In Street without Joy, Bernard Fall describes and analyses France’s failure in the First Indochina War, focusing on the second half (1950-1954). Based on his personal experiences and thorough research both in French and Vietnamese archives (he met and interviewed Ho Chi Minh during one of his visits to North Vietnam), he draws a clear picture of how France lost the war. He describes both the tactical and strategic errors that were made. Several battles in de Red River delta and the Annam highland are recounted. He is brief on Dien Bien Phu, which is the subject of another book, Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu.
The current edition also covers the Laotian crisis and the US advisory period from 1961 to 1964. Fall is clear and on target in his conclusions: Without changes in tactics and strategy, the US effort is doomed to fail.
In 1967, Fall suffered the same fate as Robert Capa 13 years earlier: A landmine took his life while accompanying US troops. Street without Joy was considered mandatory reading for US officers deployed to Vietnam. One may wonder why it’s lessons were at the same time ignored by US policy makers.
I consider this book required reading for anyone interested in the First Indochina War, and a strong recommendation for those focusing on the US war.