National mourning announced for legendary General Giap

Minh Duc

General Vo Nguyen Giap speaks during an interview in Hanoi in 2004. Giap, the self-taught Vietnamese general who masterminded the defeats of France and the United States to become one of the 20th century's most notable military commanders, died last Friday in Hanoi - Photo: Reuters

General Vo Nguyen Giap speaks during an interview in Hanoi in 2004. Giap, the self-taught Vietnamese general who masterminded the defeats of France and the United States to become one of the 20th century's most notable military commanders, died last Friday in Hanoi - Photo: Reuters

The legendary general, who led the Vietnam People’s Army to resounding victories over the French in Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and then the Americans in 1975, died at 6 p.m. on Friday at a Hanoi-based military-run hospital after long illnesses due to old age.

In the final battle at Dien Bien Phu against the French, Giap made the bold move by changing the strategy from ‘quick push’ to ‘slow and firm advancement’, thus reducing the loss of lives for the young Vietnamese army while exhausting the capacity of the enemies. He finally defeated the French in Dien Bien Phu in May 1954 after a campaign lasting nearly two months.

Meanwhile, in the final push for Saigon against the American-backed southern regime, the veteran general was known as the mastermind behind the ‘quick steps’ by mobilizing the overwhelming armed forces of many divisions attacking the then capital city from different directions. The fast-paced advancement quickly led to the victory and liberation of the south on April 30, 1975.

The veteran general’s death sent a wave of grief among all walks of life in the country, and has been front-paged in many international news agencies.

Reuters refers to Giap as “Vietnam’s Red Napoleon,” while the U.S.-based TIME World says Giap was a national hero whose legacy was second only to that of his mentor, founding President Ho Chi Minh. The Guardian says the general “used his charisma and tactical skills to transform a tiny band of guerillas into an army that defeated both France and the U.S.,” while Bloomberg says Giap’s defeat of the French army more than a half-century ago symbolized the end of an era of colonial domination.

His name and his fame is also instantly recalled on many other well-known international media agencies, including Washington Post, BBC, ABC News, and AFP to name but a few.

The national mourning will begin at 12 p.m. on October 11 and end at 12 p.m. on October 13 before his burial on the same day in his birthplace of Quang Binh in Central Vietnam, says an announcement carried on Vietnam News Agency.

“The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the President of the State of Vietnam, the Government of Vietnam, the Central Committee of the Fatherland Front Committee, and the Central Military Party Committee decide to organize the national mourning,” says the announcement.

His burial as well as all related processions will be broadcasted live on VTV and the Voice of Vietnam.

The highly-decorated general, whose name is on every Vietnamese people’s lips, was born on August 25, 1911 in Quang Binh Province’s Le Thuy District. He used to hold many high-profile positions, including Member of the Politburo, Secretary of the Central Military Party Committee, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, Chief Commander of the Vietnam People’s Army, and Deputy of the National Assembly.

General Giap was among the first few Vietnamese to lead the revolution against foreign invaders, and at 37, he was also the first general of the Vietnamese army, initially with only dozens of guerillas. Before becoming the chief commander, he had served as a teacher of history.

Giap participated in a students movement in Hue City in 1925-1926, and in 1927, he joined Tan Viet Revolutionary Party as predecessor of the Indochina Communist Party, which is now renamed the Communist Party of Vietnam, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

He was arrested in 1930 and sentenced to two years in jail. After his release from jail, Giap joined a movement of the Party, and became a Party member in 1940.

In 1944, he was entrusted by late President Ho Chi Minh to organize the country’s first army, and one year later, he was named chief commander of revolutionary armed forces.

Giap was named Minister of Defense in 1946, and in early 1948, he was conferred the title of general, and chief commander of the People’s Army of Vietnam.

Between 1980 and 1986, he served as a deputy prime minister.

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