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FRENCH INVOLVEMENT IN VIETNAM & DIEN BIEN PHU 72662

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Published on May 21, 2015

This 1962 episode of the TV show "The 20th Century" presents the story of the French involvement in Indochina and the devastating collapse at Dien Bien Phu.

The program starts with a short history of the region, beginning with the French struggle to control its colonies in Indochina - Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos following WWII. 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. The United States would not pull out of Vietnam for another twenty years.

The Battle of Dien Bien Phu was the climactic confrontation of the First Indochina War between the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps and Viet Minh communist-nationalist revolutionaries. It was, from the French view before the event, a set piece battle to draw out the Vietnamese and destroy them with superior firepower. The battle occurred between March and May 1954 and culminated in a comprehensive French defeat that influenced negotiations over the future of Indochina at Geneva.

As a result of blunders in French decision-making, the French began an operation to insert then support the soldiers at Dien Bien Phu, deep in the hills of northwestern Vietnam. Its purpose was to cut off Viet Minh supply lines into the neighboring Kingdom of Laos, a French ally, and tactically draw the Viet Minh into a major confrontation that would cripple them. The Viet Minh, however, under General Vo Nguyen Giap, surrounded and besieged the French, who knew of the weapons but were unaware of the vast amounts of the Viet Minh's heavy artillery being brought in (including anti-aircraft guns) and their ability to move these weapons through difficult terrain up the rear slopes of the mountains surrounding the French positions, dig tunnels through the mountain, and place the artillery pieces overlooking the French encampment. This positioning of the artillery made it nearly impervious to counter-battery fire.

The Viet Minh proceeded to occupy the highlands around Dien Bien Phu and bombard the French positions. Tenacious fighting on the ground ensued, reminiscent of the trench warfare of World War I. The French repeatedly repulsed Viet Minh assaults on their positions. Supplies and reinforcements were delivered by air, though as the key French positions were overrun the French perimeter contracted and air resupply on which the French had placed their hopes became impossible, and as the anti-aircraft fire took its toll, fewer and fewer of those supplies reached them. The garrison was overrun after a two-month siege and most French forces surrendered. A few escaped to Laos. The French government resigned and the new Prime Minister, the left-of-centre Pierre Mendès France, supported French withdrawal from Indochina.

The war ended shortly after the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and the signing of the 1954 Geneva Accords.

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This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD and 2k. For more information visit http://www.PeriscopeFilm.com

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