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Vietnamese Famine of 1945: Wikis


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The Vietnamese Famine of 1945 (Vietnamese: Nạn đói Ất Dậu - Famine of the Ất Dậu Year) was a famine that occurred in northern Vietnam from October 1944 to May 1945, during the Japanese occupation of the country. Between 400,000 and 2 million people are estimated to have starved to death during this time.



There were many causes of this famine. The direct cause was the effects of World War II on French Indochina. Involvements of France, Japan, and the United States in Vietnam caused detrimental effects to the economic activities of the Vietnamese. Military and economic changes caused the northern part of the country, historically barely able to sustain itself, to plunge into famine.

Indirectly, the mismanagement of the French administration in Vietnam played a role. The French reformed the economy in order to serve the administration and to meet the needs of war, because they were being invaded themselves. Natural causes included natural disasters such as floods destroying northern crops.



After the Great Depression in the 1930s, France returned to its policy of economic protectorate and monopolized the exploitation of natural resources in Indochina. The people in Indochina had to increase the economic value of the area, but only the French and a small minority of Vietnamese and Hoa and some people in the cities benefited. As a result, just prior to World War II, Vietnam was still poor even when compared to other Asian countries. When the war started, France was weakened. In East Asia, Japan began to expand and viewed Indochina as a bridge into South Asia and dominate China. In mid-1940, France was occupied by Germany and Japan increased pressure on France and entered Indochina the following year. Vietnam was pulled into a wartime economy, with France and Japan competing in administration. Many people blame the famine on Japanese troops hoarding foodstuff from farmers, forcing them to grow jute instead of rice, thus depriving them of needed food, but in reality France had started the same policy earlier. They had decreased the land set aside for growing staple crops such as maize and potatoes to make land for growing cotton, jute, and other industrial plants. Because of the decreased land available for growing, harvests of staple crops decreased considerably.

Japan and the US

While Vietnam was occupied by Japan, the Allies, especially the United States, often bombed roads, making the transport of rice from the south to the north extremely hard. Both France and Japan forcibly hoarded food from farmers to feed their troops, while the French administration was broken and unable to supply and distribute the food. The inadequate food supply caused the famine, appearing in the beginning of 1944. In March 1945, Japan took over and established a government headed by Trần Trọng Kim. While this government tried to alleviate the suffering, they were unable to do so because Japan still stuck to its policy of hoarding food.

Natural disasters

Because of war and the paralysis of government, prices of essential goods, especially foodstuff, skyrocketed. In the north, a drought coupled with pests caused the winter-spring harvest of 1944 to decrease by 20%. After that there was a flood during the harvest season, causing the crisis to occur.


There are no exact data regarding the number of people who starved to death, but various sources estimate between 400,000 to 2 million peopled starved in northern Vietnam during this time. In May 1945, the envoy at Hanoi asked the northern provinces to report their casualties. 20 provinces reported a total of 380,000 people who starved to death, and 20,000 because of disease, 400,000 in total. In October, a report from a French military official estimated half a million deaths. The Governor General Jean Decoux wrote in his memoirs A la barre de l'Indochine that about 1 million northerners starved to death. Vietnamese historians estimate between 1 and 2 million deaths. Later historians cite the 1 million figure while people living in the north during that time cited the 2 million figure. Ho Chi Minh in his speech declaring independence from France in September 2, 1945 used the 2 million figure.

See also

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