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 (1946-1999) Other 20th Century Battles    
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wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 342

Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/2/2017 2:04:40 AM
After settling in and establishing the airhead, its this month that the dramatic battle and siege of Dien Bien Phu will begin in earnest.
The French have had their noses bloodied in a series of 'minor' skirmishes in the preceding weeks and are finding leaving the confines of the valley getting extremely difficult without serious artillery and air support.
The Viet Minh noose is slowly tightening.................. but we have our artillery!

James W.
Ballina, Australia
top 15
E-8 Master Sergeant


Posts: 674

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/2/2017 3:54:41 AM
"Airhead" indeed, Wazza, just who was the 'airhead' - figuring that emulating a 'Roman games' scenario, by occupying the 'parade' base of a natural 'amphitheatre',
& inviting the surrounding hostile crowd to 'cast aspersions' upon them in massive quantities, was a viable military tactic..

He surely - couldn't have been - a Verdun veteran?

wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 342

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/3/2017 2:07:31 AM
The success of Na San bolstered French thinking that a fortified hedgehog so far North would bring success.....
Hindsight is sometimes a terrible curse.


anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 5936
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/3/2017 5:59:25 AM
IMO Arrogance. Ignorance. Poor planning. These were the weapons with which French commanders fought the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, and with which they ensured their own defeat. Their hubris and incompetence in this battle, fought from March to May 1954, ensured outright defeat in the First Indochina War, giving victory to the Viet Minh revolutionaries and independence to Vietnam.

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 342

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/3/2017 3:55:43 PM
Overconfidence and underestimating the enemy should also be noted.
Poor planning; for every negative point brought up by field commanders prior to the para insertion that took the valley in late 1953, there was a 'forceful positive spin to the concerns.
Its a fascinating period to study and see the endemic blindness and pig-headiness of the French and the political machinations of the French Gov back home.


BWilson

top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 3296

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/3/2017 4:06:23 PM
IMO Arrogance. Ignorance. Poor planning.

Jim,

 In some senses, a replay of the British and Japanese at Singapore.

 A lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking going on in this thread. Pulling ourselves back to 1954, the French had previously had little difficulty defeating rebellions and such on the part of the Indochinese. This was coupled with the deployment of troops and leaders who had proved more than able in combat against the Germans in 1944-45. I think the French failure was not so much in underestimating the Viet Minh per se, but in poorly judging just how much more effective the Viets could be as a result of communist Chinese support and guidance.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 342

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/3/2017 4:10:18 PM
By this week, platoon strength patrols outside of the valley confines are now impossible.
Company strength at a minimum with artillery, tanks and air support are required to extract them from impossibly strong and aggressive Viet Minh forces.
Reports are flowing in of enemy troops flowing towards DBP. We are to get the battle we planned for!
One annoying Red artillery piece has fired a hand full of shells on each major position, but is treated with amusement. What can one cannon do???
Visitors from various Allied nations both military and political still visit us on a daily basis.

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 5936
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/4/2017 5:19:20 AM
It is easy to imagine the fearful conditions for troops crouching behind their fortifications as shells rained down, struggling to repel attacks with machine-gun fire.

By mid-March the situation had deteriorated so far that General René Cogny, commander of French forces in Tonkin (North Vietnam), told General Henri Navarre, the expeditionary force leader, that "Dien Bien Phu might fall the following night".

But Giap, whose forces had suffered heavy casualties in attacks on the French positions, decided to hold off. However, on 30 March the "battle of the five hills" started. One after another the strongholds – Huguette, Dominique and Claudine – were overrun, leaving only Eliane, another series of hillocks, to protect the base camp.

The drama's final act unfolded around Eliane 2, where the French made their last, suicidal stand.

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class
Posts: 455

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/12/2017 12:07:33 AM
Wazza,

Doesn't it really come down to two assumption? First that French artillery would be dominant to any of the Viet Minh. The French artillery commander commits suicide after his guns can't subdue the Viet Minh in counter-battery fire. The air strip is going to house a fighter-bomber sqd for close support and provide a logistical and reinforcement link. Now given past experience with the Viet Minh it should have worked but Western intel screwed the pooch and missed the gift of US capture in Korea arty by the Chinese which was replaced by a Soviet upgrade. Or did they know of the gift but underestimated the logistical capability to get them in position with enough ammo?
---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 342

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/12/2017 2:34:16 AM
A lot of assumptions were made I guess.
But interestingly enough the field commanders had healthy respect for the Viet Minh capability.
Just not the shiny bums in HQ.
Someone told me (a logistics officer) that bicycles and Russian trucks made all the difference as well as Ho's indifference to the initial horrifyingly high casualties..
The French air transport just couldn't cope with the vast qty of materials required for DBP as well as supporting major units in the Red River Delta and elsewhere.
Highly recommend, Falls 'Hell in a very small place' and 'The Last Valley' by Martin Windrow.
These should be your first port of call in studies of the battle. The from there read whatever else comes to hand, like Howard Simpsons works or veterans recollections.

John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class
Posts: 455

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/12/2017 5:02:14 AM
Wazza,

Did the very large majority of reading on the "French War" sometime in the 80's. I even read a couple of French translations.

From memory I agree about the bicycles but I think the Russian trucks came in more with getting the supplies to the boarder with China. I also agree that the very large majority of French officers respected the capabilities of the Viet Minh but I believe this is the first time they used massed large caliber artillery on a sustained basis. Maybe a battery of mountain 75's before with a 105 sprinkled in but here it was regiments of 105's and 155's and it wasn't hit and run that the French didn't know they had or had the capability to sustain for the entire siege.

There was a good book that I read back in the day on the French air transport situation and how to help the forerunner of "Air America" was set up early in the conflict. That the casualty list of Dien Bien Phu has a few US Air Crews on it. But memory is that it didn't become critical until the airstrip on the base was closed because of the shelling and the need for extra lift capacity because of the stockpiles destroy by the shelling. Then there was a percentage unrecoverable and damaged during the air drops they then went to making the problems worse.

What do you think of the problems they had with, I'm not sure how to phrase this so please bear with me, desertion from the strong points? The books I've read called them the "Rats" of the stream that ran through the Valley because they left their units and "huddled" under the banks.
---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 342

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/13/2017 2:25:19 AM
Close to 8 thousand trucks were on hand for the Viets to use but not sure how far in country they could safely transport supplies. And at one stage the Viets were running out of coolies to carry the vast amount of supplies required to sustain the siege.

The 'Rats of the Nam Yum' John. Deserters made of of Viets,Tai', Algerians and other Africans dug into the banks of the river winding through the centre of the base. Foraged and ratted at night for supplies.
Bigeard at one stage wanted to go in and 'clean them all out' but was restrained by DeCastries.

James W.
Ballina, Australia
top 15
E-8 Master Sergeant


Posts: 674

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/13/2017 3:24:04 AM
The French were evidently attempting a 'Verdun', or perhaps more currently an 'Imphal-Kohima' battle of attrition, but picked their arena poorly,
& thereby lost the logistics battle, with a 'Stanlingrad'- rather than a 'Demyansk' outcome..

The US Forces in Khe Sahn ~15 years later , despite huge logistical support, showed again how a bloody battle of attrition on poor ground could go..
As a kid I recall being amazed at seeing hit & blazing C-130's attempting to resupply the USMC there, but doing a (then) current era 'Gumrak' reprise...


wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 342

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/13/2017 6:34:39 AM
Khe Sahn was a smaller tactical area to defend with less troops to provision.
Had ample logistical support with an embedded expert logistical team on the base to co ordinate the flow of supplies in and the wounded out.
And yes, the Americans had studied DBP to ensure they covered all possible lessons to be learned.
There are some exceptional studies on the internet detailing the comparisons and glaring differences in both these sieges.

James W.
Ballina, Australia
top 15
E-8 Master Sergeant


Posts: 674

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/13/2017 7:42:06 AM
True enough W-a, but the US Forces as shown in Khe Sahn outcome, characteristically - would rather 'bug-out', rather than be 'rubbed out' like the French..

I recall, as a kid, reading the foundation of the French Foreign Legion ethos - in Mexico, emulating the Alamo scenario, something clearly unacceptable to Texan, LBJ...

John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class
Posts: 455

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/13/2017 10:59:29 AM
Wazza,

Bigeard, "Bruno" I believe was his code name from the Resistance in WWII. Can't remember if it was a bio of him or reports of his that I read partial translations from the French years back. I know I don't have that material as I was going to Bloomsburg State at the time I read it on loan from a prof fluent in French. Wasn't a movie character played by Anthony Quinn based on him in a 60's movie?

---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class
Posts: 455

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/13/2017 11:08:12 AM
James W,

Those US Forces decimated 2 North Vietnamese Divisions at Khe Sahn and while at times very difficult the supply situation was never even close to a "Gumrak reprise."

---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 342

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/14/2017 2:17:55 AM

Quote:
Wazza,

Bigeard, "Bruno" I believe was his code name from the Resistance in WWII. Can't remember if it was a bio of him or reports of his that I read partial translations from the French years back. I know I don't have that material as I was going to Bloomsburg State at the time I read it on loan from a prof fluent in French. Wasn't a movie character played by Anthony Quinn based on him in a 60's movie?


--John R. Price


Yes John, Anthony Quinn's character Leut Colonel Raspeguy in 'Lost Command' is loosely based on Bigeard. Great movie by the way.

wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 342

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/14/2017 2:22:04 AM

Quote:
The French were evidently attempting a 'Verdun', or perhaps more currently an 'Imphal-Kohima' battle of attrition, but picked their arena poorly,
& thereby lost the logistics battle, with a 'Stanlingrad'- rather than a 'Demyansk' outcome..

The US Forces in Khe Sahn ~15 years later , despite huge logistical support, showed again how a bloody battle of attrition on poor ground could go..
As a kid I recall being amazed at seeing hit & blazing C-130's attempting to resupply the USMC there, but doing a (then) current era 'Gumrak' reprise...

--James W.



James, the French got precisely what they asked for.
A set piece battle that drew in Viet Minh forces onto the French fortified Hedgehog defence. They just never calculated how willingly the V.M would sacrifice themselves to win this battle nor how carefully Giap planned his strategy for this battle. And that is putting this complex affair very simply. 10,000 French Union Forces payed a heavy price.

wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 342

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/14/2017 2:22:14 AM

Quote:
The French were evidently attempting a 'Verdun', or perhaps more currently an 'Imphal-Kohima' battle of attrition, but picked their arena poorly,
& thereby lost the logistics battle, with a 'Stanlingrad'- rather than a 'Demyansk' outcome..

The US Forces in Khe Sahn ~15 years later , despite huge logistical support, showed again how a bloody battle of attrition on poor ground could go..
As a kid I recall being amazed at seeing hit & blazing C-130's attempting to resupply the USMC there, but doing a (then) current era 'Gumrak' reprise...

--James W.



James, the French got precisely what they asked for.
A set piece battle that drew in Viet Minh forces onto the French fortified Hedgehog defence. They just never calculated how willingly the V.M would sacrifice themselves to win this battle nor how carefully Giap planned his strategy for this battle. And that is putting this complex affair very simply. 10,000 French Union Forces payed a heavy price.

wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 342

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/14/2017 2:23:07 AM
Apologies for the double post.

James W.
Ballina, Australia
top 15
E-8 Master Sergeant


Posts: 674

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/14/2017 3:12:40 AM
10,000 men - or 'bout a week's worth of 'expenditure' for the French Army ~40 years previously, but too few - to win - at Dien Bien Phu...

Oddly, since the readiness of all Communist regimes to emulate those WW I human wave attacks, seen most recently in Korea, seemed to have been disregarded..

John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class
Posts: 455

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/14/2017 1:52:34 PM
James,

Oh I don't know that Korea was the last some would say Tet was the same thing.
---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


BWilson

top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 3296

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/14/2017 3:16:05 PM
 Wasn't that a feature of the Iraq-Iran War as well ? That was sort of a replay of the First World War sixty years further on.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

James W.
Ballina, Australia
top 15
E-8 Master Sergeant


Posts: 674

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/14/2017 8:39:52 PM

Quote:
James,

Oh I don't know that Korea was the last some would say Tet was the same thing.
--John R. Price



John, by "most recently" in the DBP context, I meant that such tactics were in use by the Communists in Korea, just a couple of years previously..

& yeah, Tet was where Giap foundered militarily in finding the limits of that approach ( cue: the 'Mickey Mouse' song sequence from 'Full Metal Jacket')...

John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class
Posts: 455

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/14/2017 10:04:26 PM
Wazza,

Back to the "Rats of the Nam Yum' for a second. The French had no choice but to use Colonial troops because the French legislature(know that isn't the correct term} made if illegal for draftees from mainland France to be sent to serve in Vietnam. Using other colonists to fight to put down a colonial rebellion doesn't make the most sense to me. Doesn't the movie touch on that? I have seen it just been a long time. I also don't remember there being many Vietnamese National Army units there other than the Paras and memory tells me they were the last strongpoints to fall. Am I wrong?
---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


James W.
Ballina, Australia
top 15
E-8 Master Sergeant


Posts: 674

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/14/2017 11:39:15 PM

Quote:

Quote:
Wazza,

Bigeard, "Bruno" I believe was his code name from the Resistance in WWII. Can't remember if it was a bio of him or reports of his that I read partial translations from the French years back. I know I don't have that material as I was going to Bloomsburg State at the time I read it on loan from a prof fluent in French. Wasn't a movie character played by Anthony Quinn based on him in a 60's movie?


--John R. Price


Yes John, Anthony Quinn's character Leut Colonel Raspeguy in 'Lost Command' is loosely based on Bigeard. Great movie by the way.

--wazza



Quinn sure had a mighty long movie career ( a bit like Ernest Borgnine),
& curiously in his 'colonial battle' movie roles, played the both the winner as 'Crazy Horse' at LBH, & the loser as 'Rasepeguy' at DBP...

wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 342

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/15/2017 2:15:06 AM

Quote:
Wazza,

Back to the "Rats of the Nam Yum' for a second. The French had no choice but to use Colonial troops because the French legislature(know that isn't the correct term} made if illegal for draftees from mainland France to be sent to serve in Vietnam. Using other colonists to fight to put down a colonial rebellion doesn't make the most sense to me. Doesn't the movie touch on that? I have seen it just been a long time. I also don't remember there being many Vietnamese National Army units there other than the Paras and memory tells me they were the last strong points to fall. Am I wrong?
--John R. Price


Yes Colonial troops from Africa, the Legion and Viet and Tai troops.
The French did a pretty good job of building infrastructure, education and such like in Indo China. Sure they raped the wealth for home, but they never seemed to run out of willing recruits.
I am pretty sure that the last strong points were a mix of the left over Colonial and Legion troops along with their loyal Vietnamese comrades.
Interesting point, even with DBP fate firmly sealed, paras and Vietnamese units were still volunteering to 'Jump into Hell' and fight to the last with their comrades.
Its an amazing thing to ponder.

John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class
Posts: 455

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/16/2017 1:59:32 AM
Wazza,

OK the assault group was made up completely of para bats one of which was a Foreign Legion and the rest Colonial.(BPC right?) The Colonial para bats would have mixed in that you would have had troops from mainland France and all the colonies with mainly French officers? But with the exception of the Foreign Legion Para Bat weren't all them heavy with Viet troops? Then the garrison was 4/5 bats of the Foreign Legion, 13 Demi and 2nd Reg, 3 Algerian Bats, 1 Moroccan Bat and 2 Tai Bats. But weren't the Tai bats really Laotions? That the Tai's were the force coming towards the Valley that the original French sortie out of the Valley was designed to meet? I mean the strategic idea behind this deployment was part to block infiltration and routes of attack and supply into Laos and by extension Northern Cambodia and the northern terminus of what would become the Ho Chia Minh Trail. But back to my questions and points. I remember reading that both during the battle and later in captivity the Viet Minh focused propaganda on the Africans. I was wondering how much you knew of that? Second again from reading the paras first considered themselves professionals and elietes so on that level I understand. Second by DBP Ho had shown his colors and brutality not to downplay French Colonialism. I can understand many seeing a better future under the French.

---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 342

Re: Dien Bien Phu 1953-1954
Posted on: 3/16/2017 2:12:56 AM
John, be easy just to acknowledge we can google the ORBAT for the French forces to save listing them all extensively but your figs are a good overview.
Some units folded morale wise and deserted and others fought like demons.

Yes, extensive indoctrination of Algerians and Moroccans to go home and start their own battles against Colonialism. The Tai were killed off, and the Viets that were not rehabilitated also died in huge numbers.

There was a lot of VM pay back against the 'Traitors' from the highlands and Southerners etc.

The movie 'la 317ème sectio'n is worth googling and watching, for the bond between French officer's and his Vietnamese troops as DBP falls.

 (1946-1999) Other 20th Century Battles    
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