Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam, sits in a valley surrounded by mountains about 160 mi/260 km northwest of Hanoi. In 1954 it is where the French fought the 55-day, losing battle that marked the end of colonialism in Vietnam.

At the battlefield, you can visit a small museum, the Revolutionary Heroes Cemetery (a monument to the Viet Minh casualties), the French War Memorial and The Victory—a bronze sculpture of three Vietnamese soldiers standing atop Gen. de Castries' bunker.

The Communist Viet Minh forces in the battle were commanded by Vo Nguyen Giap, who applied what he learned about guerrilla warfare there to his later defeat of U.S. forces in Vietnam. Dien Bien Phu isn't a major tourist stop, and it's a bit inconvenient to reach, but a visit is instructive in terms of Vietnam's overall history with the West.

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