Dear Mr. History

I was reading a book on the ARVN recently and discovered that a small portion of the army of Vietnam during the 40s and 50s was made up of local Frenchmen who were living in Vietnam; this was of course under the French. When the French left what happened to the local French populace? Did any of them stay in the north or south, did any continue to fight the communists under the American trained ARVN, did any stay after the war was over, or did they all pack up and leave?

Thank You





Dear James,

One of the reasons the French were in Indochina since the 1880s was to exploit its rubber, tea, rice, pepper, coal, zinc and tin resources. French plantation and mine owners made fortunes during the colonial period of “civilizing” the region. When the armed forces—and the Vietnamese they pressed into auxiliary service—were insufficient to prevent the debacle at Dien Bien Phu and the French government evacuated Indochina, most, if not all, of the plantation and mine owners departed with them. From 1954 onward, Indochina was no longer France’s problem (Algeria would take its place), while the United States took over the burden of confining the communist/nationalist Viet Minh’s gains to Vietnam north of the 17th parallel—a burden that gradually increased to direct involvement over the next decade.



Jon Guttman

Research Director

World History

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