|Gen. Nguyen Van Hinh|
In October of 1949 however, things took a turn for the worse when Chairman Mao Tse-tung defeated President Chiang Kai-shek and proclaimed the People's Republic of China from the main gate of the Forbidden City in Peking. The Chinese could now devote more attention and material to helping the VietMinh take control of Indochina. The French gave further assurances to the Bao Dai regime and also recognized the independence of the Kingdoms of Laos and Cambodia, whose monarchies had remained popular and intact. Soon, there were Communist insurgencies spreading into these countries as well, all of them direct descendants of Ho Chi Minh's original Indochinese Communist Party. These events emboldened General Giap who decided that the time had come to stop raiding villages and ambushing small patrols and take on the French in conventional warfare. By 1950 his forces included five light and one heavy infantry divisions. Throughout early to mid 1950 Giap began hitting French outposts along the Chinese border. The United States, although primarily occupied with the Communist invasion of Korea, began sending France millions of dollars to support the war in Indochina.
|Gen. Carpentier & Emp. Bao Dai|
The French commander decided to try to fence-in the VietMinh and destroy them in their northern strongholds. To accomplish this, he built a series of fortified towers around the Red River delta region from the Gulf of Tonkin to Hanoi. This series of fortifications, known as the "De Lattre Line" was defended by Vietnamese troops, while French forces were deployed to strike at VietMinh targets within this enclosed zone. It was a strategy that seems to have had some effect as Ho Chi Minh soon declared the formation of the Lao Dong Party, preaching an almost religious fanaticism for Communism. When Giap attacked Vinh Yen in January, 1951 General de Lattre hit back hard, this time smashing the Communist forces, inflicting heavy losses and forcing them to retreat. Estimates of VietMinh troops killed or wounded reached as high as 17,000.
|Gen. de Lattre & Emp. Bao Dai|
As 1951 marched on, the French requested increases in aid from the United States, urging them to stand strong in the global crusade against Communism. In October, Giap was once again bloodily defeated at Nghia Lo thanks to the timely arrival of French airborne troops. The VietMinh, who had used their knowledge of the ground to out-maneuver the French, were finally being outdone by air mobility, something that would come back later in a big way with the American "Air Cavalry". However, the French war effort, and Bao Dai's "State of Vietnam" continued to suffer from bad press, some liberal American politicians even denounced the Eisenhower administration's policy of supporting it as being a "desperate effort of the French regime to hang on to the remnants of an empire". Opposition to the war was also growing in France itself where the socialist/communist movement was quite strong. Acts by French leftists to sabotage their own war effort were not uncommon. More bad news followed as De Lattre was overextended and suffered some hard losses at the hands of Giap, who nevertheless withdrew his forces again immediately after the battle.
|Gen. Raoul Salan|
|Gen. Navarre & Emp. Bao Dai|
|Franco-Viet forces at Dien Bien Phu|
|communist victory parade|