Everyone is familiar with Gen. George S Patton, Jr., old blood and guts, the swashbuckling, winningest general in World War II, who has been the subject of a critically-acclaimed major motion picture; yet few people are familiar with his quiet counterpart in Southeast Asia, Gen. Nguyen Van Hieu, the Vietnamese patriot and unsung hero of the ARVN. These two capable military officers--one widely known and the other neglected, just as one was brash and the other reserved--seem to be as far apart in style of leadership as one can possibly imagine. Here East and West never meet. Yet upon close examination, these officers are found to be so very much alike in the conduct of their general commands. Indeed the similarities between the two soldiers are striking--so much so that the case can be made that Gen. Hieu must have read Patton's book, studied it, and taken it to heart.
Topic of comparison (Patton's book page):
George S. Patton, Jr. War as I Knew It: The Battle Memoirs of "Blood 'N Guts, Annotated by Colonel Paul D. Harkins, (Bantam Books: 1980).
Patton possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of battles, an exceedingly thorough understanding of the ways and thoughts of the enemy, and a masterful comprehension of the roadways and terrain--ancient and modern--on which the army campaign was to sweep.
Hieu was quite in deliberation yet decisive in execution, a master of maps and briefings yet thoroughly tactical in the field, communicative with allies, comprehensive on the larger plan yet good with details, and possessing a technological edge.
Both came from backgrounds that were rich in history and culture.
In some ways Hieu was more spiritual--while Patton achieved his glory and fame on earth--the unsung hero of the ARVN will perhaps yet gain his luster in heaven when the final battle will take place between good and evil. Here the weapons will be different, the outcome of the battle sure. No more losses, or wounded, and gone will be the dying cries of men and the bitter betrayals of friends turned enemy. In this war of perfect strategy held from on high and flawless tactics below, the trumpet will sound. Out into the field shall come St. Michael and all his glorious cohorts, the all-around commander Nguyen Van Hieu included; orders will be given, dispatched, executed, and with a shout of force the forces of evil shall fall before the mighty power of Him we call Lord. Victory! Victory! Victory! shall be ours at last! Happiness shall flow! Quickly souls of the just prevail and the poor inherit the earth. Now the slaves are set free; and the hungry fed. Charity reigns. Nothing more needs to be said, then, as silently we see when our hearts are pure. May the soul of the brave Lt. Gen. Nguyen Van Hieu, untiring soldier and fearless patriot of Vietnam, faithful son as he is, incorruptible in life and death, eternally rest in peace. Amen.