The Decisive Battle of Dien Bien Phu: How the Viet Minh Stunned the World

Still processing the Vietnam War. Thank you, Ken Burns.

Ed Newman
5 min readOct 30, 2019


As an American Baby Boomer, it is near impossible to not have been impacted by the two major crises of the 1960s: the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. Each has left our generation divided and disturbed.

Public domain.

When Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam War was shared on Public Television it made an impact on all who watched it. I found it impressive how Burns was able to reveal such diverse perspectives without being judgmental, his aim being to make it easier for us to dialogue, to express our thoughts, feelings and experiences, an act that takes courage when we’re coming from such antithetical spaces.

This week I discovered that there is an audiobook version of this historical narrative, also produced by Ken Burns. Whereas the documentary begins with the U.S. deployment of advisors (see Graham Greene’s The Quiet American), the audiobook goes into a little more depth explaining the history that preceded U.S. involvement.

French exploration in Vietnam began in the 17th century after French missionaries took a toehold in Southeast Asia. This eventually evolved into territorial conquest and France becoming a Colonial overlord in the 19th century.

At the end of World War I, when the Paris Peace Talks were taking place and many other nations under Colonial rule were becoming free countries, a young Ho Chi Minh was in France trying to make a case for liberty for his people of Vietnam. Ho failed, and the French maintained control until 1954, at which time Dien Bien Phu became the decisive battle that broke the backbone of the beast.

As I listened to the strategic initiative that demolished the French resolve to continue, it seemed worthy of being shared. It seemed worthy of be considered as one of the great battles of military history. It was brilliantly conceived, and decisive in its significance.



Ed Newman

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj