Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the North Vietnamese general who repelled the French and American forces from Indochina, passed away Friday. He was 102.
One of the most legendary Vietnam vets around, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about his former adversary.
It’s a startling piece of writing, detailing their first encounter, after McCain was shot down in enemy territory. McCain was the son of the commander of all U.S. Forces in the Pacific, and so Giap came to his hospital room to get a glimpse of the young Naval aviator.
“He stayed only a few moments, staring at me, then left without saying a word.”
The two men met again decades later, in the early 90s. McCain described his angst to meet the man and ask him about his tactics in the war. But then the meeting came to an end. This is where the key interaction took place.
“We stood up, shook hands, and as I turned to leave, he grasped my arm, and said softly, ‘you were an honorable enemy.'”
The senator’s reaction:
I don’t know if he meant that as a comparison to Vietnam’s other adversaries, the Chinese, the Japanese or the French, who had killed his wife, or if it was an implicit recognition we had fought for ideals rather than empire and that our humanity had played a part in our defeat. Maybe he just meant to flatter me. Whatever his meaning, I appreciated the sentiment.
Read it in it’s entirety at the Wall Street Journal.
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