19 December 1946

The First Indochina War starts.

The First Indochina War began in French Indochina on 19 December 1946, and lasted until 20 July 1954. Fighting between French forces and their Vi?t Minh opponents in the south dated from September 1945. The conflict pitted a range of forces, including the French Union’s French Far East Expeditionary Corps, led by France and supported by B?o ??i’s Vietnamese National Army against the Vi?t Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh and the People’s Army of Vietnam led by Võ Nguyên Giáp. Most of the fighting took place in Tonkin in northern Vietnam, although the conflict engulfed the entire country and also extended into the neighboring French Indochina protectorates of Laos and Cambodia.

At the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, the Combined Chiefs of Staff decided that Indochina south of latitude 16° north was to be included in the Southeast Asia Command under British Admiral Mountbatten. Japanese forces located south of that line surrendered to him and those to the north surrendered to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. In September 1945, Chinese forces entered Tonkin, and a small British task force landed at Saigon. The Chinese accepted the Vietnamese government under Ho Chi Minh, then in power in Hanoi. The British refused to do likewise in Saigon, and deferred to the French there from the outset, against the ostensible support of the Vi?t Minh authorities by American OSS representatives. On V-J Day, September 2, Ho Chi Minh had proclaimed in Hanoi the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The DRV ruled as the only civil government in all of Vietnam for a period of about 20 days, after the abdication of Emperor B?o ??i, who had governed under Japanese rule. On 23 September 1945, with the knowledge of the British commander in Saigon, French forces overthrew the local DRV government, and declared French authority restored in Cochinchina. Guerrilla warfare began around Saigon immediately, but the French gradually retook control of the South and North of Indochina. Hô Chi Minh agreed to negotiate the future status of Vietnam, but the talks, held in France, failed to produce a solution. After over one year of latent conflict, all-out war broke out in December 1946 between French and Vi?t Minh forces as Hô and his government went underground. The French tried to stabilize Indochina by reorganizing it as a Federation of Associated States. In 1949, they put former Emperor B?o ??i back in power, as the ruler of a newly established State of Vietnam.

The first few years of the war involved a low-level rural insurgency against the French. In 1949 the conflict turned into a conventional war between two armies equipped with modern weapons supplied by the United States, China and the Soviet Union. French Union forces included colonial troops from the whole former empire Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Laotian, Cambodian, and Vietnamese ethnic minorities, French professional troops and units of the French Foreign Legion. The use of metropolitan recruits was forbidden by the government to prevent the war from becoming even more unpopular at home. It was called the “dirty war” by leftists in France.

The strategy of pushing the Vi?t Minh into attacking well-defended bases in remote parts of the country at the end of their logistical trails was validated at the Battle of Nà S?n. However, this base was relatively weak because of a lack of concrete and steel. French efforts were made more difficult due to the limited usefulness of armored tanks in a jungle environment, lack of strong air forces for air cover and carpet bombing, and use of foreign recruits from other French colonies. Võ Nguyên Giáp, however, used efficient and novel tactics of direct fire artillery, convoy ambushes and massed anti-aircraft guns to impede land and air supply deliveries together with a strategy based on recruiting a sizable regular army facilitated by wide popular support, a guerrilla warfare doctrine and instruction developed in China, and the use of simple and reliable war material provided by the Soviet Union. This combination proved fatal for the bases’ defenses, culminating in a decisive French defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

At the International Geneva Conference on July 21, 1954, the new socialist French government and the Vi?t Minh made an agreement that was denounced by the State of Vietnam and by the United States, but which effectively gave the Vi?t Minh control of North Vietnam above the 17th parallel. The south continued under B?o ??i. A year later, B?o ??i would be deposed by his prime minister, Ngô ?ình Di?m, creating the Republic of Vietnam. Soon an insurgency, backed by the north, developed against Di?m’s government. The conflict gradually escalated into the Vietnam War/American War also known as the Second Indochina War.

19 December 1967

The Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, is officially declared dead.

Harold Holt, the Prime Minister of Australia, disappeared while swimming near Portsea, Victoria, on 17 December 1967. A massive search operation was mounted in and around Cheviot Beach, but his body was never recovered. He was eventually declared dead in absentia, and his memorial service five days later was attended by many world leaders. It is generally agreed that his disappearance was a simple case of an accidental drowning, but a number of conspiracy theories still surfaced, most famously the suggestion that he had been collected by a Chinese submarine. Holt was the third Australian prime minister to die in office, after Joseph Lyons in 1939 and John Curtin in 1945. He was initially replaced in a caretaker capacity by John McEwen, and then by John Gorton following a Liberal Party leadership election. Holt’s death has entered Australian folklore, and was commemorated by, among other things, the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Centre.

Harold Holt became Prime Minister of Australia in January 1966, following the retirement of Robert Menzies. He was a career politician, entering parliament at the age of 27 and becoming a government minister at the age of 30. Emulating Menzies, Holt refused a security detail upon taking office – he considered it unnecessary and potentially alienating to the general public. His stance changed after two incidents in mid-1966 – a window in his office was shattered by a sniper, and then an assassination attempt was made on Arthur Calwell, the Leader of the Opposition. Holt begrudgingly accepted a single bodyguard for his official duties, but refused any protection while on holiday, regarding it as a violation of his privacy. His wife Zara would later suggest that this was so he could hide his extramarital affairs.

19 December 1932

The British Broadcasting Corporation World Service start broadcasting as the BBC Empire Service.

The BBC’s Empire Service began short-wave broadcasts on 12 December 1932, from Daventry, England, with the purpose of providing a radio service for the colonies and dominions of the British Empire – and as such constituting the initial version of what would become the BBC World Service.

Whilst the Empire Service has been discussed in terms of the general history of the BBC, with the exception of McKenzie’s (1987) overview chapter it has been the subject of little scholarly attention in its own
right. The concern of this paper is to examine the light cast by psychoanalytically derived perspectives on the voice and the terms in which the voice figures in regard to Lacan’s conception of the discourse of the master, on principally the political functions of the Empire Service – from its commencement at the close of 1932 through to the outbreak of the Second World War; and secondly on the BBC’s initial foreign language services which developed out of the Empire Service.