Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Vietnam's hero general turns 100

Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap is celebrating his 100th birthday (AP)

Legendary Vietnamese General 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 is celebrating another major victory - his 100th birthday.

Gen 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, Gen Giap's northern Communist forces also wore down the US 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 Gen Giap's birthday.

The four-star general has been in hospital for about two years.

But Gen 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 Colonel Nguyen Huyen, Gen Giap's personal secretary for 35 years.

"He has helped to defeat two major powers," Col Huyen said. "General Giap is the big brother of the heroic Vietnamese People's Army."

Though he was shoved out of the inner circle of political power decades ago, the slight white-haired military strategist remains a national treasure and still welcomed foreign leaders to his French-style villa in Hanoi until three years ago.

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