France To Bring Back Remains of Six Colonial-era Soldiers from Vietnam

Sat Mar 30 2024
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PARIS, France: France has said it would repatriate from Vietnam the bodies of six soldiers who died in the country’s last stand in colonial Indochina, Dien Bien Phu.

A statement by the French defence ministry said that the operation would take place over the next few days.

Dien Bien Phu in northern Vietnam was the site of an epic battle against Vietnamese communist forces in 1954 that ended the French colonial empire in Indochina.

Vietnamese fighters encircled the French forces, which were equipped with modern weapons, and bombarded them with heavy artillery.

In less than two months, thousands of soldiers from both sides died in fierce battles in the rugged and remote valley.

The presence of six bodies “preserved in three different locations” was reported to the French embassy in Vietnam in 2012, 2021 and 2022, the ministry said.

Vietnamese authorities approved the return of the bodies on March 25 and they were exhumed the next day.

The ministry said experts should examine the bodies after they return to France to identify the five and confirm the identity of the sixth, who has been named and buried.

Families can then claim their relatives’ remains or choose to bury them in a national cemetery.

Those with unknown identities will be buried in a national cemetery of soldiers who died in the Indochina War of 1946-1954.

Vietnam’s victory over France at Dien Bien Phu split the country into a communist-controlled northern government led by revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh and a pro-American southern government.

It set the stage for a 20-year war that ended with the US defeat in the Vietnam War and the unification in 1975.

The area once known as French Indochina is now Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

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