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55th anniversary of Dien Bien Phu victory:

Vietnam victory over French colonialists

The people of Vietnam, celebrated the 55th anniversary of Dien Bien Phu victory on May 7, 2009. Dien Bien Phu is globally known for being the place that made a historic imprint during the 20th Century and is proudly spoken of by all Vietnamese as well as those nations who supported and stood firmly - including Sri Lanka to defeat the belligerent French troops.

Dien Bien Phu victory monument

Dien Bien Phu is situated in the Muong Thanh Valley, with Nam Rom river running through it, surrounded by numerous mountains in North-West Vietnam. It is well-known for the decisive victory by the Vietnamese troops over the occupying French colonialists and has inspired international friends worldwide.

This battle left a colossal scar on the proud people of France. The Dien Bien Phu battle - May 19, 1959 - proved without any doubt, the strength and determination of the people of Vietnam who had struggled for hundreds of years to win their freedom and independence.

Dien Bien Phu Valley with peaceful villages, green fields, luxuriant forests and mountains was a strategic position in the eyes of troop commanders. So the French thought if they occupied this valley they could control the vast North-Western area a part of North-Central area and even Northern Laos.

The French built 49 fortresses with an airport, an artillery field and a headquarters and deployed 16,200 troops of infantry, artillery, tanks, engineering and transport units who were the most battle-experienced in Indo-China at that time.

To counter the French, the Politburo assigned General Vo Nguyen Giap to the post of Secretary of the Party Committee and the Commander-in-Chief of the campaign. Before leaving to the battlefield, General Vo Nguyen Giap met President Ho Chi Minh, who said, “we must be victorious. Victory was the only answer of the entire nation.” Everyone knew that success would mark the turning point in a resistance-war, that was going on for nine years.

General Giap recalled on the way to the battlefield “I witnessed the image of the whole country marching to the front with same dedication as if they are going on a sacred pilgrimage.”

Labourers, farmers, youths and even old people, marched to the battlefield with troops from the infantry, military engineering and transport units to ensure the victory. They helped to transport nearly 100,000 tonnes of food and other items along, with a large amount of weapons and ammunition. In 1959, the main means of transport were bicycles, baskets hanging on to a bamboo pole, donkeys, boats and rafts.

The most difficult and miraculous work of the soldiers was to pull armaments, some of them weighing several tonnes along 15 km, long forest route, deep abysses to deploy near enemy fortresses.

The soldiers endured countless hardships and made extreme sacrifices during the fierce struggle with the French enemy. Many soldiers laid down their lives on the battlefield and never witnessed the victory-flag fluttering over the enemy headquarters.

After 56 days of fierce battle, with strong determination the Vietnamese completely wiped out 21 battalions and 10 companies totalling 162,000 French troops. Dien Bien, a name that is not only scribed in national historical records but also known worldwide due to the Dien Bien Phu victory.

This victory was assessed as the battle, famous around the world that shook the entire globe. After 55 years visitors to the former ‘Firing Pan of Dien Bien’ still see vestiges that reminds them of the feats of arms of the Vietnamese Army and the people of Vietnam.

Let me quote what General Vo Nguyen Giap, who led the Vietnamese troops to wipe out the belligerent French troops in Dien Bien Phu on May 7, 1954. “It was the strength, determination and wholehearted support given by people of Vietnam and above all, correct political leadership given by President Ho Chi Minh that made this victory.”

(The writer is the Secretary, Sri Lanka-Vietnam Solidarity League, Matale)

 

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