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Thread: Resources on the French defeat in Indochina?

  1. #1
    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
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    Default Resources on the French defeat in Indochina?

    I'm somewhat bored and need something academic to do over my winter break from college. So I was going to piece together a good analysis of France's Defeat in the First Indochina War of 1946-1954, which has interested me a great deal lately.

    However, other then the book The Last Valley by Martin Windrow. Which provides alot of pretty good information and analysis in it's self, as well as a couple of papers I have saved online from Global Security. Although I don't have much other then that.

    Therefore I was hoping someone could steer me in the right direction in terms of information and resources out there?


    Thank you,

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    Council Member Levi's Avatar
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    Bonjour,

    guerre Francaise d'indochine:

    ( too thick to post links)

    groups.yahoo.com/phrase/french indochina ; I didn't go in there, but supposed to be veterans of the war, maybe you can correspond with one.

    www.alliedcoldwarvets.com ; again, real people.

    P.S. I am only beginning to learn french, so I look forward to being forced to translate what I see here. Good luck kevin, sounds like an interesting project for anyone with french interests.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default

    Je Ne Regrette Rien by Pierre Sergent

    History of the legion with a good bit on Indochina by a veteran

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    "Street Without Joy" is good
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Default Google up the links to:

    1. Anything by Bernard Fall - Street Without Joy, Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu, and the Two Vietnams (the least known of the trilogy, but the best to understand the political action before, during and after the French defeat). You also should be able to find a number of his articles for free downloading.

    2. Add in Jules Roy, Battle of Dienbienphu, for a slightly different view by a French officer who became fed up with the whole "hopeless mess". The Troupes de Marine, in its history section, has quite a bit on DBP (Fall's Hell) and GM100 (Fall's Street); but that requires some French reading ability.

    3. Giap, People's War, People's Army; and later (1967), Big Victory, Great Task, which spells out the integration of the Political Struggle and the Military Struggle in the context of what he considered the Resistence War (I vs the French and II vs the US), where he was waging what we would call unconventional warfare. Also anything else from Giap that you can find onlne.

    4. Putting it all together, John J. McCuen, The Art of Counter-Revolutionary Warfare (1966, reprint available from Hailer Publishing), which is not a cookbook; but which spells out the phases of insurgency and what to do about them. Heavy focus on the First Indochina War and a good bibliography after each section (including some English translations of French intel articles which I haven't yet tracked down online).

    Not a complete list by any means, but it should get you going.

    Bonne chance, Kevin

    Mike

    PS: For some nasty stuff (which may or may not be true), George Robert Elford, Devil's Guard (from the early 1970s, with I believe a couple of sequels I don't have) - SS officer who served in Vietnam with a Legion German unit he commanded. Whether fact or fiction, it is an interesting read.
    Last edited by jmm99; 12-22-2009 at 06:42 AM. Reason: add PS

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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    Hey Mike,

    PS: For some nasty stuff (which may or may not be true), George Robert Elford, Devil's Guard (from the early 1970s, with I believe a couple of sequels I don't have) - SS officer who served in Vietnam with a Legion German unit he commanded. Whether fact or fiction, it is an interesting read.
    Actually it is true that many of the foreign legion after WW2 were german. The fact they were SS is doubtful as they all were rewarded as war criminals at that time and Legion Etrangere as a quite strict code on that issue. But I do not know if it was in place or implemented at that time. France was desperate to find fighters for Indochina.

    Just for the fun and having some feelings on the context I would recommand also to watch Indochina and Bien Dien Phu.
    The first one is not a war movie but gives a good idea of what was the the atmosphere in Indo at the time. The seccond one is all about the Bien Dien Phu battle.

    Good luck Kevin

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    Default Hey Marc,

    Back from your little excursion, it seems.

    From a quick Google, this Wiki, Devil's Guard, and this blog page, class the book as fiction. Interesting read, anyway. I expect there were as many or more TdMs (Colonialement ) as Germans in Indochina I. GM 100 had (IIRC) two TdM units.

    Wiki/Waps for Indochine and Dien Bien Phu. The latter by Pierre Schoendoerffer (an Alsatian, not a German), who earlier (1967) made the Oscar-winning documentary, La Section Anderson (The Anderson Platoon). The platoon leader, Joseph B. Anderson, seems to have done very well for himself in later civilian life.

    sommeil

    Mike

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Go to the start

    Kevin,

    My mistake I overlooked this, or my memory is at fault.

    I have read about the French First Indo-China War, partly as Bernard Fall's book 'Street Without Joy' was read over thirty years ago. The early part of the war is even more intriguing, the post-VJ return of first UK (in Saigon), Nationalist Chinese (in the north) and then French troops who tried to assert control - with lots of Japanese help. I have a couple of books on that episode on the bookshelves.
    davidbfpo

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    Default Another Source

    Although a novel it is relevant to you interest.
    "The Centurions" by Jean Lartguy

    Story told through the experience of French paratroopers in Indochina and Algeria.

    sample Reviewer comments:
    "An excellent book which gives a good understanding of the French military mindset during the First Vietnam War. I recommend it to my students at Glasgow University as a 'must-read' for American History - Vietnam studies.
    I read this book as a young Parachute Regiment officer and have remembered its lessons to this day as they have been applicable to all subsequent wars."

    "I read this first when learning counterinsurgency tactics in the Marines, in 1963. It was influential because we all - second lieutenants destined, though we didn't know it then, to become platoon and company commanders in Vietnam - read it and thought it set forth truth.
    Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print, and used copies go for several hundreds of dollars."

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    Good call.

    From the book:

    "For our sort of war," Raspeguy muses, "you need shrewd, cunning men who are capable of fighting far from the herd, who are full of initiative too ... who can turn their hand to any trade, poachers and missionaries. "
    So what do we do?

    For 'our sort of war' (fill in the location here) mass produced clones are sent out who fail. Sad repetitive story.

    To the credit of the Brits they identified the need way back. I quote the British manual 'Keeping the Peace' Part 2 - Tactics and Training - 1963:

    332. Leadership and battle discipline.. Fighting an underground enemy probably requires a higher standard of junior leadership than any other type of warfare yet experienced. ... Command often has to be decentralized and the training of junior commanders must, therefore, be directed towards giving them the ability and confidence to make sound decisions and act on their own initiative.
    But then they failed to act on their own experience. Also a sad repetitive story.


    Quote Originally Posted by JPLearn View Post
    Although a novel it is relevant to you interest.
    "The Centurions" by Jean Lartguy

    Story told through the experience of French paratroopers in Indochina and Algeria.

    sample Reviewer comments:
    "An excellent book which gives a good understanding of the French military mindset during the First Vietnam War. I recommend it to my students at Glasgow University as a 'must-read' for American History - Vietnam studies.
    I read this book as a young Parachute Regiment officer and have remembered its lessons to this day as they have been applicable to all subsequent wars."

    "I read this first when learning counterinsurgency tactics in the Marines, in 1963. It was influential because we all - second lieutenants destined, though we didn't know it then, to become platoon and company commanders in Vietnam - read it and thought it set forth truth.
    Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print, and used copies go for several hundreds of dollars."

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    I have read about the French First Indo-China War, partly as Bernard Fall's book 'Street Without Joy' was read over thirty years ago. The early part of the war is even more intriguing, the post-VJ return of first UK (in Saigon), Nationalist Chinese (in the north) and then French troops who tried to assert control - with lots of Japanese help. I have a couple of books on that episode on the bookshelves.
    This:

    http://www.amazon.com/Why-Viet-Nam-A.../dp/0520047834

    has some very interesting material on the close of the war and the transitions associated with it, from a first-hand observer's perspective. You have to filter for bias of course (Patti had a very low opinion of the French in Indochina)... but filtering for bias is always a good idea.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    I have read about the French First Indo-China War, partly as Bernard Fall's book 'Street Without Joy' was read over thirty years ago. The early part of the war is even more intriguing, the post-VJ return of first UK (in Saigon), Nationalist Chinese (in the north) and then French troops who tried to assert control - with lots of Japanese help. I have a couple of books on that episode on the bookshelves.
    This:

    http://www.amazon.com/Why-Viet-Nam-A.../dp/0520047834

    has some very interesting material on the close of the war and the transitions associated with it, from a first-hand observer's perspective. You have to filter for bias of course (Patti had a very low opinion of the French in Indochina)... but filtering for bias is always a good idea.
    Don't forget the 1964 Case Studies in Insurgency and Revolutionary Warfare: Vietnam 1941-1954 from the U.S. Army's Special Operations Research Office.

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Both very good. One won a Pulitzer.

    http://www.amazon.com/Embers-War-Emp.../dp/0375756477

    http://www.amazon.com/Valley-Death-T...6GNJXYPQ8J8HJ4

    And both make it pretty clear that without Red China, no genius of Giap and no big proletarian victory.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Default Two more books

    On the What are you reading 2013 thread there are two books mentioned, which span off a short discussion Posts 39-43.

    To the books: A "lurker" lent me a slim AUSA book, 'Dien Bien Phu: The Epic Battle America Forgot' by Howard E. Simpson. It is a long time since I read on the French Indo-China war, notably Bernard Fall in 'Street Without Joy'. Originally published in 1994 and my edition 2005:
    http://www.amazon.com/Dien-Bien-Phu-...America+Forgot

    Simpson writes well, although the editor missed some strange spellings and grammar which jarred an easy read. He has interviewed on both sides, including General Giap and clearly has admiration for the stoicism of the French (including a good number of non-French nationals and local tribesmen). Some new information was found; the UK & US official visits, the extent of US civilian pilots flying most of the transports and the use of quad .50 cal. machine guns.

    I still marvel at those who volunteered to parachute in the last days, many with just a few days training:
    800 French, 450 Legionnaires, 400 North Africans & Africans and 150 Vietnamese - only 681 jumped in.
    Finally the author was there, as a diplomat, before the siege began.

    Book Two from Backwards Observer

    Advice and Support: The Early Years of the U.S. Army in Vietnam 1941-1960 by Ronald H. Spector:http://www.amazon.com/Advice-Support...1142344&sr=1-5

    The idea that the appropriate use of American power will provide a satisfactory outcome to even the most intractable problem in the Third World is far from a novel one. It was succinctly, if inelegantly, expressed in the slogan which one saw everywhere in Vietnam, “Once we have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” The work presented here suggests a fundamentally different conclusion, but one which was also embodied in an expression commonly heard in Vietnam, “You can’t make somethin’ out of nothin’.”

    Added to this propensity to make something out of nothing was an American ignorance of Vietnamese history and society so massive and all-encompassing that two decades of federally-funded fellowships, crash language programs, television specials and campus teach-ins made hardly a dent. In Chapter 1 of the present work I attempt to show how infrequent and tenuous were American contacts with Vietnam before 1945 and what little knowledge of IndoChina there was in the U.S. even among specialists. U.S. contacts with Japan and China, however distorted by mutual suspicion, ignorance and prejudice, were rich and varied in comparison to those with Southeast Asia. (from the preface to the 1985 edition)
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Four days left

    We are approaching the 60th anniversary of the French surrender and the BBC offers a radio podcast:
    After the humiliations of WW2 France was insistent on reasserting itself as a world power. In their Vietnamese colony the nationalists led by Ho Chi Minh were just as determined to gain independence. The showdown to a seven-year guerrilla war came in 1954 at the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Survivors, politicians and historians explain how the horrors of a 56-day siege ended with the French garrison being virtually wiped out. In Paris desperate politicians even considered using American atomic weapons to try to save Dien Bien Phu.

    Julian Jackson, Professor of Modern French History at Queen Mary, London, recounts how French soldiers lost an empire in the mountains of Vietnam and how 60 years later the defeat still resonates in contemporary France. For the other European powers it marked the beginning of the end for their colonies in Africa and the Far East. Dien Bien Phu was the first time native forces had defeated a modern well-equipped army. The lessons were not lost on rebels from Kenya to Malaya.


    It also had profound implications for the onset of the Cold War. In Washington the battle led to President Eisenhower's first articulation of the domino theory about the possible expansion of communism. For Moscow and Beijing, Dien Bien Phu represented a great leap forward. For the USA the political vacuum left by the French abandonment of Indochina was to lead to their own 10-year war in Vietnam.

    It is a hour long BBC Radio Four 'Archive on 4' programme, available for four more days:http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b041v27d
    davidbfpo

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