Friends of Padre Steve’s World
Another re-run. As I was thinking about today I could not get the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu 60 years ago today off my mind. It marked the beginning of the end of the French colonial empire in the Far East.
On the 7th of May 1954 the Viet Minh forces overran the headquarters of the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu. A young Viet Minh soldier captured the French commander Christian-Marie de la Croix de Castries. It was a humiliating defeat and something that any army fighting a capable insurgency and revolutionary movement needs to learn from. With American and NATO forces drawing down in Afghanistan I worry about smaller isolated outposts and groups of advisors that could be in danger should the Taliban mount a coordinated attack on an isolated outpost.
I also have strong feelings of empathy for the French soldiers who fought in Indochina and later Algeria. Most were professionals whose efforts were wasted and their country mostly ungrateful for their sacrifice. I wrote this three years ago and it still expresses much the way I feel.
Peace, Padre Steve+
On May 7th in Hanoi a small remembrance was held to mark the fall of Dien Bien Phu and honor the victor, 101 year old General Vo Nguyen Giap at his home. It was one of the few remembrances held anywhere marking that battle which was one of the watersheds of the 20th Century. A half a world away in Houston Texas a small group of French veterans, expatriates and historians laid a wreath at the Vietnam War Memorial. In Paris an ever shrinking number of French survivors gather each year on May 7th at 1815 hours for a religious service at the Church of Saint Louis des Invalides to remember the dead and missing of the French Expeditionary Corps lost in Indochina. This battle is nearly forgotten by time even though it and the war that it symbolized is probably the one that we…
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