Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Monday, February 16, 2004

This is coolbert: Part I:

To properly understand the siege of Khe Sanh, you must first understand the siege of Dien Bien Phu (DBP) fourteen years earlier. Much of American perceptions of the situation that existed at Khe Sanh in 1968 was based upon the previous siege of DBP.

In 1954, the French and the insurgent Viet Minh had been in combat with one another for seven years. Neither was able to prevail over the other. Both sides had victories and defeats, although it can be said that the Viet Minh probably had the upper hand at the time of DBP. Nonetheless, neither side could prevail over the other. The French commander, Navarre, proposed a plan to inflict a serious defeat on Viet Minh forces. Navarre hoped that such a defeat would result in negotiations that would result in an honorable and reasonable peace favorable to the French. To inflict the desired damage on the Viet Minh forces, Navarre proposed a strategic defensive that would bring about a decisive battle with the Viet Minh. Fighting from defensive positions of thieir choosing, the French would be able to bring superior firepower upon the attacking enemy, resulting in catastrophic losses for the attacker. This decisive defensive battle was to be carried out in territory more or less ceded previously to the Viet Minh, a valley surrounded by small hills and mountainous terrain, Dien Bien Phu (DBP). Parachute units would seize the valley initially, and approximately a division of troops would be airlifted into the remote area to relieve the paratroops and prepare defensive positions. It was felt that by entering into and seizing terrain that was in Viet Minh territory, this would present a challenge to General Giap, the Viet Minh commander, a challenge that he could not ignore. Giap would be forced to respond to DBP with attacks that prove catastrophic to him.



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