Modern Asian Studies

Silent Partners: SOE's French Indo-China Section, 1943–1945

a1 University of the West of England


Pursued over the last two years of the Pacific war, the Free French effort to organize and direct an effective resistance to the Japanese occupation of Indo-China ended in military failure. Characterized by administrative complexity, inadequate supplies and attenuated communications, Gaullist insurgency was marred by Free France's de facto reliance upon Admiral Louis Mountbatten's South East Asia Command (SEAC). While the re-conquest of Malaya and Burma remained incomplete, British backing for a resistance network in Indo-China was bound to be limited. And as British interest in the final re-conquest of their own territories climaxed in the spring and summer of 1945, so material provision for the French in Indo-China inevitably declined. Although Mountbatten consistently supported his Free French protégés, Churchill, in particular, was reluctant to take issue with his American allies. Neither the US government nor American commanders in China and the Pacific supported Free French methods and objectives. By 1945, the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS), dedicated to supporting guerrilla warfare and resistance organization, and the Office of War Information (OWI), which disseminated US propaganda, were developing independent contacts inside northern Indo-China. As a result, the OSS increasingly endorsed the one truly effective resistance movement: Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh coalition.