Na San Airfield, Son La, Vietnam
Na San Airfield, Son La, Vietnam

Viet Minh's North West Campaign 1952

April 1952, Raoul Salan was appointed to be the Commander in Chief of the French Forces in Indochina after the death of the predecessor De Lattre and the defeat of French forces in the Battle of Hoa Binh.

 In Viet Minh's forecast, after Hoa Binh Battle, it was hard for the French to conduct a major military operation in the liberated zones in northern Vietnam. And they decided that targets for Viet Minh's operations should be in the mountains which was decided to be the North West of Vietnam in March 1952. The early decision did allow for good time for the preparations.

A diagram of Viet Minh's attacks on French positions during the North West Campaign 1952
A diagram of Viet Minh's attacks on French positions during the North West Campaign 1952

The North West was where the French deployed the least forces and that they would not abandon the region due to its strategic position. The French had had a plan to turn the region into a Thai Autonomous Land and they had started building local troops and collaborators.

March 1952: The North-West Campaign was decided at Viet Minh's Headquarters.
6-9September1952: Tasks were delivered to the divisions.
7October1952 at night: Viet Minh's Troops crossed the Red River into the North-West via Au Lau, Co Phuc and Mau A.

Phase1 (14October-23October1952)
14Oct French posts at Ca Vinh, Sai Luong, Gia Phu were overwhelmed.
15Oct 312th eliminated a Tabor Unit at Nam Muoi.
16Oct 165th defeated and chased the 6th BPC sent to Tu Le towards the Da River.
17Oct French posts at Pu Chang, Phu Yen were wiped out.
18Oct French posts at Nghia Lo Pho, Cua Nhi were removed.
23Oct 312th arrived at the Da River (Black River): All French positions in between the Red River and the Da River (Black River) had been removed.

Phase2 (17-25November1952)
17Nov: French post at Ban Hoa was overwhelmed.
18Nov: French posts at Hat Tieu, Muong Lum, Pa Lay were removed.
19Nov: French troops deployed at Chieng Dong, Yen Chau & Co Noi were defeated by Viet Minh and driven to Na San.
19Nov French forces at Moc Chau surrendered.
15-20Nov: 165th marched their way and took control of Muong Sai, Thuan Chau & Son La. Then one battalion dispatched to Dien Bien Phu and defeated the 58th BCL, another was dispatched to Na San.

By 25November1952 French forces in the North-West were huddled to either Lai Chau Town (Muong Lay Town nowadays) or Na San by November 1952. Except for these 2 positions, the rest of the North West was under the control of Viet Minh.

Phase3 (30Nov-2December1952)
30Nov: French position at Pu Hong was attacked by 308th and that at Ban Hoi by 312th.
French regained control of Pu Hong.
209th attacked Ban Vay and did not succeed.
174th attacked Na Si without success.

2Dec: Na San was reinforced with 2 more battalions.
The battle lasted for only three days and Viet Minh troops were ordered to withdraw on 7December1952.
10Dec: Meeting to summarize the North West Campaign was held at at Viet Minh's Headquarters near Ta Khoa.