Stefan's Reviews > The Last Valley: Dien Bien Phu and the French Defeat in Vietnam

The Last Valley by Martin Windrow
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's review
Jan 15, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: history-politics

The first book I've read that focuses completely on the French in Vietnam, The Last Valley did not disappoint me, and was a brilliantly readable work of military history that focused on something I had read bits and snatches about, but not enough to give me the whole picture. Having read a large number of books on the Americans in Vietnam, to read about the French fighting to control their South-Asian colony was fascinating. It was advantageous to me, that the author was British instead of American, which helped show Vietnam from a much more European viewpoint (which complimented the narrative.) Martin Windrow does a excellent job of using a variety of sources to create a narrative that that is easy to follow and remember. The use of eye witness reports, radio communications, official statements, and previous books on the subject are used to explore the failed French policy on Vietnam. The author does a good job at showing that the French general were not necessarily stupid, but instead, unable to effectively (except in a few isolated cases) create a counter-insurgency force to effectively combat the Communist guerrillas. This is the tragic story of how tactically amazing units in Dien Bien Phu that had to go through hell on earth, because, by the later stages of the battle, they could neither retreat or overwhelm the enemy. The Last Valley is the story of 16 and a half battalions that were doomed to death or capture, as a result of failure in policy at Dien Bien Phu. This book does a good job at showing how Dien Bien Phu was not a strategic loss to the French, but was a complete collapse in moral, which in the end, led the French out of Vietnam.

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