Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Dien Bien Phu, 60 years ago

Sixty years ago, at 0530 pm, the fortified camp of Dien Bien Phu fell to a last massive assault  by the Vietminh forces after very heavy fightings in the preceding days, sealing at the same time the fate of French Indochina.

Surrounded, the French forces, composed of a multitude of nationalities (French, various European in the Foreign Legion, Vietnamese, Thaï, North-african, African, ...) and commanded by General de Castries, resisted 57 days to massive offensives of the Vietnamese troops of General Giap. After 8 years of war and with the opening of the Geneva negotiations, the Vietminh were looking for a decisive victory.

Deprived of any possibility of evacuation since the closure of the vital runway due to Vietminh artillery (15 March), the French continued to fight a losing battle, voluntary reinforcements jumping on the camp until the 6 May...

The titanic efforts of the Vietminh to bring artillery in this impassable region and in establishing a network of trenches estimated to 400 kilometers, and their acceptance of horrific casualties, finally bring them their victory in this fateful day.

The French counted 3,420 killed and missing and 11,721 prisoners nearly 5,000 of them injured. Four months of captivity will result in the dead of about 7,000 of them due to malnutrition and disease. Until today, the Vietminh losses remain a guess, but a total of around 20.000 seems probable.

They waited in the bowl
The latest Viet assault
In the mud, they dug their holes
Dien Bien Phu.
For months during the battle,
Under a gray storm of metal,
They thought they will resist
Dien Bien Phu.
Fell this morning
Isabelle still holds,
They fight hand to hand,
Near the Command  Post, eighteen years kids
Fall for France singing:
« Against the Viets, against the enemy »,
Wherever the fight beckons,
We hear only in the bowl,
The Viets cry of victory.
They held to the end.
Dien Bien Phu.
Today nobody cares
Of Dien Bien Phu.
But we remain proud of you.
Dien Bien Phu

Jean-Pax Meffret

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