Historian and VBC Director Todd DePastino presents the fifth in his series on Vietnam’s history and culture by talking about how Ho Chi Minh and his Viet Minh movement went from being an American ally in WWII to the enemy in the First Indochina War.

Ho returned to Vietnam for the first time in over 30 years in the spring of 1941, before the US or Soviet Union were involved in World War II. His country was under the dual occupation of France and Imperial Japan, which was ravaging Vietnam to feed it war machine. Ho launched the League for the Independence of Vietnam, the Viet Minh, and began a small scale guerrilla war against both the French and the Japanese.

Assisting him were US OSS agents, which supplied Ho with weapons and training in exchange for intelligence and help with downed US flyers. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, Ho declared Vietnam independence.

Then, in a strange turn of events, went to war against France, which was trying to reclaim its colony. From 1946 to 1954, Ho’s Viet Minh waged war against the French, finally defeating them decisively at the famous battle of Dien Bien Phu. The US supported the French in their effort to retake Indochina.

We’ll talk about why and how the Vietnam question fell to the Americans after 1954.