A lull until 30 March gave the Viet Minh time to “tighten the noose” around the central zone of strongpoints: Hugette, Dominique, Claudine, and Eliane. Operation Castor was never conceived as a “large-scale airborne raid.” From the start, the mission was to become a “meat-grinder,” using “base aero-terrestre” tactic that worked at Na San. This loss was a severe blow to French prestige, and resulted in France agreeing to withdraw from Indochina, by the Geneva agreement. The Algerian battalion abandoned Gabrielle. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu (French: Bataille de Diên Biên Phu; Vietnamese: Chiến dịch Điện Biên Phủ) was the climactic confrontation of the First Indochina War between the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps and Viet Minh communist-nationalist revolutionaries. In the morning, the fighting died down and dozens of Vietnamese, … In another misunderstanding, Cogny envisioned a lightly defended point from which to launch raids; Navarre, however, believed that he intended to build a heavily fortified base capable of withstanding a siege. This Autumn-Winter, you are assigned the taslc of marching to Dien Bien Phu to wipe out more enemy effectives, extend our resistance bases, and liberate more compatriots still under the … The French hoped the main Communist battle force would venture far from the vital Red River Delta, while the French Command could concentrate remaining forces on mop-up operations in the delta. And, French never thought these guns could be brought to the battle in large numbers, and sited in the hills surrounding Dien Bien Phu. In this campaign, we would have absolute superiority in number to destroy the enemy, sector by sector, till the fall of the entrenched camp.”. The entire 316th Division took the airfield at Lai Chau, 88 km north of Dien Bien Phu, and then marched toward Luang Prabang. Nhà xuất bản Quân đội Nhân dân, 1982, This page was last edited on 19 May 2019, at 21:41. He considered parachuting in, but was talked out of it. Die Slag van Dien Bien Phu ... Gelyktydige aanvalle op Claudine, Dominique en Isabelle verwar die Franse bevelvoerders oor die Viët-Minh se doel. The final strongpoint between the Viet Minh and the main headquarters in Claudine was Dominque 3. These cookies will be stored in your browser only with your consent. After that, 12 thousand men of the Vietnamese 312th and 316th Division charged into battle. The contradictions were in Giaps words:  “. They pressed against French Groupe Mobile 2, (GM-2) which had been hurriedly sent out of Hue to meet the new threat. An estimated 15000 personnel were involved in an effort that became the prototype for the Ho Chi Minh trail in later years. In the meantime, Viet Minh Regiment 66 cut across the moun Thains, and one by one crushed a smaller French post strung out along the road from Vietnam to Seno. The Navarre plan called for strategic defensive in the north, offensive in the south. This area was picked because of its strategic location along routes to Laos, and it seemed, to the French at least, to be a good defensive position. In December, Giap was ready. We also use third-party cookies that help us analyze and understand how you use this website. These strongpoints were: Anne-Marie, (Ban Keo;) Beatrice, (Him  Lam;) Claudine; Dominique; Eliane; Francoise; Gabrielle, (Doc Lap;) Huguette; and Isabelle, (Hong Cum. Prisoners said they were told to “advance or be shot.” To avert this crisis, Giap called in reinforcements from Laos. The cemeteries in A1 Hill (644 tombs) and Doc Lap Hill (2432 tombs), A1 Hill, where bitter fighting took place. The objective was to seek out Viet Minh forces in the highlands. Finally, they moved the artillery pieces up the steep jungle roads, and set them into concealed bunkers, that had to be cut into the sides of the hills. Five of the strong points – Anne-Marie, Huguette, Dominique, Eliane and Claudine – are clustered around Dien Bien Phu and the main airstrip. Although some reinforcements arrived, they did not replace the growing casualties. Giap took his time, though. When presented with the plan, every … The Chinese provided 70 advisors, the “South China Sea Action Group.” They suggested using one massive “Human Wave” attack to take Dien Bien Phu quickly. Die 5de BPVN, wat nog moeg is, en die swakste valskermbataljon op die slagveld is, loods ’n teenaanval. These crews sometimes disassembled the cannons, hauled them in place in pieces, and then reassembled them in the final positions. The last French radio transmission to Hanoi was: “The enemy has overran us.”. The incompetence was also apparent to General Cogny at Hanoi. Veterans of that battle are in their dotage, their famous commander Grand … This was an adaptation of a World War II Soviet organization and was comprised of one engineer, one heavy mortar, two artillery, one anti-aircraft artillery, and one Katyusha rocket regiments. Reconnaissance planes and fighters of the permanent squadron constantly flew over the entire region strafing and bombing. These were placed in various locations to harass French resupply transports. On 13 March 1954 a fierce artillery barrage hit the command post killing Legionnaire commander Major Paul Pegot. The Navarre plan called for strategic defensive in the north, offensive in the south. Beatrice fell first. It consisted of a struggle between French and Viet Minh (Vietnamese Communist and nationalist) forces for control of a small mountain outpost on the Vietnamese border near Laos. On 17 March, he flew to Dien Bien Phu, but his plane was driven off by anti-aircraft fire. But, his extraordinary physical condition and mental toughness enabled him to survive the four months of captivity. Indirect fire requires experienced well-trained crews, which the Viet Minh lacked. Bigeard refused, saying “As long as I have one man alive I won’t let go of Eliane 4. Hugette 1 and 6 had been almost entirely surrounded by entrenchments. ... Gabrielle, Dominique, Elaine, and Claudine. This is a list of units and commands that took part in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu during the First Indochina War, with the major commands that took part in operations. The strongpoint changed hands several times, but by morning was in French control. Second, how would they supply these forces with no good roads from their bases in central and southern Tonkin? The idea was to make the upland stronghold an attractive bait for Giap to commit his elite divisions . On 25 December 1953, the Communists reached the Thai border at Thakhek on the Mekong, the overland lifeline to northern Laos was severed,  and Indochina cut in two. They also cut off Isabelle, the extreme southern strongpoint. The Command Bunker in Dien Bien of De Castries: lies at the heart of the entrenched camp of Dien Bien Phu in the middle of the Muong Thanh Field. After Anne-Marie fell, de Castries isolated himself in his bunker, essentially abdicating command. Eliane 2 was under heavy attack. Gun Porters moving artillery into place at Dien Bien Phu. Not, as in 1954, to Viet-Minh attacks, but rather to the bulldozers of progress. airfield) and Claudine (which comprises the CP.) ), Logistics was one problem for the bastion. Equally surprising, Dien Bien Phu is a large, rather untidy town (population circa 100,000), with houses patched together haphazardly, overlooking several long avenues. The French strong-points at Dien Bien Phu in northwest Vietnam are falling again. The museums in the area also offer snapshots and glimpses into the past. Claudine 11th Battery/4th Group/4th Colonial Artillery Regiment (11/IV/4 RAC) Capitaine Déal: HM1 155mm howitzer (x4) Claudine Platoon/1st Colonial Far East Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group (I GAACEO) Lieutenant Paul Redon: Quad-50 M2 0.50cal MG (x4) Epervier 1st Foreign Composite Heavy Mortar Company (1 CMMLE) Lieutenant René Colcy: 120mm mortar (x8) Claudine 2nd Foreign Composite … There were two key challenges. The answer was that the Viet Minh would mobilize countryside peasants. The area near Dien Bien Phu seemed impassable, but thousands of Vietnamese peasants cut trails by hand, laid roads, and moved supplies as much as 500 … In November 1953 the French army began building a base in the mountains around Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam, hoping that it would lure the Viet Minh guerrilla fighters into an open battle. But despite the logistics problem, Navarre asserted that with such powerful forces, and so strong a defence system, Dien Bien Phu was “an impregnable fortress…”. Simultaneously, Navarre had been searching for a way to stop the Viet Minh threat to Laos. .The contradiction between concentration of forces and occupation of territory; the contradiction between the buildup of a large-scale mobile force, and the scattering of his forces to various regions; between the str… “Fortress” Dien Bien Phu would ultimately be defended by 12000 men, including seven parachute battalions, three North African battalions, two Thai and one Vietnamese battalion. They were concentrated 640 km away from major battlefronts of the Red River Delta, and Dien Bien Phu. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu (French: Bataille de Diên Biên Phu pronounced [bataj də djɛn bjɛn fy]; Vietnamese: Chiến dịch Điện Biên Phủ, IPA: [ɗîəˀn ɓīən fû]) was a climactic confrontation of the First Indochina War that took place between 13 March and 7 May 1954. This attack was accompanied for the first time with Katyusha rockets. Two Viet Minh infantry regiments attacked the elite Algerian defenders. French resistance collapsed shortly after midnight. . by David Galster | Sep 6, 2018 | CS: Vietnam (Work-in-Progress), Vietnam: Bruno's Bunker. The fortified hilltops, christened by the French with girls' names such as Anne-Marie, Claudine and Eliane, were reduced one by one. Today my friend Piotr and I will be closing out our Dien Bien Phu series with a look at the final Viet Minh assaults on the beleaguered French position. From accounts, it appears de Castries accepted this arrangement. For the Dien Bien Phu campaign, Giap selected the following forces: 304th, 308th, 312th, and 316th Infantry Divisions, plus the 148th Independent Infantry Regiment. But with heavy casualties, Langlais decided to abandon Hugette 6. But this time they had to do it right because they were about to commit half of their entire battle force in the whole of Vietnam and therefore, failure was not an option. Hundreds died along the way. Along the tried pattern of Na San, the Plaine des Jarres, and Dien Bien Phu, another fortified airhead was hurriedly created around Seno, and a separate Middle Laos Operational Groupment ( GOML) activated on Christmas Day 1953. The 101st and 66th Regiments drove across the Annamite moun Thain chain. East Front III: Marshall Budyonny's Dacha. Major Marcel Bigeard survived Dien Bien Phu, only to be taken prisoner. On 30 March, the 312th Division captured Dominique 1 and 2. Even though they were soon surrounded, the French didn’t think it could become a formidable force. On May 7, 1954, the struggle for Indochina was almost over for France. A few days later, GM-51, plus assorted air and supply components joined this force. In spite of entreaties by General Rene Cogny, able commander of the Red River Delta, Navarre insisted on the Laos option. was the French commander at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. In addition, the 351st Heavy Division would play a critical role. The 367th Air Defense Regiment, part of the 351st Division, had about twenty-four M1939 37-mm anti-aircraft guns. Viet Minh  resumed a pounding artillery fire, which permanently disabled the landing strip. In northern Laos, situation became worse. Dien Bien Phu now bears few scars except for the occasional scattered tank to bear witness to its horrendous past, though it is still one of the remotest areas you could visit. The entrenched ‘air-land’ camp of Dien Bien Phu was established by parachute drop in November 1953. The fighting was brutal and the positions changed hands more than once. But in reality, they had up to 350 guns including Soviet rocket launchers. PRESIDENT HO CHI MINH'S LETTER TO THE FIGHTERS ON THE DIEN BIEN PHU BATTLEFRONT Dear officers and men on the Dien Bien Phu battlefront. The 1954 siege of Dien Bien Phu is one of the epics of 20th century military history, featuring dramatic assaults, daring sorties, desperate counterattacks, and doomed last stands spread over 56 gruelling days. Giap thus had succeeded in forcing Navarre to throw his painfully gathered mobile reserve into the four corners of Indochina in pursuit of a “single-battle decision,” that was definitely not the goals of the Navarre Plan. The Japanese had built a good airfield there. If you rent a modern 4-wheel-drive for your journey it may take a few hours less and be more comfortable, but I am happily carried through the mountains in Mr. Ta's rugged, but trustworthy, Russian jeep. Colonel Louis Berteil, commander of Mobile Group 7 and Navarre's main planner,[19] formulated the hérisson ("hedgehog") concept. The French army would establish a fortified airhead by air-lifting soldiers adjacent to a key Vie… 20 November 1953, French paratroopers were captured from the remaining Japanese airfield in the plain of Jars (Dien bien Phu) and staging area 3 to 16 km, which … On 6 May, the Viet Minh blew up a tunnel under Eliane 2, and within a few hours overran that outpost. The attack, planned by Marcel Bigeard, came after a massive artillery barrage. “Revolutionary War Vol. But the Vietnamese battalion, that had just jumped in the day before, was exhausted and ineffective. Langlais and Marcel Bigeard, (our dear Bruno,) maintained good terms with de Castries. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. On 13 February 1954, Navarre airlifted another five battalions, including a parachute battalion, into Luang Prabang, thus further dispersing his forces. On 10 April, the French tried to retake Eliane 1. Staying true to his credo: “Always keep the initiative,” and “always on the offensive,” Navarre chose to defend Laos. The next morning, an artillery shell hit headquarters, severely wounding commander and staff. They based this on their successes in Korea. The contradictions were in Giaps words: “. Instead, Viet Minh dug trench approaches, to get troops closer to strongpoints, before their final assaults. Further supplies had to be parachuted in. They built two roads, one from Phu Tho is 225 km away, and the other to Thanh Hoa is 340 km away. The other significant planning was air defense. Battle of Dien Bien Phu. The Viet Minh continued isolation attacks against Hugette 1, and it fell 22 April. Although Dien Bien Phu is only 260 miles northwest of Hanoi, the drive takes two long, bumpy days to complete. Artillery fire decimated them. In Giap’s words: “We no longer conceived the Dien Bien Phu campaign as a large-scale siege battle, which took place unremittingly in a short period of time, but a campaign in which a series of siege battles, having the character of positional warfare, were fought in a rather long time. But, the Viet Minh renewed their assault, forcing the French back. This website uses cookies to improve your experience while you navigate through the website. Thousands of workers, called Dan Cong, were conscripted to build these roads. A massed assault against the exhausted defenders overran Eliane 1, Dominique 3, and Hugette 5. An American reporter finds himself in the middle of the 57-day battle of Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam between the French army and the Vietminh, which finally resulted in the defeat and surrender of the French forces and France's eventual withdrawal from Vietnam. They found no Viet Minh regulars, (who were diverted north,) and instead were harrassed by guerrillas. Giap decided to revert to trench warfare after fighter-bombers and artillery devastated a Viet Minh regiment, caught in open ground. In 2003 Dien Bien Phu was named the capital of the new Dien Bien Province, which covers a total land area of 9, 560 square kilometres and has a population of 499, 899 (2006). Eliane 1, defended by Mooccans, was captured at midnight. Fighting back and forth continued for several nights. First, how would they move all the artillery, and place them in the hills around Dien Bien Phu, in protected bunkers that could be concealed? General Giap ordered a general attack on all remaining units. But opting out of some of these cookies may have an effect on your browsing experience. The French army would establish a fortified airhead by air-lifting soldiers adjacen… C-47 and C-119 planes had to supply at least 200 tons daily from Gia Lam and Cat Bi airbases, 300 km away. Woodmansee, ‘Indochina The Last Year of the War,”  Bernard Fall. A morning counterattack was stalled by Viet Minh artillery. Concrete fortifications and strongpoints were constructed. Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. Simultaneously, Navarre had been searching for a way to stop the Viet Minh threat to Laos. Colonel Christian de Castries, commander of Groupe d’Opération Nord-Ouest, (GONO) led Operation Castor, which began 20 November 1953 with an air drop of three parachute battalions in the Dien Bien Phu valley. If that wasn’t enough, Navarre launched the Atlante Plan on 20 January 1954 against Tuy Hoa, a stretch of coast in central Vietnam. Did you know what Chinese advice General Giap rejected? 500 Legionnaires were killed. Second phase of the Dien Bien Phu battle began on 30.3.1954, when the rain stopped and the Vietnamese started shelling positions Dominique and Eliane. .The contradiction between concentration of forces and occupation of territory; the contradiction between the buildup of a large-scale mobile force, and the scattering of his forces to various regions; between the strategic offensive and strategic defensive.”. The French artillery commander, Colonel Charles Piroth was so distraught at ineffective  counter-battery fire, that he committed suicide. This article is a primer on the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Out of these cookies, the cookies that are categorized as necessary are stored on your browser as they are as essential for the working of basic functionalities of the website. Operation Castor would proceed. These actions forced the French to deploy Groupe Mobiles in reaction, and scattering their forces. In addition, the French did not think that the Viet Minh could supply a force large enough to capture Dien Bien Phu. General de Castries ordered a counterattack to relieve Gabrielle. Directed by Pierre Schoendoerffer. During this time, the Viet Minh made trenching and sapping approaches to get their assault troops closer to the strongpoints. Total Viet Minh combat troops were 49500. Viet Minh losses were 600 dead and 1200 wounded. ng đường chiến đấu". The French, it seemed, were confident and daring the Viet Minh to attack. With Donald Pleasence, Patrick Catalifo, Jean-François Balmer, Ludmila Mikaël. The able bodied ones were marched over 600 km into prison camps. Once more, Navarre had to disperse his already thinly stretched reserves. As we can see, the valley is an exceptionally strategic place. Another stalemate period from 15 April to 1 May occurred due to lowered Viet Minh morale. Bătălia de la Dien Bien Phu a fost luptată în perioada 13 martie - 7 mai 1954 și a fost angajarea decisivă a Primului Război Indochina (1946-1954), precursorul razboiul din Vietnam. Dien Bien Phu lies in northwestern Vietnam, Southeast Asia. In his own words, “we strictly followed this fundamental principle of the conduct of a revolutionary war: strike to win, strike only when success is certain; if it is not, then don’t strike.”, The attack approach would not be one single human wave, but would be a siege campaign. “No, I’m not going to shoot anymore,” replied the colonel. The Viet Minh victory in this battle effectively ended the eight-year-old war. A French “crisis-of-command” emerged, as senior officers realized that de Castries was incompetent to conduct the defense. The 312th Division launched a massive infantry assault, using sappers to clear obstacles. And all around them, as on some gruesome Judgment Day, soldiers, French and Viet Minh alike, began to crawl out of their trenches, and stand erect for the first time in 54 days, as firing ceased everywhere. Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the decisive engagement in the First Indochina War (1946–54). r . In June 1953 Major General René Cogny, the French commander in the Tonkin Delta, proposed Điện Biên Phủ, which had an old airstrip built by the Japanese during World War II, as a "mooring point". The battle of Dien Bien Phu takes place between March and May of 1954 and is the climax of the French Indochi-na war, pitting the communist Viet Minh forces against the colonial French. Dit misluk en Gabrielle val. Propaganda leaflets had been distributed to them for weeks, telling them it was “not their fight.” Thus on 17 March, the first phase of Viet Minh attacks was succesfully completed. Two others, Gabrielle to the north and Beatrice to the northeast, are positioned to keep Viet Minh forces out of mortar range of the main airstrip. In April 1953, the 316th Division moved into Laos,  overwhelmed the Sam Neua garrison, and pursued fleeing defenders towards the Plain of Jars. Anne-Marie was abandoned by Thai troops, demoralized on seeing losses of Beatrice and Gabrielle. . Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu was fought from March 13 to May 7, 1954, and was the decisive engagement of the First Indochina War (1946-1954), the precursor to the Vietnam War. Throughout the 1953 rainy season, Giap successfully  avoided engaging his main force, while Navarre vainly sought to disrupt the Communist timetable. A remote region bordering with Laos and China. This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Since his spring 1953 attacks in northern Laos, Giap retained four divisions in the Thai highlands and the northern part of central Vietnam, equidistant between the Red River Delta and Luang Prabang. . Just as it appeared the French were about to be overrun, French tanks arrived, pushing the Viet Minh back. His greater mistake was that with the conception of a “bourgeois” strategist, he could not visualize the immense possibilities of a people’s army, and the entire people who were fighting for independence and peace; it was still more difficult for him to realize the evolution and remarkable progresses of our people and our army, understand and appreciate the great possibilities of an indomitable fighting spirit of a people’s army which was determined to fight and to win.”. On November 20, 1953 operation Castor along with 9000 French troops went to Dien Bien Phu for an initial 3 days. Each gun crew did its own spotting. The Viet Minh counted 11721 prisoners, but 4436 were wounded. 5,” Bernard Fall, Major J.W. Attempts to reinforce the garrison by parachute had to be done with lone planes to avoid AA fire. Attempting to scatter French forces, the Viet Minh made diversionary thrusts into Laos. As a French colonel surveyed the battlefield from a slit trench near his command post, a small white flag, probably a handkerchief, appeared on top of a rifle hardly 30 meters away from him, followed by the pith-helmeted head of a Viet Minh soldier. Combat support was comprised of an engineer battalion, truck company, ten light tanks, two 75-mm and 105-mm artillery groups, and four 155-mm howitzers. Viet Minh available artillery was estimated by French intelligence to be 40 to 60 medium howitzers. The sudden silence was deafening. Battle of Dien Bien Phu. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website. I hope it provides several interesting “points of departure,” that you might later encounter, or want to read about further. Colonel Langlais confronted de Castries, and informed him he was taking control of the situation, and de Castries could handle messages to Hanoi and offer advice. Otherwise, Dien Bien Phu is done for.”. Viet Minh assaults resumed on 1 May. This forced the French into two options, either attack Viet Minh bases in the Tuyen Quang and Thai Nguyen “redoubt,” or place troops astride the Laos invasion route. . Only 3290 were repatriated, four months later. When France occupied the important valley of Dien Bien Phu with a large force, the leadership of the Viet Minh knew that they had to retake the valley. Colonel Louis Berteil, commander of Mobile Group 7 and Navarre's main planner, formulated the hérisson ("hedgehog") concept. Langlais ordered a counterattack on Dominque 2 and Eliane 1, by “anyone left trustworthy to fight.” They were successful at retaking those on 31 March. The valley was 16 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide, and surrounded a ring of low, but rugged hills. Phase II saw assaults on Dominque and Eliane. At dark on 31 March, Langlais ordered Major Marcel Bigeard, who was leading the defense at Eliane, to fall back across the river.