The Việt Minh 1954 Campaign
in the Highlands
A Strategic Position
For most people, the sudden increase of Viet Minh activities in the Central Highlands in 1954 was due to the following reasons:
But all the above reasons could not explain why the Viet Minh had tenaciously pursued their efforts until the 1954 Geneva Agreement and toward territorial control. According to Dr Bernard B. Fall(1), when the cease-fire was proclaimed, the French authority encompassed only the provinces of Darlac and Dalat.
It is therefore a big mistake to consider the Viet Minh increased tempo of activities in the Highlands in 1954 merely as a coordination within a vast campaign or as a counter-thrust to the French expansion. Because we should always keep in mind that in both the French and Viet Minh views, the battlefield of the Highlands is considered as a part of the war on the whole Indochinese peninsula, including not only Viet Nam but also Laos and Cambodia.
In a Viet Minh document entitled "Success in Lower Laos" (page 3), the enemy has explicitly stated:
On the other side, French Major General Delange, then Commander of the 4th Military Region (Hqs at Banmethuot), also wrote in "Campaign of Interzone V from 1 January to 31 July 1954" (pages 9-10) the following:
Further on, General Delange also wrote:
Kontum and Highway 19
To carry out their plan, in December 1953 and January 1954, the Viet Minh trust into Middle and Lower Laos seized Thakkhet, destroyed the whole string of French posts along Highways 12 and 9, threatened the base of Seno and surrounded Voeune Sai (Eastern Cambodia).
Toward the end of January 1954, on the 27th, they simultaneously attacked Mang Buk, Plateau Gi (present district town of Chuong Nghia) and Konbrai. Then they shifted all their efforts to North Kontum and cut it off from Pleiku. On 2 February, all the posts in North West Kontum, Dakto included, were overrun and on 5 February, all bridges North Kontum destroyed. The French Expeditionary Forces were compelled to leave Kontum on 7 February and to withdraw to Pleiku. Task Force #100 which just set their feet upon the Highlands less than two months ago - on 17 December 1953 - and from then in continuous movements was so thrown again into a second withdrawal! (The first one on 28 January 1954, from Tuy Hoa to Kontum).
Ten days after, on 17 February, the Viet Minh resumed pushing east and southward: they seized Dakdoa, harassed Pleibon and attacked La Pit (10km North Pleiku, on Highway 14) as if to compel the French to leave also Pleiku.
But on 15 January, the Atlante Task Forces landed at Song Cau and Tuy Hoa. The Viet Minh then quickly adjusted their objectives after 15 March into:
On 29 March, they began their activities on Highway 19 with an ambush and an attack against the post at Deo Mang. During the following month, they again ambushed and attacked four times in the area extending from An Khe to Pleiku, inflicting heavy losses to elements of Task Force #100.
At the same time enemy efforts were increased on Highway 14 and Inter-provincial route 7, in the direction of Cheo Reo. Attacks were launched without interruption against Plei Ptao, Lei Ring, B. Hioan Cham, Le Bac.
Besides the above main fronts - An Khe and Front Song Ba - conducted by regular units belonging to Interzone V, two other secondary fronts were organized by regional units to harass the rear of the French forces, one in Phu Yen and Darlac, the other in Khanh Hoa, Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan and Djiring provinces.
In May 1954, to support their bargain at the Geneva Conference, the Viet Minh deployed all-out efforts all over the area. From then until the armistice, they incessantly attacked French positions and convoys on all Highways 19, 21, 14 and 1. French posts in Tuy Hoa were continuously under siege and harassment. It was in this period that the French Expeditionary Forces were reduced to abandon An Khe (29 June 1954) and in their withdrawal to Pleiku, Task Force #100 was decimated by enemy ambushes. After another entrapment by the Viet Minh at Chu Drek Pass on Highway 14, the 2nd Korea Battalion (French) ceased to exist!
The tenacity of the Viet Minh in carrying out their plan and their uninterrupted activities have shown the degree of importance they have conferred to the Highlands. Faced with failure, General Delange meditatively put down the following conclusion, before leaving Viet Nam:
(1) Street Without Joy, The Stackpole Company, Chapter 9̣, page 169.
Major General Vinh Loc