At the end of the Second World War France sought to reassert its military prestige, but instead suffered humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu in French colonial Indochina. The First Indochina war became a textbook example of how not to conduct counterinsurgency warfare against nationalist guerrillas. Anthony Tucker-Jones guides the reader through this decisive conflict with a concise text and contemporary photographs, providing critical insight into the conduct of the war by both sides and its wider ramifications.
The Viet Minh, after resisting the Japanese in Indochina, sought independence for Vietnam from France. The French, with limited military resources, moved swiftly to reassert control in 1945, sparking a decade-long conflict. French defence of Hanoi rested on holding the Red River Delta, making it a key battleground. When the Viet Minh invaded neighbouring Laos the French deployed to fight a set-piece battle at Dien Bien Phu, in 1954, but instead were trapped. All relief attempts failed and French defences were slowly overwhelmed. America considered coming to the garrison’s rescue using nuclear weapons, but instead left it to its fate, which set the scene for the Algerian and the Vietnam conflicts.
DIEN BIEN PHU The First Indochina War 1946-1954
The Battle of Dien Bien Phu was the climactic confrontation of the First Indochina War between the French and Viet Minh communist revolutionaries. A set piece battle from the French view before the event, it culminated in a comprehensive and humiliating French defeat. The Viet Minh captured 8,000 French and marched them 500 miles on foot to prison camps; less than half survived the march.
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