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Dien Bien Phu 1954 battle changed Vietnams history It is seen by many military scholars as one of the great battles of the 20th century -- and a defining moment in the history of Southeast Asia And yet the Battle of Dien Bien Phu receives rarely more than a passing mention in most history texts After World War II France was able to reinstall its colonial government in what was then known as Indochina By 1946 a Vietnamese independence movement led by communist Ho Chi Minh was fighting French troops for control of northern Vietnam The Viet Minh as the insurgents were called used guerrilla tactics that the French found difficult to counter In late 1953 as both sides prepared for peace talks in the Indochina War French military commanders picked Dien Bien Phu a village in northwestern Vietnam near the Laotian and Chinese borders as the place to pick a fight with the Viet Minh It was an attempt to interdict the enemys rear area to stop the flow of supplies and reinforcements to establish a redoubt in the enemys rear and disrupt his lines says Douglas Johnson research professor at the US Army War Colleges Strategic Studies Institute The enemy could then be lured into a killing ground There was definitely some of that thinking involved Hoping to draw Ho Chi Minhs guerrillas into a classic battle the French began to build up their garrison at Dien Bien Phu The stronghold was located at the bottom of a bowl-shaped river valley about 10 miles long Most French troops and supplies entered Dien Bien Phu from the air -- either landing at the forts airstrip or dropping in via parachute Dien Bien Phus main garrison also would be supported by a series of firebases -- strongpoints on nearby hills that could bring down fire on an attacker The strongpoints were given womens names supposedly after the mistresses of the French
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