The Japanese plea to the Vietnamese upon their surrender

SR 2096/4
692 Take 1
Interview with Huynh Van Thieng, student leader in 1945-6, now director of TV Saigon.
Please tell us about the August 20th incident.
Huynh Van Tieng:
On August 20th, 1945, which was five days after Japan officially surrendered to the Allies, there was the incident of Genera1 Terauchi, Commander in Chief of all the Japanese forces in the southern part of our country, asking to meet with Dr. Pham Ngoc Thach, a representative of the Viet Minh in Saigon. During this meeting General Terauchi wept when he announced that Japan had officially surrendered. General Terauchi suggested that the Vietnamese revolutionary forces supply the defeated Japanese forces.
In return, he assured that he would not do anything to create difficulties for the Vietnamese revolution and that Japan was applauding the Vietnamese effort in regaining their freedom and independence. And it was during this meeting that General Terauchi handed over to Pham Ngoc Thach a statement...
693 Take 1
Huynh Van Tieng:
On August 20th, 1945, which was five days after Japan officially surrendered to the Allies, General Terauchi, Commander in Chief of the Japanese army in Saigon, asked to meet with our representative who was Dr. Pham Ngoc Thach. During this meeting General Terauchi wept at the news that Japan had surrendered and he earnestly suggested that the Vietnamese revolution supply the Japanese forces.
He assured Dr. Pham Ngoc Thach that Japan would not interfere in the struggle for freedom and independence of the Vietnamese people. As a symbol of this promise, General Terauchi gave Dr. Pham Ngoc Thach a gilded sword about thirty centimeters long and a pistol of inlaid pearl and silver.

Events at Ho Chi Minh's Declaration of Independence

694 Take 1
Huynh Van Tieng:
On September 2nd, 1945, the day in which President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence at the Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, we brought about two million persons to a rally in Saigon to listen to the Declaration of Independence on the radio. But it was really regrettable that we could not broadcast the speech on the radio.
While one of our representative was calling on the population to defend the nation's independence, gun shots came from the top of a nearby building, killing and wounding many of the marchers. We immediately issued the order that the blood of the perpetrators of the crime should not be spilled and that those people should be captured alive. And the population exercised a miraculous discipline in that they neither shot nor stabbed these people to death although they were in possession of guns and swords. And so they captured the rebels with their own bare hands.
That night I and another person, Comrade Bach Mai , were assigned to go and talk sense to the prisoners being kept in the various soons. The funny thing was that when we arrived at these places the criminals kowtowed to us, thinking that we were going to have them shot. But our policy was one of clemency.
And so, after lecturing them, we let them go. We told them that the determination of the Vietnamese people was to regain our freedom and to defend it until the end. And this incident, after that, became well known within the French community. It was also reported in the French press.
695 Take 1
Huynh Van Tieng:
It must be said that since we took over administrative power on August 25, 1945 and since the incident took place on September 2nd, it created the feeling that the enemy was all around us...

Gracey and the threat of re-colonization

696 Take 1
Huynh Van Tieng:
We took over administrative power on August 25th from the Japanese. On September 2nd, the French, using the pretext of rescuing American and English POWs, opened fire on us. Their intention was to create chaos and use that as a pretext for intervention. But our people were very well disciplined. And so order and security were maintained to the maximum.
The people were very happy to have recaptured their independence after 100 years of domination. But this did not please those who were bent on invading our country. So when Gracey came to us and saw the cheerful and happy atmosphere of a people who had just been liberated, he Gracey himself sowed the seeds of chaos. And even before he came, he had already taken part in the September 2nd scheme.
When he came, he did not come in order to negotiate with us. Rather, he came with the attitude of a new master, resembling that of the former French Governor General. As soon as he came he ordered that there should be no newspapers and no rallies. He demanded that we turn over our headquarters to him. Then he occupied our police station and created confusion and chaos.
Even so, we received orders from Hanoi to the effect that we should be extremely obliging to the Allies who were represented by Gracey. So it can be stated that we did everything possible to accommodate Gracey. In reality, he came here with only two battalion of Indian troops who did not represent a formidable force at all. But we still did our best to accommodate him.
We turned over our headquarters to him and we created the necessary conditions to enable his troops to move about freely. But instead he forbade us to move around freely. He imposed a curfew against us at night. But Gracey's troops and the Japanese soldiers were allowed to move around freely. And he took advantage of this to mount a sneak attack on us on September 23rd, 1945. This was the nature of Gracey's bad intentions.
697 TAKE 1
Huynh Van Tieng:
At that time Japan was a vanquished nation, a defeated fascist nation. But its forces were still numerous in Saigon. There were 100,000 Japanese troops armed to the teeth. The French had not returned yet. The French had lost Indochina and had not come back yet. But England, as represented by Gracey, had arrived.
There was a connivance between the English and the French. There were many French officers who were wearing Allied Forces' insignia – actually English paratrooper's insignia – as they poured into Vietnam. So there was a connivance between the English and the French to maintain their colonial systems in the world, especially in Southeast Asia. Therefore they made use of Japan.
They did the illegal thing of using the fascist army of which they were supposed to supervise the surrender as the means of oppression against the Vietnamese revolution. And this was against the promise made by General Terauchi to us. Therefore, at that time we had to contend with the French, British and Japanese armed forces. They were conniving to hold on firmly to their colonial yoke in this part of the world, in our country.
But this did not frighten us. Rather, it roiled our anger and induced us to increase our struggle. Therefore, they eventually got frustrated. Terauchi was frustrated. And Gracey was certainly frustrated. This was because instead of smashing the movement for independence they only caused it to become stronger. And, in the end, we won.
698 Take 1
Huynh Van Tieng:
When Gracey first arrived in Saigon he looked very grumpy. And so we knew right away. He was waiting for an administration in Saigon which was pro-French, pro-British or even pro-Japanese. But none of these was available since the population had risen up and swept all these possibilities aside. There was only an administration which truly represented Vietnam. So Gracey was very grumpy.
So he did everything possible to destroy our administration in order to re-install a pro-French administration. In order to achieve this, he intentionally went against the order given him by the Allies to disarm the 100,000 Japanese troops. Instead of disarming the Japanese troops, he disarmed us, he disarmed the revolutionary forces of Vietnam. Worse still, he used the 100,000 Japanese troops and rearmed the various French Legionnaire regiments to fight against the Vietnamese revolution. He did many outrageous things.
So what did we think about all these? We realized that the struggle for independence was not so simple, that independence could not come to us so instantaneously and that we would have to fight very hard still in order to maintain our independence after a century of colonial domination. We knew that there would be giant waves, hard rain and large storms. And we were ready to engage in a protracted struggle.
Having decided on this course, we tried our best to accommodate Gracey and the Allies. But we were on our toes, preparing for the inevitable which was the coup against us as it was to occur on September 23rd, 1945. When this happened, we immediately defended Saigon and engaged them in a protracted struggle. These are the few sketches of the period.

Dewey's relationship with the Viet Minh

699 Take 1
Huynh Van Tieng:
During the darkest and stormiest days of our struggle, there was a new thing. That was the presence of General Dewey. We did not know of what Dewey was like as a person before that.
We had heard that the Viet Minh Front in Viet Bac had been in contact with a delegation of Allied Forces in China and had cooperated with the Allied Forces there by giving them information on the Japanese. As soon as Dewey arrived in person, we immediately asked for an opinion from our central government which stated that attention should be paid to the Allies, especially the Americans, and that we should do everything to help them. For this reason, we welcomed Dewey very warmly.
We asked him about the situation around the world and presented to him all our activities. This is to say we told him that we had regained our independence from the Japanese and that our desire was to maintain it, to maintain peace and to do all we could to cooperate with the Allies, which, of course, included the United States and the Soviet Union.
Dewey was quite relaxed and open. His attitude was the opposite of that of Gracey. Gracey acted as a superior and issued orders. Dewey acted as an equal and seemed quite moderate. Dewey suggested that we should place our case before the United Nations and should send a delegation to the United States. But this was beyond our power to decide on the spot. This was for the central government, for President Ho, to decide.
But although we could not discuss the issue at that time, we promised that we were ready to cooperate with the Allies. When Gracey and the French representative, who were then present as Allied official, found out that we were meeting with Dewey, they were extremely angry. And although they did not say it publicly, they showed that they were clearly against the activities of Dewey.
From the theoretical point of view, we were wary of imperialism, be it French, British, or American. We were wary of it and we hated it. And we were determined to protect our independence. But there at that time you had two imperialist powers, the French and the British, who connived with each other to oppose our independence. Now, there was a third power – from the ideological standpoint, we were not close to the Americans – which represented a new outlook. And so, in our attempt to protect our independence, we had to do what we could to exploit the situation. So, with some hope, we reported the situation to the central government.
But the next day we learned that Dewey had been ambushed and killed. We knew right away that this was the French scheme. And, at that time, Gracey contacted the French spies and allowed the French to become active again. We had to contend with the French efforts to re-install their colonial system day and night and so we suspected that Dewey was a victim of the French scheme.

Support for the Viet Minh

700, Take 1
Huynh Van Tieng:
Our relationship with people in the West, especially the French, the British and the Americans, was somewhat special. At that time the Japanese held a lot of French, British and American POWs. And the closer they got to the day of their surrender, the more brutal was their treatment of the POWs. Hence we tried our best to help.
How was this done? Before and after our taking over administrative power on August 25th, 1945, we opened up the clubhouses and brought the American prisoners there, giving them meals and drinks, letting them listen to music, talking with them and consoling them, giving them information on the military situation around the world, and telling them that the Japanese and the Germans would certainly lose and that they, the POWs, would certainly be able to go home soon to be with their families. This was our attitude towards the American and British POWs.
But the French were treacherous to the point that, on the occasion of September 2nd, which I mentioned earlier, they invited some young American and British soldiers out and gave them drinks and French women and guns to shoot at us. We dismissed the whole thing as a thoughtless act under the influence of alcohol and we brought these men back to the clubhouses to let them rest and to come to their senses after that.
As for the French, I must say that there were many extremely vile colonialists as well as many good Frenchmen. And we wholly applauded those who behaved themselves. For example, a French air force officer named Jean Souteray who had been discharged and who was writing newspaper articles for the left wing Socialist Party in Saigon was quite close to us. Many times he told us that should we have to defend our independence with force, we should give him a gun and allow him to fight alongside us. But it was really unfortunate that during all the confusion when the fighting erupted, Souteray was killed.
But our friendship toward the French people, especially the working people and the progressive people, continues to develop until today. A French journalist, Mrs. Violis, maintained a longstanding friendship with us. And her children and grandchildren have been in touch with us frequently.
At that time we had few contacts with the British. But later on we had many British friends who supported our cause. And the British peace movement opposed the American war of aggression from the very beginning and is still supporting us. And there were many American groups who supported us during the war years. We were very touched to see honest and courageous Americans who stood up to struggle, thereby contributing to, the inability of the US government to continue with its war of aggression and to the final withdrawal of the American troops from Indochina.
We are still very grateful to the British, the French and the American peoples for having supported us. And the Vietnamese people and the Vietnamese government will never tolerate a policy of xenophobia. We know that international solidarity and friendship is to the benefit of everyone. This is our attitude and this is also the precious and profound legacy of our President Ho Chi Minh.