Giap's role in the Vietnamese revolution
Giap: The victor in Vietnam
By Peter Macdonald
Warner Books, 1994. $14.95 (pb)
Reviewed by Stephen Robson
Written by a brigadier, the book concentrates on a military assessment of Vietnam's long struggle for liberation and the central role Vo Nguyen Giap played in this. The author travelled to Vietnam in 1990, gaining a rare interview with Giap himself.
Giap gained international prominence following the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Massively out-gunned by the French, Giap and other leaders of the liberation struggle meticulously planned a siege of the French fort, eventually pulling off the victory just days before crucial negotiations over Vietnam's independence.
Like many military historians, Macdonald writes with a respect for one of the great military strategists of the 20th century.
What also comes out in the book are important differences in military strategy between the Vietnamese Communist Party and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Following the 1949 Chinese revolution, military advisers from the CCP were called upon by the Vietnamese, and the new People's Republic of China provided important aid.
The experience for China in the Korean War was to use human-wave attacks as a way of overcoming the lack of military strength.
Giap and other leaders took a different course, linking military strategy to politics. For these revolutionaries, morale and political clarity of the troops were crucial to military victory.
If, like me, you get bored with detailed discussions on the differences between a 175-mm gun, 120-mm mortars and 122-mm rocket launchers, don't be turned off, for the book has many positive features.
As in many other writings on Vietnam, the urban insurrections in southern cities during the first months of 1975 get no attention, presumably because most of them didn't involve important military battles.
With the 20th anniversary of the liberation of Saigon fast approaching, this book can help improve knowledge of the Vietnamese revolution.