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[Photos] The Vietnamese Soldiers Of WWI

Whereas the story of World War I traditionally filters through the lens of the major European powers, colonial ties produced a transcontinental story with the militaries of France and Britain comprised of many colonial troops.

While the colonial contribution to the First World War is often relegated to a footnote in the greater story of the war, troops from French Indochina, including Vietnam, played an integral role in the bloody conflict.

Serving mainly as laborers, the role of the colonial French Army, or Armée Français D’Orient, was vital in the logistical planning and execution of wartime movements on the Western Front.

Annamites, as the Vietnamese were called, also served on the battlefield in combat battalions. While figures aren’t exact, and the numbers often conflicting, it is estimated that upwards of 100,000 Vietnamese enlisted and served in WWI. Even though 1,374 Vietnamese officially died in the conflict, as per the Ministère De La Défense Français, estimates are often cited up to 30,000 killed.

While conscription was illegal in the colonies, promises of greater freedoms lured many Vietnamese to “volunteer” for military service. When many returned home to Vietnam, they found these promises to be hollow. Broken promises coupled with the newly found knowledge acquired in Europe fueled the fires of liberation following the war. 

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