Operation Masterdom was a British military operation that took place in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1945-1946, as part of the broader context of post-World War II developments in Southeast Asia. This operation aimed to secure the release of French prisoners of war and to assist in the restoration of French colonial control in Vietnam following the Japanese surrender in August 1945.
After the Japanese surrender, the British sought to oversee the disarmament of Japanese forces in Southeast Asia. In the case of Vietnam, the British 20th Indian Division was tasked with disarming the Japanese forces in the region and facilitating the return of French colonial rule. The operation in Saigon was particularly focused on restoring French authority and control in the area.
The Operation Masterdom in Saigon was part of a series of operations undertaken by the British in various parts of Southeast Asia to re-establish colonial control and stabilize the region in the aftermath of the Japanese surrender. It was a significant moment in the complex post-war geopolitical landscape of the region, which ultimately had a lasting impact on the political developments in Vietnam and the broader Southeast Asian context.
Captain Frost, my father, was posted to Indochina (Operation Masterdom) in September 1945 and, with two hundred others, flew to Saigon to take the surrender of 70,000 Japanese troops while the rest of the Division went by sea. He was then commanding 604 FSS, attached to HQ 20 (Indian Division).
As the Viet Cong under Ho Chi Min (who had been trained and armed by the Americans) started to cause problems, the Allies had to re-arm some Japanese soldiers to provide protection while the main force was still at sea.
My father told me that he ended up driving around Saigon in his jeep with armed Japanese troops providing close protection – which must have been a strange turn of events as he had been fighting against the Japanese in Burma just a few weeks before.
A later mission saw Captain Frost in the Dutch Celebes to help resolve a mutiny of Dutch troops.