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Anyone ever Considering Doing the French Indochina War?

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I know...the initial response is the logical one - but the Viet Minh didn't have any planes?! Which is of course is true, but as far as ground attack wars go it was a very interesting one. I've recently gotten back into Strike Fighters, while at the same time having recently written a campaign for the French Indochina war that uses a tabletop miniatures rules system. One of the houserules I created for the tabletop was to implement a different map scale system that tracked the ingress and egress of French bombers and Para transports on a separate map so that the Viet Minh could go up against them with their Chinese Type 55 AA guns. In the last 2 years of the war the VM had quite a few of those AA guns and they got damn good at using them.

 

I played through the campaign for WoV way back when, and it got me thinking that a French Indochina campaign might be interesting for the mud moving fans amongst the Strike Fighters crowd. From what I recall the map from WoV or SF2 Vietnam would include the territory that the French Armee de l’Air and Aeronavale operated in. Something that was very prevalent amongst the French Indochina War was para drops and cargo drops. That's something missing from the Strike Fighter engine, but I was wondering if there might be some way to abstract/mod the recon mission type to accommodate it?  The other thing of course was for the vast majority of air strikes the target were against infantry in large numbers, so I'm not sure how well the engine would work for that.

 

The aircraft in the latter half of the war in which air missions became much more utilized and important were:

 

Douglas B26 Invader (ground attack)
Grumman F8F Bearcat (ground attack)
Grumman F6F Hellcat (ground attack)
P-63 Kingcobra (ground attack)
Douglas C-47 (transport)
Junkers JU-52 (transport)
Fairchild C-119 (transport)
Morane-Saulnier MS.505 Criquet (FAC-recon)

 

Anyhow, having only ever created custom missions with the fanmade editor, I'm not sure how doable such a campaign like this is with the Strike Fighters engine. I'm also not sure how many, or if any, of the necessary aircraft have been made by fans.

If anyone could give me any feedback on how viable this would with SF engine, I'd appreciate it.

 

[Edit] Don't know how I screwed the grammar up so badly in the topic line, but I did. It won't let me edit it, so my apologies <sigh>

Edited by Arrow

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There are already mostly ground war missions for Vietnam featuring ground troops etc for SF2V Gold - there is "Steel Tiger" campaign that has no red air at all that I have got so check that out - has mostly ground troops in it.

 

For dropping cargo - YAP did that years back - supposed you have a crate as weapon and just press the fire button to drop it like a bomb maybe

 

 

As for the aircraft most of them are in the SF2 WW2 section already - so check that out - maybe a few missing

 

The French used Carriers as well so you can include those - check the ships section

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the 3 French CVs are already in the downloads section; sometimes hidden in aircraft uploads. you'll have to check the French birds

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This scenario should be only for ground attackers, once the air opposition was almost zero. Concerning the graphics, the airfields needs a little downgrade for the 50´s pattern. It would be a nice addition.

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The para cargo create I made could be dropped from the C47 or the.C-119

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Wich countries fought this war? Even better - what planes and their respective squadrons? I can remember the French Mosquitoes, Spitfires,F6F-5, F8F-2B and P-63Cs as said before, but any foes were there? My time is pretty scarce now, so no time for a research (actually bed time)...

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Vietnam map will need some job to represent the forts and bases of the french there, also the airfields we currentlymhave will not work for french Indochina war. Also remember the french ouccped ALL of Current Vietnam, that includes the north.

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@Wilches:  It's late for me too so I can't give many details, but in terms of which countries fought the war it was a colonial war fought between France and a Vietnam nationalist/communist army known as the Viet Minh. There weren't any other nations officially involved, but in the last 3 years of the air war there were a number of US pilots that flew the Fairchild C-119 boxcars. Something to note though, was that the French Foreign Legion had about 20,000 troops in the theater from 1948 on, and those forces were truly multinational in makeup. There was even ex WW II German Fallschirmjager and Italian Carabinieri serving with them. To make things even more bizarre, there were actually both WW II Japanese and German veteran officers functioning as trainers for the Viet Minh - most figured it was better doing that job than returning home and possibly facing war crimes.

 

Needless to say much of the war had a covert nature to it, and that's 1 of the reasons it was known at home in France as "the dirty war". It should also be noted that the Viet Minh never so much as fielded a single aircraft against the French, so in terms of the air war the French had total air supremacy.

Edited by Arrow

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Arrow, thanks for the info. All in all, it´s a guerrilla war, so it doesn´t fit properly to game´s engine. The missions there should be SEAD, ARMED_RECON, RECON and STRIKE only. Quite boring to some. Anyway, I would like to see the French´s Ki-43II and B-26s zooming! We have to keep in mind the the whole terrain needs to look as 40s and 50s fashion. The Vietnam´s default modern concrete airstrip and airbase facillities is too much modern for that period of time.

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...All in all, it´s a guerrilla war, so it doesn´t fit properly to game´s engine...

Actually, that's only partially true - there was actually 2 phases to the war. During the 1st phase (1946-1949) for sure it was a guerilla war and there was only about 10,000 Viet Minh who's only real achievement was to occupy the resort that was on the eastern slopes of Thud Ridge. France, due to the Vichy Republic aligning with the Axis powers from 40-44, wasn't allowed to deploy a full army there until 46. in 1947-48 the French Colonial army launched a major offensive (operation Lea) against the VM, which pushed them north and at 1 point surrounded them with a pincher movement. It should be noted that virtually all of that fighting occurred in the Tonkin (northern) region of the country - some of it took place in Laos too. The north is heavy forested, mountainous terrain though, so no surprise that a vast majority of the VM slipped through the French encirclement and made it over the Chinese border in 48 to live to fight another day;  Maos' communist forces were well on their way to victory by then.
 
It's in the 1st phase that the smorgasbord of both Axis and Allied WW 2 aircraft like the C-47, Junkers Ju52, Spitfire, Mosquito and Ki-43's were flown - think there was also some Zeros and Mustangs used too. There was a lot of para drop ops involving the C-47 and Ju52's. For sure a lot of the air war in the 1st phase involved Recon, SEAD bombing and strafing ops, but there also would have been some close air support missions. This phase concluded in 49 with the Communist Chinese -now in power- initiating a major training program for the Viet Minh in southern China cites of Nanning and Qinzhou.
 
The 2nd phase began in 1950 with a real bang. Viet Minh, who were now much better trained, better equipped, and much larger in numbers, launched a major offensive against the French forts in the north east along a road called Route Colonial 4 (RC4.) Within a month they had destroyed, or were in control of, all but 1 of the forts along RC4. Much of that fighting involved conventional seige tactics, but it also featured a lot of  human wave assaults which became a trademark tactic for communist forces in Vietnam. Much of the air mission flown by the French were close support, BAI and para drops. For the last standing fort the, French sacrificed a battalion of paratroops by para dropping them in to rearguard a retreat - that's an unfortunate tactic the French would repeat many times throughout the war. It should be emphasized that these forts were a massive loss for the French, and the Viet Minh recovered so many tons of gear at the last fort that they actually held an advantage in the number of mortars per company for the remainder of the war!
 
With strong bases of ops now in the North, the Viet Minh went on the offensive in early 1951 in a major way wich didn't stop until the late summer. The 1st major battle was Yen Vinh, where 2, VM divisions deployed off of Thud Ridge and attacked the French fort there and the hedgehogs supporting it. That battle was on a massive scale with the hedgehogs trading hands a number of times throughout. There were a few 1sts about that battle; it was the 1st time the Grumman F8F Bearcat saw action and it was the 1st time napalm was used on a large scale - VM NCO's were so surprised that some actually thought it was the atom bomb. I don't have the exact stats but the Armee de l’Air and Aeronavale flew a large number of BAI and close support missions that involved anything from strafing to dropping BLU. There were similar large battles fought that same year at Mao Khe and the Day River with the Viet Minh getting their heads handed to them each time, but inflicting a large number of French casualties in the process. By this time the earlier WW II aircraft had mostly been ditched by the French who were now mostly using Hellcats (did most of the napalm bombing), Bearcats, King Cobras and Invaders; the C-119 boxcars had just started to show up and they were still using the Skytrain and Ju52.
 
The guerilla warfare that the US  Vietnam war was noted for, didn't really begin until late 51 - early 52 when the VM shifted tactics. For the rest of the war the Viet Minh kept to guerilla tactics with lots of ambushes. That said, the last battle of the war, the famous Dien Bien Phu in 1954, was a massive, conventional siege attack that involve a huge number of forces on both sides. That fighting involved a very large amount  of artillery on both sides and the Viet Minh -although it's unofficial- were estimated to have 60, 37 mm and 57 mm AA guns. The French flew many para troop and cargo drops, BAI, close support and medivac missions. So although a good portion of the war invoved guerilla fighting, there was roughly 2 years where it was anything but that.
Edited by Arrow

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If a French Indochina War campaign were to be created, it seems that it might work better to stick to the 2nd phase/half of the war, as those battles were more akin to what the SF engine was designed for. I got off my butt and did some checking and noted that the Hellcat, Bearcat, Invader, C-47 and, much to my surprise, the Criquet are available. There also some French skins for some of them - very nice. Five out of 8 for the later phase of the war is none too shabby, and IMO those aircraft alone could make for a good series of missions. Of course I say that without having a clue as to how you link missions into a campaign.

 

[Edit] In terms of the runways that others have commented on, from what I've seen in pictures and read about, they were of the corrugated variety that were also used in Korea around the same time.

Edited by Arrow

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Main problem is that we lack the forts we need to defend, theres nothing similar in current maps.

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Main problem is that we lack the forts we need to defend, theres nothing similar in current maps.

Good point. While some of them would have resembled a US 60's era FFB, compete with the razor/barded wire perimeters and bunkers, some of them for sure were French colonial-styled forts. Some were just reinforced, concrete block houses that you might see anywhere in German occupied Europe during WW II.

Edited by Arrow

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.... If only Veltro will bring us the right Helldiver (SB2C-5) another piece could be added.


Glad to se my Bearcat, Hellcat and .... Criquet could be useful! :biggrin:

 

Go on, please. :beach:

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Any news on the air opposition? I guess it was nule.

If by "nule" you mean non existent? That was definitely the case for the Viet Minh. The only air opposition by the VM was in the way of Anti Aircraft guns which they had by early 1951. They were Chinese made and called Type 55, but in fact they were the same as the USSR's 61-K 37mm guns of WW II. The French started noticing the Viet Minh having many more of them in early 52 and sometime between then and Dien Bien Phu in the spring of 54, they started receiving 57 mm guns. Another thing of note was, just as in the US era of the Vietnam war, the Viet Minh were very good at ground -to- air attacks using small arms. Another thing of note was that the VM were masters at disassembling AA guns, just as they were with 75mm artillery guns, and packing them up mountains. So French aircraft could potentially come under attack in just about any part of the country.

 

On the other hand if you meant the French air opposition was comprised of, I don't know the squadron makeup and numbers, but both the French Far Eastern Air force (Armee de l’Air) and Navy air command (Aeronavale) had squadrons deployed. I do know that they never fielded more than 275 aircraft at any one time. Most of the Air Forces' airbases were in the Red River delta not far from Hanoi, but they had some forward bases at Na San and Dien Bien Phu. And of course they had airbases in the Central and Southern part of the country, but for the most part the aircraft there never saw active service.

 

[Edit] BTW I spelt "Vinh-Yen" incorrectly earlier as "Yen Vinh" - <sigh> Vietnamese names are a challenge for me to remember.

Edited by Arrow

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[Edit] BTW I spelt "Vinh-Yen" incorrectly earlier as "Yen Vinh" - <sigh> Vietnamese names are a challenge for me to remember.

 

You and everybody else! :biggrin:  I've been fascinated by Dien Bien Phu ever since I read Bernard Falls' definitive account of the battle; I recommend it highly to anyone who hasn't read it. While it would definitely require some terrain work (mainly airfields, especially Dien Bien Phu itself), this would be an extremely interesting scenario to "game" in SF. While the air assets were one sided, the Viet Minh made excellent use of what we now call assymetrical assets; the offensive was timed to coincide with the monsoon, thus negating much of the French superiority in airpower, large quantities of AAA also went a long way in this regard. Dien Bien Phu itself was also selected because of it's isolation; the distance from French bases stretched French aircraft, especially those of the Aeronavale, to the limit.

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You and everybody else! :biggrin:  I've been fascinated by Dien Bien Phu ever since I read Bernard Falls' definitive account of the battle; I recommend it highly to anyone who hasn't read it...

If you enjoyed Fall's Hell in a Very Small Place you'd no doubt enjoy his Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina and I'd highly recommend it. IMO it's the best book ever written on the French Indochina War. Fall himself was killed on the "street without joy" (Route Colonial 1) in 1967 when he stepped on a land mine while accompanying US Marines. Probably just about everyone here has had a brief glimpse of 1 of the battles covered in that book - the opening scene in We Were Soldiers where Groupe Mobile 100 is fatally ambushed by Viet Minh Regiment 95 just east of Pleiku.

Edited by Arrow

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Some stats I came across yesterday about the air war.

 

Numbers of aircraft at the conclusion of the war:

  • 75   x  C-47
  • 24   x  C-119
  • 60   x  B-26
  • 112 x  Hellcats, Bearcats, Kingcobras, Corsairs and other fighter-bombers
  • 85   x  Recon & Liasion aircraft such as the Criquet.

Unfortunately my source didn't give  breakdown of the fighter-bomber or recon-liaison aircaft

 

Aircraft casualties a the Battle of Dien Bien Phu:

  • Aircraft shot down:  48
  • Aircraft destroyed on the ground: 14
  • Aircraft damaged: 167
  • Average pilot flying hours for April 1954 (height of the battle):  150

Air command organization in French Indochina was named Groupements Aeriens Tactiques (GATAC) and was organized as follows:

  • GATAC South: Southern Vietnam (Cochin-China), Cambodia & southern central Vietnam
  • GATAC Center:  Central Vietnam, southern Laos
  • GATAC North: Northern Vietnam, northern Laos

The vast majority of the air missions were flown out of GATAC North. There was also a GATAC Laos that temporarily existed from 53-54.

Edited by Arrow

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A cool vintage photo of an artist's illustration of the battle of Dien Bien Phu. I'm not sure if this was taken from a book or a newspaper. This is an interesting picture as it actually depicts the main location of Viet Minh AAA batteries and their key artillery positions. It also shows where C-119's and C-47's would have made their cargo drops. Sorry for the size, but it's necessary to see the details:

8306219324_8e5da39867_k.jpg

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Can't we get the French's ass kicked in their own country First ala Battle of France?Plenty of air and ground opposition There.

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I'd like both campaigns, but that's mostly because I believe I can have my French pastry and eat it too.  ;)

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