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Battle of Dien Bien Phu/Bibliography

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A list of key readings about Battle of Dien Bien Phu.
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  • Bernard B. Fall (1967), Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu, J. B. Lippincott. Probably the best single reference. Fall, a naturalized U.S. citizen who had made Indochina and Vietnam the focus of his lifework, died in combat accompanying U.S. ground forces in 1967. Well written and even-handed.
  • Vo Nguyen Giap (1962), People's war, People's Army, Praeger. An overview of the war, by the commander of the Viet Minh, with substantial detail on this battle. Expect that it will be written in Asian Communist political jargon, although not as dense as some of his other writings. He met with Moore and Galloway (2008) and spent several hours discussing the battle, and the war, in a very open manner. At the end of the meeting, he and Moore shared an emotional embrace.
  • Bernard B. Fall,(1967), Street without joy: insurgency in Indochina, 1946-63 (4rd ed.), Schocken. A broader look than the battle itself, with unforgettable word portraits of some of the personalities on the French side.
  • Moore, Harold G. (Hal) & Joseph L. Galloway (2008), We are soldiers still: a journey back to the battlefields of Vietnam, Harper Collins. A companion volume to We were soldiers once, and young, this describes experiences on several postwar trips to Vietnam. The main focus is on their participation in the U.S. ground war, especially the Battle of the Ia Drang; they were not participants in the Indochinese revolution. Moore was a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, and Galloway still an active reporter; Galloway was the only journalist to receive a combat valor decoration from the U.S. for Vietnam. All the former enemies were also generals, although not all retired. They met with Giap for several hours, and Dien Bien Phu was a large part of the discussion. Giap told them that he had risked execution by not complying with orders, after the initial attack was repulsed, to continue with human wave assaults, but instead to trust the shovel and turn the battle into a siege.
  • Hoang Van Thai, "The Lesson of Dien Bien Phu." U.S. translation of article from Hoc Tap, the Vietnamese military journal, May 1964, pp. 14-22. [1] Less detailed on the battle itself than the title would suggest, but gives some perspective on Communist decisionmaking. It tends to overstress the French capabilities, but does have some reasonable data on Viet Minh logistics. While still in political jargon, the prose flows better than in many other Viet Minh documents.
  • Stephen L. Curtis, "Fire Support and the Maneuver Commander at Dien Bien Phu: Tragedy and Triumph." Field Artillery, August 1990, pp. 30-35.[2] Given the importance of artillery in this battle, this is a useful view from the perspective of an artillery specialist. Ideally, read this with Hell in a Very Small Place, which actually has more detail on the nature of the artillery on both sides, but not so much the tactical thinking of an artilleryman.