* Welcome to #100!
* And we are still talking about 1944!
* When we finished last time, Ho Chi Minh was making his way to the Red River Delta.
* The Japanese have chased the French out of Vietnam and didn’t bother to protect the northern regions.
* So Ho and the ICP are getting ready to make their move.
* Surprisingly, they talk about a “post coup euphoria”.
* Apparently the Vietnamese were so happy to see the end of the French, they were happy to replace them with the Japanese.
* They realised the Japanese were probably going to lose the war, which is a good thing for the Vietnamese.
* In October 1944, Ho wrote a “Letter to All Our Compatriots,” in which he analyzed the current situation and said “the opportunity for our people’s liberation is only in a year or a year and a half. The time approaches. We must act quickly!”
* So the ICP decided to start with introducing the Viet Minh flag and doctrine to the people.
* And preparing themselves for a general uprising once the Japanese had been defeated by the Allies.
* Which even THEY knew was going to happen sooner or later.
* And the Viet Minh would be the force greeting the Allies when they came to Vietnam.
* They had already started to build connections with the Americans.
* On November 11, 1944, a U.S. reconnaissance plane piloted by Lieutenant Rudolph Shaw had engine trouble while flying over the mountains along the Sino-Vietnamese frontier.
* Shaw was able to parachute to safety, but was spotted by French authorities stationed in the vicinity, and patrols were sent to locate him.
* But Members of a local Vietminh unit got to him first, and they decided to deliver him to Ho.
* For the next several days, the Vietminh troops led him over mountains and jungle trails toward Pac Bo, the jungle location of Ho’s HQ cave, walking at night and resting during the day in caves to avoid the enemy.
* In the end, it took almost a month to cover a distance of only forty miles.
* None of Shaw’s escorts had been able to communicate with him
* according to his own account, they communicated only when he said “Vietminh! Vietminh!” and the Vietnamese responded, “America! Roosevelt!”
* but when he arrived at Pac Bo, Ho greeted him in English: “How do you do, pilot! Where are you from?”
* Shaw was reportedly so excited that he hugged Ho and later said to him, “When I heard your voice, I felt as if I were hearing the voice of my father in the United States.”
* Despite the fact that Wilson ignored his attempts to get the League of Nations to address Vietnam back in 1919, Ho was still hopeful that they would come to his aid.
* He had probably read about FDR’s position on Indochina.
* For example, he had said “France has milked it for one hundred years. The people of Indochina are entitled to something better than that.”
* Another thing that helped the VM was the famine of 1944-45.
* The northern regions of the country had relied on rice to be shipped from the south.
* But then in 1944, a combination of French and Japanese policies, typhoons, drought, insect plagues, and Allied bombings, meant the south couldn’t produce enough rice for the country.
* The Japanese had also mandated shipments of rice to Japan
* and they ordered farmers in the north to shift their crops from rice to oil seeds, peanuts, cotton, and jute.
* Do you know what jute is?
* I had to look it up.
* plant or fiber that is used to make burlap, hessian or gunny cloth.
* The French and the Japanese, like the British in India, stockpiled rice for themselves while the native population starved.
* In 1944 when US bombing cut off northern supplies of coal to Saigon, the French and Japanese used rice and maize as fuel for power stations.
* The French authorities refused to reduce taxes or to increase the price of obligatory quotas of rice assigned to each farmer for sale to the government.
* Farmers tried to grow other drops, like sweet potatoes but it didn’t help.
* Then as supply levels dropped, prices went up and people couldn’t afford to buy food.
* Millions of Vietnamese died.
* Streets were littered with dying peasants, and oxcarts were filled with corpses.
* Families roamed from village to village, hoping to find grain.
* Or they retreated to their homes, shared the few remaining morsels, and died quietly, one by one.
* Some people, having consumed everything that could be eaten—bark, roots, leaves, dogs, and rats—resorted to cannibalism, causing parents to fear that their children would be stolen and eaten.
* Some parents sold their children for a few cups of rice.
* Duong Thieu Chi, a provincial official in Nam Dinh, a city in the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam, said he made sure to avoid eating in restaurants or stalls when he traveled during these months, for fear that the meat served might be rat or human flesh.
* A French observer wrote: “From looking at these bodies, which are shriveled up on roadsides with only a handful of straw for clothes as well as for the burial garment, one feels ashamed of being human.”
* In May 1945, as the crisis eased, officials used statistics from various provinces in Tonkin to declare that to that point, precisely 380,969 people had died by starvation.
* A year later, using more complete figures, analysts estimated that one million people had died in Tonkin, and another 300,000 in Annam.
* In later years, the estimates would climb higher still, to two million deaths in a five-month period in 1945.
* Even if we accept the lower figure of one million for Tonkin, the implications are appalling: 10 percent of the population in the affected region died of starvation in less than half a year.
* Is it just me or do we hear more about the Holodomor famine under Stalin or the famines in China under the communists than we do about the famines under Churchill – 2-3 million died in the Bengal famine of 1943 – and the French or the famines in China under Chiang KaiShek?
* But as tragic as the famine was, it was a boon for the VM.
* Nobody could argue with them now that the French and the Japanese were only interested in looking out for themselves.
* The ICP helped the people in the Red River Delta to break into grain warehouses and developed a reputation as being for the people.
* This is when Võ Nguyên Giáp (Jeeap) first came to prominence.
* Known as the “Red Napoleon”.
* One of the greatest military strategists of the 20th century.
* He was 34 or 35 at the time.
* He had no previous military experience.
* By training he was a history teacher.
* his maternal grandfather had taken part in the resistance movement against the French in the 1880s
* Expelled from school in 1927, he joined the Tan Viet party but eventually shifted to the ICP and was arrested for taking part in student demonstrations in Hué during the Nghe Tinh revolt.
* Released from prison in 1933, he resumed his schooling and eventually received a law degree from the University of Hanoi.
* Became a history teacher at a private school in Hanoi.
* When the ICP was outlawed by the French in 1940, he went into exile in China.
* According to his own account, Giap had been instructed to leave Hanoi for China by Hoang Van Thu (pronounced to), a young Party member who had been named to the Central Committee in 1938.
* Thu and Giap often talked about military matters and the potential of guerrilla warfare in a future struggle against the French
* Both were familiar with Maoist tactics in China and the use of similar forms of warfare during the traditional era in Vietnam
* Thu told him that he should go to China and meet up with Ho.
* After his discussion with Thu, Giap had launched preparations for his trip to China.
* In early May, after dismissing his last class at school, he said good-bye to his young wife and infant daughter.
* They agreed that she would join him in China once she could make arrangements for the care of their child.
* In fact, they would never meet again.
* His wife stayed behind and was arrested and sentenced to 15 years.
* His young daughter was also put in prison.
* In China, he met Ho.
* And he was one of the small group that went back to Vietnam with Ho to build the liberation army.
* It was in the summer of 1943 that Giáp was told that his wife had been beaten to death by guards in the central prison in Hanoi.
* Her sister was guillotined and his daughter died in prison of unknown causes.
* When the Vietnamese Liberation Army (VLA) was created in September of 1944, Giáp was its commander.
* Ho directed him to establish Armed Propaganda Brigades and the first one, consisting of thirty one men and three women, was formed in December 1944.
* Named the Tran Hung Dao Platoon after the great Vietnamese hero who repelled three major Mongol invasions in the 13th century, it was armed with two revolvers, seventeen rifles, one light machine gun, and fourteen breech-loading flintlocks dating from the Russo-Japanese War.
* Ho’s advise to Giap: “Secrecy, always secrecy. Let the enemy think you’re to the west when you are in the east. Attack by surprise and retreat before the enemy can respond.”
HOW TO LISTEN
If you’re already a subscriber, you can listen to the full show in the player below or subscribe through iTunes or any podcast player.
If you haven’t heard any of the series and want to know if you’ll like it before you sign up, you can listen to the first six episodes totally free. You might want to start with Episode 1, unless of course you’re an old school George Lucas fan, in which case feel free to start at Episode IV. We don’t recommend it though.
If you haven’t already, join our Facebook page and you’ll be in the running to win prizes in our regular “Share The Love” and other competitions.
If you’d like a chance to win a prize, write a funny or insightful review on iTunes.