First Indochina War

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First Indochina War
Part of the Indochina Wars of the Cold War
A French Foreign Legion unit patrols in a communist controlled area.
DateDecember 19, 1946 – August 1, 1954
Result Viet Minh victory
Geneva Conference
Departure of the French from Indochina
Provisional division of Vietnam

France French Union

Myanmar Burma (1948-1951)
Philippines Philippines (1946-1954)
Thailand Thailand (1946-1954)

United States United States[1] (1950-1954)

North Vietnam Democratic Republic of Vietnam
Laos Pathet Lao [2]
Cambodia Khmer Issarak[3]

Supported by:[4]
China China
Soviet Union Soviet Union[source?]
Commanders and leaders

French Expeditionary Corps

Vietnamese National Army

North Vietnam Ho Chi Minh,
North Vietnam Vo Nguyen Giap
Laos Souphanouvong
French Union: 190,000
Local Auxiliary: 55,000
State of Vietnam: 150,000[5]
Total: ~400,000
125,000 Regulars,
75,000 Regional,
250,000 Popular Forces/Irregulars[6]
Total: 450,000
Casualties and losses

French Union: 75,581 dead,
64,127 wounded,
40,000 captured

State of Vietnam: 419,000 dead, wounded or captured[7]
Total: ~560,000+ dead, wounded or captured
Combined total:
300,000+ dead,
500,000+ wounded,
100,000+ captured
Total: 900,000+ dead, wounded or captured
150,000+ civilians killed[8]

The First Indochina War was fought in French Indochina from December 19, 1946 to August 1, 1954. Other names for the war are the French Indochina War, Anti-French War, Franco-Vietnamese War, Franco-Vietminh War, Indochina War, Dirty War in France, and Anti-French Resistance War in contemporary Vietnam. The war was fought between the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps, led by France and supported by Emperor Bảo Đại's Vietnamese National Army on one side, and the Việt Minh, led by Hồ Chí Minh and Võ Nguyên Giáp on the other. Most of the fighting took place in Tonkin in Northern Vietnam, but the conflict spread over the entire country and also extended into the neighboring French Indochina protectorates of Laos and Cambodia.

Since WWII[change | change source]

The French reoccupied Indochina after the Second World War after the territory had been part of the Empire of Japan. The Việt Minh launched a rebellion against the French authority. The first few years of the war involved a low-level rural insurgency against French authority. However, after the Chinese communists had reached the Northern border of Vietnam in 1949, the conflict turned into a conventional war between two armies, which had modern weapons supplied by the United States and the Soviet Union.[9]

French Union forces included colonial troops from the whole former empire (Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Vietnamese ethnic minorities), French professional troops and units of the French Foreign Legion. The use of metropolitan recruits was forbidden by the governments to prevent the war from becoming even more unpopular at home. It was called the "dirty war" (la sale guerre) by supporters of the Left in France and intellectuals (including Sartre) during the Henri Martin Affair in 1950.[10][11]

The French had the strategy of pushing Việt Minh into attacking a well defended base in a remote part of the country at the end of the logistical trail. This strategy was validated at the Battle of Na San. The big problem of the war was the lack of construction materials (especially concrete). Because of difficult terrain without roads, tanks could not be used, and providing air cover was difficult. That made it almost impossible to defend the area effictively.

Dien Bien Phu[change | change source]

The battle started when the French army tried to attack the Viet Minh after cutting of the supply line to get a easy defeat. The Viet Minh surrounded the French army with trenches and attacked using artillery. With the trenches the battle looked like a battle from World War 1. The French wanted to resupply the troops from the air but there were anti-aircraft guns that shot down the planes. The Viet Minh with all these advangtages won the battle, which caused the war to end shortly afterwards.[12]

End of war[change | change source]

After the war, the Geneva Conference on July 21, 1954 made a provisional division of Vietnam at the 17th parallel. The Việt Minh received control over the north in a territory called Democratic Republic of Vietnam, under Hồ Chí Minh. The area south of the 17th parallel was turned into State of Vietnam, under Emperor Bảo Đại, to prevent Hồ Chí Minh from gaining control of the entire country.[13] A year later, Bảo Đại would be deposed by his prime minister, Ngô Đình Diệm, creating the Republic of Vietnam. Diem's refusal to enter into negotiations with North Vietnam on holding nationwide elections in 1956, as had been suggested by the Geneva Conference, would lead to the war breaking out again in South Vietnam in 1959, the Second Indochina War.

References[change | change source]

  1. France honors CIA pilots
  2. Jacques Dalloz, La Guerre d'Indochine 1945-1954, Seuil, Paris, 1987,pp. 129-130, 206
  3. Jacques Dalloz, La Guerre d'Indochine 1945-1954, Seuil, Paris, 1987,pp. 129-130
  4. US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles on the fall of Dien Bien Phu
  5. Windrow, Martin (1998). The French Indochina War 1946-1954 (Men-At-Arms, 322). London: Osprey Publishing. pp. 11. ISBN 1855327899.
  6. Windrow 1998, p. 23
  7. France's world newspaper, 15-7-1954
  8. Smedberg, M (2008), Vietnamkrigen: 1880-1980. Historiska Media, p. 88
  9. Fall, Bernard, Street Without Joy, p. 17.
  10. "Those named Martin, Their history is ours - The Great History, (1946-1954) The Indochina War". documentary (in French). Channel 5 (France). Archived from the original on 30 June 2006. Retrieved 2007-05-20.
  11. Ruscio, Alain (2003-08-02). "Guerre d'Indochine: Libérez Henri Martin" (in French). l'Humanité. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-05-20.
  12. "Battle of Dien Bien Phu". HISTORY. September 27, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. Nash, Gary B., Julie Roy Jeffrey, John R. Howe, Peter J. Frederick, Allen F. Davis, Allan M. Winkler, Charlene Mires, and Carla Gardina Pestana. The American People, Concise Edition Creating a Nation and a Society, Combined Volume (6th Edition). New York: Longman, 2007.