Vietnam: Of Courage and Pain

(A JoP compilation)

Vietnam showed principled stand and courage.  Sacrifice and suffering, tenacity and creativity, and organization, leadership, planning and far-sightedness of the people of Vietnam stand as an example in the world anti-imperialist struggle. The Vietnam War (1954-1975) was people’s war.

Pain the people of Vietnam suffered is unimaginable. Still they are bearing the pains. The people of Vietnam showed their willingness and capacity to stand against imperialism, to defend their country and their way of life. They stood for national liberation, reunification of their country, non-interference in their society, and peace.

The people’s historic struggle stood as a lesson for all to learn. Their struggle stood as a struggle to defend the world people, humanity. With their heroic struggle against imperialism, the people of Vietnam contributed to world peace.

On April 30, 1975, imperialism had to accept a humiliating defeat, and had to run away from Vietnam. The way it ran away was like a joker. The following reports tell only a fragment of Vietnam’s struggle:

Report 1

Sinking of US aircraft carrier

Former commando Lam Son Nao proudly recalls his participation in the sinking of the US aircraft carrier Card. — VNS Photo Van Dat
Former commando Lam Son Nao proudly recalls his participation in the sinking of the US aircraft carrier Card. — VNS Photo Van Dat

Van Dat writes in Viet Nam News:

“Seventy-nine-year-old former Vietnamese commando Lam Son Nao still feels uncomfortable whenever he thinks about the moment he tried to recover 84 kilos of explosives that had been left near the USNS Core aircraft carrier.

“Recalling the event of 52 years ago during a recent interview at his home in Ho Chi Minh City, Nao said he first conducted a feasibility study for the attack by inspecting a two kilometre-long sewer tunnel three times before he and his comrade Nguyen Van Cay were approved to proceed with the mission.

“They later set the explosives to go off at 7pm on December 29, 1963, but they failed to detonate because of a weak battery.

“Nao then decided to return to the aircraft carrier to retrieve the explosives.

“‘At that time, I thought of two situations. First, I thought if I touched it, it would explode. If I was killed, that would be OK. Second, I was afraid that the enemy would ambush and arrest me, and collect the explosives,’ Nao recalled.

“Fortunately, nothing happened, and he was able to bring the explosives back to his home.

“As an employee of the Sai Gon Port, Nao could operate stealthily, as his secret activity as a commando for the northern army went undetected.

“After the failed sinking of the USNS Core, Nao scored his biggest achievement four months later when he and others helped sink the USNS Card aircraft carrier.

“He has not forgotten the afternoon of April 30 in 1964, when port operator Do Toan, who was one of his three comrades, informed him that the USNS Card would arrive at the port on May 1.

“He was determined to destroy the Card at all costs as it was carrying several aircraft and other weapons to support the Sai Gon administration.

“He inspected the detonator, which included a new battery, and a redesigned bomb with 80kg TNT and eight kilos of the plastic explosive Composition C-4.

“‘During this attempt, I intended to ask Cay to go with me, but he had a problem with his eyes, so I chose Nguyen Phu Hung, alias Hai Hung, a mason at the port, as my fellow operative,’ he said.

“Carrying the explosives past the Sai Gon Port in what was a strict security situation was a great challenge.

“During his previous mission, Nao said he had carried the explosives on his boat in the sewer without attracting the attention of others since he was a worker at the port and he looked as if he was doing maintenance work.

“‘For the Card mission, my fellow operative and I pretended to be fishermen. When our boat reached Nha Rong Wharf, the police chased us to the bank of the Thu Thiem Peninsula. To avoid having my boat inspected, we pushed the boat to a swamp, so that the police boat could not reach it,’ he said.

“Nao told the police that he wanted to reach a boat to take 20 radios and clothing, and he promised that he would share some of the goods with them.

“He gave the patrol police 1,000 Vietnamese dong in advance and promised to give them another bribe when they returned.

“‘By chasing us, they had (unwittingly) guarded the area for us, where we rowed our boat carrying the explosives through the sewer and put it near the aircraft carrier,’ Nao said.

“While he was talking to the police, a militia man had jumped on the boat.

“Nao and Hung thought they could kill him when the boat entered the sewer.

“‘But I did not want to kill him. I told him that the goods contained much more than just 20 radios. The shipment was very heavy. I asked him to get off the boat, so we could have space for the goods, and told him that I would give him a big amount of cash later,’ he recalled.

“Everything went smoothly. The commando, named Ba Sau (crocodile) since he swam well, dove in the water to tie the explosives to the carrier in two places.

“He set the explosion to go off at 3am that day. Just 15 minutes after both of the men arrived home safely, they heard a big explosion.

“‘I saw that the whole area near the port was dark. The next morning, four of us went to work normally as if nothing had happened the previous night,’ he said.

“Nao said at that time he knew the carrier was a prestigious American ship, but it was only later that he learned of its storied history.

“The aircraft carrier had played a significant role in destroying 11 German Navy submarines during the Second World War, he said.

“The Card sank 48 feet with high casualties. The explosions also destroyed 23 military helicopters and jets, Nao said.

“The happiest moment for him was when he heard the voice of President Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap praising the victory on the radio.

“Asked why he chose to be a Communist commando, the native of the city’s Nha Be District said that several people in his family had died during the resistance war against the French. His family’s poverty was one of the reasons as well.

“‘Working at the port every day, I saw American vessels unloading numerous weapons, including tanks and fighter jets, to support the Sai Gon administration killing Vietnamese, so I decided to do something to stop them,’ Nao said.

“Nao, who began working for the port when he was 17, registered to become a commando and later was assigned to return to the port for the secret mission.

“His father, who had worked at the port facility as a tradesman, was the person who suggested that he use the sewer during the secret mission.

“‘When I decided to be a commando, I was determined that I would die and even die without a name,’ he said.

“Between 1963 and 1965, he and his fellow commandos took part in 18 battles. He was jailed and tortured between 1967 and 1973 after being caught by a counter-espionage agent.

“His final tasks as a commando occurred in 1975 during the last days of the war.

“On April 29, 1975, Nao and other commandos under the instruction of Tran Minh Son, chief of staff of the Sai Gon-Gia Dinh Commando Group, were asked to protect the Sai Gon Bridge and force the enemy to release their guns while other commandos and troops triumphantly entered the Independence Palace the following day, signalling the end of the war.”

Report 2

Vietnam still battles Agent Orange legacy

To many, the Vietnam War is now part of history. But to many, it still lives brutally and painfully in the lives of many people in Vietnam. Agent Orange, a toxic chemical used as a defoliant, was one of the weapons the U.S. used in its war against the people in Vietnam. Millions of gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed over Vietnam by the U.S. army. Still the people there suffer from effects of Agent Orange.

Tang Thi Thang baths her disabled son Doan Van Quy outside their family home in Truc Ly, in Vietnam's Quang Binh Province April 11, 2015. Doan Van Quy's father, a soldier who served on 12.7 mm anti-aircraft guns during the Vietnam war, said he lived in several areas that were contaminated by Agent Orange. Two of his sons were born with serious health problems and the family and local health officials link their illnesses to their father’s exposure to Agent Orange. Photo: Reuters/Damir Sagolj
Tang Thi Thang baths her disabled son Doan Van Quy outside their family home in Truc Ly, in Vietnam’s Quang Binh Province April 11, 2015. Doan Van Quy’s father, a soldier who served on 12.7 mm anti-aircraft guns during the Vietnam war, said he lived in several areas that were contaminated by Agent Orange. Two of his sons were born with serious health problems and the family and local health officials link their illnesses to their father’s exposure to Agent Orange. Photo: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

Reuters in a report from Danang on April 28, 2015 cites a number of Vietnamese suffering from effects of Agent Orange. The Reuters report said:

“Tan Tri doesn’t know a thing about Agent Orange. But doctors say he lives with its effects every day, when he crawls off his wooden bed and waits for someone to feed him. He is 25.

“His mother Vo Thi Nham was exposed to Agent Orange when U.S. forces showered the chemical across swathes of Vietnam half a century ago to the destroy jungle cover of its wartime enemy.

“Nham believes it’s the reason her son was born physically and mentally disabled.

“‘Other people around here were affected by Agent Orange, too, but it was really bad for us,’ Nham said at her home in Danang, central Vietnam. ‘At least they can walk – he can’t.’

“Tri, slumped on the concrete floor at her feet, chimed in.

“‘I can walk with my arms!’, he said, correcting her.

“The Vietnam War ended 40 years ago this week and its memory is fading among its young population.

“But Agent Orange is the enduring legacy it cannot forget, with children of a second postwar generation still being born with deformities which their doctors believe are linked to the defoliant.

“Some three million Vietnamese have suffered from fatal diseases, disabilities and illness after coming into contact with Agent Orange, according to the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA).

“Today deformities are visible everywhere. In the streets, beggars carry children with swollen heads or unnaturally bent limbs. Bodies are twisted, some are born without eyes.

“A Reuters journalist this month travelled from north to south Vietnam and documented lives of many disabled people whose relatives doctors say were exposed to Agent Orange.

“One former soldier, Do Duc Diu, said he buried 12 of his 15 children after they died as infants.

“He has graves prepared for two daughters who are sick and may not live long.

Do Duc Diu is kissed by his disabled daughter Do Thi Nga as his wife sits at the doorway of their house in Quang Binh Province in central Vietnam April 11, 2015. Do Duc Diu served as a North Vietnamese soldier in the early 70s, in areas that were heavily contaminated by Agent Orange. He only found out about the possible dangers of Agent Orange before his last child was born in 1994. He said that if he had known about the possible effects of Agent Orange he would not have had children. Photo: Reuters/Damir Sagolj
Do Duc Diu is kissed by his disabled daughter Do Thi Nga as his wife sits at the doorway of their house in Quang Binh Province in central Vietnam April 11, 2015. Do Duc Diu served as a North Vietnamese soldier in the early 70s, in areas that were heavily contaminated by Agent Orange. He only found out about the possible dangers of Agent Orange before his last child was born in 1994. He said that if he had known about the possible effects of Agent Orange he would not have had children. Photo: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

“Le Dang Ngoc Hung, 15, lies taciturn on a bamboo mat most of the day, his listless eyes and mouth drooping. Hung cannot walk and has the delicate skin of a newborn because he rarely ventures outside.

“‘It was sad,’ his mother, Le Thi Thao, said recalling when she discovered his disability. ‘But he is my son, so of course, I have to take care of him.’

“Agent Orange is complex, its long-term impact much debated and subject to legal cases by Vietnam and American veterans.

“U.S. studies have found heightened risks of prostrate, lymphocytic leukemia and melanoma in exposed servicemen, but similarly with the impact of dioxin on postwar generations of Vietnamese, research indicating strong links has also cited complexities in making conclusive determinations.

“Washington allocated $43 million in 2012 to clean land contaminated by dioxin from the estimated 20 million gallons of Agent Orange sprayed in Vietnam from 1962-1971, but many Vietnamese say that’s not enough.

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“Some American veterans are sympathetic, like Chuck Palazzo, who has devoted years of his life to working with Vietnamese to fight the stubborn vestiges of Agent Orange.

“But he’s unsure if they’re winning the battle.

“‘Does it get better or does it get worse?’ he said. ‘It’s a grind. And you have to keep at it. We just have no idea how long this is going to last.’”

Report 3

The Iron Bird blew up US aircraft

Le Thi Thu Nguyet, the Iron Bird
Le Thi Thu Nguyet, the Iron Bird

Minh Hung of Thanh Nien News reported on Le Thi Thu Nguyet, who blew up a Boeing 707 carrying 80 American military advisers during the Vietnam War. Le Thi Thu Nguyet is dubbed the Iron Bird for her accomplishments during the war for the liberation of southern Vietnam.

Thanh Nien is the tribune of Vietnam’s Youth Association. The report from Ho Chi Minh City on April 27, 2015 was headlined “How a 19-year-old Vietnamese woman blew up US aircraft in Vietnam War”, and was published in Thanh Nien News.

The report said:

Le Thi Thu Nguyet was just 19 when she blew up the plane carrying American military advisers.

“It was just one of many accomplishments that the 71-year-old Ho Chi Minh City woman recalled at a recent exhibition held in the city to honor Vietnamese women soldiers.

Nguyet (L) talks to young soldiers in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Minh Hung
Nguyet (L) talks to young soldiers in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Minh Hung

“But it was that plane explosion that fetched Nguyet, a member of Biet Dong Saigon (Saigon Special Force) that fought for Vietnam’s reunification right in Saigon, her nickname Chim Sat (Iron Bird).

“In 1963, she was assigned to set explosives in the plane carrying the advisers from Tan Son Nhat Airport to San Francisco.

“She had pretended to be the mistress of Muoi Luan, a liberation agent sent to work undercover for the US-backed Saigon regime, and accompanied him frequently to the airport to win the trust of officials.

“She told Thanh Nien News: ‘I was really embarrassed. I was unmarried but had to pretend to have an affair with a married man.

“‘I was criticized by my family and was even beaten by his jealous wife on the street.’

“On March 25, 1963, she pretended to be pregnant to hide an amount of C4 plastic explosives while seeing off Muoi Luan at the Tan Son Nhat Airport.

“In the airport toilet, she put it in a suitcase and secretly exchanged it with the luggage of one of the American advisers.

“‘I set the bomb to explode 15 minutes after the plane took off, but an unexpected thing happened.”

“The bomb went off only at Honolulu Airport in Hawaii, two minutes after the advisers got off to transit.

“‘I bought the cheapest clock due to our unit’s difficult financial situation. And we did not calculate the fact that clocks slow down due to low pressure on the plane,’ Nguyet said.

“The advisers escaped but the explosion was a big shock to the US Army.

“She said: ‘Uncle Ho (President Ho Chi Minh) called to praise me. The BBC and radio stations in Hanoi also reported it, saying the Vietnamese were fighting the Americans not only in Saigon but also pursuing them to attack them in their own den.’

“On another occasion, Nguyet was assigned to transport primers hidden in two containers of peanut oil through a US military checkpoint.

“She intended to set off the primers and die there before a thought struck her.

“‘Suddenly I remembered an officer in charge of recruitment for the military (of the US-backed Saigon regime) named Tran Tu Oai, and told them I was his daughter.

“‘Luckily they were too afraid of his influence to verify further and quickly loaded the two oil tanks on my motorbike again.’

“Nguyet also transported weapons and poison to kill four American soldiers, destroyed a US Army helicopter and undermined a military exhibition in 1962, when she was just 18.

“In 1963 Nguyet was arrested while on her way to a major secret conference of the liberation forces and was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

“She was transferred to several notorious prisons, including Chi Hoa and Con Dao, and tortured.

“‘I was jailed with a bear at a military security base on Nguyen Binh Khiem Street. I was not scared because they only wanted to threaten me and had a muzzle on the bear.

“‘I was also hung over dogs but did not confess to anything.’ She has large scars in her legs from being bitten by the dogs.

“After demonstrating several times in Chi Hoa, she was transferred to Con Dao before being released in 1973 following the Paris Peace Accords.

“A tough soldier who was conferred the honorary title of Hero of the Vietnam’s Armed Forces, Nguyet is also a typical family-oriented Vietnamese woman.

“She used to stay with her uncle after her mother, a member of the National Liberation Women’s Association, died when she was a toddler and her father moved to the north in 1954 to fight for the nation’s liberation.

Nguyet and her family live in Ho Chi Minh City's Phu Nhuan District. Photo credit: Phu Nu Online
Nguyet and her family live in Ho Chi Minh City’s Phu Nhuan District. Photo credit: Phu Nu Online

“Asked what motivated her to overcome all difficulties, she said she wanted to find her father and fight like him to chase away all enemies.

“When leaving her in 1954, her father promised to return to meet her in two years. But he only did so when the war ended more than 20 years later.

“Nguyet has two sons with her husband, Colonel Do Khanh Van of the Military Zone 7.

“Her elder son, a Boston University graduate, works for Vietnam Airlines while her other son works in real estate after studying in the UK.

“‘We always tell them to learn advanced technologies abroad to serve our country.’”

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