1954: The Bloody Battle of Dien Bien Phu – The Worst Defeat of the French in Vietnam

1954: The Bloody Battle of Dien Bien Phu – The Worst Defeat of the French in Vietnam
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 13. March 1954
  • The battle presented a severe defeat for France, so that even the French government in Paris resigned. Indeed, France decided to withdraw from Indochina, leaving the Americans to fight against the local communist forces.

The bloody battle of Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam began on this day in 1954. It was the greatest battle among the French and the Vietnamese communists during the French colonial presence in Indochina.

Although the Vietnam War is today remembered as a conflict between the Americans and the Vietnamese, it had previously been the French who fought against the local communist rebels. Namely, the French were the colonial rulers of Vietnam since the 19th century (until the mentioned year, 1954). After that it was the Americans who took over the war effort.

The battle presented a severe defeat for France, so that even the French government in Paris resigned. Indeed, soon afterward France decided to withdraw from Indochina, leaving the Americans to fight against the local communist forces.

The French military forces in Vietnam at the time of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu belonged to the so-called French Far East Expeditionary Corps (French: Corps Expéditionnaire Français en Extrême-Orient – CEFEO). Their commander-in-chief was General Henri Navarre, and the Corps included many soldiers from North Africa as well as a number of legionnaires.

The French underestimated the Vietnamese forces. Namely, it turned out that communist forces possessed heavy artillery and anti-aircraft guns. Dien Bien Phu is a city located in northern Vietnam, near where the border with Laos is located today. The French found themselves surrounded in a valley surrounded by mountains. A hard-fought battle followed, part of which was even fought in trenches reminiscent of those from World War I. Many French soldiers were eventually forced to surrender, so that the Vietnamese managed to capture around 11,700 of them.

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