- First Indochina War
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=First Indochina War
French Foreign Legionunit patrols in a communist controlled area.
December 19 1946– August 1 1954
French Indochina, mainly North Vietnam
Haiphongincident of 23 November 1946.
result=Viet Minh victory.
Departure of the French from Indochina.
Provisional division of Vietnam.
State of Vietnam
commander1=French Expeditionary Corps
Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque(1945-46)
Jean de Lattre de Tassigny(1950-51)
Henri Navarre(1953-4) Vietnamese National Army
Nguyen Van Hinh(1950-4)
Ho Chi Minh, Vo Nguyen Giap
strength1=French Union: 190,000
Local Auxiliary: 55,000
State of Vietnam: 150,000cite book
title =The French Indochina War 1946-1954 (Men-At-Arms, 322)
publisher =Osprey Publishing
pages =p. 11
id = ISBN 1855327899 ]
250,000 Popular Forces/Irregulars [Windrow p. 23]
notes=The First Indochina War (also known as the French Indochina War, the The Anti-French War, the Franco-Vietnamese War, the Franco-Vietminh War, the Indochina War and the Dirty War in
Franceand in contemporary Vietnam, as the French War) was fought in French Indochinafrom December 19 1946, until August 1 1954, between the French Union’s French Far East Expeditionary Corps, led by Franceand supported by Bảo Đại’s Vietnamese National Armyagainst the Việt Minh, led by Hồ Chí Minhand Võ Nguyên Giáp. Most of the fighting took place in Tonkinin Northern Vietnam, although the conflict engulfed the entire country and also extended into the neighboring French Indochina protectorates of Laosand Cambodia.
Following the reoccupation of Indochina by the French following the end of
World War II, the area having fallen to the Japanese, the Viet Minh launched a rebellion against the French authority governing the colonies of French Indochina. The first few years of the war involved a low-level rural insurgency against French authority. However, after the Chinese communists reached the Northern border of Vietnam in 1949, the conflict became a conventional war between two armies equipped with modern weapons supplied by the United Statesand the Soviet Union. [Fall, Bernard, "Street Without Joy", p. 17.]
French Union forces included colonial troops from the whole former empire (Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, African, Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Vietnamese ethnic minorities), French professional troops and units of the French Foreign Legion. The use of metropolitan recruits was forbidden by the governments to prevent the war from becoming even more unpopular at home. It was called the “dirty war” ("la sale guerre") by the French communists and leftist intellectuals (including Sartre) during the
Henri Martin Affairin 1950.cite web
title =Those named Martin, Their history is ours - The Great History, (1946-1954) The Indochina War
publisher =Channel 5 (France)
work = documentary
accessdate = 2007-05-20 ]
While the strategy of pushing the Viet Minh to attack a well defended base in a remote part of the country at the end of their logistical trail was validated at the
Battle of Na San, the lack of building materials (especially concrete), tanks (because of lack of road access and difficulty in the jungle terrain), and air cover precluded an effective defense.
After the war, the Geneva Conference on
July 21, 1954, made a provisional division of Vietnamat the 17th parallel, with control of the north given to the Viet Minh as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh, and the south becoming the State of Vietnam under Emperor Bảo Đại. A year later, Bảo Đại would be deposed by his prime minister, Ngô Đình Diệm, creating the Republic of Vietnam. Diem's refusal to enter into negotiations with North Vietnam about holding nationwide elections in 1956, as had been stipulated by the Geneva Conference, would eventually lead to war breaking out again in South Vietnam in 1959 - the Second Indochina War.
Vietnam was absorbed into
French Indochinain stages between 1858 and 1887 with Western influence and education, nationalismgrew until World War IIprovided a break in French control.
In 1905, Vietnamese resistance centered on the intellectual
Phan Boi Chau. Chau looked to Japan, which had modernized and was one of the few Asian nations to resist colonization, ( Thailandbeing another). With Prince Cường Để, Châu started two organizations in Japan, the Duy Tân Hội (Modernistic Association) and Vietnam Cong Hien Hoi. Due to French pressure, Japan deported Phan Bội Châu to China. Witnessing Sun Yat-sen's 1911 nationalist revolution, Chau was inspired to commence the Việt Nam Quang Phục Hội movement in Guangzhou. From 1914 to 1917, he was imprisoned by Yuan Shi Kai's counterrevolutionary government. In 1925, he was captured by French agents in Shanghaiand spirited to Vietnam. Due to his popularity, Châu was spared from execution and placed under house arrest, until his death in 1940.
In September 1940, shortly after Phan Bội Châu's death, Japan launched the First French Indochina Campaign and invaded
French Indochina, coinciding with their ally Germany's invasion of metropolitan France. Keeping the French colonial administration, the Japanese ruled from behind the scenes in a parallel of Vichy France. As far as Vietnamese nationalists were concerned, this was a double-puppet government. Emperor Bảo Đạicollaborated with the Japanese, just as he had with the French, ensuring his lifestyle could continue.
From October 1940 to May 1941, during the
French-Thai War, the Vichy French in Indochina were involved with defending the colony from the forces of invading Thailandwhile the Japanese sat on the sidelines. The Thai forces generally did well on the ground. But Thai objectives in the war were limited. In January, Vichy naval forces decisively defeated Thai naval forces in the Battle of Koh Chang. The war ended in May with the French agreeing to minor territorial gains for Thailand.
Due to a combination of
Japanese exploitation and poor weather, a famine broke out killing approximately 2 million. The Viet Minh arranged a relief effort and won over some people in the north.
In August 1945, when the Japanese surrendered in Vietnam, they allowed the Viet Minh and other nationalist groups to take over public buildings without resistance and started the
August Revolution. In order to further help the nationalists, the Japanese kept Vichy French officials and military officers imprisoned for a month after the surrender.
Ho Chi Minh was able to persuade Emperor Bao Dai to abdicate on
August 25, 1945. Bao Dai was appointed "supreme adviser" to the new Vietminh led government in Hanoi, which asserted independence on September 2. Deliberately borrowing from the declaration of independence of the United States of America, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed on September 2nd: "We hold the truth that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." [Stanley Karnow, "Vietnam: A History," (New York: Penguin Books Ltd., 1997), 146]
With the fall of the short lived Japanese colony of the
Empire of Vietnam, the Provisional Government of the French Republicwanted to restore its colonial rule in French Indochina as the final step of the Liberation of France. An armistice was signed between Japan and the United States on August 20. France signed the armistice with Japan onboard the USS Missouri on behalf of CEFEO Expeditionary Corps header General Leclerc, on September 2nd.
On September 13, a Franco-British
task forcelanded in Java, capital of Sukarno's Dutch East Indies, and Saigon, capital of Cochinchina (southern part of French Indochina) both being occupied by the Japanese and ruled by Field Marshal Hisaichi Terauchi, Commander-in-Chief of Japan's Southern Expeditionary Army Groupbased in Saigon. [ [http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1z4ft_les-allies-a-saigon-et-a-java-01011_news "Allies Reinforce Java and Saigon"] , British Paramount News rushes, 1945] Allied troops in Saigon were an airborne detachment, two British companies of the 20th Hindi Division and the French 5th Colonial Infantry Regiment, with British General Sir Douglas Graceyas supreme commander. The latter proclaimed martial lawon September 21. The following night the Franco-British troops took control of Saigon. ["Philipe Leclerc de Hauteloque (1902-1947), La légende d'un héro", Christine Levisse-Touzé, Tallandier/Paris Musées, 2002]
Almost immediately afterward, the Chinese Government, as agreed to at the
Potsdam Conference, occupied French Indochina as far south as the 16th parallel in order to supervise the disarming and repatriation of the Japanese Army. This effectively ended Ho Chi Minh's nominal government in Hanoi.
General Leclerc arrived in Saigon in
October 9, with him was French Colonel Massu's March Group ("Groupement de marche"). Leclerc's primary objectives were to restore public order in south Vietnam and to militarize Tonkin (north Vietnam). Secondary objectives were to wait for French backup in view to take back Chinese occupied Hanoi, then to negotiate with the Viet Minh officials. ["Philipe Leclerc de Hauteloque (1902-1947), La légende d'un héro", Christine Levisse-Touzé, Tallandier/Paris Musées, 2002]
The Indochinese conflict broke out in
Haiphongafter a conflict of interest in import duty at Haiphong port between the Viet Minhgovernment and the French. On November 23, 1946 the French fleet began a naval bombardment of the city that killed over 6,000 Vietnamese civilians in an afternoon according to one sourcecite book
first =Richard J.
title =Intervention and Revolution: The United States in the Third World
publisher =World Publishing
id = ISBN 0529020149 ] or over 2000 according to another.cite book
title =The Smaller Dragon Strikes
publisher =MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History
date= August 2007, Volume 20, Number 1
id = ISSN 1040-5992 ] The Viet Minh quickly agreed to a cease-fire and left the cities. There was no intention among the Vietnamese to give up though, and General
Vo Nguyen Giapsoon brought up 30,000 men to attack the city. Although the French were outnumbered, their better weaponry and naval support made any Việt Minh's attack impossible. In December, hostilities broke out in Hanoi between the Viet Minh and the French and Ho Chi Minh was forced to evacuate the capital in favor of remote mountain areas. Guerrilla warfare ensued with the French in control of almost everything except very remote areas.
In 1947, General Võ Nguyên Giáp moved his command to Tân Trào. The French sent assault teams after his bases, but Giáp refused to meet them in battle. Wherever the French troops went, the Việt Minh disappeared. Late in the year the French launched
Operation Leato take out the Việt Minh communications center at Bac Kan. They failed to capture Hồ Chí Minh and his key lieutenants as they had hoped, but they killed 9,000 Việt Minh soldiers during the campaign which was a major defeat for the Việt Minh insurgency.
In 1948, France began to look for some way to oppose the Việt Minh politically, with an alternative government in Saigon. They began negotiations with the former Vietnamese emperor
Bảo Đạito lead an "autonomous" government within the French Unionof nations, the State of Vietnam. Two years before, the French had refused Hồ's proposal of a similar status (albeit with some restrictions on French power and the latter's eventual withdrawal from Vietnam), however they were willing to give it to Bảo Ðại as he had always cooperated with French rule of Vietnamin the past and was in no position to seriously negotiate any conditions (Bảo Ðại had no military of his own, but soon he would have one).
In 1949, France officially recognized the "independence" of the
State of Vietnamwithin the French Unionunder Bảo Ðại. However, France still controlled all defense issues and all foreign relations as Vietnam was only an independent state within the French Union. The Việt Minh quickly denounced the government and stated that they wanted "real independence, not Bảo Ðại independence". Later on, as a concession to this new government and a way to increase their numbers, France agreed to the formation of the Vietnamese National Armyto be commanded by Vietnamese officers. These troops were used mostly to garrison quiet sectors so French forces would be available for combat. Private Cao Dai, Hoa Haoand the Binh Xuyengangster armies were used in the same way. The Vietnamese Communists also got help in 1949 when Chairman Mao Zedongsucceeded in taking control of China and defeating the Kuomintang, thus gaining a major ally and supply area just across the border. In the same year, the French also recognized the independence (within the framework of the French Union) of the other two nations in Indochina, the Kingdoms of Laosand Cambodia.
United Statesrecognized the South Vietnamese state, but many nations, even in the west, viewed it as simply a French puppet regime and would not deal with it at all Fact|date=May 2007. The United States began to give military aid to France in the form of weaponry and military observers. By then with almost unlimited Chinese military supplies entering Vietnam, General Giáp re-organized his local irregular forces into five full conventional infantrydivisions, the 304th, 308th, 312th, 316th and the 320th. The war began to intensify when Giáp went on the offensive, attacking isolated French bases along the Chinese border. In February 1950, Giáp seized the vulnerable 150-strong French garrison at Lai Khein Tonkin just south of the border with China. Then, on May 25, he attacked the garrison of Cao Bangmanned by 4,000 French-controlled Vietnamese troops, but his forces were repulsed. Giáp launched his second offense again against Cao Bang again as well as Dong Khe on September 15. Dong Khe fell on September 18, and Cao Bang finally fell on October 3. Lang Son, with its 4,000-strong French Foreign Legiongarrison, was attacked immediately after. The retreating French on Route 4 were attacked all the way by ambushing Việt Minh forces, together with the relief force coming from That Khe. The French dropped a paratroop battalion south of Dong Khe to act as a diversion only to see it surrounded and destroyed. On October 17, Lang Son, after a week of attacks, finally fell. By the time the remains of the garrisons reached the safety of the Red River Delta, 4,800 French troops had been killed, captured or missing in action and 2,000 wounded out of a total garrison force of over 10,000. Also lost were 13 artillery pieces, 125 mortars, 450 trucks, 940 machine guns, 1,200 submachine guns and 8,000 rifles destroyed or captured during the fighting. China and the Soviet Union recognized Hồ Chí Minh as the legitimate ruler of Vietnam and sent him more and more supplies and material aid. 1950 also marked the first time that napalmwas ever used in Vietnam (this type of weapon was supplied by the U.S. for the use of the French Aeronovale at the time).
The military situation began to improve for France when their new commander, General Jean Marie de Lattre de Tassigny, built a fortified line from
Hanoito the Gulf of Tonkin, across the Red River Delta, to hold the Viet Minh in place and use his troops to smash them against this barricade, which became known as the " De Lattre Line". This led to a period of success for the French.
January 131951, Giap moved the 308th and 312th Divisions, made up of over 20,000 men, to attack Vinh Yen, convert|20|mi|km northwest of Hanoi which was manned by the 6,000 strong 9th Foreign Legion Brigade. The Viet Minh entered a trap. Caught for the first time in the open, they were mowed down by concentrated French artillery and machine gun fire. By January 16, Giap was forced to withdraw, having lost over 6,000 killed, 8,000 wounded and 500 captured. The Battle of Vinh Yenhad been a catastrophe.
March 23, Giap tried again, launching an attack against Mao Khe, convert|20|mi|km north of Haiphong. The 316th Division, composed of 11,000 men, with the partly rebuilt 308th and 312th Divisions in reserve, went forward and were repulsed in bitter hand-to-hand fighting, backed up by French aircraft using napalm and rockets as well as gunfire from navy ships off the coast. Giap, having lost over 3,000 dead and wounded by March 28, withdrew.
Giap launched yet another attack on
May 29with the 304th Division at Phu Ly, the 308th Division at Ninh Binh, and the main attack delivered by the 320th Division at Phat Diemsouth of Hanoi. The attacks fared no better and the three divisions lost heavily.Taking advantage of this, de Lattre mounted his counter offensive against the demoralized Việt Minh, driving them back into the jungle and eliminating the enemy pockets in the Red River Delta by June 18costing the Viet Minh over 10,000 killed.
July 31, French General Chanson was assassinated during a kamikazeattentat at Sadecthat was blamed on the Viet Minh, and it was argued that Cao Dainationalist Trinh Minh Thecould have been involved in its planning.
Every effort by Vo Nguyen Giap to break the line failed and every attack he made was answered by a French counter-attack that destroyed his forces. Viet Minh casualties rose alarmingly during this period, leading some to question the leadership of the Communist government, even within the party. However, any benefit this may have reaped for France was negated by the increasing opposition to the war in France. Although all of their forces in Indochina were volunteers, their officers were being killed faster than they could train new onesFacts|date=July 2007. Their only response was to ask for more millions of dollars from AmericaFacts|date=July 2007.
November 14, 1951, the French seized Hòa Binh, convert|25|mi|km west of the De Lattre line, by a parachute drop and expanded their perimeter. But Việt Minh launched attacks on Hòa Binh forcing the French to withdraw back to their main positions on the De Lattre line by February 22 1952. Each side lost nearly 5,000 men in this campaign and it showed that the war was far from over. In January, General de Lattre fell ill from cancer and had to return to France for treatment; he died there shortly thereafter and was replaced by General Raoul Salanas the overall commander of French forces in Indochina. Within that year, throughout the war theater, the Việt Minh cut French supply lines and began to seriously wear down the resolve of the French forces. There were continued raids, skirmishes and guerrilla attacks, but through most of the rest of the year each side withdrew to prepare itself for larger operations. On October 171952, Giáp launched attacks against the French garrisons along Nghia Lo, northwest of Hanoi, breaking them off when a French parachute battalion intervened. Giáp by now had control over most of Tonkin beyond the De Lattre line. Raoul Salan, seeing the situation as critical, launched Operation Lorrainealong the Clear river to force Giáp to relieve pressure from the Nghia Lo outposts. On 29 October 1952, in the largest operation in Indochina to date, 30,000 French Union soldiers moved out from the De Lattre line to attack the Viet Minh supply dumps at Phu Yen. Salan took Phu Tho on 5 November, and Phu Doanon 9 Novemberby a parachutedrop, and finally Phu Yen on 13 November. Giap at first did not react to the French offensive. He planned to wait until their supply lines were over extended and then cut them off from the Red River Delta. Salan correctly guessed what the Viet Minh were up to and cancelled the operation on 14 November, beginning to withdraw to the de Lattre line. The only major fighting during the operation came during the withdrawal, when the Viet Minh ambushed the French column at Chan Muongon 17 November. The road was cleared after a bayonet charge by the Indochinese March Battalion and the withdrawal could continue. Though the operation was partially successful, it proved that although the French could strike out at any target outside the De Lattre line, it failed to divert the Viet Minh offensive or serious damage its logistical network.
April 9, 1953 Giáp after having failed repeatedly in direct attacks on the French changed strategy and began to pressure the French by invading Laos. The only real change came in May when General Navarre replaced General Salan as supreme commander in Indochina. He reported to the government "…that there was no possibility of winning the war in Indo-China" saying that the best the French could hope for was a stalemate. Navarre, in response to the Việt Minh attacking Laos, concluded that "hedgehog" centers of defense were the best plan. Looking at a map of the area, Navarre chose the small town of Ðiện Biên Phủ, located about convert|10|mi|km north of the Lao border and convert|175|mi|km west of Hanoi as a target to block the Việt Minh from invading Laos. Ðiện Biên Phủ had a number of advantages; it was on a Việt Minh supply route into Laos on the Nam Yum River, it had an old Japanese airstrip built in the late 1930s for supply and it was situated in the T'ai hills where the T'ai tribesmen, still loyal to the French, operated. Operation Castorwas launched on November 20 1953with 1,800 men of the French 1st and 2nd Airborne Battalions dropping into the valley of Ðiện Biên Phủ and sweeping aside the local Việt Minh garrison. The paratroopers managed control of a heart-shaped valley convert|12|mi|km long and eight miles (13 km) wide surrounded by heavily wooded hills. Encountering little opposition, the French and T'ai units operating from Lai Châu to the north patrolled the hills. The operation was a tactical success for the French. However, Giáp, seeing the weakness of the French position, started moving most of his forces from the De Lattre line to Ðiện Biên Phủ. By mid-December, most of the French and T'ai patrols in the hills around the town were wiped out by Việt Minh ambushes. Facts|date=May 2007 The fight for control of this position would be the longest and hardest battle for the French Far East Expeditionary Corpsand would be remembered by the veterans as "57 Days of Hell".
Hung Yen(1954).] By 1954, despite official propaganda presenting the war as a "crusade against communism",cite web
title =La Guerre En Indochine
accessdate = 2007-05-20 ] cite web
title =Bigeard et Dien Bien Phu
work =TV news
publisher =Channel 2 (France)
accessdate = 2007-05-20 ] the war in Indochina was still growing unpopular with the French public. The political stagnation of the Fourth Republic meant that France was unable to extract itself from the conflict. The United States initially sought to remain neutral, viewing the conflict as chiefly a
decolonizationwar. The Battle of Dien Bien Phuoccurred in 1954 between Viet Minhforces under Vo Nguyen Giapsupported by Chinaand the Soviet Unionand the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corpssupported by Indochinese allies and the United States. The battle was fought near the village of Dien Bien Phuin northern Vietnamand became the last major battle between the French and the Vietnamese in the First Indochina War. The battle began on March 13when the Việt Minh attacked preemptively surprising the French with heavy artillery. Their supply lines interrupted, the French position became untenable, particularly when the advent of the monsoonseason made dropping supplies and reinforcements by parachute difficult. With defeat imminent, the French sought to hold on till the opening of the Geneva peace meeting on April 26. The last French offensive took place on May 4, but it was ineffective. The Viet Minh then began to hammer the outpost with newly supplied Katyusharockets. The final fall took two days, May 6and 7th, during which the French fought on but were eventually overrun by a huge frontal assault. General Cogny based in Hanoi ordered General de Castries, who was commanding the outpost to cease fire at 5:30PM and to destroy all material (weapons, transmissions, etc.) to deny their use to the enemy. A formal order was given to not use the white flagso that it would not be considered to be a surrender but a ceasefire. Much of the fighting ended on May 7th, however a ceasefire was not respected on Isabelle, the isolated southern position, and the battle lasted until May 8th 1:00AM. [ [http://www.dienbienphu.org/ DienBienPhu.org the official web site of the battle] ] At least 2,200 members of the 20,000-strong French forces died during the battle. Of the 100,000 or so Vietnamese involved, there were an estimated 8,000 killed and another 15,000 wounded.Facts|date=June 2007 The prisoners taken at Dien Bien Phu were the greatest number the Viet Minh had ever captured: one-third of the total captured during the entire war. One month after Dien Bien Phu, the composite Groupe Mobile 100 (GM100) of the French Union forces evacuated the An Kheoutpost and was ambushed by a larger Viet Minh force at the Battle of Mang Yang Passfrom June 24to July 17th. On the same time, Giap launched some offensives against the delta but they all failed. The Viet Minh victory at Dien Bien Phu heavily influenced the outcome of the 1954 Geneva accords that took place on July 21. In August began Operation Passage to Freedomconsisting of the evacuation of catholic and loyalist Vietnamese civilians from communist North Vietnamese persecution.
Geneva Conference and Partition
Negotiations between France and the Viet-minh started in Geneva in April 1954 at the Geneva Conference. During this time the French Union and the Viet Minh were fighting the most epic battle of the war at Dien Bien Phu. In France,
Pierre Mendès-France, opponent of the war since 1950, had been invested on June 17, 1954, on a promise to put an end to the war, reaching a ceasefirein four months:
"Today it seems we can be reunited in a will for peace that may express the aspirations of our country... Since already several years, a compromise peace, a peace negotiated with the opponent seemed to me commanded by the facts, while it commanded, in return, to put back in order our finances, the recovery of our economy and its expansion. Because this war placed on our country an unbearable burden. And here appears today a new and formidable threat: if the Indochina conflict is not resolved — and settled very fast — it is the risk of war, of international war and maybe atomic, that we must foresee. It is because I wanted a better peace that I wanted it earlier, when we had more assets. But even now there is some renouncings or abandons that the situation does not comprise. France does not have to accept and will not accept settlement which would be incompatible with its more vital interests [applauding on certain seats of the Assembly on the left and at the extreme right] . France will remain present in Far-Orient. Neither our allies, nor our opponents must conserve the least doubt on the signification of our determination. A negotiation has been engaged in Geneva... I have longly studied the report... consulted the most qualified military and diplomatic experts. My conviction that a pacific settlement of the conflict is possible has been confirmed. A "cease-fire" must henceforth intervene quickly. The government which I will form will fix itself — and will fix to its opponents — a delay of 4 weeks to reach it. We are today on 17th of June. I will present myself before you before the 20th of July... If no satisfying solution has been reached at this date, you will be freed from the contract which would have tied us together, and my government will give its dismissal to Mr. the President of the Republic." [ [http://www.assembleenationale.fr/histoire/pierre-mendes_france/mendes_france-7.asp June 17, 1954 discourse of Mendès-France] on the website of the French National Assembly ]The Geneva Conference on
July 21, 1954, recognized the 17th parallel as a "provisional military demarcation line" temporarily dividing the country into two zones, Communist North Vietnamand pro-Western South Vietnam.
The Geneva Accords promised elections in 1956 to determine a national government for a united Vietnam. However, the United States and the
State of Vietnamrefused to sign the document. From his home in France, Emperor Bảo Đạiappointed Ngô Ðình Diệm as Prime Minister of South Vietnam. With American support, in 1955 Diệm used a referendum to remove the former Emperor and declare himself the president of the Republic of Vietnam.
When the elections were prevented from happening by the Americans and the South, Việt Minh cadres who stayed behind in South Vietnam were activated and started to fight the government. North Vietnam also invaded and occupied portions of Laos to assist in supplying the guerilla fighting National Liberation Front in South Vietnam. The war gradually escalated into the Second Indochina War, more commonly known as the "Vietnam War" in the West and the "American War" in Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh
Interestingly the US Communist Party was outlawed in 1954, [ [http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1zo8p_le-communisme-aux-etatsunis-0406196 Five columns on the cover's dossiers: Communism in the United States (May 4th 1965)] French public channel ORTF] the very same year Wallace Buford and James McGovern Jr. became the first American casualties in Vietnam. Their C-119 transport aircraft was shot down by Viet Minh artillery while on mission to drop supplies to the garrison of Dien Bien Phu. [William M. Leary, "CAT at Dien Bien Phu", Aerospace Historian 31 (Fall / September 1984)] The war ended that year but its sequel started in
French Algeriawhere the French Communist Party played an even stronger role by supplying the National Liberation Front (FLN) rebels with intelligence documents and financial aids. They were called "the suitcase carriers" ("les porteurs de valises").
In 1923, Ho Chi Minh moved to
Guangzhou, China. From 1925-26, he organized the 'Youth Education Classes' and occasionally gave lectures at the Whampoa Military Academyon the revolutionary movement in Indochina. He stayed there in Hong Kongas a representative of the Communist International. In June 1931, he was arrested and incarcerated by British police until his release in 1933. He then made his way back to the Soviet Union, where he spent several years recovering from tuberculosis. In 1938, he returned to Chinaand served as an adviser with the Chinese Communist armed forces.
Ho Chi Minh, a nationalist who saw communist revolution as the path to freedom, returned to Vietnam and formed the "Việt Nam Độc Lập Đồng Minh Hội" (Allied Association of Independent Vietnam), also called the "Việt Minh". He spent many years in Moscowand participated in the International Comintern. At the direction of Moscow, he combined the various Vietnamese communist groups into the Indochinese Communist Party in Hong Kongin 1930. Ho Chi Minh created the Viet Minh as an umbrella organizationfor all the nationalist resistance movements, de-emphasizing his communist social revolutionary background. Late in the war, the Japanese created a nominally independent government of Vietnam under the overall leadership of Bảo Đại. Around the same time, the Japanese arrested and imprisoned most of the French officials and military officers left in the country. After the French army and other officials were freed from Japanese prisons in Vietnam, they began reasserting their authority over parts of the country. At the same time, the French government began negotiations with both the Viet Minh and the Chinese for a return of the French army to Vietnam north of the 16th parallel. The Viet Minh were willing to accept French rule to end Chinese occupation. Ho Chi Minh and others had fears of the Chinese, based on China's historic domination and occupation of Vietnam. The French negotiated a deal with the Chinese where pre-war French concessions in Chinese ports such as Shanghai were traded for Chinese cooperation in Vietnam. The French landed a military force at Haiphong in early 1946. Negotiations then took place about the future for Vietnam as a state within the French Union. These talks eventually failed and the Việt Minh fled into the countryside to wage guerrilla war. In 1946, Vietnam gained its first constitution.The British had supported the French in fighting the Viet Minh, the armed religious Cao Daiand Hoa Haosects, and the Binh Xuyenorganized crime groups which were all individually seeking power in the country. In 1948, seeking a post-colonial solution, the French re-installed Bảo Ðại as head of stateof Vietnam under the French Union. The Viet Minh were ineffective in the first few years of the war and could do little more than harass the French in remote areas of Indochina. In 1949, the war changed with the triumph of the communists in China on Vietnam's northern border. China was able to give almost unlimited amounts of weapons and supplies to the Việt Minh which transformed itself into a conventional army. After World War II, the United Statesand the USSR entered into the Cold War. The Korean Warbroke out in 1950 between communist North Korea(DPRK) supported by China and the Soviet Union, and South Korea(ROK) supported by the United States and its allies in the United Nations. The Cold War was now turning 'hot' in East Asia, and American government's fears of communist domination of the entire region would have deep implications for the American involvement in Vietnam. The US became strongly opposed to the government of Hồ Chí Minh, in part, because it was supported and supplied by China. Hồ's government gained recognition from China and the Soviet Union by January 1950 in response to Western support for the State of Vietnamthat the French had proposed as an associate state within the French Union. In the French-controlled areas of Vietnam, in the same year, the government of Bảo Đại gained recognition by the United States and the United Kingdom.
French domestic situation
The 1946 Constitution creating the Fourth Republic (1946-1958) made France a
Parliamentary republic. Because of the political context, it could find stability only by an alliance between the three dominant parties: the Christian Democratic Popular Republican Movement(MRP), the French Communist Party(PCF) (founded by Ho Chi Minh himself) and the socialist French Section of the Workers' International(SFIO). Known as "tripartisme", this alliance lasted from 1947 until the May 1947 crisis, with the expulsion from Paul Ramadier's SFIO government of the PCF ministers, marking the official start of the Cold Warin France. However, this had the effect of weakening the regime, with the two most important movements of this period, Communism and Gaullism, in opposition.
Unlikely alliances had to be made between left and right-wing parties in order to have a government invested by the National Assembly, resulting in strong parliamentary unstability. Hence, France had fourteen prime ministers in succession between the creation of the Fourth Republic in 1947 and the
Battle of Dien Bien Phuin 1954. The turnover of governments (there were 17 different governments during the war) left France unable to prosecute the war with any consistent policy according to veteran General René de Biré (Lieutenant at Dien Bien Phu).cite web
title =Dien Bien Phu, Chronicles of a Forgotten Battle
publisher =Transparences Productions/Channel 2 (France)
accessdate = ]
France was increasingly unable to afford the costly conflict of Indochina and, by 1954, the
United Stateswas paying 80% of France's war effort which was $3,000,000 per day in 1952.cite web
title =France's war against Communists rages on
publisher =News Magazine of the Screen/Warner Bros.
date= May 1952
accessdate = 2007-05-20 ] [ [http://www.mises.org/journals/lar/pdfs/3_3/3_3_8.pdf A Bernard Fall Retrospective] , presentation of
Bernard B. Fall, "Vietnam Witness 1953-56", New York, Praeger, 1966, by the Ludwig von Mises Institute]
anti-warmovement existed in France coming mostly from the then powerful French Communist Party (outpowering the socialists) and its young militant associations, major trade unions like the General Confederation of Labour as well as notable leftist intellectuals.cite news
title =Guerre d'Indochine: Libérez Henri Martin
accessdate = 2007-05-20 ] cite news
last =Nhu Tang
title =A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath
accessdate = 2007-06-27 ] The first occurrence was probably at the National Assembly on
March 21, 1947when the communists deputees refused to vote the military credits for Indochina. The following year a pacifist event was organized by soviet organizations with the French communist atomic physicist Frederic Joliot-Curie as president. It was the World Peace Council's predecessor known as the "1st Worldwide Congress of Peace Partisans" ("1er Congrès Mondial des Partisans de la Paix") which took place from March 25to March 28, 1948in Paris.cite web
title =France History, IV Republic (1946-1958)
publisher =Quid Encyclopedia
language = French
accessdate = 2007-05-20 ] Later in
April 28, 1950, Joliot-Curie would be dismissed from the military and civilian Atomic Energy Commission. Young communist militants (UJRF) were also involved in sabotage actions like the famous Henri Martin Affairand the case of Raymonde Dienwho was jailed one year for having blocked an ammunition train, with the help of other militants, in order to prevent the supply of French forces in Indochina in February 1950. Similar actions against trains occurred in Roanne, Charleville, Marseille, Paris. Even ammunition sabotage by PCF agents have been reported, such as grenades exploding in the hands of legionaries. These actions became so important by 1950 that the French Assembly voted a law against sabotage from March 2to 8th. At this session tension was so high between politicians that fighting ensued in the assembly following communist deputees speeches against the Indochinese policy. This month saw the French navy mariner and communist militant Henri Martin arrested by the military police and jailed for five years for sabotage and propaganda operations in Toulon's arsenal. On May 5the communist Ministers were dismissed from the government, marking the end of the Tripartism. A few months later on November 11, 1950, the French Communist Party leader Maurice Thorezwent to Moscow.
Some military officers involved in the Revers Report scandal ("Rapport Revers") like General Salan were very pessimistic about the way the war was managed. [Patrick Pesnot, [http://www.radiofrance.fr/franceinter/em/rendezvousavecx/index.php?id=28843 Rendez-vous Avec X - Dien Bien Phu] , France Inter, December 4th 2004 (Rendez-vous With X broadcasted on public station France Inter)] Actually multiple political-military scandals happened during the war starting with the
Generals' Affair("Affaire des Généraux") from September 1949 to November 1950.
As a result, General Revers was dismissed in December 1949 and socialist Defense Ministry
Jules Moch(SFIO) was brought on court by the National Assembly in November 28th 1950. Emerging media played their role, and this scandal started the commercial success of the first French news magazine "L'Express" created in 1953. [ [http://www.lexpress.fr/info/france/dossier/giroud/dossier.asp?ida=372262 "We wanted a newspaper to tell what we wanted" interview by Denis Jeambar & Roland Mihail] ]
The third scandal was a financial-political scandal, concerning military corruption, money and arms trading involving both the French Union army and the Viet Minh, known as the
In the French news, the Indochina War was presented as a direct continuation of the
Korean Warwhere France had fought as a UN French battalion then incorporated in a U.S. unit, which was later involved in the terrible Battle of Mang Yang Passof June and July 1954. In an interview taped in May 2004, General Bigeard (6th BPC) argues that "one of the deepest mistakes done by the French during the war was the propaganda telling you are fighting for Freedom, you are fighting against Communism", hence the sacrifice of volunteers during the climactic battle of Dien Bien Phu. In the latest days of the siege, 652 non-paratrooper soldiers from all army corps from cavalry to infantry to artillery dropped for the first and last time of their life to support their comrades. The Cold War excuse was later used by General Challe through his famous "Do you want Mers El Kébir& Algiersto become soviet bases as soon as tomorrow?", during the Generals' putsch ( Algerian War) of 1961, with limited effect though. [ [http://home.nordnet.fr/jcpillon/piedgris/photovisiteur/appel-challe.jpgGeneral Challe's appeal (April 22th 1961)] ] The same propaganda existed in the United States with local newsreels using French news footages, probably supplied by the army's cinematographic service. Happening right in the Red Scareyears, propaganda was necessary both to justify financial aid and at the same time to promote the American effort in the ongoing Korea War.cite web
title =The war in Indo-China goes on
publisher =News Magazine of the Screen/Warner Bros.
date= December 1953
accessdate = 2007-05-20 ] A few hours after the French Union defeat at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954, the U.S.
Secretary of State John Foster Dullesmade an official speech depicting the "tragic event" and "its defense for fifty seven days and nights will remain in History as one of the most heroic of all time." Later on, he denounced Chinese aid to the Viet Minh, explained that the United States could not act openly because of international pressure, and concluded with the call to "all concerned nations" concerning the necessity of "a collective defense" against "the communist aggression". [ [http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2082a_john-foster-dulles-on-the-fall-of-d_events "John Foster Dulles on the fall of Dien Bien Phu"]
War crimes & re-education camps
Boudarel Affair. Georges Boudarelwas a French communist militant who used brainswashing and tortures against French Union POWs in Viet Minh reeducation camps. [ [http://www.anapi.asso.fr/index.php?langue=en Boudarel affair in the ANAPI official website] ] The French national association of POWs brought Boudarel to court for a war crimecharge. Most of the French Union prisoners died in the Viet Minh camps, many POWs from the Vietnamese National Armyare missing.
Passage to Freedomwas a Franco-American operation to evacuate refugees. Loyal Indochinese evacuated to metropolitan France were kept in detention camps.cite web
title =USS Skagit and Operation Passage To Freedom
accessdate = 2007-05-20 ]
* In 1957, the French Chief of Staff with Raoul Salan would use the POWs experience with the Viet Minh reeducation camps to create two "
Instruction Center for Pacification and Counter-Insurgency" ("Centre d'Instruction à la Pacification et à la Contre-Guérilla" aka CIPCG) and train thousands of officers during the Algerian War.
Other countries' involvement
By 1946, France headed the French Union. As successive governments had forbidden the sending of metropolitan troops, the
French Far East Expeditionary Corps(CEFEO) was created in March 1945. The Union gathered combatants from almost all French territories made of colonies, protectorates and associated states ( Madagascar, Senegal, Tunisia, etc.) to fight in French Indochina, which was then occupied by the Japanese. About 325,000 of the 500,000 French troops were Indochinese, almost all of whom were used in conventional units. [ Alf Andrew Heggoyand "Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Algeria", Bloomington, Indiana, Indiana University Press, 1972, p.175 ]
The A.O.F. ("Afrique Occidentale Française") was a federation of African colonies. Senegalese and other African troops were sent to fight in Indochina. Some African alumni were trained in the Infantry Instruction Center no.2 ("Centre d'Instruction de l'Infanterie no.2") located in southern Vietnam. Senegalese of the Colonial Artillery fought at the siege of Dien Bien Phu. As a French colony (later a full province), French Algeria sent local troops to Indochina including several RTA ("Régiment de Tirailleurs Algériens")
light infantrybattalions. Moroccowas a French protectorate and sent troops to support the French effort in Indochina. Moroccan troops were part of light infantry RTMs ("Régiment de Tirailleurs Marocains") for "Moroccan Sharpshooters Regiment".
As a French protectorate,
Bizerte, Tunisia, was a major French base. Tunisian troops, mostly RTT ("Régiment de Tirailleurs Tunisiens"), were sent to Indochina. Part of French Indochina, then part of the French Union and later an associated state, Laosfought the communists along with French forces. The role played by Laotian troops in the conflict was depicted by veteran Pierre Schoendoerffer's famous "317th Platoon" released in 1964. [ [http://www.net4war.com/e-revue/dossiers/indochine/317-section.pdf "The 317th Platoon"s script] ] The French Indochina state of Cambodia played a significant role during the Indochina War through its infantrymen and paratroopers.Fact|date=July 2007
While Bao Dai's
State of Vietnam(formerly Annam, Tonkin, Cochinchine) had the Vietnamese National Armysupporting the French forces, some minorities were trained and organized as regular battalions (mostly infantry " tirailleurs") that fought with French forces against the Viet Minh. The Tai Battalion 2 (BT2, "2e Bataillon Thai") is famous for its desertion during the siege of Dien Bien Phu. Propaganda leaflets written in Tai and French sent by the Viet Minh were found in the deserted positions and trenches. Such deserters were called the " Nam Yum rats" by Bigeard during the siege, as they hid close to the Nam Yum river during the day and searched at night for supply drops. [ [http://www.ena.lu?lang=2&doc=14652 Original audio recordings of General de Castries (Dien Bien Phu) and General Cogny (Hanoi) transmissions on May 7, 1954, during the battle of Dien Bien Phu (from the European Navigator based in Luxembourg)] ] Another allied minority was the Muong people("Mường"). The 1st Muong Battalion ("1er Bataillon Muong") was awarded the "Croix de Guerre des TOE" after the victorious battle of Vinh Yenin 1951. [ [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/notfot.asp?id=573&page=1&dossierid=496&photo=1&Npage=1&collectionid=4 French Defense Ministry archives, ECPAD] ] In the 1950s, the French established secret commando groups based on loyal montagnard ethnic minorities referred as "partisans" or " maquisards", called the " Groupement de Commandos Mixtes Aéroportés" (Composite Airborne Commando Group or GCMA), later renamed "Groupement Mixte d'Intervention" (GMI, or Mixed Intervention Group), directed by the SDECE counter-intelligence service. The SDECE's "Service Action" GCMA used both commando and guerrilla techniques and operated in intelligence and secret missions from 1950 to 1955. [" [http://www.alapage.com/-/Fiche/Livres/9782703001003/services-speciaux-en-indochine-1950-1954-deroo.htm?fulltext=services%20sp%E9ciaux&id=254581179999440&donnee_appel=GOOGL Service Spéciaux - GCMA Indochine 1950/54] ", Commandant Raymond Muelle & Eric Deroo, Crépin-Leblond editions, 1992, ISBN 2703001002] [" [http://www.amazon.fr/dp/2702506364 Guerre secrète en Indochine - Les maquis autochtones face au Viêt-Minh (1950-1955)] ", Lieutenant-Colonel Michel David, Lavauzelle editions, 2002, ISBN 2702506364] Declassified information about the GCMA include the name of its commander, famous Colonel Roger Trinquier, and a mission on April 30, 1954, when Jedburgh veteran Captain Sassi led the Mèo partisans of the GCMA Malo-Servan in Operation Condor during the siege of Dien Bien Phu. [" [http://www.amazon.fr/dp/B0007UMEV6 Dien Bien Phu - Le Rapport Secret] ", Patrick Jeudy, TF1 Video, 2005] In 1951, Adjutant-Chief Vandenberghe from the 6th Colonial Infantry Regiment (6e RIC) created the "Commando Vanden" (aka "Black Tigers", aka "North Vietnam Commando #24") based in Nam Dinh. Recruits were volunteers from the Thổ people, Nung peopleand Miao people. This commando unit wore Viet Minh black uniforms to confuse the enemy and used techniques of the experienced Bo doi("Bộ đội", regular army) and Du Kich(guerrilla unit). Viet Minh prisoners were recruited in POW camps. The commando was awarded the "Croix de Guerre des TOE" with palm in July 1951, however Vandenberghe was betrayed by a Vet Minh recruit, commander Nguien Tinh Khoi (308th Division's 56th Regiment), who assassinated him (and his Vietnamese fiancee) with external help on the night of January 5th 1952. [ [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierid=486&photo=1&Npage=2&collectionid=4 French Defense Ministry archives] ] [ [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierid=486&photo=1&Npage=3&collectionid=4 French Defense Ministry archives] ] [ [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierid=486&photo=1&Npage=4&collectionid=4 French Defense Ministry archives] ] Coolies and POWs known as "PIM" ("Prisonniers Internés Militaires" which is basically the same as POW) were civilians used by the army as logistical support personnel. During the battle of Dien Bien Phu, coolies were in charge of burying the corpses - the first days only, after they were abandoned hence a terrible smell according to veterans - and they had the dangerous job of gathering supply packets delivered in drop zones while the Viet Minh artillery was firing hard to destroy the crates. The Viet Minh also used thousands of coolies to carry the Chu-Luc (regional units) supplies and ammunition during assaults. The PIM were civilian males old enough to join Bao Dai's army. They were captured in enemy controlled villages, and those who refused to join the State of Vietnam's army were considered prisoners or used as coolies to support a given regiment. [ [http://echo.levillage.org/207/3639.cbb Dr. Jacques Cheneau in "In Vietnam, 1954. Eight episode"] ]
One point that neither the Americans nor the French seemed to grasp, was the concept of sanctuary. As long as the revolutionaries who are fighting a guerilla war have a sanctuary, in which they can hide out, recoup after losses, and store supplies, it is almost impossible for any foreign enemy to ever destroy them.
In the early 1950s, southern
Chinawas used as a sanctuary by Viet Minh guerrillas. Several hit and run ambushes were successfully operated against French Union convoys along the neighboring Route Coloniale 4 (RC 4) which was a major supply way in Tonkin (northern Vietnam). One of the most famous attack of this kind was the battle of Cao Bang. China supplied the Viet Minh guerrillas with food (thousands of tons of rice), money, medics, arms (Sung Khong Zat cannons), ammunitions (SKZ rockets), artillery (24 guns were used at Dien Bien Phu) and other military equipment including a large part of material captured from Chiang Kai-shek's National Revolutionary Armyduring the Chinese Civil War. Evidences of the Chinese secret aid were found in caves during Operation Hirondellein July 1953. [ [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/notfot.asp?id=5374&page=1&dossierid=483&photo=1&Npage=1&collectionid=4 French Defense Ministry archives] ] [ [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/notfot.asp?id=1628&page=4&dossierid=483&photo=1&Npage=4&collectionid=4 French Defense Ministry archives] ] 2,000 Chinese and Soviet Union military advisors trained the Viet Minh guerrilla to turn it into a full range army. On top of this China sent two artillery battalions at the siege of Dien Bien Phu on May 6th 1954. One operated SKZ (Sung Khong Zat) 75 mm recoilless cannons while the other used 12 x 6 Katyusharockets [Chinese General Hoang Minh Thao and Colonel Hoang Minh Phuong quoted by Pierre Journoud researcher at the Defense History Studies (CHED), Paris University Pantheon-Sorbonne, in "Paris Hanoi Beijing" published in "Communisme" magazine and the Pierre Renouvin Institute of Paris, July 20th 2004.] China and the Soviet Unionwere the first nations to recognize North Vietnam.
The USSR was the other ally of the Viet Minh supplying
GAZtrucks, truck engines, fuel, tires, arms (thousands of Skoda light machine guns), all kind of ammunitions, anti-aircraft guns (4 x 37 mm type) and cigarettes. During Operation Hirondelle, the French Union paratroopers captured and destroyed tons of Soviet supply in the Ky Lua area. [ [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/notfot.asp?id=5374&page=1&dossierid=483&photo=1&Npage=1&collectionid=4 French Defense Ministry archives] ] [ [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/notfot.asp?id=5373&page=1&dossierid=483&photo=1&Npage=1&collectionid=4 French Defense Ministry archives] ] According to General Giap, the Viet Minh used 400 GAZ-51soviet-built trucks at the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Using highly effective camouflage, the French Union reconnaissance planes were not able to notice them. On May 6, 1954during the siege, Katyushawere successfully used against the outpost. Together with China, the Soviet Union sent 2,000 military advisors to train the Viet Minh guerrilla and turn it into a fully organized army. The Soviet Union was with China the first nations to recognize Ho Chi Minh's North Vietnam.
Mutual Defense Assistance Act (1950-1954)
Anti-communist Vietnamese refugees moving from a French LSM landing ship to the USS Montague during
Operation Passage to Freedomin 1954.] At the beginning of the war, the U.S. was neutral in the conflict because of opposition to imperialismand consequently to help colonial empires regain their power and influence, because the Viet Minh had recently been their allies, and because most of its attention was focused on Europewhere Winston Churchillargued an Iron Curtainhad fallen.
Then the U.S. government gradually began supporting the French in their war effort, primarily through
Mutual Defense Assistance Act, as a means of stabilizing the French Fourth Republicin which the French Communist Party- created by Ho Chi Minh himself - was a significant political force. A dramatic shift occurred in American policy after the victory of Mao Zedong's Communist Party of Chinain the Chinese Civil War. By 1949, however, the United States became concerned about the spread of communism in Asia, particularly following the end of the Chinese Civil War, and began to strongly support the French as the two countries were bound by the Cold War Mutual Defense Programme.cite web
title =Replacing France: The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam
publisher =University Press of Kentucky
accessdate = 2007-06-28 ] After the Moch-Marshall meeting of
September 23 1950, in Washington, the United States started to support the French Union effort politically, logistically and financially. Officially, US involvement did not include use of armed force. However, recently it has been discovered that undercover (CAT) -or not- US Air Force pilots flew to support the French during Operation Castorin November 1953. Two US pilots were killed in action during the siege of Dien Bien Phu the following year. These facts were declassified and made public more than 50 years after the events, in 2005 during the Légion d'honneuraward ceremony by the French ambassador in Washington.
In May 1950, after the capture of
Hainanisland by Chinese Communist forces, U.S. President Harry S. Trumanbegan covertly authorizing direct financial assistance to the French, and in June 27, 1950, after the outbreak of the Korean War, announced publicly that the U.S. was doing so. It was feared in Washington that if Ho were to win the war, with his ties to the Soviet Union, he would establish a puppet statewith Moscowwith the Soviets ultimately controlling Vietnamese affairs. The prospect of a communist dominated Southeast Asiawas enough to spur the U.S. to support France, so that the spread of Soviet-allied communism could be contained.
June 30, 1950, the first U.S. supplies for Indochina were delivered. In September, Truman sent the Military Assistance Advisory Group(MAAG) to Indochina to assist the French. Later, in 1954, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhowerexplained the escalationrisk, introducing what he referred to as the "domino principle," which eventually became the concept of Domino theory. During the Korean war, the conflict in Vietnam was also seen as part of a broader proxy war with China and the USSR in Asia.
US Navy assistance (1951-1954)
The USS Windham Bay delivered Grumman F8F Bearcat to Saigon in January 26th 1951. [ [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/notfot.asp?id=2953&page=1&dossierid=497&photo=1&Npage=1&collectionid=4# French Defense Ministry archives] ]
On March 2, the US Navy transferred the USS LST 490 (Agenor) to the French navy in Indochina per the MAAG-led MAP. Renamed RFS Vulcain (A-656), she was used in Operation Hirondelle in 1953. The USS Sitkoh Bay carrier delivered Grumman F8F Bearcat aircraft to Saigon on
March 26, 1951. During September 1953, the USS Belleau Wood -renamed "Bois Belleau"- was lent to France and sent to French Indochina to replace the Arromanches. She was used to support delta defenders in the Halong bay in May 1954. In August, she joined the Franco-American evacuation operation Passage to Freedom.
The same month, the United States delivered additional aircraft using the USS Windham Bay carrier. [http://www.ina.fr/archivespourtous/index.php?vue=corpus&code=C0524208764# Indochina War: The "good offices" of the Americans (National Audiovisual Institute)] She would return to Saigon in 1955. On
April 18, 1954, during the siege of Dien Bien Phu, the USS Saipan delivered 25 Korean War AU-1 Corsair aircraft to be used by the French Aeronavale to support the bessieged garrison.
US Air Force assistance (1952-1954)
A total of 94 F4U-7s were built for the Aeronavale in 1952, with the last of the batch, the final Corsair built, rolled out in December 1952. The F4U-7s were actually purchased by the U.S. Navy and passed on to the Aeronavale through the U.S. Military Assistance Program (MAP). They were supplemented by 25 ex-U.S.MC AU-1s (previously used in the Korean War) and moved from Yokosuka, Japan to Tourane Air Base (
Da Nang), Vietnam in April 1954. US Air Force assistance followed in November 1953 when the French commander in Indochina, General Navarre, asked General McCarty, commander of the Combat Cargo Division, for 12 Fairchild C-119 for Operation Castorat Dien Bien Phu.
March 3, 1954, twelve C-119s of the 483rd Troop Carrier Wing ("Packet Rats") based at Ashiya, Japan, were painted with France's insignia and loaned to France with 24 CIA pilots for short term use. Maintenance was carried out by the US Air Force and airlift operations were commanded by McCarty.cite web
title =French-American relations
publisher =Embassy of France in the U.S.
accessdate = 2007-05-20 ]
Central Intelligence Agency covert operations (1954)
Two CIA pilots (CAT) were killed in action during the siege of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Twenty four CIA pilots supplied the French Union garrison by airlifting paratroopers, ammunition, artillery pieces, tons of barbed wire, medics and other military material. With the reducing DZ areas, night operations and anti-aircraft artillery assaults, many of the "packets" fell into Viet Minh hands.
The 37 CIA pilots completed 682 airdrops under anti-aircraft fire between
March 13and May 6th. The ceasefire began the following day at 5:00 PM under Hanoi-based General Cogny's orders. On February 25, 2005, the French ambassador to the United States, Jean-David Levitte, awarded the seven remaining CIA pilots with the Légion d'honneur.
Operation Passage to Freedom (1954)
In August 1954, in support to the French navy and the merchant navy, the U.S. Navy launched
Operation Passage to Freedomand sent hundreds of ships, including USS Montague, in order to evacuate non-communist - especially Catholic Vietnamese refugees from North Vietnamfollowing the July 20, 1954 armistice and partition of Vietnam. Around 450,000 Vietnamese civilians were transported from North to South during this period, with around one tenth of that number moving in the opposite direction.
Although a kind of taboo in France, "the dirty war" has been featured in various films, books and songs. Since its declasification in the 2000s television documentaries have been released using new perspectives about the U.S. covert involvement and open critics about the French propaganda used during wartime.
Famous Communist propagandist "
Roman Karmen" was in charge of the media exploitation of the battle of Dien Bien Phu. In his documentary, "Vietnam" (Вьетнам, 1955), he staged the famous scene with the raising of the Viet Minh flag over de Castries' bunker which is similar to the one he staged over the Berlin Reichstag roof during World War II("Берлин", 1945) and the "S" shaped POW column marching after the battle, where he used the same optical technique he experimented before when he staged the German prisoners after the Siege of Leningrad("Ленинград в борьбе", 1942) and the Battle of Moscow("Разгром немецких войск под Москвой", 1942). [ [http://www.dien-bien-phu.info/articles.php?lng=fr&pg=29 Pierre Schoendoerffer interview with Jean Guisnel in "Some edited pictures"] ] [ [http://www.artepro.com/programmes/58707/presentation.htm "Roman Karmen, un cinéaste au service de la révolution"] , Dominique Chapuis & Patrick Barbéris, Kuiv Productions / Arte France, 2001]
The first movie about the war "Shock Patrol" ("Patrouille de Choc") aka "Patrol Without Hope" ("Patrouille Sans Espoir") by Claude Bernard-Aubert came out in 1956. The French censorship has cut some violent scenes and made the director change the end of his movie which was seen as "too much pessismistic". [ [http://www.lacinemathequedetoulouse.com/films/index.php?m=f&id=1952 The Cinematheque of Toulouse] ] The second film "
The 317th Platoon" ("La 317ème Section") was released in 1964, it was directed by Indochina War (and siege of Dien Bien Phu) veteran Pierre Schoendoerffer. Schoendoerffer has since become a mediatic specialist about the Indochina War and has focused his production on realistic war movies. He was cameraman for the army ("Cinematographic Service of the Armies", SCA) during his duty time, moreover as he had covered the Vietnam Warhe released the " The Anderson Platoon", which won the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. The popular Hollywood Vietnam war movies " Apocalypse Now Redux", and most obviously " Platoon", are inspired by Schoendoerffer's work on the First Indochina War. An interesting detail about "Apocalypse Now" is all its First Indochina War related scenes (including the line "the White leaves but the Yellow stays" which is borrowed from the "The 317th Platoon") and explicit references were removed from the edited version that was premiered in Cannes, France in 1979.
* Japanese Invasion of French Indochina
* Second Japanese Campaign in French Indochina
North Vietnamese invasion of Laos
* Second Indochina War
* Third Indochina War
*Summers, JR., Harry G. "Historical Atlas of the Vietnam War." New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995. ISBN 0-395-72223-3
*Wiest, Andrew (editor). "Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land." Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2006. ISBN 978-1-84693-020-6
*Windrow, Martin. "The French Indochina War 1946-1954 (Men-At-Arms, 322)." London: Osprey Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1-85532-789-9
* [http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/pent5.htm Pentagon Papers, Chapter 2]
* [http://home.att.net/~r.hodgeman/history1.html Vietnam: The Impossible War]
* Fall, Bernard B. [http://books.google.com/books?id=GkHH8OoCTtAC&pg=PA1&lpg=PP5&dq=%22Street+Without+Joy:+The+French+Debacle+In+Indochina%22&psp=9&sig=fnRSyGmHppqW4pwqG8O6tX0Y3zQ "Street Without Joy: The French Debacle In Indochina"]
* [http://www.anapi.asso.fr/en_Historical-context_56.htm ANAPI's official website] (National Association of Former Pows in Indochina)
* [http://vietnam.vnagency.com.vn/VNP-Website/NewsEvent/Default.asp?ID=55&Event_ID=353&language=EN Hanoi upon the army's return in vitory (bicycles demystified)] Viet Nam Portal
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ Operation reports & 90,000 pictures about the First War of Indochina (Defense Mediatheque)] (ECPAD)
* [http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1zbkj_envoys-probe-indochina-rebellion-19 Universal Newsreels (January 17th, 1947)]
* [http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1ziii_frances-war-against-communists-rage The News Magazine of the Screen (May 1952)]
* [http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1zi26_the-war-in-indochina-goes-on-121953 The News Magazine of the Screen (December 1953)]
* [http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1ziw4_dien-bien-phu-051954 The News Magazine of the Screen (May 1954)]
* [http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1zndo_communism-in-indochina-france-1952 Coronet Instructional Films - Communism (1952)]
* [http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1z4co_la-guerre-en-indochine-26101950 Les Actualités Françaises (October 26th, 1950)] (The War in Indo-China)
* [http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x20cti_operation-mouette-dans-le-delta Les Actualités Françaises (November 5th, 1953)] (Operation Mouette in the delta)
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=498&photo=1&collectionid=4 Jeeps in Indochina (January 1946-July 1954)]
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=485&photo=1&collectionid=4 French Foreign Legion in Indochina (March 1950-September 1954)]
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=481&photo=1&collectionid=4 French Algeria, Morroco and Tunisia sharpshooters (October 1950 May 1951)]
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=497&photo=1&collectionid=4 Carriers in Indochina (January 1951-August 1954)]
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=486&photo=1&collectionid=4 Commandos & Special Forces (February 1951-February 1954)]
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=496&photo=1&collectionid=4 Portraits of combatants in Indochina (March 1951-October 1954)]
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=487&photo=1&collectionid=4 Cavalry Armoured Corps (April 1951-July 1954)]
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=488&photo=1&collectionid=4 Vietnamese National Army (May 1951-June 1954)]
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=480&photo=1&collectionid=4 Outposts in Cambodia (October 1951-October 1953)]
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=483&photo=1&collectionid=4 Operation Hirondelle (July 1953)]
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=16&photo=1&collectionid=4 Operation Castor and building of the Dien Bien Phu outpost (November 1953-February 1954)]
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=14&photo=1&collectionid=4 Airforce in Dien Bien Phu (January-May 1954)]
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=13&photo=1&collectionid=4 The battle of Dien Bien Phu (March-May 1954)]
* [http://www.ecpad.fr/ecpa/PagesDyn/result.asp?dossierID=489&photo=1&collectionid=4 Operation Passage to Freedom (July 1954-March 1955)]
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