In December 1953 French paratroopers, who had been searching for the elusive Vietnamese army, were quickly isolated by them and forced to retreat into their out-gunned and desolate jungle base-a small place called Dien Bien Phu. The Vietnamese besieged the French base for five long and desperate months. Eventually, the demoralized and weakened French were utterly depleted and withdrew in defeat. The siege at Dien Bien Phu was a landmark battle of the last century-the first defeat of modern western forces by an Asian guerilla army.The Last Valley is the first new account of the battle since the 1970s. The author has incorporated much new material from French and Vietnamese sources, including veteran interviews, making this the most complete account to-date. And Martin Windrow has received widespread praise from top historians such as John Keegan and Max Hastings (below), as well as reviewers on both sides of the Atlantic.
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Martin Windrow is an associate of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the Foreign Legion Association of Great Britain. He is the co-author of several well-known military reference works, including the Dictionary of Military Biography. He lives in Sussex, England.From Booklist:
In this masterful account of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu of 1953-54, Windrow dissects retrospective criticism of the French strategy. For reasons that emerge within his comprehensive, meticulous analysis, the ideas behind the French strategy at Dien Bien Phu were taken from a prior victorious battle. Generals believed that establishing a ground base deep in Communist-controlled territory and supplying it by air would regain them the initiative against the Viet Minh insurgency. The heart of Windrow's narrative, and implicitly his sympathies, lies with the officers and men who carried out the strategy--and bore its cost as its assumptions were progressively stifled by the Viet Minh commander, the storied Vo Nguyen Giap. As the mobile battle envisaged by French planners degenerates into a wallow of World War I-style attrition, Windrow describes with brutal realism the carnage of the combat, which snuffed out tens of thousands of lives. Many works address Dien Bien Phu's history-altering significance in the Indochina conflict, but for learning about what actually happened there, Windrow's will be difficult to surpass. Gilbert Taylor
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