Reasons for the French failure in Indochina

  • Created by: Alasdair
  • Created on: 20-06-17 19:48
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  • Reasons for the French failure in Indochina
    • Ho's popularity
      • Late 1951, US official pointed out unpopularity of Fr puppet emperor, Bao Dai, whose government 'has no appeal whatsoever to the masses'
      • In sharp contrast, Ho seen by many Vt as patriot who cared about ordinary people of Vt.
      • His fairer redistribution of land and educational and health-care programmes helped to win over Vietnamese peasantry
    • Viet Minh's strengths
      • Although Fr had more men and materials, Ho's Viet Minh proved elusive and determined
        • 'You can kill ten of my men ffor everyone I kill of yours but even at those odds, you will lose and I will win' - Ho to a Frenchman
      • Guerrilla tactics
        • Utilised physical geography of country
        • Make surprise attacks then retreat to western Vietnam's jungle and mountains (which were enveloped by monsoon for half year)
        • Perfected from years of repelling Chinese
      • Other advantages of VM
        • Chinese supplied them with weapons
        • Most important of all, fought for inspiring cause, Vietnamese freedom and social justice
    • French units
      • Road bound
      • Armoured columns
      • Struggled on Vt's frequently flooded dirt tracks
      • One Fr officer lamented: 'If only the Vietnamese would face us in a set battle, how we could crush them'
    • Giap
      • Trained and commanded VM forces from 1944
      • Initially only 5000 troops
        • declared war on French in Nov 1946
      • Giap's strategy was to start with guerrilla warfare to wear down enemy then move to set-piece battles as his army grew stronger
      • Like Ho, Giap paid great attention to winning over ordinary people
      • Mao  gave democratic Republic of Vietnam diplomatic recognition, armaments, advice and sanctuary in China if regular soldiers were in trouble
      • By 1952
        • Giap commanded over 250,000 regular soldiers and militia nearing 2 million
        • Each army division was supported by 40,000 porters carrying rice or ammunition along jungle trails and over mountain passes
          • Many porters unmarried women 'the long-haired army'
            • V found more effective than male porters because they were easier to train, had no family responsibilities and were perceived as less threatening by the enemy
      • Giap's soldiers willing suffered for their country and their freedom, marching over mountains and through jungles, often with insufficient food
      • Units held self-criticism sessions during which errors were admitted and forgiven
      • Giap paid great attention to winning over ordinary people and his soldiers followed his rules when dealing with civilians
        • Be polite and fair
        • Do not bully
        • Do not fraternise with women
        • Try not to cause damage and if you do, pay for it
    • Dien Bien Phu
      • French had problems whilst Ho and Giap went from strength to strength
        • Tried 'yellowing' their army (enlisting local Vt)
          • Did not trust them and gave them little responsibility
        • French people beginning to lose heart and interest in Indochina
      • 1954
        • French fortress
        • Designed to prevent VM invading Laos
        • Fr did not anticipate peasants dismantling heavy artillery and in the cover of darkness moving it to hill above fortress
          • Easily bombarded from high ground


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