Street Without Joy
The French Debacle in Indochina
by Bernard B. Fall. I read about this book in We Were Soldiers Once...and
Young by Gen. Hal Moore (Ret) and Joseph Galloway. General Moore (then Colonel) read
Street Without Joy before his deployment to Vietnam in 1965.
The book was originally published in 1961, but the author revised it up to 1964. The Stackpole Books version that I read has all the material up to 1964. The author was killed in Vietnam in 1967.
The book mostly a tactical description of the battles between the French and Vietnamese Communists in northern Vietnam and Laos from 1946 to 1954. In that year the French lost the major battle at Dien Bien Phu and the Geneva Peace talks set to armistice line between North and South Vietnam at the 17th parallel. The main points, according to the author, of why the French failed in Indochina were (1) a consistent underestimating of the enemy, (2) all strategies focussed on getting the North Vietnamese army out in the open for a set-piece battle and (3) failure to recognize that the Communists were fighting an revolutionary war, one where the political strategy was more important than the military strategy.
The 1964 version of the book implies that the United States was falling into the same hole as the French as it fought to prop up South Vietnam against infiltration from the Communists in the North.
The last chapter is called "The Future of Revolutionary War" and seems to me to be fairly prophetic. There is a lot in this chapter that seems to be pertinent to the situations we are facing in the 21st century. I hope this is a widely read book.