A Dien Bien Phu diary (v.2014): Comments, questions

Rapace

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#1
Hi all,
This year is the 60th anniversary of the battle of Dien Bien Phu, that would mark the end of the ‘first Indochina war’ and the beginning of the end of the French presence in Vietnam. As I did 10 years ago, for the 50th anniversary, in memory of all the brave men who fought and died in this small valley of North-West Vietnam, I propose to re-issue the Dien Bien Phu diary, that will be complemented and amended. That will be a reminder for our oldest members and new stuff for those who joined the forum in the last 10 years.
Stay tuned and rendez-vous 12.Mar.
 

SLehman

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#2
Thank you both for your service and keeping the memory of these brave men alive. I look forward to reading the diary.

Steve
 
O

Ossis. O

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#3
Recommended reading 'Street without Joy' 1961 by Bernard B. Fall and 'The Last Valley' 2004 by Martin Windrow.
 

SLehman

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#4
Another great read is 'Hell In A Very Small Place: The Siege Of Dien Bien Phu' 1966 by Bernard B. Fall.

A great author will a distinguished history and a sad death.

On 21 February 1967, while accompanying a company of the 1st Battalion 9th Marines on Operation Chinook II in the Street Without Joy, Thừa Thiên Province, Fall stepped on a Bouncing Betty land mine and was killed, along with Gunnery Sergeant Byron G. Highland, a U.S. Marine Corps combat photographer. He was dictating notes into a tape recorder, which captured his last words: "We've reached one of our phase lines after the fire fight and it smells bad—meaning it's a little bit suspicious... Could be an amb—". Fall left behind his wife and three daughters.

May they Rest In Peace.
 

gatorojo ✞

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#5
I second both gentlemen on their recommendation of Bernard Fall's excellent "Street Without joy," it was the first thing I read in preparation from my own move to Vietnam. I can't imagine that any book by Fall would be anything but excellent, so I'm going to get and read Hell In A Very Small Place: The Siege Of Dien Bien Phu' as soon as I can.

I've read others as well, and surprisingly, the best book that lays out the 'real-politik' behind the war and leading up to the war, is Graham Greene's "The Quiet American" despite the fact that it is an auto-biographical novel. The story is fiction, but the descriptions of the events and the backgrounds for those events, is straight journalism by a world class journalist who lived in Saigon for the last 5 years of the French-Vietminh war.
 

voltigeur

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#7
Ladies and Gents:

Attached is a good website on the history of Dien Bien Phu, the battle and the brave men that served in that conflict.

http://www.dienbienphu.org/english/

I believe the site translates into French, English, Spanish and Italian.

May they rest in peace

Steve
That site was owned by Max Stemp (R.I.P.) Unfortunately, it got hacked and some pages were taken over and the guest book is filled with spam.
He must have left instructions to keep the site going. Any attempts I have made to contact his family have not resulted in a reply. I was hoping to obtain the files of the "Honor Wall" which listed all those who died and were missing in action.
You can view this young man's medal honoring him for the creation of his web site, on my web site.
 

Don Pedro

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#8
That site was owned by Max Stemp (R.I.P.) Unfortunately, it got hacked and some pages were taken over and the guest book is filled with spam.
He must have left instructions to keep the site going. Any attempts I have made to contact his family have not resulted in a reply. I was hoping to obtain the files of the "Honor Wall" which listed all those who died and were missing in action.
You can view this young man's medal honoring him for the creation of his web site, on my web site.
I have visited his site many years ago and it really was a great source of informations. May he R.I.P
 
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#9
Thank you for all the recommendations.

My local bookstore has a copy of ‘Hell in a Very Small Place’. However, thanks to one of the users above, I checked out a review of 'The Last Valley'. It sounds like it has some newly disclosed firsthand accounts of the battle. So while I am sure both books are essential reads I might pick it up first instead.

Whenever I heard the words 'Dien Bien Phu' I always thought of jungle warfare. I didn't realize until recently, after some very sobering reading, that the battle was actually WWI style trench warfare. It must have been very grim business indeed...
 

SLehman

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#10
Gents:

We were discussing the M24 Chaffee a few months back and their employment at DBP. Although I am still trying to track down the French history of the Chaffees – nicknamed “Bisonsâ€￾ (buffaloes in French) – and their crews at DBP, I have found another great read on the armour in French Indochina.

The books is called “Vietnam Tracks, Armour In Battle 1945-1975â€￾ and was written by Simon Dunstan and published by Osprey under ISBN 1-84176-833-2. It includes an account of the 10 Bisons involved in the final battle of DBP and the fate each of the 10 tanks.

It states “the ‘Bisons’ performed admirably throughout the battle and from the tactical point of view, Capitaine Hervouët's gallant squadron played a decisive part in the defence of Dien Bien Phu. Because of their small numbers and their distribution between two widely separated positions it was never possible to employ more than six tanks in any one action. Nevertheless, in the determination of its attacks, the accuracy of its fire support and the risks taken in assisting other arms, the conduct of the squadron was outstanding, and in the highest traditions of cavalry.â€￾

The courage of the tenacious defenders and the grievous suffering of their wounded was to no purpose. Dien Bien Phu was overwhelmed on 7 May. All the tanks, without exception, were destroyed by their crews that evening.

The Bisons at DBP:
Escadron de Marche du 1er Régiment de chasseurs à cheval
SHQ tank Capitaine Yves Hervouët (1er RCC): WIA, 31 March.

Conti- Badly damaged by mine on 5 April during counter-attack at Huguette 6. Recovered and used as a pillbox south of the airstrip.

Peleton Carette (RICM), Adjudant-Chef Carette: WIA, 31 March: Platoon under command of Segent Boussrez from 2 April until 5 April, when sous-lieutenant (2nd Lt) Mengelle took command.

Mulhouse- Bazooka'd in turret during counter-attack at Éliane 2 on 31 March, but continued to fight and remained serviceable to the end.
Bazilles- Bazooka'd in same action as Mulhouse; burnt out and abandoned.
Douamont- Received direct hit from 105mm shell which penetrated assistant driver's position killing three crewman, 29 April. Used as pillbox at Huguette 3.

Peleton Guntz (1er RCC). Sergent Guntz: KIA, 15 March. Became Peleton Ney until 5 April, when maréchal-des-logis (Sergeant in the Cavalry) Ney was WIA. Chef Landois took command of platoon on 12 April, KIA 15 April. All tanks at CR then under command of S/Lt. Mengelle.

Smolensk- Struck twice by 57mm recoiless fire during action at Éliane 2, 31 March. Subsequently suffered gearbox failure, and out of action by 7 May.
Posen- Bazooka'd in turret on 24 March while securing road to Isabelle, but serviceable to the end.
Ettlingen- Struck 6 times by 57mm recoiless rifle fire during action at Éliane 2 on 31 March. Bazooka'd in turret 15 april, two KIA. Available to the end.

Peloton Préaud (1er RCC). Strongpoint Isabelle

Auerstaedt- In action to the end.
Neumach- Bazooka'd in turret at Ban Kho Lai on 31 March during sortie from Isabelle. Available to the end.
Ratisbonne- Hit twice by 105mm shells at Isabelle on 29 April. In action to the end.

Please forgive the lack of appropriate French accents as my French Canadian keyboard doesn't want to assist me on this (ndlr : corrected)

Steve
 

Rapace

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#11
(...) Capitaine Yves Hervouët (1er RCC): WIA, 31 March. (...)
Capt Hervouët accepted to take command of the 10 M24 Chaffees dispatched to DBP, although he had already been injured in a previous operation and had not fully recovered. He was wounded again during the battle and eventually died in captivity in July 1954. An opportunity to remind that – due to severe malnutrition and/or lack of proper medical care – about 70% of the prisoners captured at DBP suffered the same fate, either during the ‘death march’ to the PoW camps, near the Chinese border, or during their detention in those camps.
 

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