Giap's objective was to destroy the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu.At the strategic level the Viet Minh were anxious to gain a spectacular military victory,which would make the French negotiate on Ho Chi Minh's terms. At the operational levelGiap realized that the French depended completely on aerial re-supply and aerial firesupport. Giap had identified the French's critical vulnerability. b.Offensive Action. Operation Castor started on 20 November 1953 with fiveFrench battalions parachuting into Dien Bien Phu. At this point the French had seized theinitiative. However, any hopes of remaining on the offensive ended quickly. By earlyDecember French troops found it tough going beyond the valley floor. Offensively actionswere soon limited to air support, patrols, and local counterattacks. General Navarre startedexploring withdrawal plans in January 1954, but a breakout was evaluated as suicidal. No9Maj Harry D. Bloomer (USA), An Analysis of the French Defeat at Dien Bien Phu, p 6, 1991.13RESTRICTED
RESTRICTEDsignificant attempt to break out of Dien Bien Phu was ever made. By 13 March 1954 theattack on Dien Bien Phu had begun, and the offensive was forever lost to the Viet Minh.Giap, on the other hand, was able to dictate the time and place of engagements virtuallythroughout the operation. This time Giap did not rush in with human wave attacks as theFrench had hoped. He took time to mass his forces, bring in fire support, secure his ownlines of communication, and lay formal siege to the French garrison. The first major assaultby the Viet Minh came a full three months into the operation. The French had given Giapthe offensive, and he gladly accepted it and used it to his advantage.c.Cooperation AndConcentration Of Force. Strategically, the forces squaring off atDien Bien Phu approached mass from two completely different perspectives. The Frenchsimply were not willing to pay the price to field a large force in Indochina. All availableresources were mobilised to support the Viet Minh Armed Forces. At the operational levelthe French garrison at Dien Bien Phu numbered about 13,000, or less than 10% of Frenchforces in Indochina. The French intended to use superior firepower and technology to defeatthe numerically superior Viet Minh. In fact, General Navarre saw ‘Operation Atlante’ as hismain effort and Dien Bien Phu as an economy of force operation. The Viet Minh massedfour divisions, totalling more than 50,000 men at Dien Bien Phu. At the same time, Giaptied up French forces and prevented them from responding in strength at Dien Bien Phu bystaging diversionary actions around the country. French intelligence saw through this plan;however, General Navarre took no action. The French spread their forces at Dien Bien Phuin a series of strong points. Over one-third of French forces in the valley were positioned atIsabelle, the southern most strong point in the valley. If Dien Bien Phu is viewed as aneconomy of force action for the French, then what became of main effort? ‘Operation14RESTRICTED
RESTRICTEDAtlante’, after some initial success, quickly bogged down into a series of Viet Minh
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Vietnam War, Battle of Dien Bien Phu, Dien Bien Phu, First Indochina War