Viet Nam: Where France Lost an Empire

Hanoi marks a famous victory

At the end of World War II, the French decided to reassert their century-old economic and political influence in Viet Nam. But by the mid-1940s they found themselves battling the nationalist ambitions of the Communist Viet Minh and their French-educated leader Ho Chi Minh. By 1954, with Viet Minh control spreading across the countryside, the French chose the valley of Dien Bien Phu to make a decisive stand aimed at checking the Communists. Instead, the one set-piece battle of the seven-year Indochina war led to the slaughter of 1,500 Frenchmen and, at home, to the...

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