Dien Bien Phu

SUBJECT: Book Report on Dien Bien Phu: The Epic Battle America Forgot by Howard P. Simpson

1.       Dien Bien Phu: The Epic Battle America Forgot is about an important battle fought in the spring of 1954 between the North Vietminh “peoples army,” and the occupying French Army Forces.   Dien Bien Phu is located in the mountain territory of Northwest Vietnam.   Its occupation was meant to stop the communist Vietminh from advancing into Laos.   It was not a major engagement, but a deciding battle that would not only end the Indochina war, but also serve as a precursor for the American Vietnam War.  

2.       But overall Dien Bien Phu was not just a critical test of France’s ability to hold Indochina and stop the communist advance in the eyes of history.   It was an exercise of blunders, misjudgment and failure at high levels that sealed the fate of those fought.   It also showed Vietnam’s determination to win the war at all costs.  

3.       In the beginning Colonel Dominique Bastiani, commander of French forces at Dien Bien Phu, objected to occupying the area.   He, like other battle-hardened officers, knew that you didn’t roadblock in Vietnam and that the Vietnamih were highly adaptive.   However, General Henri-Eugene Navarre, the overall French Commander, was headstrong.   He pushed this operation at the higher levels and made it happen.   After a long bloody battle, General Vo Nguyen Giap, commander of the Vietnamih forces at Dien Bien Phu, was victorious.   On 8 May 1945 the French were defeated.   They withdrew, leaving a buffer zone between North and South Vietnam.   In the remaining years, the North began a push to take over South Vietnam, which invoked American involvement and an outcome not unlike what the French had experienced.

4.       There were numerous lessons learned at Dien Bien Phu.   One of them was that the battle was a typical example of the underestimation of non-conventional guerilla forces by regular forces.   This guerilla type campaign waged by...