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Few events better symbolise the end of colonialism in the Third World than the Battle of Dienbienphu. This was the inglorious defeat suffered by French troops as they made a last stand to hold onto their colonial empire in Indochina. Following World War II, French colonial officials and military forces returned to Indochina to reclaim their colonies. Vietnam, meanwhile, had declared its independence and asked the United States for help. The United States decided to back France instead. The Vietnamese, many of whom were Communists, started a guerrilla war against the French. The French steadily lost ground to tile nationalist Viet Minh forces. Late in 1953, the French occupied the town of Dienbienphu in an attempt to cut Vietnamese supply lines near the border with Laos. The Vietnamese responded by cutting all ground access to the city, so the French had to fly in all supplies. In the spring of 1954, the Vietnamese general, Vo Nguyen Giap, besieged Dientnenphu with 40,000 troops. They used artillery to batter the town's defenses and overran it on May 7. The first Indochina War was over, and on June 4, France and Vietnam signed a treaty giving Vietnam complete independence. This defeat, combined with events that were soon to unfold in Algeria, led to the collapse of France's Fourth Republic.

The author describes the Battle of Dienbienphu to be ................ .

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