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Valley of Death

The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America into the Vietnam War

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Description

Pulitzer Prize–winning author Ted Morgan has now written a rich and definitive account of the fateful battle that ended French rule in Indochina—and led inexorably to America’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 movement’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 defeat—which instead led to the Europeans being encircled in the surrounding hills, besieged by heavy artillery, overrun, and defeated.

    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 “no military victory was possible in that type of theater.” 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.
 

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Dec 14, 2009 – Pulitzer-winning journalist Morgan (Reds) synergizes a comprehensive spectrum of overlooked sources in this magisterial analysis of the 1954 French defeat at Dien Bien Phu and its consequences. The battle ended French colonial rule in Indochina and set the stage for American involvement in Vietnam, as unwanted initially as it was tragic in the end. The French, in November 1953, decided to establish a base in the remote valley of Dien Bien Phu. They were convinced the garrison could be supplied and supported by air, and Vietminh reaction thwarted by the roadless mountains and impenetrable jungles. Both assumptions were mistaken. Morgan, himself a veteran of the French army, eloquently describes the envelopment, the strangling, and the crushing of the French garrison by “a people's army of Vietnamese peasants” in the face of no less determined defenders. Reframing the battle, often viewed as a French folly, Morgan calls Dien Bien Phu “one of the great epics of military endurance” by both sides. His book is a fitting tribute to the men who wrote that epic. 16 pages of b&w photos, 2 maps.
Valley of Death
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  • $18.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Military
  • Published: Feb 23, 2010
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 752 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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