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The role of the “three-type armed force” in the August 1945 General Uprising

During the August 1945 General Uprising, in spite of being infant force, the “three-type armed force”  clearly performed the role as the vanguard that  led and strongly supported the masses in the revolution.

Liberation Army and Self-Defence Forces parade at Square
of Hanoi Opera House (file photo)

The August 1945 Revolution overthrew colonial-feudal regime and brought our nation to a new era of national independence and socialism. Our people, who had been once slaves, became masters of the country and their own life. That marked a milestone of paramount importance in the national history. The factor deciding the great victory was solidarity and strong will of the whole nation under the leadership of the Communist Party of Indochina, with the "three-type armed force" as the core. Before the General Uprising, units of the Vietnam Liberation Army, local revolutionary armed forces, and self-defence and guerilla forces - the forerunner of the "three-type armed force" today - had quickly developed widespread. There had been dozens of companies and platoons of the Liberation Army as active and local forces in provinces and districts under the Viet Bac Liberated Zone (around 5,000 troops); many guerilla teams had assembled in war zones and other military bases; tens of thousands of self-defence and guerilla troops had fought in villages, communes, factories and streets. During the General Uprising, those forces actively fought against and annihilated the enemy. Notably, in several localities, the revolutionary armed forces supported and paved the way for the masses’ political army to rise up and seize power. Only in last two weeks of August 1945, with the enormous strength, under the leadership of the Party and the direct command of committees of the uprising, the "three-type armed force" together with the people completely overthrew Japanese troops and lackey government to establish the people’s new one nationwide. It could be understood that in the victory of the General Uprising, alongside the strength of the whole people, the “three-type  revolutionary armed force" played the role as the vanguard leading and supporting the masses, which is manifested in the points as follows.

1. The "three-type armed force" served as the core in mobilizing and inspiring the people to rise up. In 1945, the world situation witnessed rapid changes beneficial to the Vietnamese revolution. On March 9th 1945, Japan staged a coup against the French in Indochina; however, only two months later, Japanese fascists became losers in the World War II. Seizing the opportunity, the Party Central Committee and the Viet Minh General Committee launched the General Uprising nationwide. Units of the Liberation Army were quickly deployed to localities, closely working with on-the-spot armed forces and guerilla teams, stepping up the work of mobilizing the people. In central areas, the "three-type armed force" became the vanguard that conducted propaganda among the people and made them recognize the unique opportunity of the revolution. In this regard, the goal of the General Uprising was to overthrow Japanese Fascists and their puppet government, and establish a revolutionary one of the people, by the people and for the people. During the process of propagation, the "three-type armed force" always stood side by side with the masses, persistently handling difficulties of the people from all walks of life, while resolutely fighting and neutralizing reactionary organizations against the revolution. It was really a big, direct, practical and effective campaign that helped the people recognize their enemy and encouraged them to work with the revolutionary armed forces to destroy Japanese troops, neutralize and topple Japan-backed puppet government and form a  revolutionary government of the people.

2. The "three-type armed force" acted as the core of the armed struggle to directly bring down the enemy’s government and lead the revolution to victory. In the August 1945 General Uprising, despite being forced to surrender to the allies, the strength of Japanese army in Indochina was still in big number (more than 60,000 troops). In some places, they had not surrendered yet, even repressed the revolutionary movement. In case this army was not neutralized, it would be a source of support for opportunist and reactionary forces to resist the General Uprising, thereby prolonging and disadvantaging the revolution. Moreover, the prolonged existence of Japanese troops would provide a pretext for allied troops to enter our country for disarmament. That would make us lose a favourable opportunity to gain independence and even cost us time and force to destroy new enemy. In response to that situation, the Viet Minh General Committee and uprising committees directed Liberation Army and guerilla units from bases, war zones and military bases to quickly advance towards localities and closely work with on-the-spot forces and semi-armed teams to put down and annihilate the enemy at key targets.

Realizing that direction, in Viet Bac, an unit of the Liberation Army maneuvered from Tan Trao to Thai Nguyen, engaging the enemy and collaborating with the masses in establishing a new revolutionary government there, and then moving forward to Hanoi. In provinces, such as Cao Bang, Bac Can, Yen Bai, Tuyen Quang and so on, units of the Liberation Army mobilized their forces to attack the enemy and liberate the areas. Notably, in the province of Quang Ngai, from the war zones of Vinh Son and Nui Lon, the two guerilla teams named Phan Dinh Phung and Hoang Hoa Tham, with small number of people, equipped with  rudimentary weapons, still launched attacks to liberate districts of Ba To and Minh Long, and controlled the whole province afterwards. As such, at that moment, the appearance and operation of the "three-type armed force" in the areas not only encouraged the entire people to rise up, but also terrified and made the enemy surrender quickly.

3. The "three-type armed force" aided, protected and provided a mainstay for the masses’ political forces to rise up and seize power. With the boiling revolutionary ardour, right after the order of the General Uprising was issued, under the leadership of the Party and directly local party organizations, tens of millions of the masses nationwide rose up as one to seize power from Japanese Fascists and their lackeys. In many localities, though the Liberation Army had yet to come, with the people’s strong political forces supported by on-the-spot armed and semi-armed forces, party organizations at all levels and uprising committees flexibly applied guidelines for struggle to lead the uprising to a complete victory. More specifically, local armed forces took the lead, supported and provided strong motivation for the masses to rise up. It was the massive support of the armed forces that encouraged the masses equipped with sticks, steel, shotguns and even bare hands to rise up as one, organize marches and armed demonstrations, attack and occupy the enemy’s administration offices, and form people’s government. That was among the main methods of struggle deciding the rapid and flat victory of the August General Uprising. Typical examples were uprisings of the people of Hanoi, Hue, Saigon. Particularly in Hanoi, where offices of French Resident Superior in Tonkin (North Vietnam), representative of Nguyen Dynasty, Puppet Government headed by Tran Trong Kim and the Command of Japanese Army in Vietnam (with the strength of 10,000 troops) were located, we only possessed 3 self-defence units together with the masses to fight against the enemy. To deal with those difficulties, the Party Organization of Hanoi organized self-defence teams to lead the masses in marches and armed demonstrations. Under the command of the Revolutionary Military Committee, we quickly occupied Residence of the French Resident Superior of Tonkin, Governor-General Building, Treasury, Post Office, etc., leading the uprising in the enemy’s headquarters to great victory. The rapid victory in Hanoi prompted many other localities nationwide to stage uprisings and seize power.

To conclude, during the August General Uprising, under the leadership of the Party, the masses acted as the most powerful forces in number deciding the victory of the revolution. The "three-type armed force", having small strength, old-fashioned equipment and limited operational capability though, played a role of utmost importance in mobilizing the people and in armed struggle, being the main ones that massive momentum for the masses to rise up and seize power when the time came. Nowadays, many scholars agreed that without the “three-type revolutionary armed force", the August 1945 General Uprising would hardly snatch such a rapid and glorious victory all over the country.

Lesson on promoting the role of the revolutionary armed forces in the August 1945 General Uprising was inherited and developed in 30 years of wars later (1945-1975). It still remains valid and should be studied and applied to the cause of national construction and protection today.

Senior Colonel Nguyen Hoang Nhien, PhD

Head of the Military History Institute of Vietnam

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