Vo Nguyen Giap,the relentless and charismatic North Vietnamese general whose battlefield victory at Dien Bien Phu drove France out of Vietnam and whose tenacious resistance to the United States in a long and costly war there eventually sapped Americas political will to fight,died on Friday in Hanoi. He was believed to be 102.
The death was reported by Vietnamese media,including the respected Tuoi Tre Online,which said he died in an army hospital.
General Giap was among the last survivors of a generation of Communist revolutionaries who in the post-war decades freed Vietnam of colonial rule and fought a superpower to a stalemate. In his later years,he was a living reminder of a war mostly old history to the Vietnamese.
But he had not faded away. He was regarded as an elder statesman in a unified Vietnam whose hardline views had softened with the cessation of war. He supported economic overhaul and closer relations with the US while publicly warning of spread of Chinese influence.
A teacher and journalist with no formal military training,Vo Nguyen Giap joined a ragtag Communist insurgency in the 1940s and built it into a highly disciplined force that through 30 years of revolution and civil war ended an empire and united a nation.
He was charming and volatile,an erudite military historian and an intense nationalist who used his personal magnetism to motivate his troops and fire their devotion to their country. His admirers put him in company of MacArthur,Rommel and other greats of the 20th century.