This week in the War, 28 July–3 August 1941: French Indo-China & the Vichy-Japanese ‘protocol’

French Indo-China [public domain, wiki/AWM]

French Indo-China [public domain, wiki/AWM]

On 29 July 1941,  the government of Vichy France and the government of Japan enacted a protocol for the ‘common defence of Indo-China.’ Vichy finally had to accept the reality of the military might of Japan and situation in south-east Asia.

The agreement gave the Japanese access to bases in French Indo-China, which comprised Cambodia, Laos, plus Annam, Tonkin and Cochin China. [The latter three territories make up present-day Vietnam]. The region was the third largest in the world for the production of rice.

In late 1940, Vichy had replaced the French Governor General, General Georges Catroux, with Vice-Admiral Jean Decoux in the hope that the latter would take a firm stand against Japanese encroachment.

Decoux could do little. The Japanese had occupied Saigon and had already entered Cambodia.

General Georges Catroux [Attr: wiki/AWM Creative Commons, Share-Alike 3.0 Unported]

General Georges Catroux in London [Attr: wiki/AWM Creative Commons, Share-Alike 3.0 Unported]

By the end of the year, French Indo-China was controlled by the Japanese, although it continued to be administered by Vichy.

Georges Catroux left French Indo-China and found his way to London, where he joined the Free French forces under Charles de Gaulle. Catroux was the most senior French general to join the Gaullist cause.


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