A 20th century legend died on Friday. Revolutionary General Vo Nguyen Giap died in Hanoi at the venerable age of 102. He is also known as Ge Luo: volcano under the snow.
|Castro and Giap|
He was born in August 25th 1911 in a landless but literate farmer family. He began his revolutionary career already in high school, joining nationalist organizations at the age of 15. He was first arrested in 1930.
In 1933 he began studying at the university but was expelled for his political activities. It was there when he met Truong Chinh, the main communist ideologue of Vietnam, joining then the Communist Party. He finally graduated as attorney in 1937 and got work as history teacher in a high school.
In 1938 he married a Thai woman, Dang Thi Quang, who was also communist.
In 1939 he published his first book, jointly with Truong Chinh, titled "The farmer question", in which they pondered about the role of the farmer class in the joint struggle with urban workers.
In 1940 the Communist Party was banned by the Vichy regime and he escaped to China. However his relatives were not so lucky: his sister-in-law was beheaded and his wife sentenced to life in prison, dying a few years later because of tortures. His son, his father, two sister and other relatives were also murdered.
In spite of all this tragedy, he studied the work of Mao in China and met the also legendary Ho Chi Minh. They founded the Dang Minh (Vietminh), which was a broad front of nationalist forces.
In 1941 he went back to Vietnam to initiate the guerrilla war, in alliance with ethnic minorities. After a few years of frantic armed and political activism, he was in 1945 at the command of a 10,000 strong force, taking an offensive stand against the Japanese and proclaiming the independence of Vietnam with Ho Chi Minh as President.
However defeating the Japanese was just the beginning. Soon France attempted to reclaim its colony, leading Giap to the epic battle of Dien Bien Phu, in which the guerrilla decisively defeated 15,000 French soldiers supported by US air forces. The arrogant imperialists were unaware of the ability of Giap's forces to move heavy artillery through the jungle.
The French commander, ashamed, committed suicide soon after the Vietnamese guns began pounding their positions. The whole army was captured or died in combat. However the Vietnamese loses were also very important (exact figures are debated).
After that, he defeated one after the other, the top generals of the French Army, resulting in the truce by which Vietnam was temporarily divided in two states.
Giap's struggle did not end there. The war continued in the South, a tyrannical US neo-colonial protectorate, in a guerrilla war that lasted for more than whole decade. In 1973, the USA finally withdrew their forces and two years later Vietnam was united again under a red banner.
Giap held the position of Defense Minister until 1980.
Main source: Webguerrillero[es].