It is 25 years since the end of the Cold War, now a generation old. It began over 75 years ago, in 1944—long before the last shots of the Second World War had echoed across the wastelands of Eastern Europe—with the brutal Greek Civil War. The battle lines are no longer drawn, but they linger on, unwittingly or not, in conflict zones such as Iraq, Somalia and Ukraine. In an era of mass-produced AK-47s and ICBMs, one such flashpoint was French Indochina …
At the end of the Second World War France sought to reassert its military prestige, but instead suffered humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu in French colonial Indochina. The First Indochina war became a textbook example of how not to conduct counterinsurgency warfare against nationalist guerrillas. Anthony Tucker-Jones guides the reader through this decisive conflict with a concise text and contemporary photographs, providing critical insight into the conduct of the war by both sides and its wider ramifications.
The Viet Minh, after resisting the Japanese in Indochina, sought independence for Vietnam from France. The French, with limited military resources, moved swiftly to reassert control in 1945, sparking a decade-long conflict. French defense of Hanoi rested on holding the Red River Delta, making it a key battleground. When the Viet Minh invaded neighboring Laos the French deployed to fight a set-piece battle at Dien Bien Phu, in 1954, but instead were trapped. All relief attempts failed and French defenses were slowly overwhelmed. America considered coming to the garrison’s rescue using nuclear weapons, but instead left it to its fate, which set the scene for the Algerian and the Vietnam conflicts.
A veteran of the French Army, Ted Morgan has made use of exclusive firsthand reports to create the most complete and dramatic telling of the conflict ever written. Here is the history of the Vietminh liberation movement’s rebellion against French occupation after World War II and its growth as an adversary, eventually backed by Communist China. Here too is the ill-fated French plan to build a base in Dien Bien Phu and draw the Vietminh into a debilitating defeat—which instead led to the Europeans being encircled in the surrounding hills, besieged by heavy artillery, overrun, and defeated.
Making expert use of recently unearthed or released information, Morgan reveals the inner workings of the American effort to aid France, with Eisenhower secretly disdainful of the French effort and prophetically worried that “no military victory was possible in that type of theater.” Morgan paints indelible portraits of all the major players, from Henri Navarre, head of the French Union forces, a rigid professional unprepared for an enemy fortified by rice carried on bicycles, to his commander, General Christian de Castries, a privileged, miscast cavalry officer, and General Vo Nguyen Giap, a master of guerrilla warfare working out of a one-room hut on the side of a hill. Most devastatingly, Morgan sets the stage for the Vietnam quagmire that was to come.
Superbly researched and powerfully written, Valley of Death is the crowning achievement of an author whose work has always been as compulsively readable as it is important.
From the Hardcover edition.
Presenting the story from the U.S., French, and Vietnamese points of view, this eBook edition of Operation Vulture is completely revised and rewritten, with new text on almost every international facet of the Dien Bien Phu battle. It provides the most detailed treatment of the secret plan to drop tactical nuclear weapons there. It includes fresh material on American naval and air operations, on the CIA and French intelligence, on U.S. and French efforts to relieve the besieged fortress, on the historical disputes over the diplomacy of Dien Bien Phu and Geneva, and on the cover-up of Eisenhower era records of these events. Also included are new maps specifically prepared for this edition.
“A detailed and readable study…” —Foreign Affairs
“Dr. Prados’s perceptive...account gains impressive credence from his extensive use of recently declassified material.” —Army Magazine
“John Prados is a clever and prodigious digger of historical fact.” —Evan Thomas, New York Times Bestselling Author
The searing firsthand account of the horrors suffered by the French paratroops and soldiers during the siege of Dien Bien Phu at the hands of the Viet Minh.
During the course of the First Indochina War, the French had established a base at Dien Bien Phu in late 1953. Dr. Grauwin, holding the rank of major, arrived in February 1954 to take charge of the 42-bed hospital unit there, conducting triage for evacuation and operating when necessary.
By the end of the battle in May, Grauwin had more than 1,300 wounded in the makeshift wards of his hospital, and deprived by the shelling of electricity, was forced to operate by candlelight. With the fall of the base on May 7, he was taken into captivity by the Viet Minh.
Grauwin remained in captivity until June 1, when he and other French medical officers were exchanged for several hundred Vietnamese prisoners.
In A War of Logistics, Charles R. Shrader meticulously examines both French Union and Viet Minh logistical units during the period of active conventional warfare, as well as external support provided to the French by the United States and to the Vietnamese by China. Although the Vietnamese had few advantages over their opponents, their military leaders brilliantly employed a highly committed network of soldiers and civilians, outfitted to accommodate the challenging terrain on which they fought.
Drawing on extensive research such as declassified intelligence documents, the reports of French participants, and accounts by Viet Minh leaders, including Vo Nguyen Giap and Ho Chi Minh, A War of Logistics provides in-depth coverage of the often-ignored but critically important topic of logistics in modern military campaigns.