French POW in Indochina


Active Member
I came across this interesting statistic--In a statistical table compiled by the Historical Service of the French Army shows that of 39,888 POWs held by the Vietminh, 29,954 WERE NOT RETURNED. This total includes 2,350 French nationals and 2,867 LEGIONNAIRES who were taken prisioner but not returned
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Yes, it's the sad truth. Many died of bad treatment, starvation, etc. in the vietminh camps. What is more scandalous is that the Viet were never held accountable for the missing ones, in particular during the Geneva talks in 1954, after Diên Biên Phu.


Active Member
None of France's war dead drom Dienbienphu or other battles in North Vietnam, and none of its war dead from Vietminh prison camps or military hospitals were repatriated. By contrast all french prisioners held by nationalist or communists forces in Laos and Cambodia were returned or accounted for, as were the remains of French war dead in these two areas
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Actual or Ex Legionnaire
This is a footnote of the text on the Eurocorps-Foreign Legion concept

The French Foreign Legion since 1945: 25th anniversary issue by Osprey Military Men-at-Arms-Series nº 300. Dien Bien Phu was a French airstrip at a valley-bottom in the Thai Highlands about 270km from the Delta bases on the Mekong River. Its siege lasted between November 1953 and May 1954 at the end of French rule in Indochina. Ten French Foreign Legion battalions together with other French Army regimental battalions were posted there. Volunteers were parachuted into the besieged town and airstrip at less than one hundred meters in the last few days before the fall against overwhelming odds of massed artillery and infantry assaults, and without sufficient French or Allied air support. Three Foreign Legion infantry battalions, two paratrooper battalions and three mortar companies were wiped out in the final seven weeks of pitched battle in increasingly appalling siege conditions. An estimated 8,000 Viet Minh were killed in massed assaults to an estimated 2,200 French and colonial soldiers killed in action. Around 3,000 of 6,000 to 7,000 French and colonial soldiers, who were marched into captivity, ever returned.
Terry said:
None of France's war dead drom Dienbienphu or other battles in North Vietnam

This is not totally true : although no corpse of soldiers fallen at DBP were ever recovered (a mission initiated in 1955 failed, I can tell you a bit more if you want), some bodies from other military cemetaries in Vietnam were actually repatriated to France in the 80s.
They are now buried in a memorial dedicated to the Indochina war dead, built in Fréjus (South of France). This place was a HQ of the 'troupes coloniales' during the Indochina war and many units were trained there in anti-guerrilla tactics before being sent to the Far East.

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