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- 04 -102015

“One hundred years of photography in the French Armed Forces”. Tenth episode. War photographers Jean Péraud and Daniel Camus in Diên Biên Phu.

Le 16 juin, trois jours après le déclenchement de la bataille de Diên Biên Phu, les hommes du 6e bataillon de parachustistes coloniaux (BPC) du commandant Bigear (icià la radio) ont été parachutés au sud du camp retranché © ECPAD / Daniel Camus / Jean PéraudThe battle of Dien Bien Phu began on 13 March 1954. Under cover of the press information service (SPI) in French Indochina, two reporters from armed forces film service (SCA), Jean Péraud and Daniel Camus, found themselves in the thick of the fighting.
Les parachutistes vont atterrir près d'un blockhaus du point d'appui sud, à proximité du centre de résistance "Isabelle" © ECPAD / Daniel Camus / Jean Péraud

The former, born in 1925, a former deportee enlisted in French Indochina, joined the SPI in 1952 as a photographer. A bold, brave reporter, he covered the war’s major operations and his shots inspired many subsequent war photographers. Alongside him, Daniel Camus, aged 23, a photographer and freelance journalist for Paris Match, carried out his military service in French Indochina from June 1953.
Attaque d'une position viêt-minh au sud de Diên Biên Phu, 27 mars 1954 © ECPAD / Daniel Camus / Jean PéraudThe two men photographed the heroic resistance of the French À l'antenne chirurgicale souterraine du sud de Diên Biên Phu, le médecin commandant Paul Henri Grauwin, dit "Toubib", soigne un blessé. Il opère pendant 54 jours, plus de quatre mille blessés, 27 mars 1954 © ECPAD / Daniel Camus / Jean Péraudsoldiers, their suffering and the surgical unit where the surgeon-major Grauwin operated night and day under makeshift conditions. Like all the men still at the battle, they were taken prisoner by the Viet Minh on 8 May 1954 after the fall of Dien Bien Phu and sent on a forced march to a camp 300 kilometres away. Jean Péraud was posted missing after trying to flee. Daniel Camus was liberated after three months of extremely harsh captivity.

 La contre-attaque se dessine et deux soldats repartent à l'assaut, 16 ou 17 mars 1954 © ECPAD / Daniel Camus / Jean Péraud

Films from nine reports covering the battle were sent in time to the SPI laboratories, but in the heat of the action the photographer was not mentioned before they were sent. Returning to France, Daniel Camus joined the staff of Paris Match. Out of modesty or perhaps embarrassment, he never confirmed which of the men took these images. Today the mystery remains…

Photos credits : © ECPAD / Jean Péraud
© ECPAD / Daniel Camus

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