Franskmænd besejrede ved Dien Bien Phu

Franskmænd besejrede ved Dien Bien Phu

I det nordvestlige Vietnam besejrer Ho Chi Minhs Viet Minh -styrker afgørende franskmændene ved Dien Bien Phu, en fransk højborg belejret af de vietnamesiske kommunister i 57 dage. Viet Minh -sejren ved Dien Bien Phu signalerede afslutningen på den franske koloniale indflydelse i Indokina og rydde vejen for delingen af ​​Vietnam langs den 17. parallel på Genèves konference.

Den 2. september 1945, timer efter at japanerne underskrev deres ubetingede overgivelse i Anden Verdenskrig, udråbte kommunistisk leder Ho Chi Minh den uafhængige demokratiske republik Vietnam i håb om at forhindre franskmændene i at genvinde deres tidligere koloniale besiddelse. I 1946 accepterede han tøvende et fransk forslag, der tillod Vietnam at eksistere som en autonom stat i den franske union, men kampe brød ud, da franskmændene forsøgte at genetablere kolonistyret. Fra 1949 kæmpede Viet Minh en stadig mere effektiv guerillakrig mod Frankrig med militær og økonomisk bistand fra det nyligt kommunistiske Kina. Frankrig modtog militær bistand fra USA.

I november 1953 besatte franskmændene, der var trætte af jungelkrig, Dien Bien Phu, en lille bjergpost på den vietnamesiske grænse nær Laos. Selvom vietnameserne hurtigt afbrød alle veje til fortet, var franskmændene sikre på, at de kunne leveres med fly. Fortet var også ude i det fri, og franskmændene mente, at deres overlegne artilleri ville holde positionen sikker. I 1954 bevægede Viet Minh -hæren under general Vo Nguyen Giap sig mod Dien Bien Phu og omringede den i marts med 40.000 kommunistiske tropper og tungt artilleri.

Det første Viet Minh -angreb mod de 13.000 forskansede franske tropper kom den 12. marts, og trods massiv luftstøtte holdt franskmændene kun to kvadratkilometer i slutningen af ​​april. Den 7. maj, efter 57 dages belejring, kollapsede de franske stillinger. Selvom nederlaget bragte en ende på den franske koloniale indsats i Indokina, trådte USA hurtigt op for at fylde tomrummet og øgede militær bistand til Sydvietnam og sendte de første amerikanske militære rådgivere til landet i 1959.

LÆS MERE: Hvad førte til starten på Vietnamkrigen?


Slaget ved Dien Bien Phu

Vores redaktører gennemgår, hvad du har indsendt, og afgør, om artiklen skal revideres.

Slaget ved Dien Bien Phu, det afgørende engagement i den første Indokina -krig (1946–54). Det bestod af en kamp mellem franske og Viet Minh (vietnamesiske kommunistiske og nationalistiske) styrker om kontrol over en lille bjergpost på den vietnamesiske grænse nær Laos. Viet Minh-sejren i denne kamp sluttede effektivt den otte år gamle krig.

Slaget sluttede sig i slutningen af ​​1953, da franske styrker, der hurtigt havde mistet terræn til den populært understøttede Viet Minh, besatte byen Dien Bien Phu i et forsøg på at skære de nationalistiske forsyningslinjer ind i Laos og opretholde en base for strejfer mod fjendtlige styrker. Selvom vietnameserne hurtigt skar alle veje ind i Dien Bien Phu, hvilket kun gjorde det muligt med fly, var franskmændene sikre på deres position. De blev dermed overrasket, da general Viet Minh. Vo Nguyen Giap omringede basen med 40.000 mand og brugte tungt artilleri til at bryde de franske linjer. På trods af tung amerikansk bistand blev basen overrendt den 7. maj 1954.

Da franske styrker var i uorden efter slaget, søgte den franske regering en ende på kampene, der blev forhandlet om et officielt forlig på en international konference i Genève. Den franske fornemmelse af national ydmygelse, især akut i hæren, havde varige konsekvenser for den franske opinion og bidrog - sammen med senere begivenheder i Algeriet - til den fjerde republiks undergang i 1958.

Denne artikel blev senest revideret og opdateret af Michael Ray, Editor.


Kamp mod glemsel: nederlaget, der sluttede fransk kolonistyre i Vietnam

D ien Bien Phu: tre ord, der i Frankrig stadig er synonymt med et symbolsk nederlag. Den 7. maj 1954, efter 57 dage og nætter med hårde kampe mellem Viet Minh -tropper og medlemmer af den franske ekspeditionsstyrke, sejrede oprørerne endelig.

Som historiker Jean-Pierre Rioux bemærkede, var dette "det eneste slag, der var tabt af en europæisk hær i afkoloniseringens historie", og det signalerede begyndelsen på enden for Frankrigs imperium. Sejren fra soldaterne i Ho Chi Minh ville veje på Genève-forhandlingerne, hvoraf den 21. juli 1954 sluttede den franske premierminister Pierre Mendès-Frankrig aftalen, der sluttede den første krig i Indokina. Det havde varet otte år og efterlod 3.420 dræbte og 5.300 sårede blandt franskmændene og mange flere blandt Viet Minh.

På det tidspunkt beskrev militæret Dien Bien Phu som en kuvetteeller bassin. Men da vi landede på landingsbanen, som oprindeligt blev anlagt af franskmændene og nu er asfalteret, var helhedsindtrykket meget anderledes. Det ligner mere et stort badekar, omgivet af bakker og bjerge, der danner siderne af en bred dal.

Lige så overraskende er Dien Bien Phu en stor, temmelig rodet by (befolkning omkring 100.000), med huse lappet sammen tilfældigt med udsigt over flere lange veje. Det ligner en provinshovedstad, og ved første øjekast er der ikke noget, der minder om slaget for 60 år siden, da dalen var tyndt befolket af Tai etnisk minoritet. Når man går ned ad gaden, er der bestemt ingen tegn på bakkerne, der spredte sletten og dannede en ring af højborg, der skulle beskytte hovedlejren i midten. Franskmændene havde forstærket disse positioner og givet dem kvindenavne som Eliane, Béatrice, Gabrielle og Huguette. Faktisk dækker byen over sådanne detaljer. I Hanoi fortalte veteraner, der deltog i slaget, at de var utilfredse med denne tendens. De ville gerne have, at Dien Bien Phu blev, som det var, et mindested og et levende museum for en af ​​moderne tiders store sejre.

Da Viet Minh lancerede deres angreb den 13. marts, kløede de franske styrker under general Christian de Castries efter en kamp. De var overbeviste om, at de med deres ildkraft, luftfart, artilleri og befæstninger ville være i stand til at drive fjenden tilbage i en fælde. Begge sider synes at have været fast besluttet på at gøre dette til moder til alle kampe. Franskmændene mente, at hvis de kunne besejre oprørerne her, kunne de køre dem tilbage til Laos. General Vo Nguyen Giap, der kastede de fleste styrker, han havde til rådighed, ind i slaget, så også kuvetten som en fælde, men for franskmændene.

I Hanoi talte vi med Nguyen Phuong Nam, 84, der kæmpede ved Dien Bien Phu og befalede et 800-stærkt regiment og fungerede som politisk kommissær. "Vi var nødt til at slæbe kanonerne op ad bakkerne med udsigt over dalen, efter at have demonteret dem og transporteret dem på tømmerflåder," siger han. "Det var hårdt arbejde at komme igennem junglen, med varmen og vandfaldene. Men vi gjorde det, fordi vi ville have uafhængighed. Vi var først og fremmest en bonde af soldater, og vi vidste, at sejr ville ændre vores liv. Sådan en moralsk kraft var utænkelig for franskmændene. "

Så klokken 17.00 den 13. marts åbnede Viet Minh -kanonerne ild mod Béatrice - som faktisk bestod af tre separate, godt befæstede høje. Betjentene blev dræbt, og en efter en faldt de forskellige fæstninger til fjenden. Ved midnat var Béatrice ude af luften. Franskmændene blev fuldstændig overrasket. De anede ikke, at Viet Minh kunne styre en sådan ildkraft, stort set takket være det kommunistiske Kina og i mindre grad Sovjetunionen. I alt havde de 20 105 mm kanoner, 24 75 mm bjergkanoner, tunge mørtel og luftværnskanoner. Derudover havde Giap opsat 30 regelmæssige bataljoner - omkring 40.000 soldater - uden at tælle støttetropper og frivillige. Franskmændene havde flere infanterienheder og faldskærmssoldater, nogle tilhørte fremmedlegionen, i alt omkring 15.700 mænd, hvoraf mange var fra nord- eller vestafrika.

Når man udforsker Béatrice's rekonstituerede skyttegrave nu, er det let at forestille sig de frygtelige forhold for tropper, der hukede sig bag deres befæstninger, da skaller regnede ned og kæmpede for at afvise angreb med maskingeværild. I midten af ​​marts var situationen forværret så langt, at general René Cogny, chef for franske styrker i Tonkin (Nordvietnam), fortalte general Henri Navarre, ekspeditionsstyrkens leder, at "Dien Bien Phu kan falde den følgende nat". Men Giap, hvis styrker havde lidt store tab i angreb på franske positioner, besluttede at holde op. Den 30. marts startede "slaget om de fem bakker" imidlertid. Den ene efter den anden blev fæstningerne - Huguette, Dominique og Claudine - overrendt og efterlod kun Eliane, endnu en række bakker, for at beskytte basislejren. Dramaets sidste akt udspillede sig omkring Eliane 2, hvor franskmændene gjorde deres sidste, selvmordsstand.

Vietnameserne har fokuseret meget på deres efterfølgende bestræbelser på at mindes slaget på dette sted. Bortset fra et nyt museum, der åbnede den 7. maj, er alt, man normalt ser, plaketter, hvoraf få er oversat til fransk eller engelsk. Men på Eliane 2 kan besøgende se en befæstet kommandopost og vragdele af en amerikansk M24 Chaffee -tank, der nu er sat på en piedestal og er beskyttet af glas. Frem for alt er der skyttegrave, der giver en idé om, hvor tæt de modstående kræfter var.

I Hanoi fortalte en anden veteran, bataljonschef Nguyen Dung Chi os sin historie på perfekt fransk. "Jeg var i skyttegraven tættest på franskmændene. Jeg var altid i frontlinjen," siger han. "Den 30. marts kunne vi ikke tage Eliane. Vi havde begået taktiske fejl. Den 6. og 7. maj besluttede vi at gribe positionerne på flankerne og bagerst. Angrebet endte i hånd-til-hånd-kampe. Vi kunne ikke se noget længere, vi forsøgte ikke at tage mål, vi gik bare fremad, hoppede fra skyttegrav til skyttegrav, trådte på lig. Da den franske kommandopost faldt, så jeg de døde lig af en hvid mand og en afrikaner. I vores rækker, folk var undertiden selvfølgelig sure, men meget lidt. "

Det var overstået. Viet Minh anklagede lige foran de resterende franske positioner og satte dem i gang for at signalere starten på det sidste angreb. Det enorme hul, de lavede, er stadig synligt.

Chi, en vittig gammel fyr, huskede de første timers sejr. Selvom han ikke var den første til at indtaste hovedkommandoposten, så han den kort efter at franskmændene overgav sig. ”Der var faldet stilhed på Dien Bien Phu,” forklarer han. "Det stank. Duften af ​​død men også rådnende kød med alle de sårede franske soldater liggende der." Han løb ind i Geneviève de Galard, "englen til Dien Bien Phu", en sygeplejerske, der stak den ud til enden for at passe de sårede og døende. "Jeg gik hen imod hende," husker Chi. "Hun løftede armene og sagde:" Skyd ikke! " Jeg spurgte hende, hvor hovedkvarteret var. Hun lavede et tegn med hånden: "Derovre." Jeg gik for at se, men det var tomt. På generalens bord fandt jeg et atlas åbent på siden til Sovjetunionen, en Parker -pen og en faldskærmskniv. " Han smiler. "Jeg tog kniven og pennen som souvenirs."

Dele af historien er dog stadig usikre. Fotografiet af vietnamesiske tropper, der hævede det røde flag med en gul stjerne over hovedkvarteret, skete ikke rigtigt, ifølge Dao Thanh Huyen, en fransktalende journalist, der koordinerede bogen Dien Bien Phu: Vu d'en Face.

Så denne scene, der symboliserede Vietnams sejr over en gammel kolonimagt, blev opfundet. En anden kontrovers handler om spørgsmålet om, hvorvidt franskmændene overgav sig eller ej. Stabschefen havde udelukket en sådan ydmygende adfærd, men den vietnamesiske beretning er forskellig. Chi siger: "Da affyringen stoppede, så jeg franske soldater hist og her vinke rester af hvidt stof."

Denne artikel optrådte i Guardian Weekly, der inkorporerer materiale fra Le Monde


Tirailleurs Sénégalais i Indokina-krigen (1947-1954)

Indokina-krigen (1947-1954) stillede den franske kolonistyre mod Vietminh, den kommunistiske vietnameser, der var dedikeret til befrielse af deres land fra fransk kolonistyre. Under denne konflikt brugte franskmændene tusinder af Tirailleurs Sénégalais, soldater rekrutteret i hele de franske afrikanske kolonier, til tjeneste mod Vietminh.

Franskmændene begyndte at rekruttere senegalesiske soldater i 1947, da krigen begyndte, og de fandt ud af, at de akut havde brug for militære styrker i Indokina. I betragtning af mangel på fransk arbejdskraft på grund af den nyligt afsluttede Anden Verdenskrig, militære budgetrestriktioner og det store antal afrikanske soldater demobiliseret i 1945-6 ved afslutningen af ​​den europæiske konflikt, vendte den franske regering sig til Tirailleurs Sénégalais: afrikanske soldater, der, siden det 19. århundrede, blev de ofte brugt på grund af deres relativt lave omkostninger.

De første Tirailleurs Sénégalais ankom til Indokina i april 1947. Den 30. april talte de kun 167 men nåede 2.260 mand i slutningen af ​​året. Marching Battalions of Tirailleurs Sénégalais (BMTS) blev dannet i Frankrig, derefter spredt i forskellige eksisterende franske enheder i Vietnam, såsom 2., 6. og 43. koloniale infanteriregiment (RIC), 4. og 10. koloniale artilleriregiment (RAC) og marokkanske Kolonialt infanteriregiment. Således omfattede franske regimenter ofte indfødte fra Nordafrika, Frankrig, Senegal og andre afrikanske kolonier samt vietnamesere, der var loyale over for kolonistyret. Efterspørgslen efter Tirailleurs Sénégalais blev ved med at vokse, der blev 14.500 mobiliseret i 1951, og da franskmændene endelig blev besejret ved Dien Bien Phu i 1954, var 19.570 af dem på det vietnamesiske område.

Afrikanske soldater blev tildelt forskellige enheder. På grund af manglen på mænd sluttede tusind Tirailleurs Sénégalais sig til det franske luftvåben. Sorte soldater var afgørende for flere martsbataljoner og martsgrupper (kamptropper). Tirailleurs Sénégalais vedligeholdt imidlertid også poster og åbnede veje og blev hovedsagelig henvist til små sikkerhedsoperationer. Faktisk deltog få enheder i store operationer, selvom nogle Tirailleurs Sénégalais var til stede på Dien Bien Phu.

Mere end tusind Tirailleurs Sénégalais blev fanget af Vietminh. De mest udnyttede fanger, de fik det hårdeste arbejde. I 1954 blev cirka 800 af dem løsladt. Det blev anslået, at omkring 5.500 Tirailleurs Sénégalais var blevet dræbt, døde, forsvandt eller havde forladt under Indokina -krigen.

De sidste Tirailleurs Sénégalais forlod Vietnam med de franske tropper i september 1956. Den franske militærafdeling var i stigende grad bekymret for, at nogle afrikanske soldater, der nu var i tæt kontakt med vietnamesiske nationalister og kommunismens idealer, kunne være en potentiel trussel mod franske kolonistyringer i Afrika. Således blev nogle Tirailleurs Sénégalais for første gang anset for ikke at være egnede til genindmeldelse. Andre blev reorganiseret og integreret i RAC og RIC.


Dien Bien Phu, dårlig strategi, dårlige antagelser og nederlag: amp 19 og værre end dårlige resultater

For 66 år siden døde de ulidelige og sultne rester af en fransk ekspeditionsstyrke en ulidelig død kl. Dien Bien Phu. De var ofre for en forkert krig, en mislykket strategi og deres overkommandos arrogance. De blev ofret på den falske tro, at hvis de besejrede Viet Minhs hovedstyrke i en konventionel kamp, ​​ville de vinde krigen og diktere vilkårene for fred. Men det var en kamp, ​​hvor de valgte dårlig grund og ikke kunne få det fulde udbytte af deres mere avancerede våben, fordi de blev sendt for at kæmpe i et område for langt fra deres understøttende styrker. På samme måde kæmpede de mod en langt mere ressourcefuld og bedre ledet modstander, der ikke kæmpede for imperium, men uafhængighed. Noget som amerikanere, der virkelig kender vores historie, burde forstå.

Dien Bien Phu var en episk kamp i en tragisk krig. Desværre ved de fleste mennesker i dag hverken eller bekymrer sig om, hvad der skete i dalen, hvor den lille grænsepost ved navn Dien Bien Phu blev synonym med forgæves og glemt offer.

I årenes løb fandt der færre og færre erindringer sted. Nogle er i Vietnam og andre i Frankrig. I 2018 lagde den franske premierminister Edouard Philippe en krans ved det franske monument ved Dien Bien Phu, ledsaget af flere ældre veteraner fra slaget. De franske veteraner blev mødt med venlighed af deres tidligere modstandere.

Frankrigs premierminister Edouard Philippe på Dien Bien Phus franskmænd Mindesmærke

General Vo Nguyen Giap i 2011

År før, den 7. maj 2011 i Hanoi, blev der holdt en lille erindring for at markere faldet for Dien Bien Phu og ære sejren, 101 år gammel General Vo Nguyen Giap i hans hjem. Giap var den sidste øverstkommanderende på hver side på det tidspunkt, og han døde halvandet år senere i en alder af 102 år.

Denne ceremoni i 2011 var en af ​​de få erindringer, der blev afholdt overalt, der markerede den kamp, ​​der var en af ​​vandskelene i det 20. århundrede. En halv verden væk i Houston Texas lagde en lille gruppe franske veteraner, udlændinge og historikere en krans ved Vietnam War Memorial. I Paris plejede et stadigt faldende antal franske overlevende at samles hvert år den 7. maj kl. 1815 til en gudstjeneste i Saint Louis des Invalides -kirken for at huske de døde og savnede efter det franske ekspeditionskorps, der gik tabt i Indokina. Et lille antal andre små ceremonier blev afholdt så sent som i 2014. Der ser ikke ud til at være nogen gudstjenester for at ære deres minde i år, især siden COVID-19 har sikret, at der ikke er mulighed for betydelige offentlige mindesmærker, men selv før i år har rækken af ​​få mænd tilbage fra slaget stort set dømt sådanne ceremonier,

Legionærer fra den anden fremmedlegion faldskærmsbataljon på Dien Bien Phu

Denne kamp er næsten glemt af tiden, selvom den og krigen, den symboliserede, sandsynligvis er den, vi skal lære. Vi lærte dem ikke i Irak eller Afghanistan.

Fangede franske soldater marcheres gennem markerne efter deres overgivelse ved Dien Bien Phu i 1954. Mere end 10.000 franske tropper blev taget til fange efter en 55 dages belejring. Det franske nederlag sluttede næsten et århundrede med fransk besættelse af Indokina. (AP Photo/Vietnam News Agency)

Franske fanger

Den 8. maj 1954 overgav den franske garnison Dien Bien Phu sig til Viet Minh. Det var slutningen på de skæbnesvangre Operation Castor hvor franskmændene havde planlagt at lokke Viet Minh stamgæster ind i åben kamp og brug overlegen ildkraft til at decimere dem. Strategien, der var blevet brugt i mindre skala året før hos Na Son.

Franskmændene havde troet, at de var kommet med en skabelon til sejr baseret på deres kamp kl Na Son i hvordan man engagerer og ødelægger Viet Minh. Planen var baseret på, hvad franskmændene kaldte "Luft-land-base." Det indebar at placere stærke kræfter i en let forsvarlig position dybt bag fjendens linjer forsynet med luft.

Na Sonplanen fungerede efter hensigten. Franskmændene var på højt terræn, havde overlegent artilleri og luftstøtte lige ved hånden. På samme måde blev de velsignet af general Giap ved hjælp af menneskelige bølgeoverfald mod deres fæstning, hvilket gjorde Viet Minh -tropperne til kanonfoder til de franske forsvarere. Bortset fra det, Na Sonvar en nærkørsel for franskmændene og havde næsten ingen indflydelse på Viet Minh -operationer andre steder, mens han bandt en let divisionsækvivalent og en stor del af fransk luftmagt op.

Viet Minh stamgæster

Franskmændene tog den forkerte lektion fra Na-Son og forsøgte at gentage det, de troede var succes Dien Bien Phu. Franskmændene ønskede at bruge Dien Bien Phu som en base for operationer mod Viet Minh. Desværre valgte franskmændene dårligt. I stedet for højt terræn, som de valgte på Na Son, de valgte at indtage en sumpet dal omgivet af bakker dækket af tæt jungle. De gik ind i kamplyset på artilleri, og lufthovedet, de etablerede, var i den yderste ende af rækkevidden af ​​franske fly, især taktiske luftstyrker, der var mangelvare. At gøre tingene værre, General Navarra, blev chef for franske styrker i Indokina informeret om, at den franske regering ville begynde fredsforhandlinger, og at han ikke ville modtage yderligere forstærkninger. Ikke desto mindre valgte han at fortsætte operationen.

Franske paras falder ind i Dien Bien Phu

Engang på jorden var franske logistikbehov større, end det franske luftvåben og deres amerikanske entreprenører kunne levere. Franske stillinger ved Dien Bien Phu blev udsat for en fjende, der holdt højt og havde mere kraftfuldt artilleri. De placerede også deres enheder i defensive positioner, der ikke understøttede gensidigt, og som var under konstant overvågning af Viet Minh.Terrænet var så dårligt, at franske enheder ikke var i stand til nogen meningsfuld offensiv operation mod Viet Minh. Som sådan kunne de kun grave ind og vente på kamp. På trods af dette var mange af deres positioner ikke tilstrækkeligt befæstede, og deres artilleri befandt sig i stillinger, der let blev målrettet af Viet Minh -artilleri, som ikke var hærdet mod artilleriild, og blev fuldstændig udsat for fjenden, når de åbnede ild.

Major Marcel Bigeard

Den franske garnison var en militærstyrke af god kvalitet sammensat af veteranenheder. Det bestod af franske og vietnamesiske faldskærmstropper, kendt som Paras, Foreign Legion faldskærms- og infanterienheder, franske kolonialer (marinesoldater), nordafrikanere og vietnamesiske tropper. Normalt i et slag om et bedre valg af kamp, ​​ville disse styrker have klaret sig godt. Men dette var ingen almindelig kamp, ​​og deres Viet Minh -modstandere var lige så hærdet, godt ledet og godt forsynet og kæmpede for deres uafhængighed.

Mange af de franske officerer herunder Oberstløjtnant Langlais og Major Marcel Bigeard chef for den 6. koloniale faldskærmsbataljon var blandt de bedste ledere i den franske hær. Andre, der tjente i Indokina, herunder David Galulaog Roger Trinquier ville skrive bøger og udvikle modoprørstaktiksom ville hjælpe amerikanere i Irak. Desværre undervurderede den franske overkommando dårligt kapaciteterne og hvormed General Giapog hans revnedelinger på sådan en slagmark. Dette var ikke en kamp mod oprør, men en konventionel kamp, ​​hvor franskmændene opdagede, at de ikke var i stand til at vinde.

Viet Minh forsyningssøjle

Giap koncentrerede hurtigt sine styrker og byggede fremragende logistikstøtte. Han placerede sit artilleri i godt skjulte og befæstede positioner, som kunne bruge direkte ild på franske positioner. Giap havde også mere og tungere artilleri, end franskmændene troede, han havde. Derudover indbragte han et stort antal luftfartsbatterier, hvis ildkraft, der effektivt blev brugt fra godt skjulte positioner, gjorde det muligt for Viet Minh at tage en stor vejafgift blandt de franske fly, der forsøgte at levere basen.

I modsætning til kl Na-Son, Giap smed ikke sine mænd væk i menneskelige overgreb. I stedet brugte han sin Sappers (kampingeniører) til at bygge beskyttende skyttegrave, der fører op til selve ledningen i franske forsvarspositioner. Disse skyttegrave gav både skjul og beskyttelse mod franskmændene. Med tiden kom disse skyttegrave til at ligne et edderkoppespind, der omsluttede den franske base.

Uden at uddybe min pointe kæmpede franskmændene hårdt, ligesom Viet Minh. Imidlertid blev den ene efter den anden franske position overvældet af præcist artilleri og velplanlagte angreb. Franskmændene håbede forgæves på amerikansk luftintervention, selv om USA ville have mulighed for at bruge atomvåben mod Viet Minh. Præsident Dwight Eisenhower var realist, og på trods af råd fra mænd som general Curtis LeMay nægtede at udøve enten en konventionel eller nuklear reaktion for at redde franskmændene fra en debacle af deres egen beslutning. Eisenhower forstod, at det amerikanske folk ikke var ved at gå ind i en anden asiatisk krig så kort tid efter våbenhvilen i Korea.

Franske sårede venter på Medivac

Hjælpestyrkerne var ude af stand til at komme igennem Viet Minh og det adskillige terræn, der begrænsede deres bevægelser og forhindrede brugen af ​​pansrede og mekaniserede enheder. Således garnisonen kl Dien Bien Phu døde, på trods af faldskærmstroppernes tapperhed. Kolonialer og legionærer.

Den franske garnison blev svigtet af deres overkommando og deres regering og tabte slaget på grund af utilstrækkelig logistik og luftmagt. De overlevende udholdt en brutal tvungen march på næsten 400 miles til fods til krigsfangelejre, hvor mange døde. Mange soldater, der overlevede helvede til Dien Bien Phublev udsat for tortur, herunder en praksis, som vi kalder "Vand boarding."

General Georges Catroux, der ledede den officielle undersøgelse af debatten i Dien Bien Phu skrev i sine erindringer: "Det er indlysende, at der fra vores kommandostruktur var en overdreven tillid til vores troppers fortjeneste og til vores materielle midler."

På trods af den tortur, de udholdt, var der få franske tropper, der gav hul på Viet Minh -afhøringer og tortur, men nogle ville komme væk med troen på, at man var nødt til at bruge sådanne midler til at bekæmpe de revolutionære. Nogle franske ledere, enheder og deres algeriske kammerater ville anvende disse lektioner mod hinanden inden for et år efter deres frigivelse fra Viet Minh -fangenskab. Franske soldater og officerer blev sendt direkte fra Indokina til Algeriet for at foretage endnu en langvarig modopstand ofte mod algerier, som de havde tjent sammen med i Indokina. Den algeriske kampagne viste sig at være endnu mere brutal, og den gik tabt politisk, før den overhovedet begyndte. Filmen Mistet kommando, og romanen Centurionerne ved Jean Lartenguyafslørede denne brutale sandhed, ligesom han gjorde Alistair Horne Klassisk En vild fredskriggjorde det også.

Marchen til fangenskab

Krigene i Indokina og Algeriet rev hjertet ud af den franske hær. Nederlagene påførte en frygtelig vejafgift. I Indokina følte mange franske karrieresoldater, at regeringens "Mangel på interesse for skæbnen for både tusinder af savnede franske fanger og loyale nordvietnamesere ... som vanærende." Der opstod splittelser mellem dem, der tjente, og dem, der blev ved med at tjene NATOi Frankrig eller Tyskland. Dette skabte bitter fjendskab mellem soldater, der allerede havde udholdt kølvandet på Første verdenskrig, nederlaget i 1940 af Tyskland, opdelingen af Gratis franske styrker, og de af de nazistiske allierede Vichy regering.

Disse divisioner i det franske militær og samfund forblev godt efter krigen, og disse divisioner var fuldt ud udstillet i Indokina og Algeriet.

Som et resultat ville Frankrig udholde et mislykket militærkup, der involverede mange, der havde kæmpet i Vietnam og Algeriet. Efter at have militært vundet den krig kaldte disse mænd "Centurionerne ” af Jean Lartenguy var blevet forvandlet til løgnere af deres regering. Efter militære standarder havde de succesfulde brugt modoprør taktik til at vinde krigen i militær forstand, selvom deres modstandere stadig var tilbage. Disse mænd blev tvunget til at opgive dem, som de havde kæmpet for og hvornår Præsident De Gaulle erklærede, at Algeriet ville blive tildelt uafhængighed, de mænd, der havde ofret så meget mytteri mod deres regering.

Men mytteriet havde lidt folkelig opbakning, folket samledes omkring De Gaulle, og det mislykkedes. Mange af lederne, herunder generaler og admiraler, der deltog i, støttede eller kendte til mytteriet, blev prøvet, fængslet, forvist eller skændt. Det Kolonial tropper fra Indokina eller Nordafrika, der forblev loyale over for Frankrig, blev efterladt uden hjem i deres nu "uafhængige" nationer. mange algeriere flygtede til Frankrig, da de var franske statsborgere. Dem fra Vietnam, Laos og Cambodja flygtede til, hvor de kunne finde flygtning.

Franskmændene og deres koloniale allierede overlevende af Dien Bien Phu så slaget som et afgørende øjeblik i deres liv. . »De reagerede med det frygtelige smerteskrig, der foregiver at befri en mand fra sin svorne pligt og lover et sådant kaos: 'Nous sommes trahis!'-'Vi bliver forrådt'.

Krigernes virkninger i Fransk Indokina, Algeriet og Vietnam på det franske militæretablissement var langvarige og ofte tragiske. Accept af tortur som et middel til et mål ophidsede selv de hårdeste franske officerer. Mænd som Galula og Marcel Bigeard nægtede at se det, mens andre kunne lide det General Paul Aussaresses aldrig tilbagekaldt.

En af de mest hjerteskærende dele af Dien Bien Phu -historien for mig er påsken 1954, der faldt lige før slutningen for franskmændene:

”I hele kristenheden blev der i Hanoi -katedralen som i Europas kirker sunget de første hallelujaer. På Dienbeinphu, hvor mændene gik til bekendelse og fællesskab i små grupper, udtalte kapellan Trinquant, der fejrede messe i et hus nær hospitalet, det råb om liturgisk glæde med et hjerte gennemsyret af sorg, det var ikke sejren, der nærmede sig, men døden . ” En bataljonschef gik til en anden præst og fortalte ham "vi er på vej mod katastrofe." (Slaget ved Dienbeinphu, Jules Roy, Carroll og Graf Publishers, New York, 1984 s.239)

Som mange amerikanske veteraner i Vietnam sluttede mange af de overlevende fra Dien Bien Phu fred og forsonede sig med de vietnamesiske soldater, der modsatte sig dem. Mens mange stadig beklagede at have mistet, respekterede de deres vietnamesiske modstandere og stillede spørgsmålstegn ved ledelsen i deres land og hær. Oberst Jacques Allaire, der tjente som løjtnant i en bataljon under kommando af Major Marcel Bigeardreflekteret over hans tanker til en vietnamesisk korrespondent i 2014:

“Jeg er nu 92 år gammel, og der er ikke gået en eneste dag siden tabet Dien Bien Phu, som jeg ikke selv har spekuleret over, hvorfor den franske hær tabte ... Sejren var umulig og for langt væk fra os. Flyene kunne ikke hjælpe os. Den franske regering ændrede sig 19 gange på ni år, og det ødelagde alt. General Navarre vidste ikke noget om slagmarken i Vietnam. Efter Na San -slaget troede de franske chefer, at de kunne vinde og besluttede at angribe på Dien Bien Phu, men de tog fejl. Det var vietnamesiske soldater, der ejede bakkerne, fordi det var deres land ... Jeg respekterer mine egne fjender, der kæmpede hårdt for national uafhængighed ... Vietnam Minh -soldater var sande soldater med vilje, mod og moral ... ”

Som veteran i Irak, hvis far tjente i Vietnam, føler jeg en næsten åndelig forbindelse til vores amerikanske og franske våbenbrødre, der kæmpede kl. Dien Bien Phu, det Gade uden glæde, Algier og steder som Khe Sanh, Hue City, det Ia Drangog Mekong. Når det kommer til denne tid på året, har jeg altid en følelse af melankoli og frygt, når jeg tænker på de ulærte lektioner og fremtidige ofre, som vi kan blive bedt om at gøre, og ikke kun militære, når det kommer til ny coronavirus -pandemi.

Legionærer på gaden uden glæde

Lektionerne i Fransk hos Dien Bien Phuog i Indokina blev ikke lært af USA, da det kom ind i Vietnam, Irak eller Afghanistan. Det var heller ikke lektierne i det franske Algeriet. Det var en arrogance, som amerikanerne betalte dyrt for. Jeg tror ikke, at mange i vores politiske, medier og videnskabelige eller militære helt har lært, eller at vi i militæret har rystet os selv fuldstændigt. Vi mistede 54.000 døde i Vietnam, næsten 4500 i Irak og indtil videre over 2400 i Afghanistan og 20.000 sårede, hvilket ikke tæller mange af PTSD- eller TBI -sagerne. Add the casualties suffered by our NATO allies the number of allied dead is now over 3500. Some 36,000 Afghan National Army soldiers and Police officers have been killed. Afghan civilian deaths are estimated between 100,000 and 400,000, not counting the wounded or those killed in Pakistan. In January 2018 the Pentagon classified data on Afghan military, police, and civilian casualties.

The Afghan debacle has spanned three Presidential administrations, so there accountability for it must be shared between Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump, their administrations, the military high command, the Congress, and the civilian population of the United States which remained for the most part in a state of peace, despite a few inconveniences in domestic and international air travel. President Trump has shifted gears from the time he was a candidate when he pronounced the war “lost” to when addressed it as President on August 21st 2017. In his speech at fort Myer Virginia he said:

“When I became President, I was given a bad and very complex hand, but I fully knew what I was getting into: big and intricate problems. But, one way or another, these problems will be solved — I’m a problem solver — and, in the end, we will win.”

“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen…”

There are those even as we have been at war for almost 19 years in Afghanistan who advocate even more interventions in places that there is no good potential outcome, only variations on bad outcomes. I do not know how the President who calls himself a “Problem solver” eller ”Wartime President” who will define winning, in war, or in the midst of a pandemic which has killed more Americans than were lost in combat in every military operation since the 1958 Lebanon Intervention. Bur now, in 2020, how many more American Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen will need die for a “victory” that we cannot even define? Likewise, how many Americans will have to die from a virus because their President and many other leaders minimize its potential for mass death, social and economic disruption, and division?

French Navy F-8 Bearcat at Dien Bien Phu

Like the French our troops who returned from Vietnam were forgotten.The U.S. Army left Vietnam and returned to a country deeply divided by the war. Vietnam veterans remained ostracized by the society until the 1980s. Som Lieutenant General Harold Moore who commanded the battalion at the Ia Drang immortalized in the film We Were Soldiersrecounted “in our time battles were forgotten, our sacrifices were discounted, and both our sanity and suitability for life in polite American society were publicly questioned.”

I think that will be the case for those of us who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Syria. Americans love to say they support the troops and are overwhelmingly polite and even kind when they encounter veterans. But that being said even as they do that they don’t are ignorant about our campaigns, battles, and sacrifices and even worse fail to hold the government regardless of administration accountable for sending American troops into wars that they cannot win. That being said the Trump administration is talking up and ramping up for a possible showdown with Iran.

I guess that is why I identify so much with the men of Dien Bien Phu.The survivors of that battle are now in their nineties and dissolved their Veterans of Dien Bien Phu association in 2014 due to the difficulties most had in traveling.

For those interested in the French campaign in Indochina it has much to teach us. Good books on the subject include The Last Valley by Martin Windrow, Hell in a Very Small Place by Bernard Fall The Battle of Dien Bien Phuby Jules Roy and The Battle of Dien Bien Phu – The Battle America Forgot by Howard Simpson. For a history of the whole campaign, read Street Without Joy by Bernard Fall. A novel that has some really good insights into the battle and the French Paras and Legionnaires who fought in Indochina and Algeria is Jean Larteguy’s The Centurions.

I always find Fall’s work poignant. The French journalist served as a member of the French Resistance in the Second World War and soldier later and then became a journalist covering the Nuremberg Trials and both the French and American wars in Vietnam. He was killed on February 21st 1967 near Hue by what was then known as a “booby-trap” and what would now be called an IED while covering a platoon of U.S. Marines.

Sadly, most of the leaders in the Trump Administration, Congress, business, the greater civil population, and even some in the military ignore about COVID 19. The battle is not a conventional war. It is a battle against an unseen enemy that is not fighting a conventional war. We haven’t even understood how to wage such a war over the long term, much less how to deal with a non ideological, non religious, or non nationalistic enemy, such as a virus during a pandemic.

Now humanity is waging an asymmetrical conflict between an inhuman virus which adapts, infects, and kills without thinking, while human beings are divided between their desire to preserve life and those who do not care how many people die so long as their way of life is preserved, in the way that they knew it. However, the keys to defeating the virus, are similar to counterinsurgency doctrine. The Virus has to be identified, its victims quarantined, their contacts tracked, effective treatments developed, especially a vaccine that will protect people, and allow the resumption of normal life.

This isn’t rocket science. Until virologists and epidemiologists can develop effective vaccines and medicines to alleviate and mitigate the worst symptoms, governments and citizens must be willing to do practice non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI) such as social distancing and wearing face masks, which are proven by history and science to slow rates of infection and death, whether compliance is voluntary or mandated by criminal law. No person has the right to prioritize their personal freedoms over the lives of others. This is part of the social contract developed in the earliest of human civilizations, and in the teachings of Jesus the Christ who told his disciples This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

If the Trump Administration choses to ignore science and history regarding the COVID 19 pandemic, it will experience the same humiliation that France encountered in Indochina and Algeria, as well as the American experience in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. If it does so for purely economic reasons, being willing to sacrifice people for comics and profits, than its immorality and vice is too great to reconcile with any human understanding of the sacred value of all human life.

I do pray that we will learn the lessons before we enter yet another hell somewhere else, but then we already have doe so, since COVID 19 has already claimed as many American lives as were lost in every conflict since the 1958 intervention in Lebanon and every war, conflict, incident, or operation since.

Whether you understand it or not, the French debacle at Dien Bien Phu isn’t something that we cannot learn from today. One can never underestimate one’s enemy, or overestimate their ability to defeat it. Nor can they ignore the advice of historians, scientists, sociologists, physicians, and military leaders. Sadly, it seems to me that Donald Trump and his Administration and followers are more than willing to follow in the footsteps of all who in their interest willing to sacrifice the lives of the innocent, be they soldiers, Medical personnel, civilians, or others deemed life unworthy of life. So why not lead more people to death in order to maintain power and profits.

I won’t say anything else tonight, as Imam tired but anxious about the results of a COVID 19 test that Judy and I took late Monday afternoon as a result of a possible exposure Judy might have had last Friday. While I do not think that either of us will test positive, the current situation where so many Americans do not seem to give a damn about the lives of others in the midst of a highly infectious and deadly pandemic are now personal. As are the histories of those who promote their stupidity: leaders who dodged the draft, or never served at all, either on the front lines of combat or in the battle against infectious diseases decide that human lives are worth less than short term profits of their corporations or economic interests.

I am not a man of violence, but I agree with Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote: “If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe, then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”

Likewise I believe like General Ludwig Beck who died in the attempt to kill Hitler and seize control of Germany from the Nazi regime that those entrusted with high office must live up to it. Beck said:

“Final decisions about the nation’s existence are at stake here history will incriminate these leaders with bloodguilt if they do not act in accordance with their specialist political knowledge and conscience. Their soldierly obedience reaches its limit when their knowledge, their conscience, and their responsibility forbid carrying out an order.”

For me the testimony of both men is relevant today.

How can I be silent and retain any sense of morality today? My heart goes out to all the French, and their Colonials, and Foreign Legion Troops who died for an awful cause in Indochina, including those who fought for South Vietnam and lost everything by doing so, as well as the Americans sent their to prop up a regime that had little popular support, and was based on power religious and economic elites more than its own people.

Now we are faced with a pandemic that kills without discrimination. A pandemic that kills without remorse because it is not human, and which adepts itself to killing more people. This is especially true when human beings and their governments ignore or willingly break the basics of non pharmaceutical interventions, such as social distancing and face masks because they value their personal convenience over the life of others.


What The French Lost At Dien Bien Phu

By late 1953, the French army had lost the initiative in its fight to retain the nation’s colony in Indochina. A Vietnamese insurgency controlled much of the countryside and was steadily increasing in strength. In some seven years of fighting, the Viet Minh had grown from a small, nimble guerrilla force into a disciplined army of a half-dozen divisions, supplied by the Chinese Communists, who had won their own war against Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces.

The French were facing defeat in Indochina, a defeat that would represent one more stain on the honor of an army once the envy of all Europe. France had suffered hideous casualties in World War I, the result of a strategy so inept and leadership so brutally insensitive that after one failed campaign about half the army had mutinied. In the mythic battle of that war, Verdun, the French had held on. But the repercussions of that battle, with its 400,000 French casualties, mired the nation and, indeed, the army in a defensive stance that bordered on defeatism and led to construction of the static Maginot Line in 1940 German armor had made short work of the French army that manned it.

Now, in Indochina, the French army was eager to reclaim la gloire, and it believed it had the necessary troops, particularly paratroopers and legionnaires. The government back in Paris was less sure.

The army needed a bold plan. What General Henri Navarre, commander of French forces in Indochina, conceived was audacious: The French would build a fortified airhead in a valley near the Laotian border, some 200 miles from Hanoi. This advance base would lie within striking distance of three main enemy supply routes and other targets. If the enemy should try to eliminate the threat by a direct attack, it would spark the set-piece battle on open terrain for which the French command longed. They had the aircraft, and given their superiority in artillery, the battle would have to go their way.

In November 1953, the first French troops arrived by parachute and chased off Viet Minh units training in the area. The French improved the existing airstrip, then began a buildup of troops and supplies, including a dozen tanks disassembled for air transport and then reassembled back on the ground. With a force of more than 15,000 troops, they also established a chain of strongpoints around the perimeter. It was rumored the French named the strongpoints—Anne-Marie, Beatrice, Claudine, et. al—after the commanding generals’ mistresses.

The strongpoints anchored a perimeter of some 40 miles —too much ground for just six battalions to hold. But the French were counting on superior firepower. Their artillery commander, Colonel Charles Piroth, who had lost an arm in prior combat in Indochina, had assured both himself and his superiors that enemy artillery was no threat. French counter-battery fire would suppress any Viet Minh artillery that made it through the jungle to the battlefield. The airfield would remain open, enabling resupply by American-made C-47 and C-119 transports.

On March 13, 1954—almost four months after the first paratroopers had jumped into Dien Bien Phu—Viet Minh artillery opened fire on Beatrice. Until then, the campaign had comprised inconclusive sorties that had cost the French more than 1,000 casualties. But they retained control of the valley, and the airfield remained open. The attack on Beatrice marked a shift to a different kind of warfare—a siege. Piroth’s guns were impotent against the Viet Minh artillery dug in on the heights. On March 15, he committed suicide with a hand grenade.

For two months, the Viet Minh dug toward French lines under the cover of artillery fire the French could not suppress—not with counter-battery fire and not with airstrikes. This mode of combat marked the furthest thing from modern mobile warfare. It was Verdun all over again. And again the French soldier fought furiously and desperately—this time to defeat.

French losses at Dien Bien Phu totaled 2,293 killed, 5,195 wounded and 10,998 captured. Viet Minh casualties exceeded 23,000. With the battle lost in early May, the French government agreed, at Geneva, to a peace that led to creation of an independent Vietnam, partitioned into North and South. Unification was forcibly accomplished 21 years later when an army commanded by Vo Nguyen Giap—the same general who led Viet Minh forces at Dien Bien Phu—rolled into Saigon.

Fifty-five years after the French defeat, Dien Bien Phu remains a popular destination for international visitors. Accessible by weekly flights from Hanoi, it has grown into a modern town with paved roads, a hotel and a small but impressive museum displaying equipment, weapons and uniforms of both sides. While rice paddies have reclaimed the westernmost outposts, Françoise and Huguette, visitors may tour Dominique, Elaine, Isabelle, the former command bunker and the cemetery containing the French dead. All the main battle positions are maintained in their immediate post-battle condition.

With its defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the French army—the army of Valmy, Austerlitz and, yes, Verdun—passed into history.

Originally published in the January 2010 issue of Militærhistorie. For at abonnere, klik her.


French defeated at Dien Bien Phu - HISTORY

On May 7, 1954, a ragtag army of 50,000 Vietnamese Communists defeated the remnants of an elite French force at a network of bases at Dien Bien Phu in northwestern Vietnam. The French, fighting to restore their Indochinese empire, planned to strike at their adversaries from a network of eight bases (surrounded by barbed wire and minefields) that they had built at Dien Bien Phu. The Viet Minh, Vietnamese Nationalists led by Ho Chi Minh, bombarded these bases with artillery from the surrounding hillsides. Heavy rains made it impossible to bomb the Vietnamese installations or to supply the garrisons. The French, trapped, were reduced to eating rats and pleaded for American air support. Despite support from Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, President Eisenhower was not willing to commit American air support without support from Britain, Congress, and the chiefs of staff. Following the advice of Winston Churchill, Gen. Matthew Ridgway, and Senator Lyndon Johnson, President Eisenhower decided to stay out.

Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia had been a French colony since the late 19th century. During World War II, however, Japan occupied French Indochina. After Japan's defeat, France tried to re-establish control, but met opposition from the Viet Minh.

Despite American financial supports, amounting to about three-quarters of France’s war costs, 250,000 veteran French troops were unable to crush the Viet Minh. Altogether, France had 100,000 men dead, wounded, or missing trying to re-establish its colonial empire. In 1954, after French forces were defeated at the battle of Dien Bien Phu, a peace conference was held in Geneva Switzerland. At the conference, the French and the Vietnamese agreed to divide Vietnam temporarily into a non-Communist South and a Communist North, pending re-unification following elections scheduled for 1956.

Those elections never took place. South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, with U.S. backing, refused to participate in the elections for fear of an overwhelming victory by Ho Chi Minh. The failure of the South to fulfill the terms of the Geneva Accord led the North Vietnamese to distrust diplomacy as a way to achieve a settlement.

In 1955, the first U.S. military advisers arrived in Vietnam. President Dwight D. Eisenhower justified this decision on the basis of the domino theory--that the loss of a strategic ally in Southeast Asia would result in the loss of others. "You have a row of dominoes set up," he said, "you knock the first one, and others will fall.” President Eisenhower felt that with U.S. help, South Vietnam could maintain its independence.

In 1957, South Vietnamese rebels known as the Viet Cong began attacks on the South Vietnamese government of Ngo Dinh Diem. In 1959, Hanoi approved armed struggle against Ngo Dinh Diem's regime in Saigon.


To cap it all off, Navarre chose leaders for the expedition deeply tied to the French plan and outlook, and therefore deeply unsuited to the reality of the battle. The commander, Colonel Christina Marie Ferdinand de Castries, was a brilliant tank commander whose potential was entirely wasted in terrain where his vehicles could barely move. His deputy, the artillery commander Colonel Charles Piroth, was one of those who believed in the inherent inferiority of the Vietnamese. Finding himself proven horribly wrong, and completely incapable of effectively striking the Vietnamese dug in on high ground, he committed suicide using a hand grenade.


What The French Lost At Dien Bien Phu

By late 1953, the French army had lost the initiative in its fight to retain the nation’s colony in Indochina. A Vietnamese insurgency controlled much of the countryside and was steadily increasing in strength. In some seven years of fighting, the Viet Minh had grown from a small, nimble guerrilla force into a disciplined army of a half-dozen divisions, supplied by the Chinese Communists, who had won their own war against Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces.

The French were facing defeat in Indochina, a defeat that would represent one more stain on the honor of an army once the envy of all Europe. France had suffered hideous casualties in World War I, the result of a strategy so inept and leadership so brutally insensitive that after one failed campaign about half the army had mutinied. In the mythic battle of that war, Verdun, the French had held on. But the repercussions of that battle, with its 400,000 French casualties, mired the nation and, indeed, the army in a defensive stance that bordered on defeatism and led to construction of the static Maginot Line in 1940 German armor had made short work of the French army that manned it.

Now, in Indochina, the French army was eager to reclaim la gloire, and it believed it had the necessary troops, particularly paratroopers and legionnaires. The government back in Paris was less sure.

The army needed a bold plan. What General Henri Navarre, commander of French forces in Indochina, conceived was audacious: The French would build a fortified airhead in a valley near the Laotian border, some 200 miles from Hanoi. This advance base would lie within striking distance of three main enemy supply routes and other targets. If the enemy should try to eliminate the threat by a direct attack, it would spark the set-piece battle on open terrain for which the French command longed. They had the aircraft, and given their superiority in artillery, the battle would have to go their way.

In November 1953, the first French troops arrived by parachute and chased off Viet Minh units training in the area. The French improved the existing airstrip, then began a buildup of troops and supplies, including a dozen tanks disassembled for air transport and then reassembled back on the ground. With a force of more than 15,000 troops, they also established a chain of strongpoints around the perimeter. It was rumored the French named the strongpoints—Anne-Marie, Beatrice, Claudine, et. al—after the commanding generals’ mistresses.

The strongpoints anchored a perimeter of some 40 miles —too much ground for just six battalions to hold. But the French were counting on superior firepower. Their artillery commander, Colonel Charles Piroth, who had lost an arm in prior combat in Indochina, had assured both himself and his superiors that enemy artillery was no threat. French counter-battery fire would suppress any Viet Minh artillery that made it through the jungle to the battlefield. The airfield would remain open, enabling resupply by American-made C-47 and C-119 transports.

On March 13, 1954—almost four months after the first paratroopers had jumped into Dien Bien Phu—Viet Minh artillery opened fire on Beatrice. Until then, the campaign had comprised inconclusive sorties that had cost the French more than 1,000 casualties. But they retained control of the valley, and the airfield remained open. The attack on Beatrice marked a shift to a different kind of warfare—a siege. Piroth’s guns were impotent against the Viet Minh artillery dug in on the heights. On March 15, he committed suicide with a hand grenade.

For two months, the Viet Minh dug toward French lines under the cover of artillery fire the French could not suppress—not with counter-battery fire and not with airstrikes. This mode of combat marked the furthest thing from modern mobile warfare. It was Verdun all over again. And again the French soldier fought furiously and desperately—this time to defeat.

French losses at Dien Bien Phu totaled 2,293 killed, 5,195 wounded and 10,998 captured. Viet Minh casualties exceeded 23,000. With the battle lost in early May, the French government agreed, at Geneva, to a peace that led to creation of an independent Vietnam, partitioned into North and South. Unification was forcibly accomplished 21 years later when an army commanded by Vo Nguyen Giap—the same general who led Viet Minh forces at Dien Bien Phu—rolled into Saigon.

Fifty-five years after the French defeat, Dien Bien Phu remains a popular destination for international visitors. Accessible by weekly flights from Hanoi, it has grown into a modern town with paved roads, a hotel and a small but impressive museum displaying equipment, weapons and uniforms of both sides. While rice paddies have reclaimed the westernmost outposts, Françoise and Huguette, visitors may tour Dominique, Elaine, Isabelle, the former command bunker and the cemetery containing the French dead. All the main battle positions are maintained in their immediate post-battle condition.

With its defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the French army—the army of Valmy, Austerlitz and, yes, Verdun—passed into history.

Originally published in the January 2010 issue of Militærhistorie. For at abonnere, klik her.


Dien Bien Phu: Monument To A Failed French Strategy -- Vietnamese Tactics That Won There Later Defeated U.S.

DIEN BIEN PHU, Vietnam - Forty years ago, men fought, bled and died here in an epic battle that changed the course of recent world history.

Over the years, the trenches and bomb craters have given way to the gentleness of the land, save for some battle sites with small decaying stone memorials that hint at the events that took place.

Here was where the French stronghold of Dien Bien Phu fell to a peasant Vietnamese army of nationalists and communists, ending French colonial rule, setting the stage for the involvement of the United States in Vietnam and ending Western - and white - domination of much of Southeast Asia.

New generations of farmers now roam the peaceful valley with water buffalo. Life is simple and uncomplicated. Children play in ponds. Old men and women ride their bicycles.

White clouds frame the ring of mountains from which Vietnamese troops laid siege to the French forces for 56 days.

"I can no longer communicate with you," crackled the last chilling message from the French fortress to headquarters in Hanoi, nearly 200 miles away.

Dien Bien Phu fell on May 7, 1954. The victorious Vietnamese raised a banner over the bunker command post of French Gen. Christian de Castries proclaiming, "Determination to Fight, Determination to Win."

With that, France waned as a colonial power. A new player would emerge as a bulwark against the spread of communism in Southeast Asia.

Dien Bien Phu propelled the United States into a full-scale war a decade later, boasting that its military and economic might would crush the poorly armed Communists and maintain a balance of power in the Free World. It didn't, and history wrote its own script.

Indeed, French President Francois Mitterrand acknowledged as much after a visit to Dien Bien Phu a little over a year ago. "French colonialism had to understand the necessity of turning the page," he said.

Over the years, with their own hands, the peasants and soldiers filled the bomb craters and trenches and flattened the battlefield of Dien Bien Phu on which thousands of Vietnamese and French died.

They and the generations which followed them gave birth to a new valley of lush pastures of rice and maize and fruit gardens sustaining a population that has grown more than tenfold to 125,000 people.

Many of the veterans of the battle are still alive.

The veterans are paraded out for special occasions, such as the 40th anniversary.

At the front is their leader, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, now 82, the legendary warrior who defeated the French and later held off more than a half-million U.S. troops. He wields little power today in a newly emerging Vietnam that years ago made its peace with France and is now edging closer to America.

Dien Bien Phu represents the glory of the old soldiers, an occasion to put on their tattered, mismatched uniforms with medals as they retrace the battlefield and pose for photos for reporters and tourists.

Giap and senior officers who fought alongside him took a patrol into the past on a pre-anniversary visit early in April. Giap stood in front of de Castries' command post, transfixing villagers with riveting accounts of how he defeated the French general.

While Giap had been to Dien Bien Phu several times in past years, he returned to his old headquarters in Muong Phang, 10 miles away, for the first time since his victory. He received a hero's welcome.

About 4,000 of Giap's soldiers lie in four tree-shaded cemeteries in Dien Bien Phu. There is none for the French. Their dead are symbolized by two rebuilt grave sites, where returning French veterans pay their respects.

Hundreds of Vietnamese and French soldiers were buried in the earth of Dien Bien Phu at the positions where they fell, or were swallowed up by monsoon waters.

Many of the Vietnamese veterans of Dien Bien Phu also fought against the Americans. One of the four cemeteries holds the fallen Vietnamese of that war.

Those Vietnamese soldiers who survived have grown old now. Many are retired and tending their gardens.

But they still can feel the weight of the heavy artillery they pulled by hand and the 50 pounds of rice each carried for miles through the mountain passes, often under attack by French bombers.

They can still see the French bodies in the trenches and feel the hatred that inspired them to victory.

They still can feel the sting of the hot shrapnel making contact with their own bodies and the excruciating pain of bullets being removed with no anesthesia.

"So many people were killed, both Vietnamese and French," said Nong Van Khau, now 63. "They all laid down in the trenches and died."

The French lost 2,200 killed out of more than 16,000 in the garrison. Waving white flags, up to 10,000 others surrendered, many of them seriously wounded. Many of them succumbed on a 500-mile death march to POW camps.

Western historians estimate the Vietnamese suffered from 8,000 to 10,000 dead. That was about one-fourth of their forces at Dien Bien Phu.

Khau was among the thousands of wounded who survived to fight in the war against the Americans. He wears a chest full of medals. He still carries scars on his right knee and a piece of a bullet in his lung.

Surgeons ripped his back open with a pair of scissors to pull out the shrapnel with no anesthesia. Pain killer was for the more severe cases. The surgeons gave him the part of the bullet they removed as a souvenir.

"I was very angry," Khau recalled. "I threw the bullet away because I considered it as my enemy."

The Vietnamese surrounded Dien Bien Phu with a network of trenches stretching hundreds of miles from the high mountains to the plains, cutting French supply lines and gradually tightening the noose around their camp.

From their fortified trenches, barefooted Vietnamese shock troops assaulted French strongholds day and night, even under French bombardment. They secured their artillery in the surrounding mountains and built roads for trucks to carry shells to each gun position.

"The greatest surprise we had in store for the enemy was our refusal to engage in all-out lightning clashes with the elite entire strength of the (French) Expeditionary Corps, firmly dug in their solidly built forts," Giap wrote in one account of the battle, "Dien Bien Phu: The Most Difficult Decision."

"We decided to destroy pockets of resistance one by one," Giap wrote, "and gradually, in our own way, at a time and place of our own choosing, launch attacks with overwhelming superiority in each battle and at the same time consolidate our bunker system and cut the enemy's supply line until the base camp was strangled."

The defeat of the French brought to a close the first Indochina War. The Geneva Agreement of 1954 that followed divided Vietnam along the 17th parallel into North and South.

The second began after the United States and South Vietnam refused in 1956 to honor a key provision in the Geneva agreement that called for national elections to be held that year to reunify the country. They feared the Communists would win and gain control of South Vietnam, upsetting the balance of power with China and Russia.

Giap would repeat his Dien Bien Phu strategy against the United States, locking it into its most divisive war that took a toll of nearly 60,000 U.S. dead and two million Vietnamese killed.

The first U.S. military advisers arrived in Saigon in July 1950. The first U.S. combat forces arrived in South Vietnam in March 1965. Over the next three years, American forces grew to more than half a million troops.

For many, Dien Bien Phu stirs memories of an old U.S. battlefield, Khe Sanh, near the Laotian border just below the old Demilitarized Zone that divided the warring Vietnams.

For 77 days in 1968, Giap's forces laid siege to the U.S. fortress, hammering it daily with cannon fire from surrounding mountain positions.

But Khe Sanh held with the support of massive U.S. air strikes that unleashed nearly 100,000 tons of explosives against North Vietnamese positions, one-sixth of the total tonnage dropped by U.S. planes during the entire three years of the Korean War.

A relief column of 12,000 U.S. and South Vietnamese soldiers reached the battered base on April 5. The North Vietnamese had withdrawn into the jungles.

What had been billed as the showdown battle of the war never came off, but the cost of holding the base had been high, with more than 200 U.S. Marines killed and 1,600 wounded.

Like Dien Bien Phu, Khe Sanh became synonymous with failed military strategy.

It was a consideration that eventually led the United States to withdraw its military forces in 1973 under terms of the Paris Peace Agreement. The war between North and South ended on April 30, 1975, with a Communist victory.


Se videoen: 4:3 Legendary Vietnam General Vo Nguyen Giap dies, aged 102