Thursday, September 2, 2010

Happy Birthday General Giap!

(PICTURE: Time's cover illustration of General Giap.)

General Giap, the military genius who defeated both the French and the Americans, turned 100 last week. Reports are that General Giap is not in good health and one famous Vietnamese fortune teller has prophesied that Giap will pass away during the 1,000th anniversary of Hanoi this October.

Here's an article from Thanh Nien News:

Leaders and high-ranking officials have come together to celebrate the 100th birthday of Vo Nguyen Giap, the architect of the epic military victories over the French colonialism and American Imperialism.

Giap, a celebrated military genius, turned 100 on Wednesday (August 25).

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited the General at the Army Medical Institute 108 Tuesday, where he is currently hospitalized. During the meeting, PM Dung expressed a great appreciation for Giap’s precious contributions to the country.

President Nguyen Minh Triet, who was visiting Laos at the time, also sent a congratulation letter to the General. Throughout the day, prominent figures in the party and government sent Giap gifts and fond wishes.

Born in the north-central province of Quang Binh, the General amazed the world with his victory over a French garrison in the northern province of Dien Bien Phu. The triumph effectively ended French Colonial.

“In defeating the French at Dien Bien Phu, he [Giap] heralded the end of imperialism,” Time Asia wrote in a 2006 article that honored Giap as one of the continent’s greatest heroes.

The victory is said to have “struck down the myth of Western invincibility” and represented the first time an Asian resistance movement triumphed against a colonial army in a conventional combat.

Fourteen years after Dien Bien Phu, the General masterminded the Mau Than Campaign, also known as the Tet Offensive of 1968, which was considered the turning point in the Vietnam War.

Having orchestrated two historic victories, Giap’s leadership has been heralded tacticians by international experts and historians alike.

Jeremy Black, a Professor of History at the University of Exeter includes Giap among the 59 greatest military leaders of the past 1,500 years. In 2008, Black celebrated Giap in his book, Great military leaders and their campaigns.

Of all the leaders portrayed in the book, Giap is the only one who is still alive.

‘Great cultural activist’

Giap, who once worked as a journalist, teacher, and historian, has also played an important role in rebuilding Vietnam’s education system.

Nguyen Ngoc Thanh, former assistant to the General during his tenure as Deputy Prime Minister (from 1976-1991) said that, at first, many scientists and scholars doubted Giap’s leadership in matters not pertaining to the military.

However, five years after he was charged with rebuilding the nation’s scientific and education sectors, leading scholars came to recognize Giap’s versatility, Thanh said.

According to Phan Huy Le, chairman of Vietnamese Historical Scientist Association, Giap played a key role in the preservation of the Thang Long Royal Citadel, which was first discovered in late 2002 and recently named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Le also expressed his great admiration for Giap’s writing, saying that “his books are the liveliest records of recent history.”

According to Le, the association will publish a book titled Dai tuong Tong tu lenh Vo Nguyen Giap voi Su hoc Viet Nam (General Vo Nguyen Giap and Vietnamese history), which will include articles by the General.

“General Giap is a national hero and great cultural activist,” Le noted in his article about Giap recently published in the news website VietNamNet.