Vietnam holds state funeral for General Vo Nguyen Giap

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

150,000 people lined up to pay respects to the so-called 'Red Napoleon'

The death of wartime General Vo Nguyen Giap has triggered public mourning in Vietnam as 150,000 people lined up to pay respects to the so-called “Red Napoleon.”

The sendoff for Giap, organised by the ruling Communist Party emphasised his leadership in wars first against France and then United States.

On Saturday, Giap's body was laid in state in Hanoi. The country's top leaders, along with veterans, diplomats and ordinary people paid their final respects ahead of Giap's funeral Sunday in his home province. The country's flag was flown at half-staff, and unrelated public events were cancelled.

"I'm not sure we will have a third leader like Giap and Uncle Ho, " said Tran Thi Thien, who rose at 3.00 am to pay tribute outside the Giap family home in Hanoi. "I hope the current leadership would look at how people love and respect Giap to improve themselves and better lead the country."

The mourning period has gone smoothly in a country where very little happens in public without the blessing of the ruling party. State media coverage projects a united nation, bolstering a government whose legitimacy still rests in part on its history of expelling foreign invaders.

But the extent of the  public mourning was unscripted, as hundreds of thousands lined up over four days outside Giap's house to pay their respects in an outpouring of grief.

Giap is best remembered for leading Vietnamese forces to victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

His Chinese advisers told him to strike elite French forces fast and hard, but Giap changed plans at the last minute and ordered his jungle troops to besiege the French army. The French were defeated after 56 days, and the unlikely victory led not only to Vietnam's independence, but hastened the collapse of colonialism across Indochina and beyond.

A Vietnamese war veteran (C) cries as he proceeds to the National Funeral House for the funeral service of late general Vo Nguyen Giap, in Hanoi 12 October, 2013  

"He was an outstanding general, but he was a very simple man and very down to earth," said Nguyen Chan, a 78-year-old who fought in Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and on Saturday was gathering in a park watching the coverage of the mourning on a big screen. "For us, he was a commander in chief, a teacher and also a father."

Giap remained commander in chief of the People's Army of Vietnam during the war against the United States, overseeing the expansion of a small crew of soldiers into a significantly larger and more sophisticated army. Giap was credited for his leadership role during the Tet Offensive in 1968, where Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army challenged South Vietnam and US troops in a sporadic wave of attacks. Although many of Giap’s army were severely weakened and eventually driven back, the ambush served to change public attitudes to the Vietnam war in America.

A woman holds a newspaper clipping of the late general Vo Nguyen Giap as she stands with other mourners outside the National Funeral House in Hanoi 12 October, 2013  

After the wars, Giap maintained his position as Minster of National Defence under the new Socialist Republic of Vietnam, before being made Deputy Prime Minister in 1976.

He retired from the Government six years later, having been side-lined and removed from his post in the Politburo in 1982.

"Giap was a critical figure in contemporary Vietnam history, however one part of his life will always be associated with his question of authority," said Jonathan London, a Vietnam expert at the City University of Hong Kong. "His legacy will be used as badge of legitimacy for the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, but this is occurring at a time when Vietnamese are questioning the direction of their country."

Additional reporting by Associated Press

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This winner of the best new business in Shrops...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This winner of the best new business in shrops...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - Email Marketing Services

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are looking for a highly or...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultan...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders