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Legendary Vietnamese General Dead at 102

The Vietnamese general who forced the French and later the Americans out of Vietnam, has died at the age of 102.

General Vo Nguyen Giap was a communist revolutionary known for his guerrilla tactics.

He is one of Vietnam's most revered figures, second only to his mentor, late revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh. Giap earned a law degree, had no formal military training, and was the founding father of the Vietnam People's Army.

He is best recognized for his 1954 victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu, which led to Vietnam's independence and the collapse of French control of Indochina.

Giap is credited with defeating the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government in 1975, and was an inspiration to anti-colonial forces worldwide.

Boston University Professor Mike Corgan served in Vietnam and taught strategy to Vietnamese and U.S. military officers.
He says poorly equipped forces waging a "people's war" defeated modern armies because Giap focused on political objectives.

"War is all about politics, both Lenin and Giap understood that, that's what it is all about. And if you can win that aspect you will win the war, regardless of who wins the battles. "

Historians say the 1968 Tet offensive against American and South Vietnamese forces was a military defeat for revolutionary forces, but a political victory for the North. Corgan says Americans had been told they were winning the war, but lost faith in the government when they saw fierce fighting across Vietnam that even affected the U.S. Embassy.
Dartmouth College Professor Edward Miller says another reason Giap was effective is that he managed to get nearly the entire nation, men, women, and young people, playing a role in the war effort. He says Giap's writing and tactics still are studied in military academies.

"Giap is read alongside Mao and Che Guevara and some of these other classic theorists of revolutionary war as someone that you need to read and understand so you can understand the kind of strategies and tactics that your insurgent enemies might deploy against you. "

Corgan says Giap is remembered more for leadership than his military theories.

"He was not so much a theoretician as a student of theoreticians. So he belongs in the pantheon of great fighters."

Miller says Giap suffered defeats against the French and lost huge numbers of troops in both wars. And Miller says new research seems to show that Giap eventually lost power to political rivals in the North Vietnamese government, which diminished his role in the war against the Americans.

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