Possible US Intervention at Dien Bien Phu
By Joseph Miranda
The French command responsible for Indochina was the CFEO (French acronym for Far East Expeditionary Corps), and the reports from Dien Bien Phu it was receiving weren’t optimistic. The garrison-actually a multi-ethnic force composed of French metropolitan, colonial and Indochinese units-was cut off, outgunned and steadily losing positions to Viet Minh assaults. On 6 April 1954, top French commanders began calling for an operation they codenamed Vautour (Vulture). It would entail massive US airstrikes to hit the Viet Minh siege positions. American airpower had proved its worth in both Korea and World War II, and there was reason to believe it could salvage the situation at Dien Bien Phu.
The term “Vulture” was first used by the French, though there had already been high-level discussions within the Eisenhower administration about possible airstrikes. One contingency involved deploying a US Navy (USN) carrier task force to the South China Sea and launching aircraft from its decks. Another was for Far Eastern Air Force (FEAF) B-29 Superfortress bombers to launch the strikes.
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