Bao Dai cooperated with Japan during World War II, especially after Tokyo proclaimed Vietnamese independence under his rule in March 1945. During the Vietnamese Revolution later that year, however, he abdicated and became an advisor to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV, North Vietnam). Disillusioned with Viet Minh rule, he left the country in 1946.
In 1947, the French government pressed Bao Dai to return to Vietnam as head of a new state within a French imperial federation. Paris hoped that the new regime, formally established in 1949 as the State of Vietnam, would satisfy nationalist demands for autonomy and coax partisans of Ho Chi Minh to abandon the Viet Minh cause. French leaders also hoped that a veneer of Vietnamese independence would entice the United States into backing the floundering French war effort against the Viet Minh. Critics charged that Bao Dai was nothing more than a French puppet, but Washington, eager to resist communism in Asia after the outbreak of the Korean War, recognized his government in 1950 and provided it with increasing amounts of aid.
The so-called Bao Dai Solution failed to win popular support. Following the end of the Indochina War, Bao Dai named Ngo Dinh Diem as his premier. Later regretting this move, Bao Dai tried to regain control, finally authorizing one of his generals to lead a coup against Diem. The coup failed, and Diem then called an election in October 1955 to determine whether the nation should be a monarchy or a republic. Diem won the rigged referendum by an overwhelming vote and became president of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN, South Vietnam). Bao Dai spent much of the remainder of his life at his chateau near Cannes, France. He died in Paris on 30 July 1997.
Mark Atwood Lawrence
Currey, Cecil B. "Bao Dai: The Last Emperor." Viet Nam Generation 6(1–2) (1994): 199–206.; Duiker, William. Sacred War: Nationalism and Revolution in a Divided Vietnam. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994.