Dien Bien Phu 23 March 1954
(UP) — Tank-supported "strong j French Troops KilMMeds In Close Fight HANOI, Indochina, March 23.— elements" of Uoops killed 175 Communist rebels in a hand-to- hand battle that ended the lull in ground fighting at Dien Bien Phu, the French high command announced announced today. The troops struck out of the besieged fortress amid reports that the rebels were starving and might have to make a final assault assault within the next 48 hours. *" Men 'Me^i-iHW^eonfimafider Col. Christien De Castries' "Little Blitz" hit a Viet Minh company dug in along the four-mile road to the southern outpost of the bastion, bastion, only outside strongpoint in the area still held by- the French. A high command spokeman the fighting occurred yesterday.' A rain of artilery from French batteries in the heart of the for- tress supported the sortie. As the 18-ton U. S. supplied j tanks approached lied positions rebel troops jumped from trenches trenches with high-pitched yells and were cut down almost instantly by machine gun fire. Military sources did not disclose whether there had been French casualties but said any the after French retired successfully the battle. The rebel company was one of many Viet Minh units which have crept into the Dien Bien Phu basin and dug a maze of trenches. Some have approached within a few yards of the fortress's center. Vit Minh tactics appear to aim at a gradual strangling of French movement on the floor of the basin and follow up with a series of final final attacks through'barbed wire and minefields to the French central bunkers. The hunger reports explained the movement in daylight of con- voys of Russian-made Molotovj trucks from the Reds' northern.tioin supply dumps along jungle roads, j The Communists apparently had enough food when they were camped camped around Dien Bien Phu for almost almost six weeks awaiting to attack. Once they started their assault 11 days ago they could spare no men for supply services. In addition, constant French air attacks on truck convoys have interrupted interrupted the flow of supplies, the sources said. Unless rebel commander Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap receives enough supplies for his men he may forced to attack during the next 48 hours to avoid starvation and loss of everything he has thrown into the bloodiest battle of the entire entire Indochina war.