Monday, October 10, 2011
Monarchist Profile: Jean Leroy
The United States, eager to stop the spread of Communism, ended up providing roughly 80% of the French war effort as well as providing war materiel and a few advisors to the hard fighting French forces which were hard pressed. All of these hardships and shortages meant that groups on the ground in Vietnam often had to fend for themselves such as the minority religious groups such as the Hoa Hao (effectively Buddhist fundamentalists), the Cao Dai (a combination of all major religions) and the Vietnamese Catholics. The Catholic community contributed to the war, and though there were some supposed Catholics who joined the Communists in the north, the faithful Catholics knew they could never support a regime based on atheism and hatred of tradition and so determined to resist them, on their own, if they had to. One of my favorites was a particular Vietnamese bishop who formed his own militia and ruled his own little fiefdom in central Vietnam during this period.
When regular French forces arrived they were surprised to find these Catholic areas already under the protection of these modest but very disciplined and determined independent, local militias. Still, they respected their abilities and when the regular French army was withdrawn from the area in 1949 Colonel Jean Leroy was given command of all UMDC units and responsibility for the whole province. In fact, this was simply official recognition of the situation that already existed. Colonel Leroy, using his military and diplomatic talents, had already taken it upon himself to defend the province and had organized the forces himself which had done just that. It is a testament to the effectiveness of the Catholic Vietnamese soldiers that within one year they had the entire province pacified and totally free of communist harassment. Few other areas could boast of such a record even with far greater resources at their disposal. However, Colonel Leroy had mobilized public support for his forces in these Catholic areas, the people understood the consequences of the conflict and he developed highly advanced rapid-response tactics and from the start had organized his military forces to fit the needs of the unique style of warfare in Vietnam.
It was certainly no easy task, however, eventually Colonel Leroy was to face more trouble from his own side than from the Communists who he had made such short work of. Knowing that the oppressed peasants were the primary base of support for the communists, Leroy lowered their taxes and ordered the wealthier landlords to pay more money to support his own troops as well as social projects to improve the lives of the peasants and so earn their support. Naturally, the landlords resented this and the generals of the National Army of Vietnam, which the French had by then allowed to be formed, were embarrassed by the fact that Colonel Leroy, with about 3,240 troops, was accomplishing more than they were with 5,840 troops. It made them look very bad that one colonel had put together this small motley force and yet was doing more with less and in record time than they were with all of the resources at their disposal. So it was that after earning too many enemies in high places with his record of success, Leroy was promoted or “kicked up-stairs” and his Catholic brigades were disbanded in 1952. The area was handed over to Vietnamese National Army forces which soon proved totally incapable of keeping the province free of Communist activity. For his part, Colonel Leroy went to fight as a counter-terrorism officer in Algeria on orders from President DeGaulle.