Battle of Hanoi: The beginning of the First Indochina War

The Battle of Hanoi was an armed conflict between the French and the Viet Minh. It started on 19 December 1946 and lasted till 18 February 1947. It marks the beginning of the First Indochina War. Although armed conflicts between the French and the Viet Minh started as early as September 1946 in South Vietnam and pre-dates the Battle of Hanoi by over a year, the Battle of Hanoi is generally considered as the beginning of the First Indochina War.

What was the First Indochina War?

The First Indochina War was a conflict between the French and the Viet Minh. It lasted from 19 December 1946 till 1 August 1954. In this conflict, the French were trying to regain control of their former colonial possessions of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam after the Second World War. And on the other hand, the Viet Minh were resisting the French in an attempt to make Vietnam independent. The First Indochina War ended in a Viet Minh victory at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

Haiphong Incident

In 1946, Ho Chi Minh tried to reach a negotiated peace settlement with the French. For this purpose, he spent a few months in France meeting with high-level French officials. However, the talks failed. Ho Chi Minh realized that the French were not sincere about granting independence to Vietnam and wanted to restore their colonial status.

After the talks failed, the French went on the offensive by shelling the harbor city of Haiphong on 23 November 1946. In a single day, around 6000 Vietnamese were killed. In the ensuring conflict, the French, owing to their superior fire power, drove the Viet Minh out of the city.

Viet Minh attacks the French in Hanoi

After being unable to fight the French in Haiphong, the Viet Minh resolved to drive them out of the city of Hanoi. At this time, the Viet Minh leadership, including Ho Chi Minh, was in Hanoi. The French too were present in some parts of the city.

The Viet Minh at night blew the power station with explosives plunging the entire city into darkness. Under the cover of darkness, they attacked French military installations and homes.

In the ensuing conflict, the French fought back, conducting house to house searches looking for the Viet Minh leaders. By February 1947, the French were able to drive the Viet Minh out of the city. The entire Viet Minh leadership escaped into the mountain jungles. The Viet Minh leadership would continue to remain underground until the end of the First Indochina War.

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