HANOI, Vietnam – Legendary Vietnamese Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap built his career on never backing down, even against seemingly impossible odds. Now, decades after ousting the French and later the Americans, he’s celebrating another major victory: his 100th birthday.
Giap is revered by Vietnamese second only to former President Ho Chi Minh. Together, they plotted gutsy campaigns from jungles and caves using ill-equipped guerrilla fighters to gain Vietnam’s independence, eventually leading to the end of French colonial rule throughout Indochina.
Two decades later, Giap’s northern Communist forces also wore down the U.S. military, forcing them out of the former South Vietnam.
“It can be said that some of the country’s most glorious and most important events are associated with his name and his cause,” Do Quy Doan, vice culture minister, said at a reception in Hanoi this week ahead of Giap’s birthday today.
The four-star general has been hospitalized for about two years. But Giap continues to sign cards – including a thank-you note to his “comrades” for their outpouring of birthday wishes – and is still briefed every few days about international and national events, said Col. Nguyen Huyen, Giap’s personal secretary for 35 years.
Giap eventually became a strong supporter of friendly ties between the U.S. and Vietnam. Since the two sides normalized relations in 1995, trade and investment have flourished. Military ties have also strengthened.
And Giap has lived to see his once war-torn country rise from poverty and embrace capitalism and peace.
“He keeps going,” said John Ernst, a Vietnam War scholar at Morehead State University in Kentucky. “I think it adds to his mystique and popularity.”
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