The Dien Bien Phu Victory on May 7, 1954, was not only a brilliant milestone in the history of Vietnam but also acted as encouragement for anti-colonialism and national liberation movements worldwide.

Dien Bien Phu Victory
from the opponent’s perspective

On May 8, 1954, just one day after the victory of Dien Bien Phu, Paris Match magazine said the victory had strong and in-depth impacts on France and that bellicose forces did not understand why it had happened.

As the representative of the political circle in France, Prime Minister Joseph Laniel wrote in his book entitled “Le drame Indochinois” (The Indochinese drama) published in 1957: “In the history of every nation, there are decisive events. The names associated with them, as well as the dates, carry a meaning that transcends the events themselves. Bright or dark, in everyone’s eyes, those events symbolise the good or bad fate of the country... Dien Bien Phu is one of those names.”

In the book “Dien Bien Phu: March 13 to May 7, 1954”, Dr. Ivan Cadeau, a French historical researcher, said that the Dien Bien Phu battle “was an undeniable defeat of the French army against a brave opponent.”

  A foreign tourist visits the historic Muong Phang Bridge in Dien Bien Phu. (Photo: NDO/Thanh Dat)

General Henri Navarre had to admit in his memoir “Agonies D’Indochina” (Agonies of Indochina) that one of the reasons why the French colonialists could not realise their goal of honourably ending the Indochina war within 18 months was because of “excessive optimism” and an “underestimation of the opponent’s capabilities.”

Nearly 40 years later, in 1993, President François Mitterrand came to Vietnam and visited Dien Bien Phu. This proves that France cannot forget Dien Bien Phu and that Dien Bien Phu event is an inseparable part of France’s history.

In 2018, during his official visit to Vietnam, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe arrived at Dien Bien Phu. Since 1993, the Prime Minister was the second head of state of France to visit the place where was once a fierce battlefield between the Vietnamese people and the French troops and puppet soldiers.

Responding to the press about the trip, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said: “The final battle at Dien Bien Phu represents one of the hardest and most symbolic battles of the war. It marks the attainment of definitive independence for Vietnam.”

He added that “France places special emphasis on sharing memories… Finally, perhaps most importantly, I also want to say that our two countries, because they are reconciled to their past, are moving strongly toward a common future. France-Vietnam relations draw deep into the history of the two countries.”

International public opinion

Sharing the joy and pride with the Vietnamese people, William Foster, Chairman of the US Communist Party, wrote in the Workers’ Daily newspaper on May 10, 1954, that Ho Chi Minh’s army had destroyed the Dien Bien Phu fortress group, which was an event of great significance.

This failure was not only the tragic defeat of the French colonialists who risked their lives to plot to invade the rich and beautiful Indochina country, but first of all, it was a great failure of the invasion war plan of the American imperialists.

The victory at Dien Bien Phu was a huge encouragement to the forces fighting against imperialism in colonial and semi-colonial countries, and at the same time the development in Indochina promoted and strengthened the resistance to America’s brutal control policy in other capitalist countries.

  The Dien Bien Phu Victory Monument at night. (Photo: NDO/Thanh Dat)

He noted that the liberation of Dien Bien Phu was an important victory in the cause of fighting for freedom and peace in the world. This was the victory that the Vietnam People’s Army won in a heroic struggle against an enemy equipped with more advanced and superior weapons. This once again eloquently proved that the people in the world will not allow the chains of Wall Street to be placed around their necks.

The Red Star newspaper of the Soviet Union on May 8, 1954, also expressed joy: “The liberation of Dien Bien Phu fortress has proven that the People’s Army of Vietnam are determined to defend national freedom and independence.”

On May 9, 1954, People’s Daily (China) published high praise for the strength of the Vietnamese people in the righteous resistance war: “The fight of the Vietnam People’s Army in difficult conditions led to victory on the Dien Bien Phu battlefield. The Vietnamese people have achieved great victories and demonstrated their strength in the righteous fight against imperialist aggression. The liberation of Dien Bien Phu once again made the whole world see that the Vietnamese people have risen up, and no force can subdue them.”

During the years of fighting to overthrow the American dictator Batista, the Cuban revolutionary armed forces led by Fidel Castro also said: “the gunfire in Moncada and Dien Bien Phu was in harmony with each other” and that “Dien Bien Phu and Hiron are words written on the grave of imperialism.”

US Vice President Nixon also had to admit that in public opinion, Dien Bien Phu means the failure of the adventurous ‘Navarre plan’ that people previously advertised loudly. Liberating this fortress proved that the forces of the Vietnam People’s Army and the unshakable will of the Vietnamese people to resolutely protect their freedom and independence. The lesson of Dien Bien Phu showed that all plots to solve the Indochina problem through continuing the colonial war had failed.

The great significance of the Dien Bien Phu Victory is affirmed by the whole world, as on July 1, 2014, The Guardian newspaper commented that Dien Bien Phu became a symbol of failure of France’s history and a symbol of Vietnam’s glorious victory, but their influence was much greater, it was a milestone that opened a new era worldwide - the era of national liberation.

Speaker of Algerian Council of the Nation Abdelkader Bensalah affirmed: “Vietnam is a great source of inspiration. The heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people motivated us to go to the end in the resistance war for independence. Vietnam is a symbol of freedom and courage. The Dien Bien Phu victory answers for us the question: If the Vietnamese people can defeat the colonial empire, why can’t Algeria?”

In his speech at a meeting in Hanoi on October 5, 1961, Madeira Keita, Minister of Interior of the Republic of Mali, emphasised that: “The Vietnamese are the first people who dared to stand up almost unarmed to confront the material power of the colonial government, the first people to stand up against the trampling on their dignity and the dignity of all oppressed peoples dominated by foreign countries, the first to strike decisive blows against the giant colonial empires, and the first to demonstrate to other peoples in Asia and Africa that they were groaning under the brutal yoke of colonial regime that victory could be achieved.”

Bernard Fall, a French-American historian, also said we have no right to forget this war. Whether we want it or not, that war will still affect us for decades to come.

Pierre Bronsard, a tourist from Lochrist, Morbihan department, Brittany region, France, recently visited the Command Headquarters relic of Dien Bien Phu Campaign in the primeval forest in Muong Phang Commune, 40km from the centre of Dien Bien Phu City, where General Vo Nguyen Giap and the Campaign Command gave instructions and attack orders that decided the outcome of the Dien Bien Phu Campaign 70 years ago. He shared: “The Vietnamese people are very heroic and although I am not a Vietnamese, I am very proud of this.”

Because of his love for the country and people of Vietnam, 10 years ago, Pierre Bronsard, a ship electrical technician in France, decided to marry a Vietnamese woman. He said he is very passionate about history, and because his wife is Vietnamese, he and his family visited Dien Bien Phu. He said: “Coming to Dien Bien Phu, standing on the land where many people laid down their lives and sacrificed for this campaign, I have many emotions in my heart that can’t be expressed in words. The Dien Bien Phu Victory is ‘a big echo’ for the Vietnamese people and this is also an important milestone for France.”

“Looking back at the past, the Vietnamese people today might have had part of them that was anti-French or anti-France, but since I met my wife, what I know about Vietnam is the friendliness and pleasure of the Vietnamese people to welcome the French, which is something I find really touching,” Pierre Bronsard noted.

  French tourist Sylvie Pasquiou and her husband visit the De Castries Tunnel.

Visiting Dien Bien Phu in the days when Vietnam is preparing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the historic victory of Dien Bien Phu, Sylvie Pasquiou and her husband (French nationality) spent two days visiting Dien Bien Phu City and historical relics of the campaign. Emotionally reading the words recording the loss of life and property during the war at the De Castries Tunnel relic, they wanted to place flowers in front of the graves of fallen soldiers in the war.

When leaving the De Castries Tunnel, Sylvie Pasquiou told Nhan Dan Newspaper reporters that the war has receded, now is the time for Vietnam to develop. “We spent two weeks exploring Vietnam — a beautiful country with hospitable, interesting and open people as well as rich cuisine.” She noted that: “Vietnam is developing day by day and there are many fascinating destinations that we will definitely visit such as Hoi An and Hue.”

  The De Castries Tunnel is now a popular tourist destination in Dien Bien Phu City, Dien Bien Province. (Photo: NDO/Truong Son)