A1 Hill (also called Eliane 2 by French troops) is the site of the most famous battle of Dien Bien Phu campaign. The 32-metre-high hill, covering 82,000 sq.m. and located 500m west of the headquarters of the French during the Dien Bien Phu campaign, was the scene of the fiercest fighting between Vietnamese and French armies in 1954. A report by radio The Voice of Vietnam.

With other eastern hills, A1 created a solid shield protecting the central sector of the entrenched camp of Dien Bien Phu, the bunker of General de Castries.

From A1, one can have a panoramic view of Dien Bien city, other hills like D1, C2, C3, E1 and E2, the bunker of General de Castries, Muong Thanh airport, A1 field and A1 cemetery.

This base was considered an iron shield to defend the De Castries’ Command Headquarters. For the army of Vietnam, it was indeed the most difficult position to attack.

Over 56 days and nights of the Dien Bien Phu campaign, the Vietnamese army had to spend 39 days and nights on this hill, with over 2,000 soldiers sacrificing their lives, to eventually seize this position.

Today, there is a stone walkway leading to the top of the hill, from which one can still see the trench of the French army next to a barbed fence covered with dead leaves.

Pham Ba Mieu, 84-year-old veteran, still remembers the battle 60 years ago which his platoon involved in the fight on A1 hill from beginning to end.

"We fought day and night. Sometimes we had nothing to eat but we were determined to fight against the enemy. It was not easy for us to ignite the explosive charge. It was hard to win every metre of land on A1 hill. We had to build a system of fortifications from Ta Leng to the hill. We had to fight to win. It was only after having destroyed two tanks that we could pave a way to destroy bunkers that were placed every 10 metres,” Mieu said.

The top of the hill is now a museum in the open air retaining traces of the battle.

Lo Thi Sinh, a guide of Dien Bien Phu museum, introduced visitors to one of the two tanks that the French army had used to make their counterattack. It was shot by Luu Viet Huu’s bazookas Company 600 in the early morning on April 1, 1954. Located next to the tank is the tomb of four soldiers who participated in the attack that year, she said.

T o seize the hill, the army deployed an intelligent and audacious initiative. They dug tunnel in which they placed a ton of explosives to blow up the command bunker.

Twenty-five soldiers were given the task of digging the tunnel. The more they advanced, the more they became choked due to oxygen fault. The following fanned the one before him. The excavated soil was placed in a bag and then shipped out to fortify the trenches. After 15 days, the soldiers dug 47 metres of the tunnel. On May 6, at 20:30, they were ordered to blow up the tunnel. The explosion shook the hill, killing an enemy company and shook all those who were still holed up in bunkers.

"Seizing the opportunity, our troops stormed the hill. In all, they annihilated out 850 enemy soldiers, completely wiping out fouor well-trained combat battalions of the French colonialists,” Sinh said.

The tunnel that exploded once was restored in 2004 measuring 18m in width and 13m in depth as an evidence of the glorious history of Vietnam.

A relief has been installed to mark the boundary of the two armies at the battle 60 years ago.

The command bunker of the French army on A1 Hill is still there, blackened by time. The 4,000 metres of outdoor trenching, barbed fences, 10 of 37 bunkers of the French army and other remnants on the hill always tell the story about the Dien Bien Phu campaign which poet To Huu immortalised in this verse " 56 days and nights digging the mountain, sleeping in shelters, eating rice balls in the incessant rain nights " to create a golden page of Vietnam's history.-VNA