Hell in a Very Small Place

  • by Bernard B. Fall
  • Narrated by Robertson Dean
  • 19 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Like Gettysburg, Stalingrad, Midway, and Tet, the battle at Dien Bien Phu - a strategic attack launched by France against the Vietnamese in 1954 after eight long years of war - marked a historic turning point. By the end of the 56-day siege, a determined Viet Minh guerrilla force had destroyed a large tactical French colonial army in the heart of Southeast Asia. The Vietnamese victory would not only end French occupation of Indochina and offer a sobering premonition of the US' future military defeat in the region but would also provide a new model of modern warfare in which size and sophistication didn't always dictate victory.
Before his death in Vietnam in 1967, Bernard Fall, a critically acclaimed scholar and reporter, drew upon declassified documents from the French Defense Ministry and interviews with thousands of surviving French and Vietnamese soldiers to weave a compelling account of the key battle of Dien Bien Phu. With Fall's thorough and insightful analysis, Hell in a Very Small Place has become one of the benchmarks in war reportage.


What the Critics Say

"A thorough account of a brave, sanguinary battle that has since turned out to have immense historic importance." (The New Yorker)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The complete story of Dien Bien Phu

Would you listen to Hell in a Very Small Place again? Why?

It's likely I'll listen to this again - it's easy to miss something in a complex history, and this one more so than others. It's hard to remember what each unit is - something that is easily remedied in print and one of the few downsides of audiobooks.

What did you like best about this story?

The battle is famous but not well-discussed in most other sources. The detailed research is excellent and the analysis generally pretty good. It's the completeness of the relating of the battle's events that really makes this book worthwhile.

Which scene was your favorite?

Since there's very little to feel good about in this history, there really isn't a "favorite scene".

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

France's Stalingrad

Any additional comments?

The book's weaknesses as an audiobook include a non-adherence to linear time. Some parts of the story are told until the end and then we're returned to a point in the battle without quite recognizing how it meshes with what we just heard. This is less a problem when reading, but in an audiobook makes it hard to follow at times.

Still, it's not nearly as dry as it could have been and one appreciates the comprehensive nature of the book.

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- Arius

Dien Bien Phu

What made the experience of listening to Hell in a Very Small Place the most enjoyable?

The detail. Made you feel you were right there.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Hell in a Very Small Place?

The surrender. Poignant and what a shame so terrible a conflict brought on by imperialism.

Which scene was your favorite?

Sadly, it was the march to confinement and the horrible casualties rendered thereby. Previously, I had not known about this aspect of the battle.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Arresting and frustrating. In Viet Nam we made many of the same mistakes. What hubris not to have learned from this war what to do and what not to do.

Any additional comments?

One detail of interest missing: The Viet Ming executed the prostitute-nurses. The nurses were heroes. They should be honored with a memorial.

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- William R. Toddmancillas

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-06-2016
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio