White Soldiers of Ho-Chi-Minh

Have you ever heard of the “White Soldiers of Ho-Chi-Minh''? This is a chapter of the Vietnam War that is mostly omitted when we learn history in France. Vincent, our guest from Episode 13, reveals us all about it: his grand-father was one of them.

His grand-father was Spanish and joined the French “Foreign Legion” to fight in Vietnam in 1945, officially to chase the Japanese army away. But once in Vietnam, the soldiers realised that they were sent there on another mission. What was really requested of them was to commit crimes against the local Vietnamese population, who were at the time rebelling against the French presence there. They had to tame the Vietnamese rebellion by fighting them, intimidating civilians and perpetrating abuses. Once they realised the reason why they were sent there, some soldiers rebelled and decided to join the Viet Minh troops, along with General Ho-Chi-Minh.

This phenomenon was documented in French director Erick Zonca’s movie “White Soldier”, where two friends in the army choose opposite sides once they discover they have to fight natives instead of the Japanese aggressors.Our guest Vincent also recommends us a book on the matter, “The White Soldiers of Ho-Chi-Minh” by Jacques Doillon.

After the war, Vincent’s grand-father married a Vietnamese woman. They had a baby girl, Vincent’s mother, and all moved to France. Vincent’s mother later married another Vietnamese immigrant in France. Vincent was born in France, a mixed-race French boy, three-quarters Vietnamese, and one-quarter Spanish. He was raised in the Parisian region, worked for a few years in Boston, then moved to Singapore eleven years ago for his work. He is now married to a Singaporean woman and they have two children. With such a diverse and rich background, how much of it will be passed on to his children?

Vincent feels the need to share his story and his experience as a multicultural and mixed-race Asian guy in France and in the US, where he also lived. As much as he is assimilated in the French culture, he carries with him the heavy and painful past of his parents and grand-parents. He doesn’t feel entirely like any other French guy, or even any other Vietnamese guy. People also perceived him differently in France and in the US: in France, he was seen as Asian, and in the US as Latino, or French, because of his behaviour. And now that he lives in Singapore, how do people perceive him? What is his experience here and has he reconciled his multiple facets and diverse heritage? Listen to our Episode #13 (in French) to know more about it!

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