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Discussion in 'Channel Zero' started by imported_Tesseract, May 7, 2002.


    Following the withdrawal of Japan from Vietnam in August 1945, Ho-Chi-Minh proclaimed the independence of the country on September 2 of the same year. During the same month France, with the help of the British, occupied Saigon and the delta of the Mecong River in an attempt to recover its pre-war territories in the region. After a series of negotiations and agreements with the Vietminh revolutionary government, France went back on its word and bombed the harbour of Hai Phong in the delta of the Red River on November 23, 1946. According to the Vietnamese 20.000 people were killed, whereas French sources claimed "only" 6.000 civilians died. Thus began the French War in Vietnam, one of the longest and most bloody wars of the 20th century. To get an idea of what happened there at the time from 1946 to 1954 - it suffices, I think, to say that 172.000 French lost their lives, disappeared or were severely injured.
    On November 23, 1946 the war of the French began in the northern part of Vietnam and on November 26, 1953 the military occupation of Dien-Bien-Phu was launched from the air in the campaign known as "Operation Castor". The overwhelming defeat of the French army there a few months later put a definitive end to the French presence in Vietnam.

    ++ Summary of the military situation in North Vietnam prior
    to the occupation of Dien-Bien-Phu ++

    1. With the bombardment of Hai Phong and the occupation of the delta of the Red River, the French army prevailed in the urban centers of the delta, resulting in the withdrawal of the revolutionary army to the countryside and its deployment among the mountain villages of North Vietnam. In spite of their efforts to expand their area of control through several battles, the French ultimately failed to reverse the established situation. At the same time, the Vietminh deployed their army very successfully creating especially strong bases in the countryside, aided by widespread practical assistance from the population. 2. The situation changes radically after the victory of Mao Tse Tung in China. The Sino- Vietnamese borders become safe for the Vietminh, whereas the French lose the access to the north they had held until then.
    3. The rapid development, the organization and the support of the revolutionary army of the people made the situation very awkward for the 450.000 strong French forces. The many minor attacks of the Vietminh at various points of the French occupied area, forced them to scatter their forces, losing the strategic initiative to the Vietnamese. To regain their power, the French were forced to concentrate their forces, with a consequent loss of territory.
    4. The popular reaction in France to the continuation of the bloody war compounded the impasse with which the French were faced. The recognition of the Revolutionary Government of Vietnam by the Soviet Union, China, and even by Tito of Yugoslavia added one more factor to this war which by now far exceeded the political endurance of the 4th French Republic. In the autumn of 1953, the Vietminh held nearly the entire country and the principal roads. In military terms, France was at a dead end.
    This was the situation when General Henri Navarre decided to carry out Operation Castor in the remote small plain' of Dien-Bien-Phu.

    ++ The question ++

    Dien-Bien-Phu is a village situated in a plain bearing the same name in west Tomkin of North Vietnam. The plain does not exceed 15 kilometers along the north-south axis and 6 kilometers along the east-west axis and has little strategic significance, its only advantage being its proximity to the Laos border which facilitates control of communications between the two countries. It still seems incomprehensible why Dien-Bien-Phu was chosen by the French as the place where a relatively large force would assemble to clash there with the Vietminh. This little plain, this little place, totally cut off from all road systems and exposed to the suffocating embrace of the mountains encircling it, looks indeed like a trap for anyone attempting to defend it by military force. There are many theories about this decision by the French. But because of the disastrous consequences for French imperialism brought on by Operation Castor, all generals responsible have denied paternity of the idea, and their American advisers in turn have denied that they ever approved the operation. What, then, was the rationale that led General Navarre to instigate the great conflict with the Vietminh in this unlikely place, in the trap of Dien-Bien-Phu?

    ++ The choice ++

    a) The political choice

    1. Everybody realized that this indescribable war had to come to an end.

    2. In the negotiations that would follow, France must have the upperhand, in order to negotiate from a position of power.

    3. To achieve this, France had to weaken, practically to defeat, the Vietminh, even though, unavoidably, some guerrilla bands would remain in the mountains. In other words, the French needed a sweeping victory in a big central battle in the areas controlled by the Vietminh. In this way, they would recover the strategic initiative. To ensure this, their victory had to be certain in advance.
    All this, naturally, had to happen within a certain time frame. In fact, it had to precede the international negotiations about the war in Indo-China scheduled to open in Geneva in the first months of 1954.
    These three points made up the political dimension of the problem.

    B) The military choice
    Dien-Bien-Phu, an isolated place, far removed from any roadways, deprived of any access to China, should represent an enormous problem of resupplying the Vietnamese troops which would normally camp on the mountains girding the little plain. This problem ought to be so critical and insurmountable that General Giap, soon after the massive, powerful assault in waves that he would undoubtedly attempt - qn assault that the French stronghold would normally be able to repel during the first stage - would find himself without ammunition between the French army of Dien-Bien-Phu, the French air force and the Napalm bombs. The non-existence of a Vietnamese air force would indeed make this tight encirclement even more suffocating.
    On the other hand, the French were convinced that their own supplies could be ensured by air, since the anti-aircraft capability of the Vietminh was inadequate and, anyway, their air defense would be faced with the same problem of reprovisioning as the rest of their army.

    ++ Operation Castor ++

    The French occupied the plain of Dien-Bien-Phu from the air on November 20, 1953. An airlift consisting of 64 transport aircraft forming a 7 -mile long line and using paratroopers succeeded in establishing an entrenched camp. The final concentration of forces included 17 infantry battalions (paratroopers in their majority), three artillery battalions, one sabotage battalion, a company of tanks, 200 trucks, a squad of 14 planes, 4.150 mm guns and 24.105 mm guns - a total of 16.000 men.
    This entrenched camp was supported by smaller strongholds installed on the hills around the plain. Internal communications were provided by subterranean galleries and trenches. The strongholds were christened by the camp commander Colonel De Castries with feminine names, such as Beatrice, Dominique, Ugette, Claudine, Eliane, etc. Two runways on which the whole operation depended were maintained in good repair, and a hospital was set up as well as two brothels with 17 girls: 11 Algerians and 6 Vietnamese. Thus a powerful, large stronghold was established (and OK'd by the Americans) in Dien-Bien-Phu, at least 300 kilometers from Hanoi.

    ++ The mistake ++

    What the French generals - and a few years later their American colleagues were unable to understand, is the nature of the people's army.
    The Vietminh had overwhelmingly strong and massive support in the mountain villages ofTomkin, whose inhabitants were, for all practical purposes, a second army at the disposal of General Giap.
    Hundreds of thousands of people repaired trails, constructed passages and galleries beneath rivers, opened new passages through jungle mountains; often, they would bind tree tops together and build roads invisible from the air. In all, they built 800 kilometers of road on extremely difficult terrain, in a period of three months. Human chains hundreds of kilometers long moved like snakes through the jungle. Seventy-five thousand people in a sort of relay race (with changes every 15 to 20 kilometers) using Peugeot bicycles fixed so that they could carry loads of up to 200 kilo each, carts, cattle, and sometimes, when possible, trucks, moved a total of 8.286 tones of ammunition, food and other supplies through 800 kilometers of jungle and fully covered resupplying demands. To understand what this means, note that French headquarters estimated that owing to provisioning problems, the capability of the Vietnamese artillery would amount to 25.000 rounds for the entire duration of the battle. As it turned out, this figure ranged from 250.000 to 350.000 depending on varying French estimates. So the provisioning of the 45.000 men who laid siege on DienBien-Phu, from being a great problem for General Giap as the French reckoned, became rather a great problem for the French.
    The Vietminh were able to secure sufficient quantities of rice using the organisations they had in the delta of the Red River, where the French army had complete control. The number of persons who participated in this operation reached 300.000.
    The frequent air raids using Napalm bombs proved ineffectual. Vietminh soldiers perched on tree tops, surveyed the area and gave warning. Damage to the road network was quickly repaired. The French were very surprised when they looked at the air photographs the following day. Everything had been set to rights. The anti-aircraft systems of the Vietminh proved not so primitive after all. By the end of the battle, the Vietminh had shot down 62 airplanes in the plain, had destroyed 14 on the ground and had hit a further 167. At the end of the battle, the French counted 137 dead or missing pilots. We may never learn the number of Vietnamese killed by Napalm bombs. But we do know that the French were unable to break the provisioning chain. The role and the superiority of the air force in this kind of war does not appear to be a decisive factor - a circumstance dearly paid for by the French in 1954 and by the Americans a few years later.

    ++ The battle ++

    The French expected General Giap to move as the North Koreans did in the Korean war: massively, quickly, by waves. But the general chose different tactics which he imposed - not without difficulty - on his comrades.
    Knowing that he had solved the problem of supplies, he attacked steadily and methodically. abandoning the idea" (of a massive rapid assault in waves a few hours before the signal was given and despite pressures by the Chinese advisers on the dawn of January 25, 1954) "we strictly followed the basic principle of any revolutionary people's war: strike for victory, strike only when victory is certain, otherwise do not strike." So the siege of Dien-Bien-Phu, instead of the great assault anticipated, turned into "a series of encircling operations against positions in the plain, an operation of long duration, whereby we gained the advantage of breaking the enemy, stronghold by stronghold, until the final occupation of the entire camp."
    The great assault expected by the French turned out to be a slow strangulation which began not on January 25, 1954, but on March 13 and ended on May 7 of that same year.

    ++ The end ++

    The French lost the Battle of Dien- Bien- Phu and the war in Indo-China because, as we said, they were unable to understand the essential difference between a people's army and a colonial army. The failure to realize the capabilities of the Vietminh is not the result of low acumen, deficient knowledge or human error. It begins with the underestimation of the enemy and underestimation originates in the profoundly racist theories and relations fostered by European colonialists against the populations who lived in their territories.
    America, a country without old colonies that nonetheless evolved in the context of its own racism, in its turn also underestimated the enemy and this is why its defeat in Vietnam assumed the moral dimensions that it did. The political wager of the French in Indo-China was lost on May 8, when the French camp commander General De Castries (who is believed to have suffered from depression from a certain point onwards) surrendered the completely devastated and horrifying sight of the stronghold of Dien-Bien-Phu. The date was no coincidence. It demonstrates to what extent General Giap was in control of the situation. The famous international conference on Indo-China in Geneva, which the French wanted to attend as victors, was scheduled to begin on May 8. The general captured Dien- Bien- Phu on May 7, in order not to allow a moment for France to rebuild its political and military morale. Everybody says that France in those days was a dumb country.
    The defeat of the French in the hell of the little plain instituted a new era: the era in which American imperialism prevailed over a Europe that had become unable to secure its possessions. And, ironically, succeeded it in the very place where, not wanting to learn from the errors of the Old World, it was destined to receive its own most severe military and moral blow.

  2. The Vietnam subject was brought up many times in here, so this is a thread about it...Kabar this is mostly for you,

  3. http://www.freephoto-i.net/users/Hypercube/DBP.jpg'>
  4. swif1

    swif1 Veteran Member

    Joined: Dec 13, 2001 Messages: 7,067 Likes Received: 29
    i was going to post my flag up here, but so far, the places only have the North flag :heated:
  5. Kr430n5_666

    Kr430n5_666 Banned

    Joined: Oct 6, 2004 Messages: 19,229 Likes Received: 30
  6. NoamChomsky

    NoamChomsky Guest

  7. seppuku

    seppuku Member

    Joined: May 11, 2000 Messages: 718 Likes Received: 0
    i would read that if i didnt have to scroll to the right to read every line.

    the pic you posted stretched the screen.
  8. You're right, i fixed it.
    I didnt realised cause my screen resolution is kinda big and it could all fit on the window, thanx for pointing it out.
  9. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    Good Post

    Well written, although from a pretty predictably leftist viewpoint. You should include the next phase of history, which included the implacable opposition by the Catholic South to occupation and domination by the Buddhist North, the intractable opposition to power-sharing by the Vietnamese Communist Party, and the division of the country into North Vietnam (Communist) and South Vietnam. It was the refusal of the Communist Party in the north to accept the country divided, and their insistance that only the Communist party would rule, that led to a state of war between the two countries and civil war within South Vietnam. Of course, there was no opposition to the Communists in the north. Those that weren't slaughtered fled to the South and prepared to defend themselves against the war that everybody knew was coming. The United States sent (substantially more) advisors in 1961, I believe, and after Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, the military-industrial complex started running 24-7, shipping ton after ton of war materiale to Vietnam.

    I recommend "The Ten-Thousand Day War" by Michael Maclear, 1981, Avon Books, New York. (If you can stand reading a book published by the Hearst Corporation, LOL.) It begins with the first American soldier to have been actually assigned to Vietnam, Major Archimedes Patti of the OSS, meeting Ho Chi Minh in a teashop to discuss harrassing the Japanese forces occupying Vietnam and the systematic rescue of any American or Allied pilots shot down by the Japanese in "French Indo-China." They met on April 30, 1945. Exactly thirty years later, on April 30, 1975, the last American forces left Vietnam.

    The book ends with a story about Bardstown, Kentucky. Out of a town of 5,800, they lost fifteen sons in the Vietnam War, arguably the highest casualty-per-capita ratio in the U.S.

    'I felt like I had been cheated,' says a young Bardstown widow, whose daughter was only five days old when the government sent it's telegram of regrets. 'And I felt like she had been cheated out of a father--and I was scared.' Says a second mother, 'They were done wrong, all the boys.' Says a third, ' It just doesn't happen--but it happened.'

    'I was there, you know, for a year,' says one Bardstown veteran, 'and I never developed a love for those people. And maybe I should have, and this is something that I need to search for. But I love this country, and my country asked me to go. And that's the reason I went. And willingly. And I may have to do it again, some place else. Who knows?'

  10. Hahaha, i think you've classified me wrongly...i have no problem reading anything written by anyone, as long as it has to do with actual facts, i can easily ignore terms and ideas that indicate the political view of the author. Same goes for this one, This is not written by me...i used it just beacause its written very good and sums up a lot of things. In my opinion its all true and very accurate and the point being made is this,

    I think that it hits the nail hard. The different tactics that were used by the US in the wars to come somehow indicate that.

    I wouldnt label my self as leftist or pretty much anything, i live in Europe, in a socialist country and socialism as applied today has alot to do with capitalism...its just human nature i guess. What interests me is rationalism and a sense of justice and thats how i judge things.

    To add some more, here are a few books mentioned by the author of the piece above, they might interest you or some people.

    Currey, Cecil B., Victory at any cost.
    Washington: Brassey's 1997

    Doyle, Edward., Passing the torch.
    Boston: Boston publishing company, 1981

    Fall, Bernard., Hell in a very small place.
    New York : Da capo paperback, 1985

    Karnow, Stanley, Vietman: A history.
    London: Penguin, 1984
  11. NoamChomsky

    NoamChomsky Guest

    Thanks for posting the reading list,Tesseract.

    Did you say awhile back you used to be in a special forces unit?Im not sure where i remember you saying that,but if you did,do you mind posting your thoughts about your experiences. Im joining the army pretty soon to be a Special Forces medic.De Oppreso Liber! Or something like that.
  12. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    U.S. Special Forces

    I could be wrong on this, because all of my military experience was in the Marine Corps, except for attending a U.S. Army technical school at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, in Maryland, but my understanding is that one cannot actually enlist in the Special Forces. First, you go to basic training, then infantry school, or whatever your MOS school is (Medic school) and once you are serving and excelling in your chosen field of endevor and dazzling your commander with your personal brilliance, one may APPLY for a Special Forces billet, IF ONE IS OPEN. The recruiter will tell you all manner of things to get your signature on that dotted line, but once you raise your hand and swear in, your ass belongs to Uncle Sam, and you will go wherever the man sends you.

    I have a personal story about the Marine Corps that illustrates this pretty well. I was re-enlisting into the regular Corps from the Reserves, in Houston, in 1977. My reserve unit, 1/23, was a great outfit, but I wanted to go regular and get my six year committment over with in three. Besides, I wanted to be a Fleet Marine, and the only way to do that is to go to a Marine Division that serves the Fleet.
    I was down at the AFEES station getting my paperwork processed, and there was a sort of recreation room there for poolees, with a pool table, Coke machines, candy machines and so on. I was a corporal (an NCO) and wearing my uniform. Kids were going in and out of the room as their names were called by recruiters of various services, Army, Navy, etc. This one guy was shooting pool.

    "So you're in the Marines, huh?"
    "Me too."
    "Yeah, I'm going to be a computer specialist."

    (In 1977, this was like saying "I'm going to be an astronaut.")

    'No shit? Wow. You must be really smart. Did you graduate early?" (This kid looked very young, maybe 17 or so.)
    "Nah. I dropped out."
    "You dropped out?"
    "Yeah. School sucked."
    "Well, are you like a computer genius or what?"
    "Not really. I like computer games and shit like that."
    I thought about this for a second. A.) The kid dropped out. This was not good. B.) The Navy trains Marine Corps computer jocks. Their schools are hard as shit. C.) This kid seemed dumb as a rock.

    "Did you get a guaranteed contract?"
    "Nah. The gunny said to just go open contract, and he would put a seal on me getting to take the school entrance exam."
    I thought some more. My internal alarms were all ringing big time SHUT UP, SHUT UP, DON'T SAY ANOTHER WORD TO THIS IDIOT, HE'S A DUMBASS---LEAVE HIM TO HIS FATE, SHUT THE FUCK UP!

    "Uh, what happens if you fail the test?"

    Computer Boy stopped right in the middle of lining up a shot, like this thought had never crossed his mind.
    "Jeeze. I donno. I guess I just get out."

    Now my alarms were screaming SHUT THE FUCK UP, SHUT THE FUCK UP, DON'T SAY ANOTHER WORD!

    "Uh, I don't think so. Usually in the Marine Corps, if you wash out of MOS School, you go to the infantry." YOU IDIOT! WHY DID YOU TELL HIM THAT? YOU BOUNDLESS DUMBASS. YOU'RE IN THE SHIT NOW.

    The kid dropped his stick like he'd been stuck with a cattle prod. "The Infantry! Oh no way! I'm not going to no infantry!"

    SEE! SEE! WHAT DID I TELL YOU, YOU FUCKING CHERRY! NEVER VOLUNTEER! The kid took off like a shot for the Gy Sgt's office. A couple of minutes later, as I sat there trying to shrink, the door slammed open.
    "WHERE THE HELL is this goddammed corporal!!?"
    I got up, resigned to my ass chewing.
    He slammed the door shut behind me and fairly shouted "WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, telling that kid he's going to the infantry?"
    "Gunny, you know that kid will never pass the MOS test for computer school! He's going to wind up being another pissed-off shitbird rifleman in the middle of our Corps, hating the Corps and worthless to everybody."
    "DON'T YOU TELL ME HOW TO RECRUIT, CORPORAL. That kid's best chance at computer school is open contract."
    "That's the same thing as saying "no chance."
    "I want you to take your sorry ass and your flapping jibs (lips) back out onto that ready bench, and don't you say
    another fucking word to any of my poolees. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?"
    "Yes, Gunny."
    "You damned well better."

    I went back and sat down. The Computer Kid was shooting pool again, smirking at me. "Tole ya."

    I just smiled a thin smile. Welcome to the grunts, "new guy." Boy, will you be sorry.

    When I got my orders, they were sealed. "Don't open them til you report to the First Marine Division, Camp Pendleton."
    When I got to Camp Pendleton, I was missing both my pay records and my shot records. I didn't get paid for two months, but twenty bucks slipped to a Navy hospital corpsman unfucked my shot records straight away. This is why Marines love Navy corpsmen. "We take care of the Doc, 'cause the Doc takes care of us." They will defend a Navy corpsman anywhere, any time. Recruiters suck dick, though. Sorry ass buddy fuckers.
  13. Pistol

    Pistol Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: Jul 12, 2001 Messages: 19,363 Likes Received: 299
    interesting story kabar. i enjoyed it. kinda reminds me of mapo story of how he was joininh the Army to get in a tank division. but when he showed up they didn't have enough tanks, so he had to be infantry.
  14. Naw man... i havent been in any special forces..yet. You probably remember me saying that Army is obligatory here...everyone goes throught it for a year and a half...If i had an option i wouldnt go at all, luckily i got better things going than this, but since the situation is like that and i got no intention of avoiding it, i might as well go to Special Forces.
    The reason? I prefer learning stuff and being trained hard instead of sitting on my ass with a bunch of dumbasses from all over the country...its a good usage of time issue for me.
    However, its a more serious desicion than i present it, joining the special forces is above all a political move...either you're aware of that or not it doesnt change the fact that you're the first to call when things go wrong...and there aint no backing up in this one.
    So i'll have to think about it more until then, i graduate from college in 2 years, so after that i'm in.
    It works the same way here, as Kabar said, you first go on the Basic training (thats 3 months here) and then you apply for special forces and IF you're able to cope with it for a period of time that is concidered 'test' you move on...no easy stuff though...if you're kicked out, you return back with the regular folks and you're being laughed at for the rest of your stay...heh
    To make a long story short, when the time comes i'll make my move...we'll see.