Beyond the Mekong

Surviving Saigon in 1945 and a Dog Named Mephisto

Recent Features

Beyond the Mekong | Politics | Southeast Asia

Surviving Saigon in 1945 and a Dog Named Mephisto

A conversation with author Thierry de Roland Peel.

Surviving Saigon in 1945 and a Dog Named Mephisto
Credit: Steven Gardennec

Thierry de Roland Peel will shortly release his first book “Ashes from Annam,” which tells the story of how his mother and her family survived the incredible upheavals in Saigon at the end of World War II when the occupying Japanese realized they had lost.

Central to the story is the family dog, Mephisto, a lively Groenendael, who delivered secret messages to the outside world as the frontlines surrounding their home changed constantly with the Japanese, French, British, and Vietnamese communists vying for control and influence.

De Roland Peel also serves-up a delightful history lesson about a time and place that deserves greater attention, in particular how Japan kickstarted the first Indochina war, drawing the United States into Vietnam and a conflict that would last for another two decades.

Following the end of World War II, the family moved to Ceylon where another war was unfolding and then to Britain where De Roland Peel spent three years in the British military before embarking on a career in finance.

His family roots in Indochina date back to the 19th century and over the past 30 years De Roland Peel has worked as an investor in Cambodia following a request from King Norodom Sihanouk – extended to his mother – to help in post-war reconstruction.

The devastation and genocide inflicted by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge emerged from a conflict that had its early beginnings in World War II.

The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt spoke with De Roland Peel following his guest appearance at the recent Angkor Writers and Readers Festival in Siem Reap, and a tour across northern Cambodia where he revisited many of the historical sites and small towns once engulfed by war.

Luke Hunt can be followed on Patreon and Twitter.