Street Without Joy : The French Debacle in Indochina, Paperback Book

Street Without Joy : The French Debacle in Indochina Paperback

Part of the Stackpole Military History Series series

5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


In this classic account of the French war in Indochina, Bernard B.

Fall vividly captures the sights, sounds, and smells of the savage eight-year conflict in the jungles and mountains of Southeast Asia from 1946 to 1954.

The French fought well to the last, but even with the lethal advantages of airpower, they could not stave off the Communist-led Vietnamese nationalists, who countered with a hit-and-run campaign of ambushes, booby traps, and nighttime raids.

Defeat came at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, setting the stage for American involvement and opening another tragic chapter in Vietnam's history.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416 pages, 48 b/w photos, 7 drawings, & 29 maps
  • Publisher: Stackpole Books
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Asian history
  • ISBN: 9780811732369

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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

It's heartbreaking to think how differently the twentieth century might have ended had the powers that be in the U.S. read and, more importantly, paid attention to this book. Bernard Fall describes brilliantly the strategy and tactics used by Vo Nguyen Giap and the Viet Minh against the French. These tactics changed very little from one war to the next yet we, forewarned (assuming we had read this book), walked right into it.This is a classic example of the old axiom that he who fails to learn from history is doomed to repeat it.What I found particularly disturbing about 'Street Without Joy' is Giap's description of the evolution of his enemies' tactics; an initial offensive, slowing and turning into a defensive war with a growing amount of public sentiment against involvement. Does this sound familiar?

Review by

It's hard to say anything more that hasn't already been said by the other reviewers. This book basically affirms George Santayana's famous remark that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." The book details the French disaster in Vietnam up to the very early days of US involvement in 1961. He details how badly flawed French strategy and tactics in Vietnam were through the 1950s up to the siege of Dien Bien Phu. He details how the French send mechanized battalions into some of the world's thickest jungles, how they deploy aircraft to support ground troops in foliage so thick that the ground can't be seen, how they drive convoy after convoy along the only and easily ambushable roads, and so on. The fatal flaws of the French involvement are 1) the expectation that a guerilla force will engage them in a traditional "set-piece" battle, and 2) that superior technology makes it unnecessary to have a popular cause. Basically the French brought a howitzer to a gun fight. Although on paper the howitzer possesses far greater firepower, any idiot knows that the party wielding the pistol will have filled the howitzer operator full of lead before he has had any chance at all to bring his "superior" weapon to bear.This is not a book that's critical of foreign involvement in Vietnam. Far from it. Fall makes it clear that he has no love whatsoever for Communism in general and the Viet-Minh in particular. It is more a lament at the vast number of men who were sacrificed by the French military leadership because they were unwilling or unable to see that their strategies and tactics were absolutely self-defeating. It was also a warning to the US military and political leadership to learn from France's mistakes. I think you know how that story ends, though ...

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