It is June and time for a look back into the shadows of history.
On this day the last French troops leave Algeria……in 1964…but before that defeat the French tasted defeat earlier…..in a spot called French IndoChina…..
As a Vietnam veteran I was always interested in how we, Americans, became the fighters of this conflict. Reading the history of Vietnam you see that the country has been a battlefield for damn near a thousand years.
But what interested me the most was the involvement after WW2…..when control of Vietnam returned to the French……
America’s involvement in Vietnam from early 60’s to mid 70’s was not the first time Vietnam was a major battlefield….a conflict between the West and the East…….
After World War Two the communist in Vietnam started a war for control against the French…who were supported by the West most notably the US………..
In the late 1940s, the French struggled to control its colonies in Indochina – Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Despite financial assistance from the United States, nationalist uprisings against French colonial rule began to take their toll. On May 7, 1954, the French-held garrison at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam fell after a four month siege led by Vietnamese nationalist Ho Chi Minh. After the fall of Dien Bien Phu, the French pulled out of the region. Concerned about regional instability, the United States became increasingly committed to countering communist nationalists in Indochina.
Dien Bien Phu…a fascinating battle in so many ways.
With the First Indochina War going poorly for the French, Premier Rene Mayer dispatched General Henri Navarre to take command in May 1953.
Arriving in Hanoi, Navarre found that no long-term plan existed for defeating the Viet Minh and that French forces simply reacted to the enemy’s moves. Believing that he was also tasked with defending neighboring Laos, Navarre sought an effective method for interdicting Viet Minh supply lines through the region. Working with Colonel Louis Berteil, the “hedgehog” concept was developed which called for French troops to establish fortified camps near Viet Minh supply routes.
Supplied by air, the hedgehogs would allow French troops to block the Viet Minh’s supplies, compelling them to fall back. The concept was largely based on the French success at the Battle of Na San in late 1952. Holding the high ground around a fortified camp at Na San, French forces had repeatedly beaten back assaults by General Vo Nguyen Giap’s Viet Minh troops. Navarre believed that the approach used at Na San could be enlarged to force the Viet Minh to commit to a large, pitched battle where superior French firepower could destroy Giap’s army.
Arrogance and stupidity lost this battle for the French which in turn basically lost Vietnam for France……about here enter the US and its advisers and as they say we all know the outcome of that move.
And apparently we learned nothing from the French or our own experience.
Arrogance and stupidity…..sound familiar?