It is well known that Hồ Chí Minh sent some letters to American President Truman seeking his country’s support for Vietnam’s independence. It is also well known that Truman never responded.
What is not well known is that there were other Vietnamese who wrote to the US government as well. One was a certain “Guy Phon,” a name which appears to be an Americanized version of something like Phạn Quý [?].
On 17 August 1945 Guy Phon sent a letter to the “Secretary of Foreign office.”
From the letter we learn that Guy Phon was born in French Indochina, but that he was now an American citizen, and that he had served in the US military during the war.
Guy Phon presents a strong condemnation of French colonial rule in Indochina, and then makes a plea for an American role in establishing an administration in the region now that the war was over.
It is a bit difficult to determine what exactly the role was that Guy Phon thought America should play. I’m assuming that he wanted the US to temporarily assist in helping the Vietnamese to establish their own government – an idea similar to the international trusteeship that Truman had envisioned, that is, the idea that some international organization would help Vietnam transition toward independence over a period of perhaps a decade or two.
However, some of the statements that Guy Phon makes at the end of his letter lead me to wonder what exactly he really hoped would happen.
In any case, it is a fascinating letter, and a precious historical document. I’m providing the text here, but readers should also consult the original below, as I’ve made some slight spelling corrections and there are a few places where I cannot make out what it is that Guy Phon wrote.
Before going further I present myself, Indochinese born, student of college of Paris (France). On 1943 joining in US army forces from which discharged, now student of Radio school at New York. Also, I’m citizen of United States. A good citizen defends the interest of country, for that purpose, I address you, Sir.
Over there in Asia, before the war, almost the people oriental had the sympathie for American (those men called American by mean United States) better than English and French. Because the U.S. policy toward the Philipines were human and fraternized.
France colonized Indochina within plus 100 years. Instead of fraternization setting up the oppression. As for the native opposed by revolutions.
They killed and condemned like the poor revolutionist by accusing them rebellion against white race in order to dissimulate their cruel policy and to save the face with civilized nations.
What’s the civilization? Allowing the free sale of opium in Indochina although forbid in France. Built up a large factory in Saigon (Cochinchine) producing the opium can’s [note: he makes plural by adding “ ’s ”] monopolized by government general de l’Indochine. There were in Cholon, Haiduong, Namdinh 3 huge factories called Fontaine factories whereat making a sort of alcohol 90 degree with very low price. Also the government obliged the native of Tonkin use whidh for drink. Poison policy’s!
How about the fraternization? The Administration help the Rubber plantations owners and coal mines producers by many savage ways or big force, put the coolies I means workers both sex, working over whole day with very low wage enough just for few rice bowl daily. Those unfortunate worked hard and living in the small hut affected dirty and venomous insects.
Under the tropical weather, French people reserving for them the nice building, special hospital, special school, hotel-restaurant special, special amusement house. As for natives, few public school and few hospital. Million young natives could not go to school because their parent very poor. Thousand died by year by dysentery and cholera, and yellow fever. After all the French treated the native in Indochine worse than German toward Jews in Europe in recent war. Therefore, when the Japanese invaded on Tonkin found no resistance, though the Indochinese disliked the Jap evil.
United Nation liberated France, French government and his people should have many things to do, to reorganize, to set up their own. They lost their reputation, they do not merit any more to be the master of civilization.
The Chinese are not civilized enough to civilize other nations in Asia. They should arrange between them to become a united Chinese nation. And the Indochinese people had ever liked [note: I think he means “have never liked”] the Chinese dirty and egoistic.
Sir, I have not the sufficient document to show you the truth.
Of course, war is over now, to keep the peace permanent, we need the air power, United States should have the air base in Pacific. Indochina is the strategic point. United States should set up directly the administration on this country. Sir, with my high education, I would be able to take charge those propaganda. “Indochine will belong to United States.”
If you would, Sir secretary, I’am ready to serve the United States expecting to be used.
On 12 September 1945, Abbot Low Moffat, Chief of the Division of Southeast Asian Affairs, responded, saying:
Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of August 17, 1945, setting forth your views on the subject of the future of Indochina. The Department appreciates your courtesy of letting it have the benefit of your views on the subject of your native country.