The OSS and Ho Chi Minh: Unexpected Allies in the War Against Japan

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University Press of Kansas, 2006 - History - 435 pages
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Some will be shocked to find out that the United States and Ho Chi Minh, our nemesis for much of the Vietnam War, were once allies. Indeed, during the last year of World War II, American spies in Indochina found themselves working closely with Ho Chi Minh and other anti-colonial factions-compelled by circumstances to fight together against the Japanese. Dixee Bartholomew-Feis reveals how this relationship emerged and operated and how it impacted Vietnam's struggle for independence. The men of General William Donovan's newly-formed Office of Strategic Services closely collaborated with communist groups in both Europe and Asia against the Axis enemies. In Vietnam, this meant that OSS officers worked with Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh, whose ultimate aim was to rid the region of all imperialist powers, not just the Japanese. Ho, for his part, did whatever he could to encourage the OSS's negative view of the French, who were desperate to regain their colony. Revealing details not previously known about their covert operations, Bartholomew-Feis chronicles the exploits of these allies as they developed their network of informants, sabotaged the Japanese occupation's infrastructure, conducted guerrilla operations, and searched for downed American fliers and Allied POWs. Although the OSS did not bring Ho Chi Minh to power, Bartholomew-Feis shows that its apparent support for the Viet Minh played a significant symbolic role in helping them fill the power vacuum left in the wake of Japan's surrender. Her study also hints that, had America continued to champion the anti-colonials and their quest for independence, rather than caving in to the French, we might have been spared our long and very lethal war in Vietnam. Based partly on interviews with surviving OSS agents who served in Vietnam, Bartholomew-Feis's engaging narrative and compelling insights speak to the yearnings of an oppressed people-and remind us that history does indeed make strange bedfellows.

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Quite a situation indeed for the OSS (the future CIA) to be doing business with Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam in the mid 1940’s. But after all we were allies with Stalin in the USSR as well. Extremely difficult position for the FDR administration: France is the colonial master in Indochina and France is being occupied then by the nazis. FDR has no doubts that the allies will win WWII and that France will never be able to afford the price of a colonial war after the end of the German occupation. The communist Vietminh had been sending numerous sign to the French administration in Vietnam that they wanted independence. Now everything is messed up and the Japanese invaded Indochina. The US army needs big time intelligence in this area of the world to locate and defeat the Japanese. Ho Chi Minh sees his chance and gets involved as a partner to the US, with little to offer except intelligence on the wereabout of the enemy. But to him, France is also the enemy. The OSS is walking on thin ice. The future of the US as a capitalist country is to present itself after that ‘les jeux sont fait’ to be different that France. To be anti-colonialist. The US had to support France after the war. The power vacuum would have invited the communists, but the inability of post colonialism to help development and bring democracy weither with or without France created a human disaster for the future of South East Asia.  


The United States
Miles Meynier and the GBT
Charles Fenn
March and April 1945
Ho Chi Minh and the Americans
On to Hanoi
Cochinchina Is Burning

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About the author (2006)

Dixee R. Bartholomew-Feis is an associate professor of history and director of international education at Buena Vista University.

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