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A mission of vengeance: vichy French in Indochina in World War II.


The death of an American fighter pilot in the jungles of French Indochina in March 1944, helped to save the lives of twenty-nine downed American fliers in that country. The fallout from his death also provided the Japanese with an excuse to take over the French colony a year later. As is well known, the Japanese had occupied Indochina militarily before World War II but had allowed the French to continue to govern the colony. Vietnam, as Indochina is called now, accordingly became the object of an intensive American air campaign after Pearl Harbor. The bombing of strategic Japanese targets in northern Vietnam started in 1942, first by the American Volunteer Group (AVG), or "Flying Tigers," then by the China Air Task Force (CATF) of the Tenth Air Force, and later by the Fourteenth Air Force. Beginning in December 1944, attacks on Japanese targets in southern Vietnam were made by the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet's Catalinas, B-24s, and Privateers as well as by carrier aircraft from Admiral William Halsey's Third Fleet. Additional attacks were made by B-29s of the XX Bomb Group flying out of India and by Liberators, Mitchells, and Lightnings belonging to the Fifth and Thirteenth Air Forces operating from bases in the Philippines. (1)

At least 414 American fliers paid the supreme price carrying out those missions as did over thirty British and French aviators who died flying various types of missions over Vietnam. The first American killed in Vietnam was "Tiger" John T. Donovan of the Third AVG Pursuit Squadron, who died on May 12, 1942 during a raid on the Japanese air base at Gia Lam near Hanoi. (2)

What is not as well known is that the Japanese in Vietnam were aided in their occupation of the French colony by a puppet government headed by French Vice Admiral Jean Decoux, a cold, haughty sailor consumed by an overbearing sense of prestige and rank. (3) Decoux had been appointed to the post of governor general of Vietnam by the pro-Axis government of Marshal Philippe Petain, located at Vichy, a spa in central France. The Governor General thereafter washed his hands of all ethical, political or moral consequences that flowed from his obedience to Vichy. The admiral ran the country as if it were a ship in the French Navy, and used his naval officers to impose Petain's anti-democratic, anti-Semitic, and anti-Allied policies on the colony. Decoux said later in his own defense (4) that he was taking orders from a legal government of France and the latter was not at war with Japan. Whenever his policies were questioned or criticized, he argued that some accommodation with the forces of the Rising Sun was necessary. (5) The admiral's policy was known locally in Indochina as "pas des incidents:" do nothing that would give the Japanese occupiers an excuse to overthrow his regime, disarm or smash the country's military forces, turn the government over to the Vietnamese native leaders while possibly imprisoning or massacring the 40,000 or so French residents, most of whom were women and children. (6)

Decoux's police forces and a paramilitary organization he created, the French Legion of War Veterans and Volunteers of the National Revolution, imposed Vichy's dictatorial policies on Vietnam and vigorously persecuted opponents of Decoux's regime. The victims were mainly Freemasons, soldiers and civil servants suspected of being pro-British or sympathetic to General Charles de Gaulle's Free French movement that had repudiated Vichy as well as socialists, communists, Jews, and anyone suspected of "resistance" activities. For example, French aviation war heroes, Lt. Eugene Robert and Sgt. William Labussiere (a member of the underground who flew for General Chennault's first international air force in China), attempted to escape to join the Free French but were captured and sentenced to years of forced labor. They were joined in prison by a world-famous medical doctor and Free French representative in China, Dr. Eugene Bechamp, who died later due to a lack of proper medical treatment. The trio was soon joined by the future author of the Bridge over the River Kwai, Lt. Pierre Boulle, who attempted to penetrate Vietnam to set up a Free French underground network. Decoux's suppression consequently greatly hindered the growth of any French underground movement in Vietnam, though individuals and small groups did what they could to further the Allied cause. (7)

Decoux's Policy

Despite a loudly-proclaimed mission to destroy all vestiges of White colonialism in Southeast Asia, the Japanese military tolerated Decoux's rule in Vietnam because the admiral aggressively--not passively--pursued a policy of military cooperation with Vietnam's occupiers in order to prove his loyalty to the Rising Sun. On December 9, 1941, the day after the Japanese had struck at European possessions in Southeast Asia from bases in Vietnam, Admiral Decoux assured the Japanese military command in writing that he would "collaborate with the Japanese Armed Forces by all measures in accordance with existing agreements between Japan and France...." (8) Among his other acts of collaboration with the Japanese, Decoux sent a team of engineers to the Netherlands East Indies to help the Japanese repair sabotaged oil facilities there. He sanctioned a Japanese takeover of the majority of the Vichy French merchant shipping fleet in Vietnam, quibbling solely over payment for the ships, and even offered to let French sailors serve under Japanese command. But when he tried to force French sailors to do so, the sailors mutinied. The admiral shared military intelligence information on the Nationalist Chinese with the Japanese and he set up a warning system to alert the Japanese air force of incoming bombing raids from China by the American air force. Decoux ordered French anti-aircraft batteries to shoot down "foreign" (Chinese and American) airplanes. And he pushed Vichy to approve a joint Japanese-Vichy Vietnamese expedition to invade and occupy New Caledonia (a French island in the Pacific that had rallied to General Charles de Gaulle's Free French movement) which was protected first by Australian troops and later by American forces. In a telegram to Tokyo intercepted by American intelligence in February 1942, the Japanese ambassador in Hanoi praised Decoux's collaboration, noting their "two countries are very nearly allies" because the admiral was giving Japan "complete cooperation in the political, economic and military fields." (9) What resistance Decoux did offer to the Japanese stemmed from their heavy-handed attempts to take over the economy of Vietnam without allowing French firms to maintain controlling interests in those enterprises, from efforts by lower-ranking, insubordinate Japanese officers and civilians to turn the Vietnamese population against the French or from Japan's failure to pay their bills for the goods and rice Vietnam furnished them. What resistance Decoux offered the Japanese, according to a Fourteenth Air Force intelligence summary, was to protect French interests in Vietnam, not to help the Allies.


What is also not well known is that Admiral Decoux held on to power by turning over to the Japanese seventeen American fliers captured by his police or military units as proof of his continuing loyalty to Vichy's policy of military, economic and political collaboration with Japan. In addition, the admiral condoned the seizure and imprisonment of the American consul general in Hanoi and the vice consul in Saigon by the Japanese army, even though the parent Vichy government in France and the United States maintained diplomatic relations until November 1942. The diplomats later complained that there was "no effort by Government General to assist or communicate with American consulate officials" after they were seized. (10) The first five American combatants whom Decoux handed over were from the Philippines--one P-40 pilot from the 17th Pursuit Squadron, three air corps sergeants, and one army engineer captain. The five had landed near Tourane in a thirty-nine foot launch on March 22, 1942. (11) In late 1943, four of those five were transferred to a prisoner of war camp in Thailand where they worked on the railroad of death.

When the French Army command objected to his policy of surrendering the five Americans to the Japanese, Decoux issued Directive No. 1415-DN1/2 on April 27, 1942. The directive took responsibility for any future cases involving combatants at war with Japan out of the army's hands. The capture of Allied servicemen by his forces thereafter was to be reported immediately to Decoux and "was to be kept secret" since the problem of American captives involved "political consequences." He would personally give instructions as to what information was to be communicated to the Japanese concerning the capture of Americans and how the Japanese would be allowed to interrogate the captives. (12)

The next American surrendered to the Japanese was a "Flying Tiger," captured on May 17, 1942, at Lao Kay on the Sino-Vietnamese border. He was turned over on Decoux's order to the Japanese, who then refused to return him to French custody and shipped him off to a POW camp in China. (13) Two British prisoners of war ran afoul of Decoux's policy in July 1942, after they escaped from a Japanese prison camp in Saigon and made their way to a French army post about thirty miles from Saigon. The POWs asked for the army's protection but were returned to the Japanese on Decoux's orders. They were beheaded a few weeks later. (14) On August 31, 1943, reacting to an increase in the American bombing campaign in Tonkin, Decoux issued orders that any downed American fliers were to be turned over to the Japanese on the spot. (15)

Under Decoux's new policy, twelve more Americans, all fliers shot down over Tonkin between September 1943, and January 1944, were surrendered to the Japanese on demand. (16) Fifteen days after he issued his new directive, a squadron of five unescorted B-24 Liberators was ambushed by thirty-five or more Japanese fighters over Haiphong. Three of the B-24s were shot down. The first bomber crashed in the sea without survivors. A bombardier and a navigator aboard "Pistol-Packing Mama" bailed out of the second plane only to be strafed by the circling fighters and were wounded. They were picked up by a Vichy French search party, and taken to Lanessan Hospital in Hanoi, where they were treated for their wounds. The wounded fliers were abused by a pro-German doctor in the hospital, who then turned the men over to the Japanese on the orders of Decoux. (17) Vietnamese Guards, a militia traditionally employed by Vietnamese authorities as auxiliary police, captured three other crewmen from "Mama" near their crashed plane, and turned them over to a Japanese search party. (18) The third B-24, "Temptation," crashed near Thai Ngygen. Circling Japanese fighters killed four of the crewmen by shooting them in their parachutes. Four survivors were captured by the Vietnamese Guard and surrendered on the spot to the nearest Japanese patrol. One crewman died during torture in a Japanese prison in Hanoi, another victim of Decoux's policies. (19) All of the surviving captured B-24 fliers were sent first to a Kempeitai police station in Cholon (Saigon) for interrogation, and then transferred to a POW camp in Singapore. (20) The next Haiphong bombing mission on October 1, 1943 by twenty-one B-24s was accompanied by Fourteenth Air Force fighters, but saw a Chinese Air Force escort pilot shot down by the Japanese. (21) During the same mission an American P-40 pilot was forced to bail out over Phi Dien after he was hit by bomber fire. (22) Six days later, another P-40 Shark was shot down by "friendly fire" from a B-24 during a dogfight with Japanese fighters, but the pilot parachuted to safety near Lang Vai. (23) Four months after that, a fourth P-40 pilot experienced mechanical difficulties on a mission over Tonkin and rode his plane down into a rice paddy near Huu San. All four fighter pilots were captured by Vichy military forces, or by Vietnamese auxiliaries, and promptly surrendered on the spot to the Japanese. One pilot was roughed up when he attempted to escape from the Vietnamese guards (24) but all four survived the war: the first three in POW camps in China and Japan; the last at Singapore. Finally, a Dutch prisoner of war who tried to escape from a transport anchored off Cap St. Jacques met the same fate as the two beheaded British prisoners. (25)

The number of fliers and Allied prisoners of war whom Decoux had handed to the Japanese was quite small. The policy, however, illustrated that he was willing to hold on to power for Vichy in Vietnam with the blood of at least five of them on his hands. The ones who were not killed as a direct result of his policy were doomed to years of suffering in Japanese prisoner of war camps or to working on the "Hell Railroad" in Burma and Thailand.


It took the death of an American P-40 pilot from Pima, Arizona, to force Decoux to change his policy. At the time, American intelligence claimed that the admiral's policy was changed in response to "a mission of vengeance" undertaken by the Fourteenth Air Force against the Vichy colonial authorities held responsible for the pilot's death.

The Norton Affair

At 3 p.m. on March 9, 1944, four P-40s from the 51st Fighter Group, 26th Fighter Squadron of the Fourteenth Air Force took off from their base at Nanning, China, on a strafing and bombing mission in northern Vietnam. Their target was a concentration of concrete and brick barracks located five or six miles to the west of the village of Luc Nam. The village was located nine miles from a Japanese airbase at Lam on a highway that ran to the administrative capital of Bac Giang province, Phu Lang Thuong.

No anti-aircraft fire greeted the Sharks as each pilot peeled off to make a dive bombing attack on the southwest section of the barracks area, dropping 500-pounders on them. As 2d Lt. Melvin J. Norton pulled out of his dive after releasing his bomb on the target, the engine on his P-40 was hit by ground fire. With his engine smoking, the lieutenant headed off in a northern direction in an effort to reach the Chinese border, fifty-five miles away. But when it proved impossible for his plane to reach the border, Norton opened his canopy and safely bailed out of his plane. His Shark crashed in flames into a hill slope near the village of Thai Binh, some ten miles northeast of a larger Bien Dong village. (26)


The twenty-one-year old Norton could not have picked a better location in Tonkin to parachute into. Named the "High Region," the area where he landed was wild, rugged, and jungle-covered with very few inhabitants. The region had also been the historic hiding place for Chinese pirates on the run from the French army. Norton, too, was a strong man, 5-foot, 10-inches tall, physically fit with remarkable stamina, able to adapt easily to the demands of escape and evasion. Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Norton's family had moved to Roanoke, Virginia in 1936 to help run a family-operated farm. He graduated in 1940 from Andrew Lewis High School in nearby Salem. After his graduation, he followed his family, which had already moved to Pima, Arizona, and soon entered Gila Junior College in Thatcher. A well-known and popular student, the brown-haired, hazel-eyed Norton immediately signed up for Civilian Pilot Training at the college. "He loved to fly," his sister recalled, "he lived to fly." As soon as he received his pilot's license the next year, he volunteered for the Army Air Corps on August 5, 1942. After distinguishing himself as an aerial gunner flying P-40 Sharks, he graduated as a second lieutenant with Class 43D on April 29, 1943. The next month, he shipped overseas to join the 26th Fighter Squadron in General Claire Chennault's Fourteenth Air Force. In China he flew 18 missions, beginning on November 5, 1943. The mission to Luc Nam on March 9 was Norton's nineteenth.

After he bailed out, Norton was helped in his evasion by the fact that the first French report of the plane crash wrongly put the Shark and Norton six miles north of the village of An Chau, not Thai Binh.

Marcel Rouilly, the Vichy Resident of Bac Giang province, alerted his superior, the Resident Superior of Tonkin, that a pilot had been downed in his area and that he had ordered all the military authorities in the region to search for the pilot. Rouilly had previously surrendered an American fighter pilot to French Army officers in Hanoi in keeping with Decoux's orders. That flier had been given up to the Japanese.

A detachment of Vietnamese Guards from the post at An Chau was assembled by a Deputy Inspector of the guard, Maj. Armand Jourdan. His detachment began a methodical but fruitless search for the plane and its pilot far to the west of Thai Binh where the plane and Norton really went down. One group of partisans under a Tri Phu, or district chief, from the village of Son Dong north of Lam was assigned to search the Bien Dong area for the crashed P-40. Another French patrol and a partisan detachment were sent out from Dinh Lap, south of the French fort at Lang Son near the Chinese frontier. Sentries were placed on all routes out of the area into the Lang Son region. A Japanese detachment from the Kep Ha airbase also joined the search. Looking in the wrong area, none of the search parties were able to find the American pilot or his downed P-40.

The burned carcass of Norton's Shark was finally located late the next day, March 10, by the Tri Phu's partisans near the village of Thai Binh.

Meanwhile, Rouilly received a number of frantic messages from Admiral Decoux insisting that Rouilly "retrieve" Norton as quickly as possible. Based on the tone of those messages, Rouilly suspected that Decoux was under strong pressure from the Japanese military command at Hanoi to find the downed pilot.

But none of the search groups uncovered any trace of Norton for the next three days until he was finally spotted at dusk near the village of Ban Nuc, some six miles south of Dinh Lap. The partisans gave chase but as they closed on the pilot, he fired one shot at them with his .45-caliber automatic. When they returned his fire, Norton disappeared into a dense forest, taking advantage of nightfall. During the night, a heavy downpour of rain erased his tracks.

The next night, Norton took refuge in a hut in the village of Na Khua, to the east of Khe Giam village located on Inter-provincial Route No. 13, about fifteen miles south of Ding Lap. While Norton was eating, the chief of the village sent a messenger to bring back to Na Khua a Tong Dong, a Vietnamese sergeant in charge of a partisan detachment at nearby Huu San.

The Vietnamese sergeant arrived at Na Khua during the night and entered the hut where Norton was staying. Startled, the lieutenant shot the sergeant and killed him instantly, undoubtedly thinking that the sergeant was Japanese. The partisan chief was dressed in Japanese-looking military clothes and was wearing a hat with a star on it. Norton then bolted back out into the night and into the forest behind the village.

The chief of the Na Khua village immediately sent a messenger to the Vietnamese Guard post at An Chau to alert Inspector Jourdan, who forwarded the information on to Resident Rouilly. Rouilly quickly ordered Jourdan to take his guards into the bush to look for Norton and ordered the chief of the Son Dong district to add his partisans to Jourdan's detachment. American Intelligence later was informed that Jourdan had instructed his guards to take Norton "dead or alive."

Jourdan and his detachment of guards surrounded the forest where Norton was thought to be hiding. At 7 a.m. the next morning, the Jourdan search party began a thorough search of one section of the forest while a Japanese detachment from the garrison at Lam scouted another site. Spotting the Japanese column on his trail, Norton slipped out of the forest and took refuge in a wooded area east of the hamlet of Kha Boun. This time, however, Jourdan, his guardsmen, and the partisans picked up the pilot's trail through the vegetation and followed him into a small valley.

Leading three of his guards, Jourdan approached Norton silently until he was within fifteen yards of the pilot. The Vichy major called out to the pilot in French to surrender. Norton did not respond.

Jourdan later reported that he ordered his three guards to fire a volley into the branches of a nearby tree as a warning that it was folly for the pilot to resist. Norton instead sprinted about ten yards away up onto a small hill and took cover behind the foot of a tree. The search party, however, could see his head and one arm.

Jourdan again called out to Norton to surrender. More silence.

The Vichy inspector called up his reinforcements--four riflemen--and sent them around the back of the small hill where Norton was hiding so that the American would see that he was surrounded.

Jourdan then walked towards the pilot, calling for him to give up and promising that the French would protect him if he did so. Norton replied by opening fire with his forty-five. When Norton began firing, the Vietnamese Guard and partisans immediately fired another volley, this time at the American.

After more French reinforcements arrived, a French sergeant crawled to within a few feet of Norton, then called out that Norton was dead. Norton had been hit by a bullet in the temple; his pistol was still in his hand.

In order to cover up any French culpability in the death of the American, Rouilly reported to his superiors that Norton had committed suicide rather than surrender to the search party. This version was later broadcast over Radio Tokyo by the Japanese. (27) Rouilly repeated that account after the war to an American graves registration search team (and told it that the Resident of Bac Giang was Lucien Luciani, not himself, and that the Vietnamese Guard commander was named Ferrier, not Jourdan). He further informed the American graves registration team that Norton had "killed a chief of partisans, shot at many natives, and was surrounded by the Japanese. Killed or committed suicide." Rouilly made no mention of the role played in his death by his militia. Another report made to the same graves registration team stated that the American lieutenant was "pursued by the Japanese. He shot the chief of the native irregular guard. He was killed by a party consisting of Japanese and native irregular guards. It is said that he might have killed himself before capture." The only problem with Rouilly's explanations is that Norton was a devout member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, whose religious tenets prohibit suicide. His pistol still contained bullets, indicating that he had not exhausted all the means of resistance when he was killed. Before long, Rouilly's version of Norton's suicide was challenged by officers in the French army in Vietnam. Instead of committing suicide, graves registration was told, Norton was probably shot by one of the partisans, the brother of the dead sergeant whom Norton had killed.

Norton's body was carried back to the hamlet of Khe Giam and he was buried in a wooden coffin with full military honors. Both Rouilly and Jourdan filled out a death certificate, but avoided indicating any cause of death. The widow of the dead partisan sergeant that Norton had killed received 200 piastres from Decoux's government on Rouilly's recommendation and another 100 piastres from the Japanese. (28)

On March 27, Decoux instructed the Vichy consul at Longchow, China to inform the American military command in China that Norton had resisted all attempts to induce him to surrender and he had been killed in a fire fight that he had started. (29) Despite Decoux's explanation, rumors soon spread about the treatment of downed fliers in Vietnam by the Vichy French. Americans were said to have been kicked to death in the streets of Hanoi by Vichy soldiers while the Vietnamese Guards were reported to have been ordered to shoot American fliers on sight if they were found on Vietnamese soil. Still another rumor alleged Norton had been killed because the Vichy authorities had put a 200 piastre reward on the heads of all downed pilots. (30)


A year aider the war ended, the Adjutant General of the Army informed the Norton family in Pima, Arizona, that the army had learned that Norton had died on March 16, 1944, not March 24 as had been previously reported. According to the Adjutant General's account, Norton had succeeded in avoiding capture until he was surrounded on March 16, 1944. Norton fired on his pursuers and killed "the native officer who was in charge of the searching party." After the searchers returned fire, there was no return fire from the lieutenant. The searchers found him dead. (31)

The Adjutant General's account reflected one of a number of versions (32) about the death of Lieutenant Norton that reached the Fourteenth Air Force after April. According to another version found in the records of the 23d Fighter Group, Norton had been rescued by the French underground and hidden for three days. However, the Japanese heard he was in French hands and demanded that the French army turn him over to them. In order to avoid revealing the existence of the underground, Norton was handed over. Later the underground heard he had been shot. (33) A former 26th Fighter Squadron pilot recalled still a different account:

The talk around the ready room was that Norton had been killed by a firing squad and we were incensed about it. The story was that he had given the pursuing troops a good running battle, western cowboy style, before he was captured and killed. I think he must have been one of the pilots who carried an extra issue .45 automatic in his parachute jungle pack because part of the story was he had been firing with both hands during the pursuit (exaggerated gossip ?) ... (34)

The most damning version of Norton's death came from an anti-Vichy, French Army intelligence officer, Capt. Marcel Mingant, who had previously called for the wholesale execution of all Vichy collaborators in Vietnam. (35) The captain refused to cooperate with the French army underground which he considered pro-Vichy, guilty of collaborating with the Japanese, and (wrongly) under the control of the Surete or Deuxieme Bureau. Mingant objected to "the about-face of certain leaders who, formerly notorious Vichyists are now throwing themselves too visibly into the pro-Allied movement and at its head...." Mingant consequently seized on the death of Norton to discredit his personal enemies in the French army underground. (36) He informed the American command that Norton had been turned over to the Vichy Resident of Bac Giang province, Rouilly, and Rouilly's military subordinate, Jourdan. The two Vichy officers surrendered the pilot to Japanese military authorities as requested. The Japanese then tortured him and killed him. Yet another version found in Fourteenth Air Force records, probably also provided by Mingant, stated Norton was "beaten to death by French police chief (vichy)," possibly a reference to Jourdan. (37)



In the wake of the death of Lieutenant Norton, strong pressure was put on Decoux to change his policy by the commander in chief of the French army in Vietnam, General Eugene Mordant. (38) Mordant was convinced that the Fourteenth Air Force had deliberately bombed Hanoi in December 1943, (39) and again in April 1944 in retaliation for the admiral's policy toward downed American fliers. (40) On December 10 and 12, 1943, Hanoi (and not the usual target--the Japanese airfield at Gia Lam five miles outside Hanoi) had been attacked for the first time, causing 1,232 casualties and 500 deaths. On April 8, 1944, Hanoi was hit again by the 308th Bomb Group (H): nine soldiers were killed and fourteen wounded. After hitting an Annamite hospital in the Yersin hospital complex (where the bombs seriously injured several patients and killed some Annamite nurses), forty-six civilians were killed and 141 were wounded in the Vietnamese and Chinese residential areas. Mordant's fears were supported by a warning from Fourteenth Air Force commander, Claire Chennault, who sent word to the Vichy authorities that the Fourteenth would bomb all the major towns in Tonkin if similar incidents occurred in the future. (41) An OSS report confirmed the threat: "Allied planes dropped handbills on to Anchau and its vicinity, warning the Annamites that if American aviators will be ill-treated by them again, bombing will be affected by revenge." (42) The text of another leaflet was translated into Annamese by OSS agent (and former missionary in Vietnam) W. A. Pruett and read: "To the Village of LANG-BANG and adjacent Villages: O foolish people! As you wish then!! If you had been willing to succour [sic] our American pilot you should certainly have received a reward. But, because of cowardice, you did not deign to succour him, therefore if this happens again, we shall be compelled to destroy your villages and towns." (43)

Decoux also came under pressure from his personal staff, who saw that the end of Vichy was inevitable after the Allied landings in France on June 6, 1944. The admiral finally gave in and drafted a new directive, No. 10,287-CM, on June 26. In that directive, Allied fliers shot down in Vietnam would no longer be surrendered on the spot, or on demand, to the Japanese. Instead the downed fliers would be taken as quickly and as secretly as possible to the nearest army divisional headquarters for internment. (44)

The directive from Decoux came too late to prevent General Chennault from carrying out his threat to retaliate for the death of Lieutenant Norton. On July 1, an "official" raid was conducted by Norton's unit against a bridge and a railroad yard at Phu Lang Thuong, (45) the town where Rouilly had his office. After briefing the pilots on their objective, the 51st Fighter Group intelligence officer took aside 26th Fighter Squadron First Lt. John M. Machin and gave him additional instructions. Years later, Machin recalled what those instructions were:

Some time later when I was in Nanning, the Group (51st) Intelligence officer told me about the proposed mission. He was very secretive about it. We talked away from the other pilots' hearing and he showed me pictures of a building I understood was a residence. All I recall was a white wall and a window with curtains in it. I marveled that photo planes could take such detailed close up pictures. He said that Rouilly would be in that room at a certain time tomorrow morning and that we would be there to greet him. I was thrilled to be picked to go on this mission of vengeance. I don't remember anyone else on the flight.... I do remember getting together with the armorer and getting him to load two frag clusters on my plane. I don't think the other planes were so loaded. (46)

The intelligence officer added "that the French officers never took cover because of the numerous over flights by bombers returning from aborted missions dropping their undelivered loads on the said bridge and the photo planes doing recons on the area."

After the other pilots carried out their "official" mission, Machin implemented his secret orders and dropped his anti-personnel bombs in a low level attack on Rouilly's residency, severely damaging it. Machin finished off his attack by strafing the rooms of the residency and surrounding area with machine gun fire. "I remember nothing else about the mission now except the joy I felt seeing the same window and wall I saw in the personal briefing picture shatter and crumble during the strafing run." Machin recalled, "It was the only time during my war years that I felt it was a personal and not an anonymous battle."

Machin's aim was true. Rouilly was hit twice and he was rushed to the Lanessan Hospital in Hanoi and operated on immediately. After a two months' convalescence, he resumed his post. Machin recalled that "some time after that while I was attending some kind of official party or celebration, someone in the upper echelon showed me a telegram or what was purported to be a telegram that said, 'O happy day, Rouilly is dead." The following message about the attack is probably what Machin remembered:


The 26th Fighter Squadron's attempt to kill Rouilly "scared hell out of all Japans [sic] and Vichyites," according to another Fourteenth Air Force report, (48) while Decoux visited the administrator in the hospital and was reportedly badly shaken. A message sent to the Fourteenth Air Force indicated what happened next: "... French source B2. Admiral Decoux called on Resident Ruoilly [sic] in hospital, and personally modified instructions relative American airmen shot down in FIC repeat French Indochina...." (49) The French report, probably from Captain Mingant, however, was mistaken. The change in policy referred to in the cable was Decoux's change of policy of June 26 that had been made after the death of Lieutenant Norton but before the attack on Rouilly took place.


After the death of Lieutenant Norton, no more Americans fliers were turned over to the Japanese by the Vichy authorities in Vietnam. A secret underground organization in the French colonial army in Vietnam had already taken matters into its own hands and affected the first rescue of an American pilot in April without Decoux's knowledge. (50) (Technically the first rescue from Vietnam was not of a downed American flier, but a British South African prisoner of war, Gunner Basil Bancroft, who had escaped from the Saigon prison camp on September 8, 1943. He arrived at the border at the same time as the downed American pilot.) (51)

Even though Decoux had changed his policy after the death of Lieutenant Norton, he still pleaded with de Gaulle's provisional government (that had replaced the Vichy government and was installed at Paris in August) that he be allowed to continue his policy of placating the Japanese until they voluntarily withdrew from Vietnam. (52) The admiral instead was stripped of his powers as governor general by Paris but he was ordered to maintain his post as a figurehead in order to deceive the Japanese. Real power thereafter rested with General Mordant, who became the de Gaulle government's delegate in Vietnam and the head of all resistance and underground activities. (53) The army and a civilian underground thereafter began a concerted effort to rescue American fliers shot down over Vietnam. Admiral Decoux was compelled by Mordant to issue a new directive at the end of 1944 prohibiting the surrender to the Japanese of American fliers downed in Indochina "under any pretext." (54)

Norton's death resulted in the rescue of thirty-two downed fliers in Vietnam; though not all were saved by the French underground. (55) In September 1944, a P-40 pilot went down close to where Norton had killed the Vietnamese sergeant. Although the villagers searched for the pilot frantically, the American was helped to escape by two Chinese farmers, possibly for a reward offered by the Fourteenth Air Force. (56) Though the trio did not know it, French rescue teams and intelligence officers watched over and protected their escape route to China. (57) Two American fighter pilots were helped to escape from the Lanessan Hospital in Hanoi between October 1944 and January 1945. (58) The three Gaullist officers, Robert, Labussiere, and Boulle, who had been imprisoned in 1941 and 1942 by Decoux, were also helped to escape from the central prison at Saigon in October 1944. (59) The next month P-51 pilot Lt. Rudolph "Rudy" Shaw went down in northern Tonkin and was picked up by a unit of the Communist Nationalist Viet Minh organization. He was held for a month while the leader of the Viet Minh, Ho Chi Minh, prepared an appeal to the United States for help in ending French rule over Vietnam, signing Rudy's name to it. Ho's propaganda report was so unbelievable and unrealistic that Ho's movement was ignored at the time by the Fourteenth Air Force after a brief flurry of interest in the Viet Mimh, (60) (Shaw's account of what happened to him is at variance with what Ho Chi Minh claimed happened to him.) In 1998, when "Rudy" was shown a copy of the report attributed to him, he denied writing it. (61) On November 20 another British POW was helped to escape from the Saigon camp by the underground. He was hidden at Kontum, Vietnam, and eventually escaped to China with the aid of a French army cook also hiding at Kontum. The cook had killed a Japanese soldier in a bar fight. (62) Eight days later, a 16th Fighter Squadron P-51 pilot was rescued by a Chinese guerrilla leader, "King Dow," who administered some "3,000 families in 100 villages on both sides of the frontier." (63) On Boxer Day, 1944, the 17th Pursuit Squadron pilot from the Philippines, who had been captured at Tourane in March 1942, escaped from the Saigon POW camp and was taken back to Tourane by the underground. (64) This time he was feted by the same soldiers who had turned him over to the Japanese two years before. The flier next joined a Free French commando unit in Laos but was wounded so severely in an attack on a Japanese-held bridge at Ban Ban that he had to be left behind. The former American POW recovered from his wounds, however, and was able to walk out of Laos into China, arriving the day after the war ended. (65) Four members of a crew aboard a B-25 bomber, named "Bobcat," shot down on January 1, 1945, were aided to escape to China. (66) Before they were escorted back to the border, two of the crewmen were treated to a tour of Japanese targets in Hanoi by French army intelligence officers and then taken to a Hanoi cinema where, sitting side-by-side with Japanese soldiers, they watched a Dagwood and Blondie movie! (67) Two other sergeants from the same crew were treated for their injuries secretly at the Lanessan Hospital and then hidden from the Japanese in a Foreign Legion camp at Ba Vi, outside Hanoi. (68) The remaining three crew members from the "Bobcat" were taken prisoners immediately by the Japanese; the French underground was unable to help them. One crewman claimed the Viet Minh had turned him over to the Japanese. (69)


Six navy aviators were shot down on January 12, 1945, over Saigon during Task Force 38's daring raid against Japanese targets in southern Vietnam. All six fliers were picked up by French military authorities and housed in the central French prison of Saigon for safe keeping. (70)

Despite enormous pressure from the Japanese to surrender the men to them, Decoux refused, claiming for the first time that the navy fliers had committed acts of war against Vietnam by sinking the French light cruiser, Lamotte-Picquet, and other French vessels during the task force attack. (71) When French army intelligence learned that the Japanese were preparing to storm the prison to take the men by force, the men were spirited out of the prison and were taken to the Legionnaire camp at Ba Vi southwest of Hanoi where they joined the two "Bobcat" sergeants. (72) Capt. (later General) Jacques Beauvallet paid a personal price for protecting the naval fliers in Saigon. He was horribly tortured by the Japanese who were trying to find out what happened to the Americans he saved. (73)

A seventh navy pilot from Task Force 38 was shot down during the raid and found by the underground. The flier was hidden outside Saigon and sneaked back into the city nightly so he could be treated for severe burns. When he recovered, he joined a ten-man crew from a Navy PBM that crashed near Qui Nhon on January 26. (74) One member of that crew was helped by the underground to board an American submarine that had been sent specially to pick up the crew. (75) Rather than evacuate the other crewmen on another submarine at a later date, the head of the Tourane civilian underground network took the crew to a make-shift airstrip near Pleiku where he hoped they could be flown out. A French army officer later charged that the underground leader had moved the crew in order to receive a reward from the Americans for rescuing the men. (76) That proved to be a fatal mistake.

A Fourteenth Air Force bomber also went down in Tonkin on February 11. Only one crewman managed to jump as the bomber flew over Moncay at the Sino-Vietnamese border; the rest of the crew perished when the plane blew up. (77) The surviving crewman was picked up by a French rescue party and taken to an army intelligence officer at Moncay, who hid the airman. Toward the end of February, the flier was taken by automobile to Cao Bang, and then escorted, "glowing with joy," into China at 5 p.m. on March 5, 1945. (78) The same day, a Dutch POW was helped to escape from an airfield near Saigon. He was hidden in the Saigon hospital for the duration of the war. (79)

As Decoux had feared, his refusal to surrender the task force fliers to Japanese forces was one of the reasons used by the Japanese military command to overthrow his government in Indochina. (80) The Japanese could no longer trust Decoux to control his subordinates despite a last-minute offer by Admiral Decoux on March 9, 1945, to help the Japanese repel any American invasion of Vietnam. (81) Instead, that day the Japanese moved against the French army and administration, taking both by surprise. The French Army in Vietnam was easily destroyed; its soldiers were executed or imprisoned and tortured. Mordant and Decoux were imprisoned as well. (82)

The rescue and escape of more Allied airmen from Vietnam by the French underground died with the Japanese attack, though eight more fliers--the two air force aviators and six Task Force 38 fliers at Ba Vi--were helped to escape after the coup before all French resistance was crushed by the Japanese. A major from the 26th Fighter Squadron, who was downed near Hanoi just before the coup, joined a university resistance group that had attacked a Japanese police station, ambushed a Japanese truck convoy, and fought its way out of Hanoi. (83) The major was taken to Son La and flown to China in a decrepit Potez-25, whose aged canvas "skin cracked at the touch." The major's French pilot, Lt. Hubert Coquard, crashed on his return flight to Dien Bien Phu and disappeared. (84) The Fourteenth Air Force had learned from Coquard that the Task Force 38 fliers were being taken to a primitive landing strip at Dien Bien Phu by the French Foreign Legion. En route to the airfield, the men were rescued by a Legion sergeant who led them to safety after the Legion company they were with was ambushed by the Japanese. A Fourteenth Air Force C-47 was sent to the landing strip and picked the men up a few days before the Japanese seized the airfield.

In the confusion following the Japanese attack, not all rescue efforts were successful. One of the Ba Vi "Bobcat" sergeants had to be left behind by the Task Force 38 fliers due to his broken ankle. The American was later picked up by another Legion sergeant, who tried to save the crippled flier by taking him to China on horseback. But both men were captured by the Japanese near the Chinese border, almost within sight of safety. By posing as a Hungarian Legionnaire, the American sergeant was imprisoned by the Japanese in what later came to be known as "the Hanoi Hilton" along with other Legion prisoners. The "Bobcat" sergeant survived the war. (85)

The remaining Task Force 38 pilot and the Navy's ten-man PBM crew hiding near Plei Ku were betrayed to the Japanese for a reward by a Moi soldier. The pilot died in an ensuing firefight and all but two of the other naval fliers were executed by the Japanese. (86) The Japanese commander, who directed the executions, was himself executed as a war criminal after the war. (87) The head of the Tourane underground network and the PBM's two pilots had separated from the group before the ambush. They were captured a short time later, imprisoned at Hue, and were executed before the war ended. Their bodies are still missing and their executioners escaped Allied justice. (88)

The last American flier downed in Vietnam after the Japanese coup was a P-38 pilot from the 449th Fighter Squadron. He was picked up by a Viet Minh group on July 7, 1945, which then held him for ransom. Once the war ended, however, he was rescued by Chinese Nationalist soldiers on September 5, 1945, just as the Viet Minh unit was on the verge of executing him. (89)

The death of 16th Fighter Squadron pilot Lieutenant Melvin Norton thus had important repercussions in Vietnam. His death played a role in forcing Decoux to change his policy of turning over American fliers to the Japanese, thereby enabling twenty-nine American fliers to escape to safety in China. But the Japanese later used Decoux's failure to surrender downed fliers to them as a pretext to overthrow his government on March 9, 1945, an act that changed forever the history of that country. As Stein Tonnesson noted in his study of the Vietnamese revolution of 1945 the destruction of the French administration and army in Vietnam created a vacuum that enabled Ho and the Viet Minh to seize power following the capitulation of Japan. (90) French rule over Vietnam was never the same thereafter.


(1.) Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. 4, The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan August 1942 to July 1944 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1950) and Vol. 5, The Pacific: Matterhorn to Nagasaki June 1944 to August 1945 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 500503. Samuel Eliot Morison, History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II, Vol. 13, The Liberation of the Philippines, Luzon, Mindanao, the Visayas 1944-1945 (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1959), Ch. VII, especially 164-74.

(2.) Larry M. Pistole, The Pictorial History of the Flying Tigers (Orange, Va.: Moss Publications, 1981), p. 236.

(3.) Capt. William W. Lockhart, Chief, R&A OSS Unit, "FRENCH INDO-CHINA SURVEY OF CONDITIONS--LATE 1944," Report No. 00016, R&A OSS Unit, Kunming, China, Hq. Fourteenth A.F., 15 Dec. 1944, 2, 5 and 9, Frames No. 0312, No. 0310 and No. 0314, Microfilm Roll A 8288, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Ala. [hereafter called AFHRA].

(4.) Admiral [Jean] Decoux, A la barre de l'Indochine: Histoire de mon Gouvernement Generale, (1940-1945) (Paris: Plon, 1949), p. 263.

(5.) Claude d'Abzac-Epezy's "Le prix de la survie: l'armee de l'Air d'Indochine de septembre 1940 a mars 1945," Revue historiques d'Armees, 1994, No. 1, 88.

(6.) "Degree of Japanese Control over the French administration of French Indo-China," O.S.S., R & A # 1677, 1 May 1944, Record Group [hereafter RG] 226, National Archives and Records Administration [hereafter NARA].

(7.) Clarke W. Garrett, "In Search of Grandeur: France and Vietnam 1940-1946," The Review of Politics, Vol. XXIX, July 1967 (3), 309. Rend Poujade, Cours Martiales Indochine 1940-1945 Les Evasions De Resistants Dans L'Indochine Occupee Par Les Japonais (Paris: Les Editions La Bruyere, 1997). Pierre Boulle, My Own River Kwai, trans. Xan Fielding (New York: The Vanguard Press, 1966).

(8.) "LOCAL MILITARY AGREEMENTS BETWEEN JAPANESE ARMED FORCES AND FRENCH AUTHORITIES OF FRENCH INDO-CHINA, Fundamental Negotiations," Hanoi, 9th December 1941, Defense's Exhibit Z, 2, File No. 56-22-Vol. 1 Trial Record Part 2, Judge Advocate General's Office, War Crimes Office, RG 331, NARA. "LETTER DESPACHED FROM F.I.C. GOVERNOR-GENERAL TO REPRESENTATIVE OF JAPANESE ARMED FORCES DESPATCHED TO F.I.C, J. Decoux, Governor General of French Indochina, 9th December 1944," Defense's Exhibit AA, Ibid.

(9.) Tokyo (Henry) Nos. 63-65 to Hanoi, February 28, 1942, Box 2, Part IV, SRDV-001 Intercepted Vichy French Diplomatic Messages, RG 457 (National Security Agency), NARA.

(10.) "French Indochina Developments during the First Seven Months of War in the Pacific," [Washington], August 4, 1942, Kingsley W. Hamilton, American Vice Consul, 19, File No. 851g.00/76, RG 59(SD), NARA. E. J. Kahn, Jr., The China Hands America's Foreign Service Officers and What Befell Them (New York: Viking, 1972), 71-72; and O. Edmund Clubb, The Witness and I (New York: Columbia University Press, 1975), pp. 52-58.

(11.) "Accostage d'une Vedette Americaine en Baie de Tourane (22 mars 1942)," COMREP Cabinet Military 836 Archives d'Outre-mer [hereafter: AOM]. U.S. Department of State, Bulletin, April 11, 1942, Vol. VI (146), Pub. No. 1725: 323. W.E.B. Griffin, Behind the Lines A Corps Novel (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1995), "Author's Note".

(12.) "Subject: Militaires etrangers non asiatiques," Directive No. 1415-DN 1/2, 27 avril 1942, Carton 10 H 81, Service Historique de l'Armee de Terre [hereafter: SHAT].

(13.) Lewis Sherman Bishop and Sheila Bishop Irwin, Escape from Hell, An AVG Flying Tiger's Journey (Bloomington, IL: Tiger Eye Press, 2004). J[ulien] Legrand, L'Indochine a l'heure japonaise (Cannes: A. Egitma, 1963), 139-140, quoting Decoux's Directive No.163 SS.

(14.) A.G.L. Close, Saigon Journal 1942-1945, Chimhenga, Umtali South, August 28, 1952, Imperial War Museum, "Entry of 8-6-1942," and Ch. 8, "BAXTER AND CASSIDY EXECUTED."

(15.) Directive No. 183-DN1/2, "Modificatif No 1 a Circulaire secrete No. 1415-DN1/2 du 27 avril 1942," Dalat, 31 aout 1943, 10 H 81, SHAT.

(16.) Carroll V. Glines, Chennault's Forgotten Warriors The Saga of the 308th Bomb Group in China (Atglenn, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 1995), Ch. 4, 88-89. Martin L. Mickelsen, "The Tragedy of Mission 19 to Haiphong," ring bao Journal, Parts I-III, Vol. 51 (Nos. 323-325), June-December 1998.

(17.) Legrand, L'Indochine, 150 N(1).

(18.) The Binghamton Press, 20 September 1943 and 20 January 1945.

(19.) Ibid., November 3, 1945.

(20.) Interview with former "Pistol-Packing Mama" bombardier Joseph Manella, 21 May 1992.

(21.) Wanda Cornelius and Thayne Short, Ding Hao America's Air War in China 1937-1945 (Gretna, LA: 1980), pp. 332-33.

(22.) Ibid., Ch. 9.

(23.) "Flight Intelligence Report," 75th Fighter Squadron, Kunming, 10/7/43, GP-23-SU-OP-S Aug 43-Dec 43 Pt. 2, AFHRA; Mount Vernon Hawkeye-Record--The Lisbon Herald, Nov. 8, 1945.

(24.) Lettre No. 65 a Resident Superieur de Tonkin (J. Haelwyn), and Resident Superieur de Tonkin (J. Haelwyn) Lettre No. 724-S/SA a Gouvernement general, Hanoi, 13 fevrier 1944, COMREP CM 858, AOM.

(25.) Close, Saigon Journal 1942-1945, "Entry of 17-41944 Monday, 197; Claude de Boisanger, "Note," No. 937-DN1/2, Avril 22, 1944, Carton 10 H 81, SHAT.

(26.) "Raid du Jeudi 9 mars 1944. P. 40 tombe dants la region de An-Chau (Pilote Norton)," COMREP CM 86029, AOM. "Individual Deceased Personnel File," Graves Registration Case 244, Norton, Melvin J., Hanoi, 25 August 1948, U.S. Total Army Personnel Command, U.S. Department of the Army. Unless otherwise noted, the account of Norton's efforts to escape and his death are taken from this file.

(27.) "Weekly Intelligence Summary," June 16, 1944, Headquarters Fourteenth Air Force, File No. 862.607/18-14 June 1944, AFHRA.

(28.) Decoux No. 396/DN a Resuper, Tonkin (Cable) Hanoi, COM REP 860-29, AOM

(29.) Decoux No. 227 Diplo a Monsieur le Resident de France h Lang Son (Bonfils), Hanoi, 27 mars 1944, COM REP 860-29, AOM; Haussaire (Decoux) No. 2434/SP3 A CHEF POST TA LANG--Pour FRANCULAT LONGTCHEOU (Siguret), Hanoi, 5 avril 1944, Ibid.

(30.) "Situation in French Indochina--Jan-April 1945 interview with Sgt. [Burley] Fusilier, Fourteenth Air Force liaison with Free French Military Mission, Kunming--May 15, 1945," Robert B. Holtz, Major, A.C., Historical Officer, File No. 862.609-1, AFHRA.

(31.) Letter, War Department, Edward F. Witsell, Major General, The Adjutant General of the Army to Mrs. Bertha W. Norton, August 26, 1946, courtesy of Ronald Brown.

(32.) "Para E. Death of Norton," "Subject: Report for Period 15 March--31 March 1944," [Lieutenant Robert] Larson Memorandum to Commander Wight, April 2, 1944, Box 36 (Ch 35.3, Folder 3), Miles Papers, RG 38 (OCNI), NARA. "Para D. 11 March Item 1," "Subject: Report for Period 1 March--15 March 1944," Larson Memorandum to Commander Wight, March 17, 1944, Ibid.

(33.) [Handwritten Note], unsigned, undated, "23RD FIGHTER GP," GP-23-SU, 1943-1944, Frame #2317, Microfilm No. B0091, AFHRA.

(34.) John M. Machin Letter to author, Dec. 17, 2002.

(35.) "M[ingant], For Jacques," n.d., Enclosure in "Subject: Liaison with Langson," Larson Memorandum to Wight, March 23, 1944, courtesy of Robert Larson.

(36.) "Subject: setting up Post at Tsinger," Larson Memorandum to Wight, March 31, 1944, courtesy of Robert Larson.

(37.) Holtz, "Situation in French Indochina" File No. 862-609-1, AFHRA.

(38.) Mordant Note h Gougal, Troupes de l'Indochine, Etat-Major, 2[degrees] Bureau No. 293/2B, Hanoi, 16 mai 1944, COMREP CM 187, AOM.

(39.) D'Abzac-Epezy, "Le prix de la survie," 83 N(20).

(40.) "Note No. 360 DP pour Monsieur le Directeur du Cabinet," Hanoi, 15 avril 1944, Direction du Service Diplomatique (Claude de Boisanger), Gouvernement General de l'Indochine, COMREP CM 187, AOM.

(41.) A.L. Jean, "Rapport du Capitaine Jean A. L., Objet: Activite dans la Resistance avant le 9 Mars 1945," 3, Tien Yen le 28 decembre 1946, Force Francaise Indochine du Nord, Forces Cotieres, 10 H 81, SHAT.

(42.) "French Assistance in Indo-China," YH/NN (Nos.)-267-44, From: Cayuga-Red-l, "Intelligence Summary," Hq, O.S.S. Su. Det. 202 C.B.I. APO 627, Box 155, Entry 210, RG 226, NARA. "Tracts de l'Office of War Information: American information sheet dated 7 November 1944 on OWI/CBI AFA-5 leaflet in Annamite and French and translations," BORDEAU D'ENVOY [a] MINISTRERE DES COLONIES, REPUBLIQUE FRANCAISE--Ministrere des AFFAIRES ETRANGERS--Direction Asie- Oceanie, Paris, 8 fevrier 1945, dossier 1223, Carton 135, Indochine Nouveau Fonds, AOM.

(43.) "O. W.I. Pamphlet in Annamese," W. A. Pruett, New York, June 1, 1944, Folder Pruett, Folder # 3, Box 235, Entry 210, RG 226, NARA.

(44.) Le GOUVERNEUR GENERAL de l'INDOCHINE [Decoux] a Messieurs le GENERAL de CORPS D'ARMEE, Commandant Superieur des Troupes de l'Indochina [Mordant]--[et] les chefs d'Administration Locale, No. 10,287-CM, juin 26, 1944, "Avions belligerants et leurs equipages," 10 H 81, SHAT.

(45.) "26th Fighter Squadron Combat History, 1 July 1944," File No. SQ-FI-26-HI, 15 Oct 42 -Mar 45, AFHRA.

(46.) John M. Machin Letter to author, December 17th, 2002.

(47.) Kweilin Cable No. 2 to Kunming, HQ, Fourteenth Air Force, July 19, 1944, "AGFRTS Radio Incoming, 28 May 1944-31 July 1944," File No. 862.1622-1, AFHRA.

(48.) Holtz, "Situation in French Indochina," File No. 862.609-1, AFHRA.

(49.) "4th War Area," Kweilin Cable No. 1 to Kunming, July 12, 1944, HQ Fourteenth Air Force, "AGFRTS Radio Incoming, 28 May 1944-31 July 1944," File No. 862.1622-1, AFHRA. Underlined in text.

(50.) AGAS-China, Hq. Y Force, APO 627, USAF, CBI, 25 April 1944, File No.142.7624, 1944, E&E Reports, China Burma India, Misc. Sources Binder # 1, No. 40, AFHRA.

(51.) AGAS-China, Hq. Y Force, APO 627 c/o PM NYC, 17 April 1944, Ibid. "Entry of April 4, 1944," AGAS-China-Calendar, Folder "AGAS Journal," Box 20, RG 319 (G-2 Intelligence), NARA.

(52.) Lockhart, "FRENCH INDO-CHINA SURVEY OF CONDITIONS--LATE 1944," Frame No. 0306. Decoux, A la Barre, 497.

(53.) Frederic Turpin, De Gaulle, les gaullistes et l'Indochine 1940-1956 (Paris: Les Indes Savantes, 2005), 56-60.

(54.) Cited in Legrand, L'Indochine, 250 Note.

(55.) A partial list of those helped to escape is in: "Rapport sur les activites de la Resistance francaise en Indochine au Profit de la cause ALLIEE," n.d., 10 H 78, SHAT. Captaine [Lucien] Taix, "Activites des services secrets pour la cause alliee," au Commissaire de la Republique pour l'Indochine du nord, Hanoi, 10 novembre 1945, 10 H 18, SHAT; and, Capitaine Raymond Soclet, "Rapport du Capitaine Soclet sur les activites touchant a la Resistance en Indochine dans la periode anterieure au 9 Mars 1945," and "Rapport du Capitaine Soclet du B.S.M," n.d., 10 H 78, SHAT.

(56.) Charles Fenn, At the Dragon's Gate With the OSS in the Far East (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2004), 57-63.

(57.) Jean, "Rapport, activite dans la Resistance avant le 9 mars 1945," 3. See too Leopold Giraud, "Resistance au Tokin, aide aux allies," Hanoi, Novembre 1945, 5.

(58.) Henry A. Lieberman, "Secret Group Saved 898 Fliers who were Downed in China Areas," New York Times, September 29, 1945: 4.

(59.) Pierre Boulle, My Own River Kwai, trans, by Xan Fielding (New York: 1967), Part 5.

(60.) "Evasion Story of Rudolph C. Shaw, 26th FTR SQ," Carl J. Maiser, 1st Lt. AGAS, File No.142.7624, 1945, Headquarters AGAS-China, APO 267, USF China Theater, n.d., China Burma India, E&E Rpts, Miscellaneous Sources Binder # 4, AFHRA. "The real Indo-China by First Lieutenant Shaw," [?Ho Chi Minh], n.d. [November-December 1944], Folder 213, Box 14, Entry 148, RG 226, NARA.

(61.) Interview with "Rudy" Shaw, 12 October 1998.

(62.) Close, Saigon Prison Journal 1942-1945, Chapter 29, "The Escape of Purcell."

(63.) "Interrogation: F/O R.N. Drake, T124910, 16th FTR SQD, 51st FTR GP," Ross M. Taylor, Captain, AGAS, Executive Officer, Headquarters AGAS-China, APO 267, USF China Theater, 21 December 1944, File No.142.7624, 1944-45, CBI Theater, E&E Reports, Misc Sources Binder # 3, AFHRA.

(64.) Maurice Hughett, "Address to Ex-POW Convention," Dallas, TX, September 1988, Audiotape, courtesy of John Hughett.

(65.) L-H. Ayrolles (Serres), L'Indochine ne repond plus (Saint-Brieuc: Armand Prud'home, 1948), Ch. VIII.

(66.) "Subject: Evasion Report of the Crew of B-24 No. 44-40782, 373d Bombardment Squadron" and "Mission 460: Snooper Strike Mission of the South China Sea and Tonkin Gulf," To: Commanding General, Fourteenth Air Force, 1 January 1945, File No. GP-308-SU-OP, Nov-Dec 1944, Headquarters 308th Bombardment Group, Office of the Commanding Officer, File No. GP 308 HI (Bomb) 14 Sept 1942-Dec 44, AFHRA.

(67.) Interview with former "Bobcat" radar operator Joseph P. Medon, 2 December 1993.

(68.) "Walkout story of Hugh C. Pope, S/Sgt ASN 696800, Gunner B-24, 373d Squadron," AGAS/3.4.45/290, Headquarters AGAS-China, APO 267, USF China Theater, 31 March 1945, File No.142.7624, 1944-45, CBI Theater, E&E Reports, Misc Sources Binder # 3, AFHRA.

(69.) Interview with former Sergeant and POW William H. Gettschall, November 7, 1995; "Note pour l'Amiral," 26 Janvier1945, Intendance de Police, Hanoi, COMREP CM 187, AOM.

(70.) Barrett Tillman, "A Sundowner's Adventure," American Aviation Historical Society Journal, Vol. 20 (No. 4), Winter 1975, 274-282.

(71.) Goucoch (Saigon) Telegram No. 281-SPA, a Haussaire, 15 janvier 1945, COMREP CM 187, AOM. Haussaire Telegram No. 195/SPD to Geucoch (Saigon), 16 janvier 1945, Ibid.

(72.) Armand Grebot, "L'Odyssee des six aviateurs americains abattus en Cochinchine le 12 janvier 1945, Recit fait par le S/C. Frau et mis en forme par le Capitaine (ER) Grebot Arm and," n.d., courtesy of Armand Grebot.

(73.) "Report of Captain Beauvallet Bearing on His Imprisonment at Japanese Kempei Tai Headquarters between March and August 1945," Saigon, 2 September 1942, Exhibit No. 2144A, Doc. No. 2771 J-3, International Military Tribunal for the Far East, RG 238.

(74.) Gerald W. Thomas, Torpedo Squadron Four: A Cockpit View of World War H (Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University, 1990), Ch. 23, 154-156, 160. "Notes on Prisoners in French Indo-China," Pers-53222-sq, 27 March 1945, "Memorandum," E.E. Wellitz, It. USNR, "Subject: FIC-Prisoners of War in Swiss Consulate, 23 February 1945 and 27 March 1945, Box 46: "U.S. Naval Personnel Lost in China Coastal Areas," RG 24 (Records of Bureau of Naval Personnel), NARA.

(75.) "War Diary," United States Pacific Fleet, Air Force, Patrol Bombing Squadron Twenty-Five, c/o Fleet Post Office, San Francisco, Calif., 1 February 1945, World War II War Diaries, VPB-25, RG 38 (CNO), NARA.

(76.) Le C[ommandant Andre] Kermarrec, "Activities dans la Resistance en Indochine," Frejus, 8 May 1947, 3.

(77.) "Evasion Stratford, William H. 1st Lt, 0-805217, 308th BM SQD, 373d BM SQD," EX Rpt No. 609, 1 May 1945, RG 389 (Records of the Office of the Provost Marshall General), Reports No. 576-617, NARA.

(78.) Jean, "Rapport du capitaine Jean A. L," 4.

(79.) Close, Saigon Journal 1942-1945, "Entry of 7-3-1945 Wednesday," 226; Taix, "Activites des services secrets pour la cause alliee" and Soclet, "Rapport du Capitaine Soclet."

(80.) Research and Analysis Branch, O.S.S., Programs of Japan in Indo-China, Assemblage #56 (Honolulu: 10 August 1945), 69.

(81.) "'MAGIC'--Diplomatic Summary," SRS 1610 No. 1088, 18 March 1945, Tab A "Japanese Ambassador Matsumoto's Account of the Events in Saigon on the Evening of 9 March," A2, A4, G-2, Office of A.C. of S., War Department, RG 457 (NSA), NARA.

(82.) Claude Hesse d'Alzon, La Presence militaire francaise en Indochine 1940-1945 (Chateau de Vincennes: SHAT, 1985), Chs. XVI and XVII.

(83.) "Subject: Evasion of Major Edwin J. Witzenburger, 26th Fighter Squadron, from French Indo China," AGAS/17.3.45/271, HQ AGAS-China APO 627 USF China Theater, AFHRA. "Deliver Us From Evil," Unpub. MS, Major Edwin Witzenburger, n.d.; Interview, 26 January 1995 and letters to author, 27 April 1995 and 6 June 1995.

(84.) Milt Miller, Tiger Tales (Manhattan, Kans.: Sunflower University Press, 1984), 98-102. "Legion d'honneur ... a titre posthume," Journal Officiel de la Republique Francaise, Decision No. 325, COUARD [sic] (Hubert), 10 Octobre 1946, 1540.

(85.) "Rapport du S/Lieutenant Carret concernant le detachement Anderes," Camp de Tsao Pa, 27 May 1945, Archives du 5[degrees]REI, 12P/82, SHAT. "S/Sgt. George UHRINE, ASN 16152042, 373d Bomb Squadron, 308th Bomb [Group]," Thomas A. McKay, Capt. A.G.A.S., Hanoi, 28 August 1945, courtesy of Thomas McKay. Captain Thomas McKay Telegram NR. 24, Hanoi, 27 August 1945 and NR. 72, Hanoi, 2 September 1945, Folder 3192 "Projects POW Mission," Box 187, Entry 154 (Kunming-Reg -OP-3 thru 4), RG 226, NARA.

(86.) "Deposition -War Crimes In the Matter of the Murder of six U.S. Naval Aviation Crewmen at Ple Tonan French Indo-China. Perpetuation of Testimony of William Authur Quinn, U.S. Navy, Serial No. 347649, First Lieutenant Richard W. Klise, Taken At: 142 General Hospital, Calcutta, India; Date: 13 September 1945. Shelly and William A. Quinn, For A Bag of Rice My Father's War (Platteville, CO: Ozac Enterprises, 2006). Richard Alden Hoffman, The Fighting FLYING BOAT A History of the Martin PBM Marnier (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2004), 49-51, 212-213. Robert Sherrod, History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II (Washington: Combat Forces Press, 1952): 338-339.

(87.) New York Times, 11 Feb. 1948: 30, "SIX Japanese to be Hanged. "Review of Yokohama Class B and Class C War Crimes Trials by the 8th Army Judge Advocate, 1946-1949, Reel 3, Microfilm No. 1112.

(88.) "Search for Missing Personnel," 7 March 1946, China Theater Search Detachment, CTSD Case No. 238, RG 407, NARA, "Subject: Search for Missing Personnel (Lt. J.L. STEVENSON and Ensign D.M. PETERSON)," TO: CO, China Theater Search Detachment, APO 9009, 23 January 1946, File 314.6, China Theater Search Detachment, Sub-Detachment 8, Hanoi, Box 4423, RG 407, NARA; Medecine Capitaine F. C1eret, "AFFAIRE-STEVENSON-PETERSON," n. d., courtesy of Dr. Francois C1eret. Philippe Coll, "Un heros inconnu de la Resistance JEAN TRICOIRE ..." La Charte, Septembre-Octobre, 2000, 13-14. Accounts of the execution of other American fliers in Vietnam are found in: R.E. Peppy Blount, We Band of Brothers (Austin, TX: Eakin Press, 1984), 387-383 and in Laurence J. Hickey, Warpath Across the Pacific (Bolden, CO: International Research and Publishing Corporation, 1984), 376; "Kempitai [sic] on 'Shameful' Execution," The Straits Times, June 1, 1946:5. "U.S. Airman 'Disposed of' by Novocain Injection--Court Told," The Straits Times, June 8, 1943:3; "Subject: War Crimes Courts ... Military Court for the trial of War Criminals," HQ Allied Land Forces, South East Asia Command, 23rd July, 1946, Commander, Singapore District, File No. BM/JAG/65085, War Office 235/869, PRO; "Americans Beheaded After Saigon Bombing Attempt," The Straits Times, March 29, 1946:3. Alan C. Carey, Above An Angry Sea United States Navy B-24 Liberator and PB4Y-2 Privateer Operations in the Pacific October 1944-August 1945 (Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 2001), Ch. 5.

(89.) "Squadron History for July 1945, 449th Fighter Squadron," AFHRA File No. Sq-FI-449-#1, July 45," Microfilm No. A0811, frames 1254, 1261. "Squadron History for September 1945 449th Fighter Squadron, AFHRA File No. Sq-FI-449-HI Sept 45," Ibid, frame 1295. "Palmer T. Foss Life Timeline," quoting Ramsey County [ND] History Book, 1, courtesy of LuAnn (Foss) Regan.

(90.) Stein Tonnesson, The Vietnamese Revolution of 1945 Roosevelt, Ho Chi Minh and de Gaulle in a World at War, (London: Sage Publications, Ltd., 1991).

Martin L. Mickelsen is a seven-year US. Army veteran and received a Ph.D. in French colonial history during World War II from the University of Georgia. After teaching, he retired as a Senior Researcher from the State of Georgia's Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism and is now active in development research. Several of his earlier articles have been published in national and international journals. He has spent the past ten years researching the air war fought in Vietnam during World War II and the French underground's efforts to help downed fliers escape to safety in China.
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Author:Mickelsen, Martin L.
Publication:Air Power History
Geographic Code:9VIET
Date:Sep 22, 2008
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