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MAY 1967


Translated by V. J. Croizat~ Col. USMC (Ret:






C ... LIFOftNI


MAY 1913'7


Translated by V. J. Croi2:at. Col USMC IRet..)

This rnlearch is supported by the United States Air Fore .. under Project RA1~D-Con. tract No. F14620.67·C-0045-monitor ..d by the Directorate of Operational R"qllirl'"mt"'nts and Dtovl"lopment Plans. Dl"puty Chil"( ot Staff. R~atch and Development, Hq USAF. Views or conclusions contained in this Mt'"morandum should not be interpreted as rl"prl'Sf'ntinf!; the official opinion or policy of the lTnilpd Statt'S Air Force.


Published by The RAND Corporation


PREFACE While Mao Tae Tung, Vo Nguyen Giap, and even Che Guevara are avidly ,read and liberally quoted, the French, who were among the first of the western nations to gain practical experience of modern revolutionary war, are seldom heard from outside of their own count~y. Moreover, after the United States began the rapid expansion of its advisory effort in South Vietnam in 1962, the British experience in Malaya was often cited by Americans in Saigon as a model of how to handle an insurrection, but little if anything was ever said of the French experience in Indochina. This SeemS strange indeed, for in Malaya the Chinese Terrorists were a separate ethnic group, few in numbers, and without the privilege of sanctuary across a friendly border. In contrast, in Indochina the Viet Minh were the same as all other Vietnamese people, and they challenged the French ,with a powerful political and military organization generously supported by the neighboring Chinese Communists. What is of even greater significance is that today the United States is fighting essentially the saIDe enemy that the French first engaged more than two decades ago~ and is doing this over much the same terrain and under the same climatic conditions. Finally, and most important of all, is the fact that the present leadership of North Vietnam iE the very same whose determination and tenacity helped it to prevail over the French. The lessons that the French learned in the course of their prolonged conflict should, therefore, offer something more than simple historical data. The Lessons of the War in Indochina, originally published in three volumes, is an official document issued by the Commander in Chief, French Forces, Indochina, in May 1955. Volume 1 is a Top Secret It document concerned with high-level politico-military issues. able.

was distributed to a very small number of officials and is not availVolumes 2 and 3, originally published under Secret classificaThese two volumes are complementary in that Volume 2 tion, have recently been made available in the United States For Offi.cial Use Only.




with a summary of the experience from this experience

of the war and Volume 3 that might have Because

seeks to deduce guidance application for French

forces in similar wars in the future. to be of greater intended interest

of this, Volume readers.

2 is considered

to American audience some

This volume was obviously desirable

for a military include

with some prior general knowledge and it was considered explanatory an historical details footnotes summary

of French operations

in Indochina,

that its translation

and be preceded

by an introduction

containing for the

to serve as a frame of reference


in the text.




i 1i


III .. III '" ~ III •••• " • • • .. .. • • .. •




•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

x 1








WAR .••••. •..••.•••••••..••.




THE WAR OF IDEAS 1: 2: Incipient Insurgency........................... Aspects of the Struggle •••.•..••. 31 38

Section Section




Section Section Section Section Section

Section Section

4: 5:

IntJ;oduction Essential Critical






•••• •••••.•.

63 83 94 110 116

The Control

of Communication Axes and Areas ••••••.••.••••••••••••••••.••••

of Mobile .. Forc e s •••••••••••••.••••••

Area Contro 1 ......•..•....••.•....•........•... Emp layment


7: 8:

111 111.........





Section Section

10: 11:


in Remote Forces



145 156 160


.•••••••..•.••.••••••••••••••• and Heavy Cover .••••• •••••••••••••••.••..••..•.•

Section Section Section

Part IV:


in the Jungle Operations



and Coas t a L Actions.....................



Section Section

15: 16:

Introduction The Manning Personnel

..•••.••••••••••••••••••.•••••.•.• of Units


and Maintenance





17: 18: 19: 20:

The Mobile



206 216

The Lnf an t r y

Section Section Section

The Airborne
Armored Forces



244 259


21: 22; 23: 24:

25: 26:

Arti 11ery ...•.••.•••.•..••.•...•.•............

Army Aviation Helicopters .•...•••..••....•••.•••...........• ..

275 29l 299 306

'" ..

Section Section Section

The Engineers

••••.••.•.•••••..••••••.•.•.••.•• Corps .•..•.....•..•...•....

III .. Ii Ii " " , '"

The Transportation
The Signal Air Support Corps


Section Section Section

Section Section

27: 28: 29:


..••••..•...•.............•...•...• Forces


The River


.. " .......

348 359 362

Female Personnel
Logistics ......•....••.••..•.••..•••••.••.....

31: The Quartermaster

32: 33:



Section Section

The Medical Petroleum


Service............. Problems .••.•.•••••••

The Ordnance Research


394 406

Section 35:

and Development



2. 3.

Schematic organization of the Trinh-Sat Cat-Bi airfie ld ...•.••••••••



77 82

,............................ •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

on a post



Centers of resistance •••••........ •••.•.•••••••..........

Viet Minh deploym~nt September 30, 1953 ••.•.•.....•...•••


6. 7.

Watch t over s , 1948-1950 .•...... ..• ••••••••. •••••..•.. ••.. Watch tower) "engineer type," South Vie t nam ." Tower with a metal observation post triangular military post for 60 men
..... III






122 124 127 128

11. 12.

of a blockhouse •••••••••••••..•••.•.•.•••.••••••.

Two fir e plans ..•.•.••..••.•••••.•..••••..••••••••.••••••. Types of pillboxes .•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••.••••

Evolution of the pillbox •••••••••••••.••........•.••••••. ...,



Model floorplan



15. 16. 17. 18: 19.

Types of pillbox plans



Double central pillbox and command post with a 1i ving ar ea .........•••..•..•.....•..•...........•..•.• Example of the river convoy (North


Vietnam) .••••.••••••.•

176 181

Assault landing (North Vietnam) .••.•..••••....••••••••.•.

Personnel strengths ~ friendly Viet forces .•••.•.•••••.••.•••..

21. 22. 23.

Pe~sonnel st~engthsJ

Minh forces •••••..•••••••.•••••

205 215 290 334 350

Commund cacLoris within the mobile group ..••...•..••••..•.•

Growth of major fire support


Comparison of total air activity for the years 1952-54 ...

Types of river craft ..•••••••••••••.•••••••••.•••••••••.•


1. 2.

Sununary of Ten Operations Can'ied Out in Tonkin ..••.•.... Pillbox Resistance .••••..••••.•.••••.•••••.••••••.•.••••. Artillery in the Indochina War ..••••..•.••••.•.•.•••...•• Army Aviation Units in Each Division of the U. S. Army ... Cargo Movements for 1953 .•••••..••• ,.•.••.••....•.•.•....

103 137

3. 4. 5.

275 305 369





\ ..•


J \)





«. ( }~





TRANSLATOR'S INTRODUCTION Indochina 1 became an area of direct concern to the United States

more than a quarter of a century ago when it repeatedly served as the focal paint for the acrimonious exhanges that eventually culminated in the,Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The reasons for this were twofold. First, Indochina was the back This became critical

door to China and, as such, it grew in importance as the coastal areas of China progressively ,fell to the Japanese. when the Japanese reached Canton just three ~eeks before Munich and thereby cut off accesS to the interior of China by western nations, except for the route from the Tonkinese po~t of Haiphong Kunming,2 and by way of the remote and difficult Bu~a

rail to The


second reason is that Indochina was, for the Japanese, the gateway to Southeast ASia, and hence to the rubber, tin, and oil of Malaya and the East Indies. The first Japanese moves toward Indochina were made in early 1939 when troops were landed on Hainan and the Spratly Islands. These actions were accompanied by increased pressures on the French and British concessions in China, and by restrictions on shipping in 3 the South China sea. response to these developments, the French


reinforced their garrison in Indochina from 27)000 to 50,000 men.

lIndochina consisted of the colony of Cochinchina and the protectora~es of Annam, Tonkin, Cambodia, and Laos. Annam and Cochinchina now form So~th Vietnam. Tonkin corresponds generally to North Vietnam. ~e meter-gauge 862 km line to Yunnan was completed in 1910. Just before World War II the railroad carried about 3.l..i million passenge~s per year, mostly on short hauls. It also carried over 300,000 tons of freight; this substantially increased when the Chinese government moved to Chungking. 3Andrew Roth) Japan Strikes South, Institute of Pacific Relations, New York, 1941, p. 19. 4 . Of the 27,000 troops in Indochina in 1937) only 10,000 were listed as European.

This, however; units remained ment.


was relatively


since the naval and air equipwas thrown

small and were equipped with the outbreak

largely with outdated and Indochina


of the war in Europe,

the possi~

bility of further reinforcements completely upon its own resources. discretion



the Japanese

had used in their dealings in Europe


the French was cast aside at the news that France had capitulated. No sooner had the French ceased their resistance Japanese commission although demanded that the railroad to Yunnan of war material than the a control be closed to movements to station

to China, and that they be allowed The French

in the protectorate. they suspected for Japanese securely

could do little but agree) the right of air-

that this would only lead to other demands. 1, 1940, in a note requesting the construction agreements sphere. that would troops across Tonkin, 2

Such demands were made on August of transit Indochina fields in the area, and economic

in fact bind

to the Japanese

The French pointed support


the United States of these develop~ents to resist was directly could provide. beginning Thus, of high-grade related steel, States But, the United

and States iron

out that their ability that the United

to the

had just placed an embargo upon shipments scrap, and aviation gas to Japan posed to go further at the time, any military assistance, and while

July 26, and was not Jiscould not hope for to prolong

the French

they made every effort they were finally

their negotiations

with the Japanese,

forced to but subBy were given

grant them a number of concessions. stantially terms of the agreement of September

These were significant, had originally 22, 1940, the Japanese

less than what the Japanese


~rench naval forces in the Far East at the outbreak of World War II censisted of the 8000-ton cruiser Lamotte-Picquet, two 2000ton sloops (the Admiral Cha rria and the Dumont dIUrville), two ancient r sloops of 600 tons (the Ma~e and the Tahure), plus a miscellany of auxiliary minesweepers, river gun boats, and service craft. Aircraft throughout Indochina totaled less than 90. ~illiam L. Langer and S. Everett Gleason, The Undeclared Council on Foreign Relations, New York, 1953, p. 9. War,

the use of three airfields in Tonkin, permission to station 6000 troops in the area, and authority to transit no more than 25,000 troops through Tonkin into Yunnan. It was also agreed that the

Japanese could evacuate one division from south China through Tonkin.

Meanwhile. in the United States there had been serious doubt over the effectiveness of the July 26 embargo. largely because it affecced only highly specialized items. During the month of August 1940) for

example, licenses were granted for the export to Japan of $21 million of petroleum products and 300,000 tons of steel and iron scrap.


the time that the Japanese began to mOve into Tonkin, the United It should be noted that oil was not The oppon-

States was quite ready to react and extend its embargo to cover all types of iron and steel scrap. included in this extension, although certain members of the United States government were strongly in favor of the measure. ents of the move, which included the British, Dutch. and Australians, based their position on the conviction that if Japan were to be denied United States oil, it would take immedi-ate··actionto seize the East Indies. The merit of this thesis cannot be debated, but when an embargo upon oil was finally decided upon almost a year later, it did coincide with the final deterioration of the United States' relations ~ith the Japanese. Thailand meanwhile looked upon these events as providing the opportunity to regain territories that had been ceded to Indochina by the treaties of 1893 and 1907.3 Accordingly, Thai forces began a series of probing attacks along the Cambodian border andt


lIbid., p. 15. The Japanese division to be evacuated did not await the end of the negotiations, but launched an attack on September 23 against the French at the border town of Langson. Losses were heavy on both sides, and the siCuation was only res tored wh.en the Japanese advance was halted on the 25th. 2Ibid., p. 18. 3Lawrence K. Rosinger and Associates, The State of Asia, American Institute of Pacific Relations, New York, 1951, p. 271.

fighting w~s general along the whole of the frontier.

At this time

it became evident that French ground forces could not hold, and to relieve the pressure against them, the French moved their naval units into the Gulf of Thailand to seek out the Thai fleet. The engagement that took place on January 17, 1941, off the Koh Chang Islands was a l decisive defeat for the superior Thai naval forces. This precipitated Japanese intervention in the form of demands for an armistice. which the French were quick to accept. end of the month. Having closed the back door to China by moving forces into Tonkin, the Japanese next turned to the task of exploiting Indochina's position as the gateway to Southeast Asia. 1941. For this purpose, the Japanese government addressed a series of new demands to the French on July 14, The French, pressed by the Germans at home and finding no The agreements reached in late July pervisible means of support elsewhere, came to terms with the Japanese more quickly than before. mitted the Japanese to use eight airfields in south Indochina, the naval facilities at Saigon and Cam Ranh Bay, and to deploy unspecified numbers of troops into the country; set to become a Japanese base. The United States' reaction to this development was conveyed to the Japanese Ambassador in Washington by the Acting Secretary of State, Mr. Sumner Welles, on July 23 in the following words:3 The movement now undertaken by Japan could only be regarded by the United States as having two probable purposes, neither of which purposes this government could ignore: First, the United States could only assume that the occupation of Indochina by Japan constituted notice 1 Paul Auphan and Jacques Mordal, The F~ench Navy in World War II, U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, 1959, p. 195.

Hostilities were then terminated by the

in other words, Indochina was

Langer and Gleason, op. cit., p. 642.

3Ibid., p. 644.

to the United States that the Japanese government intended to pursue a policy of force and conquest, and second, that in the light of these acts on the part of Japan, the United States, with regard to its own safety in the light of its own preparations for self-defense, must 3ssume that the Japanese government was taking the last step before proceeding upon a policy of totalitarian expansion in the South Seas through the seizure of additional territories in that region. Deeds then follo-wed upon words, and on July 26 an executive order freezing all Japanese funds and assets in the United States was announced. This was followed by notification to Japan that the Panama Further, Philippine military Finally, the shipment to Canal would be closed for repairs.

forces were mustered into service with the United States Army. on August 1 the Presideni issued an order ~rohibiting SUitable for use as aviation fuels.

Japan of a list of strategic materials to include petroleum products Thus. positions hardened) and although negotiations between the United States and Japan were continued, the course toward Pearl Harbor was set. The opening moves of the war were a series of surprise attacks launched by the Japanese within a few hours of one another over the far reaches of the Pacific world. based in the home islands. The attack against Pearl Harbor was the task of Vice Admiral Naguwo's Pearl Harbor Striking Force, The moves against: Guam and Wake were the Hong General Homma's responsibility of Admiral Inouye's Fourth Fleet~ based at Truk. Kong was the target of locally based Japanese forces.

invasion of the Philippines was a two-pronged operation with the 14th Army striking from Formosan staging areas against northern Luzon, while other elements from Palau landed on Mindanao and Jato. the thai-Malay border by General Yamashita's Finally, Indochina served as the springboard for the amphibious assault astride 25th Army, and for the This overland inVasion of Thailand by the Imperial Guards Division.
- h·e ~nvas~on . t

last was followed shortly by General Iida's 15th Army, whose task was
Burma. 2

lIbid., p. 65l. ~asanobu Tsuji, Singapore, The J~panese Version, St. Martin's Press) New York, 1960.

As a consequence of these events the 30,000 European civilians 1 in Indochina found themselves in the precarious position of living in the midst of a native popu1atiQn that had on several occasions in the past demonstrated its nationalist tendencies, and a Japanese military community that looked upon the area as its own. Moreover, the French in Indochina were soon torn by the same doubts and dissensions over Vichy and Free France as their compatriots in Africa and in Europe. The combination of these factors, aggravated by the distance and isolation of Indochina from the stream of events in Europe and Africa, serves to explain in large part why there did not develop any immediate significant resistance movement in Indochina. For the Japanese, Indochina was a source of supplies and a well situated strategic base. And, since these assets could be exploited This, however, was with little difficulty, it served their purpose to allow the French to retain the outward trappings of authority. completely unsatisfactory to the Free French who, from the time that they had renewed their struggle against the Axis. entertained the hope of an early liberation of Indochina. These hopes began to take

form in the fall of 1943 when a decision was made to organize an Expeditionary Corps for operations in the Far East. At the same time French military personnel joined Force 136, an organization that had been created by the British in India for covert and commando type operations in Southeast Asia. In similar fashion, another French group had been established in Kunming in south China, initially to waintain contact with French elements in Indochina; and later to provide the basis for an agent net extending along the northern Indochinese border areas.

lCreat Britain, Naval Intelligence Division, Indochina, Geographical Handbook Series, 1942, p. 250. It should be noted that these figures related to all perSOns classed as Europeans regardless of race, color, Or nationality. Zu.S. Army in World War II, Rearming the French, Office of the Chief of Military History, Washington, D.C., 1957, p. 390. 3Jean Sainteny, Histoire d'un Paix Manqute, Amiot-Dumont, Paris, 1953, p. 21.

Liaison bet~een these t~o French groups in the Fa~ East was complicated by the fact that in accordance with Allied Command arrangements, Indochina was in the China theater. under Generalissimo strategic responsibility. This, while technically Chiang Kai-Chek, was in fact an area of American There was thus a wide difference in atti-

tude toward the French serving in India under Admiral Mountbatten's sympathetic South East Asia Command, and those forming Mission 5 in Kunming, where the Americans, reflecting Presid@nt Roosevelt1s anticolonial views, and particularly his reluctance to see the French return to Indochina, were cool and reserved.

Despite all difficulties, a resistance in Indochina did develop, and as the tide of war in the Pacific turned against the Japanese, the French became increasingly defiant. This situation eventually The French losses in became intolerable, and on March 9, 1945, the Japanese struck against the scattered French garrisons in the country. these actions were heavy, but by May some 6000 troops, mostly Europeans, 2 had fought their way out and were regrouped in south China. The Japanese then turned to native political figures to establish the forms of new government. the old name of Vietnam. On March 11, Baa Dai proclaimed the independence of the Empire of Annam, uniting Tonkin and Annam under Ihis was followed, on March 13, by the Admittedly Cambodia and Laos declaration of independence of the King of Cambodia; that of the King of Laos then followed on 20 April. ese in those countries. enjoyed a considerable degree of freedom, since there were few JapanHowever, there was little self-rule in Vietnam, and the weakness of the Baa Dai regime was emphasized by the unwillingness of many nationalists to support it, and by the fact that the Japanese had retained direct control of Cochinchina.

Charles de Gaulle, Salvation, 1944-1946, Simon and Shuster, New York, 1960, p. 191.


in World War II, op. cit., p. 393.

The lack of popular


for Bao Dai is readily groups



what had been happening

course of the preceding As Communists

to nationalist years, several

in Indochina.

In the the

of these groups,


in. 1940, had attempted



that had all been put down involved to Indein 1941, they began

by the French. had then made consolidate pendence Chiang Vietnam


many of the revolutionaries of Ho Chi Minh as the Vietnam called Viet Minh the confidence docile under Chinese

their way to south China where, the leadership This association,



in abbreviated
of Generalissimo group, the spy, sponsorship. Ho was evenguerrilla in

form, was too far to the left to enjoy Kai-Chek, Revolutionary League,

and in late 1942 a more was formed a section been jailed


Ho Chi Minh had meanwhile tually forces earnest. released

by the Chinese of the League.

as a French Viet Minh

and the Viet Minh had become and infiltrating 1 the avowed

in 1943, and the work of organizing them into North Vietnam

was undertaken

While Vietnam


of the Viet Minh movements it was evident

into North distributed the

was to fight the Japanese,

that the real object

was to drive out the French. in Moncay Japanese were in March

This is affirmed

in handbills would

1945 which

said that the Allies


and that it was for the Viet Minh to destroy the French, who 2 then in difficult straits. In any event, by May 1945 there were in Tonkin under Viet Minh control, and shortly before the of Japan the Viet Minh had organized to set up a new regime. to implement when and Chinese these plans occupation came during forces the month in Saigon the a People's National

six provinces collapse Liberation


The opportunity between when mid-August, the first British

the Japanese


and mid-September, arrived

and Hanoi


On August

25, Emperor

Bao Oai signed


op. cit., pp. 230-232.

2Sainteny, op. cit., p. 105.

3In accordance with agreements reached during the Potsdam meeting (July 1945), Indochina was to be divided at the 16th parallel for purposes of postwar occupation, with the southe~n segment to be a British responsibility, arid the northern one to be Chinese.


of abdication


wa s

"our authority

to the Democratic
2 by





on September

the signand his

ing of the declaration associates.

of independence of Vietnam

in Hanoi

by Ho Chi Minh claimed

The Republic of Vietnam Giap writes

thus created


over the whole Vo Nguyen words:


to include Tonkin, of these historic

Annam, events

and Cochinchina. in the following

In August 1945, the capitulation of the Japanese forces before the Soviet Army and the Allied forces, put an end to the world war. The defeat of the German and Nippon fascists was the beginning of a great weakening of the capitalist system. After the great victory of the Soviet Union, many people's democracies saw the light of day; The socialist system was no longer confined within the f~ontiers of a single country. A new historic era was beginning in the world. In view of these changes, in Viet Nam; the Indochinese Communist Party and the Viet Minh called the whole Vietnamese nation to general insurrection. Everywhere, the people rose in a body. Demonstrations and displays of fo~ce followed each othe~ uninterruptedly. In August, the Revolution broke out, neutralising the bewi1de~ed Nippon troops, overthrowing the pro-J&panese feudal authorities, and installing people's power in Hanoi and throughout the country, in the towns as well as in the countryside, in Bac Bo [No~th Vietnam] as well as in Nam Bo [South Vietnaml. In Hanoi, the capital, in :sicj September 2nd, the provisional gouvernment [sic] was formed around President Ho Chi Minh; it presented itself to the nation, proclaimed the independence of Viet Nam, and called on the nation to unite, to hold itself in readiness to defend the country and to oppose all attempts at imperialist aggreSSion. The Democratic Republic of Viet Nam was born; the first people's democracy in Southeast Asia. At the time of the Japanese 700 military wealth pe~sonnel
in India

capitulation, available duties

the French

had some the the

to accompany in Indochina

the Commonbelow

fo~ces ordered

to occupation detachment

16th parallel.

An initial

of 150 French

landed with

~o Nguyen Giap, People's New York, 1962, p. 13.

War, People's

Arm,(, Frederick

A. Praeger,



Brigade at Tan Son Nhut airfield


on September


The remainder
. 1

were embarked

the French warship Richelieu brigades at Cap St. Jacques

and landed with the other (Vung Tau) on October 2.

two Commonwealth

The situatioo clashes

in SCligon had been tense for some time, and when General Gracey,

broke out between the French and Vietnamese, commander, troops ~hom imposed martial the Japanese law.

the British the French

He also freed and rearmed

had interned a few months before. to regain control of the the French

On September city.

23, the reinforced

French were enabled

of the public buildings Resistance

in Saigon and resume the administration against

on the part of the Vietnamese

nevertheless General

continued. Leclerc, who had represented France at the surrender

ceremonies in Tokyo, soon arrived in Saigon to assume command of French 2 forces. On October 15 he flew to Cambodia, arrested the pro-Japanese premier, and cleared the way for a new government that would eventually over the country. 3

(January 7, 1946) agree to a return of French control On October debarking Infantry

22, the initial element of the French Expeditionary Divisian~ began As This was followed in November Leclerc by the 9th Colonial formed them that this once

Corps proper, a combat command from the 2nd Armored in Saigon. Division, and in December by a brigade

from Madagascar. quickly

these additional

forces landed, General

into flying columns which he used to extend French whole of Indochina south of the 16th parallel.

control over the

He realized

control was at best tenuous, the French troduce the French presence psychologically, ing him in the north.

since the Viet Minh quickly Nevertheless, throughout


forces had passed on.

he was anxious

to rein-

the south to pave the way-the far more difficult task await-

if nothing more--for

lThe details that follow are based primarily upon a series of lectures prepa~ed for the Ecole Superieure de Guerre (the French War College) on the Indochina War. 2The British formally relinquished the French in March 1946. 3A similar agreement control of south Indochina 1946. to

was reached with Laos in August


The return of th~ French in the south was facilitated by the cooperation of the British and the lack of firm control by the newly independent Vietnamese government over competing nationalist elements. The situation in the north was; however, far different. As soon

the word of the Japanese surrender reached Kunming, Yet, when he did arrive on August 22, he found

Jean Sainteny, the head of the French Mission there, made every effort to rush to Hanoi. there was little that he could do, for the government of Ho Chi Minh was firmly established in power, and the Chinese were expected to arrive momentarily to exercise their occupation functions. of the French thus became conditional on two counts: The return first, there had

to be an agreement whereby French troops would replace Chinese forces, and second, there had to be SOme form of accord with the Vietnamese government. The advance elements of the approximately 200,000 troops that the

Chinese were to dispatch to.Indochina nOl"th of the 16th parallel to receive the surrender of some 35,000 Japanese arrived in Ha~oi On September 15. There then began a period of systematic looting by the
at mor e

Chinese which, according to French estimates, involved the transfer of goods to China valued than 250 million Indochinese piasters. At this same time there retu~ned from exile certain Vietnamese nationalists, notably the Dong Minh Hoi party, who enjoyed the support of the Chinese military, and who had sufficient strength so that they could not be ignored by Ho Chi Minh. The French undertook negotiations with the Chinese in Chungking and, at the cost of major concessions, reached an agreement on February 28~ 1946, permitting them to move military forces into Indochina north of the 16th parallel. In this the french were probably assisted During this indirectly by the fact chat Chiang Kai-Chek needed his troops for operations against Chinese Communist forces in China. same period there had been a series of conve~sations between the French and Ho Chi Minh, in which it was evident there were compelling reasons for tolerance and compromise on both sides. Eventually this led to a "pre Limfnary agreement" which was signed in Hanoi' on March 6, 1946,



France recognized

the Democratic Federation declared

Republic within

of Vietnam

as a

"free state of the Indochinese and the Vietnamese in friendly national government

the French Union," with inter-

itself " ...~eady to welcome

fashion the French army when, in conformance it would relieve the Chinese of the preliminary


forces ...." agreement of

The conclusion March 6 removed 10,000 Vietnamese parallel on March regrouped


the last legal obstacle

to the return of the French,

and On the very day it was signed, the first of the 15,000 French and troops that were to be allowed north of the 16th began landing in Haiphong.l The French forces entered Hanoi 18 and soon thereafter there were French and occupied garrisons in Tourane Additionally, the forces that had been Phong 5aly and Sam Neua and Moncay. In major

(Danang). Hue, and Langson.

~n south China returned

in Laos, and the China bot"der-area towns of Laichau sum, in a little more than six months strategic restored. In April 1946, a Vietnamese agreement delegation points throughout Indochina.

the French had reoccupied Peace, however,

had not been

reached Paris

to elaborate with despite the

upon the preliminary status of Indochina" foreign powers."

of March 6 concerning relations

"the future

and the "diplomatic

of Vietnam

These were issues that had been left pending importance,

the fact that they were of major essentials wherein of Vietnamese

since they constituted became


This importance negotiations the French

evident in the course of the prolonged the divergence of views between the firmness of their positions

that ensued, and Vietnamese compromise and

made any satisfactory

lAS the French ships moved up the river toward Haiphong, they received heavy fire from the 130th Division of the 53rd Chinese Army. General Wang Hu Ruan, the commander, later explained that while he knew of the February 28 agreement concerning the relief of the Chinese by the French, he had not received implementing instructions. This was but one of many incidents that revealed the independent attitude of several Chinese commanders. It has been suggested that this independence was motivated by their desire to remain in Vietnam as long as possible and continue the accumulation of "tribute." In any event, the last Chinese unit did not leave Vi~tnam until September 1946.



However, while the Vietnamese delegation returned to

Haiphong on October 3 empty handed, Ho Chi Minh, who had participa~ed in many of the discussions during the previous months, remained in France to make

final effort co salvage something from this unhappy The result of this final gesture was

and inconclusive period.

"modus vivendi" signed on Sep tembe r 14, 1946, which p resc ribed inte rim measures intended to harmonize relations between the French and Vietnamese pending the resumption of negotiations in January 1947. The situation in Vietnam meanwhile had been deteriorating. and there was little hope that policies of moderation and conciliation could continue to be entertained. During the four months that Ho Chi

Minh had been away f~om Vietnam, his deputy, Vo Nguyen Giap, had

solidated the power of the Viet Minh in the north, and had largely destroyed the prospects for any adjustment of the basic differences with the French. Indeed there waa ~ven a period when Ho Chi Minh independence By the time that Ho Chi was labeled a traitor to the cause of Vietnamese because of his dealings with the French.

Minh returned to Vietnam aboard a French warship on October 21, the two final acts that were to lead to open warfare were only a few weeks away. The first of these occurred in November when the French Navy seized

junk preaumed to be loaded with contraband.

This touched

off the question of customs arrangements, which was already a sensitive issue between the French and Vietnamese. In the violence that quickly The second followed, the French unde~took operations to clear the city of Haiphong and caused heavy casualties among the civilian population.


series of violent and surprise attacks launched by Viet Minh

fo~ces against the French in Hanoi during the evening of December 19. Open fighting then broke out throughout much of Indochina and, despite later attempts at negotiations, the rupture between the French and Vietnamese was complete. The Indochina War had begun.

In the months that followed, the French were able to hold their own, and by ~he spring of 1947, reinforced with elements from France and Africa, they held the area frDm Hanoi to HaiphDng, together with


an extension centered

~p the coast to Langson.

They also controlled they had extended

an enclave themselves Finally,

on Nam Dinh.

In central Annam,

south of 'I'ou rane they controlled

and up along the coast as far as Dong Hoi.

the approach

to Laos inland from Dong Hs along Route 9. together ~.Jiththe into the upper mountain forces, had moved

At the same time, Ho Chi Minh and his government, major portion of the Viet Minh country of Tonkin near the Chinese border. Following upon an abortive offensive attempt

for a resumption

of negotiations embarked

between the French and Vietnamese upon a political the beginning ing the former Emperor

in early 1947, the French

against the Ho Chi Minh government that eventually


Bao Dai to return to the throne.

This marked led to the

of a long ~nd complex process into two separote

division of Vietnam

states in 1954. in August 1945, agreed to serve

Bao Dai had, upon his abdication the Ho Chi Minh government

as an advisor.

In that capacity he had In 1947, at the Baa Dai delayed return

been sent to China, from where he had never returned. time of the French approach, limited following in Vietnam. making any commitments Under the circumstances,

he was living in Hong Kong and had a very that he.wou1d

to the French and announced called him.

home only when the people the Provisional

The first step to this end Baa Dai, however, did

occurred on May 20, 1948; when pro Baa Dai groups were able to organize Central Government until April of Vietnam. 1949, when not return to Vietnam the way had been clea~ed

for him to become Chief of State. The United States supported January 1950 the French government these developments; ratified and when in

the treaties with the regard~


States that cleared away the last legal formalities both the United States to it.

ing the Bao Dai government, Kingdom extended by an announcement

and the United in May

formal recognition by the Secretary and economic

This was followed security

of State that the United States and develop

would grant military "genuine nationalism"

aid to restore

in Indochina.


These events had their parallels in the north.

First, the

extension of Communist control over the whole of China in 1949 provided Ho Chi Minh with a secure and readily accessible supporting base immediately to his rear. Then, in early 1950 the government of fioChi Minh was formally recognized by Communist China and the USSR. Finally, in mid-year, the schism between the major opposing factions in Indochina and cheir adherents throughout the world was deepened and widened by the outbreak of the Korean war. In the military domain,' the French had decided to take advantage of the dry season during the latter part of 1947 to seek out and destroy the main Viet Minh forces in the Tonkin highlands. troops. They estimated that the task would take six months and require 20,000 However, because of developments in Madagascar, only 12,000 troops, including four infantry battalions borrowed from Cochinchina, could be assembled for offensive operations in Tonkin, which, moreover, had to be terminated by the end of the year. Operations began on October 8, 1947! with the drop of two parachute battalions on Cao Bang and Bac Kan. This was followed by the sweep The 1a~ger of two task forces advancing parallel to one another. Cao Bang, and as far west as Thai Nguyen.

force of 8000 men moved overland out of Langson along Route 4 to The smaller force of 4000 These operations men moved up the Clear River as far as Tuyen Quang.

were successful in that the Viet Minh were cleared out of the northeast border area and more of the frontier was brought under French control. However, the main Viet Minh forces had been driven off rather destroyed) and the requirement to garrison additional remote border posts aggravaced what was already a preca~ious position for the French. Early in 1948 Cochinchina became increasingly insecure and it was necessary to return the battalions that had been borrowed. At the same time the ground component of the Expeditionary Corps was gradually reduced in strength to the point where, in May, it had dropped from 115,000 to 108,000 men. Despite these ~roblems, the French considered it essential to mak€ every effort to improve the cohesiveness of their dispositions, which at the time included numbers of remote and separated units. In Cdchinchina, this decision led to the establishment of


an extensive repeated resources

system of fortified military later in Tonkin. only some minimum

posts, which was to be in the positions to gain the

and improved permitted

In the north, the limited improvements intended areas. a governfrom in

along Route 4, and the initiation support of the ethnic minorities In mid-year, following

of a campaign in the highland

upon the first moves to organize

ment under Bao Dai, there was a shift in the military politico-military Vietnamese commander while activities for the purpose Corps. General


that of seeking battle with the Viet Minh to that of engaging of enhancing Blaizot, solidarity in support of the new government. still required approval

FrancoThe new

of the Expeditionary

had suggested

in Paris that this new mission battalions

substantial the

forces, and before leaving had obtained of 12 additional recruitment military of native Indochinese

for the deployment in auxiliary

to Indochina. personnel

In the meantime, for service


had also begun. of these actions during the personnel the months situation began co

As a consequence

to improve, and it was possible occupy Sontay, Vietri, The French

that followed thenceforth,

Hung Hao, and adjacent

areas to the south.

forces on the Red and Black Rivers were,

firmly linked together, and" could be resupplied This in turn released substantial These same operations controlled

by inland waterway. for other purposes.

airlift capacity

also served to cut in two the vast Viet Minh from Vinh, on the coast, clear up to

area that extended

Ha Giang on the Chinese border. As a result of all of these activities, French the positions of the

forces in the Tonkin delta had considerably of 1949. In contrast,

improved by the it increas-


the Viet Minh was making their garrisons resupply the situation The monthly

ingly costly fo~ the French become a major operation. was favorable.

to resupply

in the northeffort had generally and In

east border areas along Route 4. The pacification enlisting

In Cochinchina,

was progreSSing


the number of natives

with the French was growing.

central Annam, however,

there were difficulties.

The French had only

six battalions to cover 300 km of coastal fringe. The Viet

Minh had moved well armed elements into the plateau area, and these were harassing the French and were infiltrating into the villages, where they were regaining control over the people. become quite ha~ardous. At this same time, the flow of reinforcements and the recruiting of local perso'nnelhad permitted the buildup of the ground forces to 122,000 men. This was still far less than what was required, but it did nevertheless represent a net gain coming at a propitious moment. General Blaizot had been following developments in China closely since the fall of 1948, and had concluded ~hat Chinese Communist forces could reach the Indochina border by mid-1949. Accordingly, he had urged upon M. Leon Pignon, the High Commissioner, a plan calling for a major military effort in the north to weaken and disorganize the Viet Minh to the maximum extent possible before Chinese assistance could be made available. The High Commissioner was, howeve~, deeply involved in the delicate negotiations that were to return Bao Dai to Vietnam in April 1949, and did not want to risk the possibility of perturbations in the south that might adversely affect the forthcoming ar~angements. In February 1949 he therefore rejected General Blaizot's proposals for large-scale offensive operations in the north in favor of an extension of the pacification, particularly in Cochinchina and Annam. The decision was reversed in March whe~ the government in Paris, alarmed by the Chinese threat, directed the deployment of additional forces to Indochina. In response to this new development, the French command proposed first to gain firm control over the rice-producing area north of the general Hanoi-Haiphong line to deny the res~urces to the Viet Minh. Following upon that, and as further reinforcements These bases were to be used by At the same time became available, advance offensive bases were to be established at Thai Nguyen, Phu Tho, and Yen Bay_ mobile forces tasked with penetrating into the Viet Minh mountain ~edoubt to effect the maximum destruction there. Moreover, Route 9 from Dong Ha On the coast to Savannakhet on the Mekong Rive~ had


that these offensive border mobile against area garrisons formations. possible

bases were being organized, were to be reduced the Tonkin

the several

exposed The forces the

and consolidated.


by this consolidation Finally,

could then be used to reinforce delta was to be protected forces deployed



by covering


the southern

exits of the highlands. in June 1949 and, as the first reinforceCOntrol was extended to the north of Hanoi increasingly

This plan was approved ments Yen.



from France,

by the occupation difficult

of Bae Ninh, Phu Lang Thuong, Vinh ,Yen, and Phuc it had become to continue to implement the plan, since the

By the end of the year, however, for the French

bulk of the reinforcements The weakening had permitted southwest

were being diverted

to the south. in the north This not

of the French offensive


the Viet Minh

to attack and seize Pho Lu; SQme 30 km the Red River enterS China. the French position

of Lao Kay where

only served to further also permitted tions with north Annam. fied their efforts northeast. October


at Lao Kay, but communicain the and

the Viet Minh against

to reestablish

their overland

At the same time, the Viet Minh had intensithe French line of communications upon the September

The losses they had inflicted

(1949) convoys were so heavy

that the French had had to turn of the 500 tons of supplies The French had hoped of the burden

to their Air Force to ensure required that by relieving of safeguarding

the delivery

by the border garrisons

each month.

their 12 battalions

in the northeast

their communications, capabilities

they would have been able to against Viet Minh to undertake communications

improve their offensive with the Chinese. operations northwest against

This hope did not materialize. the Viet Minh,

In the course of any significant positions by

most of 1950, the French were unable of Lang Son were confined

and indeed many of the garrisons to their defensive in the area was

Viet Minh pressure.

The only freedom of movement

1These moves were directed by General B1aizot shortly final departure from Indochina on September 2, 1949.

before his


enjoyed by the Viet Minh, who made full use of the opportunity to accumulate supplies from China and undertake the systematic training of thousands of recruits in base camps organized in China near the border. The situation remained generally inconclusive until SepCember 16, 1950, when the Viet Minh carried by assault the French-held post at Dong Khe on Route 4. Ihis was accompanied by renewed Viet Minh activAs a consequence of these evidences ity in the vicinity of Lao Kay.

of Viet Minh offensive strength, the French decided to consolidate their forces in the northwest border area around Lao Kay, and to withdraw all garrisons along Route 4 beyond Langson. around Lao Kay was carried out without difficulty. Bang on October 3! 1950, had a disastrous outcome. aggregating 15,000 men. their equipment. These costly misfortunes, aggravated by a developing Viet Minh encirclement in the Lao Kay area, forced the French to undertake further withdrawals and consolidations of their forces. were completed in November 19Sq, When these movements the French held only the heart of the The consolidation However, the series The Viet Minh sensed

of operations in the northeast that began with the evacuation of Cao the significance of the French moves and quickly assembled a force These were employed with such speed and skill that in ten days the outnumbered French had lost seven battalions and

Tonkin delca, togethe~ with a narrow coastal strip from Haiphong to Moncay, plus the high ground in the northwest between Than Uyea and Nghia La. these events made it abundantly clear that Chinese aid l to the In

Viet Minh had made the French posicion in Indochina highly precarious, and that the main French effort had to be made in the north.

lThe extent of this aid is difficult to ascertain. However, the French report that the following was furnished during the second half of 1952: 20 howitzers, 10S-mm; 2000 machine pistols; 80 heavy machine guns; 100 trucks; 130,000 pairs of shoes; 2 summer uniforms per man; 800,000 liters of gasoline; 10,000 rounds, l05-rnm; 1 million rounds, .50 cal; 300 tons of medical supplies.


response to the gravity of the situation, the French consolidated the po~ers of the High Commissioner and Commander in Chief in the person of General de Lattre de Tassigny on December 17, 1950. They also undertook) in agreement with Baa Dai, to organize an independent Vietnamese Army whose immediate function would be to relieve part of the Expeditionary Corps of pacification duties so that the main French forces could be concentrated in the north. At this same time the By the end of 1950, French government dispatched additional forces to Indochina to cOmpensate for the losses that had been sustained. therefore, the strength of the Expeditionary Corps was slightly higher than the 152,000 men with which it had started the year. The dynamic personality of General de Lattre, who personally took command in Hanoi, quickly made itself felt. Viet Minh efforts to exploit their successes of September and October 1950 by new attacks in December and January were checked--the last with unusually high Viet Minh losses. The French pOsitions around the delta were improved In the regrouping and reorganization by the organization of a system of fortified posts similar to the ones that had been built in the south. of the French forces, the organization of mobile groups, and the creation of speCialized commandos for long-range counterguerrilla and intelligence gathering missions were among the more notable innovations. In May 1951 the Viet Minh launched a violent attack against Ninh Binh. action. This was repulsed and marked the last time that the Viet Minh made an effort to penetrate into the Tonkin delta by direct military

By the latter part of 1951 the French, in turn, considered they

At the time the French

had the strength for a limited offensive. Moncay.

still held only the Tonkin delta plus an extension along the coast to In addition, they held the highlands to the west of the delta This isolated area was separated from the in the area above Nghia La.

main French delta position by a Viet Minh line of cOmmunications that linked their northern mountain redoubt with the Than Hoa area along. the coast south of the delta. In November 1951 the French launched The an operation to seize Hoa Binh and sever these communications.

initial phases of the offensive were successful, but they caused a


violent Viet Minh reaction that eventually involved sOme 40,000 of their troops. In the course of the numerous engagements that ensued, the French were finally forced eo evacuate their forward positions. Nevertheless, when che campaign ended in March 1952, General Salan) the new Commander in Chief,l expressed general satisfa~tion with the operation in that it had cost the Viet Minh 22,000 casualties) as against French losses of 1,588. In October 1952, after having regrouped and rebuilt their forces, the Viet Minh launched a general offensive in the northwest. In the course of two months of violent combat in difficult mountain country the Viet Minh succeeded in confining the French into the two strongholds of Na San and Lai Chau. vigorous Viet Minh attacks. 1,500 dead. These pOSitions were held despite The last of such attacks launched against

Na San during the night of December 1-2, 1952, cost the Viet Minh In January 1953 the Viet Minh resumed their offenSive, The French but shifted the weight of their effort to upper Laos. the Plain of Jars and Luang Prabang.

were forced upon the defensive and weJ;'e only able to hold, bases in By May, when the Viet Minh In October 1953 the General Navarre, paused again, they controlled all of upper Laos. preViously been evacuated by the French in August.

Viet Minh resumed their offensive and threatened Lai Chau; Na San had who had assumed command in Indochina a few months before, considered that it was necessary to divert the Viet Minh from Lai Chau and cover Laos. He accordingly directed that a communication center near the landed at Dien Bien Laos border be occupied for this purpose, and at 10:35 On the morning of November 20, 1953, the first French parachutists Phu. The final act of the Indochina War had begun.

IGeneral de Lattre left Indochina in November 1951.



in Chief

of the Far East



Volume 2


Commander Far Ea s t

in Chief

The enemy we fought for the past nine years used, under of self-criticism, a time honored practice of our own a~ed

the name forces

which we simply call the critique. which means routinely followed

This collective

self appraisal has been our best

upon our field exercises

for studying The application

and Lmp rov'i.ngourselves. of this same technique of introspection

to the



of war may appear highly unusual.

Yet, we must to ensure that locked

review the causes of our failures the lessons which we bought

and of our successes

so dearly with our dead not remain

away in the memories

of the survivors. that an a~y with a long history is sufficiently

We can also admit well endowed

to be able to hear the truth. to be learned from the campaign in Indochina which

The lessons are presented

here have been based

for the most part upon narratives reports submitted


of the partiCipants officers documents directives

and upon 1400 after· action Reference bulletins, include

of all ranks.

has also been made training during

to a variety


such as information of information intelligence



issued by the High Command

the course

of hostilities.

Other sources assembled

reports prepared in Chief to bring

at the end of data

major operations,


and statistical (CINe). together

by the staff of the Commander it has been difficult as to time, place, to correspond the material

Admittedly, and intensity

under a nature and whose echelons documents; the

single cover the experiences varied

of an entire war; a war whose and even season; with

lessons had to be organized of command to which

it waS decided

the several

they applied.

To meet these several


to organize

into three separate

The first volume, lessons which,

of very limited distribution,


due to cheir importance

and politico-military


character, operations o

are of COnCern

only to the High Command. encountered outside

It con-

tains a summary

of the problems

in the course of

which were primarily intended

the domain of tactics. groups the outside to be

The second volume, together campaign everything

for wide dLstribution,

learned during if we were

the Armed Forces

which would still be relevant

called upon to counter a similar of Europe. o Finally, general the third volume, with character

type of rebellion

the same wide


as the second, principles,

seeks to group all the lessons of a more which have a bearing upon tactical

The fine line drawn between

the contents

of the second volume while But this that the

and the third may seem at times debatable. with the thousand the other dQals mainly with European-style division, fortunes based on convenience, of war admit only of didactical

The first deals mainly

and One fo rms of the Viet Minh guerrilla, combat methods. classification. must not lead one to forget

Saigon; May 31; 1955

lsi P. Ely
General, French Army Commissioner General of France and Commander in Chief, Indochina




3 Generals 8 Colonels 18 Lieutenant-Colonels 69 Majors 341 Cap tains 1,140 Lieutenants 2,683 6,008 12,019 14,093 2. MISSING French French and 2nd Lieutenants Officers A£rican, and Corps

Non-Commissioned Soldiers

NCO and other Legionnaires Indigenous

ra.nks; North-African, personnel


of the Expeditionary


1 Lieutenant~Colonel

5 Maj ors
60 Captains 134 Lieutenants and 2nd Lieutenants Officers and Soldiers African, and Corps ranks; North-African, personnel 2,755 Non-Commissioned 5,791 NCO and other Legionnaires 12,830



of the Expeditionary


20,899 24,347

French Legionnaires, North-Africans, personnel and Africans

26,924 Indigenous
4. MEDICAL EVACUEES )1,291 5. Officers

and men BY THE ENEMY



16,118 Officers

and men





1 General 60 Officers 160 N~n-Commi$sioned Officers

49 Other ranks


85 Officers

243 Non-Commissioned
52 Other





39 Petty Officers
235 Seamen

ANNUAL LOSSES (all services)

1947 (heaviest 1950 1953 1954 (Vietnamese Army only) losses)


9,790 6,473

2,849 2,590

9,203 6,822







** **

111£ guerrilla objective, objective aspirations for it will support, it will which


lacks a political If it has a political with ~he the


is incompacible

of che people not receive

it will

fqil as well,

from the people

the participation, collaboration

the assistance, that are essential.

and the active

'IIt is as if the .peopLe were

the sea and for

the anny a fish.

sea? But should

How can it be difficult

if it is immersed the water

the fish to survive

in this

recede or become

dry then the fish cannot escape sure death."

Mao Tse Tung




A preinsurgency period is difficul~ to define.

appear to begin when opposition to established law and order acquires sufficient influence over the population to provoke disturbances. In Indochinat such a period undoubtedlY began about 1925 and It thus lasted Some twenty years and could

waS highlighted by the grave incidents of 1930 in North Annam and in the Tonkin delta area. have lasted longer had not events arising from the war, namely, the elimination of French authority by the Japanese in 1945, given the Viet Minh Party the opportunity to fill the void created. The lessons to be drawn from this period only confirm several

11- established rules.


those rules were ignored, it was because

the incipient insurgency was not suspected, and the rebellion did not follow a traditional pattern--a development that took us by surprise.

The various reports relating to the prewar situation gave an optimistic view of internal security and placed responsibility the use of force was normal and adequate. "One might wonder if the errors committed in estimating the situation were not due in part to the ultra-conservative training trends, of our administrators who were unable to discern evolutionary the Vietnamese people."l Here is what a man supposedly well experienced in matters related to Indochina wrote in 1932 after the .epression of the Yen-Bai revolt which he blamed on too wide a diffusion of our ideas and on our exc e ssLva Iy liberal policies. 2 "Rather than undermine tradition, for the incidents and disturbances upon lawless individuals against whom

and in part to their standards of living which kept them apart from

lColonel X, commanding a zone (territorial division) in the Tonkin.


Mr. de Pouvou rv i.Ll.a from the collection ,


They Think."


it would

be wise

to rely on it and not do anything which might be In this manner, our successors will tD as the future is revealed


or alien to it ....

not have to face too many surprises them in the




time." for by our overseas representatives,

This future must be prepared They must be more responsive

tD the ideologies

of native movements, but also their

and stand ready tD satisfy not only their material emotional needs. these events,

Colonel N, who had followed On the use of force relating revolts were brought cost dearly! to heel:


in 1954 "Prewar that of

to this same Yen-Bai


these were short-lived


Force did more harm

than good; the Tonkin. village

X, which was shelled, was to remain a hotbed ot revolt, and North

Annam, which was occupied by small elements, was to see no more Frenchmen EVOLUTION after 1945.,,1 OF THE

animated by a racial patriotism replaced and a new set Qf flags"

An adversary Cochinchinese ambition,

ideals based on Xarxism


the "black


pirates, who were most often motivated Leaders

by personal educated in leaders from among

greed, or Some local patriotism. These,

Paris or trained in China or even Moscow were the mass of the population. of the areaS frDm which through the traditional xenophobia, propaganda recognized


as the natural

they came, were able to influence


appeals used to arouse native masses: etc. The Communist techniques of also helped classes. i.e., nationalism and Marxism, was them to qUickly gain the

anti-colonialism, and indDctrination

support of the less fortunate This ideologic paralleled rebellion benefited.



by a dualism

in the nature of the support

frDm which the

On the one hand,

the Viet Minh made maximum

CDlonel X, zone commander in North Vietnam. ASee translator's footnotes at the end of each section.


use of the local resources and terrorism; foreign nature nations

it had secured

for itself by intimidation support of

on the other hand,

it had the outside circles.

as well as some French elements

It found,

in fact, This

a certain

deg~ee of sympathy

of an official of our public

as well as clandestin~ the rebels

from within

and government.

of sympathy
the phase

and material

aid quickly allowed

circumstances formatiOns,

to pass beyond of the year

of the armed bands which were characteristic

and the to units of


Due to these favorable

passage of time, they passed from regular

combined arms) and finally to major units.


What we have observed
known in our African continuity that certain in Indochina confirms History cradles areas

a fact already
or reveal movements,


there exists a permanence and geography of insurgent

in the canters of unrest.

regions are traditional

and these later serve as preferred

for the guerrillas. has always of Reeds, shown

It is in the provinces
itself to be proud,

where the population

forms (the Plain Langson, with

bold and independent surrounding during

that the ~evolt has taken the region etc.). It is striking often

on the most acute and intense of Vinn, the mountains to compare battles ~hich occurred

some recent engagements

the history of certain The events were Some of the writings in the same vein

the conquest.

the same and even happened

at the same places.

from Tonkinese


to our forces were written

as Viet Minh pamphlets. The modern tional factors. urban facilitated era was to add its awn contributions of a proletariat (in particular to these tradi19,

The existence disturbances

in the cities has those of December rapidly

1946),6 and meanWhile b~ing .exhausted. made it impossible

the patience

of the ru~al masses was of these preinsurgency to the ?roblem

The very nature

conditions in

for the solution

to be found

the use of force alone.


The authorities more at the political, level.

responsible economic, requires

for law and order have to intervene and social level than at the police that the task of maintaining law and


order not be confused with that of countering

the cause of un res t prudence

As long as the leaders of the revolt must exercise and caution, we must not resort to severe repressive is up to the authorities, therefore,


"Rebel It

leaders will always try to burn their bridges and become outlaws. to ensure that SOme link with

these people can be continued out losing face or prestige."l

so that they can eventually

rally with-


The vety structure the task of maintaining of our Armed Forces makes them ill-suited law and order.


A period of incipient time to prepare

is thus very useful in that it provides Forces and to alert reinforcements

to r i e s

the Armed

which are to come from other terri-

us with few positive of the deficiencies concern officers lessons On this in our readiness to "native

The Indochina War provides issue, but it does point up measures. Many officers


that the Expeditionary similar

Corps lacked a group of "area qualified" affairs" officers available A multiplicity officers assisted problems relating

for North Africa. can only be resolved by qualified by civilian officials. These include the conduct of etc., by almost

of problems as necessary

to the collection by underground including

of intelligence,

special operations the recruiting

forces, counterintelligence; local policies, as required

and training

of local forces as well as the assembly

of' general information, military commanders.

In Indochina

such tasks were of necessity

always assigned spoke Vietnamese not establish

to people who did not know the area and who neither nor any of the local dialects, liaison with and consequently could the inhabitants.


lComments of Major X on the pacification

of South Vietnam.


Specialists are indispensible from the very beginning of a preinsurgency pe~iod; for it goes without saying that their recruitment and training cannot be the work of several weeks or even several months. The preparation of the theater of operations is no less necessary. It should include in particular: o General staff studies on command structure, territorial organization, and initial operations. to be undertaken on the basis of two or three simple assumptions. o A complete documentation

every region, to include sector

area folders and transportation maps. o Initial development of facilities as finances permit (lines of communication, naval and air bases, logistics installations, signal communications, etc). The intelligence gathering activities should be organized by the identification of potential agents, the establishment of suitable contacts, and the creation of agent nets in hostile zones. under Marxist control was confirmed.) (In Indochina, the difficulty of introducing agents into a region already Thus, the first steps to establish agent nets must be taken (.ell in advance.

When Violence, sabotage, and rioting reach the stage when such acts can no longer be controlled by the police, it becomes necessary to use the Armed Forces. But it would be well to avoid "The but it does not Armed forces, certain mistakes, which Colonel Xl has emphasized as follows: physical presence of armed forces is neces$a~, follow that these must be actively engaged.

To do so precipitately

may be the signal for the beginning of open hostilities,

most often used to protect critical areas and communications (these Zone commander in Tonkin, who had also traveled extensively in IndOChina.


being ment,

the essential




the military,

the govc rnthe

and the local economy) being Either dependent

may sssume either upon the situation themselves,

of two postures, and not upon making any

Onu selected
fixed rule. force

they Can reveal

a show of their objectives that the Armed that

if necessary,
but without

or they can be discreet, ostentation. engaged,

securing likely

quickly Forces

If it appears

are to be actively

it is absolutely


this eventuality a

be anticipated: of objectives: forces There is too often Since a force

As to the selection tendency to employ

on secondary


is the final argument,


its use must be decisive. types of operations with often

Clearing, yield


and related



not compatible

the effort and

involved. demonstrate

In these cases, their relative

they irritate

the population Thus,


they are

to be undertaken

in the preinsurrection of obtaining


only when results.

there is a certainty o As to duration; action and must

significant limited

It must be strictly not be unduly

to the selected that be


This means

the precise carefully from it. o


of the mission as well

and its purpose which



as the results

are expected

As to procedures: consequences are such

The seriousness

of the psychological of armed and forces


from the engagement to be used must

that the procedures to be engaged to have

the magnitude to the task. rather

of the forces

be adequate

It is preferable than a series of economy "While problems sought

short massive


of weak

operations. should

In short,

the principle

of forces

be rigorously under

applied. will create is

the engagement

of forces

such conditions forgotten

for the commander, a definite

it must not be but limited All

that what



is a psychological actions and should

impact upon public


else are police


not be given to the Army unless

the services




tasks are unab l e to aCCOmp lish chem ,"

In conclusion,
available to prepare

from the moment an incipient for eventual



can be

identified, it is essential

to use the remaining time that may be and to set uP. if need

be, a corps of area specialists.

the masses the use of armed with

forces becomes


their commitment

must be undertaken

great care, for the psychological



will be as important

as any impact upon rebel units,



~"B1ac;:k flags" was a term originally used co designate Chinese pirates who roamed the Tonkin highlands until 1910. It later continued in use as a term to identify oandit groups, 6 The events of December 19, 1946, were more than "urban dist u rbanc es" in that this date marks the beginning of open warfare between French and Viet Minh forces. cFrench forces arriving in Indochina at the end of World War II were organized and equipped as were comparable U,S. units.






always involves a conflict between two doctrines when one of the adversaries concepts of world affairs.

two wills.

In addi-

tion, civil war brings another opposition that of differing The multiple weaknesses

into opposition.

There is yet

is inspired by Marxism--

causes which

led to the triumph of the Vit:.t rigidity and over the governmental too well known; there ex i.s ed constitnt

Minh ideology over the social of traditional HOne could not reestablish

Vietnam are on the whole a new order where

tional and social disorder."l,2 There is not one French bitterness soldier, below embarked factors. obliged fighting man who has not expressed For instance, his

and often his anger at the contradictions to uphold.

that he, as a


the view expressed

is relatively mild: at night between Returning

"In 1946, to carry out our duties, we two rows of guards as if we were maleby

in 1953, we were searched tourists.,,3

the Vietnamese

Customs as if we wer~ The majority effectively

of the statements

are more bitter and reflect .11£ we were unable it is because we did not to Communism from "The

the 1:0

opinion of these two officers: fight Communist id~ology

Captain P;


offer a positive

as an alternative

which would have come a doc t rLne and- a faith." Franco-Vietnamese the traditions, backed everything the old people, desires~ etc.

Colonel N:

that was dying in this country: The Viet Minh used all that etc,"

was new and emerging:

1 2

ideals~ youth,



The Viet Minh made much of statistics such as these: 58 percent of Vietnamese families do not own an inch of land, 39 percent own less than 5 hectares; 2 percent own from 5 to 20 hectare$~ and 0.34 percent possess more than 50 hectares (translation of document No. 953/FTNV/2 of April 6, 1955).


Z of the F.T.S.V.

[Ground Forces, South Vietnam].


The conduct of the war at the diplomatic and political level


beyond the responsibility of the Military Command.

However, the

fact remains that "ideology was one of if not the principal weapon in the struggle and could not be ignored, since the support of the people was the issue and our adversary was Communism."l The Expeditionary Corps was unfortunately denied the right to use this ideological weapon axcept in certain domains and then only under severe restrictions. Ihus, this section will simply recount our successes and failures in those areaS where the several Commanders in Chief were able to engage in psychological warfare with considerable reservations. IMPACT ON THE VIEINAMESE PEOPLE In the zones that our units attempted to sanitize or preserve from Viet Minh contamination, as arms. But the troops and the cadres were, with rare exception, rather poor at persuasion and indoctrination. training: First of all, they lacked "Political action is not part: of our training •.•our cadres
. 2

it was normal to use propaganda as well

were ill at ease and unhappy over problems concerned with making contacts with the population, of propaganda, etc.1I tiThe majority of the cadres revealed again and again a profound ignorance on the subject: of civic action ...these destroyed what others had worked so hard to build. Take, for example, the Village of 0, on the Bassac. One of our platoon leaders had ,ucceeded by dint of much patience in winning over and resettling 2,OQO inhabitants in what had been au abandoned area, of the people. This village waS the pride of my company. UnfortunatelY, upon our departure, an incompetent took charge and lost the confidence It did not take more than 15 days for D to be entirely abandoned and burned by the very people who had inhabited it, who preferred to return to the Viet Minh zone rather than put up with the
1 2

Lieutenant N, company commander in Nort:h Vietnam.

Commander 0, commander of s/sector F.T.C.V. [Ground Forces, Central Vietnam] .


annoyances who were

of an unsatisfactory

commander aspects

and of military


ignorant of the political to undertake

of their mission."l numerand

In attempting
ou s officers

civic action in thei~ sectors, destroyed



"All their efforts

a few day s by the alienated from



a mobile

unit that did not know the local conditions, information

left without

having killed a single Viet, but having


those who had been giving us the Viet Minh.,,2 to a general ignorance

and fighting with

us against

In addition officers commander Vietnamese missions,

of political

factors, very few asked the local

knew the country

and the language:

"We often

to use propaganda. we need preparatory

But how can he?


He does not speak For these for a

and knows neither' the customs nor the country.

but above all a large core of real been emphasized.A


We will not pursue qualified

this point since the necessity affairs has already

corps of officers The influence the population


in native

a commander

could expect his troops to have On by the very form of the operations. "that psychological When the Viet for on

was also handicapped



Commaride r P (F.T.N.V.),

action and military wiped out a po s t our counter


action are closely

interconnected. or carried

blew up a, train or vehicle,

out an ambush, except

actions had little effect upon

the population

the fines imposed or our reprisals.

a Viet entrenched ~n a village,

When we mounted

an operation



was subjected

to the same destructive Viet Minh propaganda


as was the Viet.

In both cases, remarks apply


the masses with a reaSon to hate us. These

Thus~ we lost both recruits deterioration from within.

and intelligence."

to those zones where we fought essentially

against ~hat may be called

In the regions under Viet Minh control, where forays, We almost always had to pay for military


sometimes by




N, district commander F.T.S.V.

[Ground Forces, North Vietnam].

2captain R~ Laos. 3 Commander L, F.T.N.V.


alienating the peopl~.

The peopl~ who initially believed in the

return of the Franco-Vietnamese forces observed a benevolent neutrality toward us and even gave us some tokens of loya Lty , later found themselves abanaoned to Viet Minh reprisals. attempt to rally the population. Considering how unfavorable the conditions were, it is easy to explain the mediocrity of the results obtained. The utilization of modern propaganda methods had not; however, been totally neglected. From 1946 to 1952, a "propaganda section" was included in the staff of the Commander in Chief and in those of the territo"ial commanders. This staff section prOVided both instructional guidance and materiel support to the zone and sector intelligence officers. In 1953 a "Bureau of Psychological Warfare" waS added to the staff of the Commander in Chief. increasing funds. Courses for training propagandists were organized. All types of This organization received ever Therefore, a raid Dr a foray into a noncontrolled ZOne should never be associated with any

p~inted matter, bulletins, and posters were distribut@d; exhibition rooms were set up; mobile units were equipped with sound mnplifi~rs; millions of pamphlets were air-droppedl and airplanes equipped with loudspeakers were used frequently. This belated effort was~ however~ handicapped by the scarcity of competent personnel. For "modern ideological wars reqUire personnel Aside from questions of trained in political action and propaganda.

doctrine, there is a technique with which the greatest possible number of officers must be acquainted, and in which a certain number 2 should specialize. II

lThirty-one million in the month of January 1951 alone, Commander 5, commander of s/sector F.T.S.V.


UIPACT ON ENEMY TROOPS \Vhile direct propaganda hold of the political on Viet Minh troops re su l t e-' or deserters because

n only a the strong

very small number of conversions

cadres on the soldiers, we did have consider-

able success with prisoners. The P.I.M. belong


were handled

in several ways.

Those who did not period, transto recruit to our troops. effort, lif~

to the regular Army were, from which

after a probationary

ferred to labor units coolies who willingly became devoted Without an intentional

it was never difficult faithful auxiliaries

served in our forces. and concentrated

These almost always

and extraordinarily

psychological auxiliary

among our troops succeeded of the former adversary

in the great majority

of cases in making who came to share

a kind of unarmed

in the esprit de corps of their units. "In my battalion,11 says Captain absorbed of loyalty partisans.IIB In regard to P.I.M. who had to undergo Psychological Action from 1952 onwards. majority In the camps where a detention period, the (underground searches, X (F.T.S.V.), "we rapidly evidence

our IP.I.M.' and there were many who gave positive for example)

and asked to become

Service was able to make a significant this service

impact the


of prisoners, government,

once sorted and separated the National


from the diehards, (on Vietnam) the open to the and

showed themselves Vietnamese

to be receptive

to indoctrination Army,

the prospects

youth of Vietnam, etc.) . .. Lnte 11ectua 1 traLnLng. 2


and capable

of receiving


These personnel, designated under the general name of P.I.M. (Interned Military Prisoners), fell into different categories according to their origins (regular, guerrilla, political cadre) and their degree of contamination. 2 For example, 2,000 P.I.M. were treated thus in Camp X; in the Tonkin in 1952-1954, 900 served in the Vietnamese Army, where they served with honor; 1,100 were able to be released.


These two completely different kinds of results illustrate that political reeducation is possible. prisoners into the same camp. In addition, they condemn a penal system that throws together, without distinction, all An effort to assure a ~egree of comfort to the captives and, of course, the suppression of all brutality, is essential for the creation of an atmosphere conducive to rehabilitation. VIET MINH INFLUENCE ON OUR TROOPS With the exception of indigenous units recruited from ethnic minorities which were always hostile to the Viet Minh because of racial differences, the Vietnamese Army. The Dich Van movement (literally, to approach the enemy) was carefully nurtured by the Viet Minh National Defense Ministry. Abundant documentation proving this fell into our hands. the enemy found a favorable ground for its propaganda among nacive personnel in our units and, of course, in

With regard to the Vietnamese nationals, the fallowing arguments were used: sideration. liThe Vietnamese soldier is not an enemy; he is a Istrayl_Simultaneou$ly~ pressure--in truth, blackmail--was used at the most, a. rebel.'t If he rallies he will be treated with conagainst his family. The proximity of our forces to those of the enemy in the two deltas and in the coastal zone. togethe~ with the responsiveness the popUlation to the Viet Minh -(either because of fear Or Simply because of a "Wait and see" attitude), all contributed to the effectiveness of the Dich Van program. These conditions were the basic cause of the loss of most posts where the garrison included natives. We should also note that all Vietnamese units included a Dich Van cell either active Or dormant. Insofar as the troops of the French Union were concerned, the Viet Minh commanders acted through the intermediary of the French Communist party; they also employed leaflets and even, on occasion, af



There is nO question

that the defeatist



from France was most demoralizing appreciable defections.l

even though it did not result in

With regard to other elements of the Expeditionary well suited to the circumstances. preters

Corps, the and

Viet Minh made large use of tracts, issued in several languages

In certain cases they used interharangued the garriSOnS

as well, who, with loud speakers,

of the post under attack. On the whole, Viet Minh prisoner appeals this propaganda failed, for conditions in the

camps were too well known for our men to believe 2 signed by old comrades who had fallen into enemy hands. indoctrination·which had only superficial the explanation the enemy tried to inculcate results; there was too great situation made by knew of it. freed propaganda,

The Communist into our prisoners a disparity between the political which were occasionally

of the world

agents, and what

the captives


There also was too great a gap between the daily lot of our men. influenced individuals of repatriates

the words and the cruelties The hope of being

to respond

to Marxist

but the great majority to our way of thinking.

were usually

quick to return

The failure of Viet Minh preaching to base all attempts gradual increase of indoctrination liberties. in personal

again confirms

the necessity and on a

on good treatment

Since the t.ime that the Anglo-Saxons tion operations"

made much of their "decepit has become

during the period


the habit

The number of French defectors in eight years of war did not exceed a few dozen and in most cases the defection was provoked by a Vietnamese woman. On the other hand, many of these deserters later t.ried to escape, The number of African, Legionnaire, and North African deserters reached Several hundred in eight years of war, but the great majority of those won over later tried to escape.


to define as "psychological war" activities which, since the siege of Troy and the struggle between Horace and the Curiaces, have been called Ruses of War. In effect, a deceptive action "whose goal is to win from the enemy a psychological victory by leading it to a false interpretation of our intentions and in this way lessening the possibilities of a counterthrust,',l is always a fake<iaction, whose execution is more or less elaborate. But modern propaganda methods have singularly FrOm this point of view, but enhanced che ability to expand upon false movements, false orders) and false communications activities. orchestration of a ruse. Or~nization of a nece~tion Operation only from this pOint, can one link psychological warfare to the noisy

The decisiOn to launch a deception operation can only be made


the Commander in Chief.

But;he must have at his disposal a

"permanent general st;aff fo~ deeeptionltwho, informed at the right time of the long-range intentions of the commander, would be able to suggest to him the appropriate stratagems. This group could then "with maximum effectiveness and within the required time limit, initiate the action of the sp@cialized elements involved."l Once the decision has been reached to simulate a plan, it becomes necessary that "the deception be conducted by an operational staff whi~h is separace from the one concerned lo7ith tactical operations."·

In the preparation of a deception operation it will be necessary to recall that the object is essentially "an abstract element; the 1 intelligence and morale of the adversaryjU thus there is che obligation to seek solutions related to the characteristics of the enemy and o£ the populacion, and to our relations with the latter. It will be necessary "to calculate with preciSion the time required for the false information to reach the enemy commander and produce Study of the general staff of the Commander in Chief on operations of deception.


the hoped fo r reac tions. be influenced th~oughout


Like in a b ridge game, the adve rsa ry mus t or by the manner of clearing certain

the course of the game by certain announce-

menta, or certain defenses,

'long suits! to press him or to hide from him for as long as possible the decisive card, so that when he does see the light it is too late This done, One could concurrently propaganda, whispered propaganda,

f cr him to react effectively."l





the spectacular

visit of important people, e t c ....,,1 saying that a deception "must remain secret until

It goes without

the end of its 'play' and fool both friendly as well as enemy forces ." "Its goal is only achieved when everyone From the time the action unde rs tand it." 1 The rules which have just been stated were not completely during the campaign, successes, was preceded but their empirical the evacuation application For example, of Na Sam on August which upheld is initiated, play the game, even if the scenario is taken in by the game. and all echelons must everyone

shocks them or if they do not

gained us several 12, 1953) all deceived

by a campaign

of false announcements PELICAN and GERMAINE

the participants. hostilities propaganda methods.


at the end of the

were examples

of the opportunities

offered by modern

PELICAN, of Thanh-aoa;

in October

1953, aimed at creating

a threat on the coasts about SO kilometers incident of the deployment 320 while

while Operation

MOUETTE was launched it permitted

in the interior.

A false naval action and a fortuitous success. "since

resulted in complete

the MOllETTE force against being harassed

the Viet Minh Division to deal with



the 304th. and thus made it possible by the latter."

the former without

While the Geneva negotiations international reinforcement before



in progress, of French, opinion

Operation Vietnamese and

GERMAINE had as its goal the "persuading as well as Viet Minh public

that a serious and would be completed

of the Tonkin delta was in progress

the 15th of June."l staff of the Commander in Chief On

Study of the general operations of deception.


We embellished certain facts; the arrival of a battalion of paratroopers in the Tonkin was related to an announcement concerning of two mobile units; the arrival in the imminent teconstitution

Saigon of the cruisers Gloire and Montcalm was spoken of ~s the lead element "of a large squadron including other vessels and embarked
land forces, that would' disembark in the Haiphong


A battalion

leader captured at Diem Bien Phu reported that "accc rdLng to the declarations of the spokesman for the Viet Minh commander in the

prison camp~ the latter had really believed in a substantial In the beginning of July seemed to worry him g rear Iy ."

reinforcement of our Expeditionary Corps.

1954) this possibility

Translator's Notes The Colonial Army did not have "area specialized officers" because it-s personnel formed the major ga rr t son forces for all overseas posseSSions except North Africa, and hence were rotated from one world area to another. a"Partisans" correspond to the Civilian Irregular Defense Groups (CIDG) sponsored by U.S. Army Special Forces. They did not, however, have any specific geographical ot' organizational aft"inities.









in front

of the

enemy is not serious. is the mobilization drown

What is more important The people

of the people.

must be a great ocean in which itself ... "What is the real bulwark?
peop le ..."

the enemy will

II; is the

Mao Tse Tung


III. On December Viet Minh hands with diffiCulty)

INTRODUCTION and Annam fell into to live adminis-

19, 1946, vast areas of Tonkin and became, nonetheless systems literally. even though succeeded provinces in slowly

of a new state. establishing

The Ho Chi Minh government,

trative deriving and judicial

it was condemned services,

and SOme public

all the While

its sustenance

from a rudimentary

economy. stayed flexible dur-

The boundaries

of SOme of these territories notably in South Vietnam.

ing the eight war years, however, Viet Minh we revealed zone where,

In the Tonkin,
of the belt in the delta,

the year 1951 was marked by a pOSitive

by constructing to reconquer our inability the area.


the fortified

We tried nevertheless to Bac-Kan and

to retake certain to Cao-Bang attempt

fiefs from the enemy.

of a portion

Thus we went

in 1947. and we launched


ATLANTE in 1954 to
of Annam. in Viet Minh ter-

the reconquest

of the coast

Other operations ritory, areaS either

led us to take the offensive and destroying

in the form of raids,l

or by penetration

into enemy

in the hope of attracting Such activities

its forces.

were but incidental. in the regions portions we wished

The real and continuous to control, namely, the coast where lands. there was goal


took place

two deltas out front" the support

and certain

of the central

a high population

densi ty and the most during eight most often

years found

The "war wi t h-

that was fought of a population influence

had as its basic in villages.

Viet Minh between munitions



from one area to another. exchange zones; a replenishment from

It changed of arms--

in the course of time, but an almost constant

Crnmmunist areas and disputed and materiel--trickled


in each night

the exterior


in 1953.

For example, For example,



in 1952 and Operation

in 1951, at Na-San



the affair at Oien-Bien-Phu.

at Hoa-Binh


the interior, while a thousand infiltrations agents, or of more or less important Viets in communication and certain provincial then returned with those outside.

of messengers, In addition, regions.


civil servants kept the inside regular units

units came to the heart of the deltas, and The magnidetermined the exchanges naturally

to the campS in the peripheral

tude of these human and materiel intensity of the battles. In South Vietnam support from far away.
By contrast,

for the rebels was poor and had to come in North Vietnam the operations
by the presence

in the of maln

interior of the delta were always influ~nced force Viet Minh units in the vicinity of sources of supply in China starting

and by the relative pro~imity in 1950, had to ward off intervenwith our conduct related elsewhere to the are more

Our forees in North Vietnam constantly of the ground war in the Tonkin. reestablishment

tions by main force units, and this fact interfered Thus, the lessons of order which might be applicable

easily found in South Vietnam were essentially unique.

than in the North, where

the problems

Ground action may take multiple three basic considerations: o

fanus, but it generally


Free USe of the road and river communications which

nets required from

for the support of the forces and fo r their movements,

comes a policy of control of axes of communication. sanitization of various regions through a policy


of area control. o Countering the causes of dissatisfaction among the people

and disanuament

of the rebels through a policy of pacification. were essentially the task of the

These three types of activities

terri torial troops, and above all of the so-called They will be the subject of three separate

fixed" units.



The mobile forces only accounted for a fraction of the operations aimed at gaining area control. and best armed bands. But this was the most difficult fraction; for they had been given the task of destroying the most active Nevertheless, the search and destroy operations The of mobile forces were similar to those of territorial units. engage a atronger enemy. mobile units engaged in.

only difference waS in the size of the units and their ability to It thus seemed desirable to examine in a Finally, because of the important part separate section the type of operations which both territorial or played by fortifications during the campaign this subject has been covered under its own heading.

Translator's Notes AAt the end of World War II, British forces were to receive the surrender of the Japanese in Indochina below the 16th parallel, while the Chinese were to receive the surrender of the Japanese to the north. The initial element of General Gracey's forces, a Ghurka b,igade with 150 French military personnel attached, landed at Tan Son Nhut air base on September 12. This was followed by other elements that included 550 additional French within the few weeks that followed. Eventually, the first contigent of the Expeditionary Corps, an element of the 2nd Armored Division under Colonel Massu, arrived in Saigon on October 22, 1945. this was followed by the 9th Colonial Infantry Division in November; by a brigade from Madagascar in December, and by elements of the 3rd Colonial Infantry Division beginning in 1946. The Expeditionary Corps continued to grow in the course of time and by 1950 there were 150,000 French Army Forces in Indochina, together with 12,000 Navy and 5,000 Air Force personnel. In addition, some 200,000 natives had been recruited into auxiliary formations. Finally, in January 1954 the Expeditionary Corps and the Armed Forces of the Associated States had reached a total o~ 497,450 officers and men distributed as follows;



Notes (cont1d) FRENCH EXPEDITIONARY CORPS Other Enlis ted 25 ,312 15,836 34,366 18; 918 Totals

Categories French Legionnaires North Africans Africans Female personnel Native regulars Native auxiliaries Totals Notes:

Officers 5,434 486 47 18 3

NCO'S 21,877

18,710 36,720 19;731 2,460a 53, 705


2,307 795

87b 289

2,457 4,OlSc

49,603 47 ,922


includes 380 nurses. 63 interpreters







includes 998 interpreters

with integrated STATES

NCO ranks.


Categories Personnel detached from the French Expedi tionary Corps French Natives Personnel in the National Forces Native regulars Native auxiliaries Totals Officers


Other Enlisted





260 9


5,409 291 6,628

21,816 3,273 28,548

180,086 46,198 226,553

207,311 49,762

From a statutory conSideration, the military forces in Indochina at the end of the ~ar thus included the French Expeditionary Corps and the Armed Forces of "Vietnam, Laos; and Cambodia. The Expeditionary Corps included metropolitan and colonial formations made up of French, Algerians; Moroccans, Senegalese, and Legionnaires. The French units, with the exception of the airborne, included substantial numbers of Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians who had been locally recruited. There were also partisan and commando units with French Gadres: the personnel of those belonging to the Army were generally natives, while those in the Navy were primarily French. Finally, the French also exercised operational control over the several so called "sect forces"




Translator'S Notes (eont'd) in accordance with separate agreements made with the commanders of these formations. "sect forces" included the Cao Da L, the Binh Xuyen, the Hoa Hao, and the Christian militias. Once the creation of separate indigenous armed forces was undertaken, the pOlicy pursued was to transfer territorial responsibility to these as soon as practical. The long-term objective WaS to eventually relieve the E~peditionary Corps of the pacification mission and use it only for offensive operations.



COMMAND ORGANIZATION Throughout the campaign the military territorial organization was based upon the geographic divisions of Indochina. The TerritoEY corresponded to one of the large natural regions of the country; its commander exercised command over assigned ground force units and, in addition, had available air force and river force units in support. The Zones were subdivisions of the Territory and were in turn formed of Sectors. battalion. The major concern of each command echelon was the constitution of reserves to carry out the more important operations. fixed forces was to be. The only problem was to decide what the proportion between mobile forces and This problem will be treated later. These last were further divided into Subsectors which generally refl@cted the combat capabilities of a reinforced infantry

It also must be pointed out that as both sides increased their capabilities and the Viet Minh undertook major operations, we in turn had to create Operatiortal Commands of ever increasing magnitude. The juxtaposition or superimposition of these Operational Commands on the existing Territorial Commands was not al~ays conducive to the orderly conduct of the pacification. INTELLIGENCE Xt was often affirmed that one of the essential causes of our failures was the inadequacy of our intelligence. Yet hardly a day passed that the Commander in Chief and his many subordinates could not read, on the maps prepared by their intelligence sections, the complete order of battle of the Viet Minh units, with an accuracy which was often greater than_ and rarely less than, 80 percent. Nevertheless, battalion commanders, detachment c~.nders, brutal surprises. and

even the commanders of mobile groups were often victims of the moat Every day vehicles Were blown up by road mines, patrol. either found nothing Or fell into ambushes, and when units




penetrated into a village, they lacked the information that would have allowed them to sc~een the people and identify the nonunifol~ed rebels. It is clear that a distinction must be made here b@~een the

precise, d~@p intelligence which was always available for the High Command, and the immediate and local intelligence that.was almost never obtained by subord.inate units. Thus it was written: "It was the Commander in Chief who kept the 'battalion commander informed while the latter was never able to reciprocate." The infonn.tion sources available to the intelligence sections were normal, and the war in Indochina brought out no specific lessons; intelligence techniques and methods were adequate. On the other hand •• t the lower echelons, particularly at the subsector level. the failure of intelligence was d~e to several reasons; foremost among these was the lack of interest displayed by certain commanders in the gathering of information. Too often in the lower echelons the importance of the intelligence officer's function was overlooked. Frequently replaced, often assigned irrelevant duties. he tended to become a cog in the whole administrative wheel. It could be stated: "A good intelligence officer is worth a whole battalion; howl!!ver, no commander in fact ever deprived. himself of a battalion in order to have a competent intelligence officer."l PersQnn@l Charged with gathering intelligence. especially aerial photographs. often lacked the means for doing so. nnable to obtain photo coverage of his area. in lufficient quantity. One CQuld equally deplore the quantitative and qualitative 1nlufficiency of the interpreters' corps * the absence of .hort-distance

The ex-intelligence

officer of a subsectar writes, for example, th$t in 12 months he was Such a fact v.a not an exception; even in Tonkin the photograph8 Were never up to date and

Captain Z, lector intelligence officer (F.t.N.V.).


listening platoons


and finally

the nonexistence

of observotion

who, in many

Viet Minh mortars were of little

circLllUstancf's, would havE:' heen able to loc~tc l and artillery pieces. But these de f Lc Leric i.e s when one considers the failure of
t hc




of intelligence the population which

in a ground war--the

people. of

It is within

that one must seek the wealth the isolation of those f ew

rc liabl e information, individuals law.


who have taken up arms and put themselves a vicious willingly circle,



Un fo r t.una t c ly , this reveals is only provided progress.

for it is certain where we were "Informed,


that intelligence pacification able

hy the people

is making

In those rare cases where the results Were

to profit

from such support, source,"


for once, by a reliable hour On a certain rebel village with have entered night

says an officer, "I was able in

all of the political ordinarily 2 company. II adequate cadres

to capture

of a

a handful

of men, whereas less than

we could not

this village



The task of gathering stable Bnd experienced importance




of the


Here we must again versed


of a corps of area always


in native


Such a corps will service. Knowledge


the framework possession give

of an intelligence files, and Affairs officer

of the language) doctrine

of ample

the possession

of a valid


the Native for him


all of the t rump cards; ants to extend

it will

then suffice ....

set up assistwere

his field of investigation unable to benefit

If circumstances sOurces

such that we were

from native

of informaour adversary

tion, we can nevertheless derived from them.

bear witness

to the great value

IlL ike

This was

in fact foreseen: the Viet Minh extensive

all se l fand maintain. organization

respecting themselves

Connnunist regimes, thanks


to an extremely

and efficient

of the Secret


and of the police."

1 Modern devices ho st i1it i e s .


only experimented officer


at the end of the


3 Excerpt from a notice of the Headquarters

North Vietnam.

Ll.eutenant X, intelligence

in the Tonkin. of the Army Forces,


In addition villages intelligence unusual training

to the political

~ells that were implanted close-knit

in most of the within

and which formed an extremely agencies,


the Viet Minh command had established

Anny a special branch aptitude

fonned of NCO's and other ranks who had revealed work and had received extensive was represented at the company level by a special company. in patrols, unit, someour military to capture

for intelligence

in this field.

The "Trinh-Sattl

level by one NCO and three men and at the division Acting sometimes in little teams o~ alone, working


as agents, sometimes

supported by an organized patiently observed

times by sympathizers themselves,

in the villages,

or perhaps only trusting in listened to our chit-chat,

the men of the Trinh-Sat interrogated

posts, our installations tested our defenses, a prisoner

and our movements,

the villagers, etc.

made efforts

or to get hold of a document,

There is not one Viet elements,

Minh action, whether sometimes which

it be an ambush on a road or attacks on Dien All the docuof information

Bien'(Phu, that did not involve the use of such intelligence for as long as several weeks or even months. fell into our hands attested to the wealth

ments which

the enemy had procured

solely through this organization. to the Trinh-Sat

We should compare here the Dich-Van activities which have already been discussed. The enemy's goal was to create within and a fortiori in each Vietnamese members were to try and obtain responsible of facti the adversary did not hesitate out their duties so as to be considered our soldiers and non-commissioned received the order to reveal themselves. To accomplish individual this infiltration

each of our native units a Dich-Van cellI whose As a matter pOSitions.


to tell his agents to carry among the best of up until the day they


the Viet Minh subverted of his relatives,

the or

either through the intermediary

I Often two, that did not know of each other's presence the day of action.



Infantry Viet Minh division



Trinh-Sat company 3 platoons


Viet Minh regiment



1 company

usually reduced to 1 Trinh-Sat platoon of 3 squads.

Viet Minh battalion



of Trinh-Sat

units to Viet Minh tactical platoon leader and assistant



1 st squad 2nd squad squad leader assistant squad leader

3rd squad

ce II (3 agents/combatants)

ce II (3 agents/combatants) Trinh-Sat platoon

ce II (3 agents/combatants)



of the



This organization is for administrative purposes; the composition of a Trinh-Sat operationa I detachment, mission, is determined according to need.

for each


Each Trinh-Set unit is commanded by an individual from the echelon superior to that of the unit; for example the platoon leader and his assistant are from "company cadres". The Trinh-Sat combattant is most often a squad cadre.


Fig. I-Schematic


of the Trinh-Sat


the threat of reprisals found an excellent


against his family.

As a matter of fact. we through family ties,

counter to this subversion


to adverse measures

such families in areas where they would not b~ subject influences.l In addition, certain systematic protective had doubts about some and field units, "transferring within garrisons

proved effective when a unit commander rotation of sentries,

of his personnel: the unscheduled

the forming up for sorties

which were not to be carried out, e t c •...,,2


The gradual increase of Viet Minh capabilities and the extension to pay higher and our opera-

of their influence

in certain areaS made it necessary

and higher costs for the security of our installations tions. One of the essential this immobilization security duties. approximately characteristics

of a war without

front was for We will

of a large part of the forces strictly This was commented upon time and again. to protect

cite here only a few typical examples: one-quarter

Mobile units had to assign their artillery, More than one~

of their personnel

their command posts, and their other heavy equipment. third, if not half, of the infantry were used for guard dut i es, road cost us the equivalent of artillery, while with only one rifle company. one infantry battalion watch enemy platoons. secu r L ty


either fixed or mobile,

The surveillance

of a 20-km section of and one battery

of one infantry battalion

the enemy could render the same area insecure In the more secure areas, we needed required to man several by one or two were, slow, it was plus the auxiliaries

towers to control 40 km of road threatened When it was necessary reen had to be dep Loye d ,

to search an area, a complete than because we had to and distrust

"If movements

less because of the difficulty search everything, eve ry thing. ,,3

of the terrain

see everything,

go through everything~

lIt was with this in mind that "camps for married people" were established within the enclosure of posts or rear bases. 2Lieutenant aux i l Lar i es . 3Battalion X, commander of a company of North Vietnamese commaridar Y.


These information for such

ta~ks would on the local

have been easier enemy.

if we had had more precise not paid the price

But when One has the this cost of


one has

to meet though


by a heavy


t.u rc of

r e sou rc e s , even


no positive

gua ran t cc s ,







From the time that a rebellion becomes necessary to:


takes hold in a given area, it and deploy forces to ensure the


free use of a minimum if any exist, and (2)

number of road and river axes of communications) establish one or more secure bases as required

to support field operations. The security of COmmunication' axes has been a maj or and continuing concern. From the very beginning we had to accept the fact that because net was extensive and often involved diffi~ult for certain routes, and then the night throughout our communi~ations only during

terrain, we could only provide security the daytime.

To extend this security

and along roads deep in the forest or in the foothills would have required an inordinate With reference ensured

number of troops. freedom of acce ss could only be at the ahead

to waterways,

most of them, in South as well as in North Vietnam, effort to sweep mine-free these with the necessary channels

cost of an ev~r increasing break through ambushes,

of river convoys and provide

fire power to

The control of land communications o Establishing maintain a chain of military

was obtained by; posts, to provide security routes. Such posts would

for critical points along specified visual surveillance

over certain

sections of road sections by call-

and could extend security over more distant ing in mortar and artillery o Using patrols between posts. detachments o Maintaining fires, to conduct periodic

sweeps along the routes normally leave small

These patrols would

along the way to prOvide reserve

flank security.

forces, sometimes with armored elements, as required.

at selected posts ready to intervene The size of the forces between them were generally in the area. prevailing

the number of posts; and the distances determined by the security conditions


On the whole, always relatLve.

. I

the security Our vehicles

of so-called

con tr o lled axes was rebel

and troops could be taken under

fire at ranges of 800 to 1000 m at any time, or else ambush set up after dressed friendly patrols had passed

fall into an by

(for example,

soldiers blown

as civilians,

or even as women),

or they could be

up by an unc lea red road mine. The con rro l of waterways was exercised Except

in a comparable


but there were or where movement escorted

far fewer posts.

the very busy waterways of protection,

the width

of the riveT provided restricted

Some degree which

was generally

to convoys

were heavily

and were preceded

by minesweeping

formations. 2


The efforts we had to undertake s i s t only of the construction Experience a had shown to control posts. to: of 100 to the cultivae t c, ) a route did not COn-

of military

that it was just as necessary the brush up to a depth

Cut down trees and clear

20U m on each side of the road, and to prohibit tion of certain long-stemmed plants (corn,

sugar cane,

in these same areas. o Asphalt the roads traps. absolutely necessary to clear the inhabitants This unpopular to make it mor~ difficult to hide mines

and booby Finally,

it became located

out of villages measure ambushed willingly was

less than 500 rn from the road. undertaken because our men


too often were inhabitants units.

when moving


these very villages the Viet Minh


or unwillingly



An exception

to this rule can only be made of their good will information.

for those areas whose

people militia

have given evidence and by regularly

by the crcat.ion of local


1 Not including those rare zones that had actually 2 See the section on riverine operations.

been pacified.



The problem during Vietnam conceived of maintaining observation over the whole of an axis

the day led to experimentation by General de la Tour, in 1948, and then extended

with a system of watch towers

This was first tried in South to Central Vietnam.

"The watch within 1 krn) o

towers were field works manned by several men (five established along the length of a road (generally and at an interval of approximately

to six auxiliaries) in order to: Prevent

sight of one another,

the cutting of the road, protect

local faCilities,

observe movements, o Assist vehicles of attack."

and insure free acceSS. to their protection in case

and contribute

Certain towers, called Umother larger forces and increased

towers," were provided with


fire power.

In the case of an ambush on a convoy, personnel positions

from these

sounded the alarm and halted all traffic while mobile elements posts quickly moved into the area. results at the beginning, This but it quickly delivered

from specified military became ineffective. to them by China.

procedure yielded excellent began using shaped-charge

From 1950 on the Viet Minh in Central Vietnam projectiles fired from weapons Masonry was unable tu stand up under such fire, rather than to

and the small garrisons

of these field works would often avoid soundto abandon their position

ing the alarm, preferring expose themselves

to certain destruction. thus proved that when a rebellion over communications form the backbone cannot be

This experience

quelled quickly; surveillance system.

can only be effected of a defensive

by a system of strong points which


passed out to forces in South Vietnam.



The number the campaign of military posts never stopped increasing t.h oughou t r

and their extreme

On the subject automatic earthen

variety reflected our changing concepts l of fortifications. Initially, the rebels had only and grenades. To stop their assaults, sufficient. improved brick towers,



and bamboo

hedges were to provide with flimsy

At the same time

we wanted

high structures However,

fields of fire over the of Viet Minh mortars, were totally again inadequate. to The within dis-

flat rice lands. such positions Thus)

the appearance superstructure

wit.h their protection

to provide


she lLf i re we covered

turned with

digging defenses mutually positions houses earth

in and the use of masonry so organized supporting which included



a system

of flank positions


The rectangular

or triangular


led eventually

to the development walls fronted

of block. by steep con-

based slopes.

on the use of strong In this fashion,


the trt<mgular

military to mind



in South Vietnam fortifications

starling conceived

in 1951 bring by Brialmont. obstacle

the image a

of certain single ditches

In all cases

or double was

apron barbed wire

was used,

but the use of for an elevated station (S.K.Z.)

less frequent. post

In addition,

the necessity


led to the retention post.

of at least one lookout The appearance of Soviet

in the center rocket

of each military provided


by the Chinese

to the Viet Minh


these works was


A fortunate

countermeasure to cover

to these weapons exposed firing

found in the use of metal and observat.ion points. towers with


the more


At the same time we took to building deeply could imbedded in protective to

observation earth.

their bases solution

But a satisfactory

only be found by turning


It is thus that the Tonkin

type of strong post

point was born. shells and no the

The interior could easily ramparts were

open area of the military

that mortar was abolished

render untenable built. Thus,

in case of attack

all that appeared


ground were

lIhis evolu tion was, as a matter one we were able to observe in Europe

of fact, similar enough to the during the last century.


three or four blockhouses flanking fires. those advocated


to cover the wire obstacle represented a compromise in certain

with between parts of and the

These fortifications in 1913-1914

and those developed of 1939-1940. other

the front during the winter use of tank turrets mounted emplacement note. defense of mortars


the occasional lent a modern for the

on the roof of some blockhouses installations conceived

deep within

These strong points had been initially of the northern anticipated approaches

to the Tonkin delta, when Marshal

de Lattre Sino-Viet extended appeared simple

that the end of the year 1951 would bring a Eventually, Incident

Minh offensive. on certain roads.

over all of the circumference were made.

this type of fortification of the deltal and also to these developments


only a few



1953 this type of fortification to assault it.


the Viet Minh, on the d~mon-

who rarely attempted

Nevertheless, mortar,

the attack

post of Yen Vi, May 26 and 27, 1953, even though unsuccessful,

s t ra t ed that the combination

could be decisive. weapons, but his assault

of artillery,

and rocket fires from emplaced gaps

The enemy took a terrible


teams had little difficulty into positions on bamboo access from which

in opening they could

in the wire and then moving place explosive or against

charges mounted

pol~s in the firing ports. to the position. From that

the steel doors, giving

time on, other attacks the struggle, and extended fortified overhead provided

on blockhouses

took place,

and by the end of waS in

it was evident obsolete. the obstacles.

that this type of fortification Without We could have increased

turn also becoming positions

doubt we could have improved the number of and with We also emergency

and prOVided better

them with more turrets weapon ~mplacements. post, improved for counterattack

cover for high-angle-fire shelters more protection

could have planned exi t s , etc.


for the command

IThe last fortifications were built in the summer of 1953 at the southeast point of the delta. 2 Namely, the organization of the fortification to link the living areas with one or two firing positions.


Unfortunately to modernize many all

these ~xisting

things could not bp done, military posts,

It was

impossible to usc

and we were



and obsolete

fortifications. for example,

A census taken January

that out


195.3, in the Tonkin delta shows,

917 military

of a total 01

posts or .m i no r fortifications recent, and 810 were with

only 80 were modern,

we re relatively
The author
II ••.

out of date in varying some humor upon this

degrees. s t t ua t t.o : n

of a report commented

it must not be forgotten about

that the Dub ou t= t yp e p os t s" that we are strictly in accordance walls, with the of

complaining regulations in te rwoven

in 1953 are built straw huts,

of 1947: bamboo.

low earthen

and obstacles

The combat areas, modern because


of the Viet Minh varied equipped



the enemy only gradually Thus, posts

its units with


in the v Lc i n i t.y of Viet Minh main than those in Cochinchina, where

force units were the adversary f~rtifications

far more vulnerable

had no artillery that continued

and little to be useful


As a result, as late in 1951.

in South Vietnam (Tonkin) starting

as 1953 had been obsolete The fortified But the efforts

in the Hung Yen required




and improvement. always limited

of the cO~Danders

in this regard were

by lack of funds and above material, problem and heavy

all by the large

requi.rements for manpower, came up against to repair an old

equipment. when

We also often they are asked

faced by engineers

a fortificawhen

tion; they seldom

can avoid making to level



they are not permitted There performed

the old works

and start anew. tasks

is thus a lesson by the engineers

to be learned in Indochina;

from the herculean fortified works

should to

from the very that which immediately and build mortars start,

first be bu i Lt to withstand

an armament One must

superior proceed

the rebels possess beyond facilities thinking capable

at the moment.

in terms of automatic of withstanding


and grenades,

the fires of heavy from the 1 as low as pOSSible. to turn to field than a fortifi-

as well and keep

as rocket


We must use concrete

the profiles

of the positions

I When use of cement is impossible it is better fortification, for this will offer better resistance cation made of walls and towers.

Such elementary easy victories weapons. impress precautions a few months will prevent the enemy from winning later, when he acquires more powerful of strong military posts will

In addition,

the pre~ence

the natives and will contribute

to the pacification.


Our adversary and, as expected, the fortification; systematically by surprise. attacked military dependent posts at night the resis~

Under these circumstances

tance of a fortification

was naturally

on the quality of

but it depended

also on the prior arrangements itself. The territorial

made by the commanders commanders o

and by the garrison to the post:

had to allocate

Sufficient of reliefs.

troops, not only to permit but also to provide

them to move outSide system

of the position

for a suitable

Sufficient Experience


to sustain a full night of combat. three to


led us to provide each position with more.

four units of fire, and sometimes depended primarily same rule applied

The actual allowance The

on our ability to resupply by road. to rations, allowances generally of the position.


upon the degree of isolation o Artillery support. allowance

The armament capacity

of a military

post depends upon its to assign numerous weapons since this simply

for resistance.

It is unjustified

to a fortification

that can be readily overcome for the enemy,

makes for added plunder The allocation

of tanks to fixed positions

proved unsatisfactory.

These had a temporary psychological

impact, but since they ~ere

lThe subversion of certain regions was such that certain posts were only rarely supplied by land routes or waterways. Only airdrops assured their connection with the outside world. 2 This consideration is valid only for so-called "sector" armament. The unit which occupies a post must in all cases have its organic weapons.


restricted of tlcu-mored Except attack

to a small area,

they could be of little help. definitely not part of


sentry boxes" was in rare Cases when

This ro le . 1 l-egl..').at r on s, of an enemy

there wa s SOme forewarning the security

and countermeasures depended

had been possible,

of a

garrison o

upon a triple warning distance

system: ambushes of were


a given

from the strong point, along

prepared o

and manned

the likely avenues maintained


C.1oser in, outposlS over areas between

and patrols mine


fields and trip flares. area of the strong basis, of inadequacy or point, sentries


in the immediate

and dogs were

used on a regular watch system failed either

treason, would could

this warning


there was no question overrun

of conducting

a defense. assault

The de fenders before they

be quickly

in a brief

and brutal

take up arms or report would

to higher until had

headquarters. the flashes been


higher of

headquarters explosions

know nothing

and sounds


the position

destroyed. conscience

The only by opening in the

thing left to do then was fire on the position hope of inflicting could only succeed and

to appease possible



of enemy withdrawal) Of course,

some damage


he left. after

the enemy

in such an attack study of

detailed both

preparations and with-

based upon a careful out. To deny him positions certain There taking

the position

from within

this facility

it Was necessary

to make use of In this disX


and rely heavily garrisons

on the camouflage.

connection, positions. who, upon

did not hesilate

to use unusual

is the case of Vietnamese command of a position SUccesg outside which

Second Lieutenant included

five strong in

blockhouses, carefully


singular trenches

by placing

all of his forces which drew

camouflaged fire.

of the blockhouses

all the enemy'g

lIn particular, at the time of the attack of the post of Le Khu On September 14, 1953, three Sherman tanks were put out of action before their crews could man their weapons.


When the alert system did work, firing positions while headquarters, usually

the troops could reach theirto

radio contact was being made with the high~r at the very moment when the enemy started

open gaps in the wire. The defense then depended upon four conditions: o The application able to quickly of heavy fire at the assault waves or on the the attack. "If the commander was use identify the enemy scheme of maneuvers,

base of fire supporting

his final protective he had a chance.

fires and adjust his supporting

fires, fires,,,l


he did not, for the Viet Minh

had an uncanny a.bility to avoid normal fina.l protective o The organization of a fall-back position of survivors to provide

some depth

and to permit the assembly blockhouses o

from the one or more

that had been overrun. of a reserve to launch a counterattack. the outlying defenses, "Fr-om

The availability the moment

the enemy breaches

the only

hope for the safety of a military of a counterattack timing and its power •... in advance in all of their variations adverse weather,

post lies in the execution will depend upon its plans must be prepared rehearsed at night, in

whose effectiveness Counterattack

in great detail and must be repeatedly under a I I conditions: under smoke, e t c ;!'

In this connection, offered a precious counterattack

centers of r~si~tance advantage

built of cOncrete the artillery a

for they permitted

to use time fire over a partially was being

overrun position while redoubt.)

readied in a central

lCaptain X, district commander, spoke of an attack on the tower of Y in the Tonkin, November 28, 1953, in the course of which the Viet Minh set up their base ot tire within the wire encircling the tower and On the friendly side of final protective fires. 2Directive of Commander in Chief of November 1953. of fire 3This fire is in fact nothing more than the technique used on the Maginot Line.


The continued reserve


of communications available,

by having by having



and equipment

spare signal with

net antennas

to replace whip antennas,

at each position

and by having in accQrdanc~

flares available a prearranged Battlefield useful.

to use

code. by star shells has always for dropping bern highly

illumination C-47

In addition

a Lr cr af t equipped

flares we rc

in usc before

the end of hostilities. radio contact at with

upon maintaining of close prepared enemy

The use of such aircraft depended I the post under attack. The use and targel folders were possible

air support

night was


for certain strong points in Tonkin identifying

arcas~ likely positions for supporting The experience gained by striking any judgment




in the vicinity. targets was effectiveness

these preplanned of the


to permit

to be made

of the technique. for a successful defense were thus numerous a. zone post and

The requirements difficult commander attacked larger, cannons)



In the last months "Experience

of the campaign shows

was able

to write: usually

that an isolated force

at night will possesses mortars)

fall if the enemy to such assaults etc.);


is three times recoilless over

weapons satchel Under




is not concerned be highly

taking casualties. for the defenses achieve

such conditions particularly

it would


to succeed,

if the enemy was able to

a su rp r i se attack."


The use of reServe the exception, units to assist Even if a post attacked at night was open, reserves

not the rule.

the roads had been kept to send his meager

the local area commander



1 The use of such aircraft usually about 10 minutes after plus flight time to target.

(nicknamed LUCIOLE) required SOme delay, receipt of the request at the airfield, in North Vietnam.


X, commander

of a zone


out into the night. assistance case where depended blocking usually number.

On occasion

it waS possible

to render immediat~ In the

to a beleaguered such waterways

post by moving on the wate-rways.


river craft could usually be of an enemy

upon to force a passage even in the presence decisive. Unfortunately.

force, and their fire power in support of the defenders was such craft were slow and few in to be able

Thus it was rare for them to be in position

Moreover, l attain any degree of surprise.

reach a post in time.

they were noisy and could seldom

The only help that could nonnally be provided by the area command before dawn was restricted mortar fires). pOSitions along the coast. to artillery fire (and in rare cases to provided for were supported in this manner Naval gunfire support was occasionally

Some positions

for several days at a time (Duong Dong at Phy Quoc, Quang Khe and Fai Foo on the Annam coast) by one or more coastal patrol ships. The Viet Minh attempted, whenever fires ineffective, post normally possible, to render supporting on a (by of

and in the two last war years all attacks (1) diversions against adjacent the preparation fires to represent


positions of an

use of automatic weapon assault, harassment supporting artillery

by mortar

fires; etc.); and (2) neutralization fires.

in the area by heavy mortar

The so-called reestablishment position

relief of a post could thus usually and then would

only be underthe it

taken during the morning

involve nothing more than the If in the meantime already plundered the chances Were

of contact with the garrison.

had been taken, the enemy had usually if the garrison

and disappeared; that by daybreak

still reSisted, the enemy had withdrawn.2 we were

In such relief operations;

sure to run into strong ambushes. and toward the end of

In fact Viet Minh tactics continually



One should mention, in favor of noisy boat engines, a case in 1946 where the starting up of a section of landing craft vehicle personnel (LCVP) 5 km from a post under attack was enough to cause the enemy to break off the action. While 2Sometimes they continued to besiege the post from a distance they prepared a new assault for the following night.


t hc ho s t Ll Lt i.cs the Commander

in Chief wrote: make the attack is often ambu sh ,

"One must never of a military


that the enemy docs not always main objective. units by means is a secondary 1 forces. I, During The objective of a 'Well placed

post hi"

the destruction The attack of which

of rc l heving

of a post therefore is to attack our

ob j ec t i ve , t hc rca l purpose

the early years

of the war

it was

po ssib le La come fo llowing

to the an

help of garrisons attack during

that st ill he ld out On the morning units. A platoon

by using paratroop the night could

or a company

alerted haJ in the

take off as SOon as aerial still resisted.




that the post

TIle drop was

then made

immed i a t c area of the fort ificat ion directly on the position itself.

r , in certain

f avo rab le cases, there was 30 other

In the course

of the war

a total of 25 posts garrisons before ceeding aircraft


in this fashion. received

In addition,

that had been besieged assaulted


reinforcement two suc-

they were night

or in the daytime


attacks. made


the appearance increasingly involving

of Viet Minh antiinfrequent. air support Relief as


such operations major efforts

operations well

thus became

as support

by all available




The requirements quarters, to protect logistics installations, major head-

and the r.ear bases areas.

of mobile


led to the organization

of fortified

Towns thus became fended by a system by wire obstacles. local airfield

vast entrenched

camps, whose




of outposts

or simple blockhouses it was impossible

interconnected to include the

In most cases within

or airfields

the protected



1 Note of November

13, 1953.

20n December 6, 1953, the military post of X (Tonkin) which was attacked fell during the night with exception of a handful of defendants. The relief column (onC reinforced battalion) was ambushed the next morning by two Viet Minh battalions. The casualties were heavy on both sides despite the intervention of fighter aircraft.

~ere thus almost always organized Throughout for security as independent centers

of resistance.

the hostilities

all of these protected

areas were 5ubject to scts of sabotage and raids by Viet Minh 1 commandos. The airfields in particular were victims of su~prise attacks that always resulted we evolved in the loss of same aircraft. are described to the Commander The below. in Chief This offi-


through experience responsible

A general offiGer directly was designated

as the InspeGtor General of Critical Areas.

Ger, as the representative required

of the High Command, was able to take the interest in improv-

remedial actions and stimulate continuing

ing the defenses. The coordination authority, services. of the defenses of all critical installations belonged areas which to different

formed a single complex was made the responsibility even if the various The designated single coordinating constantly

of a single

authority was assisted testing the security as required. it was necessary to the mission related to the number

by a security procedures

officer charged.with

and bringing

about their improvement

Insofar as the actual defense was concerned, to have available involved. of blockhouses a counterattack a force corresponding The si~e of this force was generally element. of civilians from within

in composition

to be manned and to the need for a strong reserve as

The evacuation was desirable, which,

the defensive involved.

perimeter Nevertheless,

but infeaSible,

when towns were

it was found necessary

to carry out forced evacuations complex 2

of villages

althQugh outside of the defenSive of its vita! points.

itself, were in the

immediate proximity

This was followed by the

IMass attacks on the tO~nS seem to have been avoided by the Viet Minh) since they needed them as a source for a thousand different manufactured objects and mediGines. 2The evacuation of two villages in the Do Son peninsula was required after a surprise attack carried out against the airfield and fuel depot .by a commando who had found among the inhabitants all the meanS for carrying out his misSion.


leveling attacker.

of all terrain Lastly~



could provide


to an of the us i ng

it was necessary for sustained

to organize

the interior include

de tens Lve complex wiring to canalize


this would

enemy movement, strong

po i.n rs capab le system of

of independent such strong Figure


or, preferably,

an interrelated

points. 2 serves as an example defense, of how a major airfield

was organized

for ground



roads were

left to the enemy.

We had tried equipped with

to relain infrared

some control viewing

at night by u s Lng armo red patrols However; this had proven



unsat:i.sfac tory, were not su i.t cd or for

This was not su rp r Ls for. the instruments , to the purpose; sighting weapons they were designed either


for night




as such were able

in fact not usable convoys and with-

except while through with out running


We were

on occasion without

to get motor attacked

all lights blazing over mines. This

their being

sort of surprise


did not give if the technique

the Viet Minh had been murderous

time to set up any ambushes. nights in a row,


tried several attacks.

it surely would have led to


was given

to the possibility patrols

"of keeping provided with

the roads powerful of the in the

open at night by armored lights. These were

or motorized


to illuminate

not only

the center

road~ but the two sides as we11~ same fashion as does

the light beams

the fire of automatic was

interlocking 1 weapons."

The fact of the matter was normal were opened

that, in the case of vital Secondary

roads, roads the of


p rac t Lc e to reopen only at irregular seldom opened.

them each morning. intervals

and in insecure


roads were

In these circumstances

the resupply

1 Study of the general

staff of the F.T.N.V.







posts was usually by airdrop or by waterways; to be used it became a separate operation, form convoys wi th an escort and a minesweeping Road opening operations were basically ambush. They were also technical

when waterways element.

were to

for it was necessary

tactical in t.h t the a

problem was to catch the Viel Minh as they lay ready tu spring an in that mines had Lo be cl",ared, The means required thus depended and The opening

as did a variety of b oob y traps. upon the enemy's capabilities of a road in a relatively little as a squad.

as affected by local conditions

the importance which we gave to the route in question.

secure area could be carried out by

On the other hand, at the time of heavy engageby armor; engineers

. a~rcra f t.2

ments in the Tonkin delta, the same task required at least one, if not two, infantry bat t a I i on s reinforced artillery support, p 1us one
b 0 servation

and strong

Such operations were governed by classic roadway.


tactics in that

they always involved seeking the enemy out along the sides of a The difficulty was that the enemy not only knew the area, but was allutted oneself, to but It is rare for one to enjoy such information to avoid giving it to the enemy. the details concerning also familiar with our timing and the means we nonnally the task.

it was difficult and operation



insisted On the need for varying of the opening

the movement

force~ but the units involved almost Very rare were and to widely held opera-

always declared

that they were unable to do this. IIContrary to many comrades

those who could write;

opinions, I found it relatively course of these operations.

simple to vary the road-opening avoid surprise attacks in the

tions and to nearly systematically

"On the sub sec t o r level, di.e first thing to do is not to impuse the same schedule every day on the subordinate units char-ged with

lComparable operations were undertaken along the waterways, on the waterway itself behind minesweeping elements, as well as along both banks. This was only done to clear the way for large supply transports. The Case of the daily opening of the Hanoi-Haiphong May-June 1954, in the vicinity of Ban Yen Nhan.

road in


the road opening attack. Garrison

task; this diminishes commanders

the chances of a surprise


should open only One section of

road The

at a time (usually, This permits direction

they have at least two, in diverging


the retention of part of the force as a reserve.

from which a section of road is opened should be changed

from time to time (for example,

it should be west to east two days in

a row, then east to west, etc ...). "Op era t e on one or the other side of the roadway, or sometimes on both sides at once. force. night. the assigned At irregular intervals

open a road with maximum from one end of open roads at

For this, use all available Alternatively,

operating Sometimes

section of road to the other.

move at night to assembly

areas the detachments Set up ambushes the road conduct

charged with the opening of a road the next morning. near the road during the night. The next morning,

opening operation with few troops, relying for support upon the ambush positions. UIn truth, the number of ruses that one can use to thwart enemy ambushes is infinite, and road openings attributed take on the monotonous character that is too frequently to them only when the troops are

poor and, above all, badly led."l The above judgment ended up by growing is certainly exaggerated. repeating The best of units the same task. The their greatest

tired of constantly

dulling of their reflexes which danger. Lieutenant describes detail. watchful, X) who commanded

resulted was definitely

a district

in the Tonkin)


this fatal laxity;

"Every day 1 send out the road opening and, if one is not and the

Despite orders, habits are established, the automatic the man with

rifles are set up in the same places, the mine d e t ec tor."

riflemen march in line behind


Commander X.


The control burden.

of lines of communications a study wa~ made

thus becomes

a heavy it cost

As an example,

to determine during


to use four main when


of road in the Tonkin active, Le.)

a period

the enemy was particularly


the preliminaries 1954).J. activity. an

and the course Note

of the b a t t le of Dien Bien Phu (January-July obtained involved, reflect a period of peak

that th2 staListics On the four routes


posts were


average aCLually

of 5 to 8 km apart. concerned with

If one adds only to one-half

Lhe garrison the number their

personnel of

the defense



(this to take into account at a density

relative per

effectiveness), kilometer. kilometer, casualties as well

one arrives

of 20 to 30 combatants required about needed.

The daily opening whereas were

of the roads

10 men per The daily posts

no rma lLy only four or five were counting attacks

nO less severe;

On military

as ambushes

of road opening

de t.achment s , losses to ten men one-fourth

each day pel; wounded or of

100 km of road were an average disappeared. Mines accounted

of three


for between

and one-half use of

these casualties. roads

At these costs we succeeded This to pay simply means the price.

in retaining

for six to ten hours. one can agree

that the need must be Unde r other ci.r cums t anc es , an area

great before the control

of lines of corrununications can only be sought when and easily pacified.

can be quickly This factor

idea deserves

to be emphasized:

"If one ccn s Lde rs the time that the control of the of a given

in addition

to troop strength, without

it is evident

of an axis of communication area is extremely costly.

concurrent assume

pacification the control

For example) one infantry

section battery; I

of a road requires


and one artillery can be pacified by

but the road is located

in an area which

Study made by the general commanding the F.T.N.V. and bearing on the 65 lo:n of the route HanOi-Haiphong (R.N. 5) I the 36 kIn of the route connee tin g Ban Yen Nhan with Hung Yen (R. 1. 39), the 28 km of the route Haiduong-Sept Pagodes CR.P. 17 North), and the 26 km of the route Sept Pagodes-Dong Trieu (R.P. 18).


three infantry quirement pacify


in six months,

after which

the security

of to

the road can be assured extending

by local forces alone.

Con a i.d r Lng the re~ e

over a two year period, per month)


it is more economical only the

the area

(18 battalions per month). commander 2

than to control

road (24 battalions An ex-sector some greater

was even more precise:


must be over an


from the effort made to extend control open.

area than merely being able to resupply to keep the line of communications to relinquish control of the routes

posts whose main purpose .i.s

A commander must be prepared

indispensselected operation routes will and kept open

that are not absolutely

able to him, even if this means that certain have to be forcibly throughout reopened

for a specific

its duration.

Several examples (1) reopening (2) reopening


that this concept MOUETTE.

is perfectly LORRAINE, It needs

sound: and will to be

of a section of R.C. 2 for Operation of R.P. 59 for Operation

noted that the reopening require extensive upon engineer

of a roadway under such conditions

repairs which

in turn will place heavy demands

troop resources,

lCaptaln X ,Sout h V' . ~etnam. 2eolonel Translator's Y, South Vietnam. Nate

ADubout is a French cartoonist whose work in the context used here may be compared to that of Rube Goldberg, whose mechanical monstrosities have long been featured in American newspapers and magazines.


Main attack



:;:~:--.... ---

.-'" .-

Mortars _-------



._ ....


Fig. 3-Attack

on a post (schematic)



AREA CONTROL and the defense of military for they contribute of the enemy.

The concrol of lines of communications posts are passive aspects of ground warfare, neither the neutralization


nOr the destruction


are a necessary within

outlay of capital,

but it does not bear interest. sheet.

Only those operations whose aim is the excision of the enemy dispersed an area can be placed on the asset side of the balance Such surgery, based on a diagnosis the villages of the more infected areas and of healthy, has to result in the

that are still relatively

removal of the gangrenous

tissue to pave the way for convalescence;

this will be actual pacification. Control of communication ing objectives. inspired by political of ground warfare, For example, economic tion. axes and area control In practice, thus have differthe latter is these two aspects

The former is an operational considerations. one "passive"


and the other "constructive ," overlap. of communication of pacificaThis, in turn, favors to the extension

it is certain

that the control of ~es

helps to restore normal civilian activity. recovery and greatly contributes


In South Vietnam, favorable conditions made it possible to pass

quickly from control of axes of communication to control of areas, at least in certain regions.2 With the help of political activity, pacification could follow. However, in 1954, the situation was from watch towers

regressing because to military posts.

of the "too ab rup t; transition

These last, being theoretically

stronger, were In general,

less numerous; but unfortunately,

they were undermanned.

IWith the exception of the losses that the enemy had to expect in order to capture a post. 2This control, assured in large part by the static network of towers, could have been improved by extending it to waterways: "A fragmentation of the waterways into separated sections could have been achieved by the use of large numbers of wizards." (Captain commanding the naval flotilla of South Indochina. See section allotted to naval forces.)


one military a savings assigned angular

post replaced

six t ove rs .



this was

to provide

in personnel, to one p os t ,

only the garrisons Thus

of three

towers w~re

the new military points,

posts, which



and had three observation to man the lookouts.

r e qu i red all a ss i gn ed


This left uS

no one available


pat ro 11 in g ." 1 In North Vietnam, graphic factors On the contrary, military, political) and geo-


to deny us the opportunity It was

of developing we harvested a

an effective

area control.

in the North where

large crop of negative the causes AREA


and it is there

that We must

look [U~

of our failures.


In Tonkin our forces were first of all handicapped the delta. It was by the presence to as

of Viet Minh




remain continually

alert not only

to drive back

an enemy


at Vinh Yen in 1951, but also to intercept trating into areas already accomplished. point cleared. The

any units

that were was


latter mission


satisfactorily From ganda,

the political

of view) we were operations)


to usc propacenters

as an extension

of our combat

to overcome

of subversion.

The inefficiencies

of the Vietnames." administration area control) except always ephemeral of the delta. of constant were

did the rest) and little by little and localized) had to be abandoned, aspects

in a few parts another sourCe

The physical difficulty; clustered bordered became

of the area Were sq kIn,

In an area of 12,000 in 3)000 o r 4,000

8 million


vill"ages. quickly


roads and trails which the result could that villages approach.

the rice fields were

cut with

islands which meters

no wheeled of flooded

or tracked rice paddies a complex


Five hundred

protected of ponds

the rebels and thickets

from all surprise 1 Captain










each locality provided in quicksand!

a thousand possible hiding places.


these conditions, floundering formula; combined

our speed of advance was that of an infantryman and we were reduced to using an unusual battalion·-one-half day_ Thus, everything forced to and this The We were

one village--one

to thwart our efforts at area control.

use our resources only to control lines of communication, unfortunately and at the s~e required that we multiply our military


problem was that we had inadequate time patrol outward

forces to man the strong points to create a perimeter of security

around each fortification. One-third

The normal garrison was 60 to 80 men.

of these had to be on guard during the day, and three-fourths This allowed up to one platoon to be used for

were on duty at night. daytime patrols,

but there was seldom anyone to send out at night. could stand up to us with forces very him to

The enemy, on the contrary, inferior concentrate

to ours, for the support of the population too far from its base.


and to attack, at the time and place of his choice, a force

which might have strayed "In X Sector," Minh provincial

says Major Y; " two well known but elusive Viet stationed in a central position posts could mOve of a hundred military in the sector to assure


at night against anyone

held by a total of 7,000 men.

Each of these 7,000 men put in four during the night. and the increasing strong points a post and tedium

hours of guard duty or took part in other tasks required ~he security of these installations

As a result of the spread of the insurgency hazards of movement and military perceives nothing; outside of defended posts became visually isolated.

areaS the various by the monotony

" ...Sometimes

it becomes mesmeri~ed
unaware but shadows,

of its work.

It becomes

that the people who come up to its that the local head man leaves go to Then this village.

very walls are anything

to spend the night outside;

and that the wives of the partisans in the neighboring

look after their old sick mothers

one night the post falls like a gangrenous is the most frequent case--it becomes

bone, or else--and

like a foreign body, a


cyst, which blood cause

the living

flesh has surrounded surgeon

i t no




and be-


The Vier Minh

docs not wanL represents

to operat0)

the post does no harm;


At the end of 1953 our occupation that one could say;

had become

So compartmented

"We are the ones who are infiltrated in the Z de Lt.a , not. the Viet Minh,ll A census taken on January 1, 19')4, showed that 82)470 men of all races were importance armament immobilized behind the wire of 920

pos ls of varying This 9,714

and all more or less t hc wo rse for wear. equivalent to that of several 1,225 mortars divisions:

also involved automatic


and machine


of all calibers,

426 an t t t ank guns, period) 37)000

and 125 artillery


In this same time of the delta only

the Viet Minh maintained 5 combatants at the most. against

in the inlerior Thus,

if we exclude groups

the Viet Minh reserve

divisions, units which and between on ground

which we pitted


and general twice

made up our battle

force~ we Were


as many men, to carry

three and four times as many weapons, operations. Such a balance

as the enemy the very


sheet was

1 Reserve

Captain X.

X, "Dead War .'1


3This includes in the delta the region of Quang Yen and Hengay, the occupation of which was indispensable for the utilization of the port of Haiphong, These 82,470 men included 1,080 officers and 7,515 noncommissioned officers. To these troops there had to be added other forces committed to the defense of the air bases and the installations scattered in the interior of the cities of Hanoi, Nam Dinh, and Haiphong, and lastly, the troops guarding the rear bases of all our mobile units (mobile groups and diverse formations).
4A significant number of these guns were which were used in certain military posts. in old tank turretR,

5These 37,000 combatants broke down in to: 13 to 14 regional battalions corresponding to the provinces of the delta, to which were added three independent regiments (42nd, 46th, and 50th R. 1.) and one battalion of a recently created regiment. In addition the 246th R.1. sent a battalion by rotation into the delta 120 to 130 district companies, including therein the units supported by districts adjacent to the delta.


negation economy

of the purpose

of fortifications

since it brought in £act~

us no It was,

of troops whatsoever: further

quite the contrary

in addition, in accepting smaller

proof of the miscalculation quality.

of the High Command upon a

a large number of posts rather

than insisting

number of higher

In conclusion, century-old dernization replaced either merous,

the Commander system

in Chief could write: inherited

liThe more than wars was Its mOwere of

[fortification] was essentially

from the colonial

valid against

rebels who were relatively symbolic,

few and badly armed. and weapons

for the walls and stockades emplacements

only by barbed wire entanglements type. Against

field or masonry seasoned,

an enemy whose highly

forces were nuwith powerful assault

well trained,

well armed, well equipped

means of destruction, tactics and techniques,

and who had developed it failed completely. successful or because


All the pos-ts attacked very honorable--put of outside up only because

with determination

fell; the resistance--often

by certain of them was sometimes help (artillery (difficult Dr air support), solidity

of unusual

circumstances energy on


of construction,

the commander's

part, mistakes

exceptional made by the attackers).lIl

In the course of time this system began .number of defended support for mobile camps. These

to be replaced

by a small and

served "as bases of operations

forces, most often made up of native and among the people

contingents, to direct and envisaged

which moved about the countryside support the activities search the ceaseless the abandonment were

of the local self-defense for rebel detachments." of posts,

units and to continue those that

This new concept in particular

of a large number

strung out along

the roads -, In this connection, little time and effort

lithe reestablishcases •...

ment of routes required stored in defended

in certain

In other cases the material areas.1I2


to reestablish

roads had to be

lDirective of March 8, 1954. 2 Colonel N) commander of a zone in the Tonkin.


Cf rcums t ance s delayed defined by t.he High

the Imp Lemcn t a t ion of t.h .s concept t 4 revce ls , however,



that the organization

of th~ cent.ers of resistance in general upon

of Cho Ganh and

of Ninh Binh had been based The operations are described about

the same idea". an entrenched camp

of a mobile

force based upon

by a cap t a i.n as follows:

"The unit con s tLy moves in one p l aco only as long as up in short it behaves that

on its own i.n i.tLa Lvc ; it stays t it disperses, like an amoeba reunites, in constant

necessary; somewhat

breaks motion

It then follows

• by one, all villages

b ecorne well

known ...the area and its are rna with de the local

pa t hway s are mernor i zed ... frequent people ...a va rLe t.y of information The mobile organized units which


is verified

at the sou r-c .... " a base must be so


from a given

that they can rEach in one-half

the fart.hest point

in their area of This

responsibility will serve

a day or one night of insecurity and where

and then return. in the enemy.

to create

a feeling is easy)

In an

area where

the terrain


is good observation operating out of

and a feeble population a secure base


one rifle company a radius area with sectors

can control

an area within subverted

of 10 to 15 km. difficult terrain the

On the other hand,

in a badly

and a large population, garrison companies control have will of an entrenched (auxiliaries

such as in certain camp should never With

of Tonkin, three

go below

to four

or regulars).

such a force one cannot

an area much beyond in strength reduce

4 to 5 km from the base since all sorties

and the need maximum security

to be made

significantly To be able

to observe 1 the speed of movement. areas under

to cover

the desired

these co nd i t i.on , s a force approx~ about 15 km

it was necessary imating apart. a mobile

to organize group

these base



in size, and to spaCe require,

these camps

This meant

that it would

in one case,


25 men

lIn addition) rifle companies seldom strayed of the l20-mm mortars set up within the camp.


lhe range


Center of resistance of Ninh-Binh

Flat terrain 63 machine II automatic 226 men guns rifles

Location of Ninh-Binh village completely leveled scale 1 km

~ (


of resistance

of Cho-Gonh

Broken terrain
69 machine guns 17 automatic rifles 250 men


1 }un


of resistance


per 100 sq km, and in the other

case, between

600 and 700 men per of 1954

100 sq km.

It is interesting of posts

to note that at.: the beginning costing

the mu ltiplication 1 Tonkin delta.


660 men pe r 100 s q km of the


In contrast we were able to Tonkin, where extend we progressively our control an "oil area. lost the initiative, using

to gradually principles. established

over Suuth Vietnam spot" technique,

time honored was gradually


cont r01

over a given

This was whose

done by extendsecllrity was The

ing little by little a network of communications

maintained peripheral positions by military posts located close

to One another. covered

communications designed

of the area were any return

by defensive area of

to prevent driven

into the controlled operations.

rebels who had been admitted the sects

out by ground singularly

It must be by the support

that this task was (Binh Xuyen,



Roa Hao, Cao Dai) who played in our previous delicate,

a role analogous
The conduct

to that of the tribes won over of such operations below


was nonetheless

and the example


se rvc s only as a

The region of the Cd sba ssac" sq km. included Toward some 800,000 inhabitants of


in an area of 4,200 an average

the end of the Summer


of four regional

rebel cornp ani.e normally s watched


The two principal

routes were poorly

by one of testified of of

our battalions,

and the loss of several


and posts

to the precariousness the year securing

of our dispositions.

In the last months the mission

1951 and the first Ones of the year 1952,

this area was and destroy entru5t~d operations, to forces averaging

five battalions.

Ten search

each one La s t ing fuur to five days, and about a hundred weapons. of 1952, In

led to the capture addition,

of 200 prisoners

the rebels

left 120 dead behind.

In the spring

1 Crunting only as was shown above.

the troops



the fortification,


the fragments without attempted destroyed. in force.

of the Viet Minh units, rapidly.

after having been pursued pacification from In February 1953, the enemy


took refuge in the Transbassac; again, but his company his last attempt

then on was able to proceed to infiltrate This wasted

areas were completely any penetration

to effect


The normal activity whose most important within a sector consists variable. sweeping of daily operations, However, the for it is

nature and magnitude

are infinitely sweeping

of these are always

and searching,

a question of ceaselessly
etc., not to mention

an area to uncover

the armed the guides,

rebels, as well as the political


the propagandists, caches, etc.

depots, workshops,

Sweep and search are "the going over of a region and its population with a fine-tooth comb.11l In a cultivated area the infantry

can proceed at a maximum speed of only 1.5 km per hour. of a large village
thus occupy hiding several places (10 to 20 hectares companies for several days. by the interrogation Moreover, Dr ~ill

The search

and 2,000 inhabitants) The discovery


is facilitated

of the inhabitants time will tongues.

and the screening

of suspects,

the pa ssage of loosen

bring the rebels out from their holes, The important was allowed operations

point is that a thorough


is absolutely on mo b I le group

indispensable; troop leaders always complained

for this.

that too little time

spent more than 18 months says Captain R.

in the delta,"

''My company had supposedly

had time to make


of villages.

But we never

thorough would find."


search, and we left at the very moment

the inhabitants fired upon to

have talked.

As a result our rear guard was often

as we left a village

by the guerrillas

that they had been unable

Colonel N, zone commander,



It should also be noted that excellent specializing villages. battalion auxiliaries

results wer~ obtained our


certain native units in the tec:hniquei;if searching o


tiThe search is an Lmp or t an t and difficult. act. we obtained excellent for this type of operation. Our Vietnamese

results by training a comp auy of knew the under-

all the Minh ruses well and knew how to find and destroy ground hideouts. The Legionnaires, 1 never have done as we 11.II strangers

to the country, could

The leader of a commandu unit that specialized tions recommended "Militiamen, the following method defectors) peasants, demobilized

in search operanative personnel: of all services or,

for recruiting


and volunteers who wanted

to join the commando had to first furnish individual, documentary proof of honorable

formal proof of their good will by supplying useful information, in the case of a demobilized m i.L], tary service .1' The most practical evolved techniques for the conduct of searches as in the comments

through experience

are contained

that follow. COilcussion However, effect


grenades have no effect whatsoever. for small underground because

grenades are very effective


they can only be used in emergencies, when it comes to gathering the position underground is occupied, position

the concussion

on a Viet Minh will last about two hours, an excessive intelligence. Explosives They permit the clearing of larger underground

loss of time However, if

are very effective.


the Viet Minh are killed and no intelligence when it is used in an The capture of prisoners is that searches are ren-

can be gathered.

Tear gas is very effective not more than 20 m long. The only drawback

is then always achieved. dered very difficult

by the noxious

gases that linger, and the docugrenades are effecexits to be quickly

ments cannot be read until one hour after they are taken, for they must be allowed to air out first. Smoke or phosphorous tive because they allow air vents and undiscovered


V, F.T.N.V.