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THE BATTLE OF DIEN BIEN PHU
Reference:
A.

MAFSC COMD 4EX 1, EX WIRA GAGAH GENERAL INSTRUCTION.

B.

PBB (Mal) 100 Malaysian Armed Forces Staff Manual Volume 1- Service Writing

(Provisional).
The soldiers of Dien Bien Phu. My Comrades, wish you forever be in this life so that
thousands of centuries, will listen to your words.
Ballad of Dien Bien Phu by Huy Can

INTRODUCTION
1.

Fifty Years ago, men fought, bled and died in Dien Bien Phu, in an epic battle that

changed the course of recent world history. In this battle, the communist led Vietminh forces
crushed the elements of the French Colonial Army in Indochina and ranks as one of the great
military engagements of the history. The battle was fought from 13 March to 7 May 1954 in
the valley of Dien Bien Phu.
2.

This battle of 170 days of confrontation and 55 days of intense fighting was

commanded by General Henri Navarre on French side and General Vo Nguyen Giap as the
military commander to the Vietminh Army. The garrison of Dien Bien Phu was setup by
Brigadier General Jean Gilles who handed over the command of the garrison to Colonel
Christian Marie Ferdinand de la Croix de Castries, the officer who led the French forces to
the last.
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AIM
3.

The aim of this paper is to analyse the battle of Dien Bien Phu.

SCOPE
4.

The paper is intended to be developed in the following sequence:


a.

Origin of the Conflict.

b.

Importance of Dien Bien Phu.

c.

Organization of Battle.

d.

French Strategy.

e.

Vietminh Strategy

f.

The Battle of Dien Bien Phu

g.

Analysis of the Battle

h.

Lessons Learnt

i.

Conclusion

ORIGIN OF THE CONFLICT


5.

Indochina was under French Empire before World War II. The entire area was

captured by Japanese forces during 1941 to 1945. After the war, the French tried to reestablish control over her old colonies in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam as all of the South
East Asia was rich in minerals, oil and other materials essential to an industrialized world.
Cambodia and Laos accepted self government within the French Union but the Vietnam
denied and declared independence under the revolutionary leadership of Ho Chi Minh.
French did not like the idea and wanted them to surrender by the use of military means.
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Under the able guidance of Ho Chi Minh and dynamic leadership of General Vo Nguyen
Giap the members of the communist party became active combatants and formed an army of
resistance, known as the Vietminh Army.

IMPORTANCE OF DIEN PHU


6.

The relative location and its strategically values are as follows:


a.

Location.

Dien Bien Phu, a tiny village in the north western Vietnam is

located 300 kilometer west of Hanoi (now Ho Chi Minh). It is 30 kilometer east of
Loas and 120 kilometer south of China border. The village is situated in a valley
which is 18 kilometer long and 8 kilometre wide with two distinct seasons, winter and
rainy.

Location of Dien Bien Phu

Location of Dien Bien Phu


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b.

Communication.

It is situated at the junction of important roads running

towards the following directions:


(1)

One the North-East to Lai Chau.

(2)

On the East and South-East to Tuan Giao, Santa and Na San

respectively.
(3)

On the west towards Luang Prabang.

(4)

On the South to Sam Neua.

(5)

Dien Bien Phu had two airfield. The main airstrip at Muong Thanh and

the reserve strip at Hong Cum.


c.

Strategic and Tactical Implications.

Dien

Bien

Phu

became

strategically important position for the French due to the following reasons:

Location of Lai Chau


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(1)

It could be used as an Infantry and Air Base with extreme efficiency.

(2)

It could be used to reoccupy Na San and joint it to Lai Chau to have

mutually supporting strong points blocking the Vietminh moving across


Laotian border.
(3)

It could serve as a stronghold threatening the flank of Vietminh

Peoples Armys (VPA) North-West base.


(4)

It could force VPA to scatter their troops between the delta and

mountains and would protect upper Laos.

ORGANIZATION OF BATTLE1
7.

8.
1

French Forces:
a.

6 Parachute Battalions.

b.

5 Legion Infantry Battalions.

c.

4 North African Battalions.

d.

2 Thai Battalions.

e.

1 Squadron of Chaffy Tanks.

f.

1 Field of Regiment Artillery.

g.

1 Troop of Medium Artillery.

h.

1 Engineer Battalion.

i.

1 Truck Company.

j.

1 Squadron of Fighter Aircraft (In Support).

Vietminh Forces:

www.dienbienphu.org/english/html/bataille/battle.htm

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a.

4 Infantry Divisions (304, 308, 312 and 316 Infantry Division).

b.

1 Heavy Artillery Division (1 Regiment of 105 millimetre Gun, 1 Regiment of

75 millimetre Gun, 1 Regiment of 120 millimetre Mortars and Russian Multi Barrel
Rocket Launcher).
c.

1 Independent Regiment.

d.

1 Anti Aircraft (AA) Regiment (Attached).

FRENCH STRATEGY
9.

The French Commander General Henri Navarres plan was to establish a major

French military base for subsequent operation at Dien Bien Phu. Attack would then be
launched against Vietminh supply lines and lure the enemy into a major attack on the the
heavily fortified French position. Navarre strategically aimed at:
a.

Relieving the threat to Laos.

b.

Inflicting a major defeat upon the Vietminh before the Chinese aid could be

effective.
c.

To lure the Vietminh into a set piece battle and then crush them by superiority

of fire power and equipment.

Navarre Plan2
10.

In autumn 1953, General Henri Navarre launched the strategic plan to continue and

extend the war which had been carefully studied and prepared in Paris and Washington. The

salient features of the plan are:


2

R. Moroz, Harold. The Republic of Vietnam Exposition Press, New York, p. 21

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a.

Aim. Navarre Plan was designed to restore the confidence of the French

troops and shift the French war effort out neutral through offensive action.
b.

The Plan.

Navarre Plan envisaged the organization of a very strong

strategic mobile force, capable of breaking through all enemy offensives and
annihilating the main part of enemy forces later on.
c.

Phases of the Execution.

The plan was conceived and prepared to be

executed in the following three phases:


(1)

First Phase. It had two main aspects:


(a)

Regroup fairly strong mobile forces in the Red River Delta to

attack and wear out enemys main force.


(b)

Occupying Dien Bien Phu with a view to turning the temporary

occupied area in the North West into a strong spring board for final
offensive.
(2)

Second Phase. Occupy all free zones and guerrilla bases in the fifth

zone and Nam Bo.


(3)

Third Phase. Launching a big offensive on the battle front of the

north. It would start simultaneously from the Delta and Dien Bien Phu with
powerful mobile mass of the French Army to bring the war to a successful
end.

Operation Castor
11.
3

As part of the first phase of the Navarre plan, the objective of Operation Castor3

www.dienbienphu.org/english/html/castor/installation.htm

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was to Secure the Valley of Dien Bien Phu as a French stronghold where all offensive
operations will be conducted against the VPA on French position. The Operation Castor
commenced on 20 November and ended on 22 November 1953.
12.

20 November 1953, a Dakota aircraft equipped as an airborne command post took off

from Hanoi carrying three generals: Brigadier General Jean Gilles, commanding the airbone
troops, General Dechaux, commanding the Tactical Air Group and General Bodet, combined
arms assistant to General Navarre. Their mission was to fly over the plain of Dien Bien Phu
and to decide, according to weather conditions, the launching or postponement of the
operation castor.
13.

There were a total of 49 strong points, each of them used to be known as Defence

Centre. Few of the Defence Centres would make a Complex Defence Centre with
integrated mobile force and protected by a French system and barbed wire all around. A total
of 9 such complex defence centres were built in the valley of Dien Bien Phu. These complex
defence centres were named as Anne-Marie Beatrice, Claudine, Dominique, Elaine,
Francoise, Gabrielle, Huguette and Isabelle. These were again grouped into three sectors as
mentioned below:
a.

Northern Sector.

It comprised of 3 Complex Defence Centres namely

BEATRICE GABRIELLE ad ANNE MARIE. BEATRICE was overlooking route 41


while GABRIELLE and ANNE MARIE were located around a road going out
towards north.
b.

Central Sector.

This was the hub centre of Dien Bien Phu comprising

of CLAUDINE, FRANCOISE, HUGETTE, DOMINIQUE and ELAINE. The main


air strip including French command post was located here. In addition it had artillery
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gun areas, logistic installations including hospital and other important bases. This
sector had a compact defence with its eastern flank naturally guarded by steep hills.
The surrounding hills were located 10-12 kilometres away with plain land in between.
As a result, French had the advantages of crushing down assault waves by fire.
c.

Southern Sector.

ISABELLA was located here, It had the reserve airfield

and one artillery base. Two tracks (Pavie track and RP 41) had connected Isabelle to
Dien Bien Phu on both sided of the Nam Youm. This isolated sub sector was tasked
to keep the route to upper Laos open. The major disadvantage Isabelle had was that,
its position was flat with no terrain features. This vulnerable and isolated location
made Isabelle a preferred Vietminh artillery target.

Weaknesses of Navarre Plan


14.

Hedgehog Concept. General Navarre was in dilemma either to forces to hold the

invaded territory or to withdraw the force and keep them concentrated. Finally he adopted the
former choice. So the French divisions were splinted into regiments, battalions, companies
and platoons to be stationed at thousands of places. He ultimately immobilized nearly 15,000
troops only in Red River Delta area which enabled General Giap to infiltrate the region at
will.
15.

Tactical Disadvantages of Dien Bien Phu. General Navarre decided to siege and

hold a forward base near Laotion border at Dien Bien Phu. The size of the valley prevented
the occupation of high ground surrounding the fortress and their inclusion in the defence
perimeter. Therefore all French preparation had to be made presumably in full view of
communist reconnaissance party.
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16.

Dien Bien Phu was isolated from the Nearest French Garrison. Dien Bien Phu

was separated from the nearest French garrison by an approximately 300 kilometres of
mountains and track less jungles, thus completely isolated. As a result supply and
reinforcements were dependent only on the airstrip near the Headquarters.
17.

Plan Based on Wrong Estimation. The major mistake of Dien Bien Phu operation

seems to have been done by the French intelligence, where they worked on pure estimation
only. The Vietminh was credited with artillery composed of 40 to 60 medium howitzers
capable of firing 25,000 rounds. Where as General Giaps artillery turned out with
approximately 240 to 350 guns and fired nearly 350,000 rounds.

VIETMINH STARTEGY
18.

VPA embarked on Winter Spring Campaign to counter the Navarre Plan. The

VPAs strategy drew its inspiration from the principles of dynamism, initiative, mobility and
rapidity of decision in the face of a new situation. Ultimately the Vietminh strategy was as
follows:
a.

Concentrate huge guerrilla forces in the enemys exposed sectors and liberate

lost territory in phases.


b.

Compel French to disperse into small pockets and achieved numerical

superiority at each sector.


c.

Achieve 10:1 superiority at each sector to compensate armour and air.

d.

Be very cautious and refrain from attacking until numerical superiority to over

whelming proportion could be achieved.


e.

Finally capture isolated post one by one through battle attrition.


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Vietminhs Offensive Plan


19.

Initial Build Up. As the French defence preparation went under way, VPA prepared

themselves for a grand offensive against Dien Bien Phu. General Giap mobilized around
100,000 soldiers of strong army for the capture of Dien Bien Phu. His troop had to cross
rugged terrain stretching over 350 km.

He had to utilize half of his force and local

compatriots for ensuring smooth flow of combat supplies and heavy equipments including
artillery pieces. The concentration of force was completed by 12 Mac 1954.
20.

General Giaps Plan. Based on the strategy mentioned earlier, he planned in the

following manner:
a.

Concentration of Vietminh forces to attack strategic points which were

relatively weaker and vulnerable.


b.

During battle, adhering to dynamism, initiative and rapidity in decision.

c.

In order to surprise the French, bringing forward artillery to cover the human

wave attack, hauling them uphill showing great endurance.


d.

According to his plan, Giap wanted to destroy French position in piecemeal.

The offensive against Dien Bien Phu was planned to be conducted in three phases as
below:
(1)

Phase 1. Destruction of the northern sub sector (from 13 Mar to 17

Mar 1954).
(2)

Phase 2. Capture of hills in the east and encirclement of the central

sub sector ( from 30 Mar to 3 Apr 1954).

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(3)

Phase 3.General offensive and surrender of the French/annihilation

(from 1 May to 7 May 1954).

THE BATTLE OF DIEN BIEN PHU


21.

By Mar 1954, the size of the French Garrison at Dien Bien Phu was swelled to

somewhere between 13,000 to 16,000 troops. About 70% of the force was made up of
members of the French Legion, soldiers from French colonies in North Africa and loyal
Vietnamese. The stronghold Isabelle, 6 km south, with its alternative airfield, was occupied
by 1,809 men with their tanks and artillery.
22.

The Vietminh, on the other hand was not also sitting tight. They also mustered

massive amount of ammunition and artillery pieces to support their attack against the French.
By 26 Jan 1954, the Vietminh had already built camouflaged road to ferry troops, antiaircraft guns and other weapons. Over the next two month the Vietminh also built 125 miles
of trenches. Some reach as close as 70 metres from the French troops.
23.

The French positions at Dien Bien Phu came under artillery fire from 1 st Jan 1954 and

throughout the following month; French patrol encountered Vietminh regular units in almost
all direction. General Giap was moving in with his 5 regular divisions made up the position
deteriorated when main French airstrip was hit by artillery fire on 10 Mar 1954 later.
24.

General Giaps plan was familiar; he would try to eliminate the outer strong points

before mounting a major assault upon the French major positions. He began his offensive
with probing attack on 11 Mar against GABRIELLE. The whole battle commenced on 13
Mar 1954 and can be sub divided into three major phases.

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Phase 1
a.

Phase 1. This phase began on 13 Mar and ended on 17 Mar 1954. The attack

took place on the evening of Saturday, 13 Mar 1954 after a massive artillery fire
followed by divisional assault on BATRICE. In spite of bitter and bloody fighting,
BEATRICE fell within several hours with severe losses on both sides.
(1)

On 14th night, similar attack was launched on GABRIELLE, which

was defended by the 5/7 Algerian Rifles, at 2000 hours after heavy artillery
bombardment. The 5th Vietnamese Parachute Battalion, held in reserve in
delta, were parachuted in as reinforcements during the battle and

suffered

losses soon after their arrival. The French counter attacked the position on the
15th morning but was unsuccessful. The survivors of the two strong points
could rejoin the main force but the covering positions on the north and northeast

of Dien Bien Phu had by that time, disappeared.


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(2)

On 16th Mar, the 6th Colonial Parachute Battalion was dropped into

location. French aware that he had vastly under estimated his adversary,
committed suicide on this date.
(3)

After the fall of GABRIELLE, VPA increased the pressure on the last

defence centre of this section, which was ANNA MARRIE. ANNA MARRIE
was held by mostly locally recruited 3 rd Thai Battalion. These troops
abandoned their position and fled away on 17th night. Thus the whole northern
sector was captured by only 5 days.
(4)

In the mean time the main airstrip was constantly under artillery fire.

Though 35th Light Artillery Regiment reinforced the location on 22 nd but soon
the daytime landing became impossible. But however, after a few days no
further landing of any types of aircraft could be made. The last helicopter was
shot down during take-off on 23 Mar and the last medical evacuation took
place on 26th Mar 1954.
b.

Phase 2.

After a break of about two weeks the second phase began on

28th Mar and lasted up to the end of April. In the meantime General Giap set about
accomplishing a methodical isolation of the French camps by digging a network of
trenches which surrounded the strong points like tentacles. In this way the VPA could
infiltrate the camps. The trenches were intended to isolate the centres of resistance
and to serve as a safe jumping off point for assaulting the strong points.
(1)

An offensive operation was effectively conducted against the Vietminh

anti-aircraft emplacements west of Dien Bien Phu. Both side suffered heavy
casualty in the battle.
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(2)

On 30 Mar 1954, VPA launched simultaneous attack on DOMINIQUE

and ELAINE from the east. Attack on DOMINIQUE failed but the VPA could
capture part of ELAINE thus were able to cut off ISABELLE from the central
sector.
(3)

On 2nd April, 2/1 Colonial Parachute Regiment as well as some

elements of Airborne Light Artillery Regiment arrived at Dien Bien Phu by


parachute. A Vietminh frontal attack on DOMINIQUE was repulsed on 6th
April, but the area which DOMINIQUE overlooked was noticeably reduced
and liaison with ISABELLE became almost impossible from DOMINIQUE.
(4)

From 9 Apr to 11 Apr a fourth parachute battalion and the 2 nd Foreign

Legion Parachute Battalion were dropped by the French, who recaptured part
of ELIANE by a violent counter attack.
(5)

Considering the loss of man power Giap emphasized more on his

trench digging tactics, which later on became know as Offensive Trench


Digging. This process continued up to the end of Apr. On 1 st May, it was
estimated that the total length of the trenches were 400 kilometres. The
strategy of isolation combined with the selective attacks and constant
harassing actions nibbled the French defences gradually.
(6)

French units were reduced to a great extent. The 2 nd Foreign Legion

Parachute Battalion suffered particularly high losses in an abortive attack on


23rd Apr to retake part of HUGUETTE and the survivors who were fit for
combat were merged with the remnants of the 1 st Foreign Parachute Battalion.
The French were confined in a place less then 2 square kilometre by 30 Apr
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1954. The Vietminh Anti Aircraft guns were also successful in disrupting the
dropping of supplies by parachute.
c.

Phase 3. This phase started on 1 May with a barrage of heavy artillery fire

on all French positions including the central sub sector. VPA launched series of attack
from the east and west. The 1 st Colonial Parachute Battalion were parachute into Dien
Bien Phu from 2nd May to 5th May. On 4th May 1954, the French garrison fired
approximately 4,000 rounds on the Vietminh positions. In these final days the
Vietminh artillery barrage were intensified just as the general offensive had been
stepped up. By this time the so called help from China and Russia started showing up,
which even included 6 tubes rocket launchers of Russia.
(1)

By this time the monsoon also started to take its toll. The heavy rains

collapsed the bunkers and combined with artillery fire the bunkers turned into
muddy jumbles. The communist forces had also been digging tunnels under
the French strong points, which they filled with explosives for the anticipated
final assault. This development was totally unknown to the French.
(2)

The French were driven to one square kilometre by 6 May 1954. On

this very date the largest supply were also dropped by aircraft although it
became too late to be of any use. A large part of the drop landed at and the
Vietminh areas.

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The Final Offensive of Vietminh

(3)

The French went for a massive air attack against. But cunningly the

Vietminh anti-aircraft batteries discretely remained silent to keep from being


located. On this day, the final assault came down to the helpless French
position late in the afternoon. After a vicious fighting ISABELLE lost almost
all its support weapons including artilleries. The French had no fortified
heights to protect them and there supply problem rose to extreme. Vietminh
tried to blow up and the strong point on ELAINE which extended 50 yards
under the French defences.

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(4)

On 7 May at around 0700 hours the Vietminh openly regrouped on

ELAINE for a new final assault. By 1000 hours Vietminh completely


occupied ELAINE.
25.

Thus the battle of 55 days ended with a political disaster since the Vietminh victory

marked the beginning of the end of French Colonial Empire. Out of around 16,000 men,
equivalent of 17 battalion strength, more than 5,000 were either killed in action or missing in
action. Rest all were taken as prisoners by the Vietminh. And of the 10,863 prisoners only
3,290 men were returned after four months.

ANALYSE OF THE BATTLE


26.

A thorough analysis of the battle reveals that some significant faults/mistakes and

short comings contributed to French defeat. These are explained below:


a.

Faulty Setting Up of Defence. French occupied the strong points which were

scattered throughout the valley around the two air strips. They left the commanding
heights at 10 to 12 kilometres away unoccupied. During the battle those commanding
heights were extensively used by the VPA as their fire bases for artillery to engage the
French locations very effectively.
b.

Intelligence Failure.

French intelligence failed to gain any information

regarding the strength and capabilities of the Vietminh Army. VPA could successfully
deploy their artillery pieces and concentrate huge forces around French positions
through difficult terrain, which could be notified by the French only after the break
out of the battle.

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c.

Use of Artillery Concentration by Vietminh. The excessive use of the

artillery by Vietminh gave French no chance to effectively regroup and counter


attack. The French were out numbered, outgunned and outranged by VPA gunner by
the ratio 1:4.
d.

Poor Logistic Support. The French troops in Dien Bien Phu had only 13

days supply and 6 days ammunition. When the battle started, the French planned to
supply these isolated position by air only. They did not cater for any alternative
arrangements in case of air disruption. Once the Vietminh started reducing the size of
the encirclement, French authority failed to supply vital items like arms, ammunition
and ration at Dien Bien Phu by air. More so a large proportion of the supplies fell in
the hands of the Vietminh.
e.

Absence of Popular Support. Indochina had been under colonial rule since

long. As a result the French were denied of any support from local. On the contrary,
Vietminh knew each and every information about the French through the local and
took effective measures against them.
f.

Over Confidence. The French were so confident in their mobility and fire

power that they did not build any concrete bunker in the whole area. When the VPA
launched the offensive with roaring artillery barrage, their defence collapsed under
the sheer weight of the artillery fire.
g.

Under Estimation of VPA Capabilities. The French underestimated the

Vietminh Army, said Lieutenant General Vu Xuan Vinh, who at that time was the 31
years old chief of staff to one regiment in the Vietminhs elite 308 th Division, known
among the French as the Iron Division for its battle field success. The French under
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estimated the VPA capability to marshal a large force with so many artillery guns of
different calibre including anti aircraft guns to challenge them.
h.

Offensive Use of Trench Warfare by VPA. The VPA used Trench to tighten

the encirclement and launching attack on strong points. This technique reduced the
effectiveness of French fire on assaulting Vietminh. Sometimes the trenches were as
close as 10 metres from the French positions. They used explosive to blow up French
positions from these trenches and then attack with total surprise.
i.

Non Adhered to the Principles of War. French force was distracted to some

extent from almost every principles of war:


(1)

Selection and Maintenance of Aim. French did not have any clearly

defined or attainable aim or objective. The tactical aim of Dien Bien Phu
garrison did not go progressively with the strategic aim of the Navarre plan.
(2)

Offensive Action. After the Operation Castor the French virtually

seized their offensive action, another principle of war. Their offensive actions
were limited to air support, patrols and local counter attacks only.
(3)

Underutilization of Assets. Frances operational mobility depended

on their air assets. But unfortunately, however, French air was completely
unsuccessful in preventing an enemy build up of supplies, heavy artillery and
combat forces. As a result, France gained no advantages from her superior air
assets.
(4)

Surprise. Some of the biggest mistakes made by the French at Dien

Bien Phu can be traced to surprise. Instead of surprising the enemy they were

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repeatedly surprised by the Vietminh. The capital error at Dien Bien Phu was
the underestimation of enemys capability.

LESSONS LEARNT
27.

The following lessons deserve to be noticed from the battle of Dien Bien Phu:
a.

Good Cause. A well motivated having a good cause can fight and win

against overwhelming odds. The Vietminh were fighting for their independent
from French subjugation.

So they considered supreme sacrifice was only the

price for achieving their aim. Therefore, they fought bitterly and won the battle.
b.

Good Intelligence.

Up to date intelligence about the enemy is a prime

requisite in planning and fighting a successful war.

The demands even top

priority while fighting an unconventional or irregular war. While Vietminh due to


their populace support received daily updated correct intelligence about French
movement, strength and dispositions, French failed miserably to correct any
information about VPA.
c.

Plan Should Not be Based on Unfounded Assumption.

Plan

based

on

unfounded assumption has all the possibility to fail. The French commanders planned
this operation on the assumption that the Vietminh would not contest the battle
seriously. French also assumed that Giaps force would not be able to deploy their
artillery due to difficult terrain. They also through that they will be able to supply by
air only. In fact all these assumptions proved false.
d.

Fire Power.

Concentration of overwhelming fire power at the right time in

the right place pays divided. Vietminh could achieve 4:1 fire power superiority which
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caused disaster for the French defender. The French, to be sure, were outgunned three
to one on the ground, but possessed airborne firepower and ten tanks. It is, therefore,
not quite accurate to say that the French lost Dien Bien Phu simply because they
placed themselves in an area where the enemys firepower far out-classed them.
There were many things that went wrong at Dien Bien Phu. The imbalanced in
firepower between the two adversaries was not the worst of them.
e.

Logistic.

There is no doubt the French completely lost the logistical battle.

They proved incapable of interdicting the flow of Communist supplies to the valley.
The Vietminh was using

mainstay of the supply system were the tough bicycle-

pushing human columns. The French was in concentrate its supply interdiction effort
upon a relatively well known and fairly were circumscribed route. The French
supplies using parachuted but only received only 100 tons per day. While this was
not enough and it the real bottleneck was not more in the primitive supply collection
capability of the besieged fortress than in limited amount of supplies it received. That
point warrants closer examination, as similar situation are likely to recur in other wars
of this types.
f.

Under Estimation of Enemy Capabilities. While under taking an operation

one should not under estimate enemy capabilities. French seriously under estimated
the Vietminh and paid heavy for it. The failure seems both a French and American
can failure was the total underestimation of the enemy antiaircraft gunmanship. The
battle Dien Bien Phu began, it probably was impossible by them evaluate the deadly
effectiveness of flak three, was finally 147 allied planes lost in air to air combat. The
flak suppression strikes usually drove enemy gunners under cover but seldom
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destroyed enemy weapons.

Considering that these losses interrupted because there

was no ammunition available to sustain them.


g.

Flexibility in Planning of Warfare.

Plan should have flexibility to muddle

through the unexpected situation. In the battle Dien Bien Phu, French reliance only on
strong point defence within a constricted area with a single means of supply led to
their defeat. Vietminh on the other hand changed their tactics and method of warfare
according to the situation and ultimately. The failure of French also because of the
poorly planned counter attack, the flimsily built field fortifications and even the
choice of the battle area itself.
h.

Choice of Battle Ground.

Ground to fight a battle be chosen to achieve the

aim set. The aim of taking up defence in Dien Bien Phu valley was to block the
supply route to Vietminh and to provide a spring board for subsequent offensive. But
Dien Pien Bhu position could easily be bypassed by Vietminh through the jungle and
hills. So, the selection of the ground did not help the French much. General Nararre
had over estimated defences and believed that Vietminh could unable to crush even
one centre of resistance. Because the wrongly ground, Vietminh able to overcome
difficulty by applying the tactics to conduct progress attack by regrouping their force
and same time to neutralized the French artillery fire power and mobile force. The
attacked the French outpost from more than one direction.
i.

Selection and Maintenance of Aim.

The French Army did not have any

specific aim, for which they not only had difficulties in forming the design of the
battle but also deployed the troops in the way which ultimately proved wrong for that

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specific aim and maintained that aim all through the battle which was to annihilate the
French in order to win the battle.
j.

Good Leadership.

troops.

Superior leadership enhances morale of the fighting

The French commanders were outplayed by the superior leadership of

General Vo Nguen Giap, in both planning and execution of the battle. On other hand
the French Generalship proved wrong starting from plan to execution. Moreover the
French leadership did not have clear idea about was happening on ground until it was
too late.
k.

Maintenance of Morale.

The morale of the French was through very high

at the beginning of the battle but started deteriorating fast as the battle progressed.
The leadership, administration and supply proved pivotal for the low morale of the
troops. The Vietminh morale on the country was on the rise from the very outset of
the battle. The personal involvement of General Giap in the battle also proved as a
morale enhancing factor for the troops of VPA.
l.

Secure Line of Communication (L of C). Secure line of communication is

must if defensive is to be fought particularly away from supply base. In this type of
situation alternative arrangement must be catered for to avoid a catastrophe, which
happened in case because the French not consider L of C they were failure because of
the supplies.

CONCLUSION
28.

Dien Bien Phu was the place where the French stronghold fell to peasant Vietminh

Army of nationalist and communist, ending French colonial rule, setting the stage for the
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involvement United States in Vietnam and ending Western and White domination of much of
Southeast Asia. Dien Bien Phu will forever symbol the indomitable sprit of Vietminh who
opposed to their imperialist colonial masters powerful army. The battle is the classic
example of leadership, valour, courage, endurance, dedication and motivation.
29.

The valley of Dien Bien Phu witnessed total defeat of French forces while the

Vietminh gained unprecedented victory on 7th May 1954.

Overconfidence and

underestimation of the potential of the Vietminh by Paris and High Command in Hanoi was a
last factor that proved detrimental to French cause. It is oblivious that there was, on the part
of France commanding structure an excess of confidence in the merit of the troops and the
superiority of material means. The France also failed to appraise correctly the fire power of
Vietminh and its ability to sustain the siege and its 40,000 troops for as long as it did. The
heavy artillery and anti aircraft guns deployed by the Vietminh in the higher grounds
surrounding the valley were highly significant in tilting the fate on the battle and also
surprise the French because of estimated the Vietminh strength.

Surprised the French

completely because the Vietminh ability to transport a considerable mass of heavy artillery
pieces across the road less mountains to Dien Bien Phu and maintain the supplied with
sufficient amount of ammunition to make huge effort worthwhile.
30.

Vietminh also showed the highest degree of professionalism in tearing down the

French strong point against all odds.

Their incredible and relentless efforts bring up the

artillery pieces on the top hill, assaulting continuously on to French defence position in the
face of devastating fire power coupled with efficient trading and high morale honoured them
justly the glorious victory.

One of the other aspects of this battle is the integration of

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bicycle as transport, collies and local inhabitants to maintain the massive logistic supply,
which surely had enhanced the efficiency of the fighting strength of Vietminh.

Jun 2004

MUHAMMAD ZAMRI BIN MUSA


Mej
SSG 14 Leader

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BIBLIOGRAPHY
BOOKS
1.

Mc Alister, John Jr Vietnam The Origin of Revolution Alfred A. Knopf, New York,

1970.
2.

R. Moroz, Harold The Republic of Vietnam Exposition Press, New York.

Gen Vo Nguen Giap Dien Bien Phu The Gioi Publisher (Sixth Edition), 1999.
4.

Bernard B.Fall Street Without Joy Harrisburg: Strackpole; 5th rev.ed., New York,

1966.
5.

Bernard B.Fall Hell in a very Small Place Da Capo Press, Inc. USA, 1966.

6.

Roy (Col), Jules. La bataille de Dien Bien Phu & Other Stories. Hanoi: Foreign

Languages Publishing House, 1966.

INTERNET
7.

www.dienbienphu.org/english/htm/dbp/occupation.htm

8.

www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/11/sportlight

9.

www.dienbienphu.org/english/htm/bataille/battle.htm

10.

www.dienbienphu.org/english/html/castor/castor.htm

11.

www.dienbienphu.org/english/html/heros-dbp/hommage.htm

12.

www.hawaii.edu/cseas/pubs/explore/v1/v1n2-art2.html

13.

www.dposs.com/k9/dienbienphu.htm

14.

www.members.lycos.co.uk/lndochine/ops/dbpwilde.html

15.

www.members.lycos.co.uk/lndochine/terr/dbp.html

16.

www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vo-Nguyen-Giap
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MAFSC COMD 4 EX 1
COURSE 33/2004

EX WIRA GAGAH

THE BATTLE OF DIEN BIEN PHU

BY:
SSG 14/2004

SUPERVISING DS:
LT KOL GAN SENG LOCK (DS 8)
3 JUN 2004

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