An absorbing biography of Vietnam's ranking soldier-statesman and, arguably, one of military history's greatest captains, from a scholar who gained direct access to him. Drawing on interviews with and material supplied by Giap (who turned 85 earlier this year), Currey (Edward Lansdale, 1988) offers an engrossing account of how his protagonist played a leading role in an impoverished, industrially backward nation's military defeat of two Western powers. A dedicated member of the Communist Party long before he became a warrior, the self-taught Giap accomplished much as supreme commander of his country's guerrilla, militia, and regular-army forces. Having conducted effective anti-colonial insurgencies during the late 1940s, for example, he routed the French in a pitched battle at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Giap subsequently organized grassroots resistance in South Vietnam and masterminded campaigns that made continuation of America's Indochinese commitments politically untenable after the Tet offensive of 1968. In his tellingly detailed narrative (which doubles as a chronicle of armed conflict in Vietnam from the pre--WW II era through the border clashes with Cambodia and China in 1979), Currey (History/Univ. of South Florida) does not shy from cataloguing Giap's shortcomings. Among other things, he faults him for his active involvement in the Politburo's bloody pogroms and his willingness to sustain appalling casualties in pursuit of his objectives. The author nonetheless gives Giap full marks for strategic vision, geopolitical savvy, tactical finesse, and grasp of logistics. Currey also makes a fine job of reconstructing Giap's early years as a teacher and the influences that set him on a revolutionary's path. An authoritative briefing on a great general.