Here is a short article written and illustrated by Howard Brodie for Collier’s, January 1951 issue. It is illustrative of the French position in Indochina in 1950 as it became increasingly dangerous as small scale combat flared up along the essential lines of communications (LOCs) that linked the larger garrison towns throughout the country. One road along Colonial Route #4 was nicknamed “The Road of Death” and security was effected by French blockhouses, forts and observation posts along the route. These postes were magnets for Viet Minh attacks while unsecured lengths of other routes were routinely places of ambush.
I am curious about how these forts were constructed and I will follow up with pictures I have in a later post. As Brodie describes in his article here these forts reminded him of American frontier forts of the old west. The French also had relied on fortified blockhouses and highly secured LOC during their campaigns in Morocco as well as their forays further south into the Sahara. So why wouldn’t this work just as well in Indochina?
In South Africa after the British took over the Cape from the Dutch (1806) the army built block-houses (forts) in a long line all along the frontier to keep marauding natives out. They were stone structures within sight of each other . The area was mostly open veldt (Karoo like your prairie) and communication was by semaphore. I don’t think i would like to have been on garrison duty in them….. rather like being a legionnaire in Fort Zinderneuf waiting for the Tuareg to attack.