Reactions to The Undetected Enemy

"...a gripping story of miscalculation (mostly French), insufficient scrutiny of others (both American and French), and human error. It answers, probably definitively, the question of why the French got sucked into the decisive battle for Indo-China in the wrong place at the wrong time with too little force, and it offers a sad foreshadowing of the defects in American intelligence gathering and policy-making that were to bring about our later unsuccessful involvement in Vietnam."

--John D. Stempel, director of the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky, The Register


"Nordell's two-part study opens with an absorbing narrative of the military operations by which the French parachute forces occupied Dien Bien Phu .... The second part deals with decision making, and analyzes the reasons for both the occupation of this isolated outpost and the decision to hold it at all costs, a decision made by early December 1953 .... Nordell maintains that both the French and the Americans who were advising them failed to detect the size and significance of the Viet-Minh response to the occupation of Dien Bien Phu .... The book is well illustrated and there are excellent notes. Highly recommended."

--D. H. Norton, emeritus, Fitchburg State College, CHOICE


"[General] Navarre claimed later that it [Dien Bien Phu] was a vital gateway between Laos and northern Vietnam, but to Nordell this reason seems to be a face-saving rationale.... Nordell pieces together persuasive evidence, however, that Navarre did not want a large battle at Dien Bien Phu. Navarre garrisoned Dien Bien Phu to support friendly, local forces, but he underestimated Viet Minh strength.... Dwight D. Eisenhower and other Americans eventually charged that Navarre had bungled into defeat, but these same critics had accepted, even praised, Navarre's moves in November and December [1953].... Both French and United States leaders failed to detect enemy strength at Dien Bien Phu until the die for Viet Minh victory had been cast."

--David L. Anderson, University of Indianapolis, The Journal of American History


"Using recently published documents on Indochina, John R. Nordell, Jr. provides a nearly complete analysis of French operational miscalculations [at Dien Bien Phu] that one would be hard pressed to find elsewhere.... Masterminded by General Henri Navarre, Operation Castor was hailed as an astounding success. As Nordell's careful analysis demonstrates, however, subsequent events were less spectacular.... Similarly, the U.S. State Department officials who reported the event failed to provide a proper assessment of the situation.... Nordell's book is an important contribution to the literature on this subject."

--Jacob Abadi, United States Air Force Academy, American Historical Review




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