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11:17:00 - 06/10/2013

Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, Who Ousted U.S. From Vietnam, Is Dead

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Slide Show | Vo Nguyen Giap, Relentless Vietnamese General, Dies General Giap led the North Vietnamese to victory against the French Army at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, which hastened the collapse of colonialism in Indochina.

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By JOSEPH R. GREGORY
October 4, 2013

Vo Nguyen Giap, the relentless and charismatic North Vietnamese general whose campaigns drove both France and the United States out of Vietnam, died on Friday in Hanoi. He was believed to be 102.

The death was reported by several Vietnamese news organizations, including the respected Tuoi Tre Online, which said he had died in an army hospital.

General Giap was among the last survivors of a generation of Communist revolutionaries who in the decades after World War II freed Vietnam of colonial rule and fought a superpower to a stalemate. In his later years, he was a living reminder of a war that was mostly old history to the Vietnamese, many of whom were born after it had ended.

But he had not faded away. He was regarded as an elder statesman whose hard-line views had softened with the cessation of the war that unified Vietnam. He supported economic reform and closer relations with the United States while publicly warning of the spread of Chinese influence and the environmental costs of industrialization.

To his American adversaries, however, from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, he was perhaps second only to his mentor, Ho Chi Minh, as the face of a tenacious, implacable enemy. And to historians, his willingness to sustain staggering losses against superior American firepower was a large reason the war dragged on as long as it did, costing more than 2.5 million lives — 58,000 of them American — sapping the United States Treasury and Washington’s political will to fight, and bitterly dividing the country in an argument about America’s role in the world that still echoes today.

A teacher and journalist with no formal military training, Vo Nguyen Giap (pronounced vo nwin ZHAP) joined a ragtag Communist insurgency in the 1940s and built it into a highly disciplined force that ended an empire and united a nation.

He was charming and volatile, an erudite military historian and an intense nationalist who used his personal magnetism to motivate his troops and fire their devotion to their country. His admirers put him in the company of MacArthur, Rommel and other great military leaders of the 20th century.

But his critics said that his victories had been rooted in a profligate disregard for the lives of his soldiers. Gen. William C. Westmoreland, who commanded American forces in Vietnam from 1964 until 1968, said, “Any American commander who took the same vast losses as General Giap would not have lasted three weeks.”

General Giap understood something that his adversaries did not, however. Early on, he learned that the loyalty of Vietnam’s peasants was more crucial than controlling the land on which they lived. Like Ho Chi Minh, he believed devoutly that the Vietnamese would be willing to bear any burden to free their land from foreign armies.

He knew something else as well, and profited from it: that waging war in the television age depended as much on propaganda as it did on success in the field.

These lessons were driven home in the Tet offensive of 1968, when North Vietnamese regulars and Vietcong guerrillas attacked scores of military targets and provincial capitals throughout South Vietnam, only to be thrown back with staggering losses. General Giap had expected the offensive to set off uprisings and show the Vietnamese that the Americans were vulnerable.

Militarily, it was a failure. But the offensive came as opposition to the war was growing in the United States, and the televised savagery of the fighting fueled another wave of protests. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had been contemplating retirement months before Tet, decided not to seek re-election, and with the election of Richard M. Nixon in November, the long withdrawal of American forces began.

General Giap had studied the military teachings of Mao Zedong, who wrote that political indoctrination, terrorism and sustained guerrilla warfare were prerequisites for a successful revolution. Using this strategy, General Giap defeated the French Army’s elite and its Foreign Legion at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954, forcing France from Indochina and earning the grudging admiration of the French.

“He learned from his mistakes and did not repeat them,” Gen. Marcel Bigeard, who as a young colonel of French paratroops surrendered at Dien Bien Phu, told Peter G. Macdonald, one of General Giap’s biographers. But “to Giap,” he said, “a man’s life was nothing.”

Hanoi’s casualty estimates are unreliable, so the cost of General Giap’s victories will probably never be known. About 94,000 French troops died in the war to keep Vietnam, and the struggle for independence killed, by conservative estimates, about 300,000 Vietnamese fighters. In the American war, about 2.5 million North and South Vietnamese died out of a total population of 32 million. America lost about 58,000 service members.

“Every minute, hundreds of thousands of people die on this earth,” General Giap is said to have remarked after the war with France. “The life or death of a hundred, a thousand, tens of thousands of human beings, even our compatriots, means little.”

A Student of Revolution

Vo Nguyen Giap was born on Aug. 25, 1911 (some sources say 1912), in the village of An Xa in Quang Binh Province, the southernmost part of what would later be North Vietnam. His father, Vo Quang Nghiem, was an educated farmer and a fervent nationalist who, like his father before him, encouraged his children to resist the French.

Mr. Giap earned a degree in law and political economics in 1937 and then taught history at the Thanh Long School, a private institution for privileged Vietnamese in Hanoi, where he was known for the intensity of his lectures on the French Revolution. He also studied Lenin and Marx and was particularly impressed by Mao’s theories on combining political and military strategy to win a revolution.

In 1941, Ho Chi Minh, the founder of the Vietnamese Communist Party, chose Mr. Giap to lead the Viet Minh, the military wing of the Vietnam Independence League.

In late 1953, the French established a stronghold in the northwest at Dien Bien Phu, near the border with Laos, garrisoned by 13,000 Vietnamese and North African colonial troops as well as the French Army’s top troops and its elite Foreign Legion.

After an eight-week siege by Communist forces, the last French outposts were overrun on May 7, 1954. The timing was a political masterstroke, coming on the very day that negotiators met in Geneva to discuss a settlement. Faced with the failure of their strategy, French negotiators gave up and agreed to withdraw. The country split into a Communist-ruled north and a non-Communist south.

In the late 1950s and early ’60s, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and later President John F. Kennedy looked on with rising anxiety as Communist forces stepped up their guerrilla war. By the time Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, the United States had more than 16,000 troops in South Vietnam.

General Westmoreland relied on superior weaponry to wage a war of attrition, in which he measured success by the number of enemy dead. Though the Communists lost in any comparative “body count” of casualties, General Giap was quick to see that the indiscriminate bombing and massed firepower of the Americans caused heavy civilian casualties and alienated many Vietnamese from the government the Americans supported.

With the war in stalemate and Americans becoming less tolerant of accepting casualties, General Giap told a European interviewer, South Vietnam “is for the Americans a bottomless pit.”

A Turning Point

On Jan. 30, 1968, during a cease-fire in honor of the Vietnamese New Year (called Tet Nguyen Dan), more than 80,000 North Vietnamese and Vietcong troops hit military bases and cities throughout South Vietnam in what would be called the Tet offensive. For the Communists, things went wrong from the start. Some Vietcong units attacked prematurely, without the backing of regular troops as planned. Suicide squads, like one that penetrated the United States Embassy in Saigon, were quickly wiped out.

Despite some successes — the North Vietnamese entered the city of Hue and held it for three weeks — the offensive was a military disaster. The hoped-for uprisings never took place, and some 40,000 Communist fighters were killed or wounded. The Vietcong never regained the strength it had before Tet.

But the fierceness of the assault illustrated Hanoi’s determination to win and shook the American public and leadership.

“The Tet offensive had been directed primarily at the people of South Vietnam,” General Giap said later, “but as it turned out, it affected the people of the United States more. Until Tet, they thought they could win the war, but now they knew that they could not.”

He told the journalist Stanley Karnow in 1990, “We wanted to show the Americans that we were not exhausted, that we could attack their arsenals, communications, elite units, even their headquarters, the brains behind the war.”

He added, “We wanted to project the war into the homes of America’s families, because we knew that most of them had nothing against us.”

The United States government began peace talks in Paris in May 1968. The next year, Nixon began withdrawing American troops under his policy of Vietnamization, which called for the South Vietnamese troops to bear the brunt of the fighting.

In March 1972, the North Vietnamese carried out the Easter offensive on three fronts, expanding their holdings in Cambodia and Laos and bringing temporary gains in South Vietnam. But it ended in defeat, and General Giap again bore the brunt of criticism for the heavy losses. In summer 1972, he was replaced by Gen. Van Tien Dung, possibly because he had fallen from favor but possibly because, as was rumored, he had Hodgkin’s disease.

Although he was removed from direct command in 1973, General Giap remained minister of defense, overseeing North Vietnam’s final victory over South Vietnam and the United States when Saigon, the South’s capital, fell on April 30, 1975. He also guided the invasion of Cambodia in January 1979, which ousted the brutal Communist Khmer Rouge. The next month, after Hanoi had established a new government in Phnom Penh, Chinese troops attacked along the North Vietnamese border to drive home the point that China remained the paramount regional power.

It was General Giap’s last military campaign. He was removed as minister of defense in 1980 after his chief rivals, Le Duan and Le Duc Tho, eased him out of the Politburo. Too prominent to be openly denounced, he was instead made vice prime minister for science and education.

But his days of real power were gone. In August 1991, he was ousted after Vo Van Kiet, a Western-style reformer, came to power.

In his final years, General Giap was an avuncular host to foreign visitors to his villa in Hanoi, where he read extensively in Western literature, enjoyed Beethoven and Liszt and became a convert to pursuing socialism through free-market reforms.

“In the past, our greatest challenge was the invasion of our nation by foreigners,” he told an interviewer. “Now that Vietnam is independent and united, we can address our biggest challenge. That challenge is poverty and economic backwardness.”

Addressing that challenge had long been deferred, he told the journalist Neil Sheehan in 1989. “Our country is like an ill person who has suffered for a long time,” he said. “The countries around us made a lot of progress. We were at war.”

Seth Mydans contributed reporting.

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http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/10/05/world/asia/gen-vo-nguyen-giap-dies.html

General Vo Nguyen Giap obituary

Military commander who led Vietnamese forces to victory over the US and French

General Vo Nguyen Giap in military uniform, waving

General Vo Nguyen Giap during a visit by Brazil's President Lula da Silva to Hanoi in 2008. Photograph: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images

General Vo Nguyen Giap, who has died aged 102, was a self-taught soldier who became one of the foremost military commanders of the 20th century. He used his charisma and tactical skills to transform a tiny band of Vietnamese guerrillas into an army that defeated both France and the US.

In 1944 he founded the Armed Propaganda Brigade for the Liberation of Vietnam, gathering together 31 men and three women armed with flintlock rifles. By 1954, he had turned this ragtag group into the Vietnamese People's Army that defeated the French at the battle of Dien Bien Phu. The surrender of French forces after a 55‑day siege in this valley in north-western Vietnam was the coda for colonialism in Indochina.

The victory took Vietnam to the negotiating table but it did not bring peace. Instead the Geneva Accords divided the country into the communist north and US-backed south, setting the stage for another war that was to last until the defeat of the US and the Saigon government in 1975.

Giap, an elfin lawyer with an intellectual bent, was an unlikely warrior. He often claimed his only military lesson came from an encyclopedia entry describing the mechanism of a primitive hand grenade. The reality was a little different. As a child his sense of nationalism had been nourished with stories of heroic Vietnamese generals and their victories against the Chinese and Mongols. At the Lycée Nationale in Hue, the same school that produced the North Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh and the South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem, he became involved in the anti-colonial movement.

He earned a degree in law at the University of Hanoi and began teaching history. By the time he founded his army, posing at the first swearing-in wearing a white suit with a Mauser pistol in his belt, he was well versed in Marx and had read Mao Zedong's writings on guerrilla warfare. He would always deny the obvious influences of Mao and Napoleon, saying: "We fought our wars in a Vietnamese way. My only influences were the great strategists of Vietnamese history."

In 1940 Giap joined Ho Chi Minh in China. They returned to Vietnam a year later and founded the Viet Minh, which briefly took power in the August Revolution of 1945, when the Vietnamese communists filled the vacuum left by the defeated Japanese forces. Giap began talks with the French on independence, but they were determined to return to Vietnam and in December 1946 the Viet Minh began an eight-year war.

Poorly armed and trained, the Viet Minh made little headway until after 1949, when Mao had taken control in Beijing. China began sending advisers and supplies to help the Vietnamese. For the first time Giap had access to heavy weapons but his first direct confrontation with the French forces was a 1950 battle in the Red River Delta that proved disastrous for the Vietnamese, who lost some 20,000 men. His luck turned in 1954, when General Henri Navarre decided to set up camp in Dien Bien Phu to protect Laos from the guerrillas. The French settled into the broad valley, confident that the surrounding mountains would protect them from the Viet Minh.

They had not accounted for Giap's skill in mobilising forces and keeping them supplied. Tens of thousands of farmers were drafted to carry dismantled artillery and weapons into the hills around Dien Bien Phu. Reinforced bicycles were loaded with hundreds of pounds of supplies and pushed up muddy tracks. Giap would later recall that it would take 21kg of rice for the porters for each kilogram of the staple that arrived to feed soldiers laying siege to the French.

Viet Minh artillery rained hell down on the French troops from the surrounding hills. After the airfield was closed, provisions could only be dropped in by parachute. On 7 May the French surrendered. On the same day talks opened in Geneva to end colonialism in Indochina.

The cost of Giap's victory at Dien Bien Phu had been extremely high. His forces suffered massive casualties, many times the toll inflicted on the French. A horrendous loss of life marked all Giap's victories, but he was coldly unapologetic, saying the number of dead was small compared with the number who died each day of natural causes.

After 1954, Giap became defence minister in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Almost immediately the government ran into serious problems when the population turned against a brutal Maoist campaign of land reform in which thousands of people were killed after being condemned as landlords. With their political base shaken, the Communist party sent out Giap to restore order. His apologies for the party's excesses were grudging at best, but using his popular support as the hero of Dien Bien Phu he was able to calm the angry crowds, which included many of the soldiers who had fought under him.

In 1960 the politburo decided to launch the fight for reunification of North and South Vietnam. It was a time of increasing tensions and disagreements in Hanoi. After straddling the Sino-Soviet split that ripped apart the communist world in 1960, Hanoi turned towards Beijing and relations with the Soviet Union were strained. Giap had always harboured a streak of resentment against the Chinese, whose advice at Dien Bien Phu he claimed to have ignored. He became staunchly pro-Soviet at a time when his comrades were leaning towards Beijing. In the midst of the power struggles and purges that afflicted the elite of Vietnamese communism, Giap was even accused of trying to foment a coup d'etat with aid from Moscow.

General Vo Nguyen Giap, Ho Chi Minh and two othersGeneral Vo Nguyen Giap (top left, smiling) with Ho Chi Minh (second right) during a military campaign in Vietnam in 1950. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Giap was an unusual figure in the anonymous hierarchy in Hanoi. He had not forged links with the others in French jails where revolutionaries earned their political stripes. He had escaped to China ahead of the French in 1939, his tracks covered by his wife Quang Thai, with whom he had a daughter, and who later died in prison. He could be imperious and frosty, which, combined with his aggressive temper, earned him the nickname "the snow-covered volcano". He was often querulous and rudely didactic, traits that come across in his many books on warfare. With his well-cut uniforms, curtained Russian limousine and grand French villa in the centre of Hanoi, Giap did not even pretend to follow the puritanism that the leadership affected.

Tensions were exacerbated when Giap's tactics against the US forces after 1965 achieved only mixed results. He was kept off guard by the mobility of American helicopter cavalry and his forces suffered an enormous number of casualties in battles they might have avoided. General William Westmoreland, commander of the American forces, once remarked that any US general that suffered Giap's losses would have been sacked instantly.

His skills lay less in military tactics and more in managing the logistics and politics that were so vital to sustain the war in the south. His diplomatic skills kept open supply lines from China and the Soviet Union, while at home he organised the movement of troops and material down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a vast web of tracks stretching into Laos and Cambodia. "People should not be overawed by the power of modern weapons," Giap wrote. "It is the value of human beings that in the end will decide victory."

On 30 January 1968, tens of thousands of communist troops launched the Tet offensive, striking across South Vietnam during what was supposed to have been a truce to mark the lunar new year holiday. A suicide squad stormed into the US embassy compound in Saigon. The Viet Cong took over the former imperial capital of Hue. In Hanoi, the leadership had expected the South Vietnamese to rise up and overthrow the government but instead the VC suffered a huge military defeat. Their troops and command structures were nearly wiped out when the US forces regained control.

The offensive was a severe military setback for the North, but they did win a psychological victory. Dramatic news coverage of the offensive in the US damaged claims in Washington that an end to the war was in sight. Support for the conflict and for President Lyndon B Johnson slumped. Once again, Giap had suffered enormous losses but had still managed to declare victory. "After the Tet offensive, the Americans moved from the attack to the defence," he said. "And defence is always the beginning of defeat."

That defeat would take another seven years of fighting, less time than Giap had expected. The South Vietnamese army collapsed precipitously as the North Vietnamese pushed down the coast. Saigon fell on 30 April 1975.

Giap was the first general to defeat the forces of the US in a war. Flushed with the arrogance of their massive victory, the leadership in Hanoi pushed for an immediate reunification of North and South, and expanded its experiment in Soviet-style economics across the country. But although well-suited to winning a war, the government was inept at running a peace. Giap was said to have opposed the extreme economic measures, but his power was at a low. In December 1978, against Giap's advice, Vietnam invaded Cambodia to oust the Khmer Rouge. Although the initial victory was rapid, Vietnamese forces were to get bogged down fighting a guerrilla war against the Khmer Rouge that would last more than 10 years.

Giap's opposition to that war earned him a period in the wilderness. He was replaced as defence minister in 1980 and two years later lost his seat in the politburo. He remained a deputy prime minister in charge of science and technology, and was given the job of heading a national birth control campaign.

For most of the 1980s, Giap was a political outcast, occasionally wheeled out on ceremonial occasions but stripped of all real power. He did, however, command loyalty in the military, particularly among those officers disaffected by the war in Cambodia and angered by the economic collapse in the 1980s.

In 1986, in the runup to a Communist party congress, a group of officers urged Giap to take control and launch sweeping changes to the economy and political system. Giap refused, terrified of what might happen if he failed. Bui Tin, an army colonel who had been a protege, urged him again in 1990 to take over and provide a new direction for Vietnam. Giap demurred, preferring a comfortable retirement. Tin later condemned him bitterly, quoting an old Chinese saying that "the reputations of generals are built on the bodies of 10,000 men".

General Vo Nguyen Giap shakes villagers handsGeneral Vo Nguyen Giap in 1994, the 40th anniversary of the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu. Photograph: Catherine Karnow/Corbis

Giap's political timidity came as a crushing disappointment to many. His last years were spent polishing his image as the "red Napoleon". He adored giving interviews, charming his hagiographers and fawning journalists with the same gestures and stories told in a fluent but outdated French of which he was immensely proud. He was always careful to avoid the real questions that hung over his increasingly contested career. He could not, however, stop many people from reconsidering his versions of history and heroism. Many Vietnamese also began to question whether the sacrifices of war had been worth it. Others saw too many moments in Giap's career where he had refused to stand up to hardliners or had failed to capitalise on his popular support to force through political and economic changes.

In 1991 Giap stepped down as vice premier. In a sign of his political disfavour, his 80th birthday passed without celebration and it was not until the 40th anniversary of Dien Bien Phu that he was given a measure of rehabilitation. He spent his retirement travelling and meeting foreign dignitaries, including, in 1995, his opposite number during the war, the former US defence secretary Robert McNamara.

In 1946, Giap married secondly Dang Bich Ha. They had two sons and two daughters.

• Vo Nguyen Giap, soldier, born 25 August 1911; died 4 October 2013

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/04/general-vo-nguyen-giap

 

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Vietnamese general behind victories over French and US dies aged 102

Vo Nguyen Giap masterminded battle of Dien Bien Phu, which led to France leaving Indo-China, and commanded North's forces in Vietnam war

General Vo Nguyen Giap

General Vo Nguyen Giap, who known as the Red Napoleon, died at a military hospital in Hanoi aged 102. Photograph: Na Son Nguyen/AP

Vo Nguyen Giap, the celebrated general who masterminded the defeat of the French military at Dien Bien Phu and led North Vietnam's forces against the US, has died aged 102 at a military hospital in Hanoi.

Giap, whose victory at Dien Bien Phu triggered France's departure from Indo-China, was a self-taught leader regarded as one of the great military geniuses of the post-second world war era.

He remained as the commander of the North's forces supporting the Viet Cong throughout the subsequent Vietnam war, being credited with the 1968 Tet offensive.

Giap, known as the Red Napoleon, was a national hero whose reputation was second only to that of Ho Chi Minh.

While some, such as the American journalist Stanley Karnow, regarded him as a strategist in the mould of Wellington, others, including the US general William Westmorland, believed his success was down to his ruthlessness.

Indeed, Westmorland complained to Karnow: "Any American commander who took the same vast losses as General Giap would have been sacked overnight."

Giap was born in the village of An Xa on 25 August 1911 and attended the University of Hanoi, gaining degrees in politics and law, before working as a journalist.

It was his command of Viet Minh forces during the eight-week battle of Dien Bien Phu, which raged from March to May in 1954, that made his reputation.

Vietnamese forces, who wore sandals made of car tyres and lugged their artillery piece by piece over mountains, managed to encircle and crush the French troops in a bloody engagement immortalised in Bernard Fall's Hell in a Very Small Place.

Although he was at first a renowned exponent of guerilla tactics, Giap commanded a devastating conventional assault at Dien Bien Phu, in which his forces used Chinese-supplied artillery to prevent effective resupply by air of the base deep in the hills of north-western Vietnam.

During the bitter fighting that would follow, the garrison, comprising a series of outposts in a deep valley, gradually succumbed.

On the brink of being overrun by Giap's forces, the French commander, Christian de Castries, was forbidden to surrender in an infamous order from his superior, General René Cogny in Hanoi, who told him: "You will fight to the end. It is out of the question to run up the white flag after your heroic resistance."

The unlikely victory, which is still studied at military schools, led not only to Vietnam's independence but hastened the collapse of colonialism across Indochina and beyond.

Giap went on to defeat the US-backed South Vietnam government in April 1975, reuniting a country that had been split into communist and non-communist states. He regularly accepted heavy combat losses to achieve his goals.

"No other wars for national liberation were as fierce or caused as many losses as this war," Giap told the Associated Press in 2005 in one of his last-known interviews with foreign media on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the former South Vietnamese capital.

"But we still fought because for Vietnam, nothing is more precious than independence and freedom," he said, repeating a famous quote by Ho Chi Minh.

In later life Giap served as deputy premier and minister of defence.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/04/vietnam-general-giap-dies

 

4 October 2013 Last updated at 18:53 GMT

Vietnam's General Vo Nguyen Giap dies

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Paul Adams looks back at Vo Nguyen Giap's life

Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese general who masterminded victories against France and the US, has died aged 102.

His defeat of French forces at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 effectively ended French colonial rule in the region.

He was North Vietnam's defence minister at the time of the Tet Offensive against American forces in 1968, often cited as a key campaign that led to the Americans' withdrawal.

Gen Giap also published a number of works on military strategy.

He was born into a peasant family in the central Quang Binh province of what was then French Indochina.

Continue reading the main story

Profile: General Giap

  • Son of a rice grower, Vo Nguyen Giap joined a clandestine nationalist movement at the age of 14
  • He founded the Viet Minh, dedicated to ending French colonial rule
  • Gen Giap led the battle against French forces at Dien Bien Phu in 1954
  • He was North Vietnam's defence minister when the Tet Offensive took place against US forces in 1968, although he was not directly involved in the operation.

At the age of 14, he joined a clandestine resistance movement.

By 1938 he was a member of Ho Chi Minh's Indochinese Communist party and fled to China with Ho, ahead of the Japanese invasion of Vietnam.

Gen Giap organised an army from his Chinese exile and returned to Indochina to wage a guerrilla war against the occupying Japanese.

While he was out of Vietnam, his first wife was arrested and died in a French prison. He later remarried and had three daughters and two sons.

After his role in the war against the French, Gen Giap was credited for his leadership at the time of the 1968 Tet Offensive against US forces.

Troops ultimately under his command attacked more than 40 provincial capitals and entered Saigon, then the capital of South Vietnam, briefly capturing the US embassy. But he was not personally involved in the operation, as he was in Budapest at the time.

After the war, Gen Giap retained his position as defence minister and was appointed deputy prime minister in 1976.

However, he found himself sidelined by the regime and retired from government six years later.

In the US, news of Gen Giap's death was noted by Senator John McCain, a former navy pilot who was shot down during the Vietnam conflict and held as a prisoner of war.

In a tweet, Senator McCain described Gen Giap as "a brilliant military strategist who once told me that we were an honourable enemy".

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24402278

 

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General Vo Nguyen Giap: Soldier who led Vietnamese forces against France and the US

‘Any forces that wish to impose their will on other nations will face failure,’ he once said

Friday 04 October 2013

 

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The death of Vo Nguyen Giap, hailed as one of the greatest military strategists of the 20th century, will be deeply mourned in Vietnam. Second only to Ho Chi Minh, he came to symbolise the struggle for independence from French colonialism and American imperialism. This reputation was acquired at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 when Vietnamese forces overwhelmed the French, and later when he conducted the war against the US.

Giap did not seem destined for a military career. Born in 1911 in a village of Quang Binh, one of the poorest provinces in central Vietnam, he obtained a place at a leading French lycée in Hue A brilliant pupil, like many other teenagers he became involved in anti-colonialist politics. He was expelled from the lycée but spent only a short time in prison before he was released to go to Hanoi, where he studied  law and political economics at the University there. He had established contacts with the anti-colonialist & left-leaning intelligentsia and  wrote articles on the burden of French taxation, the plight of the peasants and the need for greater literacy. Later known as the “Red Napoleon”, for a while he taught  French history at a private high school; even those who became his political opponents said he was inspirational. 

When the Second World War broke out and France invaded,  communists throughout the French empire were detained. While many of his friends were arrested or fled, Giap continued teaching until he received a tip-off that his life was in danger. Bidding farewell to his wife, who belonged to a well-known left-wing family, and his newborn daughter, he went with Pham Van Dong, future prime minister of Vietnam, to Kunming, where they were put in touch with a man calling himself Ho Quang, who later became Ho Chi Minh. Ho sent them for further education under Mao Zedong.

Many Vietnamese were fleeing to join the Kuomintang’s anti-Japanese forces and in May 1941 Ho established the Viet Minh, a patriotic movement to oppose the Japanese with the ultimate, albeit unspoken aim of also ending French colonialism. In 1942 Giap returned to the northern mountains. Donning native garb, he learnt the local languages and indoctrinated the hill peoples.

By late 1944 most of France had been liberated and their compatriots in Indochina were becoming restless.The Japanese realised this and struck on in March 1945 to wipe out the French administrative and military system in Indochina. Ho contacted the American OSS ( the forerunner to the CIA) which parachuted weapons and instructors to Giap’s guerilla force. Giap got on well with the Americans and they were ready to attack the Japanese when in August 1945, Japan surrendered.

From this came the myth that Giap and his men had defeated the Japanese; another myth is that they liberated Hanoi, but they were  50 miles away. The local Party Committee had organised the uprising, and as soon as he heard the news Giap rushed to Hanoi and, shedding his jungle garb, bustled around the city to rally his former friends in the intelligentsia.

Giap organised the infrastructure of the new state and its army and negotiated with the French over their refusal to grant full independence to the whole of Vietnam. In 1946 when Ho left for Paris for more talks, Giap took charge, eliminating the Viet Minh’s opponents; this earned him a reputation for brutality. When talks broke down and war broke out, his army retreated to the mountains where, thanks to the rugged terrain they thwarted the French. At Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the Viet Minh surrounded the French and, digging miles of trenches, dragged heavy artillery over steep mountains and slowly closed in during a bloody 56-day battle that ended with French surrender on 7 May. It was the final act that led to French withdrawal and the Geneva Accords that partitioned Vietnam into north and south in 1956. It paved the way for war against Saigon and its US sponsors a few years later.

During the war against the US, Giap drew on his Dien Bien Phu experience to create the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a jungle network that snaked through neighbouring  Laos and Cambodia to supply his troops on the southern battlefields. Against US forces with their sophisticated weapons and B-52 bombers, Giap again prevailed. But more than a million of his troops perished in what is known in Vietnam as the “American War”.

Giap recalled in 1990, “We had to use the small against the big; backward weapons to defeat modern weapons. In the end, it was the human factor that determined the victory. We were not strong enough to drive out a half million American troops, but that wasn’t our aim. Our intention was to break the will of the American government to continue the war.”

Giap had been largely credited with devising the 1968 Tet Offensive, a series of surprise attacks on American strongholds in the south by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. Newer research, however, suggests that Giap had been against the attacks, and documents have revealed that he was abroad when the Politburo took the decision to launch the offensive.

Nevertheless, the Tet Offensive shook America’s confidence, fuelled anti-war sentiment and prompted President Lyndon Johnson to announce that he would not seek re-election. But it took another seven years for the war to be won. On 30 April 1975, communist forces marched through Saigon with tanks, bulldozing the gates of what was then known as Independence Palace. “With the victory of 30 April, slaves became free men,” Giap said. “It was an unbelievable story.” It came at a price for all sides, though – the deaths of as many as 3m North Vietnamese, an estimated 250,000 South Vietnamese troops and 58,000 Americans.

Throughout most of the war years Giap served as defence minister, armed forces commander and a senior member of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party, but he was slowly elbowed from the centre of power after Ho Chi Minh’s death in 1969. The glory for victory in 1975 went not to Giap, but to General Van Tien Dung, chief of the general staff. Giap lost the defence portfolio in 1979 and was dropped from the Politburo three years later. He stepped down from his last post, as deputy prime minister, in 1991.

In 2004  he offered a piece of advice for Americans fighting in Iraq: “Any forces that wish to impose their will on other nations will certainly face failure,” he said. He had encouraged warmer relations between Vietnam and the US and ties were re-established in 1995, the two countries becoming close trading partners.

Vo Nguyen Giap, soldier: born Quang Binh Province, French Indochina 25 August 1911; married 1939 Nguyen Thi Quang Thai (deceased; one daughter), 1946 Bich Ha (two sons); died Hanoi 4 October 2013.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/general-vo-nguyen-giap-soldier-who-led-vietnamese-forces-against-france-and-the-us-8859768.html

 

In 2004  he offered a piece of advice for Americans fighting in Iraq: “Any forces that wish to impose their will on other nations will certainly face failure,” he said.

General Vo Nguyen Giap

General Vo Nguyen Giap, who has aged 102, was the diminutive and brilliant Vietnamese general who led communist forces in the wars that forced three powerful adversaries – Japan, France and America – out of his homeland.

General Vo Nguyen Giap

Image 1 of 2

General Vo Nguyen Giap Photo: AFP

5:29PM BST 04 Oct 2013

Such was his morale-boosting determination and genius for the feint and swoop that he was often described as a guerrilla leader equalled only by Mao Tse Tung and Che Guevara; and Giap was certainly adept at utilising terrain and highly mobile troops to outwit stronger and better equipped enemies.

But he was far more than just an able coordinator of the small-scale jungle skirmish. Major set-piece battles and broad offensives were well within his compass too, though often at high cost. At home, only Ho Chi Minh was better loved. Abroad, even Giap’s opponents – perhaps particularly his opponents – suggested that he merited a place in the pantheon of great military leaders of modern times, alongside such figures as Wellington and Rommel.

The figure Giap himself most admired and studied, however, was Napoleon. By the time Giap had left school he was able to outline in chalk the phases of all Napoleon’s most celebrated battles. It was an irony later lost on few that, having absorbed those lessons, Giap would score perhaps his most dramatic victory against France.

That moment came in March 1954, after more than seven years of fighting between French forces and Giap’s Viet Minh anti-colonial communist revolutionaries. The French, looking to draw the Viet Minh into a decisive engagement, had parachuted thousands of soldiers into an airbase located in a valley in north-western Vietnam, on the border with Laos. They were unaware, however, that Giap too was looking for a knockout blow, and that his forces had acquired heavy artillery pieces.

Despite the extraordinary difficulty of moving these around the jungle, Giap managed to ring Dien Bien Phu with men and heavy guns, placed on the high ground overlooking the airbase. When the artillery fire began raining down at the beginning of March it became clear that the French were sitting ducks.

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04 Oct 2013

For two months they resisted, fending off incursions which came between each new barrage. But on May 1 the Viet Minh launched a huge offensive, and within a week overran French positions. The last words of the radio operator before being cut off were: “Vive la France!” More than 11,000 men were taken prisoner; fewer than 4,000 returned to France alive.

This shattering defeat forced France to the negotiating table, with talks beginning on May 8, one day after the garrison’s surrender. The result was a Vietnam split into a communist north and French-backed south.

Though this division was supposed to be temporary, and the last French forces withdrew in 1956, South Vietnam immediately found a new sponsor – and Giap a new enemy – in the United States.

Vo Nguyen Giap was born on August 25 1911 in Quang Binh province in what is now central Vietnam but what was then, along with Laos and Cambodia, the French protectorate of Indo-China. His father was a literate farmer who sent Giap to the French college at Hue.

Giap’s nationalism – a key characteristic throughout his life that saw him resist overt interference from either Moscow or Beijing – emerged early. He was in his mid-teens when he joined the underground Newannam movement, which called for a unified, independent Vietnam, and he was arrested for fomenting revolution before his 18th birthday.

After his release from several months in jail, he attended the University of Hanoi, and while he studied Politics and Law he taught history at a private school, where his deep knowledge of military strategy, and of Napoleon’s battles in particular, impressed his students. It was while he was in Hanoi that Giap joined the Indo-Chinese Communist Party, which had been founded by Ho Chi Minh in 1930. Throughout the 1930s he read widely, deepening his knowledge of military strategy and earning a living as a journalist and from teaching.

In 1939 the Communist Party was banned by the French authorities, and Giap fled into exile in China, leaving behind his wife and members of his family, some of whom died after being locked up and tortured in French jails.

It was in China that he met Ho Chi Minh, and in 1941 they together rebranded the Indo-Chinese Communist Party to form the Vietnam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoa (the League for the Independence of Vietnam) — better known as the Viet Minh.

Ho appointed Giap his military leader and, with the support of China, Giap prepared to lead an army back into Indo-China, which Japanese forces had been occupying since the start of the Second World War.

The Viet Minh guerrilla campaign against Japan began at the end of 1944, and Giap’s fighting men quickly forged a working alliance with American forces, sharing intelligence and helping to shelter US pilots who had been shot down.

Soon after the Japanese surrender, the Viet Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and named Ho Chi Minh President and Giap Minister of the Interior. In elections in January 1946, the Viet Minh won 230 out of 300 seats in the new state’s national assembly.

France, however, refused to cede its colonial possessions and, while in theory recognising the Democratic Republic, in fact continued to exert a powerful economic influence in the country that amounted to a rival administration. By December 1946 this uneasy arrangement had exploded into conflict, with Ho calling for the French to be expelled in a national war of resistance. Once again Giap was given the job of leading Ho’s army.

This time, however, his task was more than to harass an army in retreat, as the Viet Minh had done with the Japanese. Instead, Giap had to mobilise, equip and drill an army capable of taking on a highly-trained Western opponent. To do so he produced a handbook on guerrilla tactics, published in 1962 under the title People’s War, People’s Army. This encouraged his soldiers to cultivate the loyalty of locals, without whose support victory would be impossible, and always to engage the enemy at a time of their choosing. “The enemy may outnumber you 10 to one,” he advised, “but if you compel him to disperse his forces widely you may outnumber him 10 to one locally, wherever you choose to attack him.”

The most important quality he tried to instil was patience. Time, he counselled, would inevitably stretch the resources and morale of a colonial occupier. For Giap, meanwhile, the “cause” was more important that the fate of individuals. Absorbing huge losses was not a concern. After all, he noted, “every minute thousands of men died all over the world”.

His plan to sap the French was divided into three stages: guerrilla skirmishes; concerted battles; all-out counter-offensive. By 1951, having spent five years in guerrilla attacks, Giap moved into stage two. By 1953, as France wearied of war, he had moved into stage three and prepared for Dien Bien Phu.

But by 1956, following the French withdrawal, Ho and Giap’s dreams of a united, independent Vietnam appeared as distant as ever when the new American-backed president of South Vietnam refused to call the national elections that had been part of the ceasefire deal after Dien Bien Phu. Vietnam’s “temporary” division appeared to become permanent, and nationalists in the South went into hiding and mobilised as the guerrilla Viet Cong.

Over the next decade, as America intensified its military aid to the South’s government in Saigon, so Giap increased aid to the Viet Cong. Finally, in 1965, America committed hundreds of thousands of troops and launched an air campaign against the North. Giap, in turn, dispatched troops to fight in the South, led by Nguyen Chi Thanh, though Giap remained in overall command.

While Thanh sought decisive engagements, Giap once again counselled patience, taunting America as early as 1967 that its Army was bogged down in an unwinnable war. When Thanh was killed that year, Giap took direct command of the campaign against America in South Vietnam and within months had pulled off another tactical masterstroke.

This came in early 1968, when he appeared to be mustering his forces for a Dien Bien Phu-style ambush on an American fortress at Khe Sanh during the lunar New Year, or Tet. But as America reinforced Khe Sanh, Giap’s men instead launched a general attack on a host of targets across the South. The Tet Offensive, as it became known, did not sweep America from Vietnam or force its diplomats immediately to the negotiating table. But with Tet, Giap, a man who barely stood 5ft tall, had forced a fundamental change in attitudes to the Vietnam War in America, where commitment to the conflict soon began to crack.

The level of Giap’s contribution to the planning of the Tet offensive has since been disputed, with reports of wrangling over detail between him and his senior commanders. But its effect is not in doubt. Peace talks began in Paris the following year.

It would be another four years, punctuated by a series of bloody campaigns, before the last American troops left Vietnam. Even without American military financial backing, which was swiftly suspended, anti-communist forces in South Vietnam continued to fight. But, under Giap’s guidance and – for once – with the odds very much on their side, communist forces eventually swept into Saigon in the spring of 1975, proclaiming the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Giap was named Defence Minister and, the following year, Deputy Prime Minister. But his influence with the Communist Party never matched his own popular standing and, following his departure from the defence ministry in 1980, he was removed from the Politburo in 1982. He retained his position as Deputy Prime Minister and served on the Central Committee until 1991. Some analysts have suggested that his fiery temperament and his greater devotion to uniting Vietnam than to the global anti-capitalist cause stymied his rise.

Vo Nguyen Giap’s first wife, a fellow communist, died in a French prison after he had fled to China in 1939. For the past three years he had been living in a military hospital in Hanoi, and he is survived by his second wife, Dang Bich Ha, whom he married in 1949, and four children.

General Vo Nguyen Giap, born August 25 1911, died October 4 2013

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10356972/General-Vo-Nguyen-Giap.html

 

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Vo Nguyen Giap dies at 102; Vietnamese general led North to victory

The unpretentious communist general masterminded the defeat of French and American forces and became known as one of the 20th century's military geniuses.

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By David Lamb, Special to the Los Angeles Times

October 4, 2013, 2:53 p.m.

Vo Nguyen Giap, the communist general widely regarded as one of the military geniuses of the 20th century, who masterminded the defeat of the French and the war against the Americans in Vietnam, has died. He was 102.

Giap died Friday at a military hospital in Hanoi, the Associated Press reported, citing a government official.

Though Ho Chi Minh was the symbol of Vietnam's fight for independence and reunification, it was Giap who carved out the victories. From Dien Bien Phu to Khe Sanh to the Tet offensive, his name became synonymous with the battles that defined a chapter of world history and emboldened liberation movements from Africa to Latin America.

A man of little pretense and great ambition, Giap had no formal military training and used to joke that he was a self-taught general. His early nationalistic calling was as a writer and propagandist. Never having touched a gun, he protested when Ho ordered him to prepare for a war with France: "I wield a pen, not a sword."

But he followed orders, and on Christmas Eve 1944 he and a band of 33 partisans armed with knives and flintlock rifles attacked two isolated French outposts. Thirty years later, with the French gone and the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese forces now near collapse, his army was the world's third largest, numbering 800,000. Through three decades of war, he was his nation's supreme military commander, a service record with few, if any, parallels in modern times.

Giap understood what the French and Americans did not: that a peasant army, imbued with patience, nationalism and a willingness to endure untold suffering, could defeat a far more powerful force whose cause was not enthusiastically supported at home. Giap lost an estimated 1 million communist soldiers in winning Vietnam's independence as a unified state, but he never expressed the slightest doubt that such huge casualties were worth the sacrifice.

"Every minute, hundreds of thousands of people die on this Earth," Giap said in 1969, adding that he was prepared to fight as long as necessary for ultimate victory. "The life or death of a hundred, a thousand, tens of thousands of human beings, even our compatriots, means little."

Said Gen. William Westmoreland, the U.S. commander in Vietnam during the 1968 Tet offensive: "Giap was callous. Had any American general taken such losses, he wouldn't have lasted three weeks."

In later life, Giap — a short, white-haired man with a round face and soft hands—had lived quietly in Hanoi in a downtown villa, deified by the city's residents as a national hero. His parlor was lined with busts and portraits of Marx, Lenin and Ho Chi Minh. He chatted with visitors in perfect French, sometimes receiving them in his military uniform, and could recall various campaigns — Napoleon's and his own — in brilliant detail.

He saw the war against the United States as merely an extension of the war against France and always believed that Washington's resolve eventually would wither, as had Paris'. "You can kill 10 of my men for every one I kill of yours," he once said to the Americans, repeating what he had warned the French more than a decade earlier. "But even at those odds, you will lose and I will win."

Toward the end of his long life, Giap spoke out strongly, although unsuccessfully, on another issue. His was one of the most prominent voices to urge the Vietnamese government in 2009 to reconsider its plans for a vast Chinese-run bauxite mining operation in Vietnam's central highlands, which Giap and others said posed environmental and security risks. But the project proceeded.

Giap was born Aug. 25, 1911, in the village of An Xa, just north of what would become the Demilitarized Zone. His father was a scholarly rice farmer who taught Giap to read — the first book he read was a child's history of Vietnam — and who scrimped to send his son to the best schools available.

Young Giap attended the prestigious Quoc Hoc academy in Hue, whose alumni included Ho Chi Minh and Ngo Dinh Diem, an intense anti-Communist who would become prime minister of South Vietnam. Giap, then just 13, began reading Marx, organized student protests against France's ban on nationalistic activities and was expelled.

By 1938, he was a professional agitator. He had spent time in a French prison, earned a law degree from Hanoi University, taught history in a private school to support himself and married a communist militant, Minh Khai. They had one child, a daughter, Vo Hong Anh, who would become a nuclear physicist and who would win, in 1987, the Soviet Union's Kowolenskia Prize for Science.

Nationalistic fervor was building against the French at the onset of World War II, and in 1940, at the age of 28, Giap moved across Vietnam's border to Yenan in southern China. It is not clear whether he learned guerrilla tactics there from actual training or from reading, but it is known that the next year, at a communist gathering in China's Guangxi province, he first met Ho Chi Minh, then a widely known revolutionary who had not set foot in Vietnam for 30 years.

"Ho immediately took a liking to the young firebrand," historian Bernard Fall wrote, "and entrusted him with a most difficult mission: the organization of a communist military force inside Vietnam."

Back in Vietnam, Giap lived for the next four years in caves and jungles with a small band of cadres, organizing a resistance movement and hunted by French patrols. He wore sandals with soles made from automobile tires and, with his men, often ate bark and roots. The structure of the camp was egalitarian, and the chore Giap assigned himself was that of dishwasher.

In 1943, Giap received news that devastated him. Shortly after he had left Hanoi, his sister-in-law, returning from Paris, had been arrested by the French and executed as a revolutionary. His wife had been imprisoned on similar charges, and he learned that she had died in the French prison that eventually would house American POWs and become known as the Hanoi Hilton. Giap would later remarry and father five more children, but he once told an interviewer that news of Minh Khai's death "ruined" his life.

Giap's army, known as the Viet Minh, now a formidable guerrilla force, fought both Japanese occupiers and French colonialists during World War II. Giap hoped the United States would support Vietnam's bid for independence and told a crowd in Hanoi in 1946 to regard the United States as a "good friend" because "it is a democracy without territorial ambitions."

But the war between Vietnam and France started in earnest that year, and between then and 1954, when France surrendered at Dien Bien Phu — ending 71 years of colonial rule — Washington backed France with $4 billion in military aid. The battle for Dien Bien Phu claimed the lives of about 8,000 Viet Minh and 2,000 French.

Although the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff had rejected France's plea for American intervention in the final days of Dien Bien Phu, saying "Indochina is devoid of decisive military objectives," the United States, by the mid-1960s, found itself being drawn into the same quagmire that had trapped the French.

Facing the world's mightiest military power, Giap created the so-called Ho Chi Minh Trail to move supplies south and designed networks of tunnels in which his soldiers lived, cared for the wounded and planned battles. Armed by Moscow, Giap built an air defense system that the Americans themselves admitted was second only to NATO's in sophistication. He changed his tactics, from guerrilla skirmishes to main-force confrontation.

"Confuse your enemy," Giap wrote. "Keep him in the dark about your intentions."

In late 1967, wanting to draw the Americans away from the coast so he could attack South Vietnam's cities, Giap began building up his forces around an isolated U.S. base at Khe Sanh. The Americans reinforced their position and were besieged for 75 days. Remembering how the French had met their Waterloo, President Lyndon B. Johnson told his advisors: "I don't want another Dinbinphoo."

"Khe Sanh was not important to us," Giap told his biographer, Peter Macdonald. "It was only a diversion, but one to be exploited if we could cause many casualties and win a big victory."

While the world's attention was riveted on Khe Sanh, Giap turned 70,000 Communist troops loose in January 1968—on the first day of the lunar new year celebration—in a widespread attack against South Vietnam's cities. A suicide squad made it into the U.S. Embassy complex in Saigon.

Although Giap's forces suffered tremendous losses in what became known as the Tet offensive, the campaign shocked the American public, which had been told that North Vietnam was incapable of fighting much longer, and undermined public support for the war.

Under internal pressure to make peace at any price, the United States negotiated an end to the conflict in Paris in 1972. It agreed to withdraw all U.S. forces but did not insist that North Vietnam also withdraw its troops from the South. On Jan. 6, 1975, Giap launched a major attack against South Vietnam, estimating that his campaign to reunite Vietnam would take two years. Fifty-five days later, Saigon fell to North Vietnam to secure the victory Giap had sought all his adult life.

"If I had not become a soldier," he told writer Stanley Karnow, "I probably would have remained a teacher, maybe of philosophy or history. Someone recently asked me whether, when I first formed our army, I ever imagined I would fight the Americans. Quelle question! Did the Americans, back then, ever imagine that they would one day fight us?"

Lamb is a former Times staff writer.

news.obits@latimes.com

 

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

http://www.latimes.com/obituaries/la-me-vo-nguyen-giap-20131005,0,2242039.story

Vietnam War General Vo Nguyen Giap Dies

General Vo Nguyen Giap insisted Vietnam's wars of independence were a "victory for colonised countries all over the world".

6:14pm UK, Friday 04 October 2013

General Vo Nguyen Giap in 2012

The general pictured in 2012

General Vo Nguyen Giap, the architect of Vietnam's military victories over France and the US has died at the age of 102.

The general was one of Vietnam's best known 20th-century figures, ranked by historians among such military giants as Montgomery, Rommel and MacArthur.

The son of a peasant scholar, he was considered the mastermind of the historic defeat of the French in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu and the communist victory over US-backed South Vietnam 21 years later.

He died on Friday evening after spending several years in a Hanoi military hospital.

In a 2004 interview at his villa in central Hanoi, the veteran warrior insisted Vietnam's independence wars were a "victory for colonised countries all over the world".

Picture dated 1950 of General Vo Nguyen Giap (l background) with Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh (2nd r)The general (back left) with President Ho Chi Minh (second right) in 1950

He recalled that on a visit to the UN in Geneva the previous year, he was handed a book to sign.

"I wrote ... and signed Vo Nguyen Giap, General of Peace," he said.

Born in 1911 in central Vietnam, the general was a close friend of the late revered president Ho Chi Minh and was held in high esteem alongside former prime minister Pham Van Dong.

But his critics and his nemesis, the late US General William C Westmoreland, said he was effective partly because he was willing to sustain huge losses in pursuit of victory.

"Any American commander who took the same vast losses as General Giap would have been sacked overnight," General Westmoreland was quoted as saying in Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stanley Karnow's 1983 book Vietnam. A History.

The general with visiting Cuban President Fidel Castro in 2003General Giap meeting the then Cuban President Fidel Castro in 2003

Karnow wrote that General Westmoreland seemed to misunderstand how determined the communists under Ho Chi Minh and his general really were.

General Giap is known to have opposed several important military decisions, including the costly move in 1968 to delay the withdrawal of forces from unsustainable positions in South Vietnam during the Tet Offensive.

He held back again in 1975 on a decision by Hanoi to commit all its forces - leaving the capital unprotected - to the spring campaign which climaxed in late April with the fall of Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City.

Later, he opposed Hanoi's decision to maintain an occupying force in Cambodia following Vietnam's late-1978 invasion.

This, coupled with long-harboured resentment by some members of the establishment towards him, is said to have contributed to his declining political influence after the war years.

He remarried after his first wife died in a French prison in 1943. General Giap had three daughters and two sons.

http://news.sky.com/story/1150384/vietnam-war-general-vo-nguyen-giap-dies

 

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