After his astounding victory at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954, General Giap returned to the battleground, only to fight it drenched in blood, fragments of used artillery dispersed randomly and unburied corpses carpeting the floor. The victory for the Vietnamese had been long in the making. For years, the indigenous people of Vietnam suffered under oppressive laws of their invaders, and so, it came as no surprise when the country had a dream to rid itself of foreign ways, creating a free and unified country of self rule. As Ho Chi Minh, the leader of Viet Minh stated, “The struggle will be atrocious, but the vietnamese people will suffer anything rather than renounce their freedom.”
Ordinary people, won the battle too, it was not just those on the front lines. It was not just a military effort, the ordinary people of my country played a major role in helping to rid our country of foreign ways. These people were impeccable in our succeeding; they built bridges across rivers and streams for our soldiers to walk across, grew food to feed our empty stomachs and some even supplied artillery when supplies were scarce. The French clearly underestimated the spirit of our country and the vast numbers involved. They clearly did not realise that they were not just fighting against an army but a whole country that was sick and fed up of foreign ruling. The support from our country was vital in this war and helping to keep the spirit of us soldiers high. They helped to feed and heal us after a treacherous day which even to this day, I am thankful of. It was a joined effort and I just hope that one day I can repay all the people for all their hard work. Hundreds of men on bikes were said to have hauled supplies up to us, as well as men and woman heaving on ropes transport artillery god us. It was truly inspiring and uplifting to receive the messages of support from our country.
Why did you believe that winning the battle of Dien Bien Phu was important?
Simply put, it would provide our country with a physiological advantage that when it came to the negotiations at the Geneva Conference in May 1954, would prove invaluable. I think, we as a country just wanted to be taken seriously by the United Nations.
I have heard that the plans for the battle were actually meant to commence on the evening of January 25th but instead went ahead on March 13th, what happened?
At the beginning we had plans to bombard the dug in camp with a rapid attack with the aim the destroy the dug in camp within three nights and two days. But on the day that attack was meant to go ahead, we had a staff meeting. After a discussion with the fellow officers, we came to the conclusion that there was a chance something could go wrong. We were only willing to ahead if there was 100% victory. Our decision to withdraw and regroup until they were certain of success meant that instead of a battle taking place that night, a diversion attack was launched by the 308 division to ensure that we, the Viet Minh, were able to withdraw our forces and artillery that had been put in place in the event of a swift attack. This was the most difficult decision I had to make, but it proved essential in our success over the French.
How did the Viet Minh prepare for the battle?
Prior to our first attack against the French at their base, Beatrice, myself and other soldiers spent weeks heaving heavy artillery up the barren mountainside. It was gruelling work, but in the long run, it would give us a great advantage over our enemies. Nobody seemed to mind the difficult work at the best of times but the desire to kill the french as a result of it kept us motivated us. Our efforts in Laos, also...