Dien Bien Phu (H)

Howard R. Simpson, Author, Stanley Karnow, Foreword by
Howard R. Simpson, Author, Stanley Karnow, Foreword by Potomac Books $24.95 (193p) ISBN 978-0-02-881047-8
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 978-1-57488-024-3
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The battle of Dien Bien Phu (1953-1954), stresses the author, was one of the modern era's most decisive confrontations. Simpson, who as a U.S. Information Agency correspondent visited the isolated French fortress and knew many of its defenders, relates the story in heroic terms: how General Giap's Viet Minh troops hauled artillery pieces across mountain ranges and through dense jungles to dominating heights overlooking Dien Bien Phu, their shells ultimately forcing the French surrender; the poignant call for volunteers willing to parachute into the besieged fort to reinforce the casualty-depleted garrison and the response by hundreds of men even though Dien Bien Phu was already doomed. The fall of the fort on May 7, 1954, after a 57-day siege was a disaster for France, for it spelled the end of French hegemony in Indochina and opened the way for U.S. involvement in the region. Simpson pointedly reviews the lessons that would be ignored by the Americans in their ensuing war with the NVA/VC: not to underestimate the guerrilla or overestimate U.S. air power, and above all to secure the support of domestic public opinion. Simpson ( Tiger in the Barbed Wire ) has written a military classic based on newly released documents, interviews with survivors, and his own vivid and compassionate recollections. Photos. (May)
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