In Memoriam: General Vo Nguyen Giap

General Vo Nguyen Giap, legendary leader of the armies of North Vietnam, has died.  The Telegraph reports:

Such was his morale-boosting determination and genius for the feint and swoop that he was often described as a guerrilla leader equalled only by Mao Tse Tung and Che Guevara; and Giap was certainly adept at utilising terrain and highly mobile troops to outwit stronger and better equipped enemies.

But he was far more than just an able coordinator of the small-scale jungle skirmish. Major set-piece battles and broad offensives were well within his compass too, though often at high cost. At home, only Ho Chi Minh was better loved. Abroad, even Giap’s opponents – perhaps particularly his opponents – suggested that he merited a place in the pantheon of great military leaders of modern times, alongside such figures as Wellington and Rommel.

The figure Giap himself most admired and studied, however, was Napoleon. By the time Giap had left school he was able to outline in chalk the phases of all Napoleon’s most celebrated battles. It was an irony later lost on few that, having absorbed those lessons, Giap would score perhaps his most dramatic victory against France.

. . .

Giap … taunt[ed] America as early as 1967 that its Army was bogged down in an unwinnable war. When Thanh was killed that year, Giap took direct command of the campaign against America in South Vietnam and within months had pulled off another tactical masterstroke.

This came in early 1968, when he appeared to be mustering his forces for a Dien Bien Phu-style ambush on an American fortress at Khe Sanh during the lunar New Year, or Tet. But as America reinforced Khe Sanh, Giap’s men instead launched a general attack on a host of targets across the South. The Tet Offensive, as it became known, did not sweep America from Vietnam or force its diplomats immediately to the negotiating table. But with Tet, Giap, a man who barely stood 5ft tall, had forced a fundamental change in attitudes to the Vietnam War in America, where commitment to the conflict soon began to crack.

There’s more at the link.

I know many Americans regard him as an enemy, and won’t be sorry to read of his death.  Nevertheless, let’s acknowledge that in military history, his name is going to go down as one of the masters of guerrilla warfare, and of the political dimension of war.  He defeated first France, then the USA:  the first on the battlefield, the second in the political dimension because the US administration would not fight the war to win it, but only to preserve a stalemate.  He was certainly a ruthless man, and probably the kind of person any ‘civilized’ combatant would regard as beyond the pale;  but he was undoubtedly effective.



  1. I wonder if the general would have had the same success if we had not had LBJ playing soldier in his sandbox on the dining room table.

  2. Peter, the writeup above on Giap describing him as a victor over America in the political arena is untrue. Tet was a political victory for the anti-War, anti-American radical Left, but only because the pro-Left media here selectively molded the story and imagery to fit the "TET was a huge victory for the VC" narrative. The media would never focus on American victories; or would delay reporting on it until the news cycle swept another item up for them to magnify… and the items/imagery that they did focus on were always showing the VC in a noble light, or showing them giving a hell of a fight, if not painting them as outright winners.

    Fact is, Tet was a disaster for the North; the VC were never a factor in the field after that offensive. NVA regulars started making their appearance in the war after TET.

    But you wouldn't know it judging from Cronkite's reporting, to name the best example of anti-American bias in our media.

    As for the Administration's lack of spine to fight this proper, Nixon later did exactly that; operations Linebackers (I & II) were naval & air support to back up ARVN forces that had been getting ramped up to fight the war on the ground w/out US ground forces.

    Though the ARVN still had a ways to go, they did get good enough to win against the NVA, and would have held their own if been victorious were it not for the betrayal of the democrat controlled administration which – when the north broke the Paris Peace Accords in 1975 and invaded the south with the equivalent of TEN ARMORED DIVISIONS – did not honor our promise to the South to provide them with Materiel.

    That overwhelming force was estimated by Ho Chi Minh as necessary to offset what would have been massive casualties incurred from what Ho believed was certain American air and artillery support.

    I know you know this stuff, Peter, but we know we write not just between us, but for those who read our words. So let me close by saying that yes, Giap was a capable fighter, perhaps one of the great commanders of history. But he did not defeat the United States of America militarily, nor politically. That defeat was achieved from within… by a feckle dhimmi-crat Congress, whose betrayal of our South Vietnamese allies is directly responsible not just for the fall of that nation, but for the millions killed at the altar of Tyranny in Vietnam and the killing fields of it's neighbors.

    Jacksonian Grouch/Retired USCG

  3. Giap was a mediocre general who squandered his soldiers' lives indiscriminately. He never won a battle against us, not in Viet Nam. He lost in Viet Nam.

    He and Uncle Ho won the war in the US with the complicity of Hanoi Jane Fonda and John 'F— your buddies' Kerry and an anti-American (disguised as 'anti-war) Left and a pliant media.

    I won't forget.


  4. Giap was adequate, considering the lack of importance attached to the official number of casualties in socialist countries during wartime.
    He was good enough to wax LBJ and RHMcNamara in strategy.

    Good enough to win. (But we were winning when I left.)

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