in Hanoi, uses the Viceroy’s switchboard to tell mandarins in the provinces that the Viet Minh has taken over and they must surrender. At the Civil Guard barracks some blocks away, Japanese tanks and troops arrive, negotiations ensue and the Japanese withdraw. Revolutionary change is symbolized that evening by people removing the blackout screens on street lamps, giving a bright glow to the city for the first time in years.

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