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Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu (1967)

de Bernard B. Fall

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423544,610 (4.3)13
From the acclaimed scholar and reporter, a thorough and revealing account of the historic turning point in Vietnam's long struggle--the 1954 battle for Dien Bien Phu 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 U.S.'s future military defeat in the region, but would also provide a new model of modern warfare on 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 maps highlighting the strategic points of conflict, with thirty-two pages of photos, and with Fall's thorough and insightful analysis, Hell in a Very Small Place has become one of the benchmarks in war reportage.… (mais)
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Exibindo 5 de 5
Superb. One of the best books I've read this year. Comparable to The Great Siege b Ernle Bradford, it describes an horrific battle whose outcome changed the course of history. I'm not much into military tactics, but this book by B. Fall lays everything out in clear maps and prose with unbelievably expert analysis. And, yet, the US still decided to tackle Vietnam, committing many of the same mistakes as did the French. The US deserved what it got. The author's story is equally credible and worth learning as well. Finished 03.09.20. ( )
  untraveller | Sep 17, 2020 |
A good writer, and a well researched book. it remains one of the classics of war reporting. It may have had some influence on whipping up enthusiasm for the Widening Vietnamese conflict when it was published. ( )
1 vote DinadansFriend | Jul 16, 2019 |
Hell in a Very Small Place (1966) was the definitive book on the battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954) up until the release of The Last Valley in 2004. It still might be, I have not read the later to determine. Fall's book is mostly the chronicle of a "cage fight" with two tough cats thrown into a closed space and watching them destroy one another. I admit to being somewhat lost much of the time for lack of decent maps (I read the audiobook version). There is a lot of detail that would reward a second or third reading. As a battle it's interesting in the same way the Western Front was in WWI. Except in the back woods of Vietnam. And units that included ex-Nazi mercenaries, sub-Saharan Africans, Moroccan and Algerians, French elite paratroopers, Laos tribesmen, Chinese and of course many Vietnamese. Actions included massive air drops, mountain artillery, underground mines, human waves, daredevil feats of heroism. I'd like to revisit sometime but with a better understanding of the Indochina war. ( )
1 vote Stbalbach | Apr 18, 2018 |
I have re read this book after 27 years and after a personal trip to the site of the battle. With greater maturity, I enjoyed the book much more with the second reading. The threat of Communism was perhaps less than the years of anti-colonial war that the Vietnamese people had to endure to finally throw off the foreign yoke, much as the French themselves had to fight off German occupation in several wars. The irony is that neither the French, nor the Americans (with their Revolutionary War experience) either identified with the Vietnamese struggle for their own independence. ( )
  hellbent | May 22, 2014 |
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To Dorthy who lived with the ghosts of Dien Bien Phu for three long years
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"Castor" was probably the first and last airborne operation in history in which the leading aircraft contained three generals along with the paratroop pathfinders.
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The western flank of the fortress was the last to be occupied by the Viet-Minh, since its positions were still covered by extensive mine fields and barbed-wire entanglements. Some of the strongpoints on Claudine were occupied as late as 1820. One of the last to be occupied was strongpoint Lily, still held by a handful of Moroccans under Major Jean Nicolas. As Nicolas looked out over the battlefield from a slit trench near his command post, a small white flag, probably a handkerchief, appeared on top of a rifle hardly fifty feet away from him, followed by the flat helmeted head of a Viet-Minh soldier. "You're not going to shoot anymore?" said the Viet-Minh in French. " No, I am not going to shoot anymore," said Nicolas. "C'est fini?" said the Viet-Minh. " Oui, c'est fini," said the French major. And all around them, as on some gruesome Judgement Day, mud covered soldiers, French and enemy alike, began to crawl out of their trenches and stand erect as firing ceased everywhere. The silence was deafening.
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From the acclaimed scholar and reporter, a thorough and revealing account of the historic turning point in Vietnam's long struggle--the 1954 battle for Dien Bien Phu 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 U.S.'s future military defeat in the region, but would also provide a new model of modern warfare on 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 maps highlighting the strategic points of conflict, with thirty-two pages of photos, and with Fall's thorough and insightful analysis, Hell in a Very Small Place has become one of the benchmarks in war reportage.

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