counter create hit The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam

Availability: Ready to download

In December 1953 the French army occupying Vietnam challenged the elusive Vietnamese army to engage in a decisive battle. When French paratroopers landed in the jungle on the border between Vietnam and Laos, the Vietnamese quickly isolated the French force and confronted them at their jungle base in a small place called Dien Bien Phu. The hunters-the French army-had become In December 1953 the French army occupying Vietnam challenged the elusive Vietnamese army to engage in a decisive battle. When French paratroopers landed in the jungle on the border between Vietnam and Laos, the Vietnamese quickly isolated the French force and confronted them at their jungle base in a small place called Dien Bien Phu. The hunters-the French army-had become the hunted, desperately defending their out-gunned base. The siege in the jungle wore on as defeat loomed for the French. Eventually the French were depleted, demoralized, and destroyed. As they withdrew, the country was ominously divided at U.S. insistence, creating the short-lived Republic of South Vietnam for which 55,000 Americans would die in the next twenty years.


Compare
Ads Banner

In December 1953 the French army occupying Vietnam challenged the elusive Vietnamese army to engage in a decisive battle. When French paratroopers landed in the jungle on the border between Vietnam and Laos, the Vietnamese quickly isolated the French force and confronted them at their jungle base in a small place called Dien Bien Phu. The hunters-the French army-had become In December 1953 the French army occupying Vietnam challenged the elusive Vietnamese army to engage in a decisive battle. When French paratroopers landed in the jungle on the border between Vietnam and Laos, the Vietnamese quickly isolated the French force and confronted them at their jungle base in a small place called Dien Bien Phu. The hunters-the French army-had become the hunted, desperately defending their out-gunned base. The siege in the jungle wore on as defeat loomed for the French. Eventually the French were depleted, demoralized, and destroyed. As they withdrew, the country was ominously divided at U.S. insistence, creating the short-lived Republic of South Vietnam for which 55,000 Americans would die in the next twenty years.

30 review for The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam

  1. 5 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

    The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam by Martin Windrow is destined to be the definite account of this tragic battle. I knew as soon as I saw this title in the bookshop that I had to have it and it was one of the best purchases I have made so far this year (2005)! This is an excellent and detailed account of the fighting in the Valley of Dien Bien Phu between the professional French forces, including Legionnaire and elite Parachute Units, and the Vietnamese Bo Doi (Viet The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam by Martin Windrow is destined to be the definite account of this tragic battle. I knew as soon as I saw this title in the bookshop that I had to have it and it was one of the best purchases I have made so far this year (2005)! This is an excellent and detailed account of the fighting in the Valley of Dien Bien Phu between the professional French forces, including Legionnaire and elite Parachute Units, and the Vietnamese Bo Doi (Viet Minh) led by General Giap. The author takes the time to explain the military and political settings of the war in Indo China, offers detailed accounts of the opposing forces and commanders and provides a well researched narrative of the events leading up to this battle. The story of the battle itself for Dien Bien Phu is a classic military narrative that really pulls the reader into the story and gives us a rare insight into the hardships of the French soldier and his enemy. One quote in the book that was used for a chapter heading by Colonel de Castries says a lot about this battle and the terrible fighting involved; "It's a bit like Verdun, but Verdun without the depth of defence, and, above all, without the Sacred Way". This is an excellent account of a shocking battle and I am sure that anyone who enjoys reading or studying military history will find this book an excellent addition to his or her library. In over 657 pages of text (HB version), along with 22 maps of varying size and detail the author offers the reader a well researched and well presented account of this famous battle. At no time did I find the story boring or bogged down in detail. The narrative is fast paced, exciting and filled with human tragedy and numerous stories of soldier's courage in the face of horrendous conditions. In closing this is what Max Hastings had to say about this book: "This is an outstanding work of military history. It tells the story of the ghastly French experience in Indo-China in a way that has never been done before in English. The account of Dien Bien Phu is a masterpiece of meticulous historical narrative."

  2. 5 out of 5

    happy

    This volume will probably replace Bernard Fall’s classic, Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu, as the definitive look at France’s lost battle and subsequent loss of Indochina. It is that good. Mr. Windrow takes about 1/3 of the narrative to explain how the French and Viet Minh arrived at that valley in north western Viet Nam. He discusses both French disasters, the battle of RC4 in 1950 where more than 5000 of the 6000 French troops involved were lost and the French successes, This volume will probably replace Bernard Fall’s classic, Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu, as the definitive look at France’s lost battle and subsequent loss of Indochina. It is that good. Mr. Windrow takes about 1/3 of the narrative to explain how the French and Viet Minh arrived at that valley in north western Viet Nam. He discusses both French disasters, the battle of RC4 in 1950 where more than 5000 of the 6000 French troops involved were lost and the French successes, such as the battle of Na San in 1952, where the concepts that were used at Dien Bien Phu (DBP) were tested and were successful. In his telling of DBP, the author doesn’t pull any punches. He states that the French High command were not military incompetents as commonly perceived, every subordinate commander had serious reservations about the plan. However, as good soldiers, they saluted and said yes sir when the decision was made. In making that decision the French Commander, Henri Navarre, over road his subordinates and seriously underestimated the Viet Minh’s ability to move supplies and more importantly heavy artillery and AA guns to the isolated area. He also doesn’t spare the Viet Minh commander, Gen Giap, who didn’t modify his tactics leading to the decimation of his infantry and his mishandling of the heavy artillery that was so laboriously brought to the scene. The author’s telling of the battle itself is masterful. His description of what it is like to be under heavy artillery bombardment is one of the best descriptions of that experience that I have read. In looking at the fighting, he explodes some of the myths that have grown up about the battle. One of them is the involvement of the Foreign Legion. People, if they know anything at all about the battle, think it was fought by the Foreign Legion exclusively. While they were there, less than a third of the troop were European let alone Legionnaires. Most of the troops committed to DBP were colonial troops – esp Moroccans and Algerians along with a significant contingent from the French led Viet Namese Army. Also he states that contrary to legend most of the Foreign Legionnaires were not ex German SS and Wehrmacht soldiers, though there were many Germans in the ranks. WW II had ended too far in the past and most of those types had already left the Legion. One of the other stories that I found interesting was the use of Viet Minh prisoners of war as labors and stevedores – recovering the supplies that were parachuted in after the air field was closed. There were more than 2000 of them and after the surrender, they refused to turn over the French officers who were in charge of them and were ticketed for death by the Viet Minh. Another story is the poor showing by the French Air Force. Mr. Window states that the French did not have enough aircraft of all types and probably more importantly, air crew to complete their missions. In talking about the US supplied B-26 bombers, he takes on the training of the crews. In many cases, the air crews were reassigned C-47 crews with only rudimentary training in bombing tactics and procedures. Finally in telling the story, the political situation is explained. Even before the battle began the French were looking for a way out. Negotiations to accomplish this were announced shortly before the battle began. The French commander in Indo China, Gen Navarre, always maintained that the battle of DBP was lost with the announcement of the negotiations.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    "Bonjour, ya cheese-eating surrender monkeys!" -- Groundskeeper Willy teaching a French class in The Simpsons (episode 6.22) French-bashing has become something of an American pastime. We have a lot of sport at the expense of our hirsute, haughty, beret-festooned friends across the sea. I think this comes from two places. First is Americans' limited knowledge of World War II. Instead of taking the time to understand the war, and thus expand our onionskin-thin tranche of knowledge, we prefer to boi "Bonjour, ya cheese-eating surrender monkeys!" -- Groundskeeper Willy teaching a French class in The Simpsons (episode 6.22) French-bashing has become something of an American pastime. We have a lot of sport at the expense of our hirsute, haughty, beret-festooned friends across the sea. I think this comes from two places. First is Americans' limited knowledge of World War II. Instead of taking the time to understand the war, and thus expand our onionskin-thin tranche of knowledge, we prefer to boil it all down a few American-centric high points, like D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. In relation to France, all most of us know is that they surrendered (never mind the complex, post World War I mindset of the French, who'd lost millions of young men, had been occupied for four years, and probably weren't keen on losing millions more, just for Poland's sake). The second source of American discontent with our documentary-loving, baguette-eating amis comes from French reaction to our decision to invade Iraq. You may recall the now-embarrassing "Freedom Fries" episode. France's opposition to the invasion, coupled with our narrow knowledge of French history (that they'd surrendered in World War II), represented the nadir of respect for that Jerry Lewis-loving nation. We conveniently forget, of course, that France saved our bacon during the American Revolution, and then gave us a dirt cheap price on the American West (Louisiana Purchase, anyone?) We also overlooked this fact about the French: however smug, arrogant, and narcissistic they are, and no matter how many empires they've lost, they can fight. Oh, they can fight. The battle of Dien Bien Phu in Laos during the First Indochina War proves two things about the French: (1) they are born to lose; and (2) they are warriors. Once upon a time, the land of Vietnam was a colony of the French. Following France's capitulation in World War II, Japan took the reins. After Japan surrendered in 1945, France re-exerted control; however, they were the shell of their former selves, a shadow empire. War began between the French occupation forces and the Viet Minh, which was the name given the Vietnamese liberation movement. As Martin Windrow notes in The Last Valley, his comprehensive history of the siege of Dien Bien Phu, the Viet Minh were the first "non-European colonial independence movement" to transform from guerrillas to a victorious conventional army. France's troubles in the First Indochina War were the same ones that later bedeviled the Americans. Simply put: it's hard to put down a spirited insurrection. The Viet Minh would advance from the north, wreak havoc, and then drift away when they overran their supply lines. The French hit upon a tactic to stop them called the hérisson: the hedgehog. Pursuant to this strategy, the French would place a forward operating base into Laos, threaten the Viet Minh supply lines, and lure General Vo Nguyen Giap into making a massed assault. The base would be defended by tough-as-nails French Paratroopers and members of the famed Foreign Legion. Because they would be far from their own bases, the French post would have to be supplied solely from the air. The French established their hedgehog at Dien Bien Phu, a location that Giap later called a "rice bowl," with the French in the valley and the Viet Minh controlling the high ground. In hindsight, it appears the French grossly underestimated the Viet Minh in establishing their "airhead" (as opposed to a beachhead). However, as this book shows, it's too simple to place blame solely on French arrogance. First of all, it took Giap pulling a Hannibal-in-the-Alps to get his army into the harsh terrain around Dien Bien Phu. Secondly, by all rights, the French should've been able to adequately resupply from the air. Eventually, after months of siege and trench warfare, Giap's troops overran the various fortresses making up the base. As a consequence, France's grip on Vietnam inexorably slipped. Martin Windrow's account is comprehensive and detailed. I learned what I wanted to learn about the battle from reading it. However, I far from loved it, and that disappointed me, because this was a dramatic event that called for a dramatic telling. When it comes to histories, there is a spectrum: on one end there are books for the specialist, which can be turgid and incomprehensible to a casual reader. On the other end there are pure popular histories, which sacrifice some academic rigor in favor of readability. This book falls somewhere in the middle, though tending towards the academic. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't intimidated, but there was enough jargon and detailed troop movements on every page to force you into either (a) paying more attention or (b) skimming. For instance, this is a fairly typical paragraph: On 19 April a good deal of Isabelle 5 was lost, but most of the ground was retaken by Thais, legionnaires and tanks within 12 hours; a successful sortie beyond the perimeter before dawn on the 20th hit Battalion 265 of Regiment 57 particularly hard. On the 19th the garrison as a whole ate its last hot meal, and on 20 April rations ran out temporarily. Strength that afternoon was reported as 490 men of II/1 RTA plus about 100 V/7 RTA, 400 of III/3 REI, and 370 Thai regulars and auxiliaries; eight guns and two tanks were operational; and the accumulated killed and missing were totaled as 136 up to that date. This kind of detail is fine, if unnecessary for my interests, but it seldom gets any livelier. (There are maps, which are helpful, but they are all at the start of the book, so get your flipping fingers ready). The narrative consistently takes a backseat to the minutiae. None of the characters come alive, and this is a function of the fact that Windrow isn't interested in them. For instance, near the end of the battle, Captain Botella in Eliane 2 sent a poignant final message to his commanding officer, just before the Viet Minh overran his position: Dede to Bruno. It's all over - they're at the command post. Goodbye - tell Gars Pierre we liked him a lot. This is one of those incredible instances of coolness and bravery in the face of certain death. I said to myself: I want to know more of this man, this Captain Botella. But Windrow doesn't care. He never mentions the guy again. I had to search through the endnotes to discover that Botella survived. Indeed, I had to get on the internet to find out what happened to most of the paratroopers mentioned in the book. This is a European-centric telling of the battle. In other words, the author goes to great pains to tell a self-contained story, without attempting to extrapolate to America's eventual involvement in a similar struggle in the same country. Oddly, then, the parts of the book I found most interesting was America's assistance in resupplying Dien Bien Phu, and its refusal to make any bomb runs. The cruel irony does not have to be made explicit: in 1953, we refused to fight a proxy war in Vietnam because we didn't want to get involved; within a decade, we'd be there ourselves, trying the same failed tactics used by the French.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Manray9

    Like Martin Windrow my interest in the French debacle at Dien Bien Phu began many years ago with Bernard Fall's classic Hell in a Very Small Place. Now Windrow has surpassed Fall. The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam is an outstanding example of the non-fiction writer's art. I cannot imagine a better book on Dien Bien Phu. Windrow's work was not a book quickly read. In fact, it was rather slow-going at times, but not because it was dull or poorly-written. Each chapter w Like Martin Windrow my interest in the French debacle at Dien Bien Phu began many years ago with Bernard Fall's classic Hell in a Very Small Place. Now Windrow has surpassed Fall. The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam is an outstanding example of the non-fiction writer's art. I cannot imagine a better book on Dien Bien Phu. Windrow's work was not a book quickly read. In fact, it was rather slow-going at times, but not because it was dull or poorly-written. Each chapter was heavy with information – details on weapons, food, uniforms, logistics, planning, artillery fire control procedures, aerial reconnaissance and a multitude of other subjects relevant to the battle and the war in general. It contained 657 pages of text, 21 first-rate maps, a complete glossary, four appendices (including complete French and Viet Minh Orders of Battle) and 35 pages of source notes. The reader is 200 pages into the account before the first Viet Minh assault is launched against the French bastions on the banks of the Nam Youm. This lead up is dedicated to a thorough background of the military and political situation in Indochina from World War II until the establishment of the doomed French air-ground base at Dien Bien Phu in 1953. The bloody fighting for control of the strongpoints which dominated the critical airfield at Dien Bien Phu is presented in exquisite detail from the perspectives of the highest officers down to the légionnaire rankers and the Viet Minh bo doi. Windrow has produced both a comprehensive history and an exciting combat narrative. The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam is the best non-fiction book I have read in 2014. It certainly meets my criteria for a Five Star rating.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hai Quan

    Is it a coincidence that all empires disappeared , collapsed? From Ottoman, Mongol, Roman, Spaniard ,Japan, England, France and the new emergence America, they all faded from the political arena. Can we classify China and Russia as empires? It would be a little hard pressed.They did invade neighboring countries, set up puppet governments, so in a sense , they are building empires. But for me, to be a real empire one nation would have to send their armed forces to occupy far away nations It is only Is it a coincidence that all empires disappeared , collapsed? From Ottoman, Mongol, Roman, Spaniard ,Japan, England, France and the new emergence America, they all faded from the political arena. Can we classify China and Russia as empires? It would be a little hard pressed.They did invade neighboring countries, set up puppet governments, so in a sense , they are building empires. But for me, to be a real empire one nation would have to send their armed forces to occupy far away nations It is only my definition.It is debatable.I can be wrong.But it is not important for my thesis , to wit: Why empires disappearing ( and emerging as different monsters with different outer apprearances)? This report, similarly with other reports chronicling the face loosing, dishonoring defeat of French armed forces and hired mercenaries that promulgated the collapse of the French empire starting from the colonies they established in Indochina. It is a result of very well researched , exhaustive study of the determining battle at the valley of Dien Bien Phu However it failed to explore the very important psychological aspect that a student of history must know, must really understand the very important factors that determine WHO WOULD BE THE FINAL VICTOR IN THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN the FUCKER & the FUCKED, or to be polite the conqueror and the vanquished. Make no mistake.I m not postulate that all conquerors ran home tails between legs.Some of them fucked 'em vanquished ( literrally and figurally) so successfully and for so long that they gobbled up 'em natives , transformed 'em to a new race, combining the native blood with the foreign conqueror ' s blood. .One example is the Spaniard and the Mayan in Mexico. ( Please be referred to my book review of THE FORGING OF A COSMIC RACE) But this is a rare incidence. The most common scenario is the fucked , ALL or almost all , RAISED UP AND KICKED ' EM TORMENTORS OUT eventually, no matter how long the fuckers can prolong their forced copulating . ONE clear example is , after even 800 years of screwing the Vietnamese , but after thousands of failed bloody uprisings, the tormented was able to KICK in the face of the Chinese gangsters and sent them home.! There are too many examples beside that one to prove this law or frequent observation. ONE WONDER WHY ( And this is the subject this book ommits to explore) There are three very strong elements , three very thorny big hard BONES that resist the conquerors to swallow and digest the natives: Bone # 1: The vanquished 's history, racial particularity, language,custome , literature that are distinctly their own.The fuckers could not ERASE 'em and replace ' em with that of 'em fuckers ' As long as the fuckers cannot assimilate the above mentioned characteristic , then the vanquished will forever identify 'em fuckers FUCKERS , simple enough ain't it ? Do you need to be a Yale grad to know, understand and appreciate this simple historical observation ? As such, who wants the raper organ stay forever in his ass ? Raise your hand.. Alright . Show your hand. None? They will raise up! They will revolt risking death and injury to throw 'em fuckers off their asses and cut off 'em fuckers ' blood sucking! Bone # 2:Human conscience.Regardless how the rapers and murderers trying to suppress their conscience, it exists and resists all attempt to suppress it.Especially when they are hired murderers ( The French 's Foreign Legion . You can, if you wish to be polite, use the term MERCENARY for 'em fuckers ) ((I m not using the word FUCKER without historical fact: the French armed forces, including all of 'em hired guns of different skin colors and nationalities, including the disgusting traitorous Vietnamese were well known and feared for their dirty reputation of raping any and all Vietnamese unarmed female villagers of all ages once they enter any and all villages.) But that damn , annoying conscience cannot completely suppressed even within the mind of the most fierce , bloodthirsty criminal ! So what? Who cares ? You may ask. WELL, It bother 'em even subconsciously , it affects 'em determination , resolve & willingness to act resolutely, 'em willingness to sacrify all , even 'em lives to reach 'em sacred goal . 'Em fuckers have no noble & sacred goal.Their aim is only to kill, rob, eat and fuck.Lacking of a sacred goal denying them a willing to risk their despicable body in the dangerous situations of war. Plus , the guilty feeling of doing evil deed persistently stay in their subconscious INFLUENCING their organs and muscles NEGATIVELY , resulting in poor performance 'Em mercenary will only rob and kill and rape as long as their mouth and organ still exist to EAT & FUCK. If there is a danger for the existence of this two body openings, one take food in and the other to ejaculate semen OUT , then they will not willing to sacrqify shit. ( I ain't gona sacrify no shit for 'em mother fuckers ) ( i e their employer , their SUPERIEUR ,' 'em Generals,' em leaders, 'em commanders , 'em mafia bosses in Hanoi & Paris) As a consequence 'em fuckers were NOT as determined, as willing to sacrify EVERYTHING, as ready to bear the utmost hardship,to endure the utmost pain and suffering , to perform the most impossible feat as the tormented could and willingly accepted. Stories emerged about a Viet Minh soldier ( Pham Dinh Giot) who used his body to silent a French heavy machine gun from a bunker that cut down waves of adcancing Vietnamese guerrillas and another ( To Vinh Dien ) who used his body to stop a 155 mm canon from careening down a cliff, together with story about tens of thousand of villagers of all ages risking their limbs and lives transporting tons of weaponry, food, medicine and supply through dense jungle , slippery gorges, steep mountainous terrain , in rain and shine, day and night....braved mosquitoes, snakes, "vat's" ( tiny jumping bloodsucker insects ), razor edge stone, thorny branches, using nothing more than the most rudimental equipments: bamboo poles, bicycles fortified with smaller bamboo poles that could carry 100kg load each , buffalo powered carts ......to bring the most needed things for fighting units deep in the jungle and HIGHT up in the top of mountains, wore tattered rags, sandals fashioned from discarded tyres, ate cooked rice with dried fishes and even only salt and some time any edible roots or leaves they could forage ! ' Em big ass French military honchos made a fatal mistake of underestimating their enemy ability to carry out this impossible feat this steely determination to fight to their last drop of blood, to their last warrior .This mistake was the main cause leading to their dishonoring , face lossing unconditional surrender . I FOUND IT IS NECESSARY TO OPEN A PARENTHESIS HERE It is so pathetic when some readers trying so hard to soften this total defeat by mentioning that Gen. De Castries DIDN'T wave a white flag . Yah! He didn't alright. Was it made him less shameful? Traditionally , common warrior "etiquette" demands his suicide , as one of his subordinates , the honcho of heavy artillery unit who did it right IN THE BEGINNING of the battle, when it was evident that the defeat is inevitable! Gen De Castries bitched afterward that the battle was lost AFTER the politicians in the safety of their lair leaking their desire a way out . I disagree .It was just an attempt to shift the blame to a scapegoat. As I have stated previously, if he and his gangster honchos in Paris spent some time to glance at some HIGH school history text book only to see that our ancestors has kicked 'em sorry asses of all fierce maurauders from the North BIG TIME , including the fearsome Mongol, then they would have though THRICE before sending 'em gun boats ( together with 'em spies camouflaged with long black robes and crosses) to do " commerce" with "yellow savages" i e to fuck 'em up. ( I have written this same statement in my review of IN RESTROPECT, a memoir written by the big ass honcho "Boby" McNamara. ALAS Bobby also made an exact " mistake" when he and his gang of thieves and murderers ran home ashen faced , tails between legs AFTER they have " accidentally" murdered some, in the total of approximately 3 million Vietnamese civilian ' s war death, and a country bombed to smithereens in his war to expanse the American Empires RIGHT AFTER HIS French BUDDY 'S DEMISE AT THE INFAMOUS DIEN BIEN PHU. Stupidity has no bound ! Stupidity runs in a family ! END OF PARENTHESIS Another impossible feat was tunnelling from the perimeter of a French fortified post in a top of a hill to reach to the underneth of 'em lion lairs.In this vantage height , the hairy mercenaries were able to push back many wave of assault from Viet Minh troops. The Viet Minh troop , armed with only the most rudimental digging equipment, has spent weeks to dig a tunnel that reach right beneath the deathly machine gun post inside a French stronghold on the tpp of a hill ,to blow it up together with 'em devil fuckers manning it , of course. This feat, demanded a terrible hardship , a beyond human endurance , a tremendous sacrify in human lives ( death from exhaustion, injury and sickness - from thin oxygen air inside the tunnel ) is a strong testament for their heroic resolve and willngness to sacrify everything to win this battle at all cost. ONE cannot but conclude that the victory for these heroic people is just a mater of course. BONE # 3: The author and most reviewers have failed to understand the huge military tactical error commited by the French gangsters in their colonialism enterprise. To make it real simple so even an elementary student can understand , let imagine the dirty French gangsters as a big elephant displaying his bulk in a HIGHT and lighted theatrical stage , while the patriotic Viet Minh guerrillas , hiding in the surrounding darkness , nibbing at this bulk with spears and immediately fading back into the darkness. The meat bulk doesn't see the attackers and can't find them yet keep getting bleeding wounds til death. This is a model, a much simplified version of the battle at DBP as well as the whole French Indo-China bloody venture. You got the picture? Do you need to be brain surgeon to know who will be dead meat eventually? The tactical error was simmilar with using a hammer to kill mosquitos , very ineffective , while the mosquitos were freely bite the dumb meat to death ! What stupidity! Hence they were the laughing stock for UNCLE SAM who coined the term " Surrendering cheese eating monkey " to indicate 'em Frenchmen. But Uncle Sam didn't laugh too long..Twenty years later they found themselve in exactly similar humiliating situation, minus surrendering . Ashen faced , weaken kneed hotdog eating chimpanzees? Extremely stupid! ( For more amusement - if you will take a break to temporary forget about blood and gore -the readers are invited to check out my review of IN RESTROPECT by big ass honcho "Boby" McNamara) DEDICATION: This review is respectfully dedicated to the memory of the legendary and worldwide recognized outstanding soldier as one of the greatest General of all times , Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap together with the most beloved and respected leader of our country Ho Chi Minh , the two Viet Minh guerrillas mentioned previously and thousands of their armed & unnamed comrades and villagers whose blood have soaked their sacred ancestral soil of DIEN BIEN PHU as a repay the spiritual and physical debt to all of their ancestors whose sacrify have made our lives possible under constant foreign domination. Viva Viet Nam ! By the way, I ain't gonna to guard my coppy right here.You may freely use the contain of this book review for whatever purpose including your PhD thesis.Just a common courtesy: mentioning my name as a source , is good enough with me Wait, some monetary share if you ever won a Nobel , Pulitzer or whatever prize in literature, politic, history or whatever field if you got the prize courtesy of the idea from my book review Most obliged!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Liam

    Unlike the huge majority of the current generation in the West, the men on both sides at Dien Bien Phu did not live at a time or in places where they enjoyed the luxury of disregarding [that war is what human beings do]; and we, who are lifelong civilians, have not earned the right to sit in judgement over them. -p55 The Last Valley is a fantastic historical work focusing on the Battle of Dien Bien Phu at the end of the Indochina War. It is written by Martin Windrow who, importantly, isn't a histo Unlike the huge majority of the current generation in the West, the men on both sides at Dien Bien Phu did not live at a time or in places where they enjoyed the luxury of disregarding [that war is what human beings do]; and we, who are lifelong civilians, have not earned the right to sit in judgement over them. -p55 The Last Valley is a fantastic historical work focusing on the Battle of Dien Bien Phu at the end of the Indochina War. It is written by Martin Windrow who, importantly, isn't a historian. Prior to reading the Last Valley, my sum knowledge of the First Indochina War was that it was basically the Vietnam War, but with the French rather than America. Whilst this is somewhat true, Windrow does an exceptional job of outlining the reasons for the conflict and the background of the battle at Dien Bien Phu (DBP) itself. The first third of the book is taken entirely by a deep analysis of the Expeditionary Corps and the People's Army, their relative strengths and weaknesses, and the various conflicts that led up to DBP - specifically Na San and RC4. Whilst obviously told from a mainly French perspective, Windrow doesn't shy away from telling it like it is - indeed, he portrays the French command as arrogant and out of touch with the realities of a war in south-east Asia; the People's Army as a surprisingly effective fighting force, with a commander who - more than anything - was terrified of meeting the French in pitched battle. The majority of the remainder of the book tells the story of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, from the initial paradrops into the valley to the last POWs being marched out. Similar to Antony Beevor's Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942-1943, Last Valley surprised me with the empathy I found myself feeling. A first, at odds with my personal opinions, I found myself almost rooting for the French forces to be decimated - their command and view of the People's Army was so arrogantly dismissive (in relation to their ability to take DBP, anyway) that I felt like they almost deserved to get their teeth kicked in. Who were these colonialist scum, trying to reclaim a part of the world they failed to protect from Japanese atrocities in World War 2? Who are they to now claim ownership once more? However as the siege progresses, and the horror of the situation deepened and the intense bravery of the French garrison became more and more apparent, I found my empathy sliding back to the French - not their commanders, for the most part (though there were a couple of exceptions), but the paratroopers, Legion, Algerian, Moroccan, and Vietnamese soldiers who were forced into a 'toilet bowl' on the whims of command, and held it - through devastating losses - for two months. [Increasing at the same pace as combat fatigue] was the repeated and irreplacable withdrawals which battle forces each man to make from his strictly finite store of courage. p499 The telling is all the more impressive when you take into account the fact that Windrow is not a trained historian, which makes the depth of his research all the more impressive. Part Two of the book, the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, is presented both as an overarching combat narrative and as a series of anecdotes from survivors or memoirs, giving a moment-to-moment runthrough of the battle. I think Windrow's lack of training as a historian also helped with the presentation; the out-and-out passion that he works into every paragraph of the book. There are three quotes in this review, and each of them is brilliant - but the book is full of these. Praising the bravery of the French garrison, the ingenuity of the People's Army - whatever he's talking about, it is filled to the brim with such an enthusiasm and believable emotion that you cannot help but be pulled along for the ride. Rather than being a historian pushing out another work of historical narrative, Windrow is simply hugely passionate about the Battle of Dien Bien Phu - and it shows. I grew attached to French sergeants and lieutenant-colonels from 60 years ago, to the rankers and file of the garrison who were left in the mud and rot for months with no hope of rescue and came so close to achieving an impossible victory. I didn't want it to end - but I didn't want their suffering to continue. It took me a long time to get through the Last Valley due to my generally slow reading speed which is only exascerbated by non-fiction, but it was worth it - Windrow's writing demands that you inhale every last sentence, every mention of B-26 logistics and bombing weight - all of it. It isn't all sunshine and lollipops - sometimes the minutiae of which particular battalion of which regiment was on which hill can get a little wearing, and it ends on a bit of a whimper - but considering the end of the actual battle itself, that seems somewhat appropriate. A fantastic book. For 56 days they had given everything, endured everything; they had achieved the impossible, not once but again and again. They deserved to win; and if they were now being robbed of victory, then the real thieves weren't the People's Army, the 'rats of the Nam Youm', or anyone else in the filth of this last valley, but men who slept between clean sheets far away. p614

  7. 5 out of 5

    JD

    A greatly researched and written book. Being so long and detailed, I was worried that the story of the battle would get lost, but the author has written a masterpiece. He goes to great lengths to describe the history of French Indochina and the road after World War 2 that lead to the Dien Bien Phu. No information are given by the author is useless and it all contributes to the story. Then his description of the battle are great and he really takes you into the valley along with the French troops A greatly researched and written book. Being so long and detailed, I was worried that the story of the battle would get lost, but the author has written a masterpiece. He goes to great lengths to describe the history of French Indochina and the road after World War 2 that lead to the Dien Bien Phu. No information are given by the author is useless and it all contributes to the story. Then his description of the battle are great and he really takes you into the valley along with the French troops. Great book and highly recommended to anyone interested in the Vietnam War, as this was a massive precursor and is a history that is largely forgotten.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    A thorough, well-written, and well-researched history of the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Windrow does a fine job providing the necessary background on the battle, putting it into the political, strategic, and military context of the wider French war in Indochina. He gives us vivid portraits of Giap, Castries, and Langlais, fleshing these characters out and crafting a clear and engaging narrative, although it can get dry in a few select parts. Windrow also sheds light on some interesting aspects that A thorough, well-written, and well-researched history of the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Windrow does a fine job providing the necessary background on the battle, putting it into the political, strategic, and military context of the wider French war in Indochina. He gives us vivid portraits of Giap, Castries, and Langlais, fleshing these characters out and crafting a clear and engaging narrative, although it can get dry in a few select parts. Windrow also sheds light on some interesting aspects that are often overlooked, like the fact that many of the troops as Dien Bien Phu were actually native Vietnamese, and the terrible conditions endured by French prisoners of war. While Windrow does recognize the capabilities of Giap as a general, he also shows that Giap could be quite careless with his men and was prone to throw them into situations that all but guaranteed mass casualties. While much of the Vietnamese documentary record remains, unfortunately, closed to researchers, Windrow does his very best to present the Viet Minh's side of the battle. While Windrow does tend to confuse some small-arms weapons and aircraft types, none of these quibbles are particularly distracting. The level of detail might strike some as overwhelming. An interesting, well-paced and balanced history of the battle.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brett C

    Full of well-researched data that shows us the Communist and French forces to include movements and military response during this engagement. Heavy and dense. A good book. Additional reading is Hell In A Very Small Place by Bernard Fall.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stepano Divinavich

    First off, prospective readers should be warned: this is not an easy read. I mean that in two ways. Firstly, this is a lengthy tome with a massive amount of information. Although the main focus of the book is the battle of Dien Bien Phu, the author briefly covers the history of Vietnam itself and goes into some detail about the entirety of the French Indo-China war. In my view this is entirely necessary. This is a war that has received far less attention than the US war in Vietnam and even then First off, prospective readers should be warned: this is not an easy read. I mean that in two ways. Firstly, this is a lengthy tome with a massive amount of information. Although the main focus of the book is the battle of Dien Bien Phu, the author briefly covers the history of Vietnam itself and goes into some detail about the entirety of the French Indo-China war. In my view this is entirely necessary. This is a war that has received far less attention than the US war in Vietnam and even then a lot of 'common knowledge' about the US war isn't true. In order to understand Dien Bien Phu, you have to understand what had led to the battle. The second factor that makes this book a difficult read is the subject matter itself. With the benefit of hindsight we know now that the French (and ultimately the Americans) withdrew from Vietnam and that the communists won (although Ho Chi Minh started off as a massive fan of the US, but that's another story...). The scale of death and destruction in this book is quite breathtaking. At one point during the battle at Dien Bien Phu the French defenders cannot fire at their North Vietnamese attackers because the piles of corpses from previous attacks block their view. On a matching scale is the courage and dedication from both sides, whether it be communist troops throwing themselves against French firepower or French pilots braving anti-aircraft and artillery fire to evacuate their wounded comrades. It was for me a truly humbling experience to read about what these individuals went through. With all that said this book is easily one of my favourites (and I've read a lot of books). Sometimes the amount of information is a bit overwhelming and it does occasionally get a bit dry. But if you can persevere this is a fantastic and illuminating read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Raj Agrawal

    Windrow provides a formidable account of France’s defeat at Dien Bien Phu, demonstrating France’s strategic lack of resolve, failure to commit to a tangible strategic objective, and a subsequent failure at the operational level. Windrow points out France’s series of blunders in Vietnam that he argues led to the eventual Vietnam War – which may very well have been avoided. However, he cautions that it would be an error to suggest that events may have turned out differently even if history could b Windrow provides a formidable account of France’s defeat at Dien Bien Phu, demonstrating France’s strategic lack of resolve, failure to commit to a tangible strategic objective, and a subsequent failure at the operational level. Windrow points out France’s series of blunders in Vietnam that he argues led to the eventual Vietnam War – which may very well have been avoided. However, he cautions that it would be an error to suggest that events may have turned out differently even if history could be rewritten. One of Windrow’s arguments is that historians are wrong to paint this part of Vietnam’s history as the first successful movement through Mao’s stages. He believes this is a result of hindsight bias, and that there were other significant factors that undergirded this win for the Viet Minh: their single-mindedness of purpose as a nation, their manipulation of time, and their clear objective – “to kill as many French as possible, to drive the foreigners off their soil acre by acre, and to suborn, terrorize or destroy their Vietnamese ‘puppets’ (127). The French, on the other hand, had a general lack of commitment, underestimated the enemy, and had a strategic objective of creating “an ‘honourable way out’ – to achieve a position of military advantage that would allow France to negotiate a favourable peace” (205). Airpower perspective: French plan was to airlift to supply Dien Bien Phu while using fighter-bombers to counter Viet Minh artillery and logistics routes. The Viet Minh was able to overwhelm any offensive air attacks with mass, resilience, air defense, and camouflage. The French had to use predictable flight corridors and did not anticipate Viet Minh’s ability to conduct air defense. Supply soon became restricted to air drops, which was not sufficient. The French appealed to the US for strategic bombing support, but Eisenhower would not commit US forces unless joined by other nations. No other nations volunteered their support. In hindsight, the US may have missed an opportunity to significantly attrit the Viet Minh since they were all concentrated around Dien Bien Phu. While Windrow catalogs many of the significant operational and tactical shifts leading up to France’s defeat, his overarching theme appears to be that France was doomed to fail. This is a book that deserves quite a bit of time to really appreciate, but this is the book to read to really grasp how a great power can contribute to the destruction of a small power, as well as to the destabilization of the international system. Windrow connects the dots on how WWII and the Korean War also shaped the Vietnamese battlefield, and how potential allies can be turned into committed enemies. This is a powerful book, and one that I’ll return to in the future.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    This book isn't for the person with only a casual interest in military history (like me). The last 300 pages tell a great story, but the first 300 pages are so bogged down with the names of various fighting units, obscure junior officers, and overly-detailed description of artillery strategy, etc that I nearly abandoned it mid-way through. It seems like the author had trouble deciding who his audience was. I would have enjoyed it much more had he stuck to the storytelling, but it seems he was tr This book isn't for the person with only a casual interest in military history (like me). The last 300 pages tell a great story, but the first 300 pages are so bogged down with the names of various fighting units, obscure junior officers, and overly-detailed description of artillery strategy, etc that I nearly abandoned it mid-way through. It seems like the author had trouble deciding who his audience was. I would have enjoyed it much more had he stuck to the storytelling, but it seems he was trying to make a scholarly contribution for future academics and researchers that wanted to know exactly what unit was at what position on what night of the battle. Having said that, I learned a lot about combat in the mid-20th century, and also was surprised what a bloody conflict this was, not at all the milquetoast prelude to the U.S. war in Vietnam that I had envisioned. For comparison's sake, French forces not including Vietnamese, Cambodia and Thai suffered 75k killed in action, while the U.S. toll over a similar length of time was 58k dead. Vietnamese casualties on both sides were far greater during the later conflict compared to during the French Indochina war. To sum up, Black Hawk Down this ain't. Not recommended except for the really hardcore enthusiast of military history.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Au Yong Chee Tuck

    Martin Windrow read Bernard Fall's "Hell in a Very Small Place" and the spark of interest in him was ignited about Dien Bien Phu. How strange things work out in life - that the reading of one book could lead a would be author to write another book! History buffs like this reviewer can only be grateful that Mr Windrow decided to write his book despite the fact that he "was not an academically trained historian." This apparent "defect" has not prevented him from writing what became the definitive hi Martin Windrow read Bernard Fall's "Hell in a Very Small Place" and the spark of interest in him was ignited about Dien Bien Phu. How strange things work out in life - that the reading of one book could lead a would be author to write another book! History buffs like this reviewer can only be grateful that Mr Windrow decided to write his book despite the fact that he "was not an academically trained historian." This apparent "defect" has not prevented him from writing what became the definitive history of Dien Bien Phu. This book is largely a labor of love and it shows. There are ample maps that assist the text greatly. For those who love details of the order of battle, there are lists showing the chain of command and the units involved. Sadly, there are some history books which have omitted the photos in the paperback editions, perhaps to keep the cost down. Not this history book,however, which has a gallery of photos for the reader to feast his eyes on. An excellent read for all levels of history readers, whether the casual reader or the enthusiast.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Richard Marman

    This is a dense read, but worth the effort if you are interested in the period. Dien Bien Phu seems to me to have been Stalingrad in microcosm and bears out what many people thought after WWII. France should never have been permitted to resume colonial control of Indochina and (like everyone else) got a pasting for doing so. It's a bit like Afghanistan really - There are some places you should just steer clear of.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Wayne Turmel

    Highly researched, but maybe a bit too much detail. Would have preferred more of a sense of the drama rather than a dry recounting of troop numbers and equipment. Great for research purposes, but not a terribly compelling read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mansoor Azam

    An interesting topic. and when i picked this voluptuous volume, i thought i'll get every bit of knowledge about this great battle. To start with, it is indeed a researched book. The writer has taken pains to sneak into corners where historians with cursory look don't even peep. But i guess where he left me wanting ,big time, is how to stream line that information. I found too much information without timeline considerations. An event which you have come through clean may start on another page, An interesting topic. and when i picked this voluptuous volume, i thought i'll get every bit of knowledge about this great battle. To start with, it is indeed a researched book. The writer has taken pains to sneak into corners where historians with cursory look don't even peep. But i guess where he left me wanting ,big time, is how to stream line that information. I found too much information without timeline considerations. An event which you have come through clean may start on another page, may be talking in terms of the medical supplies or ammunition supplies pertaining to a battle which you have already read start after 20 pages and in the midst of another battle. Then one crawls back to the earlier pages to connect the dots and gasp all the information that to me is tiring. There are 20 plus maps in the book but unfortunately all given in the start. considering the 700 odd page volume of the book, imagine when you have to turn the leaf all the way back to consult the map. most of the maps are also not developed timeline wise. Although there is an effort of giving dates at some of them. I for one was not comfortable both with the location of maps and their utility in explaining to me the battles as they were described. Moreover, i felt at some places that the research done by the author at places has wrong figures. for example at one place describing the paucity of artillery ammunition in the valley with GONO he writes that the transport aircraft could bring only this much shells per day. whereas, i could easily make out that 105 mm HOW shells are packed in a certain way and the aircraft could bring more easily. But after adopting (most likely) the Air force line he in the end gives a comparison in which admits that Air Force transport squadrons did transport far less than their capacity. Which leaves you bewildered in the end cuz all the way the writer is giving you the other figures as facts which your mind is devouring and reading the battle accordingly. Then there is the paucity of pictures. It's a conflict which happened not much time ago. The writer admits at many places taking hints and ideas from the pictures of the conflict. I would have loved some more pictures of conditions in the camp which the writer refers to in between , also the pictures of main players from both sides so i could connect to the personalities. Overall, its not a bad read. but if you are ready to devour piles of information in disorder. But its all not too bad i guess. One gets a complete picture of the times the French forces fought and the lack of political will of their government. The writing style of the author has not made me a fan either. At places he resorts to emotionalism and scene building which makes you crave for more. but then he leaves that style altogether and you find him running through a battle without emotions, as if, he thinks he has allotted more space earlier and has to save some space in here. My advice, if you can find something more lucid and well written under some other banner Go for that. for its weight this one is not worth it mates

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stefan

    The first book I've read that focuses completely on the French in Vietnam, The Last Valley did not disappoint me, and was a brilliantly readable work of military history that focused on something I had read bits and snatches about, but not enough to give me the whole picture. Having read a large number of books on the Americans in Vietnam, to read about the French fighting to control their South-Asian colony was fascinating. It was advantageous to me, that the author was British instead of Ameri The first book I've read that focuses completely on the French in Vietnam, The Last Valley did not disappoint me, and was a brilliantly readable work of military history that focused on something I had read bits and snatches about, but not enough to give me the whole picture. Having read a large number of books on the Americans in Vietnam, to read about the French fighting to control their South-Asian colony was fascinating. It was advantageous to me, that the author was British instead of American, which helped show Vietnam from a much more European viewpoint (which complimented the narrative.) Martin Windrow does a excellent job of using a variety of sources to create a narrative that that is easy to follow and remember. The use of eye witness reports, radio communications, official statements, and previous books on the subject are used to explore the failed French policy on Vietnam. The author does a good job at showing that the French general were not necessarily stupid, but instead, unable to effectively (except in a few isolated cases) create a counter-insurgency force to effectively combat the Communist guerrillas. This is the tragic story of how tactically amazing units in Dien Bien Phu that had to go through hell on earth, because, by the later stages of the battle, they could neither retreat or overwhelm the enemy. The Last Valley is the story of 16 and a half battalions that were doomed to death or capture, as a result of failure in policy at Dien Bien Phu. This book does a good job at showing how Dien Bien Phu was not a strategic loss to the French, but was a complete collapse in moral, which in the end, led the French out of Vietnam.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steven Ott

    "The climax of this failure was perceived as being Dien Bien Phu, where soldiers had been asked to sacrifice themselves to buy time for a government that was already planning to negotiate away everything they thought they were dying for." pg 655. "This failure" is the failure of the government to provide the means to prosecute the war and the failure of the military structure to provide necessary air support for the soldiers on the ground. 'The Last Valley' contains very detailed accounts of ind "The climax of this failure was perceived as being Dien Bien Phu, where soldiers had been asked to sacrifice themselves to buy time for a government that was already planning to negotiate away everything they thought they were dying for." pg 655. "This failure" is the failure of the government to provide the means to prosecute the war and the failure of the military structure to provide necessary air support for the soldiers on the ground. 'The Last Valley' contains very detailed accounts of individual heroic battles by soldiers in defense of the "toilet bowl" together with the political and operational failures resulting in the overall catastrophic failure of Dien Bien Phu. The French defeat at Dien Bien Phu produced a negotiated two Vietnams which, after 55,000+ American deaths ultimately ended in one Vietnam. I enjoyed learning the history of the French involvement in Vietnam. But to say I enjoyed reading it would be an overstatement. I cringed during the accounts of battles and at the consequences of political and logistical decisions. I appreciated the detail presented. And I gained a perspective of America’s Vietnam experience that I did not have before. I would highly recommend this book to someone with an interest in the French as well as America’s very early involvement in Vietnam.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alastair Woodward

    A comprehensive and thorough account of events and a staggering amount of detail, which make it slower going at times. A very enjoyable read and I found the introduction and lead up to the events culminating in Dien Bien Phu very enlightening as well as the consequences of its political aftermath and the French Army’s immediate redeployment to Algeria. This has led me to read more on the history of France’s occupation of Indochina back to the 1850s. Highly recommend.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    If you want to understand Dein Bien Phu, how it happened and what it meant for Vietnam and the French occupation, read this book. Windrow tells the story of the utter defeat of the French and their mountain stronghold in fascinating detail, recounting the idiocy, bravery and fatal human tragedy of the end of French colonial power.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Martin Mcananey

    Startling indept account of the French defeat in Vietnam. The bravery shown by both sides was astonishing, but the legions refusal to let their brothers in arms die alone was pure heroism !

  22. 5 out of 5

    Thorsten

    Dry history but nevertheless excellently researched and detailed down to the minute

  23. 5 out of 5

    Steve Woods

    This is the third account of this battle that I have read. It is the best of the three, (my apologies to Bernard Fall for whom I have only the greatest of admiration), probably because Windrow had access to more sources. It is above all an outstanding piece of military history, dealing well with this, possibly one of he greatest feats of arms in history, at both tactical and strategic levels. There was much to be learned here, the whole episode and the engagement of France in Indo China from 45 This is the third account of this battle that I have read. It is the best of the three, (my apologies to Bernard Fall for whom I have only the greatest of admiration), probably because Windrow had access to more sources. It is above all an outstanding piece of military history, dealing well with this, possibly one of he greatest feats of arms in history, at both tactical and strategic levels. There was much to be learned here, the whole episode and the engagement of France in Indo China from 45 tp 54, was tha harbinger of what was to come for the Americans over the next two decades. Incredible though not surprising was the failure of the Americans to learn anything from the French experience, no doubt in my mind based on that arrogance for which they are so infamous; the French were after all French and they the invincible Americans with moral right and absolute might on their side. This whole attitude encapsulated by an American general in Somalia applying the same force of "morality" in the 90's when he announced to the assembled Somali's that they should cooperate or the Americans would simply crush them. Well that turned out to be another miscalculation. Some of those lessons, principally, might have been that the Viet Minh were courageous and capable and would suffer any cost to gain national unity. they demonstrated that on the field at Dien Bien Phu where their casualties at the hands of the French forces were so huge (an estimated 25,000) that they are still today a State secret. By the time the battle ended Giap was throwing untrained, inexperienced 16 year olds into the French wire. At the base of both the French and American defeats was this underestimation of the enemy. The American blunder in doing so the more grave because they had the evidence intron of them as them upped their involvement in '54 had they deigned to pay attention, but then "they are French, we are American"! Further, as was to be the case with the Americans, the French won the war on the ground but lost it in their legislature and on the streets of Paris. The whole debacle related itself almost as a "clone" for the Americans. The failure of the French "Vietnaization" program me, would be repeated by the Americans and the reasons for that failure would be the same,poor motivation, poor leadership, poor training and corruption. Nothing learned there either. On top of all that the Americans, like the French give the conduct of the war to people like Abrhams and Westmoreland, traditional, conventional officers, no matter how brilliant trained and schooled in warfare against a conventional enemy along conventional lines with a deep and abiding suspicion of irregular forces and tactics. As was the case withe the French partisan groups employing Viet Minh tactics and working in Viet Minh territory the American efforts at the same kind of warfare were outstandingly successful in yielding actionable intelligence, distorting Communist infrastructure and tying down substantial Communist resources in terms of both men and materiel. Unfortunately all quiet behind the scenes operations that did not suit the brass band intellect and career ambitions of the American command, which was a failure at the strategic level from beginning to end. Anyone who desired to bring the misguided direction of the effort to the fore was either ignored or destroyed by the establishment just as had been the case with the French; John Paul Vann and David Hackworth being but tow examples. The results were that this irregular effort, was always underrated and under resourced. This much to the satisfaction of the Communist high command, by their own admission. I could go on and on, but to what end. Stupidity, ignorance, idealism and corruption at the most senior levels of command both political and military in both cases; it justifies the cry of those of the garrison who survived Dien Bien Phu "We are betrayed!" The courage and endurance of the defenders in that place defy description, this applies to both side. The one misapprehension I wish to make a point of correcting here is the idea that the defenders were principally French, in fact over half were Vietnamese in the service of France. They fought with the same, courage and stoicism of the French Legionnaires and Paratroopers and their fate was if anything worse. They died in the mud and the blood as all the others did and when it was over there was no quarter given them by the Viet Minh, over 925 of those captured perished and the hands of their captors.Things weren't so hot for anyone else either but a little under half of the Frenchmen among the prisoners did survive the abominable conditions of their imprisonment at Communist hands, conditions that rivaled those experienced by POW's on the infamous Thai Burma Railway during WW2 at the hands of the Japanese. These Vietnamese soldiers of France showed that they were the equal of any if well led, well trained and well resourced with a sense of commitment to mission. Another lesson the Americans failed to take on board, consequently squandering this, their most valuable potential resource through political and military mismanagement and arrogant racially based paternalism. From this account the Vietnamese Paratrooper of 5 BPV would have stood up well against any of the lauded American Ranger or Paratroop units who were supposed to make the difference in the later war. That American never learns has been amply demonstrated by the same ignorance and arrogance and the failure to take the lessons of the British or the Russians in Afghanistan or the basic lessons for an occupying power which could be drawn in numerous places from powers ranging from Rome to the Nazis and applied in Iraq. They took no lessons, they are after all American! The level of their incompetence driven by ideology is simply breathtaking and we are all still paying the price and will do so, possibly for a long time to come. As a combat soldier, I have some idea of what the words on the printed pages of this book mean in real terms, I have a rely felt the stirrings of such absolute admiration for any soldier anywhere as that which I feel for those defenders of Dien Bien Phu and the bo doi who fought them. Derision for politicians and generals I have in ample quantity after a lifetime of seeing their modus operandi in action! This account did nothing to lessen the depth of my contempt I can assure you.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paul Cornelius

    Martin Windrow has written a tedious, one-sided battle history of Dien Bien Phu, the engagement that marked the defeat of France in the First Indochina War. Worse, he has spent some 750 plus pages in composing a book without a central thesis. You sort of get the idea that, yes, the French did a little better than the popular view of history presents. And you get an idea of the failure of French air support to carry through their mission. (They were ill equipped, understaffed, and poorly trained. Martin Windrow has written a tedious, one-sided battle history of Dien Bien Phu, the engagement that marked the defeat of France in the First Indochina War. Worse, he has spent some 750 plus pages in composing a book without a central thesis. You sort of get the idea that, yes, the French did a little better than the popular view of history presents. And you get an idea of the failure of French air support to carry through their mission. (They were ill equipped, understaffed, and poorly trained.) Too, there is much information about the composition of French forces at Dien Bien Phu, which largely included colonial troops and legionnaires. But in the end, it reads like one giant footnote, with lists about lists about lists. Names pop up by the score and then disappear entirely from the narrative. At the end, it is as if the reader has already conducted his own death march. The most severe fault with The Last Valley, however, lies with its one-sided view of the battle. There is nothing wrong and in fact it can be quite informative to take a sympathetic perspective from the French point of view. But when discussing the battle, then, it becomes like a description of one side of a chess match. Only in the broadest terms is the other side discussed, which leaves the French movements in isolation and often without meaning. Very few of the Viet Minh are introduced and discussed--and those who are mentioned are primarily written up at the book's beginning. And the source material for the Viet Minh side also seems sparse. But the worst fault I found was with the one-sided view of things within the French camp. After doing a fairly good job of describing the order of battle, which includes Vietnamese and West African colonial troops, Moroccans, Algerians, and legionnaires from Europe, Windrow then omits their individual stories. Those are mainly reserved for French officers, NCOs, and rankers. Along with the poor layout of the maps in the book (they are all collected at the beginning), the paucity of photographs, and the lack of a timeline, the failure to construct a meaningful thesis and storyline leaves this a dry read. Overall, the result is disappointing. But there is information of worth. It's just a slog to get to it. It is no excuse to claim that this type history is intrinsically tedious. Compare The Last Valley, for example, with Mark Bowden's Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam. Bowden and Windrom both deal with the major battles and turning points of the respective Indochinese wars under their discussion. And neither are professional historians. And both books were written just about fifty years after their battles took place. But Bowden knows how to construct a narrative and he is at pains to give as much of a voice to both sides as possible. You come away from Hue 1968 with a clear image of what happened, compared to the dull gray confusion that still surrounds The Last Valley at its conclusion. The definitive work on Dien Bien Phu, I think, is yet to be written.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Scottnshana

    This book is timely. Windrow lays out France's situation nicely in Chapter 3, how its military forces were still in flux after the shock of the Second World War and in demand to help the victors police a divided Germany. Meanwhile, France’s efforts to hold onto its colonies in Indochina, recently won back from the Japanese, was continuously siphoning blood and treasure from an already exhausted nation. "The financial cost of the [Indochina] war was a serious drain on an impoverished country that This book is timely. Windrow lays out France's situation nicely in Chapter 3, how its military forces were still in flux after the shock of the Second World War and in demand to help the victors police a divided Germany. Meanwhile, France’s efforts to hold onto its colonies in Indochina, recently won back from the Japanese, was continuously siphoning blood and treasure from an already exhausted nation. "The financial cost of the [Indochina] war was a serious drain on an impoverished country that periodically faced balance of payments crises and bouts of industrial and social unrest." Meanwhile France's civilian population was growing tired and disinterested. "In the public forum only the extremes of Right and Left argued for and against the conflict, the loudest and most consistent voices came from the Left, relentlessly hostile to 'sale guerre'--this 'dirty war' of colonial repression. Widespread public interest would be aroused only intermittently and briefly, usually by some atrocity, scandal or disaster." It begs the question—when only a nation’s extreme factions care about a war, can war truly be fought in that nation’s interest? The author also does a good summation of the events that set the table for Dien Bien Phu (DBP) up to May 1953: "[Viet Minh] war aims could not have been simpler: to kill as many French as possible, to drive the foreigners off their soil acre by acre, and to suborn, terrorize or destroy their Vietnamese 'puppets'." One can easily see the interest here for American military scholars, as Ho Chi Minh's goals hadn't changed that much by 1968. There is further interesting material here on the Korea-style contest between human wave attacks and close air/artillery support to counter them, or as American military leadership said later, "Why send a man when you can send a bullet?" Windrow addresses the aforementioned close air support and argues that the French did it poorly, while also addressing the question of whether the Eisenhower administration would intervene to save Dien Bien Phu with or without tactical nukes. My favorite book on DBP is still Bernard Fall's "Hell in a Very Small Place," for its gut-wrenching depiction of the shrinking perimeter and stark depiction of people under pressure in a doomed effort. To better understand the frustrating diplomatic fencing that occurred in Geneva while France's best troops in Indochina were slowly slaughtered, Ted Morgan's "Valley of Death" holds more detail. I think these books (to include “The Last Valley,” all complement each other nicely for any military historian or national security scholar striving to get the best picture possible of this watershed event.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    Excellent overview of the battle of Dien Bien Phu and everything behind it. By everything, I mean not just France trying to recontrol Indochina after World War II. Windrow devotes extensive time to French military issues. This includes the difficulty integrating Free French and Vichy forces during WWII both before (French fought each other in Syria) and after the Anglo-British invasion of North Africa. It includes divisions among colonial forces, including the famed Foreign Legion, the African Arm Excellent overview of the battle of Dien Bien Phu and everything behind it. By everything, I mean not just France trying to recontrol Indochina after World War II. Windrow devotes extensive time to French military issues. This includes the difficulty integrating Free French and Vichy forces during WWII both before (French fought each other in Syria) and after the Anglo-British invasion of North Africa. It includes divisions among colonial forces, including the famed Foreign Legion, the African Army, and Thai and Vietnamese forces in Indochina. It includes the politicization of the French military and its relationship to the Fourth Republic. As for the battle? In foresight, the idea seemed good. The French had done something similar a year prior, less than 100 miles away. However, that site had flat to high ground in the center while Dien Bien Phu, in a river basin, eventually became known as the toilet bowl. Plus, the French didn't know that Giap had gotton 105 howitzers to augment the 75s he had before, as well as 37mm AA guns. The latter, plus relative lack of flight crews and other things, made the idea that DBP could be supplied by landings and airdrops more risky than the year before at the start, and indefensible after the loss of an airstrip meant that parachute was pretty much it. The French wanted to hold on through the 1954 Geneva talks, plus for mythical French honneur. They should have surrendered earlier, in hindsight. That said, pre-battle predictions about how much damage they would inflict on Giap were right. Morale assessments of the Viet Minh during battle were nearly right. But, regional command in Hanoi and theater command refused to honestly address French losses until too late. Simply a great read. On the military history side, there's about 20 high-detail maps.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Harry

    Well. This book was something. Look, I'm a history geek - everyone that I know knows this about me. So I can dig into a chewy history book and love it. This book... I gave it 4 stars but that's really a mixed thing. 3.5 stars. I ding it for a few reasons, which is not entirely fair to the author: This book REALLY needs to be read in real print, where you can see the maps (the kindle edition is LAME. Sorry - truth). Second, the author slips into French mil-speak too often. Again, anyone who knows Well. This book was something. Look, I'm a history geek - everyone that I know knows this about me. So I can dig into a chewy history book and love it. This book... I gave it 4 stars but that's really a mixed thing. 3.5 stars. I ding it for a few reasons, which is not entirely fair to the author: This book REALLY needs to be read in real print, where you can see the maps (the kindle edition is LAME. Sorry - truth). Second, the author slips into French mil-speak too often. Again, anyone who knows me knows that *I get* mil-speak, but French acronyms/mil-speak loses me. Winddrow is too casual with this and left several bits of the book puzzling to me. THAT ALL SAID... It was a heartbreaking read, and really enlightening. Americans make jokes about the French - "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys", but to read the valor and insane - simply insane - courage these young men showed in the face of near total abandonment by their craven government while fighting a near meaningless fight nearly *to the man* is just... It tore at me. I had no idea that so many men, French and, Vietnamese and French Foreign Legion had suffered for months of siege warfare and were just sacrificed by lazy bureaucrats, ultimately to be abandoned because a change in government at home... what a mess. It is little wonder that the US got sucked into this goat-rodeo, given how idiotic the French Govt was about this. And we too got schooled by Giap and his hoard of little people. So... if you want to learn something about what really happened that spring of 1954, what those men did in that horrid little valley that really led to 58K US servicemen meeting their early demise, this is a good read for you, if you have the patience. It took me months to grind through this - but I'm glad that I did.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Clarke Wood

    This is probably the definitive book on Dien Bien Phu, and exceeds Bernard Fall's book thanks to the author's access to more information. Windrow does a great job of explaining the politics as well as the strategic background of the battle and delves a lot into the detail of how both of the armies fought the battle. Two salient things really stood out for me: First, the battle itself seems to have made little sense as the direction given by the French government was to limit French casualties wh This is probably the definitive book on Dien Bien Phu, and exceeds Bernard Fall's book thanks to the author's access to more information. Windrow does a great job of explaining the politics as well as the strategic background of the battle and delves a lot into the detail of how both of the armies fought the battle. Two salient things really stood out for me: First, the battle itself seems to have made little sense as the direction given by the French government was to limit French casualties while they tried to achieve a diplomatic exit from the war. Even if the battle had been a huge success, in the end the French still wanted to leave and it seems unlikely they would have gotten a much better deal than the 1954 peace accords laid out. Even without the large scale battles, the French were stuck in an ongoing insurgency and Viet Minh had a political program they could not really counter. Second, from the time the battle opened, things were not working according to French plans. The Viet Minh had attacked earlier and in greater force than predicted, and they had managed to bring in a lot more artillery and anti-aircraft weaponry than the French expected. In addition, the French overestimated the ability of their air resources to keep the garrison supplied and provide it with adequate fire support. This was, from the get go, an obvious issue. I would have thought by the first two or three days, the focus might have logically moved from holding the position and winning the battle to figuring out a way of extricating the garrison. Instead, the French made heroic efforts to supply and even reinforce the garrison, even dropping in paratroops up until the last week of the battle.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Adam Morris

    I am surprised at how much I "enjoyed" this book which is to say I found it interesting and written in a style and format that made working through it's 650+ pages not difficult (but certainly not easy). It was very long and quite technical and detailed and yet I definitely got to know many of the principal players and got a real sense of the situation. What came across particularly clearly were the horrors of war. I've read a number of books that describe battles and the soldiers and what they I am surprised at how much I "enjoyed" this book which is to say I found it interesting and written in a style and format that made working through it's 650+ pages not difficult (but certainly not easy). It was very long and quite technical and detailed and yet I definitely got to know many of the principal players and got a real sense of the situation. What came across particularly clearly were the horrors of war. I've read a number of books that describe battles and the soldiers and what they endured but for some reason the way it is described in this book had more resonance for me. Apart from the significant events pre-dating the actual battle, the book clearly explains the politics involved which makes the slaughter of so many thousands all the more terrible. But then again, when was the last time that thousands died for a real cause? It is also difficult to believe that after witnessing what happened to the French in Vietnam that the Americans would jump in with such reckless abandon. And history continues to repeat as even today a large military power struggles to defeat a guerrilla force with local support…

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Superb, superb, superb. I can't say enough good thinks about Windrow's historiography. He gives the specific detail history nuts want without bogging down the narrative for the casual reader. I do think he's sometimes a little too critical of Bernard Fall, who was working off the only information available to him a few years after the battle, but unlike Fall he doesn't plop you right into Operation Castor and the battle of Dien Bien Phu like "Hell in a Very Small Place." Windrow provides some re Superb, superb, superb. I can't say enough good thinks about Windrow's historiography. He gives the specific detail history nuts want without bogging down the narrative for the casual reader. I do think he's sometimes a little too critical of Bernard Fall, who was working off the only information available to him a few years after the battle, but unlike Fall he doesn't plop you right into Operation Castor and the battle of Dien Bien Phu like "Hell in a Very Small Place." Windrow provides some really key events, figures, and background that was lacking in Fall's "Street Without Joy" and "Hell in a Very Small Place." Granted, Windrow has the benefit of information now only revealed decades after the conflict, but he really runs with it and fills in some gaps by Fall. Very well rounded and presents both the French and Viet Minh evenly. I highly highly recommend both Fall and Windrow: very entertaining, readable, and very informative histories of the First Indochina War and its implications on world events. I can easily rate this is in my top 10 favorite books. I know that a book is in my top 10 when I'm sad that I'm finished.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.