General Vo Nguyen Giap: Soldier who led Vietnamese forces against France and the US

English: General Vo Nguyen Giap in 2008.

English: General Vo Nguyen Giap in 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few years ago I went to Singapore and saw there a monument to Ho Chi Minh, the communist Vietcong leader reviled for so long in the Western press as the US embarked on its disastrous Vietnam campaign to counter the evil of the communist threat spreading through Asia.  It was an eye-opening moment – the disinformation, misinformation, propaganda that permeated the media compared to the ‘modern’ view of Ho Chi Minh as ‘freedom-fighter’.  Ho Chi Minh was the leader but Vo Nguyen Giap was the brilliant general who masterminded much of their military strategy in the defeat of both the French and subsequent American imperialism.  Hi died today, aged 102.


Red Napoleon

“Any forces that wish to impose their will on other nations will face failure.”

Vo Nguyen Giap,
born of modest stock, but bright
and fate dictated that he would fight.
Raised in French colonial ways
he taught French history
until the early days of World War Two
re-shaped his destiny.

He joined the Viet Minh,
resistance to the Japanese.
His skills were honed in jungle war.
He sought his country to be free
and fought the running sore of hegemony.

The war ended.
The French returned but could pretend no more
to being masters of this colony.
Fading relics,
a regime that could not last
and the Viet Minh had vowed
to break the shackles of their colonial past.
It took nine years
until General Vo Nguyen Giap
blew them away
at Dien Bien Phu.
The French were overwhelmed
and surrendered to the ‘Red Napoleon’
in nineteen fifty-four.
But victory was a two-edged sword
as the Geneva Accord divided the country,
setting the stage for future war.

And it came,
the next wave of invasion,
the war machine of the United States
riding high, raising the stakes
in the fight against evil,
the communist monster,
the devil incarnate.
General Vo Nguyen Giap fought once again.
He built the Ho Chi Minh trail
and knew deep in his heart,
against all the odds,
against the US military might
his resistance would prevail.

He was right.
Millions died.
Soldiers, civilians, civilians, civilians
napalmed, poisoned by clouds of herbicide.
This was jungle war.
Hit and hide
again and again and again.
Resist and persist,
melt into the folds of the forest.
Keep going on,
attrition, attrition, attrition
until nineteen seventy-five
when the US admitted defeat
and General Vo Nguyen Giap
marched through the streets of Saigon.

He died today,
this man from modest stock
who taught and fought
and sought to make his country free
from the shackles of oppression.

4th October 2013 – headline from the Independent

Notes:  “General Vo Nguyen Giap: Soldier who led Vietnamese forces against France and the US.”  The death of Vo Nguyen Giap, hailed as one of the greatest military strategists of the 20th century, will be deeply mourned in Vietnam. Second only to Ho Chi Minh, he came to symbolise the struggle for independence from French colonialism and American imperialism. This reputation was acquired at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 when Vietnamese forces overwhelmed the French, and later when he conducted the war against the US.


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