An era passes: legendary Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap Dies at 102

 One of the greatest generals in world history, Vo Nguyen Giap masterminded the expulsion from Vietnam of three occupying powers - Japan, France and the United States. He was also Minister of Defence when the People's Republic of China attacked Vietnam in 1979The sheer injustice of the Vietnam War affected an entire generation of young people all over the world. The Vietnamese suffered terrible wrongs, but never took to terror attacks against non-combatants & civilians in the Western world. Vietnam is still suffering the costs of chemical warfare (Agent Orange) and napalm bombing. Those of us who were politicised by Vietnam will always remember April 30, 1975, the day the NLF entered the Presidential palace in Saigon. Rest in peace, comrade Giap
Saigon-hubert-van-es.jpgThe last Americans leave Saigon: April 29, 1975
Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the brilliant and ruthless commander who led the outgunned Vietnamese to victory first over the French and then the Americans, died Friday. The last of the country's old-guard revolutionaries was 102. A national hero, Giap enjoyed a legacy second only to that of his mentor, founding president and independence leader Ho Chi Minh. Giap died in a military hospital in the capital of Hanoi, where he had spent nearly four years because of illnesses, according to a government official and a person close to him. Both spoke on condition of anonymity before the death was announced in state-controlled media.
Known as the "Red Napoleon," Giap commanded guerrillas who wore sandals made of car tires and lugged artillery piece by piece over mountains to encircle and crush the French army at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The unlikely victory — still studied at military schools — led to Vietnam's independence and hastened the collapse of colonialism across Indochina and beyond. Giap then defeated the U.S.-backed South Vietnam government in April 1975, reuniting a country that had been split into communist and noncommunist states. He regularly accepted heavy combat losses to achieve his goals. "No other wars for national liberation were as fierce or caused as many losses as this war," Giap told The Associated Press in 2005 — one of his last known interviews with foreign media on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the former South Vietnamese capital. "But we still fought because for Vietnam, nothing is more precious than independence and freedom," he said, repeating a famous quote by Ho Chi Minh.
Giap remained sharp and well-versed in current events until he was hospitalized. Well into his 90s, he entertained world leaders at his shady colonial-style home in Hanoi. Although widely revered in Vietnam, Giap was the nemesis of millions of South Vietnamese who fought alongside U.S. troops and fled their homeland after the war, including the many staunchly anti-communist refugees who settled in the United States.
Born Aug. 25, 1911, in central Vietnam's Quang Binh province, Giap became active in politics in the 1920s and worked as a journalist before joining the Indochinese Communist Party. He was jailed briefly in 1930 for leading anti-French protests and later earned a law degree from Hanoi University. He fled French police in 1940 and met Ho Chi Minh in southwestern China before returning to rural northern Vietnam to recruit guerrillas for the Viet Minh, a forerunner to the southern insurgency later known as the Viet Cong. During his time abroad, his wife was arrested by the French and died in prison. He later remarried and had five children. In 1944, Ho Chi Minh called on Giap to organize and lead guerrilla forces against Japanese invaders in World War II. After Japan surrendered to Allied forces the next year, the Viet Minh continued their fight for independence from France. Giap was known for his fiery temper and as a merciless strategist, but also for being a bit of a dandy. Old photos show him reviewing his troops in a white suit and snappy tie, in sharp contrast to Ho Chi Minh, clad in shorts and sandals.
Giap never received any formal military training, joking that he attended the military academy "of the bush." At Dien Bien Phu, his Viet Minh army surprised elite French forces by surrounding them. Digging miles of trenches, the Vietnamese dragged artillery over steep mountains and slowly closed in during the bloody, 56-day battle that ended with French surrender on May 7, 1954. "If a nation is determined to stand up, it is very strong," Giap told foreign journalists in 2004 prior to the battle's 50th anniversary. "We are very proud that Vietnam was the first colony that could stand up and gain independence on its own."
It was the final act that led to French withdrawal and the Geneva Accords that partitioned Vietnam into north and south in 1956. It paved the way for war against Saigon and its U.S. sponsors less than a decade later. The general drew on his Dien Bien Phu experience to create the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a clandestine jungle network that snaked through neighboring — and ostensibly neutral — Laos and Cambodia to supply his troops fighting on southern battlefields. Against U.S. forces with sophisticated weapons and B-52 bombers, Giap's guerrillas prevailed again. But more than 1 million of his troops died in what is known in Vietnam as the "American War." "We had to use the small against the big; backward weapons to defeat modern weapons," Giap said. "At the end, it was the human factor that determined the victory." Historian Stanley Karnow, who interviewed Giap in Hanoi in 1990, quoted 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."
Giap had been largely credited with devising the 1968 Tet Offensive, a series of surprise attacks on U.S. strongholds in the south by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces during lunar new year celebrations. Newer research, however, suggests that Giap had opposed the attacks, and his family has confirmed he was out of the country when they began. The Tet Offensive shook U.S. confidence, fueled anti-war sentiment and prompted President Lyndon B. Johnson to announce that he would not seek re-election. But it took another seven years for the war to be won. On April 30, 1975, communist forces marched through Saigon with tanks, bulldozing the gates of what was then known as Independence Palace. "With the victory of April 30, slaves became free men," Giap said. "It was an unbelievable story."
It came at a price for all sides: the deaths of as many as 3 million communists and civilians, an estimated 250,000 South Vietnamese troops and 58,000 Americans... read more: 
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/legendary-vietnam-gen-vo-nguyen-giap-dies-20469851?singlePage=true
WE MET AT THE FORMER FRENCH COLONIAL governor's palace in Hanoi, an ornate mansion set in a spacious garden ablaze with hibiscus and bougainvillea, where senior Vietnamese officials receive guests. A short man with smooth skin, white hair, narrow eyes and a spry gait, he wore a simple olive uniform, the four stars on its collar the only sign of his rank. Smiling broadly, he grasped me with soft, almost feminine hands and then, to my astonishment, bussed my cheeks in traditional French style.
Despite his Asian traits, this elfin figure might have been a courtly old Frenchman. But here was Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese Communist commander, the peer of Grant, Lee, Rommel and MacArthur in the pantheon of military leaders.
A bold strategist, skilled logician and tireless organizer, Giap fought for more than 30 years, building a handful of ragtag guerrillas into one of the world's most effective armies. He surmounted stupendous odds to crush the French, but his crowning achievement was to vanquish America's overwhelmingly superior forces in Vietnam - the only defeat the United States has sustained in its history...
Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, Who Ousted U.S. From Vietnam, Is Dead
The death was reported by several Vietnamese news organizations, including the respected Tuoi Tre Online, which said he had died in an army hospital. General Giap was among the last survivors of a generation of Communist revolutionaries who in the decades after World War II freed Vietnam of colonial rule and fought a superpower to a stalemate. In his later years, he was a living reminder of a war that was mostly old history to the Vietnamese, many of whom were born after it had ended. But he had not faded away. He was regarded as an elder statesman whose hard-line views had softened with the cessation of the war that unified Vietnam. He supported economic reform and closer relations with the United States while publicly warning of the spread of Chinese influence and the environmental costs of industrialization. To his American adversaries, however, from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, he was perhaps second only to his mentor, Ho Chi Minh, as the face of a tenacious, implacable enemy.   http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/05/world/asia/gen-vo-nguyen-giap-dies.html

Also see: 
Calley was charged on September 5, 1969, with six specifications of premeditated murder for the deaths of 104 Vietnamese civilians near the village of My Lai, at a hamlet called Son My, more commonly called My Lai in the U.S. press. As many as 500 villagers, mostly women, children, infants and the elderly, had been systematically killed by American soldiers during a bloody rampage on March 16, 1968. Upon conviction, Calley could have faced the death penalty. On November 12, 1969, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh broke the story and revealed that Calley was charged with murdering 109 Vietnamese.  Calley's trial started on November 17, 1970. It was the military prosecution's contention that Calley, in defiance of the rules of engagement, ordered his men to deliberately murder unarmed Vietnamese civilians despite the fact that his men were not under enemy fire at all. 

Testimony revealed that Calley had ordered the men of 1st Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry of the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal) to kill everyone in the village. In presenting the case, the two military prosecutors, Aubrey Daniel and John Partin, were hamstrung by the reluctance of many soldiers to testify against Calley. Some refused to answer questions point-blank on the witness stand by citing the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. However one holdout, a soldier in Calley's unit named Paul Meadlo, after being jailed for contempt of court by the presiding judge, Reid W. Kennedy, reluctantly agreed to testify. 

In his testimony, Meadlo described that during the day's events, he was standing guard over a few dozen My Lai villagers when Lt. Calley approached him and ordered him to shoot all the civilians. When Meadlo balked at the orders, Calley backed off 20 feet (6 m) or more and opened fire on the people himself, and Meadlo joined in. Another witness named Dennis Conti, who was also reluctant to testify, described the carnage, claiming that Calley had started it and the rest of the 105 soldiers of Charlie Company followed suit. Another witness, named Leonard Gonzalez, told of seeing one of the soldiers of Calley's unit herd some men and women villagers together and order them to strip off their clothing. When the villagers refused, the enraged soldier fired a single round from his M-79 grenade launcher into the crowd, killing everyone...  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Calley
  • Sergeant Michael Bernhardt – refused to participate in the killing of civilians. Captain Medina threatened Sergeant Bernhardt to deter him from writing to Bernhardt's congressman to expose the massacre; as a result, Bernhardt was allegedly given more dangerous duties such as point duty on patrol.[58] Later he would help expose and detail the massacre in numerous interviews with the press, and he served as a prosecution witness in the trial of Medina, where he was subjected to intense cross examination by defense counsel F. Lee Bailey. Recipient of the New York Society for Ethical Culture's 1970 Ethical Humanist Award.[59]
  • Herbert Carter – platoon "tunnel rat". He claimed he shot himself in the foot in order to be MEDEVACed out of the village.
  • Dennis Conti – testified he initially refused to shoot, but later fired some M79 grenade launcher rounds at a group of fleeing people with unknown effect.
  • James Dursi – killed a mother and child, then refused to kill anyone else even when ordered to do so.
  • Ronald Grzesik – a team leader. He claimed he followed orders to round up civilians, but refused to kill them.
  • Robert Maples – stated to have refused to participate.
  • Paul Meadlo – said he was afraid of being shot if he did not participate. Lost his foot to a land mine the next day. Later, he publicly admitted his part in the massacre.
  • Sergeant David Mitchell – accused by witnesses of shooting people at the ditch site; pleaded not guilty. Mitchell was acquitted. His attorney was Ossie Brown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who thereafter became the district attorney of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana.[60]
  • Varnado Simpson – committed suicide in 1997, citing guilt over several murders committed in Mỹ Lai.
  • Charles Sledge – radio operator, later prosecution witness.
  • Harry Stanley – claimed to have refused to participate.
  • Esequiel Torres – previously had tortured and hanged an old man because Torres found his bandaged leg suspicious. He and Roschevitz (described below) were involved in the shooting of a group of ten women and five children in a hut. Later he was ordered by Calley to shoot a number of people with a M60 machine gun; he fired a burst before refusing to fire again, after which Calley took his weapon and opened fire himself.
  • Frederick Widmer – Widmer, who has been the subject of pointed blame, is quoted as saying, "The most disturbing thing I saw was one boy—and this was something that, you know, this is what haunts me from the whole, the whole ordeal down there. And there was a boy with his arm shot off, shot up half, half hanging on and he just had this bewildered look in his face and like, 'What did I do, what's wrong?' He was just, you know, it's, it's hard to describe, couldn't comprehend. I, I shot the boy, killed him and it's—I'd like to think of it more or less as a mercy killing because somebody else would have killed him in the end, but it wasn't right."[61]

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