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Posted on May 30, 2006 in Armchair Reading

General Giap – May 2006

By Arrigo Velicogna


First of all I want to say that your magazine is simply astounding; every time it shows up in my mail box I cannot put it off until I have completed reading it.

But I was a little unsatisfied with one of the articles in the last (May 2006) issue, the one about General Giap. I have found it a bit uninformed. While a good overall summary of the general career it failed to point out that Giap was an ultimately unsuccessful General. Some thoughts on it:

While the operation of Dong Khe against the French was a success it didn’t set a pattern for subsequent actions. Emboldened by the success Giap switched to big unit offensive warfare resulting in some humiliating defeats during the red river campaign.

At Dien Bien Phu the burden of bad strategic and operational planning (and some outright treason) rest entirely on the French side and even on the Viet Minh side isn’t still clear if the winning decision to switch from human wave assaults to artillery siege was made by Giap or by some other officer in opposition to Giap (some Chinese sources claim it was one of their advisors).


In his confrontation with the South Vietnamese and American forces he clearly show a complete lack of understanding of basic strategic principle and of American new operational concepts. This is especially evident in his two big offensives, the Tet and the Easter Offensive. During the first he clearly showed a complete lack of consideration both for ARVN capability to fight and for Allied capability to quickly move units from one area to another. The end result was an outright defeat mitigated only by the unplanned and unwanted effect of media coverage on the American home morale. The target of the offensive was the ARVN and the Vietnamese people and these were incensed by the Tet  and put up a fierce answer to Giap’s strategic blunders (not to mention an inflexible schedule, operational concept and mutually unsupported axis). Again Giap repeated all these blunders on a grander scale during the Easter Offensive. Simply enough, that offensive squandered an entire conventional army in 3 unsupported (again) uncoordinated axis and again show a total lack of consideration of American air mobility, American airpower and ARVN tenacity.

After the Easter offensive his military career abruptly ends and the 1975 spring offensive was the product of a different set of officer who had previously opposed Giap like General Van Tien Dung.

So I think that the article on Giap is more a mainstream collection of "myths" than a serious attempt to discuss an important and controversial figure of recent military history.

Best Regards

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A J Summersgill
Armchair General Website Staff