To victory: Vietnamese soldiers cross Mường Thanh Bridge to attack the Điện Biên Phủ stronghold on the afternoon of May 7, 1954. VNA/VNS File Photo
Memories of the Điện Biên Phủ Victory over French colonial rule are returning as the country celebrates its 65th anniversary on May 7,1954-2019.
Among various activities to mark the celebration, hundreds of documents, maps and objects related to the event are on display at the Điện Biên Phủ Victory Museum in the north-western province of Điện Biên.
The exhibition, titled Điện Biên Phủ - Một Thiên Sử Vàng (Điện Biên Phủ - A Golden Epic) aims to provide authentic and objective sources of history, helping researchers and the public assess the victory and educate people on the traditions of patriotism.
It is organised by the National Archives of Việt Nam in co-ordination with the General Department of Politics under the Ministry of Defence, Archives of French Ministry of Defence, Việt Nam Military History Museum, Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Điện Biên Province and the province’s Điện Biên Phủ Victory Museum.
The exhibition includes three parts, including preparations for the Điện Biên Phủ Campaign, the 56 days of fighting, and the 1954 Geneva Conference on Peace in Indochina.
The items on display have been preserved in the national archives and cultural agencies, as well as the French Ministry of the Armed Forces.
Vũ Nam Hải, director of Điện Biên Phủ Victory Museum, said it was really an honour for the museum to exhibit documents, maps and artefacts of the Điện Biên Phủ Campaign which have just been declassified and first published in Việt Nam.
“This is an opportunity for all people inside and outside the country to understand and have a more objective view of history,” Hải said.
The official added that the museum was also focusing on exhibiting newly collected artefacts about the victory to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the event on May 7.
Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, Director of the National Archives of Việt Nam Đặng Thanh Tùng said the exhibition’s location – the Điện Biên Phủ Victory Museum – is regarded as a bridge connecting the past, present and future.
Over 65 years have passed but the victory is always a source of pride and marks a milestone for every veteran who participated in the campaign.
For Phạm Đức Cư, 89, a veteran living in Nam Thanh Ward, Điện Biên Phủ City, the campaign is unforgettable.
Recalling his heroic past, Cư clearly remembered every detail, particularly the hardships he and his comrades-in-arms experienced.
From the northern province of Thái Bình, Cư joined the Việt Nam People's Army when he was 23 and served as a gunner in the 367th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment.
“This was the first anti-aircraft artillery regiment of the Việt Nam People's Army, established in April 1953 in Định Hóa District, Thái Nguyên Province,” he said.
“In December 1953, the regiment moved toward the northwest to take part in the Điện Biên Phủ battle.
“That was our first motorised movement, taking many days, so the operation had to be absolutely confidential and arrive at the destination on time to ensure safety of people and equipment,” the veteran said.
Cư recalled during the journey, they had to pass high mountains, steep slopes with strong winds and through many rivers and streams.
In particular, he said, they had to carry tonnes of equipment under the surveillance of French army spies and attacks by enemy aircraft, but with strong determination the Vietnamese soldiers and their artillery pieces arrived in time at the destination.
Cư said participating in the campaign were many other forces. People of different ages and genders, including ethnic minorities, doctors and teachers volunteered to work for the battle.
Cư witnessed many soldiers killed by enemy bombings and shellings right in front of him.
Pain of loss: Veteran Phạm Đức Cư, 89, pays tribute to his comrades who fell during the Điện Biên Phủ Campaign. VNA/VNS Photo Phan Tuấn Anh
Connection to the past
Information on the Điện Biên Phủ Victory was compiled in a book titled Điện Biên Phủ - Một Thiên Sử Vàng (Điện Biên Phủ - A Golden Epic) published in 2016.
The success of the August Revolution in 1945 was not long-lived, and the French returned to the South with a determination to invade the country again, which forced the Vietnamese people to stand up and defend independence.
By 1953, the Vietnamese war of resistance against French colonialism had entered its eighth year.
The Vietnamese army conducted fierce counterattacks in many battlefields nationwide, forcing the enemy to disperse.
Images of the past: Visitors learn about the history of the photos exhibited at the Điện Biên Phủ Victory Museum. VNA/VNS Photo Phan Tuấn Anh
Recognising the strategic intention of Vietnamese army, the French tried to concentrate its troops to build the Điện Biên Phủ valley into one of the biggest strongholds in Indochina with the aim to attract the main forces of the Vietnamese army into the war.
The Việt Nam resistance government under President Ho Chi Minh held that was an opportunity to completely destroy the enemy’s forces. The Vietnamese army decided to launch an attack against the French’s Điện Biên Phủ stronghold.
The campaign began on March 13, 1954, under the command of General Võ Nguyên Giáp.
After 56 days of fierce fighting, the Vietnamese forces won on May 7, which led to the signing of the 1954 Geneva Accords on Peace in Indochina.
“The Điện Biên Phủ Victory is regarded as not only an encouragement for the Vietnamese people in their fight against all foreign invaders but also a breakthrough and encouragement for others peoples in colonial countries around the world to stand up for independence,” the book says. VNS