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Thousands bid farewell to Vietnamese war hero

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TRAN VAN MINH | October 12, 2013 11:45 PM EST | AP

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HANOI, Vietnam — HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of people lined the 40-kilometer (25-mile) route from the capital to the airport Sunday morning to bid their last farewell to a legendary war hero who led the Vietnamese to victory over the French and then the Americans.

"Long live Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap," people chanted and many burst into tears as his flag-draped coffin passed by on a truck-drawn artillery carriage.

Giap, who died on Oct. 4 at age 102, was revered in Vietnam only second to his mentor, former President Ho Chi Minh.

In a eulogy, Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong said Giap's great contribution will be "forever imprinted in the nation's history."

Giap's body was to be flown for burial in his home province of Quang Binh in central Vietnam later Sunday.

"No words can describe how much love and respect people reserve for Gen. Giap," said Nguyen Thi Vi, 71, from central province of Ha Tinh, as she was waiting in the crowd.

"I feel like I lost one of my relatives. Gen. Giap will live forever in the heart of Vietnamese people and we may not witness another great man like him," she said. "We should set up temples to honor him and where people can go and pay their respect."

In the lead-up to his funeral Sunday, an estimated 150,000 visited Giap's colonial villa in Hanoi to pay their respects.

On Saturday, several tens of thousands of people lined up to say farewell when his body was laid in state at the national funeral house. Visiting hours were extended from 9 p.m. to midnight, but still thousands were left lined up outside when it closed.

Giap will be buried at his home province of Quang Binh in central Vietnam later Sunday in accordance with his wishes and those of his family instead of the Mai Dich cemetery in Hanoi where most dead Vietnamese high-ranking officials were buried.