Causes and Consequences of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu

10 October 2016

Causes and consequences of the battle of Dien Bien Phu Examine the causes and consequences and consequences of the battle of Dien Bien Phu, 1954, which affected the lives of the Vietnamese until the 1960’s. Dien Bien Phu, 1954, was the final battle of the first Indo-China war. Lasting 55 days, the battle had French troops attempt to hold an armed camp against the Viet Minh, who greatly out-numbered them. Dien Bien Phu was situated in a valley in Northern Vietnam, surrounded by mountains.

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The French believed this strategic setting would give them an advantage, but the Viet Minh were clever. They tunnelled their way into the the French camp and after seven weeks of brutal, intense fighting the French commander; Henri Navarre, ordered a ceasefire. The causes of this event are; the division of Vietnam, 1946 and the first Indo-China war, 1946-54. The battle of Dien Bien Phu also had important consequences that affected the lives of the Vietnamese. These are; the Geneva conference, 1954 and the appointing of Ngo Dinh Diem as Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam.

The first cause of the battle of Dien Bien Phu was the division of Vietnam in 1946. After thousands of years of occupation, Vietnam and it’s people had developed a strong sense of nationalism. During World War II, it was once again occupied, this time by the Japanese. When Japan surrendered in 1945, Vietnam was free for the first time. Ho Chi Minh and his fighting force; The Viet Minh, took control of the country. On September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. However, their happy independence did not last long.

The Allies of WWII agreed that Indo-China should be occupied by the Chinese nationalists, who were fighting the communists at the time, with the South being controlled by the British. When the British arrived, their general, Gracey, began to organise the return of the French. With the Chinese nationalists busy fighting a civil war at home in China, Ho Chi Minh’s democratic republic was allowed to continue, however, in February 1946, the Chinese nationalists handed northern Vietnam back to the French. Things were once again how they had been before the Japanese occupation in WWII.

This lead to the battle of Dien Bien Phu, as the Viet Minh were angered that their newly gained independence had been stripped away. The French were back in control of the entire country of Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh’s forces were prepared to fight to regain the independence they had yearned for for centuries. The second cause of the battle of Dien Bien Phu was the first Indo-China war, 1946-54. With the French back in control of Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was crushed. Neither the French nor the Viet Minh like the others’ presence in Vietnam.

Tensions were high and war was coming. Finally on 23 November, 1946, the French planes and ships bombed the Vietnamese section of the Haiphong Port. This attack killed approximately 6,000 people. For a few weeks there were acts of revenge from the Vietnamese, and counter-revenge by the French, until war began on 19 December. The Viet Minh’s tactic was guerrilla warfare, while the French tried to proceed with a more traditional style of fighting. The French decided to put the former emperor; Bao Dai, back on the throne, to placate to Vietnamese people.

This lead to two opposing groups of Vietnamese fighters. By 1949, Mao Zedong won the civil war in China, meaning Ho Chi Minh now had an ally on the northern border. With Mao’s influence, the Viet Minh’s tactic changed from guerilla warfare to mobile warfare, meaning they now launched larger, deadlier offensive attacks. Chinese materials supported their assault, while the US sent materials to the French. When China became involved in the Korean War in 1950, materials ceased to flow into Vietnam, although the Viet Minh were persistant and despite their lack of resources, they continued to fight back.

By this point, war had been on for a duration of six years. The French began to recruit Vietnamese soldiers, although they distrusted them greatly. Even so, it became apparent that the Viet Minh vastly outnumbered them. By 1953, the French knew the war had to end, fast. General Navarre devised a plan to trap the Viet Minh into attacking the village of Dien Bien Phu. The first Indo-China war was a cause of the battle of Dien Bien Phu, as it was set up by the French as a way to end the war, although this didn’t exactly go to plan.

The first consequence of the battle of Dien Bien Phu was the Geneva conference. In February 1954, Britain, France, the USSR and the United States planned a conference to decide the fate of Korea and Indo-China. On April 26, 1954 the conference opened. Korea was the main focus of the conference until the day after the battle of Dien Bien Phu, at which point the focus changed to Vietnam. Besides the four main powers, others attending the conference included; China, Cambodia, Laos, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the State of Vietnam.

The US was strongly opposed to the idea of a united, communist Vietnam, due to plans such as the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. It was decide that Vietnam would be split at the seventeenth parallel, with Ho Chi Minh controlling the communist North and Bao Dai in charge of the capitalist South. The people of Vietnam had 200 days to choose which side of the border to move to and the Viet Minh had 300 days to move back to the North. The idea was that a general election would be held in July 1956, at which point the people of Vietnam would vote to decide its fate.

This declaration was never signed, but was simply a verbal agreement, which was opposed by both the US and the State of Vietnam. This conference was a consequence of the battle of Dien Bien Phu, as it signalled the end of French control in Indo-China. A second consequence of the battle of Dien Bien Phu was the appointing of Nga Dinh Diem as Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam. Due to the communist control in the North, Vietnam had gained the express attention of the United States.

Due to their strong anti-communist stance, the US decided to back to back Ngo Dinh Diem as Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam. This was due to the fact that Diem was a devout Catholic and ardent anti-Communist. Diem took office on 1 July 1954, he had heavy financial support from the US to help fix Vietnam, much of which has been destroyed in the war. His immediate task was to crush his rivals; this included two religious sects; the Cao Dai and Hoa Hao, which he destroyed with military offensives and bribes. Also his firing line was emperor Bao Dai, who he got rid of by rigging a referendum.

Diem promoted members of his family into high government positions, which lead to more of a mess than an organised government. In 1956, Diem felt strong enough to refuse the planned elections to untie Vietnam. He had gained many enemies, and decided to isolate himself, relying on his family for information. In response to the hatred of Diem, a South-Vietnamese communist movement was organised, they were named the Viet Cong. They gathered support from the people of South-Vietnam by using brain-washing techniques; they also launched a guerrilla attack against the enemy.

As the Viet Cong’s powers grew, so did the American support. But Diem became even less popular, and his number of enemies grew. In October 1963, the American government cut off some of its aid to Diem’s government. On 1 November Diem and his brother fled the presidential palace, but were captured and shot by their own generals. This was the end of Diem. His appointment was a consequence of the battle of Dien Bien Phu, as it is was a solution to the strong communist presence in the country that resulted from the success of the Viet Minh in the battle.

The battle of Dien Bien Phu was a monumental event in Vietnam which decided the fate of Vietnam for the next 50 years. The causes of which were the division of Vietnam in 1946, and the first Indo-China war, 1946-54. There were also consequences that affected the people of Vietnam, such as; the Geneva conference, 1954 and the appointment of Ngo Dinh Diem as Prime Minister of the State of Vietnam. These consequences are not directly linked to the battle, but they are consequences of it nonetheless. Without the battle of Dien Bien Phu, who knows how Vietnam would have turned out.

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