General Giap on How U.S. Lost the Vietnam War
Netlore Archive: Bogus passage allegedly penned by former North Vietnam General Vo Nguyen Giap attributes U.S. loss of the Vietnam War to media bias and homefront disruption.
Description: Emailed quotation
Circulating since: Late 1990s (various versions)
Status: Falsely attributed to Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap (see details below)
Email contributed by an AOL user, Dec. 13, 2007:
Subject: Fwd: From General Giaps Memoirs...
General Vo Nguyen Giap.
General Giap was a brilliant, highly respected leader of the North Vietnam military. The following quote is from his memoirs currently found in the Vietnam war memorial in Hanoi:
"What we still don't understand is why you Americans stopped the bombing of Hanoi. You had us on the ropes. If you had pressed us a little harder, just for another day or two, we were ready to surrender! It was the same at the battles of TET. You defeated us! We knew it, and we thought you knew it.
But we were elated to notice your media was definitely helping us. They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the battlefields. We were ready to surrender. You had won!"
General Giap has published his memoirs and confirmed what most Americans knew. The Vietnam war was not lost in Vietnam -- it was lost at home. The exact same slippery slope, sponsored by the US media, is currently well underway. It exposes the enormous power of a Biased Media to cut out the heart and will of the American public.
A truism worthy of note: ....
Do not fear the enemy, for they can take only your life. Fear the media far more, for they will destroy your honour.
Analysis: Circulating in various forms ever since the 1990s, this statement attributed to General Vo Nguyen Giap of North Vietnam is not authentic, has never been authentic, nor will any amount of repetition will make it so.
The quote surfaced most recently in an anonymous forwarded email (example above) composed in December 2007, days after being mentioned on Rush Limbaugh's website, which in turn cited an October 3, 2007 NewsMax.com column by Geoff Metcalf as the source. According to Metcalf, the passage came from "[Giap's] memoirs currently found in the Vietnam War memorial in Hanoi."
Rewind to three years earlier and one finds the same passage being used as a weapon against John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign. It was repeatedly cited in texts inferring a connection between the candidate's antiwar activities during the 1970s and the Communist victory in Vietnam. This example, authored by ex-POW Michael Benge, is typical:
General Vo Nguyen Giap, the North Vietnamese general, the architect of the military campaign that finally drove the U.S. out of South Vietnam in 1975, is cited as crediting Presidential aspirant John Kerry and his VVAW with helping them achieve victory. In Giap's 1985 memoir about the war, he wrote that if it weren't for organizations like Kerry's Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Hanoi would have surrendered to the U.S." Giap was quoted as saying, "What we still don't understand is why you Americans stopped the bombing of Hanoi. You had us on the ropes. If you had pressed us a little harder, just for another day or two, we were ready to surrender! It was the same at the battles of TET. You defeated us! We knew it, and we thought you knew it. But, we were elated to notice the media were definitely helping us. They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the battlefields. Yes, we were ready to surrender. You had won!"The charge against Kerry was couched in slightly different terms by conservative columnist Greg Lewis, who also made reference to alleged remarks by General Giap:
-- Michael Benge, "Open Letter," Web-posted October 29, 2004
In the early 1970s, Kerry's group, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, was highly visible in the antiwar movement in America. North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap goes to far as to report that Hanoi was considering surrendering to the United States during the early '70s, but that groups such as Kerry's convinced them to stay the course because America was not firm in its resolve. According to Fox News Analyst and decorated Vietnam Veteran Colonel Oliver North, "The Vietnam Veterans Against the War encouraged people to desert, encouraged people to mutiny." North puts it bluntly: "John Kerry has the blood of North American soldiers on his hands."I have not been able to find a trace of the alleged Giap quote in any source published prior to 2004.
-- Greg Lewis, "Fellow Travelers, Useful Idiots, and Other Innocents," February 19, 2004
Vietnam War historian: Giap made no such statement
According to Clemson University history professor Edwin Moise, General Giap never wrote or stated any such thing. From Moise's comprehensive Vietnam War Bibliography (emphasis added):
Supposedly, General Giap had written in How We Won the War that in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive of 1968, the Communist leaders in Vietnam had been ready to abandon the war, but that a broadcast by Walter Cronkite, declaring the Tet Offensive a Communist victory, persuaded them to change their minds and fight on. This rumor was entirely false. Giap had not mentioned Cronkite, and had not said the Communists had ever considered giving up on the war.In his own words
Several variants of this rumor appeared in 2004. In these, Giap is supposed to have credited either the American anti-war movement in general, or John Kerry's organization (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) in particular, for persuading the Communist leaders to change their minds and not give up on the war. Giap is sometimes said to have made this statement in How We Won the War, sometimes in an unnamed 1985 memoir. All versions of the rumor are false. Neither in How We Won the War, nor in any other book (the 1985 memoir is entirely imaginary), has Giap mentioned Kerry or Vietnam Veterans Against the War, or said that the Communist leaders had ever considered giving up on the war.
The most relevant statement I could find that is actually attributable to General Giap was uttered in a 1989 interview with Morley Safer, as excerpted in The Vietnam War: An Encyclopedia of Quotations by Howard Langer (Greenwood Press, 2005, p. 318):
We paid a high price [during the Tet offensive] but so did you [Americans]... not only in lives and materiel.... Do not forget the war was brought into the living rooms of the American people. ... The most important result of the Tet offensive was it made you de-escalate the bombing, and it brought you to the negotiation table. It was, therefore, a victory....
The war was fought on many fronts. At that time the most important one was American public opinion.
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Sources and further reading:
Open Letter to Vietnamese-Americans, Vietnam and Other Veterans Concerning the Upcoming Elections
Open Letter by former POW Michael Benge, 29 October 2004
North Vietnamese General: America Lost at Home
RushLimbaugh.com, 3 December 2007
Iraq: We Must Remain Committed
NewsMax.com, 3 October 2007
Jonathan Winkler: Did General Giap Say the Vietnam War Was Won on the Streets of America?
History News Network, 25 October 2004
Did VVAW Lengthen the War by Protesting It?
Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Frequently Asked Questions
Vietnam War Bibliography
Edwin Moise, historian, Clemson University
Vietnam War: Vo Nguyen Giap
About.com: Military History
Last updated: 12/13/07