This is a review by Randy L Harvey of the book, Dien Bien Phu 1954 – The French Defeat that Lured America into Vietnam from Osprey Publishing by author Martin Windrow and illustrator Peter Dennis with series editor Nikolai Bogdanovic.


** In late 1953, during the seventh year of France’s war against the Viet Minh insurgency in its colony of Vietnam, the commander-in-chief, General Navarre, decided to plant an ‘air-ground base’ at Dien Bien Phu in the Thai Highlands, to distract General Giap’s Vietnamese people’s Army from the French heartland of the Red River Delta, and to protect the Laotian border.  Elite French paratroopers captured Dien Bien Phu, which was then reinforced between December 1953 and February 1954 with infantry and artillery, a squadron of tanks and one of fighter-bombers, to a strength of 10,000 men.  Giap and the VPA General Staff accepted the challenge of a major political battle, through a total mobilization of national resources, and aided by Chinese logistical help, they assembled a siege army of 58,000 regular troops, equipped for the first time with 105mm artillery and 37mm AA guns.  In this superbly illustrated volume, Martin Windrow documents the dramatic, 56-day ‘Stalingrad in the jungle’ siege that drew the attention of the world.  **  

** Quoted from the back cover of the book.  


Osprey Publications has released Dien Bien Phu 1954 – The French Defeat that Lured America into Vietnam as Number 366 in the Campaign series. It is a 96 page soft cover book. Included with the text are black and white and color photographs, color illustrations, maps, 3-dimensional ‘birds-eye-views’, detailed captions and more. It has a 2021 copyright, a publication date of August 19, 2021 and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-4400-2.


- Origins of the Campaign

      - Strategic background

      - Operational background: the ‘prepared battlefield’

- Chronology

- Opposing Commanders

      - French

      - Vietnamese 

- Opposing Forces

      - French

      - Vietnam People’s Army

      - Orders of battle

- The Battle

      - First assault phase: 3-17 March

      - Béatrice

      - Gabrielle

      - The lull: 17-30 March

      - Second assault phase: 30 March – 5 April

      - ‘Battle of the 5 Hills’

      - Stranglehold and attrition: 8-30 April

      - Third assault phase:1-6 May

      - The final assaults: 6/7 May

- Aftermath

- The Battlefield Today

- Further Reading

- Acronyms and Abbreviations

- Index


Author Martin Windrow provides a well written extremely text detailing the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu.  The text goes into great detail in all areas of the book as outlined on the contents page, please refer to the contents listing for the areas that are covered through the book.  The subjects listed are well discussed down to the smallest detail.  The reader is provided with a well written easy to read text that takes the reader through all actions taken prior to climatic battle, the details and actions of the main battle and other skirmishes and the actions taken after the fighting had ceased.  The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed. As I read through the text, I didn’t notice any spelling errors or grammatical errors.  Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings.  I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be professional with their writing.  Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on the history of the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu to their personal library will be pleased with this informative book.    


A total of 57 black and white photographs and 9 color photographs are included in this volume.  The photographs range from wide angle photographs to close-up detailed photographs.  I would say that the photographs that were chosen for this book were for the most part lesser-known photographs as opposed to photographs that are featured in many other titles that deal with the same subject matter.  The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable, however a few have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and others appear too light.  This is typical for the discussed period of history and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book.  Author Martin Windrow stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book.  The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to anyone interested in the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu as well as the uniforms, firearms and warfare of the period discussed due to the details they contain.  


There are 3 two-page color action illustrations and 3 accompanying black and white illustrations by illustrator Peter Dennis.  The color illustrations are accompanied by a black and white copy of the same illustration that describes the scene and points out and describes key areas of interest. The illustrations are very well done, nicely detailed and are of:

Plate A

6 BPC in Action South-East of Ban Ong Pet; c.1500hrs, 28 March 1954

      - A two-page illustration depicting combat during the so-called “Flak Raid” aimed to take out communist light AA guns which had been established west of Dien Bien Phu around the villages of Ban Ban and Ban Ong pet.

Plate B

Defence of Dominique 3 by 4th BTY, 11/4 RAC; C. 2230 HRS, 30 March 1954

      - A two-page action illustration depicting a French artillery crew operating an American M2A1 105mm howitzer in action against communist forces.

Plate C

Final Defence of Eliane 1 BY II/1 RCP; C. 2200HRS, 1 May, 1954

      - A two-page action scene depicting communist forces attacking French trench positions.  A portion of this illustration is shown on the front cover of the book.   


The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown.  The captions go into very specific detail as to what is taking place in the photograph, names of specific individuals shown, dates, locations, weapon types, nationalities and other such pertinent information.  As I read through the captions, I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors.  I was impressed by Martin Windrow’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions that I have seen that are very brief and lacking in detail.   


There 2 notes note included in this volume and they are:

      - Dedication

      - Author’s note and acknowledgements


There 2 informational charts included in this volume and they are:

      - Conversion table – imperial and metric measurements

      - Key to military symbols and unit identification


There 5 full color maps included in this volume and they are:

      - The ‘prepared battlefield’, 13 March 1954

      - Major road-clearing actions, 20-30 March 1954

      - The northern Huguettes, 30 March-18 April 1954

      - Huguette 1, 22-23 April 1954

      - Isabelle, 31 March-7/8 May 1954


There three, 3-dimensional ‘birds-eye-views’, included in this volume and they are:

      - First Assault Phase, 13-17 March 1954

      - Second Assault Phase Opens, 30/31 March 1954

      - Third and Final Assault Phases, 30 April-7 May 1954

Osprey Publishing also offers Dien Bien Phu 1954 – The French Defeat that Lured America into Vietnam as:

eBook (ePub) ISBN: 978-1-4728- 4401-9


eBook (PDF) ISBN: 978-1-4728- 4398-2

Osprey Publishing’s, Dien Bien Phu 1954 – The French Defeat that Lured America into Vietnam, is also available as a Kindle version through 


UK £15.99 / US $24.00 / CAN $32.50

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing.  Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here on the KitMaker Network when you make your purchase.  Thank you. 



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