Franco-Thai War

Last updated
Franco-Thai War
Part of World War II
Indochine francaise (1913).jpg
French Indochina
DateOctober 1940 – May 9, 1941
Location
Result

Indecisive [1]

  • Japanese-mediated ceasefire [2]
Territorial
changes
On Japanese decision, disputed territories in French Indochina ceded by France to Thailand [3] :22 [4] :78
Belligerents

Flag of France (1794-1958).svg  France

Flag of Thailand.svg  Thailand
Commanders and leaders
Jean Decoux Plaek Phibunsongkhram
Strength
50,000 men
(38,000 colonials)
20 light tanks
100 aircraft
1 light cruiser
4 avisos
60,000 men
134 tanks
140 aircraft [5]
2 coastal defense ships
12 torpedo boats
4 submarines
Casualties and losses
Land:
321 killed or wounded
178 missing
222 captured
22 aircraft destroyed
Sea:
None [6] [7]
Total: 721+ casualties
Land:
54 killed [8]
307 wounded
21 captured
8–13 aircraft destroyed
Sea:
36–300+ killed [6] [7]
3 torpedo boats sunk [6]
1 coastal defense ship grounded
Total:
418–700+ [6] [7] casualties

The Franco-Thai War (Thai : กรณีพิพาทอินโดจีน; French : Guerre franco-thaïlandaise) (1940–1941) was fought between Thailand and Vichy France over certain areas of French Indochina.

Contents

Negotiations with France shortly before World War II had shown that the French government was willing to make appropriate changes in the boundaries between Thailand and French Indochina, but only slightly. Following the Fall of France in 1940, Major-General Plaek Pibulsonggram (popularly known as "Phibun"), the prime minister of Thailand, decided that France's defeat gave the Thais an even better chance to regain the vassal state territories that were ceded to France during King Chulalongkorn's reign.

The German military occupation of Metropolitan France rendered France's hold on its overseas possessions, including French Indochina, tenuous. The colonial administration was now cut off from outside help and outside supplies. After the Japanese invasion of French Indochina in September 1940, the French were forced to allow Japan to set up military bases. This seemingly subservient behavior lulled the Phibun regime into believing that France would not seriously resist a military confrontation with Thailand.

Opposing forces

French

French colonial troops poster Troupes coloniales Scott.JPG
French colonial troops poster

The French military forces in Indochina consisted of an army of approximately 50,000 men, 12,000 of whom were French, organized into forty-one infantry battalions, two artillery regiments, and a battalion of engineers. [9] The French army had a shortage of armor, and it could field only 20 Renault FT tanks against the nearly one hundred Royal Thai Army armored vehicles. The bulk of the French forces stationed near the Thai border consisted of the Indochinese infantry of the 3rd and 4th Regiments of Tirailleurs Tonkinois (Tonkinese Rifles), together with a battalion of Montagnards(indigenous Vietnamese highlanders), French regulars of the Colonial Infantry, and French Foreign Legion units. [10]

The French navy in Indochina had one light cruiser and four Avisos.

The Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) had approximately 100 aircraft, of which roughly 60 could be considered front line. These included thirty Potez 25 TOE reconnaissance/fighters-bombers, four Farman 221 heavy bombers, six Potez 542 bombers, nine Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 fighters, and eight Loire 130 reconnaissance/bombers flying boats. [11]

Thai

Plaek Phibunsongkhram inspecting troops during the war cch`mphlp. phibuulsngkhraam ainpii 2484.jpg
Plaek Phibunsongkhram inspecting troops during the war

The slightly larger Thai Army was a relatively well-equipped force. [12] Consisting of 60,000 men, it was made up of four armies. The largest were the Burapha Army with five divisions and the Isan Army with three divisions. Independent formations under direct control of the army high command included two motorized cavalry battalions, one artillery battalion, one signals battalion, one engineer battalion, and one armored regiment. The artillery was a mixture of Krupp guns and modern Bofors guns and howitzers, while 60 Carden Loyd tankettes and 30 Vickers 6-ton tanks made up the bulk of the army's tank force.

The Royal Thai Navy included two Thonburi coastal defense ships, 12 torpedo boats, and four Japanese-made submarines. [13] The Thai navy was inferior to the French naval forces, but the Royal Thai Air Force held both a quantitative and qualitative edge over the local Armée de l'Air units. [13] Among the 140 aircraft that composed the air force's first-line strength were 24 Mitsubishi Ki-30 light bombers, nine Mitsubishi Ki-21 heavy bombers, 25 Curtiss Hawk 75N fighter planes, six Martin B-10 medium bombers, and 70 Vought O2U Corsair observation/attack aircraft. [5]

Campaign

While nationalist demonstrations and anti-French rallies were being held in Bangkok, several border skirmishes erupted along the Mekong frontier. The superior Royal Thai Air Force then conducted daytime bombing runs over military targets in Vientiane, Phnom Penh, Sisophon, and Battambang with impunity. The French retaliated with their own air attacks, but the damage they caused was less than equal. The activities of the Thai air force, particularly in the field of dive-bombing, [13] was such that Admiral Jean Decoux, the governor of French Indochina, grudgingly remarked that the Thai planes seemed to have been flown by men with plenty of war experience. [14]

French troops used a handful of World War I-era Renault FT tanks during the conflict. Renault FT17 IMG 8414.jpg
French troops used a handful of World War I-era Renault FT tanks during the conflict.
The French Armee de l'Air flew Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 fighters (a preserved specimen is shown). MauraneSaulnier406.jpg
The French Armée de l'Air flew Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 fighters (a preserved specimen is shown).
The Vickers light amphibious tank saw service in the Thai (Siamese) army. Vickers Light Amphibious Tank.jpg
The Vickers light amphibious tank saw service in the Thai (Siamese) army.

On 5 January 1941, following the report of a French attack on the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet, the Thai Burapha and Isan Armies launched an offensive on Laos and Cambodia. French response was instantaneous, but many units were simply swept aside by the better-equipped Thai forces. The Thai army swiftly overran Laos, but the French forces in Cambodia managed to rally and offer more resistance. [15]

The naval Battle of Ko Chang, January 17, 1941 Battle of Koh Chang 17 january 1941 (English version).svg
The naval Battle of Ko Chang, January 17, 1941

At dawn on January 16, 1941, the French launched a large counterattack on the Thai-held villages of Yang Dang Khum and Phum Preav, initiating the fiercest battle of the war. Due to poor coordination and nonexistent intelligence against the entrenched and well-prepared Thai forces, the French operation was stopped and fighting ended with a French retreat from the area. However, the Thais were unable to pursue the retreating French, as their forward tanks were kept in check by the gunnery of French Foreign Legion artillery.

With the situation on land rapidly deteriorating for the French, Admiral Decoux ordered all available French naval forces into action in the Gulf of Thailand. In the early morning of 17 January, a French naval squadron caught a Thai naval detachment by surprise at anchor off Ko Chang island. The subsequent Battle of Ko Chang was a tactical victory for the French and resulted in the sinking of two Thai torpedo boats and the disabling of a coastal defense ship, with the French suffering no casualties. [7] Fearing the war would turn in France's favor, the Japanese intervened, proposing an armistice be signed.

On 24 January, the final air battle took place when Thai bombers raided the French airfield at Angkor, near Siem Reap. The last Thai mission bombing Phnom Penh commenced at 07:10 on 28 January, when the Martins of the 50th Bomber Squadron set out on a raid on Sisophon, escorted by thirteen Hawk 75Ns of the 60th Fighter Squadron. [5] [11]

Armistice

The provinces ceded from Cambodia by France to Thailand were regrouped into new Thai provinces: Phra Tabong, Phibunsongram, and Nakhon Champassak Provinces of Cambodia loss to Thailand during Franco-Thai War.png
The provinces ceded from Cambodia by France to Thailand were regrouped into new Thai provinces: Phra Tabong, Phibunsongram, and Nakhon Champassak

Japan subsequently stepped in to mediate the conflict. A Japanese-sponsored "Conference for the Cessation of Hostilities" was held at Saigon, and preliminary documents for a ceasefire between the governments of Marshal Philippe Pétain's French State and the Kingdom of Thailand were signed aboard the cruiser Natori on 31 January 1941. A general armistice had been arranged to go into effect at 10:00 on 28 January. On 9 May, a peace treaty was signed in Tokyo, [12] [13] with the French being coerced by the Japanese to relinquish their hold on the disputed border territories. France ceded the following provinces to Thailand from Cambodia and Laos:

Treaty

The resolution of the conflict was widely acclaimed by the people of Thailand, and was seen as a personal triumph for Phibun. For the first time in its history, Thailand had been able to extract concessions from a European power, albeit a weakened one. For the French in French Indochina, the conflict was a bitter reminder of their isolation after the Fall of France. They felt that an ambitious neighbor had taken advantage of a distant colony being cut off from a weakened parent. Without hope of reinforcements, the French had little chance of offering a sustained resistance.

To commemorate the victory, Phibun erected the Victory Monument in Bangkok. Thailand invited Japan and Germany to join in the celebration of its construction.

The Japanese wanted to maintain both their working relationship with Vichy and the status quo; therefore, the Thais were forced to accept only a quarter of the territory that they gained from the French, in addition to having to pay six million piastres as a concession to the French.

However, the real beneficiaries of the conflict were the Japanese, who were able to expand their influence in both Thailand and Indochina. The Japanese wanted to use Thailand and Indochina as their military bases to invade British Burma and British Malaya later. The Japanese won from Phibun a secret verbal promise to support them in an attack on Malaya and Burma. Phibun did not keep his word. [16]

Relations between Japan and Thailand were subsequently stressed, as a disappointed Phibun switched to courting the British and Americans to ward off what he saw as an imminent Japanese invasion. [17] However, on 8 December 1941, the Japanese invaded Thailand at the same time as the Japanese invasion of Malaya. It was immediately before the attack on Pearl Harbor because of the International Date Line. Pearl Harbor was attacked one-and-a-half hours after Malaya and Thailand were. Fighting between Japanese and Thai forces lasted only five hours before a ceasefire was agreed. Thailand would be allied with Japan until 1945.

After the war, in October 1946, northwestern Cambodia and the two Lao enclaves on the Thai side of the Mekong River were returned to French sovereignty when the French provisional government threatened to veto Thailand's membership in the United Nations. [18]

Casualties

The French army suffered a total of 321 casualties, of whom 15 were officers. The total number of missing after 28 January was 178 (six officers, 14 non-commissioned officers and 158 enlisted men). [12] The Thais had captured 222 men (17 North Africans, 80 Frenchmen, and 125 Indochinese). [5]

The Thai army suffered 54 men killed in action and 307 wounded. [8] 41 sailors and marines of the Thai navy were killed, and 67 wounded. At the Battle of Ko Chang, 36 men were killed, of whom 20 belonged to HTMS Thonburi, 14 to HTMS Songkhla, and two to HTMS Chonburi. The Thai air force lost 13 men. The number of Thai military personnel captured by the French was just 21.

About 30 percent of the French aircraft were rendered unserviceable by the end of the war, some as a result of minor damage sustained in air raids that remained unrepaired. [13] The Armée de l'Air admitted the loss of one Farman F221 and two Morane M.S.406s destroyed on the ground, but its losses were really greater. [11]

In its first experience of combat, the Royal Thai Air Force claimed to have shot down five French aircraft and destroyed 17 on the ground, against the loss of three of its own in the air and another five to 10 destroyed in French air raids on Thai airfields.

See also

Related Research Articles

Royal Thai Armed Forces military of Thailand

The Royal Thai Armed Forces is the name of the military of the Kingdom of Thailand.

French Indochina Federal state in Southeast Asia

French Indochina, officially known as the Indochinese Union from 1887 and the Indochinese Federation after 1947, was a grouping of French colonial territories in Southeast Asia until its demise in 1954. It consisted of three Vietnamese regions of Tonkin (north), Annam (centre), and Cochinchina (south), Cambodia, Laos and the Chinese territory of Guangzhouwan. The capital was Saigon, with the exception of a few decades in Hanoi (Tonkin) from 1902 to 1945.

Plaek Phibunsongkhram Thai politician and general

Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, locally known as Marshal P., contemporarily known as Phibun (Pibul) in the West, was a Thai military officer and politician who served as the Prime Minister of Thailand and dictator from 1938 to 1944 and 1948 to 1957.

Laotian Civil War 1959–1975 civil war in Laos

The Laotian Civil War (1959–1975) was a civil war in Laos fought between the Communist Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao Government from 23 May 1959 to 2 December 1975. It is associated with the Cambodian Civil War and the Vietnam War, with both sides receiving heavy external support in a proxy war between the global Cold War superpowers. It is called the Secret War among the CIA Special Activities Division and Hmong veterans of the conflict.

South-East Asian theatre of World War II campaigns of the Pacific War in Burma, Ceylon, India, Thailand, Indochina, Philippines, Malaya and Singapore

The South-East Asian Theatre of World War II was the name given to the campaigns of the Pacific War in Burma, Ceylon, India, Thailand, the Philippines, Indochina, Malaya and Singapore. Conflict in this theatre began when the Empire of Japan invaded French Indochina in September 1940 and rose to a new level following the raid on Pearl Harbor, and simultaneous attacks on Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Malaya on 7 and 8 December 1941. The main landing at Singora on the east side of the Isthmus of Kra preceded the bombing of Pearl Harbor by several hours. Action in the theatre officially ended on 9 September 1945.

History of Thailand (1932–1973) Aspect of history

The history of Thailand from 1932 to 1973 was dominated by military dictatorships which were in power for much of the period. The main personalities of the period were the dictator Luang Phibunsongkhram, who allied the country with Japan during the Second World War, and the civilian politician Pridi Phanomyong, who founded Thammasat University and was briefly prime minister after the war.

Malayan campaign 1941–1942 World War II military campaign

The Malayan campaign was a military campaign fought by Allied and Axis forces in Malaya, from 8 December 1941 – 31 January 1942 during the Second World War. It was dominated by land battles between British Commonwealth army units, and the Imperial Japanese Army with minor skirmishes at the beginning of the campaign between British Commonwealth and Royal Thai Armed Forces. The Japanese had air and naval supremacy from the opening days of the campaign. For the British, Indian, Australian and Malayan forces defending the colony, the campaign was a total disaster.

Military history of Thailand

The military history of Thailand encompasses a thousand years of armed struggle, from wars of independence from the powerful Khmer Empire, through to struggles with her regional rivals of Burma and Vietnam and periods of tense standoff and conflict with the colonial empires of Britain and France. Thailand's military history, dominated by her centrality in the south-eastern Asian region, the significance of her far flung and often hostile terrain, and the changing nature of military technology, has had a decisive impact on the evolution of both Thailand and her neighbours as modern nation states. In the post-war era, Thailand's military relationship with the United States has seen her play an important role in both the Cold War and the recent War on Terror, whilst her military's involvement in domestic politics has brought frequent international attention.

Battle of Ko Chang battle

The Battle of Ko Chang took place on 17 January 1941 during the Franco-Thai War in which a flotilla of French warships attacked a smaller force of Thai vessels, including a coastal defence ship. The battle resulted in a tactical victory by the French Navy over the Royal Thai Navy although the strategic result is disputed. The Japanese intervened diplomatically and mediated a ceasefire.

Phra Tabong Province Former province of Thailand

Phra Tabong Province was a province of Thailand, from the late-18th century until it was ceded to French Indochina in 1907, and again between 1941-1946 after Thailand recaptured it during the Japanese occupation of Cambodia in World War II. The province was dissolved and returned to France in 1946. The area is now in the Pailin municipality of Battambang Province, Cambodia.

Japanese invasion of Thailand Empire of Japan invaded Thailand

The Japanese invasion of Thailand occurred on 8 December 1941. It was briefly fought between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Empire of Japan. Despite fierce fighting in Southern Thailand, the fighting lasted only five hours before ending in a ceasefire. Thailand and Japan then formed an alliance, making Thailand part of the Axis' alliance until the end of World War II.

Battle of Borneo (1941–42) WWII Battle between Japanese and Dutch and British forces

The Battle of Borneo was a successful campaign by Japanese Imperial forces for control of Borneo island and concentrated mainly on the subjugation of the Raj of Sarawak, Brunei, North Borneo, and the western part of Kalimantan that was part of the Dutch East Indies. The Japanese main unit for this mission was the 35th Infantry Brigade led by Major-General Kiyotake Kawaguchi.

Japanese <i>coup détat</i> in French Indochina

The Japanese coup d'état in French Indochina, known as Meigō Sakusen, was a Japanese operation that took place on 9 March 1945 towards the end of World War II. With Japanese forces losing the war and the threat of an Allied invasion of Indochina imminent, the Japanese were concerned about an uprising against them by French colonial forces.

Thailand in World War II involvement of Thailand in World War II

Thailand in World War II officially adopted a position of neutrality until the five hour-long Japanese invasion of Thailand on 8 December 1941 which led to an armistice and military alliance treaty between Thailand and the Japanese Empire in mid-December 1941. At the start of the Pacific War, the Japanese Empire pressured the Thai government to allow the passage of Japanese troops to invade British-held Malaya and Burma. The Thai government under Plaek Phibunsongkhram considered it profitable to co-operate with the Japanese war efforts, since Thailand saw Japan – who promised to help Thailand regain some of the Indochinese territories which had been lost to France – as an ally against Western imperialism. Axis-aligned Thailand declared war on the United Kingdom and the United States and annexed territories in neighbouring countries, expanding to the north, south, and east, gaining a border with China near Kengtung.

The Japanese occupation of Cambodia was the period of Cambodian history during World War II when the Kingdom of Cambodia was occupied by the Japanese. Vichy France, who were a client state of Nazi Germany, nominally maintained the French protectorate over Cambodia and other parts of Indochina during most of the Japanese occupation. This territory of Cambodia was reduced, by concessions to Thailand after the Franco-Thai War, so that it did not include Stung Treng Province, Battambang Province, and Siem Reap Province.

French Indochina in World War II events in French Indochina during World War II

In the northern-hemisphere summer of 1940 Germany rapidly defeated the French Third Republic, and colonial administration of French Indochina passed to the French State. In September 1940 Japanese troops first entered parts of Indochina; and in July 1941 Japan extended its control over the whole of French Indochina. The United States, concerned by Japanese expansion, started putting embargoes on exports of steel and oil to Japan from July 1940. The desire to escape these embargoes and to become self-sufficient in resources ultimately contributed to Japan's decision to attack on December 7, 1941 the British Empire and simultaneously the USA and at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii). This led to the USA declaring war against Japan on December 8, 1941. The US then joined the British Empire, already at war with Germany since 1939, and its existing allies in the fight against the Axis powers.

Lan Chang Province province of Thailand in occupied French Indochina during World War II

Lan Chang Province was a former province of the Kingdom of Thailand. It encompassed the eastern slopes of the Luang Prabang Range in Laos, with Xaignabouli (Sainyabuli) as the administrative headquarters. It included parts of former the Luang Prabang and Xaignabouli provinces of French Laos.

<i>Saharat Thai Doem</i> Thai-occupied territories of the British colony of Burma (1943–45)

Saharat Thai Doem was an administrative division of Thailand. It encompassed the parts of Shan State of British Burma annexed by the Thai government after the Japanese conquest of Burma.

Unity was the code name for Thailand's covert supply of mercenary soldiers to the Kingdom of Laos during the Laotian Civil War. From 4 July 1964 until March 1973, battalions of Thai volunteers fought Communist insurgents on the Plain of Jars in Military Region 2. As the Hmong L'Armée Clandestine was sapped by ongoing casualties and a limited basis for replacements, Unity battalions replaced them.

References

  1. Tucker, World War II: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection p. 649
  2. Fall, p. 22. "On the seas, one old French cruiser sank one-third of the whole Thai fleet ... Japan, seeing that the war was turning against its pupil and ally, imposed its 'mediation' between the two parties."
  3. Fall, Bernard B. (1994). Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina. Stackpole Books. ISBN   0-8117-1700-3.
  4. Windrow, Martin (2004). The Last Valley. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN   0-306-81386-6.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Royal Thai Air Force. (1976) The History of the Air Force in the Conflict with French Indochina. Bangkok.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Journoud, Pierre (2012). Face à la France, une victoire de Thaïs (8 ed.). fr:Guerres & Histoire. p. 72.
  7. 1 2 3 4 "The Battle of Koh Chang (January 1941)" netmarine.net
  8. 1 2 Sorasanya Phaengspha (2002) The Indochina War: Thailand Fights France. Sarakadee Press.
  9. Stone, Bill. "Vichy Indo-China vs Siam, 1940-41".
  10. Rives, Maurice. Les Linh Tap. ISBN   2-7025-0436-1 page 90
  11. 1 2 3 Ehrengardt, Christian J; Shores, Christopher (1985). L'Aviation de Vichy au combat: Tome 1: Les campagnes oubliées, 3 juillet 1940 - 27 novembre 1942. Charles-Lavauzelle.
  12. 1 2 3 Hesse d'Alzon, Claude (1985). La Présence militaire française en Indochine. Vincennes: Publications du service historique de l'Armée de Terre.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 Young, Edward M. (1995) Aerial Nationalism: A History of Aviation in Thailand. Smithsonian Institution Press.
  14. Elphick, Peter. (1995) Singapore: the Pregnable Fortress: A Study in Deception, Discord and Desertion. Coronet Books.
  15. Vichy versus Asia: The Franco-Siamese War of 1941
  16. Charivat Santaputra (1985) Thai Foreign Policy 1932-1946. Thammasat University Press.
  17. Judith A. Stowe. (1991) Siam becomes Thailand: A Story of Intrigue. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN   0-8248-1393-6
  18. Terwiel, B.J. (2005) Thailand's Political History: From the Fall of Ayutthaya to Recent Times. River Books.

Further reading