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Dien Bien Phu

Subject History

Place South-Eastern Asia » Vietnam

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


A district capital in north-west Vietnam, 10 miles (16 km) from Laos and the site of a major battle in the in do china war of independence (1946–54). In November 1953 a French airborne attack captured Dien Bien Phu, which had an airstrip and from which the French could control the communication routes between China, Laos and North Vietnam. The French proceeded to make a giant ‘hedgehog’, a series of eight strongpoints with interlocking fields of fire. They hoped to lure Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen giap into a frontal assault, when his forces would be destroyed by superior French fire-power. As Dien Bien Phu was in a wide valley surrounded by hills, with poor communications, they thought that Giap would not be able to deply more than 20,000 troops or guns larger than 75 mm, which had a short range. In fact by building supply trails Giap brought up 60,000 troops and 24 105 mm guns, which could fire on the airfield from the hills. His attack began on 13 March when, using wave attacks which gave him local superiority, he captured two strong-points. On the 15th the airstrip came under artillery fire, so supplies and reinforcements had now to be dropped by parachute: many landed in viet minh territory. On 7 May the last French strongpoint was overrun and France had suffered her biggest colonial defeat. Of 15,000 French troops 3,000 were killed, the rest captured. Support in France ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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