Vo Nguyen Giap masterminded battle of Dien Bien Phu, which led to France leaving Indo-China, and commanded North's forces in Vietnam war
General Vo Nguyen Giap, who known as the Red Napoleon, died at a military hospital in Hanoi aged 102. Photograph: Na Son Nguyen/AP
According to The Associated Press, Giap died in a military hospital in Hanoi where he had been for the past four years.
Giap, second only in reverence in Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh, is widely credited with developing the guerilla warfare tactics that are currently used by modern-day terrorists. His defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu after two months of siege in 1954 effectively ended that country's colonial rule and set the stage for the costly involvement of the U.S. in the Southeast Asian nation. The military victory is still studied in war colleges.
Giap oversaw the Tet Offensive in 1968, which began the long, painful withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam, a process that was not completed until the mid-1970s.
Born into a peasant family, in later life Giap lived the role of a philosopher king and was routinely visited by military and political leaders from around the world, including Fidel Castro in 2003.
Giap began his military career at 14, enrolling with a clandestine resistance movement, then joined Ho's Communist Party and fled to China with him ahead of Japan's invasion of Vietnam in 1938.
He later served as defense minister and deputy prime minister following the end of the Vietnam War.
Giap developed a ragtag army of guerillas who lacked the most basic of essentials but who were superbly trained and outsmarted the richer and better-fed soldiers first of France and then the U.S.. Guile, surprise and stealth carried the day against countries that poured guns, aircraft and warships into the region.
Ironically, Giap has been quoted as saying the bombardment of Hanoi by President Johnson in 1972 [sic] was working and that if Johnson had only continued with it longer, it would have resulted in an American victory. But the campaign was hugely unpopular at home, sparking massive demonstrations and pitting generation against generation. In the end, the war led to Johnson choosing not to seek a second term.
According to the AP, historian Stanley Karnow interviewed Giap in Hanoi in 1990, quoting him as saying: "We were not strong enough to drive out a half million American troops, but that wasn't our aim. Our intention was to break the will of the American government to continue the war."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took to Twitter to recognize the general's death and recount a personal experience with his former enemy.
"Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap has passed away," wrote McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War who spent more than five years in a North Vietnamese POW camp. "Brilliant military strategist who once told me that we were an 'honorable enemy.'"