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The Last Valley


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A vivid narrative of a battle between French paratroops and the Vietnamese The first new account of the battle since the 1970s Incorporates much new material from French and Vietnamese veterans Published on the 50th anniversary of the battle.

About the Author

Born in 1944 and educated at Wellington College, Martin Windrow is an Associate of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the Foreign Legion Association of Great Britain. He has worked in publishing since the mid-1960s as a commissioning editor and author.


Classic is defined as "of the highest class or of the first order," which justly describes this study of French Indochina and its fall at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. With discerning balance, Windrow (associate, Royal Historical Soc., London) constructs the initial French colonial presence in Vietnam in the 1860s and the rise of the Communist Vietminh at the end of the Japanese occupation in 1945. Mounting tensions between the French and the Vietminh parallels the increasing number and sophistication of arms that seem to have led to the denouement at Dien Bien Phu. Windrow carefully reconstructs the backstage interplay of political forces in both France and within the Vietminh. The book's last half describes day by day the eight-week battle for Dien Bien Phu. The enormity of detail might overwhelm readers if each little piece did not fit so neatly together. A type of parachute, a radio frequency, and the power of an artillery shell are pieces of a giant puzzle, drawing us in. This extraordinary story of heroism, passion, and tragedy should long stand as the definitive study of Dien Bien Phu.-John F. Riddick, Central Michigan Univ. Lib., Mt. Pleasant Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

'This is an epic book about an epic battle. It is not often that the story of a struggle as dramatic as Dien Bien Phu is told with a flair that matches the courage of the adversaries and the sheer scale of the event. Martin Windrow's book is nothing less than a landmark in military history.' -- Professor Richard Holmes 'This is an outstanding work of military history. It tells the story of the ghastly French experience in Indo-China in a way that has never been done before in English. The account of Dien Bien Phu is a masterpiece of meticulous historical narrative' -- Max Hastings 'Success in battle, according to one military maxim, may not, on its own assure the achievement of national security goals, but defeat will guarantee failure. Mr Windrow's vivid and well-written account confirms that this was certainly not the case at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. His book is a tribute to his abilities both as a historian and a writer.' THE ECONOMIST 'It is hard to praise to highly Martin Windrow's account, the first work of a historian who obviously possesses great gifts. It is surprising how many writers who describe battles lack any understanding of tactics and technology. Windrow is master of every detail... His book makes gripping reading. I hope he writes a lot more.' -- Max Hastings THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 'This anniversary reconstruction of France's most traumatic post-war battlefield defeat is highly opportune... Martin Windrow has pulled off a remarkable feat.' SUNDAY TIMES 'Enthralling...Windrow gives a clear and cogent analysis of the general politico-military position, one that makes the fateful decision to invite a Viet Minh attack on Dien Bien Phu understandable... Anyone who found Stalingrad absorbing will find this book equally so. Like Beevor, Windrow gives one the very essence of battle... His character sketches of individuals from commanding officers down, are deft and accurate... This book is a wonderful account of a terrible battle...' -- Alan Massie LITERARY REVIEW 'Martin Windrow's The Last Valley is the vividly told story of a miniature Stalingrad in which 10,000 French troops were besieged by a large army of Viet Minh for fifty-seven days, fifty years ago.' HISTORY TODAY '...Dien Bien Phu, as Martin Windrow's moving and judicious account of the battle and of the two armies that fought it shows, was not at all a straightforward clash between the French and Vietnamese... Windrow tells it with great lucidity and humanity, with vivid portraits of the leading French officers, and... a very fair assessment of the internal dramas of Dien Bien Phu... he also offers asides on weaponry, battlefield medicine, morale... which are among the best elements of this good book.' -- Martin Woollacott THE GUARDIAN 'Windrow has achieved a remarkable feat... The account is full of nice touches... A master of every detail, Windrow captures both the "prodigious human exertions" of the barefoot Viet Minh troops and the "courage and fighting skills" of the French legionnaires.' THE WEEK

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