Vietnam has impressed the world with its people’s unyielding resilience that helped the small country win over the most powerful forces in history. The state of a peaceful and unified nation nowadays is attributed not only to the sacrifice of billions of soldiers and locals, but also to our one-time great leaders and war commanders. When it comes to these Vietnamese historic heroes, President Ho Chi Minh is the most recalled figure, loved by all Vietnamese and admired by people around the world. However, it would be incomplete if we forgot to mention his fellows, among whom is General Vo Nguyen Giap – the genius military commander that also receives lots of love and admiration from both Vietnamese people and press abroad.
I still remember an October day four years ago, when the whole nation was stricken with great grief by the news that the highly revered leader had passed away. My parents took us to the main street where General’s dead body was being moved from his residence to the national funeral hall, as a simple act of paying respect. My mom kept wiping her tears, telling me how great this loss was and how bitter it was when another dedicated leader had gone forever. Although General Giap had not held any top position of the country’s administration system, he was immediately entitled to a national funeral. Millions of people had visited and paid respects to the old military commander at his own residence and the funeral ceremonies in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and his hometown, Quang Binh province. Our country’s loss was widely shared by the foreign press; and other countries’ officials also sent condolences to the people of Vietnam. It is undeniable that this great General holds significant position to Vietnamese people as well as the world’s history, like The Telegraph once wrote about him: “At home, only Ho Chi Minh was better loved. Abroad, even Giap’s opponents, suggested that he merited a place in the pantheon of great military leaders of modern times.”
Born into a patriotic family during the French colonial period, General Giap soon became a young activist who actively participated in several revolutionary movements against the French rule in Vietnam. He later adopted communist ideology and joined up with President Ho Chi Minh, becoming one of his right-hands in Vietnam Revolutionary League. From a history teacher to a journalist for propaganda materials, and ended up being the most prominent military commander in Vietnamese history, leading the People’s Army of Vietnam to win victory over French and US forces, General Giap had greatly contributed to the liberalization of not only our country but also several colonized states in the world, especially through the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The surrender of French military after a 55-day siege in northwestern Vietnam put an end to French colonialism in Indochina and at the same time, inspired other colonized areas in the world to stand up and fight for their rights and liberty, thus “heralded the end of imperialism” (Johnson, 2006).
It is not only for his immeasurable merits for the country’s freedom that we Vietnamese people respect and admire him that much. It is definitely because his great love, profound understanding and lifetime dedication to his people. During the battle in Dien Bien Phu, he was supposed to follow the “swift attack, swift victory” strategy which involved massive human wave assault. However, as a commander that “aches at every wound of his soldiers, regret every blood drop from his soldiers” (said Lieutenant General Tran Van Tra), he made a difficult decision to abandon this strategy to avoid the possible massive casualties and went for his protracted warfare philosophy: “steady attack, steady advance”. General’s great love for his soldiers and genius plan led to brilliant success of the battle, which was later highly appreciated and further discussed by so many war strategists and analysts all around the world. However, when interviewed, General modestly attributed the victory not to him but to Vietnamese people, saying “we, with the spirit of patriotism, can do extraordinary things”.
General Vo Nguyen Giap now rests in peace in his hometown. He’s gone forever, but history will remember his feats; and we Vietnamese people will bear in mind how much dedication he devoted to our country. He will never be forgotten.
General Vo Nguyen Giap. The Telegraph. Retrieved from
Võ Nguyên Giáp – người làm chuyển dịch dòng chảy lịch sử (2013). Tuổi trẻ Online. Retrieved from http://tuoitre.vn/tin/chinh-tri-xa-hoi/20131005/vo-nguyen-giap—nguoi-lam-chuyen-dich-dong-chay-lich-su/572818.html
Johnson, K. (2006). 60 years of Asian heroes. Time Asia. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20061206022111/http://www.time.com/time/asia/2006/heroes/nb_nguyen.html
By Nguyen Nguyet Minh, ASEAN Correspondent from Vietnam