Like Gettysburg, Stalingrad, Midway, and Tet, the battle at Dien Bien Phu - a strategic attack launched by France against the Vietnamese in 1954 after eight long years of war - marked a historic turning point. By the end of the 56-day siege, a determined Viet Minh guerrilla force had destroyed a large tactical French colonial army in the heart of Southeast Asia. The Vietnamese victory would not only end French occupation of Indochina and offer a sobering premonition of the US' future military defeat in the region but would also provide a new model of modern warfare in which size and sophistication didn't always dictate victory.
Before his death in Vietnam in 1967, Bernard Fall, a critically acclaimed scholar and reporter, drew upon declassified documents from the French Defense Ministry and interviews with thousands of surviving French and Vietnamese soldiers to weave a compelling account of the key battle of Dien Bien Phu. With Fall's thorough and insightful analysis, Hell in a Very Small Place has become one of the benchmarks in war reportage.
©1966 Bernard B. Fall (P)2016 Tantor
"A thorough account of a brave, sanguinary battle that has since turned out to have immense historic importance." (The New Yorker)
The detail. Made you feel you were right there.
The surrender. Poignant and what a shame so terrible a conflict brought on by imperialism.
Sadly, it was the march to confinement and the horrible casualties rendered thereby. Previously, I had not known about this aspect of the battle.
Arresting and frustrating. In Viet Nam we made many of the same mistakes. What hubris not to have learned from this war what to do and what not to do.
One detail of interest missing: The Viet Ming executed the prostitute-nurses. The nurses were heroes. They should be honored with a memorial.
It's likely I'll listen to this again - it's easy to miss something in a complex history, and this one more so than others. It's hard to remember what each unit is - something that is easily remedied in print and one of the few downsides of audiobooks.
The battle is famous but not well-discussed in most other sources. The detailed research is excellent and the analysis generally pretty good. It's the completeness of the relating of the battle's events that really makes this book worthwhile.
Since there's very little to feel good about in this history, there really isn't a "favorite scene".
The book's weaknesses as an audiobook include a non-adherence to linear time. Some parts of the story are told until the end and then we're returned to a point in the battle without quite recognizing how it meshes with what we just heard. This is less a problem when reading, but in an audiobook makes it hard to follow at times.
Still, it's not nearly as dry as it could have been and one appreciates the comprehensive nature of the book.
It was a memorable debriefing of a terrible affair, full of facts and tidbits and explanations as well as telling you if a certain point isn't known for certain, or if it is just believed to have happened in a certain way. I understood, witnesses to a massacre are hard to come by.
I would say the most memorable moment for me, was that the USA was being asked to perform interdiction bombing around Dien Bien Phu, and we didn't.
We were the only ones who could have saved this disaster created by the French, and we didn't, and yet look what it cost us in the end.
Our reasons for not doing so seem shortsighted, as if our current politicians never, ever bother to learn from the mistakes that came before.
I can't say which character was my favorite, I was well pleased from start to finish, although the story was deeply troubling whenever inaction or incompetence began to cost lives.
It was stated that the soldiers had all along believed that the government of France with all it's resources, would help them defeat the Communists rebels, until the day when they realized they wouldn't.
To be gallant, patriotic and brave is one thing, and to die needlessly is quite another. In the face of one's imminent demise, that is a terrible dose of reality to try to deal with.
A tragic tale told without malice, telling of a battle that was deliberately blundered into.
This is a great book for the scholar or historian. Sometimes difficult to follow with the multitude of details but still worth the read. It is a gripping true story of not just the battle but of the higher echelons and views from the other side.
This is a superb book i love history and finding this gem. I had heard of the battle and what it repressed but not the whole story. If you are a history buff this is a great addition to your library.
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