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THE MAN WHO DREAMT A REALITY

 

and survived to live the dream!
YEFU DANIEL CHEN | Issue Dated: April 1, 2007
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THE MAN WHO DREAMT A REALITY Life offers nothing for free, and freedom, as history stands witness, has been quite expensive, exacting its price invariably in blood. Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, who lives to see his name etched in golden ink in the pages of history, is one contented 96-year-old war veteran today. In the once war-ridden Vietnam, he is one who found his destiny in a heroic quest – freedom for his land.

Born nearly a century ago in Quang-binh province, Vietnam, a history teacher, a degree holder in economics and law, and an avid reader of military history, Sun Tzu’s ancient treatise on warfare and Napoleon, Giap may barely have imagined the congruences that fate held in store. Deeply impacted by the atrocities inflicted by the French, he joined the country’s Communist Party. Fleeing to China after escaping arrest in 1939, when France banned communism, he worked with Ho Chi Minh, leader of Viet Minh – the Vietnam Independence League – and mastered the art of guerrilla warfare with the aid of Chinese revolutionary, Mao Zedong. Patriotism amalgamated with personal vendetta when his first wife died in French captivity and his child, two sisters, father and other relatives were executed. In the aftermath of World War II, Giap strategised a three-phase attack that eventually ousted the French, Americans and the South Vietnamese. Armed with Chinese and USSR-supplied artillery, he displayed military and logistical brilliance unthinkable even for the French, building roads to carry heavy artillery to the surrounding mountains. Under siege, in what is termed ‘170 days of confrontation and 57 days of hell’, the French were pulverised as they fought the bloodiest battle in history of their presence in the Far East. Meanwhile, Giap and his entourage stood tall, in 1954, marking the first ever military downfall of an imperial force to a colonial country and invoking the sudden death of French rule in Indochina, serving as a paradigm for global freedom struggles. THE MAN WHO DREAMT A REALITY The next step was flooding the US out of the war, which saw the Tet offensive launching attacks on the South Vietnamese government and military establishments hoping for general uprising to be in tandem, thereby easing the takeover. Under Giap’s command, South Vietnamese cities like Da Nang (central Vietnam), Kontum and urban areas and districts were attacked. The success was shortlived though, with the allied forces regaining control within weeks. However, the psychological victory unnerved the Americans and raised questions about the validity of Americans fighting a Vietnamese war. And thereon, the US started withdrawing its troops.

However, the Ho Chi Minh Campaign (1975) finally saw them victorious, and Vietnam became today’s Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This hero’s grit and strategic guerrilla warfare tactics are widely lauded for a peaceful Vietnam, and also for the shivers that he sent down the spine of the American military personnel and strategists.

Today, whether it is Iraq or Afghanistan, America is always wary of facing another ‘Vietnam!’ A true national treasure for his nation, beginning with a posse of a handful whom he transformed into an army of a million strong warriors with a shared vision, the General’s shibboleth will ring immortal, ‘Any force that would impose their will on other nations will most certainly face defeat.’ General Giap ­– a hero born once in a lifetime, or three.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017