Photo story: General Vo Nguyen Giap smiles with Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh, during First Indochina War in 1950 (left photo). With soldiers in 1954 (bottom right photo) Photo courtesy: BBC, AFP
He was considered to be one of history’s greatest military strategists. Vietnam’s mastermind in victories against France and the United States, General Vo Nguyen Giap, has died on October 4th 2013 at the age 102. After the WWII, the French returned to reclaim the Indochina. Victory of General Vo Nguyen Giap’s forces against the French Far East Expeditionary Corps led by France ensured the withdrawal of French colonial rule in the southeast Asia.
On January 30th, 1968, at the time of Tet Offensive, one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War, he was North Vietnam’s defense minister. It was a campaign launched by the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong against South Vietnam, the United States and their allies. The Tet Offensive is often considered to be the key campaign that led to the withdrawal of US from Vietnam.
A number of works on military strategies were later published by General Giap. He was born to a peasant family on 25th August 1911 in Quang Binh Province, French Indochina. At 14 he joined a secret movement ‘The Tan Viet or New Vietnam Revolutionary Party’. It was a non-communist party back then but had become communist in 1929. Giap studied at the University of Hanoi from 1933 to 1938 where he gained his Bachelor’s degree in politics, economics and law. In 1938 Tan Viet was reformed as Indochinese Communist party under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh and became one of the three communist groups that formed the foundation of the Vietnamese Communist Party. In April 1939 he married another socialist Nguyen Thi Quang Thai. They had a daughter named Hong Anh.
Later in 1939 the French banned communism and General Giap fled to China and joined up with Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh or Vietnam Independence League there. While in exile his wife, sister, father and sister-in-law were arrested, tortured and later murdered by the French colonial administration. Only his daughter Hong Anh survived the brutal execution. General Giap later remarried and had five more children. At the time of Japanese invasion of Vietnam, General Giap organized an army from his exile in China and returned to Vietnam in 1944 and waged a resistance against the Japanese occupation forces. After Japanese surrender to the allies in August 1945 the French engaged in a long war with Viet Minh to reclaim Indochina. On 13th March 1954, General Giap launched offensive for 54 days until the French finally surrendered on May 7. General Giap’s victory over the French destroyed the legend of western invincibility.
General Giap was the commander in Chief of the People’s Army of Vietnam throughout the Vietnam War. At the beginning of the Tet offensive he was in Budapest, Hungary for medical treatment. More than 80,000 troops under his command eventually attacked more than 100 towns and cities including 36 of 44 provincial capitals and entered Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam. Though stunned at the beginning, the US and South Vietnamese Armies also regrouped well to beat back the attack. The Tet Offensive shocked the US Government and general public that led to the beginning of peace talks between both sides in Paris in Jan 1969.
After the war General Giap maintained his position as Defense Minister. He became the Deputy Prime minister in July 1976. He retired from the politburo in 1982.
Senator John McCain, the former Navy Pilot who was shot down during the Vietnam warfare and was held as a prisoner of war, poured out tribute after General Giap’s death. He tweeted ‘Brilliant military strategist who once told me that we were an ‘honorable enemy’’.
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