In the late 1940s, France had serious difficulties controlling its colonies in Indochina – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Despite financial assistance from the United States, nationalist uprisings against French colonial rule began to take their toll.
On May 7, 1954, the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam fell after a two month siege led by Vietnamese nationalist Ho Chi Minh. After the fall of Dien Bien Phu, the French pulled out of the region.
The battle proved bloody for both sides with over 30,000 casualties in less than two months. The French defeat at Dien Bien Phu marked the end of the First Indochina War and spurred peace negotiations. The resulting 1954 Geneva Accords partitioned the country at the 17th Parallel and created a communist state in the north and a capitalist country in the south. The resulting conflict between these two regimes ultimately grew into the Vietnam War.
For many Vietnamese, the battle spurred a nationalist sentiment still felt today. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Dien Bien Phu on May 5-7 the Vietnamese government invited French officials for a series of military parades, dramatic reenactments and mourning ceremonies.