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Tuesday, 15 March 2022 16:43
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General Vo Nguyen Giap: The humane and peace-loving General

(PTOJ) - General Vo Nguyen Giap - The outstanding military genius of the Vietnamese nation in the Ho Chi Minh era, the “Big Brother of the Vietnam People's Army”(1), “The People's General”(2), has made many great merits and especially outstanding contributions to the revolutionary cause of the Vietnamese Party and nation. Not only was an excellent and experienced general, but he also always upheld humanistic and peaceful thoughts and a representative of the peaceful aspiration of the Vietnamese people.

General Vo Nguyen Giap - Source: vtv.vn

General Vo Nguyen Giap has been respected and admired by many politicians, generals, researchers and international friends, “becoming a legendary general, the only great military genius of the twentieth century and one of the great man of all time”(3); “he is one of the most talented generals of the twentieth century”(4); “one of the 21 famous generals of the world in 25 centuries from Alexander the Great to Hannibal and then to the modern, post modern era with Kutuzov, Jukov”(5). With 103 years of age, more than 80 years of revolutionary activities, including more than 30 years as the Commander-in-Chief of the Vietnam People’s Army, Secretary of the Central Military Commission, General “has made great accomplishment and made particularly outstanding contribution to the revolutionary cause of our Party and our people”(6). In particular, the steadfast fighting spirit for the country, for the people, rich in compassion, always upholding humanistic thoughts and loving peace has really made him to be the general who fights for peace.

1. The General thoroughly understood the humanistic and peaceful thought of the Vietnamese people in the Ho Chi Minh era

The General deeply understood the humanistic and peaceful thought of the Vietnamese people in the Ho Chi Minh era. As the nation throughout its history of thousands of years of building and defending the country, it always had to fight and go through many hardships to combat the wars of aggression by foreign forces, more than anyone else, the Vietnamese people understand very well the value of peace. Aspiration for peace is the value that permeates the spiritual life of Vietnamese residents, becoming the destination of the progressive politics: “The work of humanity relies in the peace of the people”.

Born in the context of war, witnessing directly the scene of compatriots being oppressed, brutally exploited by colonialists, Vo Nguyen Giap was deeply patriotic with enthusiasm and determination to fight for national liberation, bringing prosperity, freedom, happiness and peace to the people. With passionate patriotism, he soon realized the revolutionary thought of leader Nguyen Ai Quoc and followed the revolutionary path he discovered - national independence associated with socialism.

Especially, since 1940, when being directly trained and mentored by leader Nguyen Ai Quoc, Comrade Vo Nguyen Giap quickly grown in all aspects, becoming his excellent, close and reliable student. Having worked directly alongside President Ho Chi Minh for many years, during the important moments of the revolution, the more he thoroughly understood the great thoughts and strategic vision of the supreme leader, especially the idea that nothing is more precious than independence and freedom; humanistic and peaceful thought; fight for the cause of national liberation; fighting for peace, freedom and justice, for the people’s happiness and well-being... These great thoughts have become the purpose and reason for living his whole life of revolutionary activities. Comrade has been attached to the revolutionary cause of the Party and the nation all his life, always shining the noble qualities of a steadfast revolutionary soldier, absolute loyalty to the revolutionary cause of the Party, a loyal and sincere heart: “Which day I live , it’s also the day for my country”(7).

Inheriting and promoting the ideology of humanity and peace of the nation and President Ho Chi Minh, General Vo Nguyen Giap repeatedly raised the peace goodwill of the Vietnamese people, trying to find ways to avoid and prevent this from war causing damage to both sides. As for the French, in February 1946, when the French army attempted to send troops to the north of the 16th parallel, talking to French journalist John Lacutuya (Jean Lacouture), he asked the question: this “will be carried out without bloodless” and stated: “Believe that we will do everything to avoid this disaster”(8)

As for the Americans, General Vo Nguyen Giap once told Zbigniew Brzezinski - an American politician who was the adviser to President Lyndon B. Johnson and President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser: “Please tell the Americans that Giap’s strategy was the strategy of peace, independence and freedom... The Vietnamese knew what war was. We were forced into war and we had to raise war to protect ourselves. It is the war that we must fight, we are the most peaceful people in the world”(9).

Thoroughly understanding Ho Chi Minh’s ideology, with the sharp wisdom of the military-politician and the realistic view of the historian, General Vo Nguyen Giap repeatedly affirmed that the Vietnamese people wished for peace, but it must be a real peace, in accordance with international legal values ​​and human values. In April 1946, at the Da Lat Conference to discuss the implementation of the 6-3 Preliminary Agreement, facing the lack of goodwill of the French side, he resolutely stated his opinion: “We want peace, that’s right, but it is the peace in freedom and justice, the peace consistent with the Preliminary Agreement 6-3, and not the peace of patience, dishonor and slavery”(10), “We have repeatedly demonstrated our goodwill. If you want peace, there will be peace. If not, if you want war, there will be war”(11).

Obviously, throughout his life of revolutionary activities, the commander of our Army fought against the invading enemy full of hardships, sacrifices, but also extremely glorious and victorious, the General always strived for an ideal and that noble purpose is to liberate the nation, regain independence and freedom and bring prosperous and happy life to the people. In other words, the General’s combat goal is for the sake of justice, for peace and for the people. The General not only made great contributions to the cause of the struggle for national liberation and the peaceful, prosperous and happy life of the Vietnamese people, but also strongly contributed to promoting the fight for peace and independence, national establishment, social progress, fight against oppression, exploitation and injustice in colonial countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. That makes the General’s name more honored, admired and inspired by the world as the general for the people, the general for peace.

2. The General always values human life and minimizes casualties in battle

The ultimate goal of the leader is to destroy the opponent and win the battle. But this does not seem to be the case with General Vo Nguyen Giap. He never aimed to win at all costs. According to the General, “it is not necessary to win many battles to win the war”(12), but only to make the invading enemy “disappear” from our country. That is, the struggle of the Vietnamese people against the invasion of the French colonialists and the American imperialists was not aimed at destroying the enemy, but rather defeating the enemy’s will to invade to gain independence and peace and freedom and happiness for the country, for the nation. That is the highest goal pursued by the General, this is also the purpose of the war waged by the Vietnamese people. Therefore, during the revolutionary fight, under the leadership of the Party and President Ho Chi Minh, General Vo Nguyen Giap always looked for every opportunity to gain victory while minimizing losses and sarcrifices. After signing the 6-3 Preliminary Agreement, explaining the necessity to sign the agreement, he pointed out: “The other major countries have not yet recognized our country, if the Democratic Republic of Vietnam opposes the French invasion at this time would have to fight alone. If there was resistance, the revolutionary forces could only hold a few provinces. The resistance may be very heroic, but the people will suffer greatly. The essential strategy used in conflict will turn life upside down. So we have to sign the agreement”(13)

However, when he could not continue to fight by peaceful methods and was forced to fight by armed forces, the General always valued and put the lives of officers and soldiers on top. As the Commander-in-Chief of the army, Comrade requested all units in the whole army to master the spirit of “having to achieve the highest level of victory along with reducing to the lowest the soldiers’ blood sacrifices”(14).

In order to achieve this goal, as the military leader at a very young age, without having undergone formal military training, the General constantly worked hard to study the quintessence of military ideology of the people and humanity, constantly summarizing reality, drawing practical experiences and lessons in combat command. The Comrade was always deeply aware that commanders at all levels in general, especially the Commander-in-Chief, had to be responsible for every wound and every drop of blood of their officers and soldiers.

As the person who directly built and commanded the Army from the beginning with small scale developed into powerful armed forces, General Vo Nguyen Giap understood the role of cadres and soldiers - the directly fight and decide the victory of each battle. Therefore, the General regularly advised cadres and commanders: “War is not the matter of appearance, not to be adventurous, not to take risks, not to allow trade-offs at any cost. A good commander is the one who defeats the enemy but has the lowest casualties and the least bloodshed. Human life is priceless and nothing can compensate for the pain lost in war”(15). The General was always tolerant, benevolent, and deeply loved cadres and soldiers; many times burst into tears at the sacrifices of cadres, soldiers and people. The general said: “The greatest happiness of the military leader is to be with his soldiers on the battlefield”(16)

As the person who directly fought under the General’s command and many years of research and teaching on military science, Senior Lieutenant General Hoang Minh Thao said: “The Commander-in-Chief spent many nights awake and crying with tears because in a certain campaign, the blood of the soldiers is shed too much and the victory is not commensurate. That is the heart of Mr. Van! That is the way of fighting, the humanistic approach of the General, Commander-in-Chief Vo Nguyen Giap”(17) and emphasized: “The unchanging principle in commanding and directing the battlefield of the General, the commander during the two fighting wars was: the elevate of each victory must be inversely proportional to the total number of wounded and dead in that victory”(18)

“The most difficult decision” to change the combat plan from “fight fast, win quickly” to “fight firmly, win firmly” in Dien Bien Phu campaign not only brought about a “splendid victory in five continents, glorious in the earth”, but also help preserve the vitality of the main force of our Army. Looking back many years later, Comrade Vuong Thua Vu said: “If at that time we could “fight quickly and solve quickly”, the fighting war against the French could be delayed by 10 years. Comrade Le Trong Tan also stated: “If there was no decision to change the motto, most of our cadres would not have been present in the fighting war against the United States”(19)

Our Party and State affirmed: “For the armed forces and the army, the General paid special attention to, cared for, educated, fostered, loved cadres and soldiers... Military officers and soldiers... The cadres and soldiers always remember and forever proud of a commander, an outstandingly talented Commander-in-Chief but very simple, close, and friendly”(20).

3. The General hopes to close the past of painful wars and losses to look forward to the future together 

Throughout his whole life, performing “Hope for the peace” according to the teachings of President Ho Chi Minh, General Vo Nguyen Giap always put the interests of the revolution, the country and the nation first, and sought to narrow the disagreements, conflicts, closing the past to look forward to the good future for the parties. He said that for the sake of national independence, for the sake of peace and happiness of the people, the national defense war must be waged. When the war is over, it is necessary to look forward to the good things in the future for the country, for the nation and for social progress. Those are important and meaningful works.

In many receptions, exchanges and conversations with foreign politicians and journalists, even those who used to be enemies, on the other side of the front lines, General Vo Nguyen Giap was always delicate, polite and straightforward and frankly expressing his goodwill to love peace and that of the Vietnamese people. 

In 1991, the French director, Daniel Roussel, the author of many documentaries about the war in Vietnam came to meet the General to make his film. The General very cordially said in French to Daniel Roussel that, making movies about war, but not for war, but in service of peace, those films will live forever with time. 

In 1995, during the meeting with Robert Mc Namara, former US Secretary of Defense in Hanoi, talking about the opportunities that could save peace in Vietnam that had been missed, the General pointed out: “while being resolute in fighting against aggression, Vietnam also very much wanted to end the war... It can be said that the Vietnamese side did not miss the opportunity because the Vietnamese people are the nation that loves peace more than anyone else and war will bring suffering first of all to the Vietnamese people”(21). The General emphasized that the Vietnamese people are the nation whose consciousness and determination to protect independence which have become the philosophy, cultural identity and also an unshakable principle. The General’s sincere sharing made the former US Defense Secretary very emotional. Speaking to journalists, he said: “I was really touched when I came back to Vietnam... What really touched me was that I didn’t notice the hatred in the eyes of the Vietnamese towards the Vietnamese people”(22)

In 1997, meeting with Robert Mc Namara again, discussing Vietnam’s relations with major countries during the war, General Vo Nguyen Giap repeated many times that big countries have the role of big countries, and small countries have the role of small countries. Today, in order to build a new world order, all nations must be equal and respect each other’s independence and sovereignty. G7 and G8 discuss with each other, yes, but if small countries are not taken into account, the world will never have peace, stability, and development”(23)

In 1998, receiving the family of former US President J. Kennedy at his home, without recalling the war, not to mention the dark history of the war that the US had caused in Vietnam, the General talked about the relationship between the two countries America and Vietnam were once allies against fascist Japan, about the photo of comrades taken with President Ho Chi Minh given by some American allies. The General’s affection and virtue significantly changed the perception of former President Kennedy’s family. During the meeting with American veterans in Hanoi on December 17th, 2006, the General said that they had previously come to Vietnam to wage the war. They had come back today to hold the peace meeting...

The general’s affection and goodwill towards international guests affirmed the Vietnamese people’s aspiration for peace and independence, while continuing to demonstrate the nation’s tradition of humanity and peace, desire to close the past, heading towards the future that the forefathers in history have done before after the end of the war against aggression. That is the spirit: “Bring great justice to overcome cruelty/Use kindness to replace violence” in order to bring eternal peace and put an end to eternal war for future generations.

________________

Endnotes:

(1), (2) The world mourns and praises General Vo Nguyen Giap, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2014, pp.20, 20.

(3), (9), (11), (13) Cecil B.Currey: Victory at all costs - Vietnamese military genius: General Vo Nguyen Giap (translated by Nguyen Van Su), World Publishing House, Hanoi, 2013, pp.448, 432, 203, 192.

(4), (5), (12) Nguyen Van Su: General Vo Nguyen Giap - The famous Generals of the twentieth century through foreign documents, People’s Army Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, pp.9, 9, 742 .

(6), (20) The eulogy read by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong at the memorial service for General Vo Nguyen Giap, on October 13th, 2013.

 (7), (14), (15), (16), (17), (18), (21), (22) Vo Nguyen Giap, the General for peace, excellent student of President Ho Chi Minh, New Era Publishing House, Hanoi, 2013, pp.14, 281, 14, 14, 287, 288, 276, 278.

(8), (10) Georges Boudarel: Vo Nguyen Giap, Nguyen Van Su Translation, World Publishing House, Hanoi, 2013, pp.235, 74.

(19) Tran Trong Trung: Vo Nguyen Giap - The famous General of the Ho Chi Minh era, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2010, p.30.

(23) Vo Nguyen Giap, Soldier for the people, General of peace, Lao Dong Publishing House, Hanoi, 2013, p.47.

ASSOC. PROF., Dr. LY VIET QUANG

Dr. PHAM VAN MINH

Institute of Ho Chi Minh and Party leaders,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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