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Battle of Dien Bien Phu

Discussion in 'Post War 1945-1955' started by Class of '42, Apr 26, 2020.

  1. Class of '42

    Class of '42 Active Member

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    I did a written essay on this famous battle years ago and wish I could find it, for I went into lengths on the cause and effect of this epic battle in the spring of 1954. Even today it still reverberates in France when you mention the name, for it wasn't just a major military defeat but the end of French colonialism in SE Asia and the slow emergence of American foreign policy in it's place in supporting South Vietnam.

    I came across the movie "Jump Into Hell" recently, which was made shortly after the battle in 1955. The movie deals with this 56 day siege and focuses on some French officers who leave their wives and their girlfriends behind and volunteer to be air dropped into the battle and do what they can to help out. But by then the 16,000 French Union troops are totally surrounded by General Giap's 50,000 strong Viet Minh regulars and the outcome is pretty obvious. The battle scenes are pretty decent, with actual battle scenes mixed in also...check it out sometime.

    Battle of Dien Bien Phu
     
  2. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..the Vietnamese went to great lengths and hardships....first the Japanese, then the French, then the Americans ......the US helped France a lot financially in their war ....it was unwinnable.....
    1953 French General Navarre: ''''victory was near: Now we can see it clearly, ...like the light at the end of the tunnel'
    1968 US Ambassador Bunker: ''I think we're now beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel''
    ..very telling and ironic
     
  3. Class of '42

    Class of '42 Active Member

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    The communist scare was very alive in the 50's with the Korean War and many felt if South Vietnam fell that other surrounding countries would as well..aka the Domino Effect as they called it. Some twenty years later, much of this foreign policy was seen as fallacy and one of the biggest mistakes for the U.S. administration until the invasion of Iraq years later.

    On September 2, 1945, in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands, Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam an independent nation. He began his speech:

    "All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness".

    How things might of turned out different if indeed the French granted Vietnam independence and peacefully withdrew right after WWII.

    Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
     
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  4. Terry D

    Terry D Active Member

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    It's very easy to be wise after the event. There are many myths and half-truths about DBP, but Norman Windrow's massive The Last Valley, the best book in English on the subject, challenges those misconceptions. DBP is a highly sensitive and painful subject for the French to this day, and as far as that goes our own experience in Vietnam gives us little right to gloat over French errors.

    Dien Bien Phu was a simply dreadful battle, one of the worst for casualties in terms for the numbers of any battle since 1945. By the end, conditions in the flooded trenches resembled Passchendaele. The French committed about 15,000 men there, of whom about 10,000 were left at the final surrender. Less than 900 badly wounded were handed over to the French by the Vietminh immediately after the battle, so over 8,000 men had to march to captivity. Several thousand of these were wounded, many quite badly, and all were exhausted and underfed. The 8,000-plus prisoners were in Vietminh camps for only four months but approximately half never returned from captivity. So, between battle and captivity you are looking at a two-thirds death toll for the defenders. The best estimate of Vietminh casualties is about 25,000, which is to say that up to the end of the battle the French inflicted considerably more casualties than they suffered. Never tell me that the French can't fight.
     
  5. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    It is ironic that the United States, which originated as a group of colonies declaring independence, ended up fighting against various national liberation movements. Our allies in both world wars were the European colonial powers who were as determined to retain/regain their colonies as they were to defeat the enemy. Ho Chi Minh showed up at the Versailles peace conference seeking to discuss his country's future with President Wilson and the other leaders but was rebuffed. All western democracy, capitalism, and the "free world" offered native peoples was the chance to remain forever second-class citizens in their own countries. Communism at least offered a vision of liberation.

    France fought to keep its colonies and would have done so regardless of the Vietnamese rebels' ideology. We on the other hand saw Vietnam as one theater in the struggle against international Communism and chose the imperialist side for that reason.
     
  6. harolds

    harolds Member

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    During that time we were also propping up various right-wing, corrupt, tin-horn dictators in S. America and other places because they were anti-communist. Neither party in Washington understood that by doing this they were creating a fertile seed-bed for communism. We aren't popular in a lot of S. America because of this.

    More on topic: It was also ironic that France recruited a lot of Waffen SS into the FFL. They were there at Dien Bien Phu.
     
  7. Class of '42

    Class of '42 Active Member

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  8. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    I've read about discussion of using perhaps three atomic bombs, in Stanley Karnow's book for one. Policymakers were more willing to consider A-bombs as just another weapon in the days before Mutual Assured Destruction and understanding of the long-term effects of radiation.
     
  9. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    Promoting French colonialism in a post-war world that was supposed to be rid of that, as well as the US either overthrowing governments or placing far-right and sometimes Nazi Collaborators (Greece in the late 50s/early 60s) as heads of state to be friendly to US businesses/policy well as recruiting Nazis for the CIA. You gotta wonder what side we were really on.
     
  10. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ...like most countries, they are on their own side--yes? ...if we hired nazis, we thought it would be good for the US....and one of them was-Von Braun
     
  11. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    FDR for one did not believe we were fighting a world war to preserve colonial empires. The US committed in 1934 to granting the Philippines its independence by 1946, which we did despite the interruption of the process by war. However many in government considered that our primary concern was relationships with our European allies who shared Churchill's position that "I did not become His Majesty's first minister to preside over the dissolution of the British Empire."
     
  12. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    One of FDR's son wrote memoirs from the Atlantic Charter meetings and other important meetings during WWII where FDR said to him that exact position, that we weren't fighting to preserve the British Empire, and that Japanese aggression could be blamed on the exploitation of Asia by the Dutch, British, and French, and something about one of Britain's colonies in Africa that was more backwards in that time than when England entered which was 100 years prior, and that they took out 10:1 for money spent/invested. He said the same thing about French Indochina and France.
     
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