Japanese invasion of French Indochina

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Invasion of French Indochina
Part of the Second Sino-Japanese War and French Indochina in World War II
Japanese advance to Lang Son1940.jpg
Imperial Japanese Army soldiers advance to Lang Son, in September 1940 in French Indochina.
Date22–26 September 1940
Location
Result Japanese victory
Territorial
changes
Japanese occupation of Northern French Indochina
Belligerents
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Japan

Flag of France (1794-1958).svg  France

Commanders and leaders
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Aketo Nakamura
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Takuma Nishimura
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg Maurice Martin

The Japanese invasion of French Indochina(仏印進駐,Futsu-in shinchū) was a short undeclared military confrontation between Japan and France in northern French Indochina. Fighting lasted from 22 to 26 September 1940, simultaneous with the Battle of South Guangxi in the Sino-Japanese War.

Empire of Japan Empire in the Asia-Pacific region between 1868–1947

The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.

Vichy France officially the French State, was France during the regime of Marshal Philippe Pétain, during World War II

Vichy France is the common name of the French State headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain during World War II. Evacuated from Paris to Vichy in the unoccupied "Free Zone" in the southern part of metropolitan France which included French Algeria, it remained responsible for the civil administration of France as well as the French colonial empire.

French Indochina Federal state in Southeast Asia

French Indochina, officially known as the Indochinese Union after 1887 and the Indochinese Federation after 1947, was a grouping of French colonial territories in Southeast Asia.

Contents

The main objective of the Japanese was to prevent China from importing arms and fuel through French Indochina along the Kunming–Hai Phong Railway, from the Indochinese port of Haiphong, through the capital of Hanoi to the Chinese city of Kunming in Yunnan. [1]

Haiphong Municipality in Vietnam

Haiphong is a major industrial city, the second largest city in the northern part of Vietnam, and third largest city overall in Vietnam. Hai Phong is also the center of technology, economy, culture, medicine, education, science and trade in the northern coast of Vietnam.

Hanoi Municipality in Hà Nội, Vietnam

Hanoi is Vietnam's capital and second largest city by population. The city mostly lies on the right bank of the Red River. Hanoi is 1,720 km (1,070 mi) north of Ho Chi Minh City and 105 km (65 mi) west of Haiphong.

Kunming Prefecture-level city in Yunnan, Peoples Republic of China

Kunming is the capital and largest city of Yunnan province in southwest China. Known as Yunnan-Fu until the 1920s, today it is a prefecture-level city and the political, economic, communications and cultural centre of the province as well as the seat of the provincial government. Kunming is also called the Spring city due to its weather. The headquarters of many of Yunnan's large businesses are in Kunming. It was important during World War II as a Chinese military center, American air base, and transport terminus for the Burma Road. Located in the middle of the Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau, Kunming is located at an altitude of 1,900 metres above sea level and at a latitude just north of the Tropic of Cancer. Kunming has as of 2014 a population of 6,626,000 with an urban population of 4,575,000, and is located at the northern edge of the large Dian Lake, surrounded by temples and lake-and-limestone hill landscapes.

Although an agreement had been reached between the French and Japanese governments prior to the outbreak of fighting, authorities were unable to control events on the ground for several days before the troops stood down. Per the prior agreement, Japan was allowed to occupy Tonkin in northern Indochina and effectively blockade China.

Tonkin northern part of Vietnam, to the west of the Gulf of Tonkin

Tonkin, also spelled Tongkin, Tonquin or Tongking, is in the Red River Delta Region of northern Vietnam.

Background

In early 1940, troops of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) moved to seize southern Guangxi and Longzhou County, where the eastern branch of the Kunming–Hai Phong Railway reached the border at the Friendship Pass in Pingxiang. They also tried to move west to cut the rail line to Kunming. The railway from Indochina was the Chinese government's last secure overland link to the outside world.

Imperial Japanese Army Official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan, from 1868 to 1945

The Imperial Japanese Army was the official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan from 1868 to 1945. It was controlled by the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office and the Ministry of the Army, both of which were nominally subordinate to the Emperor of Japan as supreme commander of the army and the navy. Later an Inspectorate General of Aviation became the third agency with oversight of the army. During wartime or national emergencies, the nominal command functions of the emperor would be centralized in an Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ), an ad-hoc body consisting of the chief and vice chief of the Army General Staff, the Minister of the Army, the chief and vice chief of the Naval General Staff, the Inspector General of Aviation, and the Inspector General of Military Training.

Guangxi Autonomous region

Guangxi ( ; alternately romanized as Kwanghsi; Chinese: 广西; Zhuang: Gvangjsih, officially the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China, located in south China and bordering Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin. Formerly a province, Guangxi became an autonomous region in 1958. Its current capital is Nanning.

Longzhou County County in Guangxi, Peoples Republic of China

Longzhou County(Chinese: t 龍州縣,s 龙州县,pLóngzhōu Xiàn,wLung-chou Hsien; Zhuang: Lungzcouh Yen) is a county of southwestern Guangxi, China, bordering Cao Bằng province, Vietnam. It is under the jurisdiction of the prefecture-level city of Chongzuo.

In May 1940, Germany invaded France. On 22 June, France signed an armistice with Germany (in effect from 25 June). On 10 July, the French parliament voted full powers to Marshal Philippe Pétain, effectively abrogating the Third Republic. Although much of metropolitan France came under German occupation, the French colonies remained under the direction of Pétain's government at Vichy. Resistance to Pétain and the armistice began even before it was signed, with Charles de Gaulle's appeal of 18 June. As a result, a de facto government-in-exile in opposition to Pétain, called Free France, was formed in London.

Battle of France Successful German invasion of France in 1940

The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. In the six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and invaded France over the Alps.

Armistice of 22 June 1940

The Armistice of 22 June 1940 was signed at 18:36 near Compiègne, France, by officials of Nazi Germany and the French Third Republic. It did not come into effect until after midnight on 25 June.

French Constitutional Law of 1940

French Constitutional Law of 1940, are the bills that were voted into law on 10 July 1940 by the National Assembly, which comprised both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies during the French Third Republic. The law established the regime of Vichy France. It passed with 569 votes to 80, with 20 abstentions. The group of 80 parliamentarians who voted against it are known as the Vichy 80. The law gave all the government powers to Philippe Pétain, and further authorized him to take all necessary measures to write a new constitution. Pétain interpreted this as de facto suspending the French Constitutional Laws of 1875 which established the Third Republic, even though the law did not explicitly suspend it, but only granted him the power to write a new constitution. The next day, by Act No 2, Pétain defined his powers and abrogated all the laws of the Third Republic that were incompatible with them.

Franco-Japanese negotiations

On 19 June, Japan took advantage of the defeat of France and the impending armistice to present the Governor-General of Indochina, Georges Catroux, with a request, in fact an ultimatum, demanding the closure of all supply routes to China and the admission of a 40-man Japanese inspection team under General Issaku Nishihara. The Americans became aware of the true nature of the Japanese "request" through intelligence intercepts, since the Japanese had informed their German allies. Catroux initially responded by warning the Japanese that their unspecified "other measures" would be a breach of sovereignty. He was reluctant to acquiesce to the Japanese, but with his intelligence reporting that Japanese army and navy units were moving into threatening positions, the French government was not prepared for a protracted defense of the colony. [2] Therefore, Catroux complied with the Japanese ultimatum on 20 June. [3] Before the end of June the last train carrying munitions crossed the border bound for Kunming. [2] Following this humiliation, Catroux was immediately replaced as governor-general by Admiral Jean Decoux. He did not return to France, however, but to London. [3] [4]

Georges Catroux French diplomat

Georges Albert Julien Catroux was a French Army general and diplomat who served in both World War I and World War II, and served as Grand Chancellor of the Légion d'honneur from 1954 to 1969.

Jean Decoux Governor General of French Indochina

Jean Decoux was a French navy Admiral, who was the Governor-General of French Indochina from July 1940 to 9 March 1945, representing the Vichy French government.

On 22 June, while Catroux was still in his post, the Japanese issued a second demand: naval basing rights at Guangzhouwan and the total closure of the Chinese border by 7 July. Issaku Nishihara, who was to lead the "inspection team", the true purpose of which was unknown, even to the Japanese, arrived in Hanoi on 29 June. On 3 July, he issued a third demand: air bases and the right to transit combat troops through Indochina. These new demands were referred to the government in France. [2] [5]

The incoming governor, Decoux, who arrived in Indochina in July, urged the government to reject the demands. Although he believed that Indochina could not defend itself against a Japanese invasion, Decoux believed it was strong enough to dissuade Japan from invading. At Vichy, General Jules-Antoine Bührer, chief of the Colonial General Staff, counselled resistance. The still neutral United States had already been contracted to provide aircraft, and there were 4,000 Tirailleurs sénégalais in Djibouti that could be shipped to Indochina in case of need. [5] In Indochina, Decoux had under his command 32,000 regulars, plus 17,000 auxiliaries, although they were all ill-equipped. [3]

On 30 August 1940, the Japanese foreign minister, Yōsuke Matsuoka, approved a draft proposal submitted by his French colleague, Paul Baudouin, [lower-alpha 1] whereby Japanese forces could be stationed in and transit through Indochina only for the duration of the Sino-Japanese War. Both governments then "instructed their military representatives in Indochina to work out the details [although] they would have been better advised to stick to Tokyo–Vichy channels a bit longer". Negotiations between the supreme commander of Indochinese troops, Maurice Martin, and General Nishihara began at Hanoi on 3 September. [6]

During negotiations, the government in France asked the German government to intervene to moderate its ally's demands. The Germans did not do anything. Decoux and Martin, acting on their own, looked for help from the American and British consuls in Hanoi, and even consulted with the Chinese government on joint defence against a Japanese attack on Indochina. [6]

On 6 September, an infantry battalion of the Japanese Twenty-Second Army based in Nanning violated the Indochinese border near the French fort at Đồng Đăng. The Twenty-Second Army was a part of the Japanese Southern China Area Army, whose officers, remembering the Mukden incident of 1931, were trying to force their superiors to adopt a more aggressive policy. Following the Đồng Đăng incident, Decoux cut off negotiations. On 18 September, Nishihara sent him an ultimatum, warning that Japanese troops would enter Indochina regardless of any French agreement at 2200 hours (local time) on 22 September. This prompted Decoux to demand a reduction in the number of Japanese troops that would be stationed in Indochina. The Japanese Army General Staff, with the support of the Japanese Southern China Area Army, was demanding 25,000 troops in Indochina. Nishihara, with the support of the Imperial General Headquarters, got that number reduced to 6,000 on 21 September. [7]

Seven and a half hours before the expiration of the Japanese ultimatum on 22 September, Martin and Nishihara signed an agreement authorizing the stationing of 6,000 Japanese troops in Tonkin north of the Red River, the use of four airfields in Tonkin, the right to transit up to 25,000 troops through Tonkin to Yunnan and the right to transit one division of the Twenty-Second Army through Tonkin via Haiphong for use elsewhere in China. Already on 5 September, the Japanese Southern Army had organized the amphibious Indochina Expeditionary Army under Major-General Takuma Nishimura, it was supported by a flotilla of ships and aircraft, both carrier- and land-based. When the accord was signed, a convoy was waiting off Hainan Island to bring the expeditionary force to Tonkin. [8]

Invasion

The accord had been communicated to all relevant commands by 2100 hours, an hour before the ultimatum was set to expire. It was understood between Martin and Nishimura that the first troops would arrive by ship. The Twenty-Second Army, however, did not intend to wait to take advantage of the accord. Lieutenant-General Akihito Nakamura, commander of the 5th (Infantry) Division, sent columns across the border near Đồng Đăng at precisely 2200 hours. [8]

At Đồng Đăng there was an intense exchange of fire that quickly spread to other border posts overnight. The French position at the railhead at Lạng Sơn was surrounded by Japanese armour and forced to surrender on 25 September. Before surrendering, the French commanders had ordered the breechblocks of the 155mm cannons thrown into a river to prevent the Japanese from re-using them. During the Sino-French War of 1884–5, the French had been forced into an embarrassing retreat from Lạng Sơn in which equipment had likewise been thrown into the same river to prevent capture. When the breechblocks of 1940 were eventually retrieved, several chests of money lost in 1885 were found also. [8] Among the units taken captive at Lạng Sơn was the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment, marking perhaps the first time a Foreign Legion unit had surrendered without a fight. The 2nd Battalion contained 179 German and Austrian volunteers, whom the Japanese in vain tried to induce to change sides. [9]

On 23 September, the French Government protested the breach of the agreements by the IJA to the Japanese government.

On the morning of 24 September, Japanese aircraft from aircraft carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin attacked French positions on the coast. A French Government envoy came to negotiate; in the meantime, shore defenses remained under orders to open fire on any attempted landing.

On 26 September, Japanese forces came ashore at Dong Tac, south of Haiphong, and moved on the port. A second landing put tanks ashore, and Japanese planes bombed Haiphong, causing some casualties. By early afternoon the Japanese force of some 4,500 troops and a dozen tanks were outside Haiphong.

By the evening of 26 September, fighting had died down. Japan took possession of Gia Lam Airbase outside Hanoi, the rail marshaling yard on the Yunnan border at Lao Cai, and Phu Lang Thuong on the railway from Hanoi to Lạng Sơn, and stationed 900 troops in the port of Haiphong and 600 more in Hanoi.

Aftermath

The Japanese tendered an official apology for the incident at Lạng Sơn on 5 October 1940. The Japanese-occupied towns were returned to French control and all French prisoners were released. [9]

The occupation of southern French Indochina did not happen immediately. The Vichy government had agreed that some 40,000 troops could be stationed there. However, Japanese planners did not immediately move troops there, worried that such a move would be inflammatory to relations between Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Furthermore, within the Japanese high command there was a disagreement over what to do about the Soviet threat to the north of their Manchurian territories. The tipping point came just after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in late June 1941. With the Soviets tied down, the high command concluded that a "strike south" would solve Japan's problems with the United States, most notably the increasing American concerns about Japan's moves in China, and the possibility of a crippling oil embargo on Japan. To prepare for an invasion of the Dutch East Indies, some 140,000 Japanese troops invaded southern French Indochina on 28 July 1941.[ citation needed ] French troops and the civil administration were allowed to remain, albeit under Japanese supervision. With the Allied invasion of France in 1944, Japan suspected that the French authorities in Indochina might assist any Allied operations in the region. Therefore, a Japanese coup d'état in French Indochina deposed the French authorities in the spring of 1945.

Notes

  1. Baudouin was a former general manager of the Bank of Indochina.

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References

  1. Jean-Philippe Liardet, L'Indochine française pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale Archived 5 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  2. 1 2 3 Gunn (2014), pp. 38–40.
  3. 1 2 3 Boissarie (2015), 233–34.
  4. Marr (1995), p. 14.
  5. 1 2 Marr (1995), p. 15.
  6. 1 2 Marr (1995), p. 17.
  7. Marr (1995), p. 18.
  8. 1 2 3 Marr (1995), p. 19.
  9. 1 2 Porch (2010), p. 511.

Bibliography