Sunday, August 27, 2006


Vo Nguyen Giap is the Vietnamese general who planned the Ho Chi Minh trail and defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu. In a rare interview with the author of a book about the trail, he recalls his part in defying the might of the US military

The teacher turned military genius Vo Nguyen Giap, who celebrated his 95th birthday today, is one of the last connections with the days of Ho Chi Minh and the start of the fight against colonial rule.

Remarkably, his army originally consisted of 34 people. By the time of the ultimate battle against the French at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954, it was a conventional force of thousands with weapons supplied by China and the USSR. His army would eventually rise to be over a million-strong against the Americans.

Gen Giap planned the Ho Chi Minh trail to run through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia with a total road length of 12,500 miles. It became a lifeline that provided his army with everything needed to live and fight effectively against the US. In a vain attempt to destroy the trail, the US dropped more than 1.6m tonnes of munitions on lower Laos alone during its 16-year period of operations, starting in 1959.

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