Looking back on Vietnam’s famine 70 years ago
  • By Hien Huong | | August 11, 2015 08:36 PM
Although the catastrophic famine in 1945 took place 70 years ago, it remains a major national pain as it claimed over two million lives.


Severe famine in 1945. Photo by Vo An Ninh

The famine was considered “frightful destruction”, and was triggered after the Japanese army confiscated Vietnam’s rice reserves.
Late President Ho Chi Minh compared the famine to the losses of French and German people killed in the World War II, “Famine is more severe than war. For example, during six years of war, France lost one million people and Germany three million people. The six-month famine in northern Vietnam claimed over two million lives.”
Several documents also indicate the number of deaths could be even higher.


Thai Binh was hardest hit by the famine. Photo by Vo An Ninh

The famine lasted from late 1944 through May 1945, ravaging from central Quang Tri Province to the northern region. The northern province of Thai Binh was the hardest hit.
The book Vietnam’s Famine in 1945 – Historical Evidence by Prof. Van Tao and Prof. Furuta Mota, said Thai Binh Province’s Tay Luong Commune in Tien Hai District was the most terribly stroke by the famine, with nearly 67% of residents in the commune dying of famine, with many families completely extinguished.
From January 1945 to May 1945, dead bodies scattered the countryside from Quang Tri to the north.


Dead bodies found everywhere. Photo by Vo An Ninh

Over the past 70 years, collective graves have remained obsessive pain for several generations.

Many books were written about the famine, specifically describing the problem.

Writer To Hoai said in his work Hanoi’s Old Story, “Words cannot fully describe the famine in 1945. My words seemed to tremble uncontrollably. It’s too terrible.”

Professors Van Tao and Mota specifically described the reason for the famine. The wrote that the Japanese government confiscated the rice that the French colonial administration had stored for emergencies.


Collecting dead bodies on the street. Photo by Vo An Ninh

Cholera quickly spread during floods. The Japanese government forced Vietnamese farmers to destroy rice and plant jute. Political and military instability seriously affected food production in the north, resulting in a severe food shortage.

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