Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Episode 278 – The Men Who Stayed Behind

This week we investigate the role of Japan in laying the groundwork for Vietnam’s wars against France and the United States. How did Japan’s occupation of Indochina create the groundwork for the Viet Minh? And why did some Japanese soldiers, given the choice to return home in defeat or stay behind and fight on behalf of a country other than their own, take up the Vietnamese cause?

Sources

Spector, Ronald. In the Ruins of Empire.

Goscha, Christopher. “Belated Asian Allies: The Technical and Military Contributions of Japanese Deserters” in A Companion to the Vietnam War.

Tokyo Foundation Report: Betonamu Dokuritsu Sensou Sanka Nihonj9in no Jiseki ni Motodzuku Nichi-Etsu no arikata ni Kansuru Kenkyu (Japanese)

Images

Vo Nguyen Giap with Viet Minh, 1944. The rise of the Viet Minh brought the group to the attention of Japanese officers in Vietnam, who considered them a far more palatable alternative than restored French control in the region.

British soldiers arrive in Saigon to accept Japan’s surrender. Many Japanese officers, ordered to hand over their weapons in ceremonies like this, instead arranged for those weapons to be recovered by the Viet Minh.

Japanese troops move into North Indochina, 1940. Japan’s destabilization of the area created the conditions that helped Ho Chi Minh rise to prominence.

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3 Comments

  1. Jason

    I’ve heard reports about IJA personnel who stayed behind in China to fight on Chiang’s side during the civil war. How were they different than the ones who stayed behind to fight for the Viet Minh? Also, was there a Japanese military diaspora in some of the other countries that were decolonizing, like Indonesia, Burma, Cambodia or Laos?

    • ijmeyer

      The China case is really broad; some stayed to fight communism, and in other cases Japanese garrisons simply weren’t relieved for long periods and sent home.
      As to other countries, I honestly don’t know. Certainly not beyond the realm of possibility, but to my knowledge there’s no real research on it yet. The only reason Vietnam became a subject of interest was because the French made a note of a Japanese presence during their war with the Viet Minh.

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