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Tra My - Ngoc Lam 16:12, 2024/05/07
It is not by chance that the word “Dien Bien Phu” appears in the lexicon of the world's militaries.

"The glorious victory at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 shook the world," this phrase still resonates after seven decades. This victory crushed the colonial ambitions of the old-style imperialism, compelling the French colonial government to sign the Geneva Accords in 1954 to cease hostilities, restore peace in Indochina, and recognize the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

The Hanoi Times is honored to present a series of five articles analyzing this historically significant event, not only in Vietnam but also with global implications from various perspectives. From the accounts of witnesses who participated in the battles at Dien Bien Phu to the inspiring stories of Vietnam's younger generation – their perspectives, appreciation, and unique contributions to this event are all highlighted. Furthermore, insights and analyses from international historians and experts provide fresh perspectives, delving into the causes, significance, and international implications of the victory at Dien Bien Phu.

Since the victorious campaign 70 years ago, Vietnam has achieved comprehensive development and significant historical milestones. Political stability has been maintained, the leadership role of the Communist Party of Vietnam has been enhanced, and the people wholeheartedly trust and follow the Party.

Economically, Vietnam has experienced continuous growth and stability, improving people's livelihoods; national defense and security have safeguarded independence, sovereignty, national unity, and territorial integrity; diplomacy has expanded, and Vietnam's position, role, and influence have been increasingly elevated regionally and internationally. There is no future without the past.

These achievements are built upon the invaluable foundation of historical "building blocks", such as the victory at Dien Bien Phu, which has brought peace, independence, freedom, and development. For the international community, the younger generation, and those living today, understanding and drawing lessons from the Dien Bien Phu event are essential. As journalists, we sincerely hope to contribute, albeit modestly, through these articles.

A golden milestone in history

It is not by chance that the word "Dien Bien Phu" appears in the lexicon of the world's militaries. Exactly 70 years ago, on March 13, 1954, the Vietnamese revolutionary army launched the first attack against the French colonialists' heavily fortified bases at Dien Bien Phu, initiating a historic 56-day campaign whose victory led directly to the signing of the Geneva Accords, ending nearly a century of French colonial rule in Vietnam.

 

The victory of the war of resistance against the French colonialists, which culminated in the Dien Bien Phu Campaign, is the victory of patriotism, the indomitable will, and the resilience of the Vietnamese people forged through thousands of years of history.

 

Veteran Bui Kim Dieu, born in 1930, still remembers the first days he volunteered to go to the front, witnessing the hardships, sacrifices, and joy of victory.

 

In the Fall and Winter of 1953, the French colonialists and US interventionists devised the Navarre Plan, which aimed at making Dien Bien Phu the strongest military base in Indochina and at luring the Viet Minh into a large-scale clash with the aim of crippling them. French military commanders of the time bragged about this heavily fortified base, nicknamed the "hedgehog" with entrenched concrete fortifications built across the four flanks. In the Muong Thanh Valley, the French deployed 16,200 troops in 21 battalions divided into northern, central, and southern zones, with 49 entrenched fortifications supporting one another.

At the age of 20, Dieu wrote a petition to volunteer for the battlefield. It was obvious because his brothers and friends all did the same. They were heading to Dien Bien to fight for the nation.

In early December 1953, the Politburo of the Worker's Party of Vietnam (now the Communist Party of Vietnam) decided to launch the Dien Bien Phu Campaign and adopted the combat strategy of "quick attack, quick victory". However, after considering the balance of power between the two sides, General Vo Nguyen Giap made the most difficult decision of his career: Halt the attack and shift the strategy from "quick attack, quick victory" to "steady attack, steady advance".

 

In his letter sent to the soldiers on March 11, 1954, President Ho Chi Minh said the mission was arduous but glorious. He expressed his firm belief that the soldiers would bring into full play the previous victories to overcome all difficulties and hardships to fulfill the mission ahead.

According to veteran Dieu, after days and nights of continuous fighting and digging, Vietnamese soldiers built a system of kilometers of trenches to encircle enemy bases at Dien Bien Phu.

"Under the pounding of French aircraft and artillery, the Vietnamese soldiers clung to their positions while their trenches closed in on the enemy. All the French attempts to sabotage the trench failed," said Dieu.

On March 13, 1953, at precisely 5 p.m., the Vietnamese troops opened fire on the Him Lam Fortress, starting the Dien Bien Phu Campaign. They destroyed this fortification, the Doc Lap Fortress, and forced the Ban Keo Fortress to surrender, thus capturing the northern gateway of the Dien Bien Phu base. 

More than 2,000 French soldiers were killed or taken prisoners, 25 aircraft were destroyed, a regiment was wiped out, and the Muong Thanh airfield was compromised. In April 1954, the revolutionary army concurrently attacked the fortifications, tightened the siege, and seized control of the Muong Thanh airfield, plunging the enemy into extreme panic.

Veteran Hoang Van Bay (born in 1933) and his comrades were ordered to attack the French base on Hill A1. They approached the enemy base by digging trenches.

"Our unit's mission was to fight and dig a trench from the forest to Hill A1. We camouflaged ourselves by placing trees on top of the trench. At first, we lay down close to the ground to dig because standing would expose us to enemy fire. When the trench was a little deeper, we could dig sitting down. Gradually, our trench closed in onto the enemy's command bunker," Bay said.

 

Bay tearfully recalled that there were battles so fierce that his comrades fell in such numbers that the military cook brought 90 rice balls but could only serve 10 because 80  people died.

It was so painful, but the brave young soldiers did not falter. They took over the positions left by the fallen soldiers, making the trenches longer, reaching further to bring food, weapons, and medicine to the battlefield.

From May 1 to 7, 1954, the Vietnamese troops took control of the Eastern fortifications and waged a general offensive to decimate the entire Dien Bien Phu military base.

At 5:30 p.m. on May 7, 1954, the Vietnamese army's "Determined to fight, determined to win" flag was raised at the top of the French General De Castries' command bunker. By midnight on the same day, all the French troops capitulated.

During the general assault on May 7, 1954, Bay was hit in the thigh and taken to the rear. As he lay in his hospital bed, Bay heard that his army had completely destroyed the Dien Bien Phu stronghold and that the enemy had surrendered.

"Everyone was jumping up and down. Even though I was injured, I stood up, cheered, and hugged everyone because I was extremely happy," Bay said.

During the 56 days of undaunted, courageous, and creative fighting, the Vietnamese army and people achieved the Dien Bien Phu Victory, which "resounded across the five continents and shook the globe". The entire so-called "impregnable" Dien Bien Phu military base was completely wiped out.

 

Later, in his memoirs of the battle of Dien Bien Phu, General De Castries made no secret of his admiration for General Vo Nguyen Giap's military leadership: "General Giap is an intelligent and brave man, a good guerrilla commander."

De Castries admitted: "He commanded seemingly unwinnable campaigns and made decisions that perhaps no other general would dare to make. In particular, General Giap is very good at guerrilla warfare, taking on more enemies with less."

 

De Castries confessed that he was honored to be General Giap's opponent, to be the direct defeat of a talented man like General Giap. 

President Ho Chi Minh affirmed that the victory at Dien Bien Phu was a brilliant golden milestone in history that led directly to the signing of the Geneva Accords to end the war and restore peace in Indochina. It also set the stage for the Vietnamese people to win the battle of resistance against the US, liberate the South, and reunify the country in 1975.

 

According to Major General Nguyen Hoang Nhien, Director of the Institute of Military History, the Dien Bien Phu campaign in 1954 stands out as a remarkable epic of the people's war, which has gone down in history as a glorious triumph that smashed the stronghold of imperial colonialism.

"The victory at Dien Bien Phu completely foiled the Navarre Plan, dealt a decisive blow to the invasion ambitions of the French colonialists, turned the tide of the war in Indochina, and created favorable conditions for the diplomatic struggle at the Geneva Conference," said Nhien.

In his commentary on the Dien Bien Phu Victory, Nhien said that the solidarity and participation of the entire people made it possible.

"The people war's strategy is a correct and creative one. During the Dien Bien Phu Campaign, all the people participated in the fight against the enemy, and the people's armed forces were at the core. This path aligns with the nation's tradition of indomitable and resilient struggle in the thousands of years of building and defending the country," Nhien said.

 

Nhien said that based on the lessons of the Dien Bien Phu Campaign, Vietnam needs to promote the strength of the bloc of great national unity, build a strong people's armed forces, increase the army's strength, and meet the requirements of protecting the Fatherland in the new era.

“With the experience from the Dien Bien Phu Campaign, we firmly believe that the Vietnamese people's war power under the leadership of the Communist Party will defeat all the plots and tricks of hostile forces," Nhien said.

 

The battle of Dien Bien Phu marks a pivotal moment in Vietnam's fight for independence and the global struggle against colonialism. It inspired liberation movements around the world. Vietnam's uprising for sovereignty, freedom, and independence, symbolized by the Dien Bien Phu victory, reverberated around the world.

According to Moroccan Ambassador Jamale Chouaibi, the victory wasn't just a military one but a testament to the people's unwavering desire for freedom. 

"Under Ho Chi Minh's leadership, Vietnam displayed remarkable resilience, strategy, and unity the face of difficult situations. This victory gave hope to colonized people worldwide, including those in Morocco," he said. 

 

Ambassador Jamale Chouaibi affirmed that the victory of Dien Bien Phu is proof of the transformative power of peace, independence, and freedom in shaping history and inspiring liberation movements around the world. 

 

"In today's interconnected global relations, preserving territorial integrity and national sovereignty remains central to the ability of nations to attain prosperity and social cohesion. Ensuring peace at the regional and international levels is essential for fostering stability and cooperation among nations. This involves normalizing relations with former adversaries besides actively diversifying diplomatic and economic partners worldwide," he said.

Seventy years have passed, but the Dien Bien Phu Victory is still a source of pride for the Vietnamese people due to its great significance.

At a recent meeting in Dien Bien Province, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh reaffirmed that the Dien Bien Phu Victory was of great historical significance. It was a triumph of patriotism, the indomitable spirit, and the strength of the great national solidarity of Vietnam under the wise and clear-sighted leadership of the Party. It was also a demonstration of the maturity of the Vietnam People's Army.

 
 
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