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General Vo Nguyen Giap - a political and military genius of the Ho Chi Minh era

In his 103 years of life and 80-year revolutionary lifespan, General Vo Nguyen Giap - an excellent student of President Ho Chi Minh devoted himself to our Party and people’s glorious revolutionary cause. The General’s ethics, talent, and brilliant feats of arms have been closely associated with the development and victory of the heroic Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) and etched in the memory of each military cadre, soldier, party member, and Vietnamese citizen. His name will be forever remembered in the national history.

Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap (photo: lyluanchinhtri.vn)

Born and grew up in a Confucian family with immense patriotism and the countryside of revolutionary tradition (An Xa village, Loc Thuy commune, Le Thuy district, Quang Binh province), Vo Nguyen Giap had been soon imbued with treasured traditions of his family and hometown to form his revolutionary will and spirit. With his instinctive intelligence and inquisitive spirit forged in difficulties and hardships, Vo Nguyen Giap became a political and military genius with special massive contributions to our Party and Vietnamese people’s revolutionary cause; he is adored, trusted, and admired by our entire Party, Military and people and international friends as well.

1. A brilliant politician and leader with great prestige

Being acutely aware of his civic responsibility and soon accessing Marxism-Leninism, the young patriot Vo Nguyen Giap embarked on the revolutionary path and actively struggled for national liberation. It was Vo Nguyen Giap who had enthusiastically led the student movement in the city of Hue for civil rights and democracy. After meeting leader Ho Chi Minh and being entrusted with the Party’s military work, Vo Nguyen Giap clearly expressed his political talent laying in his directions for the organisation of the Party’s revolutionary armed forces.

Being imbued with the ideology on “taking the people as the roots” and fully aware that “the revolutionary cause belongs to the masses” and “politics is more important than military affairs,” leader Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap flexibly exercised their leadership and direction over the building of the revolutionary armed forces. Under the direct direction by the Party Central Committee and leader Ho Chi Minh, Vo Nguyen Giap commanded, organised, built, and developed an army of only 34 cadres and soldiers, provided with old-fashioned weapons and equipment into a revolutionary VPA readily fighting and sacrificing for the Homeland’s independence, the people’s freedom, and socialism. The VPA surmounted numerous difficulties and hardships in the beginning of our resistance war to gradually develop main regiments and divisions as “iron fists” making up the victory of Dien Bien Phu that “resounded across the five continents, shook the globe,” and successfully ended the war against French invaders. With his hands-on experience and pre-eminent talent, the General continued commanding our revolutionary VPA to defeat military strategies and plots of the U.S. and the Saigon puppet regime, earn a decisive victory in the Spring General Offensive and Uprising of 1975, end the 30-year revolutionary war, and regain national independence and unification.

In the building of the revolutionary armed forces under the direction of leader Ho Chi Minh, the General always advocated that political goal is the most fundamental issue and the Military must be tasked with not only fighting but also educating the masses. He successfully fulfilled his role as a politician, a head and the soul of an organisation. He succeeded in building a small-scale army into a powerful one that was “loyal to the Party, pious to the people, readily fought and sacrificed for national independence, freedom, and socialism, accomplished any mission, overcame any difficulty, and defeated any enemy,” thus fulfilling the task entrusted by our Party and nation. It could be said that with his political talent, the General realised Ho Chi Minh’ ideology on building a revolutionary army, successfully implemented the Party’s guidelines on building the revolutionary armed forces, and expressed “an ability to persuade millions of his fellow Vietnamese to bear the price of victory at any cost” as an important foundation for our VPA’s performance of the task assigned by our Party and people.

Not only in the building of the VPA, General Vo Nguyen Giap’s political pre-eminence was manifested when he was the Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers with significant contributions to the country’s science and education. The General gave advice on “identifying the guidelines on conducting a scientific - technical revolution properly, with a combination of sequential steps and giant leaps in a focalised manner to opportunely, effectively serve the Homeland construction and protection.” He concentrated on “key steps to achieve positive changes in dealing with the issues of the country’s education and the revolutionary tasks.” At the same time, he gave a lot of important, practical opinions to our Party and State on formulating the guidelines and policies for socio-economic development and national construction and protection.

As an excellent student of President Ho Chi Minh, General Vo Nguyen Giap was amongst the first who soon researched and wrote about Ho Chi Minh. Together with other senior leaders of our Party and State, he paid particular attention to translating Ho Chi Minh’s ideology into life and turning it into the ideological foundation and lodestar for all actions of our entire Party, Military and people. “General Vo Nguyen Giap made significant contributions to heightening and asserting Ho Chi Minh’s ideology as the ideological foundation and lodestar for all actions of our Party at the 8th National Party Congress.”

2. Vo Nguyen Giap’s pre-eminent military talent and great contributions to the fight for national liberation and protection

With his sharp thinking and brilliant military talent, together with the Politburo, the Party Central Committee, and the Central Military Commission, General Vo Nguyen Giap formulated unique strategies, guidelines, and arts of the people’s war, while effectively executing the Party’s military policies. The General’s outstanding military talent was also manifested in his determination to take the initiative and his extremely dialectical, scientific evaluation of the balance of power, which forced the enemy to follow our traditional method of combat, made them unable to bring into play their superiority in personnel and materiel or fulfil their goal and intention of war. It is worth noting that Vo Nguyen Giap decided to change the operational motto from “rapid combat, rapid victory” to “steady fight, steady advance,” thereby gaining a decisive victory in the battle of Dien Bien Phu, victoriously ending the resistance war against the French colonialists. In the resistance war against the U.S., for national salvation, he made a right decision on attacking Buon Ma Thuot - the Central Highlands, seized the strategic opportunity, and suggested quickly liberating the South in 1975. At the same time, he directed the launch of campaigns to liberate Hue, Da Nang, and Truong Sa islands, agreed to establish the Eastern flank, and sent the telegram of “lightning and more lightning, daring and more daring” to direct the entire Military to rapidly liberate Saigon, obtain the decisive victory in the Ho Chi Minh Campaign, completely liberate the South, and reunify the country. In large-scale decisive campaigns, the General always expressed his assertiveness and ability to seize the opportunity, and “opportunely develop ingenious strategies, commands, and projects during 30 years of the people’s war for national liberation as a military expert with his sharp strategic thinking on wars in general and Vietnam’s national liberation wars in particular.”

Not only a talented commander, Vo Nguyen Giap was a great military theorist with significant contributions to building and developing Vietnam’s military art, academic theories about the Vietnamese people’s war, the armament of all people, and the three-category armed forces. Typical examples include the art of long-term combat to change the balance of power, the art of seizing the opportunity to gain the strategic victory and change the war situation, the art of building, organising, and using the three-category armed forces, the art of organising and employing the Military, the art of taking the initiative at strategic and campaign levels, analysing and correctly assessing the situation, and anticipating the enemy’s plots and actions, and the art of ensuring strategic and campaign-level logistics support.

Admiring the General’s talent, Cecil B. Currey, an American history Professor ever wrote: “During that time, he became not only a legend, but perhaps the single greatest military genius of the twentieth century and one of the greatest of all time.” According to the Professor, “Throughout the long decades of his career, he devised tactics and strategies that eventually brought his nation to victory over powerful enemies.”

Life and career of General Vo Nguyen Giap are associated with our Military and people’s glorious stages and resounding feats of arms in the Ho Chi Minh era. “Vo Nguyen Giap became one of the greatest, most talented generals in the 21st century; he was a politician as well.” In the General’s State Funeral, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam emphasised: our Party, State, and people highly appreciate General Vo Nguyen Giap’s merits. Generations of cadres and soldiers of our Military always call him the Eldest Brother of the VPA. Morality and significant contributions of the General will be imprinted on the people’s mind. He is a general of the people. And his name will be forever remembered in the national history.


Head of the Military History Institute of Vietnam

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