The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America into the Vietnam War
On Sale: February 23, 2010
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Pulitzer Prizeâ€“winning author Ted Morgan has now written a
rich and definitive account of the fateful battle that
ended French rule in Indochinaâ€”and led inexorably to
Americaâ€™s Vietnam War. Dien Bien Phu was a remote valley on
the border of Laos along a simple rural trade route. But it
would also be where a great European power fell to an
underestimated insurgent army and lost control of a crucial
colony. Valley of Death is the untold story of the 1954
battle that, in six weeks, changed the course of history.
A veteran of the French Army, Ted Morgan has made use of
exclusive firsthand reports to create the most complete and
dramatic telling of the conflict ever written. Here is the
history of the Vietminh liberation movementâ€™s rebellion
against French occupation after World War II and its growth
as an adversary, eventually backed by Communist China. Here
too is the ill-fated French plan to build a base in Dien
Bien Phu and draw the Vietminh into a debilitating defeatâ€”
which instead led to the Europeans being encircled in the
surrounding hills, besieged by heavy artillery, overrun,
Making expert use of recently unearthed or released
information, Morgan reveals the inner workings of the
American effort to aid France, with Eisenhower secretly
disdainful of the French effort and prophetically worried
that â€śno military victory was possible in that type of
theater.â€ť Morgan paints indelible portraits of all the
major players, from Henri Navarre, head of the French Union
forces, a rigid professional unprepared for an enemy
fortified by rice carried on bicycles, to his commander,
General Christian de Castries, a privileged, miscast
cavalry officer, and General Vo Nguyen Giap, a master of
guerrilla warfare working out of a one-room hut on the side
of a hill. Most devastatingly, Morgan sets the stage for
the Vietnam quagmire that was to come.
Superbly researched and powerfully written, Valley of
Death is the crowning achievement of an author whose work
has always been as compulsively readable as it is important.
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