Vietnam remembers the victory that ended French colonialism

In the Battle of Dien Bien Phu the French colonialists as the Vietnamese liberators played all their cards to define a single blow the fate of all Indochina

The Victory of Dien Bien Phu on May 7, 1954, which ended the French colonialism in Vietnam and generally throughout Indochina, became a pride of the Vietnamese people and a symbol of popular force.

In 1947, a year after the launch of the resistance of President Ho Chi Minh, the Gallic colonialists attached importance to the mountainous region in the north of Hanoi, a broad base of the guerrillas of the Vietnamese people.

His strategy was to attract Vietnamese popular forces, still little experienced, concentrates and fronts in flat areas to decide the war shocks. However, the revolutionary units remained with their guerrilla tactics and consolidated their control of mountainous areas because of constant military victories.

In designing the inevitability of a "gradual death" in Vietnam, General Henri Navarre, commander of French forces in Indochina, decided to change its strategy in late 1953 and instead of the plains, chose Dien Bien Phu a valley surrounded by high mountains that cut numerous logistical routes in the tri-border area of Vietnam, Laos and China, to challenge the revolutionary forces in a final battle.

Taking advantage of the superiority of its mobile forces, especially the air, and massive economic aid from the United States, the French settled there a complex of fortified positions 14, stationed in barracks in three sub-divisions and defended by 200 troops of 16,000 elite troops under the command of talented Colonel Christian de Castries, who was later promoted to the rank of general in the same Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Equipped with large structural and geographical advantages for defense, Dien Bien Phu was considered an impregnable bastion, as stated by the U.S. General John O'Daniel after a site visit.

For his part, President Ho Chi Minh and the other members of the Directorate of the Communist Party and the Popular Command Vietnam Army also considered a great battle at Dien Bien Phu as a unique opportunity to determine the anti-colonial war in Indochina.

With the firm belief in the invincible force of national unity, decided to open the Dien Bien Phu campaign, using the most of the doctrine "the war of all the people."

In preparing this decisive duel, mobilized a logistical operation unprecedented, with which thousands of troops marched and thousands of tons of arms, ammunition and food were transported through 500 kilometers of mountainous routes to the battlefield in one place Muyalto and section of the country, all on foot or by bicycle.

For example, were estimated that to bring a kilogram of rice to Dien Bien Phu, the revolutionaries should be consuming at least 24 kilograms. In total, two million members took part in this logistical feat.

Another decisive for the outcome of the battle is the shift of the patriotic forces strategy: the initial "blitzkrieg, lightning victory" - end the "safe attack, sure win" - with the intention of deciding the battle in three days - ie finding a certain victory by gradual advances.

Aware of inexperience and flaws Young People's Army in general, frontal and combined forces attack, as well as the guidance of President Ho Chi Minh, General Vo Nguyen Giap - the commander in chief of the Vietnamese - took that turn strategic just a day before the expected date for the opening of the campaign, the main purpose of minimizing the human cost.

In this context, the Battle of Dien Bien Phu became a date in history - as the most qualified researchers made ​​- where both the French colonialists as the Vietnamese liberators played all their cards to define a single stroke the fate of all Indochina.

In short, the Gauls challenged to a duel and chose the time, place and even favorite weapon was the war with conventional tactics. And the Vietnamese accepted.

The battle began at five in the afternoon of March 13, when total surprise to the French a massive artillery attack on the positions of Him Lam (Beatrice) and Doc Lap (Gabrielle) was opened.

Him Lam fell in one day, with 300 French troops annihilated, including commanders of the fort and the central division, Paul Pegot and Jules Gaucher, and 200 others captured.

The position of Doc Lap was taken on the next day with a memorable anecdote to evidence that the position was lost, as the Vietnamese artillery was untraceable to be in many cases literally buried, the French artillery commander - a personal friend De Castries - committed suicide the same night. His death was not communicated to the troops to stop this affect the morale of the fighters.

The French responded by sending more paratroopers, but were attacked by flak, another surprise, because until then considered impossible transporting heavy guns by the Vietnamese People's Army to these high mountains.

With a singular system of trenches constructed in the manner of ants, the Patriots set a total siege on the French fort and approached the enemy positions, including two airports to make them for infantry assaults.

After five days of fighting between the 18 and 23 March taking the first airport was completed, and the last plane to land on the remaining runway did the 28th, but it was destroyed. That same month the second airport in liberating hands fell.

Now supplies were thrown directly parachute, much of which fell in the area controlled by the Vietnamese. At this point, many experts viewed the French defeat unavoidable, with subsequent bouts "slow bleed the fallen elephant."

Last Gallic reinforcements parachuted between March 14 and May 6 (four thousand 306 soldiers) could not replace losses (500 men) occurred between those two dates.

Faced with imminent defeat, the French, with their American allies, were forced to sit, from April 26, at the Geneva Conference of 1954 with representatives of the revolutionary government of Vietnam, China and Russia to negotiate the restoration of peace in Indochina.

The last French offensive took place on May 4 but was ineffective. An expeditionary force that tries to get to the position was forced to turn back when still had hundreds of miles to reach the position.

Liberating Vietnamese units launched the final frontal assault on 7 May to the headquarters of De Castries, who along with his staff surrendered unconditionally. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu ended with the complete and final victory of the young revolutionary army of Vietnam.

Dien Bien Phu is a masterpiece of military arts. Its lead author, General Vo Nguyen Giap was consecrated among the most notable commanders in modern history.

Worldwide was the first time that the liberation forces defeated a colony of a European army with the use of conventional tactics.

Dien Bien Phu marked the beginning of the fall of the French colonial empire and led to declarations of independence of numerous galas possessions in Africa, in the late 60s.

From the lessons learned by Vietnamese historians of that feat, excels that of the great national unity, allowing a people to defeat enemies much more powerful militarily.

This was affirmed De Castries own words in his appearance before the French Parliament after the battle: "You can defeat an army, but you can not defeat a whole people."

All of Vietnam and its many friends in the world are celebrating the 60th anniversary of heroic deeds that glory.


traslation: Belén Zapata