The 20th Indian Division in French Indo-China

Daniel Marston

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    This essay focuses on a difficult and controversial aspect of the Second World War and its immediate aftermath: combined, joint operations and combined arms warfare at the end of Second World War. These will be considered in this case study through the prism of occupation responsibilities in French Indo-China (FIC) in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese surrender. This case study highlights the themes of this conference, as well as the ensuing discussions. The FIC campaign was different from most others of the period. It had the hallmarks of a joint operation within the British military system, with British Army, Indian Army, Royal Air Force, and Royal Navy units working cooperatively. The coalition operation was more complicated. One major reason for this was the role played by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA); so recently a British enemy, the IJA was to perform as, in effect, a British ally in imposing law and order against the Vietnamese nationalists, the Viet Minh. At the same time, IJA troops remained a conquered enemy and a potential threat—a pointed example of the complexities which accompany the ends of wars. Further compounding the complexity was the return of French military forces, and their subsequent involvement in the coalition. In this essay I intend to demonstrate the following contentions: 1. That the British/Indian elements of the joint military operation performed to a high standard, demonstrating the professionalism and adaptability gained from three years of active service in the Burma campaign. 2. That, despite this, the British/Indian forces were hampered by the complexities of their relationships with Japanese and French forces, as well as by the lack of a clear strategy for the mission itself from HMG. 3. That, as a result of these factors, some notable successes in combat actions and completion of the mission in 1946 did not render the overall mission a success, particularly given that clear outcomes for a successful mission had never been articulated.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Indian Army, 1939-47
    Editors Alan Jeffreys and Patrick Rose
    Place of PublicationUK & US
    PublisherAshgate Publishing Ltd
    ISBN (Print)9781409435532
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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