Monday, November 8, 2010

Na San!

This is coolbert:

"... sans elle [l'aviation], Na San n'était pas possible et je perdais la bataille du Nord-Ouest - (... without it [air-support], Na San would not be possible and I would've lost the Northwest battle)." - - Raoul Salan

"... it (the battle) wasn't a defeat - but we suffered losses." - - Vo Nguyen Giap

"Nous ne sommes pas entamés! Ca tient partout! C'est un déluge de feu indescriptible." (We have not been overrun! All (positions) hold! It is an indescribable deluge of fire.)" - - Jean Gilles

"Defense is the stronger form of combat" - - Clausewitz

Well, this was a new one on me.

Na San. A battle of the First Indo-China War! A decisive victory for French Union troops!

"The Battle of Na San was fought between French Union forces and the communist forces of the Viet Minh at Na San . . . during the First Indochina War"

And even more importantly, a model for which the French high-command had in mind when they embarked upon the mis-adventure at Dien Bien Phu [DBP]. The tactical precepts as followed at Na San were a success and the French hoped to replicate the same at DBP! The strategy, operational art and tactics of the French at DBP WERE NOT TOTALLY WITHOUT MERIT!!

French Union troops establishing an outpost in enemy territory, defended by a series of surrounding strong-points, fighting a strictly defensive battle [with appropriate counter-attacks], able to successfully defend and defeat the overwhelming numbers of the attacking Viet Minh. Goad the enemy into an attack over ground for you which prepared a suitable defense.

"the hedgehog" (le hérisson), [was used] for the first time. The hedgehog defense consisted of an outpost surrounded by several armed positions (Point d'appui or P.A.). The objective was to provoke an enemy frontal assault . . . Na-San's hedgehog consisted of 30 P.A. with a complicated trench system, enforced with barbed wires. Its defense forces consisted of 11 battalions (15,000 men) and 6 artillery batteries."

"after nearly 2 weeks of trying to overrun Na San, General Giap withdrew his troops leaving behind 5,000 dead and over 2,000 wounded prisoners. The defending Franco-Vietnamese forces lost close to 2 battalions."

"sometimes the attackers outnumbered the defenders 15 to 1. Na San had achieved the unthinkable: halting Giap's seemingly unstoppable Vietminh forces"

French Union troops at Na San predominantly NOT Frenchmen but consisting of Colonial North African troops, indigenous friendly Vietnamese and Tai soldiers, and of course the French Foreign Legion contingents. The same exact mix of units that fought at DBP.

"Defense is the stronger form of combat". Easier to do and you can accomplish more with less!! Determined troops in well-fortified positions well commanded and prepared doing well at Na San. NOT SO at Dien Bien Phu!



Unknown said...

Itwouldappear that at Na San the French held the high ground . That looks to have been decisive , and better protected their airstrip It was an important battle ,won by the French Union . Had a correct interpretation of its lesson been learned , I doubt that Navarre would have sent his troops to Dienbienphu , which was at the limits of any air cover that could be given .

Unknown said...

I agree entirely with your assessment . French Union forces at Na San held the high ground , with a smaller perimeter than at Dienbienphu . Air support could be there longer , as Na San was less distance away from air fields used by the French . The Na San air strip was hidden from the Communists behind and below the French strong points , and was thus less vulnerable to attack than those at Dienbienphu . The battle at Na San was a definite French victory , but Navarre drew the wrong conclusions from it .