By Jack A. Smith: General Vo Nguyen Giap: Defeated French Imperialism, Drove the U.S. out of Vietnam!
Vietnamese Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, who helped defeat Japan, then France, then the United States in a 35-year war for national independence, died in Hanoi on Oct: 4 at the age of 102. He had been ailing and living in a military hospital for the last four years. Giap's extraordinary generalship drove French imperialism out of the three countries of Indochina, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the mid-1950s. At the time he declared the anti-French struggle "was victorious because because we had a wide and firm National United Front, organized and led by the party of the working class, the Indochinese Communist Party, now the Vietnam Workers Party." Decades later, he described the Vietnamese triumph against France as "the first great victory for a weak, colonized people struggling against the full strength of modern Western forces. This is why it was the first great defeat for the West. It shook the foundations of colonialism and called on people to fight for their freedom." Next came what the Vietnamese call the American War. The United States supported French colonialism in Indochina beginning in 1954 with money and a Military Assistance Advisory Group. It remained in the southern half of the country after France withdrew its tattered legions, virtually destroying Vietnam with its bombs, heavy artillery, chemical poisons and a half million troops until it was ousted with finality in 1975. Gen. Giap played a major role in bringing about this stunning defeat of history's most powerful military state. It was the first time the U.S. lost a war. "We had to use the small against the big, backward weapons to defeat modern weapons," Giap said. "At the end, it was the human factor that determined the victory." He further noted elsewhere that "guerrilla warfare is the means whereby the people of a weak, badly equipped country can stand up against an aggressive army possessing better equipment and techniques." At the same time, Giap made it entirely clear that the enormous pressure put upon Washington by the nationwide antiwar movement in the U.S. was a major contributing factor to Vietnam's victory. He later told historian Stanley Karnow: "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. "the U.S. "second front" consisting of millions of American civilians and GIs who expressed their opposition to an unjust war, helped bring it to an end. Another factor contributing to Vietnam's success was the material support from both Russia and China despite the growing political antagonism between the two communist giants. Given that he is considered one of the great generals in modern history, and called by some the "Red Napoleon," it is of no little interest that he was self-taught in the arts of war, never having attended even one class in the subject. Giap was familiar with Vietnam's long history, dating back thousands of years, of resisting foreign invasions and domination, mainly from China and Mongolia. He studied some of these engagements. But his practical abilities derived from modern sources. Primarily, he studied the extensive contemporary military writings of Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, adapting them to the social, political and geographical conditions of Vietnam. He further learned from his mentor, Ho Chi Minh, the great leader of the Indochinese struggle for national liberation, as well as Marx, Engels, Lenin and others.