[6] He was also a very effective logistician,[6] laying the foundation of the Ho Chi Minh trail, recognised as one of the great feats of military engineering of the 20th century. General Vo Nguyen Giap, the Viet Minh’s military chief, understood the strategic importance of Dien Bien Phu – but he was aware that the French garrison was vulnerable, hundreds of kilometres from Hanoi and surrounded by elevated positions. Ho Chi Minh departed for France on 31 May, to negotiate with the French at Fontainebleau, and he remained in France until November.[38]. [28] It was in the summer of 1943 that Giáp was told that his wife had been beaten to death by guards in the central prison in Hanoi. [55] In terms of his personal life, he was also able to move back in with his wife, from whom he had been separated for eight years during the war. A descriptive look at the history of armed conflict and warfare throughout history. [1] He first rose to prominence during World War II, where he served as the military leader of the Viet Minh resistance against the Japanese occupation of Vietnam and also as Defence Minister & Deputy Prime Minister for nearly 44 years. The best evidence indicates that he disliked the plan, and when it became obvious that Lê Duẩn and Văn Tiến Dũng were going to conduct it anyway, he left Vietnam for medical treatment in Hungary, and did not return until after the offensive had begun. It was also agreed that the governments in North and South Vietnam would remain in power, and reunification would be "carried out step by step through peaceful means". British Prime Minister Winston Churchill declined, claiming that he wanted to wait for the outcome of the peace negotiations taking place in Geneva, before becoming involved in escalating the war. Named the Tran Hung Dao Platoon after the great Vietnamese hero, it was armed with two revolvers, seventeen rifles, one light machine gun, and fourteen breech-loading flintlocks dating from the Russo-Japanese War. The use of metropolitan recruits (i.e. Navarre’s choice of Dien Bien Phu as a place to force Giáp to battle was a terrible one. They were also aware of the difficulties of mounting an attack in that area. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. On 3 May 1940 he said farewell to his wife, left Hanoi and crossed the border into China. Up to then, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam had allowed nationalist and other newspapers to publish, but when they began attacking and vilifying Giáp he cracked down on them and closed them all. [43] After this time, detailed information on Giáp's personal life becomes much scarcer and in most sources the emphasis is on his military achievements and, later, on his political roles. In June 1973, the U.S. Congress passed the Case–Church Amendment, which prohibited any further U.S. military involvement, and the PAVN supply routes could operate normally without any fear of U.S. bombing. A few weeks later, Giáp was wounded in the leg when his group attacked another outpost at Dong Mu.[31]. [14] He returned to Hue and continued his political activities. [27], For the next few years he and his comrades worked steadily to build up a small military force and to win local people over to the communist cause. From a cave complex near Tuan Giao, (50 km NE DBP,) General Giap conducted a series of meetings with Ho Chi Minh and his staff. And it will come. He remained on the Central Committee and Deputy Prime Minister until he retired in 1991. Giáp was a crucial military commander in two wars: the First Indochina War of 1946–1954, and the Vietnam War of 1955–1975, participating in several historically significant battles: Cao Bằng in 1950, Hòa Bình in 1951–1952, Điện Biên Phủ in 1954, the Tết Offensive in 1968, the Easter Offensive in 1972, and the final Ho Chi Minh Campaign of 1975. Indiana University Press, 2001, The final evidence that there had not been any Vietnamese attack against U.S. ships on the night of 4 August 1964 was provided by the release of, Learn how and when to remove this template message, Death and state funeral of Võ Nguyên Giáp, "General Vo Nguyen Giap: Soldier who led Vietnamese forces against France and the US", "Vietnam's 'Red Napoleon' Vo Nguyen Giap dies aged 102", "The Return to War: North Vietnamese Decision-Making, 1973–1975", "Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, Who Ousted U.S. From Vietnam, Is Dead", "Vietnam war leader General dies, aged 102", "WGBH Open Vault – Interview with Archimedes L. A. Patti, 1981", "Washington Talk: Bui Diem; A voice from Vietnam hoping to be heard", "Those named Martin, Their history is ours – The Great History, (1946–1954) The Indochina War", "Guerre d'Indochine: Libérez Henri Martin", "Vo Nguyen Giap, Vietnamese commander whose army defeated French, U.S. forces, dies", "WorldCat Identities Võ, Nguyên Giáp 1911-2013". The last U.S. combat troops left in March 1973. Giáp ordered his men to dig a trench system that encircled the French. By April the Vietminh had nearly five thousand members, and was able to attack Japanese posts with confidence. In his own words, “we strictl… While diversionary attacks were launched in other areas,[49] Giáp ordered his men to covertly position their artillery by hand. Despite the treaty, there was no end in fighting. In 1938 he married Minh Thai, and together they worked for the Indochinese Communist Party. [71] He was given a state funeral on 12–13 October, and his body lay in state at the national morgue in Hanoi until his burial in his home province of Quảng Bình.[72][73]. From the outer trench, other trenches and tunnels were gradually dug inward towards the center. He oversaw the expansion of the PAVN from a small self-defense force into a large conventional army, equipped by its communist allies with considerable amounts of relatively sophisticated weaponry, although this did not usually match the weaponry of the Americans. Militarily there was no point in France fi… 17 kilometres east of Dien Bien Phu are the remains of General Giap's Viet Minh headquarters from which led the successful battle against the French. Photo courtesy of Hanoi's Museum of Dien Bien Phu Victory. Colonel Piroth, the artillery commander, blamed himself for the destruction of French artillery superiority. Giap … Vietnam farmers fall to bauxite bulldozers. He subsequently led the military forces of the north to eventual victory in the Vietnam War, compelling the Americans to leave the country in 1973 and bringing about the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. Unable therefore to practice as a lawyer, he took a job as a history teacher at the Thăng Long School in Hanoi.[21]. Another suggestion was that conventional air raids would be enough to scatter Giáp's troops. The following day the French government announced that it intended to withdraw from Vietnam. They agreed that the country would be occupied temporarily to get the Japanese out; the northern half would be under the control of the Nationalist Chinese and the southern half under the British. [45] However, after the Chinese communists reached the northern border of Vietnam in 1949 and the Vietnamese destruction of French posts there, the conflict turned into a conventional war between two armies equipped with modern weapons supplied by the United States and the Soviet Union. The Party Plenum in 1957 ordered changes to the structure of these units and Giáp was put in charge of implementing these and building their strength to form a solid basis for an insurrection in the South. Vo Nguyen Giap, (born 1912, An Xa, Vietnam—died October 4, 2013, Hanoi), Vietnamese military and political leader whose perfection of guerrilla as well as conventional strategy and tactics led to the Viet Minh victory over the French (and to the end of French colonialism in Southeast Asia) and later to the North Vietnamese victory over South Vietnam and the United States. Local fighting broke out repeatedly and on 27 November, Ho's government, concluding that it could not hold Hanoi against the French, retreated back up into the northern hills where it had been based two years previously. In an effort to put pressure on both North and South Vietnam during the negotiations, President Nixon ordered a series of air raids on Hanoi and Haiphong, codenamed Operation Linebacker II. However, after due deliberations with his men, Gen Giap rejected this advice and decided on a siege campaign, to strike surely and advance cautiously. He obviously did not mind this. With anti-aircraft guns supplied by the Soviet Union, Giáp was able to severely restrict the ability of the French to supply their garrison, forcing them to drop supplies inaccurately from high altitude. In 1930, as a supporter of student strikes, he was arrested by the French Sûreté and sentenced to three years in prison, but he was paroled after serving only a few months. [65], In 1995, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara met Giáp to ask what happened on 4 August 1964 in the second Gulf of Tonkin Incident. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. This reputation was acquired at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 when Vietnamese forces overwhelmed the French, and later when he conducted the war against the US. In 1943 Cung adopted the name Ho Chi Minh.[13]. They offered to help set up a national government and promised that they would eventually grant Vietnam its independence. Through the first half of 1945, Giáp's military position strengthened as the political position of the French and Japanese weakened. General Vo Nguyen Giap (2nd, R) and other commanding officers discuss Dien Bien Phu plans in 1954. He was convinced that if he could manoeuvre General Vo Nguyen Giap into engaging in a large scale battle, France was bound to win. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. A visit to the bunker from which famed Vietnamese general, Vo Nguyen Giap, led Viet Minh troops against French colonial forces in the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu… Corrections? Giap at Dien Bien Phu, 1954: You Take Command. Giáp wrote many articles for it, and was repeatedly criticised by Ho Chi Minh for the excessive verbosity of his writing style. [52][53] The victory at Dien Bien Phu marked the beginning of a new era in the military struggles against colonialism for national liberation and independence movements in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and other colonised countries. General Vo Nguyen Giap (2nd, R) and other commanding officers discuss Dien Bien Phu plans in 1954. Giáp indicated that a 1980s study led experts to advise against mining due to severe ecological damage and national security. General Giap, whose victory at Dien Bien Phu triggered France’s departure from Indo-China was a self-taught leader regarded as one of the great military geniuses of the post-World War II era. Giáp's victory over the French was an important inspiration to anti-colonial campaigners around the world, particularly in French colonies, and most particularly in North Africa, not least because many of the troops fighting on the French side in Indochina were from North Africa. During this period he also began a relationship with a famous and beautiful dancer, Thuong Huyen, and was seen in public with her at nightclubs. Ho Chi Minh and Võ Nguyên Giáp pursued lengthy negotiations with the French, seeking to avoid an all-out war to cement their independence. General Giap was a patriot who loved his country and, like good patriots, wanted it to be better than it was, knowing full well that his wish was within the realm of possibility. Giap: The victory at Diên Bin Phû was a victory for the people. [10] Giáp's father and mother, Võ Quang Nghiêm and Nguyễn Thị Kiên,[11] worked the land, rented some to neighbours, and lived a relatively comfortable lifestyle. France was attempting to build up her economy after the devastation of the Second World War. Giáp wrote extensively on military theory and strategy. The son of an ardent anticolonialist scholar, Giap as a youth began to work for Vietnamese autonomy. [67], In a 1998 interview, William Westmoreland criticized the battlefield prowess of Giáp. Giáp had no direct military training and was a history teacher at a French-speaking academy, influenced by historical military leaders and personally citing T. E. Lawrence and Napoleon as his two greatest influences. General Giap, 71 years old, visited Dien Bien Phu this week to oversee arrangements for the 30th anniversary of the battle, judged by some historians as among the most decisive of the 20th century. This involved collectivisation of agriculture and central management of all economic production. The garrison constituted roughly one-tenth of the total French Union manpower in Indochina, and the defeat seriously weakened the position and prestige of the French; it produced psychological repercussions both in the armed forces and in the political structure in France. When Vichy security patrols approached, they would conceal themselves in a cave under a waterfall, or, at times, in the lands of the Man Trang people. In December 1953, French military commander General Henri Navarre set up a defensive complex at Ðiện Biên Phủ in the Mường Thanh Valley, disrupting Việt Minh supply lines passing through Laos. Wanting to protect him, Ho Chi Minh arranged for him to meet a graduate from a well-known family, Ba Hanh. The Chinese provided 70 advisors, the “South China Sea Action Group.” They suggested using one massive “Human Wave” attack to take Dien Bien Phu quickly. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. This was apparent with the previously planned negotiations over the future of Indochina, which had just begun. While a student, Giáp had taken lodgings with Professor Dang Thai Minh,[18] whose daughter, Nguyen Thi Minh Giang (also cited as Nguyễn Thị Quang Thái),[19] he had first met at school in Hue. Morris, Virginia and Hills, Clive (2018). Giáp's father was both a minor official and a committed Vietnamese nationalist, having played a part in the Cần Vương movement in the 1880s. Complete with detailed accounts, maps, and photos, Giap's memoirs depicts concretely how a small and weak nation can overcome a stronger force. Võ Nguyên Giáp has been called one of the greatest military strategists of the 20th century. Obituary Oct 12th … He was arrested in 1930 for taking part in student protests and served 13 months of a two-year sentence at Lao Bảo Prison. Straight out of the gate the idea of Dien Bien Phu was flawed. Two French lieutenants were killed and the Vietnamese soldiers in the outposts surrendered. Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership, This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Vo-Nguyen-Giap, Spartacus Educational - Biography of Vo Nguyen Giap. Morris, Virginia and Hills, Clive (2006). From 1933 to 1938, Giáp studied at the Indochinese University in Hanoi[11][17] where he earned a bachelor's degree in law with a major in political economy. Le Général Vo Nguyen Giap est né en 1911 ou 1912 au Centre-Vietnam. The proposal was that the remaining U.S. troops would withdraw from South Vietnam in exchange for a cease-fire and the return of American prisoners held by Hà Nội. In the little spare time he had, he said in interviews that he enjoyed occasionally playing the piano, as well as reading Goethe, Shakespeare and Tolstoy.[55]. Since 1887 Vietnam has been part of France’s Indochina empire (which includes … After Dien Bien Phu, General Giap came to symbolize Vietnamese military prowess to the West. He stood out from the rest of the communist leadership. According to Frisby, "Giap understood that protracted warfare would cost many lives but that did not always translate into winning or losing the war. Although the North's Nguyễn Huệ Offensive during the spring of 1972 was beaten back with high casualties, the proposal did not require them to leave the South. He reported this. The victory at Dien Bien Phu effectively ended the First Indochina War. [35], On 9 September, the Nationalist Chinese forces crossed the border and quickly took control of the north, while on 12 September, the British Indian Army arrived in Saigon. His precocious intelligence meant that he was soon transferred to the district school and in 1924, at the age of thirteen, he left home to attend the Quốc Học (also known in English as the "National Academy"), a French-run lycée in Huế. His works include Big Victory, Great Task; People's Army, People's War; Ðiện Biên Phủ; and We Will Win. The local Nung hill people spoke little Vietnamese, so Giáp and his colleagues had to learn local dialects and draw pictures to communicate. Defying standard military practice, he had his twenty-four 105mm howitzers placed on the forward slopes of the hills around Dien Bien Phu, in deep, mostly hand-dug emplacements protecting them from French aircraft and counter-battery fire. When Navarre realized that he was trapped, he appealed for help. In December, 1953, General Navarre setup a defensive complex at Dien Bien Phu, which would block the … With Ho in France, Giáp was effectively in charge of the government in Hanoi. [51] General De Castries, French Commander in Dien Bien Phu, was captured alive in his bunker. Around six thousand people were killed, and fourteen thousand wounded in the bombardment. We indiscriminately attacked all families owning land. [64] He finally retired from his post at the Defense Ministry in 1981 and retired from the Politburo in 1982. Giáp's father and mother, Võ Quang Nghiêm and Nguyễn Thị Kiên, worked the land, rented some to neighbours, and lived a relatively comfortable lifestyle. [32], In a single month they succeeded in training around 200 hand-picked future leaders of the army they were to oppose a few decades later. From 1976, when the two Vietnams were reunited, to 1980 Giap served as Vietnam’s minister of national defense; he also became a deputy prime minister in 1976. [66] Giáp claimed that the attack on 4 August 1964, had been imaginary. The unpretentious communist general Vo Nguyen Giap masterminded the defeat of French and American forces and became known as one of the 20th century's military geniuses. [11] By Giáp's own account the reason for his release was lack of evidence against him. Giáp was a mastermind military builder; during the First Indochina War, he had transformed a rag-tag band of rebels to a 'fine light-infantry army' fielding cryptography,[4] artillery and advanced logistics[5] and capable of challenging a larger, modernised French Far East Expeditionary Corps and the Vietnamese National Army. Years earlier the same school had educated another boy, Nguyen Sinh Cung, also the son of an official. He attended the same high school as Ho Chi Minh, the communist leader, and while still a student in 1926 he joined the Tan Viet Cach Menh Dang, the Revolutionary Party of Young Vietnam. The war had lasted for seven years and there was still no sign of a clear French victory. Giáp's role in the 1975 victory is largely ignored by official Vietnamese accounts.[62][63]. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). recruits from France itself) was forbidden by French governments to prevent the war from becoming even more unpopular at home. Ho Chi Minh and the other leaders of the Viet Minh did not trust the word of the French and continued the war. "Vo Nguyen Giap – 'A master of revolutionary war'". With Ho Chi Minh, Giap marched his forces into Hanoi in August 1945, and in September Ho announced the independence of Vietnam, with Giap in command of all police and internal security forces and commander in chief of the armed forces. [58] The 1959 Plenum decided that the time for escalating the armed struggle in the South was right and in July that year Giáp ordered the opening up of the Ho Chi Minh trail to improve supply lines to Viet Cong units.[59]. But this time it will. At the 10th Plenum of the Communist Party, 27–29 October 1956, Giáp stood in front of the assembled delegates and said: Cadres, in carrying out their antifeudal task, created contradictions in the tasks of land reform and the Revolution, in some areas treating them as if they were separate activities. This battle, of which the Viet-minh was victorious, marked the end of the Indochina War (1946-1954), but also that of French hegemony in this region. General Giap sollte gerade zu diesem Zeitpunkt eine Großoffensive – die Tet-Offensive – starten. [2] In some places, in our efforts to implement land reform, we failed to respect religious freedoms and the right to worship. "[69], In 2009, Giáp became a prominent critic of bauxite mining in Vietnam following government plans to open large areas of the Central Highlands to the practice. "Absolutely nothing", Giáp replied. French public opinion continued to move against the war: While growing stronger in Vietnam, the Việt Minh also expanded the war and lured the French to spread their force to remote areas such as Laos.