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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > Vietnam War > Indochina 1945-1954

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Indochina 1945-1954 The Battle for Indochina, 1945-1954.

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  #16  
Old 23 Feb 06, 09:05
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For many of us going to Vietnam, we studied the literature on the French experience in Vietnam. I had the good fortune once to meet a French Colonel who had served two tours in Vietnam. The French went for three year tours, unlike the American one year. His first tour was up in the area of Hanoi, and his second tour was in the Delta around Can Tho, same area I had served. His second tour was cut short by a wound, that was still visible in a limp twenty years later.
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Old 26 Feb 06, 22:23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R.N. Armstrong
For many of us going to Vietnam, we studied the literature on the French experience in Vietnam. I had the good fortune once to meet a French Colonel who had served two tours in Vietnam. The French went for three year tours, unlike the American one year. His first tour was up in the area of Hanoi, and his second tour was in the Delta around Can Tho, same area I had served. His second tour was cut short by a wound, that was still visible in a limp twenty years later.
I have to admit that I did not think too highly of the french soldiers' abilities in the 40-50s. This changed when I read about the CEFEO. Very tough.

Also interesting is the mixing of the french units with vietnamese troops in Indochina. The vietnamese in the mixed CEFEO units fought very well. I think it was because of the catholic religion. Maybe.
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Old 26 Feb 06, 22:29
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Here's a link to a bibliography for the vietnam war. There are links to different PDFs on the web. I haven't explored very well.

http://www.clemson.edu/caah/history/...liography.html


For the First Indochina war student, this page. Midway down there is 4 PDFs of different articles written by Fall in the 60s. Also other PDFs in the same area.

http://www.clemson.edu/caah/history/.../firstwar.html
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Old 26 Feb 06, 23:54
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'The following two pdf links are in French, but should give everybody an idea what Troupes Coloniales, Colonial Forces, as they were called at that time, were about. They had infantry, artillery, armor, airborne and supporting arms. They were Frenchmen, Africans and Indochinese. They fought like everybody else, but because Indochina was a colony, was very much involved in that war.'

http://www.troupesdemarine.org/feder...39/dossier.pdf

http://www.troupesdemarine.org/feder...40/dossier.pdf


Thanks to Peter Lyderik. I found the above here.

http://www.cervens.net/legionbbs/arc...php/t-601.html
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Old 27 Feb 06, 00:03
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Link to downloadable e-books. There are 4 picture books of the first Indochina war. Click the history tab on the left then go to page 3 for #2. The rest is on page 4.

39-45 mag HS 05 indochine 1
39-45 mag HS 05 indochine 2
39-45 mag HS 05 indochine 3
39-45 mag HS 05 indochine 4

http://www.betah.co.il/booksCatalog.aspx

There are other books to download here. Several WWII.

And here's a link to George Elford's Devil's Guard. Yeah, I know it's fiction but the book has the characters fighting in the First Indochina War.

http://www.xs4all.nl/~brandb/devils_guard.htm
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Old 28 Feb 06, 20:31
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Link leads to a pretty good short description of DBP that is written like a unit's diary.

http://cervens.net/legion/dienbienphu/diary/index.html

Link leads to a french language page about the Memories of Colonel Jacques Jaubert in indochina.

http://home.tele2.fr/indochine/intro.htm

Link leads to Babel fish.

http://babelfish.altavista.com/tr
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Old 01 May 06, 17:05
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Very good links
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Old 20 Jun 06, 12:21
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Very, very nice! Thanks for posting it.
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Old 13 Sep 06, 04:03
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The BPVN

During the French era, the Vietnamese served in many of the French colonial units which eventually would include 12 ‘Indochinese Paratroop Companies” and five Vietnamese Airborne Battalions. In looking at these ‘Vietnamese’ airborne units it must be kept in mind that except for the 6th Vietnamese Parachute Battalion, which was composed solely of Vietnamese troops, the other units included up to 50% French troops, in addition to many minority indigenous troops.

The First Vietnamese Parachute Battalion (1er Bataillon de Parachutistes Vietnamiens – 1 BPVN(FR)(Thieu Doan Nhay Du 1 – 1 TDND(Viet) was established on 15 July 1951 in Saigon. The Battalion was created using the personnel of two existing Vietnamese airborne companies, the 1st Guard Company (1 Compagnie de la Garde) and volunteers from the Vietnamese 1st Indochina Parachute Company (1er Compagnie Indochinoise Parachutiste – 1 CIP) of the original 1st Battalion Colonial Commando Parachutists (1er Bataillon Colonial de Commandos Parachutiste – 1 BCCP). At this time the 1 TDND consisted of a Headquarters and Support Company and four combat companies.

On 9 August, elements of the battalion moved to Kontum to reinforce the 2nd Foreign Legion Parachute Battalion (2 BEP). From 30 August – 9 September, the Battalion was attached to the Airborne Commando Group (Groupement de Commandos Mixtes Aeroportees) GCMA as part of Operation “Pirate” in Cu Lao Re area. The 1st Company then participated in a jump near Ben Cat as part of operation CORNEILLE. On 1 November 1951, the Battalion moved to the north, near Hanoi, as part of the general reserve of the Tonkin Command and participated in Operation BRETAGNE from 15-19 December. The First Company then jumped into combat to reinforce the French garrison at Rocher Notre Dam on the Black River, where the rest of the Battalion joined them the next day. The Viet Minh then moved fresh Divisions into the Colonial Route 6 area, and the 1st TDND saw heavy combat at Ao Trach and Nam Dinh, as well as at Thai Binh in the Delta, before returning to Saigon in April. The unit immediately returned to combat on 25 April when they jumped into combat at Tay Ninh as part of Operation CHAUMIEREUT and then in Xuyen Moc on 15 May as part of Operation EOLE. This jump was part of an amphibious-airborne raid with two companies and the battalion command post joining with GCMA demolition teams to establish blocking positions in front of an amphibious force, which included the remaining 1st TDND Company, Marine Commandos, and a squadron of Foreign Legion. This operation caught the enemy off guard, but they abandoned their depots and munitions factories rather than face the paratroops. The unit’s last combat airborne operation occurred in the highlands of North Vietnam in late 1952 and was a disaster due to many factors not involving the enemy. At this point the 1st Parachute Battalion deployed to central Vietnam where they continued to fight as an infantry unit. These operations included Operation ATLAS in Quang Ngai Province, 9 – 29 April with the 1st Airborne Group (Groupement Aeroportees GAP). During July 1953, the battalion engaged in a violet battle near Ap Bac. Their final major operation of the year was as part of Operation QUERCY in Bien Hoa during August. In January 1954, the Battalion moved to the Mekong Delta area and participated in numerous operations with the 1st GAP.

Many thanks to Harry Pugh, who provided me with this info. Harry is the author of "The Insignia of The French Commandos" Harry has a short but detailed unit history for many of the CEFEO commandos and paras. It straightened out my confusion about the BCCP/BCP units.
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Old 13 Sep 06, 04:30
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An example of Harry's work. Short and sweet. Explains the "extra" para units, I kept finding. (6th BCCP, 6th GCCP, 6th BCP) You would think that it was the same unit BUT the CEFEO moved/changed unit names/designations like no other.

Example, the Marche Battalion, 1st Foreign Legion Infantry Regiment; the 5th Battalion, 4th Foreign Legion Infantry Regiment and the 3rd Battalion, 6th Foreign Legion Infantry Regiment never did "serve" in Indochina. The 3 FFL units replaced destroyed FFL units so they "became" the old units. Also the same goes for the 3rd BEP after the 1st and 2nd BEP was destroyed at DBP.

6th Colonial Parachute Commando Battalion (6th BCCP)

The 6th BCCP was established at Quimper, France on 16 May 1948 and arrived at Saigon on 28 July 1949. The 6th BCCP was based at Tourane (Da Nang). The unit saw considerable combat in the central and southern areas of Vietnam.

On 1 Oct 1950, the unit was redesignated as the 6th Colonial Parachute Commando Group (6th GCCP) and then the 6th Colonial Parachute Battalion (6th BCP) before being disbanded on 20 August 1951.

The battalion was reborn as the 6th BCP in France on 2 July 1952 and would fight in Dien Bien Phu before being disbanded on 8 May 1954.
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Old 14 Sep 06, 01:17
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Couple of links

Couple of links to the FFL cervens forum.

Colonial road 4 (RC4) disaster
http://cervens.net/legionbbs/showthr...ight=indochina

One of the first commando units used in Indochina: Commando Vandenberghe
http://cervens.net/legionbbs/showthr...ight=indochina

Link to a Yahoo Indochina war discussion site
http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/guerredindochine/
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Old 14 Sep 06, 01:42
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Link to the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF VIET-NAM. There are other links on that page which lead to the American Vietnam war stuff.
http://www.vietnamwar.net/Ho-1.htm

Another link for mainly the US war. Army talk/slang. I love "plenty cheap charlie".
http://www.ov-1.com/misc/lingo.html
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Old 14 Sep 06, 02:41
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1998 Visit by an American Colonel to DBP

1998 Visit by an American Colonel

Lao Aviation announced during mid-November 2000 that it plans to fly to Dien Bien Phu from Vientiane and/or Luang Prabang. Please contact the editor for flight details.

The following is the fascinating account of a US military officer's visit to Dien Bien Phu (DBP) during the summer of 1998.

Yes, I just got back from DBP. I flew in from Hanoi as I had an opportunity to add this travel onto my vacation. We travelled to Shanghai, Hanoi, Saigon, and Phnom Penh. It is an hour hop via fokker turbo prop and a stol landing at DBP. August should be a good month and not too wet. Still in wet season and wx [weather] is always a problem due to mtns [mountains] and the way the clouds hang low in that valley most of the day and all nite. Very spooky place.

I cannot comment on the land route, as I have not explored that since we last communicated. I just caution that you confirm there is an immigration post on VN [Vietnam] border [with Laos] for access into north VN [Vietnam]. If not and you cross, you will not enjoy the results. Just confirm you can enter VN at that site. The DBP area is [a] very small valley patrolled heavily by NVA [North Vietnam Army] armed to the teeth for some reason but probably just their usual border activities. They of course grow hash, etc., etc., in the hills around DBP, so there is a lot of strange stuff locally going on. Lots of folks in the town are stoned the entire day.

Before I continue, the wx is really something to worry about. Our wet season is here. If it is worse in DBP now, ground travel would be a problem and air just as bad. Check it out as this is really a remote place to go to and you do not need to be stranded there. Chow is just awful. Unless you like eating dog all the time. Take some Tabasco sauce to kill the taste of the stuff you do get, as everything was really grim. They even **** up the bread. My [Vietnamese] wife said she never saw VN food so miserable. However, it is a superb place to diet, as you really do not get hungry to eat cause the food is so shitty--you choose to do without. Yes, can get cokes and beer there, which help out. Use dong, not dollars.

Now the battlefield. Some encroachment by the town into the sides of Dominique and Elaine hillocks but not on the positions themselves. It was wet when I was there and cool so the comfort level was okay but climbing to these strong points was a sob due to the wet slopes. Usually, on the positions themselves, a light knee-high scrub is over the positions. Trench lines intact and very visible, and fields of fire, sleep positions, etc., clearly visible. The valley is small so you can walk to a lot but the outlying positions are a few klicks out, so hire a motorcycle to take you. These drivers know nothing of map reading so just point and say how many klicks. They are illiterate and very dumb and rude as hell. Bargain hard cause they know they get no repeat customers in that remote site so they care less about if you are pleased with their services or not. 10-20 [us] bucks a day is top end and you got to handle them like the dumbest private you ever had. They want to take lunch, pak time, etc., etc. The most I ever paid was 10 bucks for the day and my VN wife bargained that but what a bloody battle that was. Thankfully, you do not need a motorcycle much. But 10-20 bucks will cover an entire day. A cycle ride for initial recon of the entire valley floor I did do and it helped me organize how much time I needed to cover the sites and that with map recon from hotel roof made the task of covering the battle sites very easy to organize time wise.

The only position I did not walk was Isabel. Clearly marked 6 km south of the town by a concrete VN statue but the position is all gone due to rice paddy construction. I did not get off the road to search any further as this is prime paddy land and the place is all cultivated.

The Viets have an okay museum open there 10-12, 2-4.

Here is my recommendation and I plan to go back but am pissed I cannot do it with you all. Go get [Bernard] Fall's book on the battle [hell in a very small place], Xerox the diagrams and maps--I also have them here if you want them. Do the same for Roy's book--I did not and wish I had but the book is due in here next week. Get maps, US army issue of DBP. If you have problems, let me know. I have a set and may be able to get another.

Read both books or one of them and get some notes together on how the battle went on each position, i.e., the sequence of the fight. Then with notes, maps, and Xerox of the positions, go to the site and you will experience a battlefield walk that beats the **** out of Gettysburg [US Civil War battlefield]. This was a battle that used the same weapons we both had during our tours in the service [in Vietnam]. You can see and feel how the French defended and the firepower was employed and the god-awful meat grinder fights over this terrain. The terrain is just overwhelming. All the principles of war, all the infantry school classes on tactics screamed at me. It was powerful stuff to relive this with the notes, seeing the terrain, walking the battle.

I recommend going to all strong points. The airfield is the airport now. Same loc [location] as before. Castries HQs [headquarters] is south of airfield. Just follow diagrams in fall's book and you can walk the central position in morning easily. The positions to the west are all paddy, and I did not walk much there, as it was all gone. I did walk the cemetery, now a cornfield, and all the central position. The bailey bridge of the battle era is still up and being used. The significant terrain is Gabriel, Beatrice, Dominique, Elaine hillocks and they consumed all my time. I did spend some time on Anne Marie but the fight-to-the-death drama of the battle was in Dominique and Elaines and it was an Iwo Jima [reference to a WWII battle in the pacific] point blank nightmare terrain to fight. I intensely covered every location here. This by map and diagram study as the locals have no knowledge or interest and are no help. They are polite about letting you roam around these places but clearly do not give a **** about history. Fall says that these fights and strong points are not accurately recorded on maps and records of the French. Well, old Bernard wrote a great book but he never walked the ground. Take his diagrams retrieved by his research of battle records and you go to the area and you can easily find Elaine 10, any soldier can match the terrain to the battle plan, and it all just comes alive for you. You can find every site they fought on, no matter how small and vague on the diagrams of Fall's book.

In center of town on hillock is the key terrain of the Elaine hill series, E3. That is cleaned up into tour location nicely and okay. When Viets do sell a tour they take the visitors there as it is cleaned up, then to the museum, then to Castries HQs, then to Viet Minh graveyard at base of E3. I ran into a Viet tour in progress with Japanese. Tour guide was a nice VN girl but she was not familiar with the battle at all and she told me the above itinerary that the govt provides as a "tour." she told me no one walks the battle sites like I was doing as a tour. So I would not recommend getting linked up with such tours as it is bullshit. You can do it all yourself with a little prep [preparation] and the items I described.

There are a few mini hotels in center of the town (crossroads is more like it) and I did not make a reservation cause there is not a vacancy problem. I stayed at the Vietnam airlines place. Aircon [US] 20 bucks a day, low but clean grade motel six (a stretch here) but safe and hot water. Electric power usually. Bring a book for the evenings as the lone VN TV station is the pits. No bars, no nightlife. Place shuts down at nightfall. Other [hotel] places avail [available] as well. The VN airlines place has a cafe of sorts, others do not. Food sucks. Depending on how long you stay, I would stay 2-3 days and bring some canned food and raman noodles and hot sauce. This period should take you over all the French position, but my next visit I plan to try to find the Viet Minh arty [artillery] positions in the hills and this is uncharted areas so I plan to take a week for my next trip.

Clothes, I took a day rucksack and bought bottled water there to haul around. I did my tour in running shoes and levis and t-shirt. I took a jungle fatigue jacket to wear in the heavy scrub when I was climbing slopes. This all worked fine. A long-sleeved shirt would work as well. It would have been better to wear jungle boots or ankle-high shoes. I just was travelling and had no room to lug too much gear around the other vacation sites, so I cut a little off my list of field gear. A baseball cap or boonie hat is a must. Yeah, it's easier with boots of some kind. But you can do it with Nikes.

Well, that is what comes to mind two weeks out of DBP. Ask me for anything else that you might think about. I loved the visit and am going back. Without wife this time as she found out how boring the place is if you are not a history buff. She sat at hotel bored to death. I tried to tell her to stay in Hanoi but her curiosity got the best of her and she had nothing to do. Shopping? Forget it. Unless you want some fruit or vegetables. This is rural, remote and nowhereville.

Oh yea, the VN airline hotel is the tallest building and has a roof you can climb onto. I spent hours up there with maps going over the basics of the terrain and it helped organize my operations for the next day or recap the present day's events. I used a wrist compass, the dive kind on the wristwatch and it was all I needed. Just be sure to take a compass so you can navigate. Once you get into some of these hill-invested positions you need to stop and chart out where north is, south, etc., etc. Compass and map are a must to take.

If you go on a weekday the museum curator is a Viet Minh I am told and you might possibly get him to walk some places he fought at or get his help on some local Viet Minh to do that, of course it will cost you. Be prepared for dong or dollars for that one.

Dong worked for all other costs, little as they were in the valley.

The French dropped there in the dry season in November. Overrun in early may as the monsoon set in. Check your weather very closely. It is a two- to three-day trip from Hanoi via road one way I am told and of course one hour via air [form Hanoi] when air can get into DBP. Have some time on backend just in case you get weathered in and cannot get out via air or road conditions get challenging.

Okay, I think that is about it. Maybe take some insect repellent as well.

PS: it is obvious when you land there and look 360 degrees around you that this [battle] plan must have really briefed well in Saigon, but standing there as a soldier you know you are going to die. No one with any tactical knowledge would execute a defensive battle in such god-awful terrain. It was criminal to employ troops in such a place. Outright criminal. Beyond incompetence, outright criminal. What a nightmare place to fight.

http://mekongexpress.com/vietnam/gen...20article1.htm
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Old 14 Sep 06, 04:26
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The First Indochina War beginner's reading list:

First Indochina War recommended reading?

The First Indochina War beginner's list:

Fall's 'Hell in a Small Place' and 'Street of Joy' are both excellent
and usually can be found for around $10 each.

Windrow's 'The Last Valley' is also excellent and around $10.

Robert O'Neill's 'General Giap' has pretty good military details on
the the post '50 battles. Plus you get Giap's bio. Around $15.

'Vietnam at War' by Phillip D Davidson. Before the renting and
gnashing of teeth begin, I agree that the second half of the book
concerning the US involvement in Vietnam is drek BUT in regards to the
first half of the book and his treatment of the 1st Indochina War, the
book is good. Yearly chapters, good footnotes. Great place for a
BEGINNING student of the 1st IC war to start. Plus I seen it at less
then $5. The little birdie goes "Cheap, Cheap!"

'The Quicksand War' by Lucien Bodard. Best RC4 disaster read that I
have found. Plus you get some atmosphere of Saigon and the sects.
Rather cheap for an old book. Recently I seen it at $15.

These are all military operations books. That's what brought us here,
ehh? Political books later.

But for less then $75.00, (and some studying), you can have the
essential knowledge needed to prattle on endlessly about the war.
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Old 25 Jun 07, 20:14
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Thank you for the bibliography. I am all about the books. I have some of these but there were a couple of titles I was unfamiliar with. Curiously the book you use as an avatar is not on your list
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