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    Dien Bien Phu Myths

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    Paratrooper Lirelou
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    Dien Bien Phu Myths

    Post by Paratrooper Lirelou on Tue Feb 22, 2011 2:11 pm

    I already published this articles on other sites but would like your opinions on it. I really did extensive research and worked hard in publishing this article for the first time on Armchair General Forums:
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100217060712AAf9cIk

    Now this is the 5th Revised Edition of the original Dien Bien Phu Myths and I have been continuing my research and working really hard on updating and adding new things to my original version of this article!This is the latest(and probably) last updated version of my article!

    Myth 1)The French Foreign Legion unit in Dien Bien Phu consisted almost entirely of former Waffen SS commandos or German WW2 veterans.

    Reality:Only 30% of the entire Foreign Legion force in Dien Bien Phu were Germans.In fact most of the German Foreign Legionnaires were not Waffens SS and not even veterans of WW2 but were young men who got their baptism of fire in Indochina.

    Myth 2)The French had no clear goal as to why a battle was being fought at Dien Bien Phu in the first place.

    Reality:The French had 3 major objectives in Dien Bien Phu!The first objective was to lure the Viet Minh in attacking the fortress where the French would have destroyed them and earned a victory that would have helped the France gain leverage in negotiations.Second of all the French made a base in Dien Bien Phu so that they could stop enemy supply routes( since Dien Bien Phu was a common place where Viet Minh supply passed through).Thirdly the French also made a base in Dien Bien Phu so they could protect Laos,an ally of the French who were being attacked by the Viet Minh.

    Myth 3)The French were unaware that the Viet Minh had artillery and was well equipped with large manpower and had superb logistics.
    Reality:French intelligence did discover that the Viet Minh had artillery and that the VietMinh indeed had a logistics system. The intel even predicted the amount of troops the VietMinh had about 10% of the actual number(if we were to trust traditional sources, 55,000 is the usually accepted number of troops that the VietMinh had in Die Bien Phu)long before the battle.However French intel made a very fatal mistake-they believed that there would be know way for the VietMin to haul artillery up Dien BIen Phu and that whatever logistics the VietMinh had would be disrupted by the French airforce and GCMA units.

    The reason why the French,Americans, and the Western World as a whole believed it would be impossible for the VM to bring artillery up DBP was because they were thinking of how the battle would be fought in conventional Western military warfare. For most Western armies in order to be able to bring such artillery up towards the mountains of Dien Bien Phu would have taken hundreds if not thousands of specialized vehicles to carry the artillery over DBP. And it would take whole entire months for the number of artillery the VM deployed in DBP to reach the hills of DBP in significant numbers even with specialized equipment. Not to mention trying to take artillery rounds over DBP was a nightmare itself for conventional Western forces. Even if the VM did bring artillery up Western military General though it would be impossible for th VM to bring enough artillery rounds to use the artillery effectively in battle,

    Such was the difficulty of bringing equipment up to DBP that the French army did not even carry its own artillery and other equipment up into DBP-everything that the French would use from tanks to mounted machine guns to artillery were all transfered to DBP via airplanes and parachute drop months prior to the battle.

    Additionally the military of the Western world believed that the VM lacked the essential vehicles to bring artillery and other heavy equipment up DBP. They all believed that since the VM lacked trucks and the like it would be impossible for them to employ even a handful of artillery up DBP.

    However these Western Generals failed to realize that the VM don't operate through conventional military doctrine. For an example, instead of trying to bring directly the artillery up the hills the VM disassembled the artillery guns into smaller pieces and simply had individuals bring each piece up DBP. Once up in the mountains of DBP, VM engineers reassembled the artillery back together with such skill that they were just as in working condition as they were earlier prior to being disassembled,

    Another thing to keep in mind-the French generals and even American generals believed that even if the VM brought artillery up in significant numbers, the French airforce and expert artillery batallions would have easily decimated any VM artillery before they became a significant threat to ths French positions in DBP. Of course the VM again used unconventional methods and camaflouged their artillery so when the battle started the French airforce was unable to effectively bomb positions with VM artillery nor was the French artillery able to effectively have counterbattery fired towards VM artillery thanks to the camaflouged the VM put over their artillery.

    The French believed the same wth the VietMInh logistics- the French airforce and GCMA units would be more than enough to disrupt VietMinh logisics and reinforcements. However here again the Frech and the Western nations' military made a fatal error. The VietMinh simply camaflouged their supply routes thus making it hard for French bombers to successfuly hit supply lines(add to this the anti air deployed at DBP and the fact that there were less than a bomber planes available)! They also over estimated the GCMA's ability to disrupt supply lines and reinforcements. Its certainly true a GCMA unit bogged down 10 VietMinh divisions from reaching Dien Bien Phu-however even this significant number of divisions was just a small percentage of the overall unit the VietMinh had!While the GCMA did disrupt some supply routes, they were too few to effectively disrupt the logistics of the VietMinh.,


    Myth 4)The French were easily slaughtered in Dien Bien Phu.

    Reality:The Viet Minh suffered far more casualties than the French ever did in Dien Bien Phu.By the end of the battle the number the Viet Minh dead alone were 3X the overall KIAs of the French army in Dien Bien Phu.In fact the Viet Minh morale nearly collapsed during the middle of the battle after the Vietnamese saw so many Viet Minh troops easily getting slaughtered as they tried to assault the base. and the Viet Minh would have retreated out of fear if Giap didn't use force to keep the Viet Minh in order.Also the vast majority of Viet Minh troops who were wounded but survived the battle would soon die shortly afterwards because of fatal wounds. Also the French committed successful counterattacks that took back essential positions lost early in the battle and had reinforcements came the French could have not only held these essential positions but also commit more counterattacks to take other essential positions lost to the enemy and possibly have won the battle.

    Myth 5)The Vietnamese were far inferior to the French in weaponry in DBP

    Reality:Vietnamese had weaponry that were as equally powerful as the French in Dien Bien Phu(some equipment they had were even far superior than those the French had)!For instance they had many of the most standard weaponry the Soviet Army used during that time!For example contrary to what most people think about the battle most of the Vietnamese troops were not ill equipped and only had bamboo spears to use in the battlee.In reality most Vietnamese troops used standard Soviet and American weaponry such as Thompsons!Also unlike what most people think the Vietnamese did not have highly outdated highly inferior artillery to the French.In fact most artillery the Vietnamese had were just as equally powerful and has equal fire range as those the French used.Some of the artillery even outmatched those of the French in power and fire range!
    The only superior equipment the French really had were air bombers and they were rendered useless by the monsoon of Vietnam and the powerful anti air equipment. Throughout the battle the French had less than a hundred planes to supply DBP and help bomb enemies. The VM had on the otherhand had thousands of anti air artillery.The amount of anti air guns the VM had were so numerous that according to Fall and other experts, the VM had at least as many if not more anti air gun than all that were used by the Germans on the Western front in WW2!The French became so desperate that private pilots and crews from the American-operated Civil Air Transport Company were paid to make the supply drops. Many stated that the intensity of the anti-aircraft fire was greater than anything seen in World War II or Korea, and would remain unequalled until the American Indochina War.

    Hell the Vietnamese even had the deadly weapons that significantly turned the tide in Stalingrad and in the Eastern Front of WW2:the deadly Katyusha rocket launchers!

    Myth 6)The French Foreign Legions did all the fighting in Dien Bien Phu and composed all the troops defending Dien Bien Phu

    Reality:Popular media often make it out that the fortress of Dien Bien Phu was defended entirely by the French Foreign Legion. Reality is that the French Foreign Legion only made up around 2,500 of the 12,000 troops in Dien Bien Phu. They played a very minal role in deciding the outcome of the battle. The vast majority of the troops in Dien Bien Phu were French Colonial Paratroopers and North Afrcan soldiers from France's colonies during the time the battle occured and they did most of the fighting in the battle and suffered most of the casualties in the battle. Also Vietnamese Paratroopers from what would be known as the ARVN during the American War in Vietnam made up a significant portion of the troops who defended Dien Bien Phu and also suffered heavy casualties. In fact the total number of Vietnamese paratroopers who defended the fortress was higher than the entire number of Foreign Legionnaires who fought in the battle!

    Myth7)Dien Bien Phu was intended to be a static fortress of trenches and bunkers much in the way like the Maginot Line.

    Reality:Contrary to popular belief, Dien Bien Phu was originally not intended to be a defensive fortress. Actually the General who proposed making a base in Dien Bien Phu, Rene Cogny had a different plan in mind. Cogny intended to turn Dien Bien Phu into a special forces camp where the GCMA (French equivalent of the Green Berets) commandos would hiddenly operate in. Cogny had a plan where the GCMA would conduct spoiling raids on Vietminh supply routes and Vietminh units around units and Dien Bien Phu was his intended area where the GCMA would hide in and use as a base. Renee Cogny hoped that his plan of using special forces at Dien Bien Phu would eventually ruin cause significant damage to the Vietnamese and would help the French army be able to finally assault main Viet Minh strongholds in North Vietnam. It was his higher superior, General Henri Navarre, who disregarded Cogny's plan and decided to turn Dien Bien Phu into an impenetrable fortress.

    Myth 8)Dien Bien Phu was a literal fortress in the sense that it was lines of trenches,bunkers, and the like that connected to each other and that was in much same to the stereotypical popular view of what the Maginot Line Was

    RealityDespite what popular media showing back in the time that Dien Bien Phu was a large interconnecting fortress of trenches and bunkers and other such static defenses, the reality was that Dien Bien Phu was actually an area of different positions that were seperated from each other. Each position was an entrenched area with bunkers and the like but they were seperated by meters away from each other. They did not interconnect with each other at all. This meters of seperations of each individual positions in Dien Bien Phu would be a major factor that cost the French the battle essential positions was intended to defend the other positions with artillery fire power and other such things while in turn be protected by the other positions of Dien Bien Phu.

    To put as an example Position Isabelle was to provide artillery fire and cover to help defend the other positions while Position Beatrice was intended to stop Viet Minh troops from piercing into Isabelle and overruning Isabelle. However the length of how far Isabelle was made it very hard for that position to provide artillery support to help the other positions such as Beatrice prevent Isabelle from being overrun.

    9)Dien Bian Phu was a battle between the "French" and the "Vietnamese" over Colonialism
    Reality:France's goal by the time Dien Bien Phu was occurring was to seek a solution that would leave three Indochinese states friendly to France in place.

    10)De Castries was completey incompetent during the battle, simply staying in his bunker safe from danger and panicking in a state where he is out of reality while his subordinate officer,Langlais, took over his command and commanded the battle himself.

    Reality:While De Castries did indeed acted like he was out of his world, it was not because he lost it or he was panicking due to the hopelessness of the situation. The reason why De Castries was out of his world was because he was mourning the death of a close friend killed in the first 3 days of the battle, After the initial shock and grief, De Castries recovered and commanded along side Langlais!Langlais did not take over the battle completely!In fact De Castries aided Langlais in planning the successful counterattacks that took back positions Eliane and Dominique!For the rest of the battle, De Castries would command along side with Langlais, helping him in planning defenses and counterattacks.

    Sources:
    Hell In A Very Small Place by Bernard Fall
    The Last Valley by Martin Windrow
    http://www.dienbienphu.org/english/

    Any Comments? : bounce

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