Coc Xa Battlefiled was one of the most famous during the war against the French army.
On September 30 Groupement Bayard set out from That Khe, led by the 1st BEP. However, General Giap had concentrated ten battalions around Dong Khé. In addition, he had a complete artillery regiment, together with the remaining forces from Le Hong Phong I. The Viet Minh rebuffed the French forces which were forced to pull back and wait for air support. Le Page renewed the attack on October 2, pushing west to bypass Dong Khé as Viet Minh numbers were overwhelming.
Meanwhile Colonel Charton’s group, led by the 3rd Battalion of 3rd REI, left Cao Bang on October 1; contrary to orders he took with him his heavy equipment. The group’s movement down RC4 was slowed by Viet Minh ambushes. After bitter fighting they finally abandoned their heavy equipment and linked up with Groupement Bayard in the hills around Dong Khé on October 5.
Loss Of French Army
The French forces were driven into the Coc Xa gorge, where they were completely annihilated by October 7. In an attempt to support the embattled troops the 1st BEP Replacement Company (120 men) had been merged with 280 men from the 3rd BCCP (Bataillon Colonial de Commandos Parachutistes) and were parachuted into That Khe, but were also destroyed. Only 23 survivors of the 1st BEP managed to escape to French lines. In fact, it became the first French parachute battalion lost in combat, followed by the 3rd BCCP.
Of the more than 6000 French soldiers and civilians involved in the operation only 700 reached French lines. Lang Son, the next French base to the south, was abandoned on October 17 and on October 18 the French command evacuated posts south of Lang Son on RC4. Panic spread in French-controlled Hanoi and there was talk of an evacuation. Ultimately, however, General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny replaced Carpentier as commander in chief of French Indochina in late 1950 and restored French morale.
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