French Indochina


French Indochina

I can already see I have you thinking, where is that? I have never heard of it. Oh, but you have. It is known worldwide as Vietnam.

French IndochinaBefore I will explain my reasons for this article, I will say I am Pro-US. This is not an attack on coloured people. This is not a political article, it is a brief history of the area, in response to an article on Angie’s Facebook page.

This is by no means an authoritative piece either, as I am no expert on either the history of the area or the events prior to US involvement. I just wish to clear a few misnomers up.

This article was prompted by an article from a coloured man in Mozambique complaining about US domination in world affairs and how the world was waiting for US Democracy.


I am tired of people slamming the US for helping out. If you feel the need to slam somebody, try the French.

Their list of messed-up military affairs goes back to the Franco-Prussian war. Who bailed the French out of the wars, out of Indochina. Who stopped the “Domino effect” of Communism in the far East. OH the USA.

Franco-Prussian war-the French guns were given the wrong calibre ammunition.
WW1-The Ziegfried line, the guns faced into France.

WW2-The Maginot line of fortified posts went as far as the Ardennes. The French in their arrogance told everybody, the Germans cannot drive tanks through the forested area. Try telling that to the soldiers who fought the Ardennes offensive AKA Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945)
WHO lost the most men USA with almost 90,000. How many did the FRENCH lose for this gross mess up -NIL.
90,000 men lost in one offensive fighting in a war far from home.

operation market gardenI won’t go into total US losses for the war. Just to point out one more thing. “Operation Market-Garden” AKA “A bridge too far,” if you read your history books or watched the film you will know the story.

The plan in short was to drop paratroops at bridges at Grave’, Eindhoven, Nijmigen and Arnhem. Then drive 30 corps tanks right through. Audacious as it was as a plan it was held back at the start as the bridge at Grave’ had to be rebuilt on pontoons as it was blown by the Germans.

The point of this section is again apart from Arnhem. ALL the other bridges were taken by US troops.

As you see just in those two sections the US helped Europe out of the mess, where were the French? Apart from the resistance and some Marquis cells, most of the forces had been forced to capitulate within months.

Prior to WW2, the area was known as French Indochina and was part of the French Republic. At the onset of the war France pulled out to fight in Europe. After the war, the French went back to Indochina, by this time Communism was rife in the area we know as North Vietnam.

The French fought running battles with the militia in Vietnam until the fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1956. Then for 6 years, the UK & Australian forces tried to hold the peace. US forces did not go into Vietnam until late in 1962.

Misnomer 1

Vietnam is America’s war, as I have just pointed out it was NOT America’s war. They were just getting the French out of trouble again.

Misnomer 2

Lots of people liken the fall of Dien Bien Phu to Khe Sahn. They could hardly be less alike.
The French had been told by ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam), that the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) at Dien Bien Phu had been supplied by Russia with modern guns but chose to ignore this advice, thinking that they were fighting a native army with bows, arrows and old weapons.

In the meantime, the NVA surrounded Dien Bien Phu and pounded it for days before launching an all out assault. The fall was mainly due to the fact the Vietnamese were willing to take a huge body count to get the outpost. Just as fatal was the lack of support at Dien Bien Phu for the troops.

Khe Sahn on the other hand was what was termed an FSB (Fire Support Base), to give you an idea it was like the Martians in the original film “War of the worlds,” if any base came under attack, and two more could support it with artillery, troops, and planes.

All FSBs were small air bases, fully equipped with runways for the Hercules C-30 transport planes, armoury, and good communication systems. Khe Sahn fell because a fluke shell hit the armoury

As I said at the beginning I am pro-US, this article has no political slant at all. The information is a historic fact and can easily be verified. Another byword after pointing out the errors of his ways to him. I also pointed out that even the Foreign Legion have dropped both the name French and their allegiance to France.

He did not like it when I also pointed out that the Swiss may have given the world one of its dirtiest words (Mercenary) but in the 1960s’ it was Africa that made people like Mike Hoare, Jean Schramme and to a far lesser extent Costas Georgiou wealthy.

I am not surprised he did not wish to further insult the US policies with me, nor talk on the history of US involvement in getting the French out of trouble. If you wish to attack somebody, get your history right.

north and south vietnam

  1. Avatar of says

    America “lost”, (KIA),19,000 men in the battle of the Bulge, not 90,000. Although there were 89,500 casualties overall, approximately 22 percent of the wounded were able to rejoin their units in a matter of weeks.Oh, and the Battle of Dien Bien Phu was fought in 1954 – not 1956. Just trying to get the history right.

  2. Avatar of lirelou
    lirelou says

    Alan, your instincts are good, but some of your facts are bungled. This is not meant as a personal criticism:

    The ARVN’s predecessor was around in 1954, and one of its battalion did fight at DBP (the 5th Vn Para Bat), but their military intelligence service was more dependent upon the French Union Forces than vice versa. The French hardly expected a ‘native Army’ armed with bows, etc., as they eight hard years of battling the Viet Minh behind them. Weather and terrain were the major culprits behind the French loss at DBP, along with the judgment that the VM would not be able to supply sufficient artillery rounds to overcome a proper French defence. The Irony is that fully one third of the troops fighting in French ranks at DBP were Vietnamese. Every French Para battalion had 4 rifle companies, two of which were ‘Indochinese’. That mix was well represented throughout the other arms, to include the Legion.

    Reference the Legion, it has always been the “Foreign Legion”, not the “FFL”, and it remains as much an ‘arm’ of the French Infantry as it has always been, though it is now much smaller than it was in the Indochina War days. You can find some articles of mine on-line through Vietnam magazine, two of those pieces on the Foreign Legion’s organization in Indochina by myself and Mireille Nicoud.

    Oh, in 1939-40 the French did not withdraw from Indochina. They did bring in reinforcements from Indochina, many new drafts of Indochinese troops and war workers, but the bulk f their Army remained in Indochina until 9 March 1945 when the Japanese forces co-habiting Indochina launched their offensive against them. Between 1940 and 1945, those troops received no European replacements and all funding was local, so the percentage of Indochinese troops climbed. I say “Indochinese” because Ethnic Cambodian and other Vietnamese minorities were well represented in the ranks of the Annamese and Tonkinese Tirailleurs, as well as in the “French” Colonial Infantry and other arms, to include Indochina’s single Legion regiment, the 5th REI.

    You can get a good feel for the numbers and percentages of Indochinese in French service by perusing Rives and Deroo’s “Les Linh Tap: Histoire des militaires indochinoises au service de la France (1859 – 1960)”, published by Lavauzelle.

  3. Avatar of Futilus
    Futilus says

    “If you wish to attack somebody, get your history right.” Same to you, sir.

    1 – Bailing out the French is the least the US can do. After all, if it wasn’t for the French the USA would still be a British colony. They bailed you out. Your country exists courtesy of the French. You should be grateful.

    2 – Vietnam WAS an American war. The French had been gone from Indochina for 20 years before the USA came along and make a fool of itself over there.

    3 – “Who stopped the “Domino effect” of Communism in the far East. OH the USA.” Actually, US intervention caused the creation of the dangerous pariah state we now know as North Korea. Vietnam also fell to communism, as did others. US intervention was costly and failed miserably.

    I could go on but your opening pretty much underlined your lack of knowledge. “French Indochina. I can already see I have you thinking, where is that? I have never heard of it. Oh, but you have. It is known world wide as Vietnam.” You completely failed to realise the French also held Laos and Cambodia. You’re just wrong. Do yourself a favour and study the facts without angry, blinkered, pro-American bias obscuring your view next time. Then you might be able to write something that’s actually factual and worth reading.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept

Angie's Diary