Vietnam's 'Red Napoleon' Vo Nguyen Giap dies, aged 102

Sun Oct 6, 2013 2:20am EDT
 
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HANOI (Reuters) - Vo Nguyen 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 on Friday. He was 102.

The victories of the "Red Napoleon" over vastly better equipped Western armies helped to usher the end of European colonialism worldwide and to entrench communist rule in Vietnam.

Short and slightly built, Giap was a legend in Vietnam, with a standing second only to that of revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh. To historians, he was a general who ranked with giants such as Montgomery, Rommel and MacArthur.

Critics saw him as ruthless: willing to accept immense losses among his own forces. His defenders said his strategic ability and astute tactics won wars against enemies whose resources dwarfed those of a peasant army.

"Surrender" is not a word in my vocabulary, he once said. In Giap's words, any army fighting for freedom "had the creative energy to achieve things its adversary can never expect or imagine."

The Vietnamese humiliation of the French army at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 not only doomed the world's second largest colonial empire, it helped bring an end to colonialism worldwide.

Two decades later, Giap forced the retreat of the even bigger military machine of the United States from what was then South Vietnam, starting 38 years of communist rule over the country that are unbroken to this day.

LAST SURVIVOR

Giap had been the last survivor of Vietnam's generation of revolutionary leaders.   Continued...

 
General Vo Nguyen Giap speaks during an interview in Hanoi, March 30, 2004. REUTERS/Kham