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Fighting between French forces and their Viet 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 Emperor Bảo Đại's Vietnamese National Army against the Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh and the People's Army of Vietnam led by Vo Nguyen Giap.
From October 1940 to May 1941, during the Franco-Thai War, the Vichy French in Indochina were involved with defending their colony in a border conflict which saw the forces of Thailand invade, while the Japanese sat on the sidelines.
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.
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. The first few years of the war involved a low-level rural insurgency against the French.
However, after the Chinese communists reached the northern border of Vietnam in 1949, the conflict turned into a conventional war between two armies equipped with modern weapons supplied by the United States and the Soviet Union.