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Storm Over Dien Bien Phu» Forums » General

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Mark
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English translations of the French military unit's nomenclature at Dien Bien Phu.

BEP: Foreign (Legion) Parachute Battalion
BPC: Colonial Parachute Battalion
BPVN: Vietnamese Parachute Battalion
BT: Thai Battalion
DBLE: Foreign Legion Half-Brigade
GAACEO: Colonial Far East Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion (Platoon)
GMPT: Thai Mobile Partisan Group
RCC: Light Cavalry Regiment
RCP: Parachute Light Infantry Regiment
REI: Foreign (Legion) Infantry Regiment
RTA: Algerian Rifle Regiment
RTM: Moroccan Rifle Regiment

If these seem confusing, it is because they are. The French Far East Expeditionary Corps was composed of units from five or more different army organizations. Each with a very different origin and culture.

First off, by act of legislation, Metropolitan French Army units could not serve in Indochina. So, core French Army units remained in France or NATO countries.

Second, the French made great use of non-French soldiers. ALL of the above units had some non-French soldiers, some were mostly non-French. However, most were commanded and staffed by French officers, who might be assigned to different organizations.

Finally, at DBP, most units had left any heavy equipment behind. Otherwise, except for Militia, they were generally similarly armed and structured the same.

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Cracky McCracken
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I've always wondered if segregation of the French troops had something to do with the internal desertion problem in the base.

Beyond the strength of the bombardments, were there underlying morale problems to begin with?
 
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Barry Kendall
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From what I've read, the French domestic political situation did not realistically permit deployment of French units to the Far East with the exception of the "professional core" (Airborne and Armored) and Foreign Legion troops and, of course, French Colonial units in French service.
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Cracky McCracken
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I noticed that the different French troops were stationed together. The Algerians surrendered together, the Thai troops quit together etc.

The VM hit the outer boxes hard and forced the various French groups back into the base. How solid were these colonial troops to begin with? The elite French paratroopers were unbelievable, they fought to the death, but the collapse of the outer boxes doomed the base. Did the Algerians and other groups simply know how screwed they were and weren't willing to fight to the death for their French masters?

Were they completely resentful of being airdropped into the boondocks of the jungle only to await a siege? Weeks of digging trenches in a monsoon drenched valley while being treated like crap would wear on one's nerves.
 
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Mark
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Cracky wrote:
I've always wondered if segregation of the French troops had something to do with the internal desertion problem in the base.

Beyond the strength of the bombardments, were there underlying morale problems to begin with?


Beyond the bombardment was the knowledge the war was winding down for the French. The population at home, and the shaky French government were against the war. Indochina was one of the post-WW2 dying last gasps of colonialism. The Indochinese troops fighting for France were fighting against Communism, but for French control. The North Africans were from French controlled colonies, fighting for French control of the Indochina colony. Yet, despite these dichotomies, they did not waiver.

Not long after the battle began, the airfield became unusable, and airdrops were never sufficient to resupply and reinforce the garrison. The garrison itself was insufficiently constructed for a major siege (due to the paucity of air supply). It was too remote to be rescued or escaped. Inadequate medical facilities. Hot, humid, disease ridden. Surrounded, and pounded into a muddy morass. Yet, it was probably Viet Minh morale that sunk the lowest during the battle. They had most of the problems that the French did, plus they were being ordered into repeated suicidal wave attacks, until Giap figured out a more patient, better method--extensive sapping and concentrating firepower.
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Mark
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Barry Kendall wrote:
From what I've read, the French domestic political situation did not realistically permit deployment of French units to the Far East with the exception of the "professional core" (Airborne and Armored) and Foreign Legion troops and, of course, French Colonial units in French service.


I believe all the parachute units were from the Far East Expeditionary Corps and the Foreign Legion. I don't think Metropolitan units were represented in Indochina. And, that was a politcal decision, not one based on any "professional" differences. The French Army units in Indochina were understrength and unequipped. They included many indigenous troops. But, their performance was not second-string. Not at DBP.
 
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Thomas Gingras

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From what I read the only units that through actual actions and not stereotypes that performed poorly were some of the Thais. In a large part due to the propaganda effort made against them and the fact that their homes were already under Viet Minh control.
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Jason Cawley
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Thais and some Algerians had political problems to some degree, and some of the locals found it easier to desert and escape if they wanted to. But most of the Foreign Legion and anti communist colonial forces fought hard. You have to remember, though, that they are being compared to the French paras, who were the elite of the French army and extremely well trained, lead by WWII veteran officers and NCOs etc. Ordinary regular level infantry performance would and did fall notably below their standard.
 
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