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Promoting the spirit of Dien Bien Phu victory, building the Vietnam People's Army strong in politics, ideology, improving its aggregate quality, and combat strength
10/6/2019 10:28' Send Print
The victorious flag of our army flew over the bunker of French General De Castries in the afternoon of May 7, 1954. Photo: VNA

Entering the Autumn-Winter in 1953, the resistance war against the French colonialists took a new turn beneficial to Vietnam. From the defensive position, the Vietnamese army and people took control of the battlefield, continuously launching offensives and counter attacks against the enemy. In order to save the situation, the French colonialists developed the Navarre Plan, the highest effort supported by the American imperialists, to increase troop strength and military spending, aiming to destroy most of Vietnam’s regular forces, control the territory of Vietnam and pacify South Indochina within 18 months. On the Vietnamese side, in order to maintain the strategic posture, the Politburo decided to launch the strategic Winter-Spring offensive, with the motto: Proactively, actively, flexibly destroying the enemy’s troop strength, consolidating our forces, promoting guerrilla warfare, forcing the enemy to scatter its forces. Discovering our strategic offensive direction to the Northwest, Lai Chau and Upper Laos, the French expeditionary commander made an airborne insertion of French paratroopers to occupy Dien Bien Phu and military build up, turning it into a firmest stronghold in Indochina, "an unbreakable fortress," aiming at attracting and destroying Vietnam's regular army.

In face of this situation, on December 6, 1953, the Politburo met and decided to waged the Dien Bien Phu Campaign, adopted an operation plan, set up the Party Committee of the Front and the Campaign Command with General Vo Nguyen Giap acting as Commander-in-Chief and Party Secretary. The whole country braced itself up for the Dien Bien Phu front in the spirit of "All for the front line, all for victory." The regular forces quickly regrouped, opened roads through mountains and forests, pulled in artillery pieces, built battlefields, ready for offensives. Tens of thousands of militia men, young volunteers braving bombs and shells, headed for Dien Bien, ensuring logistics for the campaign.

In order to deal with the strong defensive capability of the enemy, the campaign’s Party Committee, and Command decided to change the motto of "fighting fast, winning fast" to "fighting firmly, advancing firmly." This is the right decision, but the Vietnamese army and people faced many difficulties in during implementation. With courage and in defiance of sacrifice, and hardship, the Vietnamese army and people "brought artillery pieces to the battlefields and then pulled them out,” proactively took initiatives, overcame challenges, difficulties and successfully fulfilled their tasks.

After 56 days and nights of "digging tunnels through the mountains, sleeping in shelters, shedding sweat and blood,” the Vietnamese army “neither deterred nor lost heart,” fighting bravely, resiliently, capturing Dien Bien Phu stronghold. At exactly 17:30 hrs, on May 7, 1954, the "Determine to fight and determine to win” flag of the Vietnamese People's Army fluttered over the bunker of General De Castries, putting a complete end to the resistance war against French colonialists, opening a new era, the period of building socialism in the North, creating a favorable premise for the liberation of the South, and national reunification.

The Dien Bien Phu victory is a "golden glorious landmark," a great event, one of the most resounding victories in Vietnam’s history of struggling against foreign aggressors. This is the victory of the art of all people's and comprehensive war under the leadership of the Party and President Ho Chi Minh; vividly demonstrating the indomitable will, stuff, wisdom and unparalleled strength of the Vietnamese people in the Ho Chi Minh era. This victory dealt a decisive blow, crushed the enemy’s scheme of invasion, created a historic turning point that changed the situation of the battlefield, and forced the French colonialists to sign the Geneva Agreement to end the war, and restored peace in Indochina. The victory of the Dien Bien Phu Campaign raised the national pride, absolute confidence in the Party's leadership, the will and combat strength of the Vietnam People's Army. At the same time, it encouraged the whole Party, and people in the struggle under the glorious flag of the Party for national independence and freedom and people’s happiness.

There are many lessons learned from this important historical event, and the primary one is that the Communist Party of Vietnam led by President Ho Chi Minh set out independent, wise, and creative military and resistance war lines, and led the people to carry out the all-people and comprehensive resistance war, mainly based on their strength; built a strong people's armed forces, acting as the core for the struggle against the enemy; closely combined the guerrilla warfare with regular warfare; between military offensive, enemy prolesytization with the uprising of the masses. Under the leadership of the Party and President Ho Chi Minh, undergoing combat practice, the Vietnam People's Army grew tremendously in terms of political ideology, forces, commanding organization, combat level, military equipment, battlefield discipline; braving danger, overcoming difficulties, challenges; showing wisdom, creativity, courage, making feats-of-arms throughout the Indochina battlefield, victoriously completing the tasks at Dien Bien Phu battlefield. The lesson of army building in the Dien Bien Phu Campaign continued to be studied and applied in the resistance war against the US aggressors for national salvation. Up to now, these lessons are still valid in both theory and practice, especially in building a politically strong army which constantly improves its aggregate quality, combat strength and meeting the demand of strengthening national defense and firmly safeguarding the socialist Vietnam.

Currently, the cause of renovation, construction and defense of the Vietnamese people under the leadership of the Party is facing many opportunities, advantages, and numerous difficulties and challenges. The world and regional situation has undergone changes: there are complicated factors and threats to stability in the East Sea; big countries have continued to increase their intervention and influence with varying degrees and scales in the region; local wars, armed conflicts, ethnic and religious conflicts, terrorist activities have still occurred, causing instability in the region and the world. Hostile forces have stepped up "peaceful evolution," subversive riots, "self-evolution,” " internal "self-transformation," "depoliticization” of the army; inciting division between the army with the Party, separating the army from politics, turning the army from its combating objectives and ideals to become a Western-style professional army. In face of such situation, we must strengthen solidarity, promote the synergy of the whole Party, people, and army to build the army, strengthen national defense, effectively apply the lesson of Dien Bien Phu Victory in building a strong political military force with improved aggregate quality and combat strength which is of profound practical significance. In doing so, the entire army needs to thoroughly grasp and implement the following contents and solutions:

First, strengthen the leadership of the Party and build a politically strong army.

In the Dien Bien Phu Campaign, one of the important factors contributing to the victory of epochal stature was the Communist Party of Vietnam led and directed the building of the army, making it strong in politics, ideology, organization and absolutely loyal to the Party, the Fatherland and the people; ready to fight, sacrifice, defeat all invaders. Therefore, at the threshold of the Dien Bien Phu Campaign, army officers and soldiers always showed clearly the class nature , objectives, combat ideals, the high will to fight, win, sacrifice, strive to fulfill the tasks entrusted by the Party Central Committee, Uncle Ho and the people.

In order to bring into full play that lesson in the current period, it is necessary to strengthen the absolute and direct leadership in all aspects of the Party, build a politically strong armed force, improve the aggregate quality and combat power. The army must be absolutely loyal to the Party, the Fatherland and the people, ready to fight, sacrifice, and defeat all invaders. Accordingly, the Party Committee and leaders of all levels should actively study and firmly grasp the guidelines, mechanisms and directions on building the Party's army; building strong party organizations at all levels in politics, ideology, organization and morality in association with building strong and comprehensive army units, strong mass organizations; building a contingent of cadres and party members, especially officials at strategic level strong in political quality, ethics, lifestyle, practical capacity, leadership style on a par with requirements and tasks.

The entire army should attach importance to implementing the party work, political work, maintaining the Party's ideological front in the army; promote political and spiritual factors, strengthen self-reliance and resilience, cadres and soldiers’ determination to strive and overcome all difficulties and fulfill tasks; improve the effectiveness of the mass mobilization in the new situation, consolidate the relation between the army and people, actively help people eradicate hunger, reduce poverty, prevent and overcome consequences of natural disasters, rescue and salvage; bring into play people’s force in building the army posture and potential, national defense and strong army rear. Effectively implement the Resolution of the 4th Plenum of the 12th Party Congress "On strengthening the Party building and rectification; prevent and reverse degradation of political ideology, morality, lifestyle, manifestations of "self-evolution,” and internal “self-transformation," in association with further studying and following Ho Chi Minh Though, morality and style; heighten the role of cadres and party members, especially leaders at all levels to set examples on political ideology, morality and lifestyle.

It is necessary to actively innovate contents, diversify forms and methods of political and ideological education; closely combine education, awareness raising with action guiding; focus on building the image of "Uncle Ho's soldiers" in the new era who are exemplary in political virtue, morality, culture, organization, discipline, knowledge, health and military level. Along with promoting propaganda and education, it is also necessary to expose the nature, schemes, and new plots of hostile forces, raise awareness about partners and objects of Vietnam revolution, the Party’s military lines and art; heighten vigilance, resolutely struggle to defeat hostile forces schemes and plots to realize "peaceful evolution, self-evolution, internal self-transformation, depoliticized army.”

Second, conduct research, and assessment of the situation, strategic forecasts, stand ready to fight to firmly protect the country in all circumstances.

One of the causes to the Dien Bien Phu victory was that the Vietnamese soldiers always grasped, controlled the situation, proactively applied strategy, adjusted operational tactics in time, and appropriately arranged army forces. Learning that experience, strategic advisory agencies should actively coordinate closely with other forces, take synchronous measures to firmly grasp hostile forces’ sabotaging schemes and plots, make accurate forecasts on the international, regional and domestic situation, new movements and development trends, and changes in the defense and security situation in the world. Promptly advise and propose to the Party and the State policies to properly handle strategic situations; proactively prevent, early detect and eliminate disadvantageous factors, avoid passiveness and unexpectedness, especially in strategic, key, aerial and maritime areas, contributing to firmly, early protecting the Fatherland.

The victory of Dien Bien Phu Campaign marked a remarkable development in the military art of the Vietnam People's Army. It is the military art of the entire people fighting against the enemy, combining military art with politics, combat with soldier mobilization, elimination of the enemy with mass mobilization to gain superiority; close combat coordination of three army forces and arms; between guerrilla and concentrated, small, medium-sized attacks and big offensives. Applying that experience to the current situation, the entire army has to actively study and apply military art in accordance with new combat requirements to ensure that it must always in active in all strategic situations; promptly adjust, supplement combat plan, actively practice plans; maintain strict discipline, combat readiness regime, closely control airspace, sea and border areas and key defense and security areas. Coordinate training and drills with improving combat maneuver; build a strong defensive area, strong "people's posture"; reasonably adjust national defense layout; give priority to the construction of the defensive posture and works in strategic areas; actively participate in planning, developing plans, programs and projects for socio-economic development, national defense and security. The army and the police must coordinate in dealing with national defense and security issues, contributing to national security, maintaining social order and safety and national defense tasks.

On the sea, there must be close coordination among air defense and air forces and navy force, border guards, sea police, fishery inspectors with military zones and coastal localities to inspect, control, monitor, detect, prevent and effectively fight against acts of infringement upon the national sovereignty of the sea, islands and continental shelf. On the land border areas, local army, border guards and the police force need to coordinate in patrolling, controlling and protecting the border; associate the building of the all-people defense posture with the people's security posture and the all-people border posture, ready to successfully cope with all acts of infringement upon national sovereignty, border security and build peaceful, friendship border areas.

Third, make strong changes in organization, staffing, training; professional qualifications, observance of disciplines and laws of the soldiers.

The strength of the Vietnamese army in the Dien Bien Phu Campaign was the synergy of many factors, including appropriate and flexible staffing and organization, high training quality and strict battlefield discipline. That lesson is still of practical value so it should be used to build the army in the new situation. The entire army must thoroughly grasp and strictly implement the guidelines, mechanisms and orientations for building the army of the Party, State, the Central Military Commission and the Ministry of Defense, especially Conclusion No. 16-KL/TW dated July 7, 2017 of the Politburo, "On Organizing the Vietnam People's Army until 2021" and Resolution No.606-NQ/QUTW dated June 16, 2016 of the Central Military Commission, "On leading and implementing the organization of the Vietnam People's Army until 2021"; Decision No. 2574/ QD-BQP dated June 30, 2016 of the Minister of Defense, on "Approving the Plan of Implementation of Resolution No. 606-NQ/QUTW on Organizing the Vietnam People's Army until 2021," to build an elite, compact, strong army with a rational organizational structure, aggregate quality, increasing combat power, meeting the requirements and duties of national defense in the new situation. Continue studying the adjustment of forces on key regions, and areas in conformity with the "National defense strategy in the new situation"; enhance the combat capability of forces in war situations.

In training, the entire army should continue to thoroughly study Resolution No. 765-NQ/QUTW dated December 20, 2012 of the Central Military Commission, "On improving the quality of training in the period 2013-2020 and the following years"; realize the motto of "basic, practical and solid training"; attach importance to synchronous and intensive training, considering practicing as the key; train soldiers to master new weapons and equipment; enhance night, maneuvering, situational, and physical training. Combine training with joint exercises of combat armies, and arms, antagonistic drills, regional defense exercises; improve the ability of coordination between the regular army and the local armed forces in the defensive areas, the ability to protect the sovereignty of the sea and islands. Military academies and institutions actively innovate to standardize, modernize contents and programs which can be transferable; deploy the investment project "Smart school, approaching the Industrial Revolution 4.0." Maintain and build regular forces, observe discipline, law and administrative reform; step up communication, dissemination and education of laws, raise awareness and legal culture of cadres and soldiers, contribute to reducing disciplined cases, minimize serious violation cases, enhance the army combat power.

Fourth, improve the effectiveness of international integration and defense foreign affairs, contribute to firmly, early protecting the Fatherland.

The victory of Dien Bien Phu Campaign is the synergy of many factors, including the support, assistance and great help of the socialist countries, international friends and the struggle movement for peace of progressive people worldwide and the people of France; especially the solidarity, and the fight against French colonial aggression of the armies and peoples of the three Indochinese countries. Promoting that lesson in the new era, it is necessary to strengthen international relations in the spirit of "making more friends, reducing enemies," and ensure that the defense relation is really a pillar in international relations.

In doing so, the defense foreign affairs must thoroughly grasp the Resolution of the 12th Party Congress, Resolution No. 806-NQ/QUTW dated December 31, 2013 of the Central Military Commission, "On the international integration and defense foreign affairs to 2020 and subsequent years”; strictly implement the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation, development, diversification and multilateralism; advocate both strengthening cooperation while fighting, persistent in objectives, and strategic principles, apply flexibly tactics following the motto “persistent in objectives, flexible in tactics,” deepen international integration and defense foreign affairs according to new, creative and appropriate thinking. Continue to concretize the Party views and lines on external relations in Vietnam's Defense Strategy, the National Strategy on Border Protection and other strategies. Focus on leading and directing the effective implementation of the Project on international integration of defense to 2020 and vision to 2030; step up and deepen substantial and effective bilateral and multilateral defense cooperation; proactively join peacekeeping activities and defense cooperation mechanisms in ASEAN; strengthen external information and defense dialogue, promptly handle emerging issues, contribute to building trust, increase partners, reduce objects, balance relations with big countries, raise position of the country and the army in the international arena.

Fifth, strengthen scientific and technological potentials, weapons, technical equipment, logistics and technical facilities, meeting the requirements and duties of national defense in the new situation.

In the Dien Bien Phu Campaign, the French colonialists were a strong army equipped with weapons more modern than ours, but in the end, they still lost, because we knew how to bring into play the strength of the great unity bloc, the power of will, politics, and spirit. All people were united as one, devoting might and main, ensuring material foundations, weapons and technical equipment, logistics for campaign. Today, in the cause of building the army, strengthening national defense, that spirit needs to be promoted and confirmed in practice. Along with focusing on human factors, the development of military science and technology, weaponry and technical equipment is a very important issue. Therefore, the army must ensure sufficient weapons, equipment for army units in both training and combat towards modernizing in all three modes: improvement and restoration; domestic manufacture and production; equipment procurement. In particular, focus on modernizing weapons, and equipment to forces which are planed to go straight to modernity; at the same time promote the role of defense industry, enhance manufacturing capacity, ensure weapons and technical equipment for the people's armed forces, especially the People's Army.

As far as logistics and technology are concerned, continue the movement "The Logistics Sector of the Army follows Uncle Ho's teaching," and the campaign "Management and durable, safe and thrifty use of weapons, and traffic safety.” The entire army should take the initiative in synchronously implementing solutions, decentralize and renew the mode of logistic mobilization, and financial management mechanism; engage in sustainable food production, ensure environmental hygiene, food safety, prevent and fight against diseases and care for soldiers’ health. The technical branch directs the implementation of Resolution No.382/NQ-ĐUQSTW dated November 29, 2007 of the Central Military Party Committee (now the Central Military Commission), "On leading technical affairs in the new situation”; effectively implement programs of procurement, production, repair, increase of duration, improvement, modernization, synchronization of weapons, technical equipment to ensure technical elements required to complete the tasks of the army.

Sixty-five years have passed, but the experiences and lessons from the Dien Bien Phu Victory remain valid as an important practical basis for us to apply in building the army, strengthening national defense and firmly defending the socialist Vietnam in the new era. We are confident that with the good quality of the "Uncle Ho's soldiers" and the tradition and nature of the Heroic Army, the application of the experiences and lessons of the Dien Bien Phu victory will bring about practical results in building the People's Army which is politically strong, constantly strengthens its aggregated quality, combat strength, and successfully fulfills all tasks entrusted by the Party, State and people.


This article was published in the Communist Review No 919 (May 2019)

General Ngo Xuan LichMember of the Politburo, Deputy Secretary of the Central Military Commission, Minister of Defense