Giap, Vo Nguyen

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Giap, Vo Nguyen

Vo Nguyen Giap (vô nəwē´ĕn zhäp), 1911–2013, Vietnamese military leader and government official whose strategies helped drive the forces of Japan, France, and the United States from Vietnam. A nationalist teacher and journalist with no formal military training, he joined the Vietnamese Communist party in the 1930s, later joining (1940) Ho Chi Minh in China. Giap subsequently returned to Vietnam and helped to organize the Viet Minh forces, fighting to oust the Japanese in World War II and the French after the war and becoming commander of the Viet Minh and defense minister. A master of guerrilla warfare, he was credited with the defeat of the French at Dienbienphu (1954), which essentially ended French colonial rule in Vietnam. After the political division of Vietnam (1954), he directed the strategy of the North in the Vietnam War, notably the costly Tet offensive (1968), leading to a stalemate with the United States, the withdrawal of American troops, and ultimately to the reunification of Vietnam. Removed as commander in chief in 1973, Giap retained the position of minister of defense, overseeing the fall of Saigon (1975) and the defeat of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (1979). Deputy prime minister from 1976, Giap was removed as defense minister in 1980 and dropped from the politburo in 1982; he remained deputy prime minister until 1991.

See his Military Art of People's War: Selected Writings, ed. by R. Stetler (1970) and How We Won the War (1976); R. J. O'Neill, General Giap (1969); P. G, Macdonald, Giap: The Victor in Vietnam (1993); C. B. Currey, Victory at Any Cost (1997).

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