Viet Minh Broadcasts French General’s Damaging Report Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

General Georges Revers developed a report on opinions of French officers about France’s war against communists in Indochina. The French were having problems pacifying the area, and Revers’s report outlined these problems and possible solutions. The Viet Minh resistance obtained a copy, which it broadcast on radio. Revers was dismissed, and in 1950, the French government created a commission of inquiry to investigate.

Summary of Event

By the end of World War II[World War 02];in Southeast Asia[Southeast Asia] World War II, many areas of Southeast Asia that had been under years of colonial rule by European powers hoped to win their independence. French Indochina was no exception. Partially occupied by Japan during the war, the people of this area, the Vietnamese, formed an underground, communist guerrilla movement. This movement was not focused on defeating the Japanese but on gaining independence from the country’s occupiers. These resistance fighters had hoped that with the problems France had faced during the war and with other problems worldwide, they would have their own nation back as soon as the Japanese were defeated. However, this hope would not come to pass. [kw]Viet Minh Broadcasts French General’s Damaging Report (Aug. 26, 1949) Generals’ affair[Generals affair] Revers Report Viet Minh Revers, Georges Mast, Charles Emmanuel Communism;Vietnamese Generals’ affair[Generals affair] Revers Report Viet Minh Revers, Georges Mast, Charles Emmanuel Communism;Vietnamese [g]Europe;Aug. 26, 1949: Viet Minh Broadcasts French General’s Damaging Report[00850] [g]Asia;Aug. 26, 1949: Viet Minh Broadcasts French General’s Damaging Report[00850] [g]France;Aug. 26, 1949: Viet Minh Broadcasts French General’s Damaging Report[00850] [g]Vietnam;Aug. 26, 1949: Viet Minh Broadcasts French General’s Damaging Report[00850] [c]Military;Aug. 26, 1949: Viet Minh Broadcasts French General’s Damaging Report[00850] [c]Politics;Aug. 26, 1949: Viet Minh Broadcasts French General’s Damaging Report[00850] [c]Government;Aug. 26, 1949: Viet Minh Broadcasts French General’s Damaging Report[00850] [c]Corruption;Aug. 26, 1949: Viet Minh Broadcasts French General’s Damaging Report[00850] [c]Publishing and journalism;Aug. 26, 1949: Viet Minh Broadcasts French General’s Damaging Report[00850] [c]Colonialism and imperialism;Aug. 26, 1949: Viet Minh Broadcasts French General’s Damaging Report[00850]

At the war’s end, France, which wanted to reestablish its colonial domination over the area to reaffirm its status as a major world power, returned to Indochina in force, beginning a guerrilla war with the communist underground led by communist leader Ho Chi Minh Ho Chi Minh. This quagmire that the French created would lead directly to American involvement in the region in general and to the Vietnam War Vietnam War specifically.

In 1949, General Georges Revers, the chief of the French general staff, was sent to Vietnam to assess the situation there. Revers was considered perfect for the task. He was an important leader in the French Resistance during World War II, and because of this, was well liked by the French government and the French people. His words would carry a great deal of weight.

As could be expected at this time, France was facing problems in Indochina. It was still recovering from the effects of World War World War II[World War 02];in Southeast Asia[Southeast Asia] II and trying to project its power far from the European continent in the face of a determined and well-organized resistance. Ho Chi Ho Chi Minh Minh had a great deal of experience in fighting this kind of war and would not be easy to defeat. He learned his trade in China from the example set by Mao Zedong’s communist forces. The important difference was that Ho Chi Minh was trying to win independence, not a civil war. He was determined to remove French rule from his country, by any means necessary. However, France could not, and would not, settle for a loss. The nation had just emerged from a horrible war, and a loss in Indochina would add to the humiliation of World War II.

Revers traveled around the entire area of Indochina to talk to military and civilian leaders, seeking a clear picture of what was happening. Indochina was a quagmire. The entire area was well suited for the guerrilla warfare that the resistance was using. The mountainous terrain and poor communications, along with the support of the local people for the resistance, made the situation bad for the French. The French were trying to use conventional tactics to beat an enemy that would not fight conventionally, leading to the French having a weak hold on the area. Their garrisons were spread out and vulnerable to attack, and the guerrillas were able to move around the nation with impunity.

Revers’s report was a full sixty pages, and it was mostly negative. He found a great deal wrong with how France was handling the war, and he made a large number of suggestions on what needed to be done to try and remedy the situation. The report was supposed to be kept secret—for government eyes only—but this was not to be.

The French had been having a great deal of trouble getting information on the Viet Minh resistance, but the Viet Minh was able to secure secret French government documents. On August 26, 1949, parts of Revers’s report were broadcast by a Viet Minh radio station. Soon, the French journal L’Express had printed parts of the report, which it had received from a confidential source. The Cold Cold War;and Vietnam[Vietnam] War by this point was in full swing, and many people in the West feared intelligence leaks would supply a great deal of secret information to the communist bloc, especially the Soviet Union. The broadcast of parts of the report by the communist resistance in Indochina confirmed the worst fears of the West.

It was later revealed that Revers had given a copy of the report to French general Charles Emmanuel Mast. Mast, in turn, apparently leaked the report to Do Dai Phuoc, a Vietnamese student leader in France who was found with a copy of the report following his arrest for fighting on a bus in Paris. Phuoc said he had received the report from a Vietnamese socialist who, in turn, told police he received the report from Mast. Questioned later, Revers admitted to having passed the report to Mast. While Revers did not technically leak the report, he was the initial messenger whose action allowed the wrong people—the communist resistance in Indochina—to see the report.

Impact

The leak of the Revers Report proved how difficult it was to conduct intelligence gathering and to keep military and government secrets during the Cold War. The report itself was not especially damaging. What was damaging was the ease with which a secret document could fall into the hands of so many so quickly.

Revers lost his job in December, 1949, and was replaced by General Clement Blanc. Revers would never receive another command. In January, 1950, the National Assembly of France created a commission of inquiry about the affair, but now it was too late. The damage had been done and the information was out.

Revers and Mast would pay the price for their actions, but France would not be able to recover in Indochina. The end of French colonial rule of the region would come a few short years later at Dien Bien Phu, and the United States would step in to keep Indochina (divided in 1954 into North and South Vietnam) from becoming communist, embroiling Americans in the Vietnam War. Generals’ affair[Generals affair] Revers Report Viet Minh Revers, Georges Mast, Charles Emmanuel Communism;Vietnamese

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bodard, Lucien. The Quicksand War: Prelude to Vietnam. Boston: Little, Brown, 1967. Details the political problems faced by the French in Indochina and examines the roles of the main players in the Revers Report scandal.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dommen, Arthur. The Indochinese Experience of the French and the Americans: Nationalism and Communism in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. Explains how the Revers Report affected France’s position in Vietnam and how this led to U.S. military involvement in the region.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fall, Bernard. Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina. Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2005. Goes into great detail on the problems faced by the French in Indochina. Also covers the actions of General Revers.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">O’Balance, Edgar. The Indochina War: 1945-1954. London: Faber & Faber, 1964. Examines the writing of the Revers Report and how it got leaked to the Viet Minh and the French press.

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