Dien Bien Phu

Patrick Turnbull writes that the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, which opened on March 3rd, 1954, and continued until early May, marked the end not only of French, but of European hegemony in Asia.

‘As far as I was concerned, this particular day started like any other. I remember the officers 'seemed a bit on edge, in fact I was talking about this edginess, when up came a legionary.‘ “Report to Lieutenant D., sergeant!”

‘I went at the double. The lieutenant told me to carry out a thorough check on the machine guns. An all-out attack, he said, was expected at 17.00 hrs.

‘The news was a bit alarming, but it wasn’t enough to make me lose either my appetite or my thirst, and when afternoon arrived and still nothing untoward had happened, I decided to pay a call on my friend sergeant-major N. who was in charge of rations, both liquid and solid. I had a warm welcome and in a few minutes we were sitting down to polish off a tin, U.S. model, half litre content, concentrated (24 degrees) wine...

‘It was about 16.55 hrs when we finished the last drop, and I began to walk back to my pill-box, my usual brilliant brain a bit hazy.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email digital@historytoday.com if you have any problems.