Chris Mullin

7 May 2024

At Dien Bien Phu

‘And this,’ our guide said, ‘is where Colonel Piroth committed suicide.’ We were standing by a fenced-off scrap of wasteland on the edge of a busy market. The only evidence that anything of significance happened there is a white cement block carved with an image of two artillery pieces and an almost illegible inscription in Vietnamese. The entrance to Piroth’s bunker, if it still exists, is overgrown and filled with rubble. Piroth was the deputy commander of French forces at Dien Bien Phu, a one-armed war hero and gunnery expert who had boasted that ‘no Viet Minh cannon will be able to fire three rounds before being destroyed by my artillery.’ In fact the Viet Minh made short work of the French artillery. ‘I have been dishonoured,’ Piroth said. Soon afterwards, using his teeth, he pulled the safety pin out of a grenade and blew himself to pieces.

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