The revolutionary general of the Viet Minh and the North Vietnamese communists died earlier today.
(You can check out the slide show of his life on yahoo HERE!)
He was the military mind and right hand man of Ho Chi Minh. He dressed in street clothes and a fedora, making an unassuming presence. But his presence was felt on the battlefield – not that he won many huge decisive battles. He just won hug, decisive wars.
He worked with the Americans of the O.S.S. in the summer of 1945 as they received training in order to help defeat the Japanese and bring an end to WWII in Indochina. But when the Americans, under Truman’s leadership, did not back the Vietnamese claim for independence, instead backing the French and General de Gaulle’s desire to reestablish authority in their show-piece colony.
With American support waning, Giap and Ho Chi Minh declared war against the French in December 1946. The brutal French-Indochina War ended in 1954 with the French’s stunning defeat at Dien Bien Phu. This was Giap’s signature achievement – one of the most strategic and important military victories of the 20th century. It directly led to the split of Vietnam and the Vietnam War a decade later, followed by the fall of Cambodia, Pol Pot & the Killing Fields, a war with China in 1979, the boat people of the 1980s,and complete isolation from the world. All the Vietnamese wanted was their independence, but no one could have seen the far reaching effects of that battle.
Giap continued to be involved with the military throughout the Vietnam War and became a national hero during his long, twilight years.
Two last notes. The general makes an appearance in my upcoming novel entitled,The Reach of the Banyan Tree.” It’s a completely fictional account of an American meeting him and Ho Chi Minh in July of 1945 during the waning moments of WWII. I like the scenario that I’ve created that enabled me to confidently bring these two historical figures into my story. I hope everyone will like it. Estimated arrival: mid-2014.
Lastly, next year is the 60th anniversary of the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Vietnamese officials are expecting one million visitors to the remote mountain city during the course of the year. It is one out of the two northern Vietnamese provinces which I have not yet visited. I really want to go next year. I hope I get the chance.