The Historical Tipping Point of Dien Bien Phu
In the far northwest of Vietnam, near the border with Laos, lies a long, wide valley enclosing the town of Dien Bien Phu. To the French, this location is well known for the defeat of their army in May 1954. The conquering of the French by the Vietnamese marked the end of the First Indochina War and resulted in a communist northern Vietnam state and democratic southern state. Ultimately the growing conflict led to the Vietnam War.
From the battlefield of 1954, little remains. Traces of the war trenches, barbed wire, camps, and battle lines that used to mark the area faded a long time ago. Now quiet agricultural activities and simple rural settlements dot the landscape. People in this part of Vietnam are mostly a mix of ethnic Viet Kinh and White Tai with other minorities.
There are a few places that do evoke war history nonetheless. For example, the Museum of Dien Bien Phu has over 100 photos of the battle and an explanation of the city’s strategic location. Also, several war vestiges have been restored and preserved and are worth a visit to learn about Vietnam’s wars.
Travelers in this part of Vietnam should certainly take a day to explore the war remnants.
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