Rockets Like Rain: A Year in Vietnam

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The Viet Minh briefly captured Huguette 7, only to be pushed back by a French counterattack at dawn on 1 April. Fighting continued in this manner over the next several nights. The Viet Minh repeatedly attacked Eliane 2, only to be beaten back.

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Repeated attempts to reinforce the French garrison by parachute drops were made, but had to be carried out by lone planes at irregular times to avoid excessive casualties from Viet Minh antiaircraft fire. Some reinforcements did arrive, but not enough to replace French casualties. On 5 April, after a long night of battle, French fighter-bombers and artillery inflicted particularly devastating losses on one Viet Minh regiment, which was caught on open ground.

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On 10 April, the French attempted to retake Eliane 1, which had been lost eleven days earlier. The loss posed a significant threat to Eliane 4, and the French wanted to eliminate that threat. The dawn attack, which Bigeard devised, began with a short, massive artillery barrage, followed by small unit infiltration attacks , then mopping-up operations.

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Eliane 1 changed hands several times that day, but by the next morning the French had control of the strong point. The Viet Minh attempted to retake it on the evening of 12 April, but were pushed back. At this point, the morale of the Viet Minh soldiers was greatly lowered due to the massive casualties they had received from heavy French gunfire. During a period of stalemate from 15 April to 1 May, the French intercepted enemy radio messages which told of whole units refusing orders to attack, and Viet Minh prisoners in French hands said that they were told to advance or be shot by the officers and non-commissioned officers behind them, [73] much like Stalin's "Not A Step Back!

Worse still, the Viet Minh lacked advanced medical treatment and care, with one captured fighter stating that, "Nothing strikes at combat-morale like the knowledge that if wounded, the soldier will go uncared for". During the fighting at Eliane 1, on the other side of camp, the Viet Minh entrenchments had almost entirely surrounded Huguette 1 and 6. On 11 April the garrison of Huguette 1, supported by artillery from Claudine , launched an attack with the goal of resupplying Huguette 6 with water and ammunition.

The attacks were repeated on the nights of the 14—15 and 16—17 April. While they did succeed in getting some supplies through, the French suffered heavy casualties, which convinced Langlais to abandon Huguette 6. Following a failed attempt to link up, on 18 April, the defenders at Huguette 6 made a daring break out, but only a few managed to make it to French lines.

Tet Offensive

After this key advance, the Viet Minh took control of more than 90 percent of the airfield, making accurate French parachute drops impossible. Isabelle saw only light action until 30 March, when the Viet Minh isolated it and beat back the attempt to send reinforcements north. Following a massive artillery barrage on 30 March, the Viet Minh began employing the same trench warfare tactics that they were using against the central camp.

By the end of April, Isabelle had exhausted its water supply and was nearly out of ammunition. The Viet Minh launched a massed assault against the exhausted defenders on the night of 1 May, overrunning Eliane 1, Dominique 3, and Huguette 5, although the French managed to beat back attacks on Eliane 2. On 6 May, the Viet Minh launched another massed attack against Eliane 2, using, for the first time, Katyusha rockets. The Viet Minh attacked again, and within a few hours the defenders were overrun. At , de Castries radioed French headquarters in Hanoi and talked with Cogny.

De Castries: "The Viets are everywhere.

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  • The situation is very grave. The combat is confused and goes on all about. I feel the end is approaching, but we will fight to the finish. It is out of the question to run up the white flag after your heroic resistance. The last radio transmission from the French headquarters reported that enemy troops were directly outside the headquarters bunker and that all the positions had been overrun. The radio operator in his last words stated: "The enemy has overrun us. We are blowing up everything.

    Rockets Like Rain A Year in Vietnam

    Vive la France! While some of the main body managed to break out, none succeeded in escaping the valley. At "Isabelle", a similar attempt later the same night saw about 70 troops, out of 1, men in the garrison, escape to Laos. The position surrendered that night when Nicholas personally waved a small white flag probably a handkerchief from his rifle. Many of the flights operated by the French Air force to evacuate casualties had female flight nurses on board.

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    She remained on the ground providing medical services in the field hospital until the surrender. Historians disagree regarding this moniker, with Martin Windrow maintaining that de Galard was referred to by this name by the garrison itself, but Michael Kenney and Bernard Fall maintaining it was added by outside press agencies. Dien Bien Phu was a serious defeat for the French and was the decisive battle of the Indochina war.

    This was apparent with the previously planned negotiations over the future of Indochina, which had just begun. The Archbishop of Paris ordered a mass, while radio performances were cancelled and replaced by solemn music, notably Berlioz ' Requiem. Theatres and restaurants closed and many social engagements were cancelled as a mark of respect. On 8 May, the Viet Minh counted 11, prisoners, of whom 4, were wounded. The prisoners were divided into groups. The wounded were given basic first aid until the Red Cross arrived, extracted prisoners, and provided better aid to the remainder.

    Those wounded who were not evacuated by the Red Cross were sent into detention. The Viet Minh captured 8, French and marched them miles on foot to prison camps; less than half survived the march. The Vietnamese Government reported its casualties in the battle as 4, dead, 9, wounded, and missing.

    The Geneva Conference opened on 8 May , [99] the day after the surrender of the garrison. The resulting agreement partitioned Vietnam into two zones: communist North Vietnam and the State of Vietnam , which opposed the agreement, [] to the south. The partition was supposed to be temporary, and the two zones were meant to be reunited through national elections in , [] which were never held. The last French forces withdrew from Vietnam in The fall of Dien Bien Phu, in a strictly military perspective, represented a very serious failure but one that in the immediate, that is to say, spring of , did not upset the balance of forces present in Indochina.

    It only assumed the aspect of a definitive defeat of our forces by reason of its profound psychological effects on French public opinion, which, tired of a war that was unpopular and seemingly without end, demanded in a way that it be ended. The event itself was in fact, both in terms of public opinion and of the military conduct of the war and operations, merely the end result of a long process of degradation of a faraway enterprise which, not having the assent of the nation, could not receive from the authorities the energetic impulse, and the size and continuity of efforts required for success.

    If, therefore, one wishes to establish objectively the responsibilities incurred in the final phase of the Indochina war one would have to examine its origins and evoke the acts and decisions of the various governments in power, that is to say their war policies, as well as the ways in which these policies were translated by the military commanders into operations.

    Air Force maintenance crews. The United States, nevertheless intentionally avoided overt direct intervention. Radford , about the possibility of US involvement. Radford concluded it was too late for the U.

    Rockets Like Rain : A Year in Vietnam -

    Air Force to save the French garrison. A proposal for direct intervention was unanimously voted down by the committee three days later, which "concluded that intervention was a positive act of war ". Eisenhower and secretary of state John Foster Dulles then pressed the British and other allies in a joint military operation.

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    • For the Americans, in particular Dulles, this wasn't enough. Britain, already involved in the Malayan Emergency were concerned at the excessive American alarmism in the region but were unaware of the scale of US financial aid and covert involvement in the Indochina war. There were already suggestions at the time notably from French author Jules Roy that Admiral Radford had discussed with the French the possibility of using Tactical nuclear weapons in support of the French garrison.

      Eisenhower too relented and along with the political risks he felt that airstrikes alone would not decide the battle and did not want to escalate U.