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Historical Dictionary

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NAPALM

Derived from the combination of the words “naphthene” and “palmitate”, napalm is a highly incendiary jelly which the Americans developed and began to deliver by air as incendiary bombs during World War II. From 1950, thanks to supplies from the Americans, the French Air Force began using napalm bombs in Indochina against the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, though civilians were often victims of its use. Napalm not only burns its targets, but it also deoxygenates the area within its zone, often causing death to humans and animals by asphyxiation. Vietnamese sources have long revealed that the French use of napalm was a horrifying experience. As Ngo Van Chieu described his platoon’s first experience with it in early 1951: “Hell first came in the form of ovide containers dropped by the first and then by a second plane. Then, in an instant, an immense wall of fire running for hundred of meters terrorized my men. That’s napalm! Fire that falls from the sky… Was that an atomic bomb, asked one of my men, his pupils dilated by fear. No, it’s napalm!” During the battle of Dien Bien Phu, the French used American-supplied “Flying Boxcar” C-119s to drop more than six tons of napalm on enemy communication lines and targets located around the battlefield.