Ho's effort during this period were directed primarily at conciliating both the French themslves and the militarily anti-french members of the ICP leadership. The growing frequency of clashes between French and Vietnamese forces in Haiphong led to a French naval bombardment of that port city in Nov 1946. Estimates of Vietnamese casualities from the action range from 6,000 to 20,000. This incident and the arrival of 1,000 troops of the French Foreign Legion in central and northern Vietnam in early Dec. convinced the communists, including Ho, that should prepare for war. On Dec 19, the French demanded that the Vietnamese forces in the Hanoi area disarm and transfer responsibility for law and order to French authority. That evening, the Viet Minh responded by attacking the city's electric plant and other French installations around the area. Forewarned , the French seized Gia Lam airfield and took control of the central part of Hanoi, as full scale war broke. By late Jan., the French had retaken most of the provincial capitals, in Northern and central Vietnam. Hue fell in early Feb., after a six-week seige. The Viet Minh, which avoided using its main force units against the French at that time, continued to control most of the countryside, where it concentrated on building up its military strength and setting up guerrilla training programs in liberated areas. Seizing the initiative, however, the French north to the Chinese border in autumn of 1947, lnflicting heavy casualities on the Viet Minh and retaking much of the Viet Bac region.
Meanwhile, in 1947 the Viet Minh in Cochinchina had destroyed all chance for alliance with the religious sects by executing Huynh Phu So, leader of the Hoa Hao and the Cao Dai formed alliances soon afterward with the French. The Committee for the south, which had seriously damaged the Communist image in Cochinchina by its hard-line approach, replaced in 1951 by the central office for South Vietnam (COSVN, trung Oung Cuc Mien Nan), headed by Le Duan. In the north, however, the political and military situation had begun to improve for the Communists by late 1948. The Viet Minh had increased the the number of its troops to more than 2,50,000 and through guerrilla activities, the communists had managed to retake the part of the Viet Bac as well as a number of small liberated base areas in the south. ICP political power was also growing , although lack of a land reform program and the continued moderate policy towards the patriotic landed gentry discouraged peasant support for the Communists. In 1948, the French responded to the growing strength of the Viet Minh by granting ninimal Independence to all of Vietnam's Independence was, in reality, devoid of any practical significance. The new Govt, established with Bao Dai as chief of state, was viewed critically by nationalists as well as Communists . Most prominent nationalists, including Ngo Dinh Diem (President Republic of Vietnam, South Vietnam, 1955-63), refused positions in the Government, and many left the country.