The March to Dien Bien Phu
Like Chiang Kai-shek, U.S. leaders feared communist incursions in Southeast Asia and began to supply the French with funding, military equipment, and-on August 3, 1950—the first contingent of U.S. military “advisors.” By 1953, the United States was funding 80 percent of the cost of France’s war effort.
France assigned General Henri Eugene Navarre to strike a decisive blow on the strategically located plain of Dien Bien Phu, near Laos. President Eisenhower stepped up military aid, but despite Navarre’s massing of troops, Dien Bien Phu fell to the forces of Ho Chi Minh on May 7, 1954. This disaster was followed by a string of Viet Minh victories, and, in a July peace conference, the French and the Viet Minh concluded a cease-fire and agreed to divide Vietnam along the 17th parallel.