The first air strikes in 30 years of bitter conflict in French Indochina and Vietnam were actually conducted by a trio of RAF Spitfires, as Andrew Thomas reveals

Spitfire Mk.VIIIs of 273 Squadron at Tan Son Nhut, Saigon. These aircraft mounted the RAF’s only offensive action in French Indochina

The sudden collapse of the Japanese military in August 1945 left considerable turmoil in its wake. Throughout Southeast Asia, great power vacuums formed in many Japanese-occupied European possessions.

In French Indochina, the Communist League for the Independence of Vietnam, which had pledged to resist the return of French rule, rushed to fill the gap.

More widely known as the Viet Minh, the group had initial success in staging uprisings that led to it seizing control of much of the country – in particular, the northern province of Tonkin – by September 1945.

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