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Foreign scholars’ assessment of the significance of Dien Bien Phu Victory

65 years ago, under the right and creative leadership of the Party, headed by President Ho Chi Minh, our troops and people won the great Dien Bien Phu Victory. The victory of this strategic battle not only forced the French colonialists to sign Geneva Agreement to end the war in Indochina, but also opened a new era for the human race - the era of ending the rule of old colonialism around the world.

Throughout the history of world war, mankind has suffered from countless tragedies caused by wars, but also witnessed great victories going down in the history of liberation struggle in many countries. In the twentieth century, Dien Bien Phu Victory (in 1954) emerged as a typical historical event with great value, marking the success of Vietnam’s resistance war against the French colonialists (1945 - 1954); dealing a decisive blow, smashing the will of invading aggressive colonial forces, forcing French Government to sign Geneva Agreement to end the war, restore peace in Vietnam, commit to respect Vietnam’s independence, sovereignty, unification and territorial integration, recognise the independence of Laos and Cambodia, and withdraw troops from the three Indochina countries. This is also a victory which is “recorded in the national history as a Bach Dang, a Chi Lang or a Dong Da in the twentieth century and steeped in the world history as a brilliant feat of breaking through the fortifications of imperialism’s colonial system. For over the past six decades, Dien Bien Phu historic victory has been studied from many different angles, and there has been a mountain of the articles written about Dien Bien Phu. However, in order to have a new, more objective, comprehensive and profound view of this “globe-shaking” victory, the article offers some standpoints of foreign scholars assessing the significance, meaning and profound influence of Dien Bien Phu Victory on the Vietnamese people’s cause of struggling for national liberation and the movement for peace and social progress worldwide.

First and foremost, it is necessary to mention the article by Assoc. Prof, Dr. Christian C. Lentz (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA) about the General Commander of the Dien Bien Phu Campaign. Accordingly, General Vo Nguyen Giap declared that Dien Bien Phu Victory would remain forever in chronicles of the struggle to liberate the country of our people and of all nations under persecution all over the world. With his leadership, General Vo Nguyen Giap - a former history teacher contributed an extra chapter on “our struggle” in the modern world chronicle. This was proved in reality. After nearly 2 months of extremely heroic fighting, under the spirit of being determined to fight, determined to win, our soldiers and people completely destroyed the French fortified entrenched camp in Dien Bien Phu, putting an end to the rule of French colonialists in Indochina. General Vo Nguyen Giap went down in history as a hero of national liberation and an outstanding military expert in the world.

Second, in the International Scientific Conference “Dien Bien Phu Victory - The Vietnamese power and world significance” held in 2014 at Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, Dr. Bountheng Souksavatd (Lao National Institute of Social Studies) affirmed that after 55 days and nights of arduous, fierce and heroic fighting, on 7 May 1954, the fortified entrenched camp of Dien Bien Phu was completely destroyed. That victory defeated the highest war effort of French colonialists supported by the United States, dealt a death blow to the colonialists and imperialists’ invading determination, contributing to promoting the disintegration process of old colonialism all over the world. It was a great victory of the Vietnamese people and also a victory of the unity bloc and coalition between Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, in which Vietnam was a pillar in the resistance war against the common enemy. Then the face of Indochina war changed in favour of the struggle by the peoples of Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia at Geneva Conference. Moreover, in this conference, Assoc. Prof, Dr. Christian C.Lentz emphasized that Dien Bien Phu battle changed the world. The Vietnam People’s Army defeated the French colonialists. The victory contributed to encouraging and strengthening Vietnam’s position in diplomatic negotiations, especially in signing Geneva Agreement to end 8 years of war, break up Indochina Federation and acknowledge the Democratic Republic regime in northern Vietnam from the 17th parallel. In addition, this victory also had a pervasive effect, encouraging other oppressed countries to be more determined to fight against the imperial regime. Meanwhile, Assoc. Prof, Dr. Musiychuk Victoria (Oriental Research Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine) claimed that Dien Bien Phu Victory was an important landmark in the history of Vietnam. He also stressed that this victory not only ended the French colonialists’ rule but also showed the way to gain independence for both Indochina and colonial countries in Africa. In fact, Dien Bien Phu Victory acknowledged the truth that even a small and underdeveloped country could win every war against a much stronger enemy as long as it had the true Marxist Party leadership, the righteous political and military policies, and the support of entire nation’s resources and people around the world. Meanwhile, Dr. Seung-Kyun Ko from the US Hawaii Pacific University affirmed that the Dien Bien Phu Campaign brought about a historic victory over colonialism to Vietnam and at the same time the absolute confidence in its selected path for national independence. The western historian Giuyn Roa mentioned that Dien Bien Phu was a terrible terror as well as the greatest defeat of the West, signalling the collapse of old colonialism and the end of a French republic and put an end to rule not only of France but also of Europe and Asia. Therefore, there was no doubt that Dien Bien Phu was the first victory of colonial nations over a professional invading army of a great empire. Before the battle of Dien Bien Phu, during 500 years of colonial history, there had been no colonial country which had been capable of winning a war of aggression by a great empire or using peaceful method to force rulers to return true independence to them. As regards this event, Prof Carl Thayer (The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy) said that the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu forced France to quickly end its rule in Indochina as well as its presence in the Southeast Asia. At the same time, he added that Dien Bien Phu Victory sent a message that Vietnam possessed a military art that could defeat any invading troops, and Vietnam’s history had proved it.

The era significance of historic Dien Bien Phu Victory has been highly appreciated by many researchers around the world, considering it as a Valmy battle of coloured peoples, a Stalingrad battle in the history of colonial liberation. In 2004, the scholar R.Franck from University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (France) remarked that the influence of Dien Bien Phu was like thunder in the sky of France, and Dien Bien Phu was indeed considered as a failure and also the bankruptcy of France. Furthermore, the scholar J.C. Rome from University of Strasbourg (France) stressed that 1954 was an important year for both French and Vietnamese histories. He said that beyond the border of this colonial nation, it was considered as a pivotal year in the history of East-West conflict and in the history of international relations in general. Due to many different factors, the balance of power was changed in 1954 and even in the following years. Dien Bien Phu Victory overturned colonial policy of the French colonialists, forcing them to make adjustments, respect the rights of other countries, and announce “autonomy” or return independence to many African countries, firstly North African ones such as Tunisia, Morocco and so on. As for the United States which strongly supported and incurred considerable war costs for France, the historian Berna Fol said that Dien Bien Phu was not only a military victory of Viet Minh against the French colonialists, but also a political victory of Viet Minh over Americans.

Although time has receded, the significance and meaning of Dien Bien Phu Victory will remain forever. That has not only been confirmed in the Victory’s theoretical and practical significance to social life and the struggle for peace, national independence, democracy and socialism, but also become a “vivid historical witness” for foreign scholars to study, analyse, and make scientific judgments affirming the profound value of the “globe-shaking” event from various angles. It is the objective and comprehensive studies of foreign scholars that made Dien Bien Phu alive forever and at the same time played as an important basis to fight against hostile forces’ conspiracies and plots of “peaceful evolution” distorting and lowering the position of Vietnam’s great victory.

Sr. Col. Truong Mai Huong, PhD

Deputy Director of Vietnam Military History Institute

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Editorial: A great event in the nation’s history
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