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First Indochina War

First Indochina War
A French Foreign Legion unit patrols in a communist controlled area.
Military Conflict
ConflictFirst Indochina War
DateDecember 19, 1946 � August 1, 1954
LocationFrench Indochina, mainly North Vietnam
ResultViet Minh victory
Geneva Conference
Departure of the French from Indochina
Provisional division of Vietnam
France French Union
*France France (1945 � 1954) *French Indochina (1946 � 1953) *South Vietnam State of Vietnam (1949 � 1954) *Cambodia Cambodia
(1953 � 1954) *Laos Laos
(1949 � 1954) Supported by:
United States United States (1950 � 1954)
North Vietnam Democratic Republic of Vietnam
Laos Pathet Lao
Cambodia Khmer Issarak Supported by:
People's Republic of China
Soviet Union 
French Expeditionary Corps
* France Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque (1945 � 1946) * France Jean-Étienne Valluy (1946 � 1948) * France Roger Blaizot (1948 � 1949) * France Marcel Carpentier (1949 � 1950) * France Jean de Lattre de Tassigny (1950 � 1951) * France Raoul Salan (1952 � 1953) * France Henri Navarre (1953 � 1954) Vietnamese National Army
* South Vietnam Nguyen Van Hinh (1950 � 1954)
North Vietnam Ho Chi Minh,
North Vietnam Vo Nguyen Giap
Laos Souphanouvong
French Union: 190,000
Local Auxiliary: 55,000
State of Vietnam: 150,000
Total: ~400,000
125,000 Regulars,
75,000 Regional,
250,000 Popular Forces/Irregulars
Total: 450,000
French Union: 75,581 dead,
64,127 wounded,
40,000 captured State of Vietnam: 419,000 dead, wounded or captured
Total: ~560,000+ dead, wounded or captured
Combined total:
300,000+ dead,
500,000+ wounded,
100,000+ captured
Total: 900,000+ dead, wounded or captured
150,000+ civilians killed

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The First Indochina War (also known as the French Indochina War, Anti-French War, Franco-Vietnamese War, Franco-Vietminh War, Indochina War, Dirty War in France, and Anti-French Resistance War in contemporary Vietnam) was fought in French Indochina from December 19, 1946, until August 1, 1954, between the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps, led by France and supported by Emperor Bảo Đại's Vietnamese National Army against the Việt Minh, led by Hồ Chí Minh and Võ Nguyên Giáp. Most of the fighting took place in Tonkin in Northern Vietnam, although the conflict engulfed the entire country and also extended into the neighboring French Indochina protectorates of Laos and Cambodia.

Following the reoccupation of Indochina by the French following the end of World War II, the area having fallen to the Japanese, the Việt Minh launched a rebellion against the French authority governing the colonies of French Indochina. The first few years of the war involved a low-level rural insurgency against French authority. However, after the Chinese communists reached the Northern border of Vietnam in 1949, the conflict turned into a conventional war between two armies equipped with modern weapons supplied by the United States and the Soviet Union.

French Union forces included colonial troops from the whole former empire (Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Laotian, Cambodian, and Vietnamese ethnic minorities), French professional troops and units of the French Foreign Legion. The use of metropolitan recruits was forbidden by the governments to prevent the war from becoming even more unpopular at home. It was called the "dirty war" (la sale guerre) by supporters of the Left intellectuals in France (including Sartre) during the Henri Martin Affair in 1950.

While the strategy of pushing the Việt Minh into attacking a well defended base in a remote part of the country at the end of their logistical trail was validated at the Battle of Na San, the lack of construction materials (especially concrete), tanks (because of lack of road access and difficulty in the jungle terrain), and air cover precluded an effective defense.

After the war, the Geneva Conference on July 21, 1954, made a provisional division of Vietnam at the 17th parallel, with control of the north given to the Việt Minh as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam under Hồ Chí Minh, and the south becoming the State of Vietnam under Emperor Bảo Đại, in order to prevent Hồ Chí Minh from gaining control of the entire country. A year later, Bảo Đại would be deposed by his prime minister, Ngô Đình Diệm, creating the Republic of Vietnam. Diem's refusal to enter into negotiations with North Vietnam about holding nationwide elections in 1956, as had been stipulated by the Geneva Conference, would eventually lead to war breaking out again in South Vietnam in 1959 � the Second Indochina War.

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