Vu Quoc Uy:
In October 1946
, I was the Chairman of Hai Phong
. Because there was a lot of tension in
the relationship with the French in the city, I went to see General Vo Nguyen Giap, who was
the Minister for Internal Affairs at the time, to ask for his
instructions as to what one should do with regards to the French in Hai Phong
. Mr. Vo Nguyen Giap told me that although we knew
that the French had plans to
attack and occupy Vietnam, we had signed an agreement with the French.
The policy of Vietnam, he said, was always to respect
agreements and to try her best to maintain peace. Therefore, he said, we
should be vigilant and, when incidents occurred, we should try to
contain these incidents and to minimize them so that they would not blow
up into a big thing all over the city. But when I was returning to Hai Phong
from Hanoi, I
encountered an extremely tense situation. They had blown up our
administrative headquarters with explosives, kidnapped and murdered city
inhabitants, attacked the customs office and the police headquarters,
and provocations continued unabated.
On October 28 a customs incident occurred. At that
time Vietnam was a sovereign country and the right to collect customs
taxes should belong to Vietnam. But the French demanded that they should have the right to
collect customs taxes. This was the bone of contention. Up to that time,
we had collected taxes on boats which brought goods to foreign countries
for sale. On that date we collected tax on a cargo boat which was
shipping goods abroad.
military took this occasion to seize that cargo boat and towed it away.
We intervened and said that it would not do. So the French fired on us and killed
three of our soldiers and wounded two self defense troops. Immediately
after that, there was also another shooting spree at the Cho Sat area,
the metal market, which was a very populated area.
When we heard about this, we dispatched the joint
delegation to the area to solve the situation. In the area jointly
occupied by the Vietnamese and the French, there was a delegation called the Joint Vietnamese
French Delegation which,
when fighting incidents occurred, would be dispatched to the area in
order to solve and contain the problem, not allowing it to blow up into
a bigger thing. When this delegation arrived at the scene to help iron
things out, there were good results.
troops who had invaded our military camp and had been captured were
returned. But after that, around 10:00, Colonel
Dèbes, the commander of
the French troops garrisoned
in Hai Phong
, ordered that we
had to withdraw all our self defense forces from the city. Our self
defense units were quartered in many areas in the city.
Naturally we could not go along with this order. We
did not place our regular forces inside the city. But the self defense
units belonged to the people. And they had the right to arm themselves
to defend their offices. We, naturally, could not accept this outrageous
So, a little after 10:00, the French sent their tanks out to destroy the
barricades which we had put up. At that time we built barricades around
the areas where we had our administrative offices or around populated
areas where the French were
not allowed to come and had no need to come. We did not build barricades
in the middle of big roads.
After they had sent their tanks to destroy our
barricades, they sent in the infantry to attack us. It was an all out
and coordinated attack on many areas of the city. They attacked, first
of all, the northern area of the city where many of our important
offices were located. They also attacked the amphitheater.
We did not have any regular
soldier or any self defense forces guarding the amphitheater. There were
only a few professional singers and dancers who also had a few old
rifles with them to defend themselves. It was these people who defended
the amphitheater and who fought valiantly, turning back waves after
waves of French attacks. When
the French ordered them to
surrender or die, they said that Vietnamese never knew how to