Viet Nam’s “living legend”,
from history teacher to one of the greatest military geniuses of all-time,
General Vo Nguyen Giap - 100 Years young!
Vo Nguyen Giap is acknowledged as one of history's great generals and in honour of his 100th birthday today, Viet Nam News publishes excerpts written by Viet Nam People's Army Colonel Ho Ngoc Son that help explain his military genius.
General Giap's renown can be attributed to five major reasons:
His status as an expert in people's wars of national liberation in both Viet Nam and the world.
The war policy of the Communist Party of Viet Nam and the Ho Chi Minh Military Policy emphasised the importance of launching a comprehensive and long-lasting people's war of resistance.
People's war requires the building of an armed force consisting of guerrillas, a local army and regular army with the regular army playing the key role.
Weapons are the most important factor, yet personnel and politics are also decisive. It is important to launch guerrilla warfare combined with conventional war with tactics that use the weak to fight the strong; a small force to fight a big force, and an elite force to fight a major force.
Gen Giap conducted the people's war in Viet Nam in a very creative way. He gave the political training of his soldiers special attention. A deep love of their homeland and loyalty to the revolution ideology made the soldiers ready to sacrifice their lives for national freedom.
In addition, the solidarity between the soldiers and people was akin to that of water and fish.
Gen Giap successfully combined the military struggle with the political, economic, diplomatic and cultural struggle to achieve victories on two fronts – the war of resistance and national construction.
At the front, the Viet Nam's People's Army deployed the strategy of military and politics; armed attacks with the political struggle of the people, and agitation among enemy troops.
The leaders showed their deep gratitude for the general and his contributions to the struggle for national liberation and re-unification, as well as national construction and defence. They affirmed the Party, State and people's determination to build the country and reach the goal of a prosperous people, a strong nation, and an equitable, democratic and civil society.
The battle could take place anywhere: the mountains, the deltas or urban areas. In the rear, the focus was on building a strong foundation for the front.
President Nguyen Minh Triet, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong yesterday wished General Vo Nguyen Giap good health and longevity on his 100th birthday.
The leaders showed their deep gratitude for the general and his contributions to the struggle for national liberation and re-unification, as well as national construction and defence.
They affirmed the Party, State and people's determination to build the country and reach the goal of a prosperous people, a strong nation, and an equitable, democratic and civil society.
The Vietnamese people's war reached a peak of the military arts.
One of its major victories was that it defeated and foiled the many war strategies of the strong 20th-century imperialists.
Gen Giap's scientific ideology for the building of the armed forces was very special, creative and comprehensive.
Starting from zero, Gen Giap formed many fighting and logistics units in a poor, backward country. He was successful in gathering around him many talented people from the rank and file who were able to perform their duties well in any circumstances.
Gradually, these units were built into the elite Vietnamese people's armed forces. It was the general who initiated the idea of building the Truong Son Trail, also known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail, as well as the "sea route" between northern and southern Viet Nam.
Armed forces units walked thousands of kilometres to the battle fronts. Communications and transport were very rudimentary. People were the means of supplying logistics and ammunition from the rear to the front. The logistics of the Middle Ages defeated the modern logistics of the United States and France.
Gen Giap's judgement in selecting the enemy's weakest point for attack was acute.
Gen Giap was very careful about comparing enemy strengths with that of the revolutionary forces.
He never underestimated enemy strength. His tactic was to begin with small-scale attacks.
He identified the enemy's greatest weakness was that their war was unjust.
They were not used to Viet Nam's climate; their knowledge of the country's geography did not match that of revolutionary forces and they did not have the support of the people.
In a people's war, every one, including the old and the young, are freedom fighters.
Rudimentary weapons, ranging from a piece of wood, bamboo and even paddy leaves, can be used to attack the enemy. Gen Giap always forced the enemy to change their tactics and follow his way of fighting.
The world's acknowledgement of Gen Giap as a teacher of military strategy and tactics.
Gen Giap never made mistakes in his military strategy in more than 30 years as military commander. Acting in accord with the leadership of the Communist Party of Viet Nam and directly from President Ho Chi Minh and the Politburo, he forced 10 French and US generals to commit strategic errors that led to their defeat.
The seven French generals were Philippe Leclerc, Ea'tienne Va LLuy, C. Blaijot, M. Cargentier, Delattre de Tassigny, Raoal Salan,and Henri Navarre, and the three US generals were W.C. Westmoreland, C. Abrams and F.C. Weyand.
Gen Giap studied the military doctrine of the proletarian and capital classes as well as the Soviet Union's Great Patriotic War; China's war against Japan; Clausewitz's military theory and Napoleon's battles.
He successfully applied the results of his studies to the wars against the French colonialists and the US imperialists.
His military and literary works have helped the world's military historians understand people's war and identify why the French and the American invaders were defeated.
Gen Giap did not attend any military schools. He learned from reality.
His judgements were based on facts. His theory of "the decisive battle" in military doctrine has drawn the special attention of military strategists and researchers.
He said "We could defeat the enemy when it had large numbers of well-equipped troops. We could also defeat the enemy even when they thought that they would win the battle if we had adopted sounds tactics based in reality."
His doctrine "decisive battle" at Dien Bien Phu in 1954; the "Dien Bien Phu of the air" in 1972, and the Ho Chi Minh Campaign in 1975 proved the success of his tactics.
Gen Vo Nguyen Giap's very special characteristics.
For Gen Giap homeland, the nation and the Party are the most important. He has always been alert to difficulties and challenge.
He has always put the interest of the nation and the people above all. He has done his best to narrow the divergence and contradictions so as to overcome mistakes and errors that might harm his homeland and the nation.
He is a general with genius military talent and virtue that has won him high prestige among the army and people. He has won the hearts and minds of the people, cadres and Party members.
He is a very modest man.
His contribution to the nation cannot be measured, but he has never talked about himself. He has instead spoken highly about the achievements of the people, the armed forces, the Party and President Ho.
During his reception for visiting Indian Field Marshal Me'hra in February, 1989, his guest was full of praise for him.
But Gen Giap replied: "If there was no good and clear-sighted collective leadership, the people and the heroic army, we – the commanders – cannot make victories ourselves no matter how good we are."
Following President Ho's moral example, Gen Giap has lived a very simple life. His guest room is the place where he has received many important foreign delegations, yet the furniture is very simple. He takes the train to his native village and visited the Dien Bien Phu battle field by a commercial flight. He is a close friend to the people, military officers, soldiers and the people.
In the military arena, he is a decisive man, yet very democratic and humane.
In difficulty situations, Gen Giap always exhibited his intelligence and bravery and always said that on the battlefield, soldiers were the key factor in deciding victory. That's the reason he holds high the spirit of democracy. He is an active listener and respects other people's opinions. All this has helped him create strong solidarity and invincible strength in the people's war.
He is a disciplined man, but very kind and generous. He considers the soldiers and army officers as family members. He shared the sadness and happiness with his men and with the people during war.
Many times he told his officers "War is not something that you can make an adventure. You should not win victory at any cost. A good commander is the one who can defeat the enemy at the lowest cost in lives. People's lives are invaluable."
Directed by President Ho and the Politburo, the Vietnamese people and their armed forces and the Vietnamese people led by Gen Giap won many resounding victories against invaders.
These victories helped change the third world and led to the collapse of old and new colonialism.
The people of five continents know Vo Nguyen Giap as a legendary general. His military genius will stand for all time.
He is an excellent disciple of President Ho, a general of the people and the eldest brother of the Viet Nam People's Army. — VNS
August 25th marks the 100th birthday of the Great General Vo Nguyen Giap, who is reputed as a talented commander and is respected worldwide.
General Vo Nguyen Giap was the commander in the Indochina War (1946-1954) and the Vietnam War (1960-1975). He took part in numerous important and decisive campaigns such as the Fall-Winter Border Campaign in 1950, the Dien Bien Phu Campaign in 1954, the Tet Campaign in 1968 and the Ho Chi Minh Campaign in 1975.
He is the first General of the Vietnam People’s Army.
Dozens of people have had an honor of working as the General’s staff and assistants.
This year, in celebration of the 100th birthday anniversary of the Great General of Vietnam, they, from different generations, on August 23rd, have gathered at the General’s house, wishing the General and his family good health, happiness and recalling their touching and unforgettable memories with the General.
Having worked as an assistant in charge of foreign affairs for the General for 34 years now, Colonel Trinh Nguyen Huan proudly said that “For everybody, the General is a typical revolutionary leader, a brilliant commander, a scholar and a talented warrior, a creative and ingenious strategist, a leading military ideologist and an outstanding organiser in the Ho Chi Minh Era. He is a very prestigious General domestically and internationally.
Moreover, for those who daily work along with the General, he is the “Brother Van” forever”.
Colonel Trinh Nguyen Huan stressed that “He is a kind-hearted, scholarly and simple teacher, father and brother”.
The memories with General Vo Nguyen Giap could not been counted.
Lieutenant-General Hong Cu, former Deputy Dead of the General Political Department, could not forget the General’s instructions.
He recalled, “in 1947, I was a political commissar at the Binh Ca Battalion (also called Battalion 42). I received the General’s order of “the Battalion lives and dies with Binh Ca-Thai Nguyen”. As the order was read loudly, the whole battalion was inspired with a new spirit. As a result, a lot of malaria-affected soldiers, as they were in forests for the first time, asked to go to the front and to fight to the finish in order to protect the road Binh Ca-Thai Nguyen”.
“After the Hue-Danang Campaign in 1975, Major-General Lieu Linh, a political commissar of Army Corps 2 and I, an envoy from the General Politics Department, delivered General Vo Nguyen Giap’s instruction of “Lightening and more lightening speed, daring and more daring. Assault on the front, liberate the South. Determined to fight and determined to win” to each army units. Having heard that order, all soldiers shouted clamorously that “Bravo General, Determined to fight and determined to win”, the Lieutenant-General touchingly added.
In 1975, General Vo Nguyen Giap’s order inspired the whole army so that the South was liberated and the country was unified.
To the Great General of Vietnam, studying is very important. Thus, after the victory of Dien Bien Phu Campaign, the General said to his assistant, Pham Khac Lam, who worked for him between August 1947 to mid-1954, that “You must go abroad for study”.
On the day of his departure, the General wished Lam, who later became the General Director of the Vietnam Television, good qualifications and self-training in politics.
“Our group on that day included front journalist Pham Phu Bang from the People’s Army Newspaper”, the former General Director of the Vietnam Television recalled.
He confided “we could have had lots of difficulties on the cause of national construction if the General, at that time, had not made daring decisions, such as our study abroad”, adding that “How farsighted the General is”.
According to General Vo Nguyen Giap, “at the early stage of the resistance war against the enemy, the loss of land was not avoidable. However, lost land could be taken back as citizens were protected”.
That “for people and depending on people” lesson, recommended by the General Vo Nguyen Giap, proved to be very effective in the resistance war and on the cause of national construction.
Stories about the great General Vo Nguyen Giap will never end because he, for all people, is a great but simple General.
Translated by Mai Huong
QĐND - Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 22:7 (GMT+7)
VietNamNet Bridge –
American journalist Stanley Karnow recalled his memories of General Vo Nguyen Giap on Tuoi Tre Daily on the occasion of the 100th birthday of the legendary general (25-8-1911 - 25-8-2010).
Stanley Karnow, 85, is an American journalist who writes popular histories.
After serving with the US Army Air Forces in Asia during World War II, he graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in 1947; in 1947 and 1948 he attended the Sorbonne, and from 1948 to 1949 the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris. He then began his career in journalism as a Time correspondent in Paris in 1950.
After covering Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (where he was North Africa bureau chief in 1958-59), he went to Asia, where he spent the most influential part of his career.
He covered Asia from 1959 until 1974 for Time, Life, The Saturday Evening Post, The London Observer, Washington Post, and NBC News. Present in Vietnam in July 1959 when the first Americans were killed, he reported on the Vietnam War in its entirety.
This landed him a place on the master list of Nixon’s political opponents. It was during this time that he drew together the stimulus for his seminal 1983 book Vietnam: A History. He was chief correspondent for the PBS series Vietnam: A Television History, which won six Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, a George Polk Award and a DuPont-Columbia Award.
In 1990, Karnow won the Pulitzer Prize in history for his book In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines. His other books include Mao and China: From Revolution to Revolution, which was nominated for a National Book Award; and Paris in the Fifties (1997), a memoir history of his own experiences of living in Paris in the 1950s.
Karnow currently lives outside of Washington, D.C. He belongs to the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Historical Society.
Karnow had the chance at an exclusive interview with General Giap, posted to New York Times Magazine in June 1990 entitled "Giap Remembers.”
Karnow couldn’t forget the day he sat in an old-styled room in Hanoi and listened to General Giap, the legendary man, talking about the miraculous victory of his country.
When did you first interview General Vo Nguyen Giap?
The first time I saw him was in 1990. We met in an old house in Hanoi, near my hotel. We talked and then I visited his home. I met his wife and some members of his family.
After this trip, I wrote a New York Times article about him and used it in my book later. I researched the wars in Vietnam and Giap’s role when he became a leader of the Viet Minh… Giap and I talked with each other and we interviewed in French because he is very proficient in the language.
Do you know why General Giap agreed to be interviewed by you, an American, when Vietnam had just opened its door to the world?
I think perhaps he had read my book, Vietnam: A History, so he agreed to talk with me. He told me about Dien Bien Phu by moving tea-sets on the table.
The interview with General Giap was an important landmark in my career.
Is there any change in your view of the Vietnam War after your talk with General Giap?
I really think that Americans were wrong when they carried out the Vietnam War. The US didn’t have any opportunity to win and that is the topic of my book. Looking back I see this war is a tragedy. Around 60,000 American died and went missing. So many Vietnamese died. So many Vietnamese families lost their relatives and were affected by Agent Orange.
In any circumstance, General Giap was very determined. And when I asked him: “Can you help me understand why there was no chance for American to win this war?” He answered: “Because we were always consistent and ready to struggle to overcome every circumstance.”
Did he tell you about the price that Vietnam had to pay in the war?
He told me about cemeteries of war martyrs and the white tombstones. Many cemeteries have white tombs that don’t contain the remains of anyone. These are artificial tombs of soldiers who died in southern Vietnam, but their remains were lost. We could understand that there are always heart-breaking sacrifices in wars.
General Giap never told me about the specific number of Vietnamese who died in the war. He always repeated that it was a great loss. But he said there were people who had to sacrifice to win in that war. I listened to him and I understand very clearly.
I don’t judge him about it. I was a soldier in World War II, when I was only 18, 19 years old. I reported the war in Algeria. I observed many wars in my life to understand that the number of people who had to die for wars is terrible.
Why did you write about General Giap as the person who is on a par with Grant, Lee, Rommel and MacArthur in the temple honoring world military leaders?
I wrote about many general in my book and made comparisons with him. He told me how he faced the French since 1946. When Giap told me about French General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny in Vietnam, he was very proud to face him in the war. He made me remember the other great generals in history.
When he led the Dien Bien Phu campaign, foreign advisors were always besides him. They told him to do this, do that. General Giap said he always listened to what they said and didn’t sleep at night to make decisions.
He commanded soldiers to dig into the earth to move into the centre. The French could never imagine that General Giap could bring cannons to hill tops and then triumph with the least losses. That was one of the most special victories in his life. That’s why I compared him and his historic battle to other famous generals.
What was your impression of General Giap?
He is a courteous and a little humorous in talks. He is very intelligent and urbane in a French style. On this occasion, I would like to convey my and my daughter Catherine’s happy birthday wish to him.
General Giap is among 59 greatest military leaders portrayed in Great Military Leaders and Their Campaigns by Jeremy Black, published by Thames & Hudson in London in 2008 besides Julius Caesar, George Washington, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Saladin, Ghengis Khan, Napoleon, Wellington, Ulysses S. Grant, Erich von Manstein, and Georgy Zhukov.
There are two pages about General Giap in this book, quoting him as saying: “Inheriting and continuing our nation’s tradition of fighting against foreign invasion, our people have defeated a large force with a smaller one.”
The book presents two pictures of General Giap in the Dien Bien Phu (1954) and Tet Offensive 1968 campaigns, with maps and instructions.
General Giap is the only living person among the 59 selected persons in this book, showing the position of the Vietnam War in modern world history in which General Giap is the symbol of Vietnam’s liberation.
Party leader congratulates General Giap
Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh visited General Vo Nguyen Giap yesterday to congratulate the former military commander as he turns 100 tomorrow.
The Party leader wished the general good health and further longevity and thanked him for his great contribution to the revolution.
He also assured the general that the Party and State would take advantage of opportunities and overcome all challenges to foster the renewal process as well as modernisation and industrialisation.
The General Secretary also emphasised the Party and State’s determination to defend the nation and successfully reach the goal of a prosperous people, strong country and a just, democratic and civilised society.
General Vo Nguyen Giap was the first general of the Vietnam People’s Army and the top commander in the two wars against the French colonialists (1946-1954) and the US imperialists (1960-1975).
The veteran revolutionary was the Vietnam People’s Army’s Commander in Chief for 30 years and an excellent disciple of President Ho Chi Minh.
A great military strategist and tactician, he was closely associated with the historic defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu on May 7,1954.
Under Giap’s command, libration forces captured Sai Gon, now Ho Chi Minh City, on April 30, 1975.