Indochina War ressources

I have had a long-standing interest in the French Incochina War which raged across Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from 1947 to 1954 and set the stage for the later US Vietnam War.

Interest in this colonial war seems to be enjoying something of a boom lately, no doubt spurred by the release of several excellent figure ranges over the last few years such as Red Star Miniatures' outstanding 28mm range, Eureka Miniatures' 15mm offerings and Pendraken Miniatures' lovely 10mm range.

Several years ago (more than I care to mention), I was lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time in the archives of the French Army's Historical Branch (SHAT) at Vincennes. There I was able to photocopy quite a few primary documents, mostly covering TO&Es and tactical doctrine both French and Viet Minh, which I will be making available here as and when I find the time to scan them. Sadly they will be of use mostly to French speakers as I don't have the time to provide a translation.

I hope this proves useful to those of you with an interest in this conflict. The documents certainly paint a very different picture to what is portrayed in secondary sources: the Viet Minh was far more tactically sophisticated and French unit organisation, while very diverse because they were tailored for different theaters and unit roles, were a far cry from the "anything goes" that is often described.

Note: Where the document contains only odd or even pages, it is because it was originally produced as a bilingual French and Vietnamese document and only the pages in French were copied (at the outrageous price charged by SHAT for photocopies).

Viet Minh TO&Es

  • Organisation militaire Viet Minh (Etat-Major Général, 2e Bureau - September 1953): This large study of Viet Minh military organisation was produced by the Military Intelligence branch of the Indochina General Staff. Amongst other things this contains TO&Es from page 65 (from rifle group to division) and a glossary of Vietminh military terms and designations from page 106.

Viet Minh Tactics and Doctrine

  • Tactiques et procédés de combat Viet Minh (Etat-Major Général, 2e Bureau - April 1953): A French Military Intelligence report on Viet Minh tactics including fives annexes with after action reports on typical engagements.

French TO&Es

General works

  • The Lessons of the War in Indochina Vol.II  (1967): In case you are not familiar with this Vietnam-era Rand Corporation translation of the official "lessons learnt" report originally published in 1955, this is probably the best one-stop reference in English for the Indochina War. 
  • The Lessons of the War in Indochina Vol.III: Over at DTIC, which is a treasure trove of historical documents, lay hidden Volume III of the Indochina "lessons learnt" report and several technical annexes from Vol.II which were not included in the RAND translation. I have not been able to find items 1 and 5 but the rest can be downloaded below:
  1. AD804373 - Item 2. Guerrilla No. 7 - Issued by the Geographic Section of the FTE. This is a collection of articles on Viet Minh Tactics, Stratagems, Sabotage, Traps & Mines.
  2. AD804379 - Item 3. Notes on Combat in Indo-China, dated March 30, 1954
  3. AD804372 - Item 4. Air Reconnaissance in Indo-China. This is a collection of procedures pertaining to air reconnaissance and intelligence. 
  4. AD804375 - Item 6. Lessons to be Drawn from the War in Indo-China. Covers logisitics, vehicles and armament with an assessment of their qualities and drawbacks. Probably the most interesting of the lot.
  5. AD804376 - Item 7. Lessons From the Indo-China War, Vol.II. This is the same as Vol.II above except that it is not the RAND edition.
  6. AD804377 - Item 8. Lessons from the Indo-China War, Vol.III. This is an overview of Viet Minh tactics followed by an appraisal of the various branches of the French army.
  7. AD804374 - Item 9. Instruction Relative to the Use of the Intervention Artillery in Indo-China. This is a collection of papers on the use of mobile artillery (as opposed to static guns deployed in outposts), forward observers and observation aircraft.
  8. AD804378 - Item 10. Manual Of Mines And Booby Traps Of The Far East. What it says on the tin: this is an illustrated catalogue of Viet Minh mines and booby traps.
  • Inventaire des archives de l’Indochine, sous-série 10 H, 1867 à 1956, by Jean-Claude DEVOS, Jean NICOT and Philippe SCHILLINGER, Vincennes : 1987-1990, 2 vol. Volume 1 and Volume 2 can be downloaded from the SHD website. I wish something like this had been available online back when I trawled through the archives it would have made my visits far more efficient.

Riverine warfare

Here are some scan of articles, published in a short-lived magazine, detailing the various craft used by the Dinassauts, including scale plans:


  1. These are mana from heaven to people interested in Indochina. Did you manage to capture anymore? Finding solid info on Colonial troops, Algerian and Senegalese Rifles and the Goum Tabors is a REAL headache.

    I would love to see anything else you have...

    1. The only additional stuff I have covers armoured branch units. Sadly no colonial troops or armée d'Afrique. I believe the relevant archives are in Fréjus. I'll try to upload a catalogue ofthe Indochina archives held in Vincennes.

    2. Frejus? THAT would be incredible!!! My old business partner lives in Valbonne which is just down the road... maybe I could go and stay with him for a week and spend it digging around in the archives.

      Do you know if there are any special criteria to get access to the archives?

    3. The archives of the Troupes de Marine are in Fréjus at the Centre d’histoire et d’études des Troupes de Marine. Apparently, access to the archives is by appointment but there shouldn't be any conditions. It's best to contact them to make sure the archives you are looking for are there. They may in fact be in Vincennes...

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  3. Hey Risaldar,

    This is all great info. Thanks so much for posting.

    Ive been working my way through the TO&Es for the Amphibious Groupements and there are a few acronyms I cant find any explanation for.

    Do you have any idea what the following would actually be:

    Ct.1-2T. TT.
    Cn.2-4T. TT.
    LVT Depann. (I think this is Depanne which is a scouting vehicle?)
    Ro. inf.1T
    Ro. 1 - 2T.
    Cuis Mulet

    Any idea what any of these would be?


  4. Apologies, I meant Armoured Repair vehicle for the Deppan.

  5. Hello,

    Ct.inf.1T.TT : camionette infanterie 1 tonne, tous terrains - 1 tonne light truck, all terrain
    Ct.1-2T. TT. : camionette 1-2 tonnes, tous terrains - 1 to 2 tonnes light truck, all terrain
    Cn.2-4T. TT. : camion 2-4 tonnes, tous terrains - 2 to 4 tonnes truck, all terrain
    LVT Depann. : LVT dépannage - ARV
    Ro. inf.1T : ?? infanterie 1 tonne - 1 tonne trailer (I'm stumped by the Ro. but this is obviously a trailer)
    Ro. 1 - 2T. : ?? 1-2 tonne - 1-2 tonne trailer
    Cuis Mulet : cuisine muletière - pack field kitchen
    Ro.Citerne : ?? citerne - water tank trailer

  6. Hi Risaldar,

    Thanks for all of this, I was reading through a load of French sites that had acronyms on and Id picked up a lot of this but the TT had me totally stumped so thats good to know!

    The Ro. is the abbreviation for Remorque, which as you suspected means trailer. For some reason I think that somewhere I found Citerne referring to a fuel trailer.

    I dont know if this will be any good for you at all but here is a list of the other stuff that Ive 'deciphered' LOL:

    Moto: Motorcycles
    Ateliers: Workshop
    Obusier: Howitzer
    Sc-US: Scout Car USA (Obviously refers to a White)
    A.M: Auto Mitrailleuse (De Combat referring to M8's and De Commandement referring to M20's)
    Automoteur 75: HMC M8 (or according to the forums this could also include the T30's deployed in Indochina)
    Lot 7: This is a standard pattern American ARV truck with a winch and crane attachment of the Lot7 type
    Equipe: Team

    Thats all Ive had time to drill through at the moment but as time goes by maybe I'll actually find one you can find useful eh?