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General Who Overthrew US-Backed Saigon Regime Dies - 2002-03-19

A Vietnamese general who led the final military push to topple the U.S.-backed South Vietnam government in 1975 has died. General Van Tien Dung died of liver cancer at the age of 84.

Vietnam's government confirmed Tuesday the death of General Van Tien Dung and hailed him a hero of the revolution. He personally led the communist North Vietnamese army through the central highlands and to then South Vietnamese capital of Saigon.

The three-month military push General Dung led spelled the end of 30 years of war in Vietnam. On April 30, 1975, communist forces captured Saigon, toppling the U.S.-backed southern regime some two years after American troops withdrew from the war.

General Dung had almost no formal military training, but some experts count him among the great military strategists in modern history. His account of the 1975 campaign, Our Great Spring Victory, is required reading in many military colleges.

General Dung was the best-known general in Vietnam aside from the legendary Vo Nguyen Giap, who was his former mentor and who, many say, should share credit for masterminding the push to Saigon.

After the war, General Dung served as minister of defense and on the powerful Communist Party Politburo before retiring in 1986. He has stayed mostly out of the public eye, but late last year emerged to criticize U.S. military action in Afghanistan. He condemned the September 11 terrorist attacks but feared that attacking the Taleban would only fan the flames of hatred and that innocent civilians would suffer the most.