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Dien Bien Phu "What If?"

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  • Dien Bien Phu "What If?"

    Just finished the November issue of Armchair General. The article on Dien Bien Phu was killer. It also mentions what could have happened if the decisive battle had gone in favor of the French. So here's the "what if?"

    If Dien Bien Phu had been a French victory, would that have prevented the partitioning of Vietnam, and ultimately kept French Indochina a "French Union."

    Moreover, I'd be curious to see if anyone thinks there was a viable strategy to hold Dien Bien Phu.
    16
    Yes, and this would prevent the American-Vietnam War
    12.50%
    2
    No, the country was already on it's way to Civil War
    87.50%
    14
    "This life..., you know, "the life." You’re not gonna get any medals, kid. This is not a hero business; you don’t shoot people from a mile a way. You gotta stand right next to them... blow their heads off."

    BoRG

  • #2
    Well I would suspect even if the French had won there, the highly effective guerilla tactics of the viet minh/cong would have ground down the French anyway. The American experience would suggest this to be true. They won all the main battlefield engagements khe sanh , hue etc but couldnt pin an overall victory down. Also the resources available to the French were nothing compared to what the Americans threw at Vietnam 10 years later.

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    • #3
      Instead of preventing American intervention, it might have accelerated it on the contrary, since France would have found it more and more difficult to continue the war alone, even after destroying the VM's main forces divisions at DBP.

      Comment


      • #4
        Without a large Air Force and the means to effectively support both the Air Force (bases closer to DBP, large stockpiles of muntions and POL) and the French positions at DBP, the French could never hold their postions. The French grossly underestimated the abilities and determination of the Viet Minh. If the French had had a large and effective Air Force they might have been able to hold their postions, but without it they were doomed as soon as the first Viet Minh Artillery barrage started.

        Even if by some miracle DBP held, in the long run French rule was doomed. It might have taken a few years more, but the french were already on their way out. IMHO
        Those that forget history are condemed to repeat it.
        If you're going to be one you might as well be a BIG RED ONE

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        • #5
          I never really understood the why..... why there? Why not occupy the hills
          nearby too? Why was the base not on the highest area in the region? Even
          if they had held on, what kind of victory were they expecting?
          SPORTS FREAK/ PANZERBLITZ COMMANDER/ CC2 COMMANDER

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          • #6
            With Communist China on the Northern border and colonization on the way out for all of the powers involved, a victory for the French would have only delayed the inevitable.
            "I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them."
            George Mason
            Co-author of the Second Amendment
            during Virginia’s Convention to Ratify the Constitution, 1788

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            • #7
              Originally posted by dgfred View Post
              Even
              if they had held on, what kind of victory were they expecting?
              The idea was to occupy a combat base deep in enemy country near the laotian border to draw the VM main force divisions and destroy them. Other similar bases had been established and defended succesfully at Na San and SENO.

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              • #8
                DPB was actually defended by a series of smaller fortifications surrounding it, occupying strategic positions. What the French believed inpossible was that anyone could mass artillery on the heights surrounding the valley.

                The French were stuck in the African thought process, where well-defined routes sustained by watering points were easily dominated and enabled control of an entire area. They were not prepared for the country and climate of Indochina, which provied endless water and endless routes of access, making it impossible to control by the old methods. This led them to the fortified striong point tactics that eventually failed, as they would fail again during WWI and WWII.

                Even had DPB been a victory, the enemy controlled the surrounding countryside and depended on the rough dirt roads for all supply. These became impassalbe during the monsoon season and ambush zones in the dry season, as we Americans re-learned when we tried to dominate the same region.
                Last edited by Mountain Man; 30 Nov 07, 10:47.
                Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by dgfred View Post
                  I never really understood the why..... why there? Why not occupy the hills
                  nearby too? Why was the base not on the highest area in the region? Even
                  if they had held on, what kind of victory were they expecting?
                  First the French did not have enough men to occupy the hills. Second they both underestimated the firepower the VM could bring to bear, and the speed they could bring it. Initially the French trid to control the hills with aggressive patrols, a sort of search and destroy. The VM imeadiatly contered this with large scale counter patros and ambushes and the French were driven back to the valley in short order.

                  The French plan was to use the airbase for supporting raids across the VM supply routes. They thought their projected force of 8000+ men would be suffcient to pick off the VM units faster than they could mass. The disruption to VM communications would relieve the pressure on the defense of the Red River delta region.

                  The massing of roughly three divsions worth of assualt battalions was a nasty suprise for the French. But, what really demoralized them was the severral battalions of howitzers the VM placed in the hills, and supplied with ammo. The French were outnumberd in artillery by more than 3-1. The quantity of antiaircraft fire the VM massed over the airfield was beyond belief for the French intellegence officers. They had assumed that such weapons did not exist in quantity for the VM use. And, they thought a large motorized transport corps would be needed to move and supply all that artillery. While the VM did have more trucks than the French knew, the balance of the transport was by nonmotorized means.

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                  • #10
                    Thanks for the info Carl old buddy .

                    *** Hope to get myself back on track soon for a new game... keep me in mind.
                    SPORTS FREAK/ PANZERBLITZ COMMANDER/ CC2 COMMANDER

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                    • #11
                      French Foriegn Legion Kicks Ass

                      Originally posted by MountainMan View Post
                      DPB was actually defended by a series of smaller fortifications surrounding it, occupying strategic positions. What the French believed inpossible was that anyone could mass artillery on the heights surrounding the valley.
                      I recall the scene in "Apocalypse Now!" with the French;

                      "The Generals don't think that the Viet Minh can get the cannon into the mountains..., but they DO!"

                      The line about their paratrooper jumping low to die with their comrades was nice, too....
                      Originally posted by Boonierat View Post
                      Instead of preventing American intervention, it might have accelerated it on the contrary, since France would have found it more and more difficult to continue the war alone, even after destroying the VM's main forces divisions at DBP.
                      That's about what I was thinking. Worst case scenario. It seems to play that way against Guerilla warriors....
                      Last edited by Paul Mann III; 30 Nov 07, 14:33.
                      "This life..., you know, "the life." You’re not gonna get any medals, kid. This is not a hero business; you don’t shoot people from a mile a way. You gotta stand right next to them... blow their heads off."

                      BoRG

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        despite the debacle-you gotta admire officers like Biguard, the para commander.

                        I think the only way for the French to win that battle was massive US airintervention in the formof attack aircraft, both naval and land based, and transports.

                        How much was the siege of KHe Sahn like Dien Bien Phu?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Parasocko View Post
                          How much was the siege of KHe Sahn like Dien Bien Phu?

                          Both battle have little in common in fact, even though they are always compared to one another in Vietnam books. The main difference, besides the lavish air and artillery support the Americans had, was the fact that Khe Sanh was located only 40km away from the nearest Marines combat base at Camp Carroll and Route 9 could be reopen at any time. The garrison was smaller also, about 4 Marines battalions and an ARVN Ranger one and they occupied most of the hills surrounding the Khe Sanh base, most notably Hill 861 and 881S.

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                          • #14
                            Mhmm...

                            question 1: what would have happened if the french won...

                            I think Giap and Ho would have been setted aside by their comrades. If they lost the entire VM battle force at DBP while Navarre roamed with Atalante it would have meant that the insurecction had lost steam. Probably a VM defeat at DBP would have been caused by Giap continuing frontal assaults and not listening to chinese advisors creating a fracture between the two... it's only speculation, but I think that at this point probably yhe Vieth Minh would have split allowing the french room to serttle the issue with Vietnam (maybe divided in the two historical entities) still in the union français. But it's a wild speculation, Still I do not believe that Giap would have survived a defeat at DBP after his porro handling of the red river battles.

                            Question 2: The french could have won?
                            Again really difficult to reply... they understimanted VM speed, supply and concentration and overestimated their Air force, yet the VM arty was a bit uneffective until the last days of the battle while the french guns were in action until the end playing havo on VM assaults. If giap would have persisted with frontal assaults he would have lost, the french were ahead of him in the attrition battle and many VM battalion were collapsing. It's important to remember that the last assault was stopped on the nam youm by the quad '50, the guns and capitain Hervouet Bisons. And that finally french air force waqs starting to take a toll on ADA (better coordination and a real bomber officer running the show). DBP was a very close run thing and one that in casualities numbers giap lost.

                            my two eurcents\pennies
                            the real credit goes to the little ARVN soldier. He is just tremendous, just magnificent. He stood in there, took all that fire and gave it back. General James F. Hollingsworth USA.

                            Bomben, Bomben, Bomben auf Hamasland!

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                            • #15
                              The french lost the military battle but even had they won it wouldn't have changed much,the french nation as a whole was not interested in hanging
                              on to Vietnam and the french govt was considering ways to bug out even
                              before les paras jumped.
                              The americans didn't exactly lose the military struggle but once again it was the political dimension that dictated the end result.The freedom of South
                              Vietnam could have been preserved if the will had been present.

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