On 6 March 1946, France recognised the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as a free state within the French Union. The deterioration of relations between the President of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, and France led to the start of the Indo-China War. On 7 May 1954, the fall of the fortified camp of Dien Bien Phu signified the end of the war. On 21 July 1954, the Peace Accords were signed in Geneva.
In a circular dated 19 April 1946, Nguyen Binh, Vietnamese military officer and head of the 7th zone of the National Defence Army, strongly condemns the attitude of the French during the first Franco-Vietnamese talks in Dalat. He particularly accuses Admiral Georges Thierry d'Argenlieu of not complying with the agreement on Cochinchina concluded on 6 March. Nguyen Binh therefore calls on the people and the Viet Minh troops to engage in a general offensive on all fronts and to sabotage all French public bodies in Cochinchina.
On 2 May 1946, as the first talks between France and Vietnam are held in Dalat, the French High Commission in Indochina drafts a note on the problem of the Indochina Federation and the French Union. This note illustrates the fundamental difference in interpretation of the agreement of 6 March 1946. While the Vietnamese people see the French Union as a community of associated states with equal rights and responsibilities, the French accept internal autonomy but note that the Indochina Federation would be de facto led by the French High Commissioner, who is appointed by the French Government and is custodian of the powers of the French Union.
On 2 July 1946, Ho Chi Minh, President of the Republic of Vietnam, is received by Georges Bidault, French Prime Minister, during an official visit to discuss future relations between France and Indo-China.
This note dated 14 December 1946 provides information about the circumstances of Bảo Đại, the last Emperor of Vietnam, since his abdication on 25 August 1945. During his time in Hong Kong, he affirmed that he had no intention of returning to power, but France nevertheless renewed contact to attempt to persuade him to return to the throne. It was only in September 1947 that Bảo Đại announced that he had broken ties with the Viet Minh and would be prepared to negotiate with Paris on the basis of Indochina’s independence and unity.
On 20 December 1947, the Head of Federal Security in Cochinchina, Robert Frances, describes the reactions among the general public to the meeting in Halong Bay between the French High Commissioner in Indochina, Émile Bollaert, and the former Emperor of Vietnam, Bảo Đại.
This note dated 24 January 1948 describes foreign reactions to the talks that began on 6 December 1947 in Halong Bay between the French High Commissioner in Indochina, Émile Bollaert, and the former Emperor of Vietnam, Bảo Đại. In general, the Americans, Chinese, British and Hindus are pessimistic as to the success of the talks.
In a proclamation dated 11 May 1948, the Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng (VNQDĐ), or Vietnamese Nationalist Party, violently criticises the establishment of the Provisional Central Government of Vietnam, led by Nguyễn Văn Xuân, on 27 May 1948. The VNQDĐ sees it as a puppet government under the control of French colonialists.
In a note dated 24 May 1948, the Head of Federal Security in Cochinchina, Robert Frances, describes the initial reactions among the general public to the formation of the Provisional Central Government of Vietnam, led by Nguyễn Văn Xuân.
On 5 January 1950, Bảo Đại, Head of State of Vietnam, issues an order for the establishment of a Vietnamese delegation to the Assembly of the French Union. The French Union, set up on 27 October 1946, has a President, a High Council and an Assembly. Vietnam, an Associated State within the French Union, is given 19 seats within the Assembly. Article 66 of the Constitution of the Fourth Republic states that “The Assembly of the French Union shall be composed half of members representing Metropolitan France and half of members representing the Overseas Departments and Territories and the Associated States.”
‘In the land of Indo-China, in the farthest reaches of Farther India. Bảo Đại: "They won't dare — because I'm wearing a very diplomatic luxury bathing suit!"' In February 1950, German cartoonist Lang illustrates the communist threat facing Indo-China despite the political and military support offered by France to the Bảo Đại regime.
On 6 May 1953, the US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, sends this letter to the US Ambassador to France in which he expresses the interest taken by the United States in the Indo-China conflict and confirms US support for France.
On 18 March 1954, an internal note from the French Security Department cites sources in Vietnamese diplomatic circles which suggest that neither the Franco-Vietnamese talks nor the Geneva Conference will be successful. These sources suggest that the position taken by the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Prince Buu Loc, on the integration of the country into the French Union is no more than demagoguery. They predict the fall of the Buu Loc government and also allude to the allegiance of the Vietnamese head of state, Bảo Đại, and several other leaders to America, suggesting that the US presence in Indochina is the cause of the current difficulties.
On 8 May 1954, the day after the fall of the heavily fortified Dien Bien Phu base, the French daily newspaper Le Figaro leads with the sacrifice of the French soldiers and deplores the attitude of French Communist leaders in the Indo-China war.
On 7 May 1954, the fall of the French military base at Dien Bien Phu accelerates the end of the French colonial era in Indo-China. The day after the French defeat, Ho Chi Minh sends his congratulations to his troops.
Following the conclusion of the Franco-Vietnamese Treaty, signed on 4 June 1954 in Paris by the two heads of government Joseph Laniel and Buu Loc, this anti-communist tract calls on the Vietnamese people to expose the Viet Minh communists.
Signed on 20 and 21 July 1954 in the presence of the French Prime Minister, Pierre Mendès France, and the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, the Geneva Accords bring the Indo-China War to an end.
On 23 July 1954, Radio Moscow publishes the Soviet statement on the Geneva Conference. The USSR welcomes the Geneva Agreements, which have brought an end to the Indochina War, but harshly criticises the attitude of the United States. The Soviets claim that they are pursuing a policy of peace but accuse the Americans of warmongering.
On 25 July 1954, the Vietnamese communist daily newspaper Nhân Dân welcomes the Geneva Accords which bring an end to the Indochina War. It salutes the victory of Ho Chi Minh and emphasises the failure of the aggressive agenda of the French colonialists and the defeat of US imperialist policy.
‘Dien Bien Phu.The two parties wish to base their future diplomatic actions on solid foundations.’ In 1954, the German cartoonist Köhler draws a cynical portrait of the negotiations that are to put an end to hostilities in Indo-China.
Meeting in Geneva on 20 and 21 July 1954, the French, Vietnamese, Soviet, Chinese and US delegates reach a compromise agreement on 21 July 1954 with a view to settling the Indo-China conflict. On 22 July 1954, a proclamation by Ho Chi Minh recalls the various aspects of the agreement.
‘Bill. Carefully-prepared food, made by the successive leaders of the Fourth Republic. 92 000 killed, 114 000 injured, 28 000 prisoners and 3 000 billion spent. We are unable to give credit to our customers. Indo-Chinese soup. Bitter rice.’ In 1954, commenting on the end of the Indo-China War, the French cartoonist, Pinatel, emphasises the immense human and financial cost of the conflict (on the left as a waiter, Pierre Mendès France, French Prime Minister).
‘Farewell to colonialism!’ In the early 1950s, Berlin-born Dutch cartoonist Fritz Behrendt criticises the Soviet Union’s foreign policy, which aims to take advantage of the wave of decolonisation in Asia and the Middle East to promote communist ideology in these newly independent countries. In a world dominated by two superpowers engaged in a Cold War (the United States and the USSR), Behrendt speculates on the future of the decolonised countries, represented by a group of four people with stereotypical features (an Asian woman, a man with a turban wearing a traditional Indian costume, a black man in a boubou and a Muslim in Bedouin dress). Although these four welcome the permanent departure of the European coloniser (a seemingly British moustachioed man in colonial garb, holding an umbrella, golf clubs and a suitcase), they do not realise that two new characters are already trying to replace the former coloniser. From left to right, Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, wearing a colonial helmet and holding a file with ‘Stalin’ written on the front, and Nikolai Bulganin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union, carrying a backpack with a Soviet flag, try to enter on tiptoes by the back door of the house, which symbolises the newly independent states.