The Vietnamese teenager who captured a French general at Dien Bien Phu

Dien Bien Phu veteran Hoang Dang Vinh holds a photograph where he (2nd L) was meeting with late general Vo Nguyen Giap (C) at his home in Bac Ninh on March 27, 2014

One of Vietnam’s last surviving veterans of the battle of Dien Bien Phu recounts with pride the day in May 1954 when, aged just 19, he captured the commander of the French colonial forces.

Sixty years ago, after two months of hard fighting in the Dien Bien Phu valley, Vietnamese troops unexpectedly but conclusively defeated the country’s colonial master France.

Exactly what happened [with respect to the capture] has not been recorded in the annals of history and Commander Christian-Marie de la Croix de Castries is no longer alive to tell his story, but historians confirm the general outline of Vinh’s account, even if some details are uncertain.

Some 3,000 French soldiers and at least 10,000 Vietnamese died at Dien Bien Phu, which marked the end of French dominance in Indochina.

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