Battle of Hoa Binh 1951-1952: Battle of Hill 600

The Context of the battle
In an effort to block Viet Minh’s movements between the mountainous Northwest and the Red River Delta, the French deployed its forces in Hoa Binh in 1951. The Viet Minh commanders found this a great opportunity for causing high casualties to the French. Both sides chose Hoa Binh as the battlefield for their military operations in the dry season of 1951-1952 which is known as the Battle of Hoa Binh or the Hoa Binh Campaign by the Viet Minh.

 The sites of the battles
The Hoa Binh Campaign took place in four main areas: the battlefields along the Da River from Son Tay to Hoa Binh, those along Route 6 from Hanoi to Hoa Binh and those along Route 21 from Xuan Mai to Cho Ben, and those at Hoa Binh Town. The Battle of Hill 600 took place on Hill 600 (600m above sea level) which is by the Da River and is in the area of the Ba Vi National Park.

The participants
On the French side, Hill 600 was protected by an overmanned legion company and a commando company. Besides, Hill 600 was protected by fire support from Hill 550 which was 500m away, manned by another commando company and which controlled the single path to Hill 600. These hills were high points along the Da River which was an important supply route for the French troops in Hoa Binh Town.

Hill 600 had a surrounding wall of concrete of 0.5m thick and 2m high and a machine gun. Hill 550 was a rudimentary base with canvas only.

On the Viet Minh side, the task to remove the forces at Hill 600 and Hill550 was given to the 141th Regiment /312th Division. The time was chosen to be late December 30th.

The development of the battle
1700 hours Units of the 141th Regiment on the mountain sides of the Ba Vi Mountain were ordered the approach the target.
2330 hours Companies 241 and 243 (11th Battalion) which had taken their positions around Hill 550 opened fire on the force on the hill with machine guns and rifles. It took the attackers 30 minutes to overwhelm the hill.

At the same time, Companies 19 and 20 ( 16th Regiment) passed through Hill 550 on the single route to Hill 600. Fierce exchange of fire took place but the attackers could not get through the main gate. It was 0300 hours on 31-December when the Viet Minh decided to send in Company 245 to ensure complete victory before daylight. While attention was mostly focused on the main gate, the attackers arranged special forces on the flank sides of the hill who climbed over the high wall by ladders and who helped to open the main gate.
0500 hours Hill 600 was overwhelmed. From now on, traffic on the Da River was under constant threat of direct fire. The French troops in Hoa Binh had to rely on the other routes for supplies.

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