Vo Nguyen Giap, the wily general who drove both the French and American forces from his homeland of Vietnam, has died in Hanoi. He was 102.
According to The Associated Press, Giap died in a military hospital in Hanoi where he had been for the past four years.
Giap, second only in reverence in Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh, is widely credited with developing the guerilla warfare tactics that are currently used by modern-day terrorists. His defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu after two months of siege in 1954 effectively ended that country's colonial rule and set the stage for the costly involvement of the U.S. in the Southeast Asian nation. The military victory is still studied in war colleges.
Giap oversaw the Tet Offensive in 1968, which began the long, painful withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam, a process that was not completed until the mid-1970s.
Born into a peasant family, in later life Giap lived the role of a philosopher king and was routinely visited by military and political leaders from around the world, including Fidel Castro in 2003.
Giap began his military career at 14, enrolling with a clandestine resistance movement, then joined Ho's Communist Party and fled to China with him ahead of Japan's invasion of Vietnam in 1938.
He later served as defense minister and deputy prime minister following the end of the Vietnam War.
Giap developed a ragtag army of guerillas who lacked the most basic of essentials but who were superbly trained and outsmarted the richer and better-fed soldiers first of France and then the U.S.. Guile, surprise and stealth carried the day against countries that poured guns, aircraft and warships into the region.
Ironically, Giap has been quoted as saying the bombardment of Hanoi begun by President Johnson in 1965 and 1968 and continued by President Nixon in 1972 was working and that had it continued, it would have resulted in an American victory. But the campaigns were hugely unpopular at home, sparking massive demonstrations and pitting generation against generation. The war also led to Johnson choosing not to seek a second term.
According to the AP, historian Stanley Karnow interviewed Giap in Hanoi in 1990, quoting 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."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took to Twitter to recognize the general's death and recount a personal experience with his former enemy.
"Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap has passed away," wrote McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War who spent more than five years in a North Vietnamese POW camp. "Brilliant military strategist who once told me that we were an 'honorable enemy.'"
Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap has passed away - brilliant military strategist who once told me that we were an "honorable enemy" #Vietnam
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) October 4, 2013
News of Giap's death and anecdotes about his life have spread throughout Twitter. The hashtag #Giap was particularly popular in France and Italy as of midday Friday, according to social media site Trendsmap.com.
10/04/06: This story has been updated from a previous version which incorrectly chronicled America’s bombing of Hanoi during the Vietnam War, as well as the time frame President Lyndon Johnson was in office.