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A Vietnamese General Remembers "Uncle Ho"

Vo Nguyen Giap (b. 1912) served as Vietnam's leading military commander during three decades of war against the French, Japanese, and Americans.  He was a strong supporter of Vietnamese independence and, like Ho Chi Minh, became a Communist revolutionary.  During World War II, Giap organized the Viet Minh resistance against both the Japanese occupiers and French colonists. A master of guerilla warfare, Giap won the decisive battle against the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. During the 1960s, he commanded the People's Army of Vietnam which fought against the United States. In this interview with historian Christian Appy, Giap remembers Ho Chi Minh and explains the success of Vietnam's "People's War."

Journalists and scholars all ask me the same question: “How did we win?”….We won the war because we would rather die than live in slavery.  Our history proves this.  Our deepest aspiration has always been self-determination.  That spirit provided us with stamina, courage, and creativity in the face of a powerful enemy.

Militarily, the Americans were much more powerful than we were.  But they made the same mistake as the French––they underestimated Vietnamese forces of resistance.  When the Americans started their air raids, Uncle Ho said: ‘The Americans can send hundreds of thousands, even millions of soldiers; the war can last ten years, twenty years, maybe more, but our people will keep fighting until they win.  Houses, villages, cities may be destroyed, but we won’t be intimidated.  And after we’ve regained our independence, we will rebuild our country from the ground up, even more beautifully”....

All his life Uncle Ho devoted his love and energy to the country and the people.  A few days before he died in 1969, he wanted to talk with me and other leaders....In his final days he was still thinking hard about how to win the American War.  He asked many questions about the situation at the front…. I said, “Everything is okay.  The army is fighting well.  We will certainly win”....

I remember one meeting [with Ho]…in the 1940s.  We were sitting near a fire at night and I said, “We talk about a general uprising, but we don’t even have any weapons.”  Uncle Ho calmly replied, “Don’t worry, if we have the people, we have he weapons.”  So we started mobilizing the people to help us.

Source | Christian G. Appy, Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered From All Sides (New York: Penguin, 2003), 42-43.
Interviewer | Christian G. Appy
Interviewee | Vo Nguyen Giap
Rights | Used by permission of Chris Appy. For on-line information about other Penguin Group (USA) books and authors, see the Internet website at: http://www.penguin.com.
Item Type | Oral History
Cite This document | “A Vietnamese General Remembers "Uncle Ho",” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 19, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/998.

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