Vo Nguyen Giap

Vo Nguyen Giap
born 1912, An Xa, Viet.

Vietnamese military leader.

He began to work for Vietnamese autonomy as a youth and attended the same high school as Ho Chi Minh. As a professor of history in Hanoi, he converted many colleagues and students to his political views. He fled to China in 1939 when the French banned the Indochinese Communist Party, but returned in 1941. In 1945 he led the Viet Minh forces that defeated the Japanese, who occupied Vietnam during World War II. He brought French colonial rule to an end by winning the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954) in the First Indochina War, and he led the North Vietnamese forces that defeated the U.S. and South Vietnam in the Vietnam War (1955–75). He served in various roles in the postwar government of Vietnam until the early 1990s.

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▪ Vietnamese general
born 1912, An Xa, Vietnam

      Vietnamese military and political leader whose perfection of guerrilla as well as conventional strategy and tactics led to the Viet Minh victory over the French (and to the end of French colonialism in Southeast Asia) and later to the North Vietnamese victory over South Vietnam and the United States.

      The son of an ardent anticolonialist scholar, Giap as a youth began to work for Vietnamese autonomy. He attended the same high school as Ho Chi Minh, the Communist leader, and while still a student in 1926 he joined the Tan Viet Cach Menh Dang, the Revolutionary Party of Young Vietnam. In 1930, as a supporter of student strikes, he was arrested by the French Sûreté and sentenced to three years in prison, but he was paroled after serving only a few months. He studied at the Lycée Albert-Sarraut in Hanoi, where in 1937 he received a law degree. Giap then became a professor of history at the Lycée Thanh Long in Hanoi, where he converted many of his fellow teachers and students to his political views. In 1938 he married Minh Thai, and together they worked for the Indochinese Communist Party. When in 1939 the party was prohibited, Giap escaped to China, but his wife and sister-in-law were captured by the French police. His sister-in-law was guillotined; his wife received a life sentence and died in prison after three years.

      In 1941 Giap formed an alliance with Chu Van Tan, guerrilla leader of the Tho, a minority tribal group of northeastern Vietnam. Giap hoped to build an army that would drive out the French and support the goals of the Viet Minh, Ho Chi Minh's Vietnamese independence movement. With Ho Chi Minh, Giap marched his forces into Hanoi in August 1945, and in September Ho announced the independence of Vietnam, with Giap in command of all police and internal security forces and commander in chief of the armed forces. Giap sanctioned the execution of many non-Communist nationalists, and he censored nationalist newspapers to conform with Communist Party directives. In the French Indochina War, Giap's brilliance as a military strategist and tactician led to his winning the decisive battle at Dien Bien Phu (Dien Bien Phu, Battle of) on May 7, 1954, which brought the French colonialist regime to an end.

      On the division of the country in July, Giap became deputy prime minister, minister of defense, and commander in chief of the armed forces of North Vietnam. He subsequently led the military forces of the north to eventual victory in the Vietnam War, compelling the Americans to leave the country in 1973 and bringing about the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. From 1976, when the two Vietnams were reunited, to 1980 Giap served as Vietnam's minister of national defense; he also became a deputy prime minister in 1976. He was a full member of the Politburo of the Vietnamese Communist Party until 1982. Giap was the author of People's War, People's Army (1961), a manual of guerrilla warfare based on his own experience.

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Universalium. 2010.

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