GIAP by Peter MacDonald

GIAP

The Victor in Vietnam
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A perceptive briefing on the remarkable career of Vo Nguyen Giap, Vietnam's ranking soldier-statesman and, arguably, one of military history's greatest captains; by a British brigadier who gained direct access to his subject. Drawing on interviews with Giap, comrades in arms, adversaries, and such archival sources as exist in Vietnam, Macdonald offers a balanced, tellingly detailed rundown on how his protagonist played the leading role in an impoverished, industrially backward nation's defeat of two Western powers by force of arms. An activist member of the Communist Party long before he became (at Ho Chi Minh's behest) a world-class warrior, Giap (now 81) can look back on some signal accomplishments as commander of his country's guerrilla, militia, and regular forces over a 30-year span. Having conducted effective insurgencies during the late 1940's, for example, he routed the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Subsequently, Giap organized grass-roots resistance in South Vietnam, created resilient supply-lines, and masterminded campaigns that made continuation of America's Indochinese commitments politically untenable after the Tet offensive of 1968. In his evenhanded narrative (which doubles as a chronicle of war in Vietnam from the pre-WW II colonial era through 1975), Macdonald does not shy from assessing Giap's shortcomings. He faults Giap, for example, for his willingness to sustain severe casualties and for involvement in Politburo pogroms. Nor does Macdonald fully understand how a man of Giap's intellect could have clung to Marxism's discredited dogmas ``like a medieval Christian who dreaded the frightful consequences of uttering the slightest heresy....'' But Macdonald gives Giap full marks for strategic vision, geopolitical savvy, tactical finesse, and grasp of logistics (more an art than a science in a land where all resources, save manpower, were thin on the ground). As authoritative an account of Giap and his considerable achievements as is likely to be available any time soon. (Photographs and maps--not seen.)

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 1993
ISBN: 0-393-03401-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1992




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