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In December 1953 the French army challenged its elusive Vietnamese enemies to a stand-up battle. French paras landed on the border between Vietnam and Laos, astride the Communist lines of communication. The Vietnamese not only attacked, they isolated the French force and besieged it in its jungle base. The hunters became the hunted. As defeat loomed, the French appealed to the USA where Vice-President Nixon and Air Force General Le May planned to drop atomic bombs on the Vietnamese supply dumps. It fell to Winston Churchill to block the use of atomic weapons in Vietnam: President Eisenhower would not employ them without his consent. What followed became a Stalingrad in the jungle: the French were worn down and destroyed. The French withdrew from Vietnam but the country was divided at US insistence, creating the short-lived 'Republic of South Vietnam' for which 55,000 US servicemen would die over the next 20 years. The French colonial army regrouped in Algeria where a new war began, one it was so determined to win that its officers would ultimately attempt a coup d'etat. Dien Bien Phu is a true landmark battle. Its political consequences were profound. Militarily, it was the first defeat of modern western forces by an Asian guerrilla army.