This paper examines Japanese attitudes toward the independence movement in Vietnam, the Japanese idea of “independence”, and Japanese relationships with the Vietnamese nationalists during the period between 1940 and 1945.
The Japanese used French Indochina, one constituent of which was “Vietnam”, as a supply base and a stepping stone for their troops on their way to other battle grounds such as Burma, Singapore, Indonesia, or the Philippines. The defeated units were returned to Vietnam, rested, and reorganized into new military units. Coal and rice and other foodstuffs used by the Japanese in these battlefields often came from Vietnam. For these objectives, the Japanese kept the political and administrative structure of French Indochina intact under the French. But on 9 March 1945, the 30, 000-man Japanese military attacked the 50, 000-man French Indochinese Army in a surprise attack under the command of Lieutenant General Tsuchihashi, commanding general of the 38th Army. (This operation is identified in Japanese military terms as “Meigo Sakusen” [Bright Moon Action].)