French Indochina War: reflections for strategic insight

Project: Research

Project Details


Notwithstanding its historical specificity, strategic failure by the French in Indochina (1946-54) offers some insights for 21st century resilience and ecological transformation. The study conducted a structured literature review of the War with a particular focus on airborne operations, notably the battles of Route Coloniale 4 (1950) and Dien Bien Phu (1954). The project analysed strategy, policy, economics, combatant capabilities and battle statistics, looking for patterns and trends with resonance today for ecological transition.

Layman's description

What can we learn lessons from previous military disasters that could strengthen ecological resilience?

Key findings

1) Context in Indochina 66 years ago was quite different 2) In contrast with the French, the Viet Minh had a coherent 'Grand Strategy'. 3) from outset, French legitimacy (Sun Tzu's morals) was untenable 4) In 1954, Navarre made some classical military errors by a) planning an airborne operation without effective air dominance (due to distance, weather, and air asset management constraints) b) underestimating Vietnamese adaptability (they had learnt from Na San, 1952) and capabilities (logistics & artillery). Today, substantive transformation for sustainability impels a re-appraisal of purpose, goals and means.
Short titleFrench Indochina & Strategy
Effective start/end date1/05/2030/11/21


  • Military strategy
  • Resilience
  • Development
  • Strategy


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