Valley of the Shadow

Valley of the Shadow

The Siege of Dien Bien Phu

General Military
  • Author: Kevin Boylan, Luc Olivier
  • Short code: GNM
  • Publication Date: 26 Jul 2018
  • Number of Pages: 356
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Following the end of World War II, France attempted to reassert control over its colonies in Indochina. In Vietnam, this was resisted by the Viet Minh leading to the First Indochina War. By 1954, the French army was on the defensive and determined to force the Viet Minh into a decisive set-piece battle at Dien Bien Phu.

Over the past five decades, Western authors have generally followed a standard narrative of the siege of Dien Bien Phu, depicting the Viet Minh besiegers as a faceless horde which overwhelmed the intrepid garrison by sheer weight of numbers, superior firepower, and logistics. However, a wealth of new Vietnamese-language sources tell a very different story, revealing for the first time the true Viet Minh order of battle and the details of the severe logistical constraints within which the besiegers had to operate. Using these sources, complemented by interviews with French veterans and research in the French Army and French Foreign Legion archives, this is a new telling of the climactic battle in the Indochina War, the conflict that set the stage for the Vietnam War a decade later.

Biographical Note

Kevin Boylan teaches history at Emmanuel College in Boston, Massachusetts. He earned his BA in History from Rutgers University, and his PhD from Temple University. From 1995 to 2005, he was employed by the Pentagon as a defense analyst for the US Defense Department and the US Army Staff. Dr Boylan returned to academe in 2005, teaching first at the University of Maine, Augusta, and then at a variety of colleges and universities in Connecticut and Wisconsin before moving to Boston. In October 2014, his ground-breaking article on the topic of Viet Minh artillery at Dien Bien Phu was published in the Journal of Military History, and won the Society of Military History's Moncado Prize in 2015. He lives in Medford, MA, USA.Luc Olivier earned his Masters in Geography at the CESA in the University of Tours, and served in the French Army as a second lieutenant and platoon commander. He also has an extensive background in IT consulting and is presently the managing director of a French-Hungarian IT company. He has designed a dozen commercial wargames - including two on Dien Bien Phu - which have been published in magazines including Vae Victis and Battles Magazine. He also written and published many articles on historical military topics over the last 20 years. He lives in Paris, France.


1. Introduction
2. L'Union Française
3. The Vietnamese People's Army
4. The Base Aero-Terrestre
5. Giap's First Offensive, March 13-18
6. The Lull, March 19-29
7. Giap's Second Offensive, March 30-April 2
8. April is the Cruelest Month, April 3-30
9. Giap's Third Offensive, May 1-8
10. Afterward

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