What Happened to the French During the Vietnam War? | HistoryNet

What Happened to the French During the Vietnam War?

By Mr. History
3/22/2016 • Ask Mr. History

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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One Response to What Happened to the French During the Vietnam War?

  1. Ishmael Lite says:

    Aaron Bank wrote in his “From OSS to the Green Berets” that, altho Japanese forces occupied French Indochina during (& before) WWII, they permitted a Vichy French gov. to govern; until early 1945, when they reinstalled deposed Annam monarch Bao Dai.
    Bank met Ho Chi Minh when he & others were sent in to help repatriate Japanese soldiers in prison camps. Ho, altho a communist, was a popular nationalist figure: according to Bank, Ho did not widely publicize his communist training (Vietnamese would have viewed a Russian-style communism as just more forn. occupation) & asked Bank for U.S. assistance. Bank wrote his superiors in Washington to allow Ho to form his nationalist gov. We know what transpired.

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