Battle of Vĩnh Yên

Last updated
Battle of Vĩnh Yên
Part of the First Indochina War
DateJanuary 13–17, 1951
Location
Result French Union victory
Belligerents
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg French Union Flag of North Vietnam 1945-1955.svg Việt Minh
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Jean de Lattre de Tassigny Flag of North Vietnam 1945-1955.svg Võ Nguyên Giáp
Flag of North Vietnam 1945-1955.svg Hoàng Văn Thái
Strength
9,000 French Union troops 20,000 Viet Minh troops
Casualties and losses
43 killed
545 missing/captured
160 wounded [1]
Viet Minh figures:
675 killed
1,730 wounded
80 missing[ citation needed ]

According to de Lattre:
1600 killed
480 prisoners
6000 wounded [1]

The Battle of Vĩnh Yên (Vietnamese : Trận Vĩnh Yên) which occurred from 13 to 17 January 1951, was a major engagement in the First Indochina War between the French Union and the Việt Minh. The French Union forces, led by World War II hero Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, inflicted a decisive defeat on the Việt Minh forces, which were commanded by Võ Nguyên Giáp. The victory marked a turn in the tide of the war, which was previously characterized by a number of Việt Minh victories.

Contents

Prelude

By October 1950, the Việt Minh had seized the initiative from the French. Operating from bases in the People's Republic of China, Việt Minh troops under Giáp constantly raided French outposts along Route Coloniale 4. At the end of the attacks on October 17, the French had lost 6,000 troops, stunning the French government into action: the high commissioner for Indochina, Leon Pignon, and the commander-in-chief of the French Expeditionary Corps, General Georges Carpentier, were both recalled. Paris replaced them with General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, widely considered one of the greatest French commanders after his spectacular leadership of the French First Army in World War II.

De Lattre came to Hanoi, Vietnam, on 17 December and assumed both military and political control of French Indochina. The French Far East Expeditionary Corps numbered some 190,000, including 10,000 serving in the French Air Force and 5,000 in the French Navy. The French occupied most of the country, but the Việt Minh held considerable portions of the countryside that allowed quick and easy access to various crucial points should the need arise. Giáp had five divisions, all armed and equipped by the Chinese, composed of about 10,000 troops each. Four of the five Vietnamese divisions were roughly 150 miles north of Hanoi, stationed around the Việt Bắc region near the Chinese border. The 320th Division was located southwest of the Red River Delta, which was controlled by the French.

The dawn of 1951 heralded tremendous prospects for Việt Minh success. Giáp and Communist Party strategists planned for a massive offensive which would drive the French out of their homeland. Giáp decided to strike straight for Hanoi and chose Vĩnh Yên, 30 miles northwest of the capitol and the tip of the French defensive triangle, for the main blow.

Battle

Dispositions

Vĩnh Yên was defended by two French mobile groups (GM) of 3,000 men each. GM 3 guarded the town itself whereas GM 1 held a series of key blocking positions to the east. Giáp hoped to drive a wedge between the two forces by pinning GM 3 against the Dam Vac lake to the south and then defeating the French in detail. In late December, Giáp had moved the 308th and 312th divisions from the Việt Bắc into position along the Tam Dao ridge. On January 13, 1951, he attacked.

The battle

The 308th Division made a diversionary attack on Bao Chuc, a small outpost about two miles north of Vĩnh Yên. GM 3 quickly moved north to relieve the beleaguered 50-man garrison, but they were ambushed by forces from the 312th Division at Dao Tu. A series of heavy air strikes and artillery barrages eventually allowed GM 3 to disengage and return to Vĩnh Yên, but not before it had lost an entire battalion and had another severely damaged. Việt Minh forces followed their success by taking a string of hills in front of Vĩnh Yên.

On 14 January, de Lattre arrived in Vĩnh Yên to take personal command of the fighting. He ordered GM 2 to come from Hanoi as a reserve, GM 1 to attack west and break through to the town, and also called for heavy air strikes along with more reinforcements. GM 1 managed to successfully advance along Route 2 and joined GM 3 for a number of attacks which drove the Việt Minh out of the hills they had recently captured. On 16 January, however, the Việt Minh launched a massive human-wave assault with the entire 308th division. De Lattre replied by ordering the largest French air strike of the entire war, in which napalm was used for the first time on a large scale. Giáp's troops initially fled, only to come back and continue fighting. In the early hours of 17 January, French soldiers on Hill 101 ran out of ammunition and withdrew, soon followed by the Việt Minh capture of Hill 47. Giáp now had control of the center while the French controlled hills 210 and 157 on the flanks. At dawn, the 308th Division attacked again.

De Lattre used GM 2, his last reserve, to support Hill 47 while GM 3 was sent to the isolated French position on Hill 210. More air and napalm strikes followed both attacks. Finally, French aerial forces proved decisive. The 308th Division began to retreat and the 312th launched one more desperate attack to reverse the decision, but it was too late. By noon on 17 January, both Việt Minh divisions scrambled for the mountains.

Aftermath

Although the impressive French victory did not provide any short-term reprieve—Giáp would try to breach the line again shortly—it was a morale booster for French forces and confirmed that Paris had made the right decision in picking de Lattre[ citation needed ] to lead the effort against the Việt Minh. Strategically, the battle meant that the war would go on and ultimate victory would not be easy for either side.

Related Research Articles

Peoples Army of Vietnam Combined military forces of Vietnam

The People's Army of Vietnam, also known as the Vietnamese People's Army (VPA), is the military force of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The PAVN is a part of the Vietnam People's Armed Forces and includes: Ground Force, Navy, Air Force, Border Defence Force, Coast Guard, Cyberspace Operations, and Mausoleum Defence Force. However, Vietnam does not have a separate Ground Force or Army branch. All ground troops, army corps, military districts and specialised arms belong to the Ministry of Defence, directly under the command of the Central Military Commission, the Minister of Defence, and the General Staff of the Vietnam People's Army. The military flag of the PAVN is the flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, with the words Quyết thắng added in yellow at the top left.

Võ Nguyên Giáp North Vietnamese commander

Võ Nguyên Giáp was an army general in the Vietnam People's Army and a politician. Võ Nguyên Giáp has been called one of the greatest military strategists of the 20th century. He first rose to prominence during World War II, where he served as the military leader of the Viet Minh resistance against the Japanese occupation of Vietnam and also as Defence Minister & Deputy Prime Minister for nearly 44 years. Giáp was a crucial military commander in two wars: the First Indochina War of 1946–1954, and the Vietnam War of 1955–1975, participating in several historically significant battles: Cao Bằng in 1950, Hòa Bình in 1951–1952, Điện Biên Phủ in 1954, the Tết Offensive in 1968, the Easter Offensive in 1972, and the final Ho Chi Minh Campaign of 1975.

Battle of Dien Bien Phu Decisive Viet Minh victory over the French near the end of the First Indochina War

The Battle of Dien Bien Phu was a climactic confrontation of the First Indochina War that took place between 13 March and 7 May 1954. It was fought between the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps and Viet Minh communist revolutionaries.

Battle of Route Coloniale 4 battle of the First Indochina War along Route Coloniale 4 (RC4, aka. Highway 4)

The Battle of Route Coloniale 4, also called the Autumn-Winter Border Campaign by the Viet Minh, was a battle of the First Indochina War. It took place along Route Coloniale 4, a road used to supply the French military base at Cao Bằng. French military traffic along the road had previously been subject to an ongoing series of ambushes during 1947–1949.

First Indochina War 1946-1954 war between French Union and Hồ Chí Minhs forces

The First Indochina War began in French Indochina on December 19, 1946, and lasted until July 20, 1954. Fighting between French forces and their Việt Minh opponents in the south dated from September 1945. The conflict pitted a range of forces, including the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps, led by France and supported by Bảo Đại's Vietnamese National Army against the Việt Minh, led by Hồ Chí Minh and the People's Army of Vietnam led by Võ Nguyên Giáp. Most of the fighting took place in Tonkin in northern Vietnam, although the conflict engulfed the entire country and also extended into the neighboring French Indochina protectorates of Laos and Cambodia.

Jean de Lattre de Tassigny French general

Jean Joseph Marie Gabriel de Lattre de Tassigny was a French army general during World War II and the First Indochina War. He was posthumously elevated to the dignity of Marshal of France.

Operation Léa was French Union military operation between 7 October and 8 November 1947 during the First Indochina War. It is also known as the Viet Bac Campaign by the Viet Minh. It was an attempt by the French General Valluy to crush the Việt Minh. An airborne force would capture the Việt Minh leadership and three French columns would strike into the Việt Minh heartland.

The Battle of Mạo Khê, occurring from March 23 to March 28, 1951, was a significant engagement in the First Indochina War between the French Union and the Việt Minh. The French Union forces, led by World War II hero Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, inflicted a defeat on Việt Minh forces, which were commanded by General Võ Nguyên Giáp. The French Union victory, however, was not decisive and the Việt Minh would attack again shortly afterwards.

Operation Lorraine military operation of the First Indochina War

Operation Lorraine was a French military operation of the First Indochina War.

The Battle of Hòa Bình was fought during the First Indochina War. It occurred from 10 November 1951 to 25 February 1952, when French Union forces attempted to lure the Việt Minh out into the open and to force it to fight on French terms.

Battle of Nà Sản Battle of the First Indochina War

The Battle of Nà Sản was fought between French Union forces and the Nationalist forces of the Việt Minh at Nà Sản, Sơn La Province, during the First Indochina War for control of the T’ai region.

Operation Mouette

Operation Mouette was an operation in 1953 by the French Army in Northern Vietnam during the First Indochina War. It was launched on October 15 in an attempt to locate and destroy Viet-Minh Chu Luc troops operating under the command of Võ Nguyên Giáp around the area of Phu Nho Quan, south of the Red River Delta. Following the establishment of a French camp in the area, various troops were dispatched to engage the Viet-Minh forces. The operation was ended and the French withdrew by November 7, claiming approximately 1,000 enemy combatants killed, twice as many wounded, and 181 captured as well as a substantial quantity of weapons and ammunition.

The 308th Infantry Division is a division of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), first formed in August 1950 in southern China from the previous Regimental Group 308.

Battle of Muong Khoua battle of the First Indochina War

The Battle of Muong Khoua, also called Upper Laos campaign by the Vietminh, took place between April 13 and May 18, 1953, in northern Laos during the French Indochina War. A garrison of a dozen French and 300 Laotian troops occupied a fortified outpost in the hills above the village of Muong Khoua, across the border from Điện Biên Phủ. Muong Khoua was among the last French outposts in northern Laos following the decision of the French High Command to string several isolated garrisons through the region in order to buy time to fortify the major Laotian cities against Việt Minh attack.

Battle of the Day River

The Battle of the Day River took place between late May and early June 1951, around the Day River Delta in the Gulf of Tonkin. Part of the First Indochina War, the battle was the first conventional campaign of Võ Nguyên Giáp, and saw his Việt Minh People's Army of Vietnam (VPA) forces tackle the Catholic-dominated region of the Delta in order to break its resistance to Việt Minh infiltration. On the back of two defeats at similar ventures through March and April that year, Giap led three divisions in a pattern of guerrilla and diversion attacks on Ninh Bình, Nam Định, Phủ Lý and Phat Diem beginning on May 28 which saw the destruction of commando François, a naval commando.

Hoàng Văn Thái Vietnamese general (1915-1986)

Hoàng Văn Thái, born Hoàng Văn Xiêm, was a Vietnamese Army General and a communist political figure. His hometown was Tây An, Tiền Hải District, Thái Bình Province. During the Tết Offensive, he was the highest senior North Vietnamese officer in South Vietnam. He was the first chief of staff of the Vietnam People's Army, and was responsible for key military forces in North Vietnam. He was also Chief of Staff in the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ.

<i>7554</i> First-person shooter video game

7554: Glorious Memories Revived is a first-person shooter video game developed by Vietnamese video game developer Emobi Games for Windows. It was released for Vietnamese markets on December 16, 2011.

The Battle of Nghĩa Lộ, also called Ly Thuong Kiet Campaign by Việt Minh, was fought between the French army and the Việt Minh during the First Indochina War. Both general Giap and de Lattre waited eagerly for the battle due to the postponement that occurred when Giap's attack along the Day River were driven back in June 1951. Since Giap was the one controlling the tempo of this war for months, it took a huge turn during the pause after his defeat causing his military situation to become unstable. On 3 October, the Việt Minh 312th Division launched an attack on French forces in the town of Nghĩa Lộ and its vicinity which was led by the general Giap. This attack on Nghĩa Lộ occurred 95 miles west of Hanoi and only 65 miles past that of the western de Lattre Line. This village was the utmost importance to de Lattre because it served as the capital of the T'ai natives which had very strong ties with the French. The first attacked was carried out by two regiments of the 312th Division to the surrounding posts that acted as the main defense of the town in order to maintain military control. Since de Lattre was not present at the time, General Salan took the reigns of the situation and quickly reinforced the surrounding posts with paratroopers carried by parachutes to fortify defenses. This quick strategy by General Salan was looked upon the saving grace of this battle since it repelled a secondary attack by two regiments of the 312th Division that same night. Additional reinforcements occurred during the 4th of October along with air support which led to General Giap to call off his attack which they then fled across the Red River. A year later on 17 October, the Việt Minh launched another attack on Nghĩa Lộ and succeeded in driving out the remaining French from the area.

The Battle of Nghĩa Lộ was a battle of the First Indochina War. In the fall of 1952 the French army encountered its most serious crisis since the disasters near the Chinese border at Cao Bằng, Đông Khê and RC 4 occurred in 1949 and 1950. The Battle of Nghĩa Lộ was the opening salvo in a series of offenses and counter-offenses in late 1952 during the First Indochina War. It was part of a Việt Minh offensive in the T’ai region of Tonkin in the vicinity of the Black River. The French countered with Operation Lorraine to attack Việt Minh rear supply bases in an attempt to cut off the offensive. The Việt Minh did not cease or divert the offensive to protect its supply bases. The Việt Minh continued its offensive attack against Nà Sản where there was an outpost and a short airstrip, both guarded by the French army. This series of battles lasted for three months between October 1952 and December 1952. These actions and the Việt Minh successes set the stage for the subsequent Invasion of Laos in April 1953.

References

  1. 1 2 "Vietnam" book by Spencer Tucker, found on Google books retrieved on 19 February 2012

Sources