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General Vo Nguyen Giap
In defeating the French at Dien Bien Phu, he heralded the end of imperialism

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At age 95, his face is sunken and his white hair a mere wisp. But in 1954, General Vo Nguyen Giap masterminded the bloody 57-day siege against a French garrison in Dien Bien Phu in northwestern Vietnam—which signaled the coming end of colonialism. Fourteen years later, Giap triumphed in another epic battle, the Tet offensive, widely considered the turning point of the Vietnam War.

The communist Viet Minh's victory at Dien Bien Phu was the first by an Asian resistance group against a colonial army in a conventional fight. It struck down the myth of Western invincibility, led to the ignominious withdrawal of the French from Vietnam, and inspired anti-imperial forces worldwide.

Today, still dashing in his uniform, Giap modestly rejects the notion that these military feats made him a hero. They were merely proof, he insists, that "the Vietnamese people, with the spirit of patriotism, can do extraordinary things." True. But Giap showed them the way.

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