|       
Vietnam War Statistics and Facts 1   |   Vietnam War Statistics and Facts 2   |   Vietnam War Statistics and Facts 3   |   Vietnam War Statistics And Facts 4   |   Vietnam War Statistics and Facts 5   |   Vietnam War Statistics and Facts 6   |   Service Numbers   |   Service Numbers 2
Vietnam War Statistics and Facts 6
Back To 25th Aviation

2 February 1983
SOUTHEAST ASIA REPORT
No. 1247
VIETNAM: HISTORY OF THE BULWARK B2 THEATRE,
VOL 5: CONCLUDING THE 30-YEARS WAR
Ho Chi Minh City KET THUG CUOC CHIEN TRANH 30 NAM in Vietnamese (Translated)
1982 pp 5-335

[Book by Colonel General Tran Van Tra published by the Van Nghe Publishing House, Ho Chi Minh City. Printed at the Joint Printing
Plant, Ho Chi Minh City; 10,000 copies printed. Printing completed on 27 March 1982 and submitted for registration on 27 March 1982]

Introduction .
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Last Chapter


CONTENTS

The New Front 6
The Only Path Is That of Revolutionary Violence 30
Punishing the Agreement Violators * 48
The Greatest Rainy Season Ever 76
Beginning of a New Phase 105
A Once-in-a-Thousand Years Event: The Spring General Offensive and Uprising 136
The War-Deciding Strategic Battle:The Historic Ho Chi Minh Campaign 166
Final Hours of a Regime: The Ho Chi Minh Campaign Wins Total Victory 194
The Municipal Military Management Committee 214
- a - [III - ASIA - 107]

INTRODUCTION

[Text] In 1978 the Political General Department of the Vietnam People's Army adopted the policy of having cadres who worked and fought on the battlefields write memoirs about our nation's glorious war against the United States and recommended that I write about the B2 theater during the victorious spring of 1975: "How did the B2 theater carry out the mission assigned it by the Military Commission of the Party Central Committee?" How did it contribute to that glorious spring?"

Along with the other battlefields throughout the nation the B2 theater, in order to fulfill its glorious mission, contributed considerably to our people's great victory. The B2 theater and its people are proud of being part of the heroic Vietnamese fatherland, of the heroic Vietnamese people. Recalling and recording the events that occurred there is an honor and a responsibility of all cadres, enlisted men, and people of B2. I accepted the recommendation.

But I believe that the contributions of B2, one of the key war theaters, were not only its battles, its rice, its routes, and its people who sacrificed their lives, but also things that were much greater and which were valuable strategically and with regard to organizational art, and which by actually furthering the process of victory in the war contributed to the policies and lines of the Central Committee. They included not only heroic victories but also temporary, bitter defeats in certain places and at certain times, for they were all true and were valuable experiences. They are musical notes which are indispensable to composing the heroic symphony of the area. Therefore, to only record some events of the final victory, although it was a very great victory, would be a major deficiency. In order to .create a bright spring it is necessary to pass through a gloomy winter, and a victorious dry season can be based only on the rainy season of the preceding year. It is difficult to speak of the foliage without speaking of the roots, and to do so would be inaccurate.

Therefore, I decided to record what I knew and remembered of the B2 theater throughout the long anti-U.S. resistance war. That was not a simple matter, so it was necessary to spend a good deal of time thinking, seeking documents, meeting with cadres I once knew, and returning to the battlefields of the past, in order to find the truth, which changes very faithfully. It was necessary to request many comrades to lend their assistance and cooperation, and to add together the memories of many comrades holding many positions in many areas of the theater. But I was determined to succeed in that project, for I regarded it as my final responsibility toward the liberation war-one which I could not delegate to others-and toward B2, an area which I love and in which I lived and served for most of my life, from the days of secret political activity prior to the August Revolution to the complete victory which unified the fatherland, and which I may select as my final resting place.
I have divided my book into five parts:

Part 1: From the Geneva Agreements in 1954 to the simultaneous uprising movement in 1960.

1 -

Part 2: From 1961 to 1965, the period of effective resistance to the special war.
Part 3: From 1965 to 1968-the defeat of the U.S. limited war.
Part 4: From 1969 to 1973, opposing the Vietnamization of the war and chasing the U.S. troops from Vietnam.
Part 5: From the Paris Agreement of 1973 to the complete victory (1973-1975).

I begin by writing about the final strategic phase (Part 5), a phase that is still current because it is appropriate to the requirements of many people,especially the men of B2.

But what was B2? Perhaps even now there are many people who are not very clear about that. To help the reader better understand the events about which I have written, I believe that it is necessary to mention some of the features of the B2 theater.

"B2ff was the code name of the land and people in the southernmost part of the homeland during the anti-U.S. war period. Vietnam south of the 17th Parallel was divided into four theaters. Bl, usually called Zone 5, included the central coastal provinces from Quang Nam-Da Nang to the present Phu Khanh Province.

B3, the Central Highlands region, consisted of the provinces of Gia Lai, Kontum, and Dae Lac. B4 was made up of Quang Tri Province and the former Thua Thien Province. B2 consisted of the rest of South Vietnam, from the former Gia Nghia Province (part of the present Dae Lac Province), Lam Dong, Thuan Hai, and on down to the Ca Mau Peninsula, Con Son, Ha Tien, and Phu Quoc. It included a vast jungle-and-mountains area, the tail of the great Truong Son mountain range. From mountain peaks north of Dalat and Lam Dong 1,500 to 2,000 meters high, the elevation gradually declines in the direction of eastern Nam Bo. Bordering that area is the vast, fertile, highly populated lowland area of the Mekong Delta, the location of such famous resistance war bases of the past and the U Minh forest, Dong Thap Muoi, etc. It is a flat, open, humid area with rice paddies alternating with gardens and hamlets and is intersected by such large rivers as the Dong Nai, Soai Rap, Vam Co, and Cuu Long, and a large number of small rivers, canals, and arroyos. Some areas are inundated practically the year round, or are wet 6 months and dry 6 months.

In some places there is a shortage of fresh water the year round. A coast thousands of kilometers long, a vast continental shelf rich in natural resources, and such major seaports and river ports as Vung Tau, Saigon, My Tho,Can Tho, Rach Gia, etc., are advantages for aggressors coming from the sea.

The road network in Nam Bo, the most highly developed in South Vietnam, was improved by the Americans to support their mechanized operations. Saigon,the capital of the lackey puppet administration, the largest city-at one time it had a population of 4 million-and the political, military, and economic center of South Vietnam, was situated in the center of the B2 theater and, along with many other large cities such as Da Lat, Phan Thiet, Bien Hoa, Tay Ninh, My Tho, Vinh Long, Can Tho, Ca Mau, and Rach Gia, formed a system of bases from which the U.S.-puppet operations were launched in all directions. It was also the center for the application of the neocolonial policy, a place where the debauched American

-2-

lifestyle flourished, and a place which consumed American goods and served the large expeditionary armies and the lackey forces. The United States and its puppets organized South Vietnam into four tactical zones.

The area south of the Ben Hai River was Military Region I and the Mekong Delta corresponded to Military Region IV. Saigon, situated in the middle of Military Region III, was organized into the Capital Special Zone and was the command headquarters and the center of the U.S.-puppet war apparatus.

Our B2 theater accounted for about half of the land and about two-thirds of the population of South Vietnam, and encompassed part of the enemyTs Military Region II and all of their military regions II and IV.

To facilitate guidance and command in the extremely fierce warfare, we divided the B2 theater into Military Region 6 (the southernmost part of Trung Bo [Central Vietnam], Military Region 7 (eastern Nam Bo), Military Region 8 (central Nam Bo), and Military Region 9 (western Nam Bo and Saigon-Gia Dinh).*

It must be added that about three-fourths of the border between our country and Kampuchea lay within the B2 theater. That area included land routes and river routes connecting the two countries, such as national routes 1, 22, and 13, the Mekong and So Thuong rivers, the Vinh Te Canal, and other roads and small rivers. The people of the two countries had always had good relations with each other in work and business. Friends, relatives, etc., usually experienced no problems in crossing the border by road, river, or canal. The destinies of the people on the two sides of the border have always been closely^ bound together and have fought shoulder-to-shoulder for the common well-being and shared good times and bad. That angered the enemy, who expanded their aggression and tried to sink their talons into both countries.

The people of B2 are honest and loyal and are independent in nature and their deeply patriotic ancestors came from north and central Vietnam.

They always think of our beloved Uncle Ho and Hanoi, the capital and the ancient Thang Long, with an immortal sentiment:

*The military regions encompassed the following provinces:

Military Region 6: Quang Due (Gia Nghia), Tuyen Due (Da Lat), Ninh Thuan,Binh Thuan, Lam Dong, and Binh Tuy.

Military Region 7: Phuoc Long, Long Khanh, Phuoc Tuy (Ba Ria), Binh Long,Binh Duong (Thu Dau Mot), Bien Hoa, Tay Ninh, Hau Nghia.

Military Region 8: Long An (Tan An), Kien Tuong (Moc Hoa), Kien Phong (Sa Dec),Dinh Tuong (My Tho), Go Cong, and Kien Hoa (Ben Tre).

Military Region 9: Chau Doc, An Giang (Long Xuyen), Vinh Long, Vinh Binh (Tra Vinh), Phong Dinh (Can Tho), Ba Xuyen (Soc Trang), Kien Giang (Ha Tien-Rach Gia), Chuong Thien (Bad Lieu), and An Xuyen (Ca Mau).

Saigon-Gia Dinh Special Zone

3 -

"From the time we used swords to expand the nation we have for a thousand years remembered Thang Long"(Poem by Huynh Van Nghe, a military commander in Nam Bo during the anti-French resistance war).

The people of B2 are proud of their indomitable national-salvation, revolutionary traditions of the past, such as the anti-French movements of Nguyen Trung True, Thien Ho Duong, Doc Binh Kieu, Thu Khoa Huan, and Truong Dinh, of the staunch patriotic spirit of Nguyen Dinh Chieu, etc., with the "clusters of leaves that hide the sky," Can Giuoc, and Go Cong, the "Eighteen Hamlets of Vuon Trau," Hoc Mon, Ba Diem, etc. B2 still cherishes the celebrated feats of arms of the cloth-shirted Nguyen Hue on the Rach Gam River, and still has fond memories of our wise leader Ho Chi Minh who led the way to national salvation, and lived in Phan Thiet City, Ben Nha Rong, etc. Then there was the blood shed by our predecessors in the Nam Ky uprising in 1940, the August Revolution in 1945, etc. All of those things continually reminded and encouraged the people of B2 to be prepared to arise, once they had awakened, and sacrifice everything for independence and freedom.

In writing these thoughts and memories, I hope only to fulfill the obligations of a soldier who was fortunate enough to have lived and operated in a glorious era of the fatherland and of the people, and above all his obligation toward B2 or, more accurately, toward the people of B2, whom I love, all the people in the cities and in the rural areas, living scattered about the jungles, the mountains, and the maquis or concentrated in the subwards and villages.

Especially, toward my friends, relatives, comrades, and fellow unit members, people I knew as well as those I didn't know, who were from all over the country,from Lang Son to the Ca Mau Peninsula, who fell in the B2 theater and whose blood stained every inch of the B2 theater so that we could win independence and freedom, and who sacrificed everything so that the North and South could be united and work together in building socialism. They were people who had great merit toward the great recent victory of our people and the homeland.

Only they, people who never thought of themselves and contributed their entire lives, are worthy of living in the memories of thousands of future generations. That very sacred mission, which is also an order of history and the people, is to faithfully record and correctly evaluate the developments and events, and the hardships and noble sacrifices of the land and people of B2 which I witnessed, know about, and still remember.

Of course, because my knowledge and writing ability are limited, and because an article or book can only concentrate on a certain number of matters, I unfortunately could not deal with all of the miraculous accomplishments of the Vietnamese in the B2 theater, who resolutely, heroically, and creatively responded to the skilled leadership and guidance of the party Central Committee throughout the long and glorious resistance war and contributed their effort and skill to the historic resistance war. I only hope to record some of those events within the limits of my understanding, in order to make a small contribution to the people who are still alive today and to those of future generations. To do so is also to make a small payment on the debt I owe to the people who gave there lives in the B2 theater for their nation and class.

- 4 -
Because of that heavy responsibility, I decided to write only the complete truth, the truth that everyone knows as well as the truth some people do not yet know, which some people like and other people do not like. History is always truthful and will mercilessly eliminate what is not true, if not today then tomorrow. I hope that the readers everywhere, especially those who operated in the B2 theater, will contribute opinions and supplement the deficiencies and the omissions. I will be very pleased and grateful.

I also would like to express my gratitude for my comrades and friends who encouraged and assisted me, and who have contributed very valuable opinions and cooperated in all regards.

I would like to thank the comrades in the war recapitulation sections of the Ministry of National Defense, Military Region 7, Military Region 9, and Ho Chi Minh City, and the comrades who were members of the provincial unit commands in B2. My special thanks go to comrades Senior Colonel Nguyen Viet Ta and Captain Vo Iran Nha, who devoted much effort to assembling documents and contacting the localities, and who contributed worthily to the contents of this book. Spring, 1980

- 5 -

CHAPTER ONE

The New Front

A series of violent, incessant B52 bomb explosions shook the headquarters bunker of the Regional Command. Immediately afterwards loudspeakers hanging from tree limbs announced the report of the area duty officer: "Nine B52's divided into three groups dropped three strings of bombs across Zone A and between Bl* and B2**. Everyone is safe."

We continued the conference. A staff cadre arrived to report that "The Central Staff has sent a message informing us that the Paris Agreement had been signed!

I instinctively smiled and thought about those strange final minutes between war and peace, if indeed there was to be peace. It seemed that, significantly, the Americans had made full use of the final minutes of a war that had lasted decades by sending B52 steel crows to send "messages of reconciliation!"

Even so, news that the Paris Agreement had been signed caused everyone to breathe a sigh of relief. Joyful expressions appeared on the faces of the commanders. Those faces were all weatherworn: everyone looked thin but healthy. Was that not a valuable prize for nearly 10 months of continuous fighting all over the theater to force the enemy to sign an agreement to end hostilities and conclude a strategic phase?

Never before had a military activity campaign been as prolonged and as increasingly intensive as during the recent period. The military regions and units reported to the Regional Command the victories they had won, and the positions our troops had taken from the enemy hour by hour, but at the same time there were continual reports about the difficulties, the shortages of troops, food, and ammunition, and especially the fatigue of the cadres and men. The Military Region 9 Command (western Nam Bo) sent a message recommending straightforwardly that the Regional Command order an immediate cessation of hostilities so that we could reorganize our forces. The troops were no longer capable of fighting! But the enemy was extremely obstinate. They had been painfully defeated on the battlefield, had been outnegotiated at the conference
table, and had been forced to sign in October, but had then reneged on their promise. So what should we do? Conclude our activities and rest, at a time when our objectives had not been attained? No! We had to continue to fight. We would fight until they understood the will of revolutionaries.

The difficulty was deciding what to do at that time. If we stopped, things would go in one direction. If we made a little more effort and won a few more victories we would bring about a qualitative change and things would go in another direction. That is what we did. We made a little more effort and won a few more victories in South Vietnam at a time when it was thought that we were exhausted and could no longer fight because we were out of rice and

* The Regional Command
** The Regional Staff

6 -

ammunition. We were steadfast, fought back intelligently and proudly, and shot down large numbers of B52fs and other airplanes during 12 long days and nights in Hanoi and Hai Phong, as if something miraculous had happened, as in the ancient myth of Lac and the dragon. And clearly, we were able to create a new quality. The enemy-the leading, most dangerous and cruelest imperialist country of the era-had to bow its head and submit. They had to sign an agreement to end the war and restore peace in Vietnam and agree to completely withdraw the U.S. and puppet troops from South Vietnam and recognize the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Vietnam.

"Fight until the Americans get out and the puppets collapse.

"Advance! The soldiers and people of the "North and South will meet in a happier spring."

Dear Uncle Ho! We had carried out to a decisive degree your instruction of a previous year, which manifested the skilled policy of the state. Once the Americans got out the puppets would have to get out and the north and south would be reunited. We pledged to go all-out to achieve his dream as soon as possible.

The decisive turning point of the war had been created. A difficult route had been traversed with great effort and we gathered together all our strength to travel the remaining distance, which might prove to be no less complicated and difficult. But we could see rosy rays of light on the horizon.

On a Monday in January 1973, at the Regional Command Headquarters, in a bunker in the middle of a jungle base area, the atmosphere was bustling and seething.

We were monitoring the situation on the battlefield and the units, but our focus was on urgently discussing a plan and measures for implementing the Paris Agreement strictly and effectively. Many tasks had to be carried out: quickly reorganizing our forces, being vigilant toward the enemy, whom we had known  well for a long time, etc. Suddenly a staff cadre entered and handed comrade Nam Nga (i.e. Maj Gen Nguyen Minh Chau), regional chief of staff at that time, an urgent message. Comrade Nam Nga quickly read the message then, with
a serious expression that could have meant either happiness or worry, handed it to me. The message said that the Central Committee had appointed me head of the military delegation of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam to the Four-Party Joint Military Commission in Saigon. Oh! How sudden! The Central Office [COSVN] and the Regional Military Party Committee had decided on the make-up of the delegation in advance, and it had already been approved by the Central Committee, but now there was a sudden,
last-minute change. In only 3 more days I would have to be in Saigon!.

During my several decades as a soldier I had experienced many surprises, on the battlefield, in my work, and from people-both friends and enemies-but that surprise both pleased and worried me. It worried me because I was unfamiliar with such work and the time was too pressing: I had to pack and set out before I had time to get a handle on the job, let alone making full preparations for the new struggle front, which was completely different from the battlefield. However, that was not the first time I had been surprised by an assignment from the upper echelon. I was used to it. I had confidence in the
7 -


leadership of the upper echelon and in my colleagues, and confidence in myself.

I calmly accepted my responsibility. In fact, in this instance there was greater enjoyment in it for me. My beloved Saigon! For a long time, during
the era of the French colonialists, I had lived, engaged in seething revolutionary activities, won victories, and tasted defeat there. I had been away from the city fighting for decades, and was now returning in full view of thepeople and my comrades, and within the thick encirclement of the enemy. The streets, markets, factories, poor workers' neighborhoods which I knew in the past had now certainly changed greatly, but even so I still had memories of other people from Saigon, like myself, who decided to leave so that they could later return in triumph. Once before I had tried to return but couldn't.

This time, although it was not to be a permanent return, was as delightful as a beautful dream. Every minute many imagined images of Saigon, both in the past and in the present, passed across my mind like a roll of film. When he saw me sitting in silence, comrade Muoi Khang (i.e. Senior General Hoang Van Thai, then a lieutenant general), asked me, "What else can you do but accept the mission? Congratulations!"

He then came up to shake my hand and hug and kiss me, and suddenly the room was echoing with congratulations and requests, and was tumultuous with the sound of laughter. There was no longer the atmosphere of a meeting. I exchanged a few pleasantries with Muoi Khang, then requested permission to prepare for my trip to Saigon. Muoi Khang would care for everything for me at home.

When I went back to my house and looked around at what had been familiar surroundings for years, I was suddenly saddened by the prospect of leaving. A light breeze blew in, bringing along the sweet scents of a myriad of flowers in the green jungle. In front of the house, in a narrow field extending along the valley, flocks of small birds hastily gleaned the grains of rice which were dropped during the recent harvest. The stream running along the fields was winding its way under rows of trees that were leafless because of the bombing and shelling. There had just appeared a few fresh young saplings. Every object that day seemed to have an overflowing, fresh, affectionate soul. I don't know how long I would have sat there meditating if Chin Vinh (Maj Gen Tran Do) and Hai Le (Maj Gen Le Van Tuong), the deputy political officer and
political director of the Regional Command, had not come in and pulled me back to reality.

"Do you need anything else? Are you satisfied with the organization and composition of your Joint Commission delegation?" asked Chin Vinh.
I agreed to maintain unchanged everything that had been arranged, and only requested the addition of comrade Tu Bon (Senior Colonel Nguyen Huu Tri), an intelligence cadre and Army Hero who had lived in Saigon more than 3 years and who had come to the base only a few months previously, after learning that he had been compromised. He was an expert on Saigon and knew all of its streets and many people in various circles in the city. In addition to helping me carry out a number of tasks, he would be my driver if the enemy agreed to let us provide our own drivers.

- 8 -

Hai Le informed me that "The Central Committee had requested you to tell it what name you intend to use so that it can be passed on to Paris. Our delegation must inform the U.S.-puppet side.11

Like everyone else, I had never used my real name, but had habitually used a code name, which I had changed now and then to make it difficult for the enemy to monitor me and maintain secrecy for our operations. The usual practice in wartime was for us to use a different name for each task during each phase.

Now, faced with a new mission, I would meet the enemy face to face and would of course have to choose a name. Almost without thinking, I took the name "Nguyen Viet Chau," the name of a younger brother with whom I had been very close and who was killed in 1969 when he was presiding over a meeting of the party committee of Can Tho City, My brother and I had lived in Saigon, had participated together in secret revolutionary activity there during the period of French domination, had been released from a French prison at the same time,had participated together in the August 1945 uprising, and had left our beloved Saigon to take part in the resistance war. Now I was returning to that city and naturally thought about my esteemed younger brother, my comrade in death as well as in life. I was happy to take that unforgettable name. But then ond day, during an ordinary meal at the Regional Command at which Bay Cuong (comrade Pham Hung, a member of the Political Bureau and secretary of COSVN) was present, I suddenly remembered that I was not returning to Saigon as a stranger but was going under an assumed name, which would be inconvenient.

Many of the people of Saigon could not forget their children who had gone to fight in the resistance war years ago and in whom they had placed their confidence and hope. And a considerable number of the enemy, such as Tran Thien Khiem, the puppet premier, Lam Van Phat, a puppet major general, and a number of others, knew me. After graduating from the French military academy in Dalat they went to Dong Thap Muoi to join the resistance.

As the commander of Military Region 8 at that time, I accepted and sent them to study and practice at the military region military administration school. But then, because they could not bear the hardships and did not love their country or their people, they deserted, surrendered to the French, and continued to serve their French, and the American, masters. Even the Americans might have dozens of photographs of me. Thus it would be best to use a name with which everyone, friend and foe alike, was familiar. The members of COSVN and the Regional Military Party Commission agreed. Thus I recommended that the Central Committee agree to the change and send a message to Paris so that the other side could be informed that the head of the delegation of the PRG of the RSVN would be Lt Gen Tran Van Tra*

Within a short period of time I drafted a plan to prepare in all ways for my new assignment, reviewed the organization of the delegation, and discussed in detail with Ba Tran (Maj Gen Tran Van Danh) the mission, personnel, documents, and facilities, especially the communications-liaison facilities, foresaw contingencies, decided on the measures, and assigned Ba Tran, the deputy delegation head, to represent me in directing all implementation tasks.

Ba Tran, who was born in Hoc Mon, grew up in Saigon and joined the anti-French resistance war in 1945, was the regional deputy chief of staff and was responsible for organizing and guiding the delegation and for strategic guidance.

-9 -

He was an expert on Saigon and knew a good deal about the enemy. I had confidence in his ability and thought that the enemy would also respect him because he was robust, fair-skinned, stout, muscular and proper.

I attended a Regional Command meeting, in which the staff, political, rear services, and other organs participated, to discuss in detail all measures for coordinating struggle between the conference table and the battlefield.

I emphasized that if the enemy respected us at the four-party conference table in Saigon and we were victorious in implementing the Paris Agreements, that it would principally be due to the strength of our troops and to our comrades on the outside. We promised that we would be worthy of being representatives of the heroic people's armed liberation forces of the South in the middle of the enemy's capital and in the bosom of our beloved compatriots.

We were due in Saigon on 28 January 1973. We had agreed to a time for the Americans to pick us up by helicopter at Thien Ngon, a location in northern Tay Ninh on National Route 22. In the past, Thien Ngon had been a small settlement of people who earned their living in the forest. During the war the Americans chased away all the people and built a strongpoint there for a U.S.

brigade. It had an airfield, a supply depot, and a drill ground. From it were launched sweeping operations in the surrounding areas. At the beginning of 1972-by that time the puppet army had replaced the Americans-Thien Ngon was the main focus of the "Nguyen Hue" campaign.* In the course of our campaign we completely eliminated that strongpoint. Thus Thien Ngon was then only an old, desolate battlefield on which the vegetation had been burned ^nd the surface of which was scarred by bomb and shell craters and littered with the hulks of U.S. tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and trucks, which were strewn all over. There remained only a runway usuable only by helicopters.

After informing the enemy of the pick-up time we sent a reconnaissance team to Thien Ngon to rebuild some old bunkers, in which we would await the enemy before, during and after the appointed time. The members of that team reported to us every 15 minutes on all developments in the situation there. Meanwhile, a fully equipped delegation of cadres prepared our actual departure point at the Loc Ninh airfield. Our delegation organized a leisurely Tet celebration in advance. We knew that when we arrived in Saigon we would have to urgently begin work, even though the lunar New Year was only 4 or 5 days away, so we wanted to enjoy a Tet "at home," in our free, liberated area, that was embued
with friendship between those leaving and those remaining behind. Celebrate Tet in advance! We were only repeating something that had happened several times in the history of our people's combat. Quang Trung-Nguyen Hue had his troops celebrate Tet in advance in 1789 at the Tarn Diep bivouac area before they advanced on Thang Long, destroyed the Manchu-Ch'ing army, won a brilliant victory at Dong Da, and permanently ended the Chinese protectorate in our country.

In the spring of 1968 the South celebrated Tet in advance-Tet Mau Than- so that it could carry out the general offensive and uprising, smash the
aggressive will of the U.S. imperialists, create a crisis in the White House, scare the Pentagon to death, and force the United States to deescalate the war, negotiate with us at Paris, then conclude the endlessly long conference during the spring of 1973. This spring-the spring of 1973-we were again celebrating *0ur offensive campaign in eastern Nam Bo in 1972.

- 10 -

Tet in advance so that we could go into the very lair of the enemy, force them
to correctly implement the agreements, and see what tricks they would play and
what they truly wanted.

The Tet feat in the bunker of the Regional Command was very flavorful. It was
not very elegant but there were Tet cakes, including glutinous rice cakes, pork,both from pigs we had raised and from wild pigs, and with watermelon, liqueur,local products, and products from Hanoi. The comrades at COSVN, the Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, the government, and the Regional Command,representatives of the mass association organs, and even a reporter from the liberation press, etc., joined in the festivities with the members of our delegation.

The atmosphere was truly intimate and cosy. Happiness spread over everyone's face. The happiness increased with every glass of liqueur. We toasted the victory, pledged to meet again under even more auspicious circumstances, and toasted the success both at the conference table and on the battlefield.

In the midst of the Tet meal, when the conversation was deafening, we
received a message from Thien Ngon: "At the appointed hour the U.S. helicopters did not arrive to pick up the delegation. Instead, two enemy airplanes circled twice and dropped bombs around the air strip. Bomb fragments and fragments of the hulks of tanks and armored vehicles flew over our bunker. Then there was silence." Everyone poured some more liqueur and lifted their glasses to toast
the health of the delegation members, to toast our cleverness and vigilance,
and to warmly toast our delegation's first victory over the cowardly treachery
of the Americans and their puppets. The conversation during the meal became
even more resounding because of discussions about the Thien Ngon incident,
the U.S.-puppet capability to violate the Paris Agreements, and the complications of our mission and of our work on the battlefield. Despite all that, everyone was burning with strong confidence, confidence in the inevitability of our victory under any circumstances. Everyone's eyes were alive with the brilliant vitality of spring. Outside, rays of sunlight shining through the foliage illuminated the jungle. The weather was dry, cool and pleasant. Everywhere, along the roads, there were streaks of white flowers, interspersed with the shiny golden color of wild apricot blossoms. This year spring came early in the base area, and the vegetation seemed to compete in responding to the happiness of victory.

Loc Ninh, a highly populated, prosperous town in the liberated area of eastern
Nam Bo, was situated 100 kilometers from Saigon on National Route 13, which extends into Kampuchea and then Laos. Extending northward was National Route 14> which went to Ban Me Thuot and the Central Highlands. Extending southward was Route 17, which connected with our northern Tay Ninh base area. After it was liberated in April 1972, Loc Ninh became an important military position which threatened the enemy's defense of Saigon, and was a political center of the liberated B2 area. Loc Ninh, in the fertile red-soil area, which was appropriate for the growing of tropical crops, had vast rubber plantations left over from the French colonial period and luxuriant orchards of all kinds of fruit-durians, rambutans, mangos, milk fruit, etc.-and hundreds of hectares of valuable pepper and coffee. In the past Loc Ninh had been a district seat in Binh Long Province, a strong point which lay within the puppet III Corps' outerperimeter for the defense of Saigon. During our "Nguyen Hue" campaign, Loc

- 11 -

Ninh was the principal objective and the most important position hat had to
be taken on the enemy's outer defensive perimeter. We not only wiped out a fortified brigade-level base but also wiped out many tank and armored regiments and many powerful task forces of the puppets' III Corps, and captured many POW's and officers, including Colonel Vinh, whom we later, out of humanitarianism and to demonstrate our good will, returned to the United States and its puppets.
For those reasons, Loc Ninh had come to symbolize our victory and the disgraceful defeat of the enemy. We wanted the enemy to send helicopters to pick up our delegation at Loc Ninh so that they would remember that terrible blow.

From that glorious spot, our delegation would proudly enter the puppet capital.
Immediately after they committed treachery by bombing the designated Thien Ngon
location, we vigorously protested and demanded that they pick us up at Loc Ninh.

Each time they disgracefully failed in an attack on us they had to be brought
to their senses by the strength of their adversary. We hoped that they would
not dare play any more dirty tricks, although we were fully prepared, for we
knew that the enemy's nature would never change. After bombing Thien Ngon in
order to wipe out our delegation to the Central Joint Military Commission,
which we protested, they sent troops to carry out sweeping operations and
bombed the locations designated as pick-up points for our delegations to the
joint military commissions in the Pleiky and My Tho regions and to the local
joint military teams in Phu Bai, Da Lat, Kontum, and Tan An. They continually
took advantage of every small opportunity, regardless of reason or of the provisions of the agreement, to carry out schemes and plots in hopes of annihilating us-every person and every hamlet-if they could. Every time they did so we vigorously protested their acts at the four-party meetings in Saigon and they apologized and blamed the local security forces, whom they promised to
punish. We were well aware that they were making empty promises just to get
us to think that the Americans and their puppets had a plan to sabotage the
Paris Agreement on both a small scale and a large scale.

Was not history repeating itself? The French had been heavily defeated and had
to sign the Geneva Agreements in 1954, after which the Americans endeavored to
prevent the agreements from being implemented. Today, the Americans and their
puppets had suffered a heavy defeat and were trying to sabotage the Paris
Agreement. However, we were people who were experienced. We had fought and
negotiated in order to achieve agreements favorable to the revolution. We would struggle to implement all articles of those agreements. For the independence and freedom of the people, we were prepared to sacrifice and fight to the end.

At the same time, we held out a hand of national reconciliation and concord
in order to save those who had gone astray. But in view of our bloody experience in the past we were not so foolish as to believe that our enemies
would sincerely carry out the agreements. Therefore, we were not surprised
by such perfidy. We had drafted two plans to cope with two possible developments: first, because our struggle bore results and because of pressure from rur people and the people of the world the enemy was forced to correctly implement the Paris Agreement; second, they would sabotage and abandon the agreements.

It was all up to the enemy. We were attempting to bring about the
first contingency, but we were prepared to cope with the second one.

- 12 -

On 1 February 1973, at the appointed hour, a flight of U.S. helicopters commanded by an American lieutenant colonel who was accompanied by a puppet officer, and flying along the course and at the altitude we had designated, made a circle around Loc Ninh and, one after the other, from the northern end of the air strip. While they were circling around they had clearly seen the air
strip, the town and, more importantly, the large number of anti-aircraft positions and tanks, deployed in many perimeters around the town, which were prepared to respond if they tried any funny business. On that day the town of
Loc Ninh was like a large festival. Revolutionary flags few everywhere, especially at the airfield there was a solemn, orderly atmosphere. A large number of people of all categories, cadres, and neatly dressed troops assembled and formed ranks. There was a forest of gold-starred red flags, mixed in with
half-blue, half-red flags and countless banners and slogans applauding the
victory of the Paris Agreements on Vietnam, demanding the strict and absolute
implementation of the agreements, acclaiming the military delegation of the
PRG of the RSVN, etc. A quick, seething, and spirited rally was held beside
the waiting American helicopters. Many delegates representing the various circles and mass associations arose to make brief speeches in which they demanded peace and national concord, congratulated our delegation, and expressed confidence in the inevitable victory of the delegation's struggle. On behalf of the delegation, I expressed its gratitude to the cadres, enlisted men, and people who had come to applaud and solemnly see off the delegation, acknowledged the advice given the delegation, and promised to be worthy of that confidence.

The U.S. officers and flight crews tried to appear civilized and stood looking on in silence, but the puppet officers were perplexed and angry and remained seated in the helicopters, not daring to come out.

After the rally was over, as ordered by the commander of the Loc Ninh airfield
the U.S. helicopters started their engines. I turned and glanced at the comrades and people and gave a loving look at the scenery of Loc Ninh, then shook hands with everyone. I hugged and kissed comrade Van Pha, deputy head of the Regional Political Office, with whom I had participated in the "Nguyen Hue" campaign at Loc Ninh several years previously, and comrade Le The Thuong, in
charge of propaganda-training in the region, with whom I had once traveled the entire length of the Truong Son trail. Comrade Thuong promised, "I'll send you a photograph I took of the people seeing you and our delegation off to Saigon." Our delegation members waved to the people, then the comrades, two abreast, solemnly boarded the helicopters, amidst the affection of the people and the forest of flags and flowers. The U.S. major commanding my helicopter
was very polite, carefully inspecting my seat, then stepped down, stood at attention and saluted, invited me to board the helicopter, fastened my safety belt, then sat down in his seat. The helicopters took off in an orderly formation, circled once above the airfield, then headed straight for Saigon along Route 13. The large number of people at the airfield were not the only ones seeing us off: nearly everyone, people traveling along the road, standing in their yards and on the streets, or working in the rice paddies and potato fields around Loc Ninh stopped work to wave at us. That was an extremely
moving, very peaceful scene in an area scarred with the devastation of war.

What did the Americans in the helicopters, and the puppets think about that scene, which was completely in contrast to the scene a few days ago. The same helicopters had caused much death and separation for countless families; when

- 13 -

they flew overhead there was nothing below them, not a single person on the ground below! Suddenly the American major turned toward me and half jokingly,half seriously said, "You have won the war!"


The flock of helicopters followed Route 13 past Binh Long, Tau 0, Chon Thanh,
Bau Bang, Lai Khe, Ben Cat, etc. All of those places had been the location of
many fierce battles between us and the American and puppet troops over the
course of many years and still bore the marks of the glorious feats of arms of
the diligent and heroic eastern Nam Bo troops. I looked down at the jungle,
which previously consisted of thick growths of large and small trees but was
now denuded and desolate. There were many bomb craters on the surface. Many
long scars of devastation caused by B52 carpet bombing succeeded one another and
criss-crossed one another in the devastated jungle. When they looked down from
above, the Americans thought that nothing could survive where their B52fs had
passed over, so they boasted that the B52 were terrible gods of war. Then we
flew over the Saigon River, the Binh Loi Bridge lying between two thick nets
of steel, then An Phu Dong, then Tan Son Nhat. The helicopters landed in the
military part of the airfield. Our delegation thanked the crew members and
shook their hands. Looking neat in the tidy insignia-less liberation army
uniforms, we formed into an orderly line on the runway. The officers carried
briefcases and wore revolvers. The enlisted men wore floppy jungle hats and
carried backpacks and AK rifles. Everyone wore the famous rubber sandals. I
don't know whether the Americans and their puppets understood the significance
of that or not, but the many Vietnamese and foreign reporters who were present
at the airfield that day were very observant. They photographed us with movie
cameras and still cameras. I smiled with delight when I noticed them photographing our rubber sandals. They said, "Wearing simple, proud rubber sandals,they sat foot on Tan Son Nhat. They entered Saigon, capital of the Republic of Vietnam, in the same rubber sandals they wore during Tet of 1968." (UPI, 1 February 1973). The reporters told the truth. Those rubber sandals had
left their proud imprints on the streets of Saigon, at many important objectives,and even at Tan Son Nhat airfield, as well as all the other towns,
cities, and municipalities in South Vietnam during Tet Mau Than, so that there
could be the scene on that day-rubber sandals entering Saigon with good will-
and so that some day it would be certain that the rubber sandals could return
to Saigon yet another time-to a liberated Saigon. I looked at the line formed
by the cadres and men of the delegation from one end to the other and felt very
happy and proud. They had bright eyes and bright smiles and stood erect,
looking correct and imposing, all of which expressed the confidence of victors.
They were cadres and men from all battlefields and holding many different positions,and they were from many different components and of many different age groups. Some had served since the anti-French resistance war and some had
answered the call of the simultaneous uprising. Some of them took up arms in
Saigon during the Tet Offensive, and others had been in the army only a year
but had contributed to the immortal LOG Ninh-Route 13 victory. They stood
there like simple, ordinary, natural people before the lenses of the reporters
and before the inquisitive, curious, and surprised eyes of the U.S.-puppet MPfs
who were standing around. From the crowd there came toward us people wearing
the uniforms and insignia of the Hungarian and Polish armies. It turned out
that they were our Hungarian and Polish comrades in the International Commission for Control and Supervision who had come to the airfield to greet us and

14 -
offer our delegation all necessary assistance. I intimately greeted those comrades and expressed my deep gratitude. After completing several simple forms, we got into black American Fords and Chevrolets to go to the delegation's headquarters-which the Americans and their puppets called "Camp David"-in Tan Son Nhat airfield.

Camp David, formerly a U.S. military camp, had been renovated. It consisted
of many temporary wooden, sheet-metal roofed barracks arranged in straight
rows, between which there were broad paths and occasionally a shade tree. It
was very hot, especially at midday. In addition to the heat there was the roar
of all kinds of airplanes and helicopters. The noise, which came from all directions, made everyone angry and irritable. It was difficult to think, work
and relax. Fortunately, after the sun went down at dusk the area naturally
became cooler, but there was no way to turn off the incessant noise. It was
indeed a military camp. It was entirely adequate for soldiers in wartime, but
fell far short of the minimum standards of a diplomatic delegation. They were
clearly playing a dirty trick on us there. Perhaps they had spent a lot of
effort to find an "appropriate" headquarters for both of our delegations: the
military delegation of the government of the DRV and our delegation.

As soon as we entered the gate of the camp, Le Quang Hoa, Luu Van Loi, Ho Quang
Hoa, Bui Thanh Tin and many other people I knew, practically the entire DRV
delegation, rushed up and surrounded our convoy. Just after we got out of the
car brother Hoa presented me with a bouquet of fresh lilies from Hanoi, then
everyone hugged one another. There were sounds of laughter and backslapping.
It was truly moving-especially the spirit of brotherhood among the children
of the same mother-the motherland-who had writhed in misery and pain during
years of warfare. It was truly heartwarming and happy when comrades-in-arms
who had lived and died together on the battlefield and faced a cruel enemy, now
met in the bosom of the enemy, surrounded by enemy troops, with one noble objective: struggling for peace and national concord.

I turned to hug and kiss Doang Huyen, deputy head of the military delegation of
the PRG of the RSVN, who had gone to Saigon in advance to participate in meetings of deputy delegation heads and discuss the work procedures. Duong Dinh
Thao, a member of our delegation who had also arrived at Saigon via Paris, anxiously relayed to me a letter and warm salutations and congratulations from
Nguyen Thi Binh and our delegation in Paris.

The camp was divided into two parts: one side was reserved for brother Hoa's
delegation and the other was reserved for my delegation. But the Americans and
their puppets had the good intention of preparing for the two delegation heads
a relatively decent house built in the duplex style: each of us had half of the
house, including a living room, an office, a dining room, a bedroom and a bathroom. There was a door to each of the rooms, and there were airconditioning,bright lights, a telephone and other conveniences. We clearly understood their "good intentions." Therefore, we moved into other rooms and lived and worked with the others. We turned that house over to specialists so that they could inspect it. After searching around for days they showed us some very small microphones they had found under tables in the offices and livingrooms. We joked with one another that we didn't know whether they had been put there by

-15 -

the Americans or by the puppets, or put there as a practical joke by carpenters
who were also electronic technicians. There were many other such stories:
jamming the radio channels we used to communicate with the base areas,obtaining
copies of our telegrams, etc. But enough! It does no good to talk. Doubtlessly,
that was a common story to the Americans in the age of electronics. What
were those stories compared to the Watergate affair in Washington? The important thing was that we were aware of, and were on guard against, even the
smallest detail. That was nothing less than the continuation of a war that had
not yet ended. The enemy used every trick they could use, from modern weapons
that could kill many people at a time to the most sophisticated electronic
machinery, the radar and lasers used in the viewing and listening devices,
from MacNamara's fence to Camp David. In its 15 March 1973 issue THE STARS AND
STRIPES, the newspaper of the U.S. Army in the Pacific, admitted that !!The
United States had fought three long wars in this century. The Vietnam war was
the largest war with regard to the number of bombs dropped and was also the
largest with regard to the use of science and technology in warfare!11
That was a matter of abusing modern U.S. technology for aggressive purposes, to
kill people and deceive others. As for the puppets, they had neither technology
nor intelligence, so their U.S. masters assigned them the task of playing vile,
petty tricks every day to give our delegation a hard time, such as limiting the
food and goods a contractor could bring into Camp David, preventing the press,
and especially the people, from meeting with and talking with our delegation,
and seeking to restrict our travel, especially through Saigon, by causing delays,
damaging our vehicles, having the escorting MP!s arrive late, etc., then
intimidating us with helicopters and tanks, and plotting to use money and
women to bribe us. With regard to our regional delegations and local teams,
the enemy's behavior was even worse. They provided bad, unsanitary, crowded,
hot housing quarters which lacked all conveniences. For example, in the My Tho
region they provided a recently remodeled chicken-coop in the Dong Tarn base.
The stench was still very strong. They provided poor-quality food. In one instance, at Hue, the canned goods were so old that they were wormy.

At the four-party conference table in Saigon we continually and vigorously protested their treatment and demanded the formation of an investigating team.

The Americans blamed the puppets. Major General Woodward, head of the U.S. delegation, pretended that "It is unfortunate that the U.S. delegation knows
nothing about such deficiencies. The Republic of Vietnam is resonsible for
such things. They have informed us that everything is in good shape.!! On such
occasions, the puppets either clammed up or blamed the lower echelon, the local
officials, or people who had not done their jobs properly, and then agreed to
send an inspection team and promised to fix up the housing and provide additional equipment, but that was the end of it.

Furthermore, they organized gangs of hooligans and thugs to cooperate with
their MP's and police to commit acts of violence against PLA officers who were
members of the joint military commissions and teams by throwing rocks and trash, and even using steel rods, knives, and hammers to wound our men, such as Major Le Thanh Nhon and two captains on the Buon Me Thuot team, and six of our comrades at Hue. Comrade Tran Hon Ngo was hit on the head and knocked unconscious at Due Pho in Quang Ngai Province while he was working with an investigation team of the joint commission. All of our officers and men in the joint

16 -
commissions and teams were people who had achieved many accomplishments in war on many battlefields and had fought very heroically, like tigers, in the battles.

Now, on the new struggle front in the area controlled by the enemy,they always had confidence in the just cause and in the inevitable victory of the revolution, were very calm and steadfast, and did not waver in the face of ugly acts, intimidation, or attempted bribery. We are very proud of them and are grateful to the troops of Uncle Ho who were very ordinary but were indomitable,had military bearing and didn't blink an eye.

Why did the Americans and their puppets play such cheap tricks? Certainly not
to create a wholesome atmosphere in order to cooperate in correctly implementing
the agreements, and certainly not to create an atmosphere of national reconciliation and concord after years of enmity because of the destructive warfare.

How could reasoning people subjected to such acts by the United States and its
puppets still believe that they truly wanted to end the war and bring about
peace? Clearly, they brazenly and without hiding their perfidious faces intended
to sabotage the agreement.

The most important aspect of the agreement, and the first matter that had to be
implemented, was the ceasefire. Articles 2 and 3 of the agreement and the protocol
on the ceasefire made clear and specific stipulations about the complete cessation of hostilities, the forces remaining in their original positions,etc. But after 28 January 1973, the day on which the ceasefire took effect (and until 30 April 1975), it was ironic that there was not a day on which the guns fell silent on any of the battlefields in South Vietnam.

On the very hour the ceasefire was to take effect, Thieufs puppet administration
sent a task force led by tanks on an operation to take Cua Viet from us.

There we put up a very stiff resistance, annihilated the encroaching enemy
troops, and maintained the liberated area. Thus at the four-party conference
table our side held the upper hand in denouncing their violation of the agreement.
Lt Gen Ngo Du, head of the puppet delegation argued that we had occupied
Cua Viet at 0758 on the morning of 28 January (the ceasefire was to take
effect at 0800 on the morning of 28 January). I responded, "But we liberated
Cua Viet in May 1972. We have all kinds of clear evidence about the illegal
encroachment by your army after the ceasefire. But I would like to inform you
of a report we have just received that thanks to their high degree of vigilance
our liberation troops have annihilated the encroaching troops and defeated that
adventuristic act, after having tried to use loudspeakers to appeal for them to
retreat and not violate the agreement, but to no avail. That is a lesson for
those who do not want to respect the agreement and not respect their signature.11
Their faces paled and they were bitter.

In order to prevent enemy airplanes from flying over areas under our control,
we demanded an immediate discussion of Article 3 of the protocol regarding the
ceasefire: MThe joint military commissions will reach agreements regarding the
corridors, routes, and other stipulations regarding the movement of military
transport aircraft and military transport ships and boats of one side which
must pass through an area controlled by the other side.11 Both the U.S. and
puppet delegations regarded that matter as being unnecessary. But during the
meeting on 16 February the American side urgently announced that a C47 had been

17 -

shot down south of An Loc and two U.S. crewmen had been seriously wounded.

During all of the following meetings the Americans protested and demanded the
appointment of an investigating team. I agreed to the investigation but stressed that since the Four-Party Joint Military Commission had not yet reached agreement regarding the flight paths, altitude, etc., of airplanes flying over areas controlled by the liberation troops, no one can accept responsibility for their safety. Ultimately, the Americans had to shut up and forget the incident.

Clearly, by basing ourselves on the legality of the agreements while resolutely
protesting the violations we forced the Americans and puppets to respect us.

In places where we were weak and careless on the battlefield, even if the enemy
was 100 percent guilty of a violation it would still argue obstinately, regardless of our protests. An example was the puppets1 taking of Sa Huynh in Quang Ngai which we had liberated in 1972, along with a relatively long stretch of National Route 1. After the ceasefire took effect the puppets launched a division-sized operation to retake that area in order to restore their communications on Route 1. We vigorously exposed that violation and demanded that an investigation team be sent there, but the Americans and puppets ignored our demand and considered the incident closed. After 28 January the enemy also
launched continuous operations to take villages and hamlets along Route 4 in
My Tho which we had controlled prior to 28 January, and set up outposts deep in
our territory.

In that area, because our forces were not on guard and were afraid that if they retaliated they would violate the agreements, the enemy was able to occupy those places and fraudulently claim at the conference table that the area belonged to them. The ceasefire was the heart of the agreement but the Thieu puppet regime completely ignored it and brazenly sabotaged the heart of the agreement. Their 1973 "Ly Thuong Kiet" plan set forth five major strategic goals:
-Encroachment and pacification were the central measures.
-The pillar was building a strong army and a strong governmental administration. Within 5 years the ARVN would be made younger and more effective, and would be modernized.
-Sabotaging the parts of the Paris Agreement on Vietnam which were not beneficial for the Republic of Vietnam.
-Restoring the economic level of 1973-1974 in the 1973-1978 long-range plan,
especially with regard to industry, accompanied by the economic blockading of
the enemy.
-Maintaining the deterrent force of the U.S. air and naval forces in Southeast
Asia. They also endeavored to carry out "land grabbing11 operations and "flag planting" operations in which infantry and helicopters were used to plant flags.They prepared 1.6 million three-barred puppet flags for that task.

The 6 April 1973 report of the Committee To Denounce War Crimes in Vietnam concluded that "In the 2-month period between 28 January and 28 March 1973, the
Saigon administration violated the Paris Agreement more than 70,000 times,

- 18 -

including 19,770 land-grabbing operations, 23 artillery shellings, 3,375 bombings and straffings of liberated areas, and 21,075 police operations in areas under their control."

According to enemy data, as of October 1973 they had set up 1,180 outposts in
South Vietnam and controlled 7,258 hamlets more than they did prior to
28 January 1973.*

Clearly, although the United States and its puppets had signed the agreement
they continued to act imperturbably in accordance with their existing plans,
and endeavored to pacify, encroach, and build a strong army in order to change
the balance of forces in their favor and gain complete control of South Vietnam.

At a meeting of the two South Vietnamese delegations in March 1973, Lt
Gen Du Quoc Dong, who had replaced Ngo Du as head of the puppet delegation,
when he had been put in a bad position showed his true face by saying, "I
don't approve of the Paris Agreement because it only benefits your side." I
sternly criticized him, "So it is clear: Lt Gen Du Quoc Dong is representing
the Republic of Vietnam in the implementation of an agreement of which he does
not approve, and indeed opposes. It is evident and clear that your side is
violating and sabotaging the agreement." He hastily corrected himself, "I
personally do not approve of it...but...because the agreement has been reached,
we must carry it out!"

As everyone knows, before the Paris Agreement was signed the United States
urgently sent weapons and war facilities to South Vietnam to bolster the
puppet army, make up for the puppets1 heavy losses in 1972, and build up a
sufficient stockpile so that the puppet army could continue to be strong after
the Americans withdrew. Kissinger had often declared during press conferences
in the United States that "After the Americans withdraw, the Republic of Vietnam must continue to be strong." That work continued at a rapid pace after the agreement took effect. Many documents have clearly recorded the figures, the world press had written much about them, and there are ample statistics, so I believe that it is unnecessary to repeat them here. Furthermore the U.S. and vassal troops were required to withdraw completely from South Vietnam in accordance with the agreement, but they turned over to Thieu's army their modern equipment supply depots, and bases.

Articles 5 and 6 of the agreement stipulated that all troops, military advisers
and military personnel, including military technical personnel, military personnel attached to the pacification program, and the weapons, ammunition, and war materiel of the United States and the other foreign countries, would have to be completely withdrawn from South Vietnam within 60 days after the signing of the agreement, and that all military bases of the United States and the other foreign countries were to be dismantled. The protocol on the ceasefire also stated in Article 8 that "The United States and the other foreign countries mentioned in Article 5 of the agreement will take with them all of their weapons, ammunition and military equipment."

*Documents captured from the enemy after the liberation and now held at the
B2 War Recapitulation Section of the Ministry of National Defense.

- 19 -

In order to insure the correct implementation of those articles, Article 3
stated clearly that beginning with the ceasefire the forces of the United
States would remain in their original positions while awaiting a troop withdrawal
plan. The Four-Party Joint Military Commission would stipulate the procedures.
The Four-Party Joint Military Commission was responsible for coordinating
monitoring and investigating the implementation of Articles 3, 5 and 6,
Especially, the International Commission was required to control and supervise
the implementation of those articles.

During the meetings of the delegation heads of the four parties at Tan Son Nhat we continually requested the U.S. delegation to inform us of its plan to withdraw
troops and dismantle its military bases so that joint inspection teams
could monitor and inspect its implementation. It was the same every day: Major
General Woodward, head of the U.S. delegation, hemmed and hawed and turned to
other matters. But one day he solemnly announced "The results of the strict
implementation of the agreements on the part of the United States, which has
disarmed torpedoes and mines....!f He spoke distinctly about numbers, time,
space, etc. When he reached the part about withdrawing troops he said, "Eight
thousand troops, including those of the Allies, have been withdrawn from South
Vietnam." I immediately protested, "We cannot accept such a perfunctory report
by the U.S. delegation. No one can believe the 8,000 figure or any other figure Major General Woodward gives out, without thinking that it could be false. I believe that any withdrawal of U.S. troops or the troops of any other foreign country must be announced in advance so that there can be on the-spot monitoring and inspection by the Four-Party Joint Military Commission as well as the control and supervision of the International Commission, as has been stipulated. Otherwise, no figures can have any value. As far as I am concerned, to date not a single U.S. soldier, or a soldier from any other country, has left South Vietnam."

Many days later, on 16 February 1973, the Americans sent us a diplomatic
not officially agreeing that joint four-party military teams could go to the various locations to observe the withdrawal of U.S. and South Korean troops and could take photographs. Thus they had to make a concession. From those observations it was clear that although when they arrived in Vietnam the U.S. and South Korean troops had been armed to the teeth, when they left they carried no weapons at all, but only sleeping bags, personal effects, and such tacky souvenirs as earthenware and porcelain elephants, stonewar from Marble Mountain, etc. When our men asked about that they were told, "Our weapons and equipment have been sent by ship." Such was their deception!

Only after their total defeat in 1975 did the Americans, dumbfounded over the
fact that although they used every trick to provide the puppet army with much
equipment it was still defeated, angrily admit the truth: "With the enormous
quantity of equipment and materiel left behind when our forces withdrew, added
to the aid provided subsequently, the ARVN forces should have been fully capable
of coping with the enemy." (From the concluding Chapter 10 of the book "The
Last Helicopter," by Weldon A. Brown.)

- 20 -

How about the dismantling of military bases?

The American Major General Woodward solemnly reported that "We are authorized
to reply to you that at present we have no bases in South Vietnam. All of
them were turned over to the Republic of Vietnam prior to the signing of the
agreement. The American troops are now stationed in camps temporarily borrowed
from the Republic of Vietnam.1'

That was a deception that was brazen beyond words. Once the imperialists had drafted a plan and had objectives, they acted in the style of aggressors, lying brazenly no matter to whom they were talking.

The International Commission should have been fully capable of exposing those
dishonest acts, and of reaching accurate conclusions and condemning violations
of the agreement by the Americans and puppets in order to prevent them from
sabotaging the agreement and continuing the war. Four countries-Hungary,
Poland, Indonesia and Canada-participated in the International Commission.
After Canada withdrew it was replaced by Iran, which worked in accordance
with the principle of consultation and unanimity.

It must be frankly said that Canada practically belonged to the Americans and
took the Americans' part in the International Commission, arguing, glossing
over and, when necessary, vetoing. The head of the Canadian delegation,
Ambassador Gauvin, was outwardly courteous but was said to be a person who was
dogmatic, overbearing, domineering and looked down on others. One day Gauvin
indicated that he wanted to make a courtesy call on the delegation of the PRG
of the RSVN. We were quite willing and regarded that as a good opportunity
to speak frankly with that representative of the International Commission. I
received him in a living room that had been prepared as decently as conditions
in Camp David allowed. I went out to his car to greet the ambassador, escorted
him inside, and invited him to sit with me on a divan, the most ceremonious
seat in the living room. Accompanying him were a political aide of the Canadian
delegation, and a number of others. The person who did most of the interpreting
during that meeting was our interpreter, comrade Dung, who interpreted for me during all of the meetings of the heads of the four-party delegations. Dung was a remarkable youth who spoke English fluently in a strong voice and knew how to stress the essential passages.
After the exchange of pleasantries Gauvin spoke of the role and accomplishments
of the International Commission, especially during the period in which Gauvin
served as its chairman, regarding the ceasefire, the exchange of prisoners, the
withdrawal of U.S. and vassal troops from South Vietnam, etc. By doing so he
wanted to speak of the effectiveness of the International Commission and its
objectivity and fairness and, especially, unjustly criticize us in an accusatory, threatening voice by saying that there had as yet been no ceasefire because of our many violations on the battlefield. I sat listening to him very
calmly and politely, both patiently listening and understanding the significance of each word. Even the ambassador realized that he had spoken too long and looked at me inquisitively. I calmly invited my guest to eat some fruit and smoke a cigarette. Then I began to speak:

- 21 -

"My dear Ambassador Gauvin, you have spoken very accurately of the very important role and the very necessary objectivity of the International Commission for Control and Supervision in implementing the agreement. I am sincerely sorry that the sound of gunfire can be heard all over, that although agreement has been reached to end the war and restore peace in Vietnam the devastating war of the past several decades is continuing, I believe that no people in the world desire peace more ardently than the people of Vietnam, who
have fought and borne hardships in the cause of justice. But, Mr Ambassador,
there is a reason for everything. I would like to turn for you a few pages of
recent history. Our nation won independence in 1945. The French colonialists
again invaded our country. Only by fighting 9 years, the outstanding victory
during which was the battle of Dien Bien Phu, were we able to achieve the
signing of the Geneva Agreement. During that period there was also an International Control Commission of which Canada was a member. I'm sure you are
well aware of that.11 Gauvin nodded his head in agreement. I continued, "But
Nixon, who was then the U.S. vice president, declared to the press that 'Although France has signed a treaty to end hostilities in Indochina, the United States will act alone if necessary and will send troops to that part of the world.1 That was reported by THE NEW YORK TIMES. That is indeed what the
United States did."

Gauvin made a motion with his hand to interrupt the interpreter and began to
speak at length. I said to Dung, "Continue to interpret what I say. Only
after I have finished should you listen to and interpret what he has to say."
Dung, unperturbed, continued to interpret for me.

"I would like to bring some figures to your attention, Mr Ambassador. Between
1955 and 1960 more than 800 U.S. ships carrying weapons and war facilities
of various kinds arrived at the ports of Vietnam, especially Da Nang. During
the same period $600 million worth of aid was given to the Ngo Dinh Diem regime, The whole world knows about that. That was a brazen violation of the Geneva Agreement. But the International Commission at that time did not stop those illegal acts because it ignored them, covered them up, or was under pressure.

So the guns continued to fire and the war continued on our Vietnamese soil.
Canada was an important part of the International Commission at that time and
cannot, of course, deny its great responsibility."

Gauvin again interrupted and would have gone on talking if I had not instructed
Dung to continue to interpret what I was saying and to speak in a voice louder
than Gauvinf s.

Dung, who was indeed a remarkable youth, drowned out what Gauvin was saying,
forcing Gauvin to stop talking and listen to me. He appeared to be surprised,
perhaps because he had never before failed to dominate others and been restricted in such a way. I continued, "Events are now repeating themselves.
Before and after the Paris Agreement the Americans shipped weapons and equipment to the ARVN so that it could sabotage the agreement and carry out landgrabbing and pacification campaigns. Furthermore, although the U.S. and other foreign troops returned to their countries they left their weapons, facilities, supply depots, and bases to the army of the Thieu regime, which was a brazen violation of the Paris Agreement."

- 22 -

At that point Gauvin, as if he could stand no more, jumped up, waved his hand
vigorously, and mumbled a few words. I had to calm him down: "Mr Ambassador,
please take it easy. I only want to say a few more words, then you may have
your turn.11 Then I continued.
"This time, if we, the International Commission, and the Four-Party Joint Military
Commission do not cooperately closely with one another, try to operate
together objectively and effectively, and stop all such violations, I believe
that the sound of gunfire will continue to be heard. That will not be surprising,
and the reason will be clear. Our responsibility to history is great but we have not met the desires for peace of the people of Vietnam, the people of Canada, and the peace-loving people of the world. What will the Canadian government, which has twice participated in the international commissions under two treaties, think about its role?

Now Gauvin no longer appeared so eager to speak. His attitude softened. "Dear
Lt Gen Tran Van Tra,n he said, "I admit that I know nothing about the Geneva
Agreement. I know nothing about what happened then." Then the ambassador
changed the subject and talked about the weather in Saigon and the various
kinds of fruit in Vietnam.
I pleasantly invited my guest to drink beer and soft drinks. Everyone tried
to maintain a friendly atmosphere.
Gauvin again spoke and recalled a big reception he had organized in Saigon for
Sharp, the Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs who came here on
an official visit. In addition to all the "bigshots" of the Saigon puppet
regime and the U.S. Ambassador Bunker, he invited members of the International
Commission and of the Four-Party Joint Military Mission, including ourselves.
"General Tran Van Tra was truly the star of that reception, a star in the sky
of Saigon that day," he said. "Dear Mr Ambassador," I replied, "that was the
star of the just cause of the PRG of the RSVN, which I have the honor of
representing here!" "No, no," he said, "I was speaking of your outstanding
individual role."
He was attempting to avoid praising the PRG of the RSVN, although it had long
had indisputable prestige, not only in Saigon but at Paris and in the world.
In order to oppose it, the United States and the puppet Thieu regime adopted
the principle that in South Vietnam there existed only one government, that of
ThieuTs Republic of Vietnam. The United States and China had agreed to that
principle during the "Nixon-Mao Zedong-Zhou Enlai political conference which
resulted in the Shanghai Communique.
He continued, "You are a great soldier," Now I was truly at a loss. I clearly
understood his posturing but did not suspect that he would praise me so highly.
Luckily, I suddenly remembered an appraisal of our soldiers by UPI in 1964:
"The Viet Cong guerrillas are mythical figures. They are an enemy worthy of
fearing, a foe everyone must respect." In 1965 the magazine U.S. NEWS &
WORLD REPORT wrote that "The Viet Cong guerrillas are the most skilled and the
greatest in the history of mankind."
- 23 -
I smiled broadly and said, "I thank you for your compliments. The truth is that
out of patriotism and love for the people, and because 'there is nothing more
precious than independence and freedom,f our liberation fighters have sacrificed
their lives in combat and have won victory. The American press and news
agencies, as well as those of the world, have called them mythical figures, the
most skilled, greatest fighters. I am truly proud to represent them in Saigon
in order to struggle for the correct implementation of the agreement they won
only by shedding much blood."
Then Ambassador Gauvin excused himself and left. He suggested that we have a
souvenir photograph taken. Gauvin handed the camera he had brought along to
our photographer so that he could take a few snapshots.
The 60 days we spent in Saigon with the Four-Party Joint Military Commission
were pressing, tense days. Our two military delegations did all they could to
struggle for the implementation of the agreement, but the results were limited.
The comrades of the Hungarian and Polish delegations to the International Commission,with an international spirit and ardent brotherhood, cooperated closely with us in struggling, protecting one another, and helping one another.
Our comrade Major General Xuytn[phonetic], deputy head of the Hungarian delegation to the International Commission, a big man who looked husky in his
Hungarian army uniform, during the first working session said in a sincere
voice, "The party, state, army and people of Hungary have sent us to Vietnam
for the sake of the peace and well-being of the Vietnamese people, and for
world peace. We regard the success of the Vietnamese revolution as our success
and are thus ready to lay down our lives for it. That is the principle
which guides all of our actions. We are not afraid of death and of course are
not afraid of hardship.1'

I was very grateful for the heartfelt words of the emissary of the working
class who had come from a faraway land to help us during a difficult period,
in a spirit of noble international proletarianism!

It would be impossible to relate everything we accomplished or failed to accomplish
during those 60 days. Because the Americans and puppets had objectives
and plans that had been prepared in advance, the key problem-the ceasefire-
could not be resolved. The war continued. Let us listen to what Thieu had to
say to the puppet officers at Thu Due:

"The Republic of Vietnam will implement the ceasefire provisions only when:
"1. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam no longer supports me.

"2. When American military aid is only sufficient for defensive purposes.
"3. When the military forces of the Republic of Vietnam are no longer capable
of defending the important areas of South Vietnam."

Clearly, the loyal lackey of the Americans thought that he would be victorious,
so he obstinately sabotaged the ceasefire and continued the war as if
there had been no agreement!
- 24 -
The American and vassal troops had withdrawn. The vassal troops of the
Americans who had sold themselves to the Americans to participate in killing our people, such as the Australians, New Zealanders, Thai, and South Koreans, had completely withdrawn from our country. In the morning of 15 March 1973 USARV, the U.S. Army Command in Vietnam, conducted a flag-folding ceremony and bugged out. In the afternoon, MACV, the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam, actually the U.S. GHQ which commanded all U.S. troops, the vassal troops, and ThieuTs army and the imposing U.S. aggressive war apparatus in Vietnam, the Tan Son Nhat headquarters of which had been dubbed the "Pentagon of the East" by the press, also pulled down and folded its flag.

Whether by accident or by clever design, the next day the military delegations of the DRV and the PRG of the RSVN drove into the courtyard of that "Pentagon of the East." The two delegations got out of their cars and advanced directly into the reception room, past two rows of American MP's who stood at attention and saluted, in order to attend a party organized by the major general who headed the U.S. delegation. We laughed, drank American whiskey, and talked about the weather and peace in Vietnam, in the "Pentagon of the East."

Thus the U.S. troops also got out. But, as stated above, they left behind all kinds of weapons, military bases, and even officers in civilian clothing, to prop up the Thieu regime.

With regard to the exchange of prisoners in accordance with the agreement, we succeeded in securing the release of our people who had been captured during the war. Maj Nguyen Thi Dung, a member of our military delegation, was responsible for the POW exchange. She was very active and aggressive, visiting all of the puppet prisons, from Bien Hoa to Con Dao and Phu Quoc. She was the only female member of the four military delegations, spoke French and English fluently, was
attractive and polite, and struggled resolutely, which won the respect of the Americans and puppets. We were proud of her. She worked at disseminating the articles of the agreement regarding the exchange of POW's to our men who were still imprisoned, struggled for the improvement of prison conditions, and demanded the return of those who were still detained. The enemy did not return everyone and were not sincere, but we were able to liberate a considerable number of our cadres and men, people who had fought heroically but had fallen into the hands of the enemy and had been subjected to their barbarous treatment.

We returned all American and puppet POW's we were detaining.

But another important matter was that in the course of the 60 days of face-to-face meetings with the enemy we gained better understanding of them. The Americans were only interested in obtaining the release of their POW's as a gift to
the American people, and in bringing the U.S. troops home, as demanded by the American people. Otherwise, they continued to implement their policy of Vietnamizing the war so that they could remain in Vietnam. The puppets adhered to ThieuTs "four nos" slogan: no concession of land to the "communists," no neutrality, no coalition with the "communists," and no talking with the "communists."

Although the puppets were forced to negotiate with us at the twoparty
talks at Tan Son Nhat, in fact they continued to adhere to their "four
nos" principles and did not negotiate with us in good faith, but' argued about
- 25 -
everything, made careless statements, and agreed to something one day only to
change their minds the next day. They even reneged and refused to implement
the first and smallest matter-the color of the flag and the insignia-of the
Four-Party Joint Military Commission-which was agreed upon at the meeting of
deputy delegation heads on 31 January 1973. That decision was that the flag,
arm bands, and insignia on the vehicles, boats, and aircraft of the Joint Military
Commission were to be orange in color. During a meeting of delegation
heads they recommended that the matter be reconsidered and that another color
be selected. We rejected that recommendation. What had been agreed to should
be carried out, and not reneged on. In the middle of a meeting, during a break,
Brig Gen Phan Hoa Hiep, deputy head of the puppet delegation, sat down beside
me and whispered, "You don't know me but I know you well." I asked him, "When
did we meet?" Hiep replied, "I was a soldier in the 3d Division (at the time
of the August Revolution 1945). It's too bad the bigwigs at that time were at
odds with one another. Otherwise I might still be a resistance fighter under
your command." He chuckled when he said that. What he said was correct. The
"big wigs" to whom he referred included me. At the beginning of the resistance
war I commanded a unit called the Hoc Mon-Ba Diem-Due Hoa Interdistrict Liberation
Unit, which operated around Saigon. Nguyen Hoa Hiep was commander of the
3d Division and Ly Hue Vinh was commander of the 4th Division. The 4th Division
fell apart as soon as the French returned in 1945. The 3d Division disintegrated
and surrendered to the French within a brief period of time. I disarmed
some of the units of those two divisions which had been robbing and

attacking the people in Nhuan Due, An Nhon Tay, Hoc Mon-Gia Dinh, My Tho, and
Due Hoa (Long An). It was said that Phan Hoa Hiep's family name was in fact not
"Phan" but a transliteration of "Francois" into "Phan Hoa," for his real name
was Francois Hiep, son of a French father and a Vietnamese mother. When I related
that rumor to him he tried to ingratiate with me, called himself my
youngest brother and pleaded for his "older brother" to agree to change the
color of the flag.

"Orange is close to red," he said, "It makes us mad to see it." He had degraded
himself to youngest brother, so I took the part of the eldest brother and said,
"Why do you get mad? Red is the splendid, brilliant color of the future, and
is nothing to be afraid of. You should know that orange is in common use internationally.

It is very visible, even from far away. That color is the
most appropriate and is attractive. Furthermore, what has been agreed to
should be carried out, not haggled back and forth, which wastes time. There
are still many things remaining to be done." He continued to plead with me but
I resolutely turned him down. Even so, the puppets refused to carry out the
agreement. There were many stories similar to the orange color story.

According to the agreement, the Four-Party Joint Military Commission would
cease operations after 60 days. But near the end of that period, according to
American sources and the Saigon press, the Four-Party Joint Military Commission
would be extended. We didn't know what they were up to. Was it in order to
prolong the legal presence of the U.S. delegation? Was it that the puppets
wanted to remain under the protection of their American masters? Was it to
keep the DRV delegation there in hopes of resolving a number of other problems
that benefited the Americans, such as searching for missing U.S. military personnel?
Was it to weaken the role of the PRG of the RSVN? But we resolutely
- 26 -
prepared for the U.S. military delegation to return to America and for brother
Hoafs delegation to return to Hanoi. As for our delegation, when the change
was made to the Two-Party Joint Military Commission, the Central Committee
decided that Maj Gen Hoang Anh Tuan would head the military delegation of the
PRG of the RSVN. Of course, I would leave, but my departure became a problem.
Would I go to Hanoi? There was reason to do so. Would I go to Loc Ninh?
The Americans and puppets would give us a hard time, and would either not
provide facilities or carry out some nefarious plot. We knew that at least
the Americans and puppets wanted to keep me at Tan Son Nhat. To allow a top ranking officer-in their estimation-to return to the battlefield would be
to "turn a tiger loose in the jungle." It would be useful to keep such a person
in their grasp as a hostage.

We had long known that everything was decided by the American masters. The
puppets were merely the dutiful servants. The preceding 60 days had made us
even more convinced of that. In that matter as well as in many others, if the
Americans agreed everything would go smoothly. We had to get the Americans to
agree to take me to Hanoi.

On the night of 29 March I invited Woodward, head of the U.S. delegation, to our delegation's headquarters at Camp David. At the designated hour Woodward,
Brigadier General Wickham-deputy head of the U.S. delegation-and the interpreter Major Sauvagio, who wore a green beret and had been an advisor for the puppet regime's pacification cadre training school at Vung Tau, arrived.

I informed Woodward that because our communications were difficult I had only
just received a delayed message that there was one additional American POW our
forces were holding in Tra Vinh Province. In order to express our good will
and correctly implement the Paris Agreement, we wanted to turn him over to the
Americans. On the following day the two sides would assign cadres to carry out
the turning over of that last American. POW. I said that personally I regarded
that as a friendship gift to the lieutenant general to commemorate the 60 days
we worked together on the Four-Party Joint Military Commission (my intention
was to suggest that because of that Woodward would be commended and promoted).
Woodward was openly very pleased, thanked me profusely and, in order to express
his gratitude, inquired about my health and asked if I had any plans for the
future.

It was a question that was asked at the right place and at the right time.
That was all I could hope for. I replied that I planned to take a trip to
Hanoi and, along the way, visit Laos. Woodward and Wickham thought that I intended to help resolve the question of American and puppet POW's in Laos, but
could not say so. Woodward appeared to be very anxious and asked, "When do
you plan to go?" "I'll go tomorrow if you'll provide the means." He replied,
"You will have the means. I'll arrange for a C130 flight to Hanoi tomorrow
morning."

I expressed my gratitude and reminded him that on the following morning one of
our officers would meet with the American officer to arrange the turning over
of the POW at Tra Vinh. He thanked me and asked me whether the C130 should
- 27 -
wait to bring me back. If not, how would I return? (the U.S. delegation
would cease operations and return to the United States on 31 March. After that
date it would be necessary to use a puppet facility).

I smiled and said that I might return to Saigon by way of Paris, so that I
could visit another famous European capital (Woodward thought that 1 needed
to meet with our delegation in Paris).

Woodward was very pleased, said that that was a good idea, and said goodbye.
He did not forget to affirm that an airplane would be available on the following
morning.

On the morning of 30 April 1973 the puppet officer who brought a convoy of
sedans to pick me up at my residence and take me to the ramp of the airplane
was very deferential. Accompanying me to the airfield to see me off to Hanoi
were Maj Gen Le Quang Hoa, Major General Woodward, head of the U.S. delegation
and his wife. I warmly shook hands with and said goodbye to everyone. The
warm, affectionate, and extremely moving handshakes secretly signified a victory
and the sympathetic handshakes secretly expressed mutual gratitude.

Woodward wished me a safe journey and good luck, and said that he would send
an airplane to Hanoi to bring me back, even though I had not requested him
to do so. I wished Mr and Mrs Woodward good fortune, stepped aboard the airplane,
and waved to everyone. Thus aboard the American C130 (the Americans were courteous enough to provide a seat for me in the cockpit) I, Lt Col Nguyen Quang Minh (a research cadre with the Joint Commission), Dr Le Hoai Liem, the intepreter Dung, the bodyguard Hoa, and a number of other cadres, would fly from Saigon to Hanoi, thus ending 60 days of very seething and tense activity in the bosom of the enemy.
Sitting aboard the airplane and for the first time flying the length of the
country, from Saigon to Hanoi, I felt disturbed and moved. There it was, a
country that had existed 4,000 years and had been built by the blood and sweat
of countless generations, in the past and in the present. The fresh green villages,
the endless mountains and jungles, the long coastline with white sand beaches, and the immense blue continental shelf were truly a phantasmagoria.

The gentle rays of the bright March sky embellished the scene with marvelous,
sparkling colors. It was very beautiful, that homeland of ours. Also very
beautiful were the heroism, intelligence, creativity, and persistent labor,
generation after generation, of the millions of Vietnamese who built the beautiful
country of today. I was very grateful for my ancestors and suddenly I
remembered Uncle Ho and what he once told our troops in the Hung Temple on the
side of Mt. Nghia: "The Hung kings achieved merit by founding the nation; you
and I must work together to preserve it."

The words of Uncle Ho have been deeply engraved in the hearts of the Vietnamese
people. No enemy, even the chief imperialists from across the Pacific or the
shameless expansionists from the north, will be smashed to smithereens and be
chased out of our country. Le Chieu Thong in the past, and Nguyen Van Thieu in
the present, will live in infamy. Our homeland was certain to be independent,
free and unified by any means.
- 28 -
The airplane was flying over the Red River Delta! Hanoi-our beloved capital
and the heart of the homeland. I had lived in Hanoi for a long time and had
worked there. Several times I had left it and returned. But this time was
somehow different: I was strangely excited and moved, as if I were a child
who had been far away for a long time wrestling with the difficulties and
dangers of life and now was suddenly able to return to my warm home and be
with my sweet, beloved mother. I was home: the child had returned to his
sweet mother, so that he could again prepare to set out on another distant
journey completely different from the one he had just taken.

Three days later a C130 from Saigon landed at Gia Lam airfield to pick me up-
just as Woodward had promised. I sent Lt Col Nguyen Quang Minh to inform the
American officer commanding the airplane that I was not yet able to leave.
Comrade Minh wrote a notice stating that Lt Gen Tran Van Tra was busy and could
not leave, and authorizing the airplane to return to Tan Son Nhat without having
to return to Hanoi at a later date to pick him up. He did not forget to
express my thanks.

In my extreme happiness over being able to return to our beloved capital, and
with a feeling of freedom and relaxation from being with my friends, comrades
and compatriots, I thought fondly of my comrades who were still at Tan Son Nhat,
Because of a mission that was indispensable in the present phase of the struggle,
those comrades had to live and work in a tense atmosphere while surrounded
by the enemy, for how long no one knew. In the future, what would happen to
those comrades at the hands of the obstinate and insidious enemy? I calmed
myself by thinking that those of us in the liberated area must go all-out and
cooperate closely with those comrades in order to win victory for the revolution.
It was certain that those comrades would not be isolated, for they had
us and the people, even in Saigon. One day we would meet again to celebrate
the victory.
- 29 -



CHAPTER TWO

The Only Path Is That of Revolutionary Violence Immediately after I arrived in Hanoi I met with leaders of the party, the government, the Ministry of National Defense, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to report on the work of the Four-Party Joint Military Commission, on what had been accomplished and what had not yet been accomplished, on my conclusions after 60 days of face-to-face meetings with the Americans and puppets,on my observations regarding the situation, etc. I listened to their good observations and evaluations regarding the work of the Four-Party Joint Military Commission, the enemy plots, and what we would do next. Then I was granted several days1 leave, after which I prepared for and participated in a plenary session of the Political Bureau of the party Central Committee regarding the situation and mission of the revolution in South Vietnam.

The members of COSVN and the Regional Command-Pham Hung, Muoi Cue (Nguyen Van
Linh, deputy secretary of COSVN), Hai Hau (Tran Nam Trung), Muoi Khang, and
Sau Dan (Vo Van Kiet) came to Hanoi via the Truong Son route. We held a
separate meeting regarding the B2 theater in order to reach agreement on our
evaluation of the situation and our observations regarding the recent developments and our estimates of future developments. We exchanged experiences
with Nam Cong (Vo Chi Cong) and Chu Huy Man of the Military Region 5 theater
and Hoang Minh Thao of the B2 theater, who had come to Hanoi to participate in
the conference.

During the last third of April 1973 the Political Bureau of the party Central
Committee, along with delegates from the South Vietnam theaters, was in session.

It was an extremely important conference. After the various parties
signed the Paris Agreement, i.e. after we had won a decisive victory in the
anti-U.S. war, forced the United States to end its war of destruction in the
north, and forced the U.S. and vassal troops to withdraw from Vietnam, and
especially after 60 days of implementing the agreement, during which there
were a number of actual developments on the battlefield, that conference was
held to reevaluate the situation, evaluate the balance of revolutionary and
counterrevolutionary forces, and delineate the path of advance of the revolution in South Vietnam during the new revolutionary phase. That was a desire of everyone, of the cadres as well as the enlisted men and people.

Until that time, not everyone in the ranks of the cadres at the various echelons, on the battlefields, or even in the Central Committee, agreed about the value of the Paris Agreement, the balance of forces between ourselves and the enemy on the battlefield, and especially how the agreements should be implemented and how to cope with the enemy, who were increasingly violating the
articles of the agreement. Even the developments on the battlefields differed
because on each of them our conditions and those of the enemy were completely
different, the strategic value of each battlefield in comparison to the war as
a whole differed, and the leaders on those battlefields had different outlooks
and acted differently. That was a reality that could be no other way.
- 30 -
Therefore, if common evaluations and policies were based on the actual developments, dangerous mistakes would be made if the theater was not representative of all the rest or was not strategically important with regard to the war as a whole* If, while the war situation was changing, we did not correctly evaluate the role of each theater, mistakes would be made in organizing and deploying forces, and in adopting strategic, campaign and tactical policies, which would of course affect victory or defeat in the war. It was not that no mistakes were made in our war against the U.S. aggressors to liberate the nation. But thanks to the wise, democratic and centralized leadership of our party we were able to promptly correct our mistakes and win victory. Revolution is an undertaking of the masses. Each success or defeat of the revolution in each phase is a success or defeat of the thought and acts of millions of people, especially the collective leadership. It was never a case of "failures are due to you and successes are due to me." In each phase of the revolution, at each historical turning point, correct policies and actions are always the results of collective thought and knowledge, of the combination of many minds, from the mind of the highest leader to the minds of the enlisted men and ordinary people when, out of patriotism and love for the people, they plunge into the actual,specific, lively tasks on the battlefield: No one is always right and no one is always wrong, for everyone is human. What is noblest and wisest is to recognize one's mistakes and resolutely and promptly correct them. Even collective leadership is not always right. But it is certain that the collective leadership makes fewer mistakes than individual leaders. President Ho, the talented leader of our party and our nation, recapitulated and heightened the tradition of our party and nation by means of a very concise but very profound sentence:

"Solidarity, solidarity, complete solidarity. Success, success, complete
success."

Solidarity in this case is not merely solidarity in action but also in all other spheres: thought, cognizance, ideology and will. It was because he was embued with that tradition that he was a person who was extremely simple and modest.

In him was concentrated the intelligence of everyone, and his thoughts became
everyone's thoughts. The virtue of Ho Chi Minh spread light throughout the
nation and illuminated the soul of Vietnam. He not only fully understood himself but fully understood everyone else; he was just, upright, and full of love.

Our people forged their tradition in the process of founding and defending their nation by means of the saying, "One tree alone amounts to nothing, but three trees clustered together form a high mountain." The Vietnam people are like that and Ho Chi Minh was like that!

I still remember many questions asked by many cadres from the various theaters,
such as, "The Agreement has been signed, so why haven't the puppet army and the
puppet administration collapsed?" Or else they made such observations as "The
Americans have left but the puppets not only haven't collapsed but have become
stronger," or, "The Americans have been defeated but at the same time the puppet administration has not only continued to exist but has become stronger politically, militarily and economically."

There was some superficial evidence which, added to the nefarious, obstinate
plots and highly subjective plans of the Americans, prevented those comrades
from understanding the true nature of the situation.
- 31 -
Immediately after the Paris Agreement took effect the puppets sent troops to
take a number of important areas we were occupying, such as Cua Viet (Tri
Thien), Sa Huynh (Quang Ngai), Route 4 (My Tho), Route 2 (Ba Ria), the Bay Nui
area (Long Xuyen), etc. They not only took many areas we had expanded into
prior to 28 January but also took some areas we had controlled for some time.
At the same time, they impetuously launched many sweeping and police operations
in areas that previously had been contested by us and the enemy. In the areas
under their control, they carried out pacification operations and eliminating
our enclave guerrilla bases, in order to eliminate our interspersed positions
and expand and fill out their areas. On nearly all battlefields they set up
additional outposts in the areas they had just taken and further expanded the
areas they controlled along the strategic routes and around the large cities.

In the provinces of My Tho, Go Cong, Kien Tuong, and Ben Tre, between January
and April 1973 they established 287 additional outposts in 129 hamlets of 24
villages. Also during that time, the Americans brought in weapons and war
facilities from the Philippines, the United States and Japan, to bolster
and develop the puppet army. They provided additional modern weapons for the
puppet army, such as M48 tanks, 175mm "king of the battlefield11 cannon, F5E
aircraft, etc. The puppets employed all measures to conscript soldiers on a
large scale. On the average, every month they conscripted 15,000 youths.

Therefore, they were able to rapidly supplement their regular army. The rest
of the youths-a rather large reserve force-were trained in the recruit training
center, all of which were full. The regional forces and civilian defense
forces were greatly increased. By forming mobile Regional Force groups to
fight locally in place of the regular army units, during the first. 6 months of
1973 the number of RF battalions increased fronv!89 to 337. In the cities,
they strongly developed the police forces. Many police field force battalions
were formed, especially in Saigon. The U.S.-puppet plan was to continue to
develop the puppet army into a 1.1 million-man army that was modernized,
younger, and more effective, especially by strengthening the technical combat
arms. The air force would be increased to 1,500-1,800 aircraft of various kinds. There would be 31 to 35 armored regiments, etc.
In addition to consolidating and developing the puppet army, they went all-out
to consolidate the puppet regime from the central level down to the basic level.

They sent pacification cadres to the villages and hamlets and sent army officers to set up village subsectors-the main tools of fascist suppression-in order to gain tighter control over the people by such activities as consolidating the interfamily system, developing the "regiment the masses11 program, etc.

They developed agents and spies in all hamlets and sent them into the contested
areas and our liberated areas. In order to back up the puppet Thieu regime,
and be prepared to support its lackey armies in Indochina-mainly in South
Vietnam-the United States stationed in Southeast Asia a mobile military force
made up of four aircraft carriers, 735 tactical aircraft and 173 B52 strategic
bombers.

All of the above were pursued vigorously by the Americans and puppets as soon
as the agreement was signed. It may be said that after the agreement was
signed they stepped up their attacks and exercised even tighter control over
the people, thus creating considerable difficulties for us.
- 32 -
Meanwhile, for our part, because they had been in continuous action since
April 1972 our cadres and men were fatigued, we had not had time to make up
for our losses, all units were in disarray, there was a lack of manpower, and
there were shortages of food and ammunition, so it was very difficult to cope
with the enemy's attacks. In some places we had to retreat and allow the
enemy to gain control of the land people. In addition, a number of cadres
and some localities, in a spirit of implementing the upper echelon's directive
to fully implement the Paris Agreement, were afraid to retaliate against
the enemy out of fear of violating the agreement, carried out the work of proselyting among the enemy troops to neutralize the puppet troops in a rightist,
dangerous manner, concretized in the form of "five forbids": It was forbidden
to attack the enemy; it was forbidden to attack enemy troops carrying out
sweeping and land-grabbing operations; it was forbidden to surround outposts;
it was forbidden to shell puppet outposts; and it was forbidden to build combat
villages. They thought that that would stabilize the situation and avoid
creating tension, in order to achieve national conciliation and concord. In
a number of places forward units were sent to the rear to be reorganized and
consolidated. They thought that if such units were not withdrawn to the rear
they would be annihilated. In fact, when one of our armed units was pulled
back the enemy methodically destroyed the mass infrastructure, wiped out our
party infrastructure, and eliminated the "leopard spot" there.

Against such a background, when they witnessed such initial confused events a
number of cadres from the central level down to the local level thought that
since the agreement we had grown much weaker and the enemy had grown much
stronger. The enemy was winning many new victories while we had suffered
additional losses. Thus they concluded that the enemy was stronger than we
were, that the balance of forces on the battlefield had changed in favor of
the enemy, and that the revolution was in danger. Because of such observations,
there were a number of incorrect policies and actions. I will return
to that subject later.

That conference of the Political Bureau of the party Central Committee fully
resolved all worries of the cadres and war theaters. It scientifically and
correctly analyzed the balance of forces between ourselves and the enemy, profoundly analyzed the situation, and set forth a wise policy for guiding the
revolution in South Vietnam to victory. The party Central Committee reached
unanimous agreement on the results of that conference and issued the 21st
Resolution of the party Central Committee. But in order to arrive at that
unanimity, the Political Bureau conference passed through a rather animated,
and at times very tense, discussion. There was a clashing of many different
opinions and interpretations regarding the developments on the battlefields.

As a participant in the conference, I was deeply impressed by the strong sense
of responsibility of all of the comrades participating in the conference, their
spirit of straightforwardly reflecting the actual situation on the battlefield,
their spirit of struggling strongly for truth, and their spirit of patriotism,
solidarity, and objectivity. That was the democratic, centralized working
method of our party, the secret of all correct policies and successes.

The matter that was discussed most seethingly from the very beginning was the
question of who was stronger, we or the enemy. It is not easy to evaluate
- 33 -
strengths and weaknesses. If one speaks in generalities without getting into
specifics, one cannot determine what is strong and what is weak. If one gets
into specifics that are not the most universal ones, conclusions about weakness
and strength may not be entirely correct, and indeed the opposite may be
true. There is also the question of whether a strength or weakness in a certain
place or at a certain time is temporary or basic, and the capability of
such weaknesses or strengths to change. And it must also be understood what
strength is. For example, after the agreement was signed the puppet regular
army battalions were rapidly increased to between 400 and 550 men, with ample
food and ammunition, while our main-force battalions had not yet been augmented
and totaled at most 200 men, with insufficient ammunition and food.

After the American and vassal troops withdrew, the puppets1 total troop
strength was between 700,000 and 1.1 million, while our forces on the battlefield amounted to at most one-third those of the enemy. It would be incorrect to conclude from that that the puppets were strong and we were week. In addition to those material numbers, it is necessary to add together many other factors, such as the morale of the soldiers, the deployment of units and their missions in campaign and strategic plans, in attacks and defense today and tomorrow, etc. That is not to mention much broader factors, such as the political factor, the combat objectives, the factor of the people. Our just
liberation war, as pointed out by many party resolutions, is waged by both
military and political forces. We attack the enemy with both political forces
and mass political forces. In speaking of strengths and weaknesses one cannot
consider only the military aspect, but must consider all aspects, including the
political situations of the two sides.

During several decades of war we had to evaluate the balance of forces between
ourselves and the enemy many times. In 1959, the most difficult period of the
revolution in South Vietnam, the Ngo Dinh Diem puppet regime dragged the
guillotine everywhere and carried out a bloody fascist suppression. There was
only one army-that of Diem-holding sway on the battlefield, like a martial
arts performer demonstrating his skills in a ring without an opponent. Even
so, Resolution 15 of the party Central Committee created a simultaneous uprising movement with stormlike strength which liberated many large areas and
caused the Americans to panic and launch a special war to prevent the Diem
clique from collapsing. If, at that time, we had not had a revolutionary,
dialectical point of view we could not have realized that we still had latent
strength among the people, but would have seen only the specific strength of
the enemy. In 1965, the number of people supporting the revolution in the
various areas was quite large, especially in the Mekong Delta, but that number
could not have been larger than the number of people under enemy control (but
don't think that the people under enemy control belonged to the enemy). In
our armed forces, the guerrillas were relatively strong but only a small
number of main-force regiments had been formed. In the B2 theater at that
time there were only two combat-ready regiments. As for the enemy, in addition
to regional forces and militia they had a dozen divisions with strong
technical equipment and tens of thousands of U.S. advisers, and they were
supported by U.S. helicopter units, combat aircraft, and naval ships which
participated directly in the fighting. Despite that, we launched the Binh
Gia campaign, wiped out many strong battalions of the enemy and armored
squadrons, shot down many airplanes, and began a new era in the war. After
- 34 -
the attack on the Bien Hoa airbase, the Binh Gia campaign, and then the victorious battles at Ba Gia and Pleiku, the Americans and puppets clearly realized that the puppet army would be annihilated and the puppet regime would
collapse. Thus the Americans had to impetuously send in U.S. troops to save
the puppets, put out the fire, and transform the special war into a limited
war, in correct accordance with America's "flexible response" global stragegy,
so that it could play its role of international gendarme.

Prior to the arrival of the U.S. troops, if the balance of forces between ourselves and the enemy had been viewed simply in terms of specific, materiel
forces, who would have thought that we were strong and were capable of annihilating the puppet army and overthrowing the puppet regime? Later, when the United States sent in at the same time about 200,000 troops who had modern
equipment and relied on the strength of overwhelming firepower and rapid mobility, to carry out a strategic counter offensive during the 1965-1966
dry season, we concluded that the Americans and puppets were not strong but
were passive, and continued to press the strategic offensive, launched the
Bau Bang-Dau Tieng offensive campaign, gained the initiative on the battlefield,and won many victories. In 1968, when the U.S. troops numbered nearly 500,000, with all kinds of modern weapons except the atomic bomb and with the purchasing of the services of lackey vassal troops in addition to Thieu's army, we could clearly see the enemy's weakness and our strength, and
exploited that strength to a high degree in carrying out the general offensive
and uprising of Tet Mau Than, a unique event in the history of war.

During Tet we not only attacked the enemy simultaneously in all urban centers,
including the U.S. war headquarters in Saigon, the puppet capital, but also
wiped out an important part of the U.S.-puppet manpower. That strategic blow
defeated the U.S. limited war strategy and forced the United States to deescalate the war, begin peace talks in Paris, and adopt the strategy of "de-
Americanizing the war" and then "Vietnamizing the war." We thus smashed the
U.S. imperialists' strategic global "flexible response" strategy. The international gendarme became terrified of the role it had taken for itself; and the illusion of the "absolute military superiority of the United States" was shattered.

However, during Tet of 1968 we did not correctly evaluate the specific balance
of forces between ourselves and the enemy, did not fully realize that the enemy
still had considerable capabilities and that our capabilities were limited,
and set requirements that were beyond our actual strength. In other words,
we did not base ourselves on scientific calculation or a careful weighing of
all factors, but in part on an illusion based on our subjective desires.
For that reason, although that decision was wise, ingenious, and timely, and
although its implementation was well organized and bold, there was excellent
coordination on all battlefields, everyone acted very bravely, sacrificed their
lives, and there was created a significant strategic turning point in Vietnam
and Indochina, we suffered large sacrifices and losses with regard to manpower
and materiel, especially cadres at the various echelons, which clearly weakened
us. Afterwards, we were not only unable to retain the gains we had made
but had to overcome a myriad of difficulties in 1969 and 1970 so that the
revolution could stand firm in the storm. Although it is true that the revolutionary path is never a primrose path that always goes upward, and there can
- 35 -
never be a victory without sacrifice, in the case of Tet 1968, if we had
weighed and considered things meticulously, taken into consideration the
balance of forces of the two sides, and set forth correct requirements, our
victory would have been even greater, less blood would have been spilled by
the cadres, enlisted men, and people, and the future development of the
revolution would certainly have been far different. In 1972, after a period
of endeavoring to overcome many difficulties make up for the recent losses,
and develop our position and strength with an absolute revolutionary spirit
on the part of the soldiers and people, our troops participated in winning
victories in Kampuchea and Laos, However, not all of our main-force units
could return to South Vietnam. In that situation, we correctly evaluated the
positions and forces of the two sides, destroyed many fortified defense lines
of the enemy in Quang Tri, the Central Highlands, and eastern Nam Bo, and
created many integrated liberated areas at Dong Ha, Dae To, Tan Canh, Loc
Ninh Bu Dop, and northern Tay Ninh then, in coordination with the great
"Dien Bien Phu in the air'1 victory in the North, attained our goal of smashing
the American's scheme of negotiating from a position of strength, and
forced the Americans to sign in Paris, agreements which benefited us.

Clearly, in each phase of the revolution and of revolutionary war, the correct
evaluation of our strength and that of the enemy, correctly realizing the
weaknesses of the enemy and ourselves, and correctly evaluating the balance of
forces between the two sides are the most basic conditions for the adoption of
correct policies to guide the revolution from one victory to another. Our
party's leadership of the Vietnamese revolution to complete victory was also
based on an evaluation of the balance of forces between revolution and counterrevolution, not only in our country but in the world, was generally correct,
although at times and in places, and in some specific details, mistakes were
made. But correctness was dominant and determined victory. In actuality,
nothing is completely correct. One should not fear speaking about mistakes,but only fear not realizing or correcting mistakes. But every time the balance of forces between ourselves and the enemy it is possible to be rightist and fear the enemy or to be leftist, subjective and faltering in policies and actions. For that reason, evaluations of the situation and of the balance of forces must be based on lines and policies, collective intelligence and on actual developments.

The signing of the Paris Agreement was the clearest manifestation of the
balance of forces on the battlefield at that time. The Americans and puppets
also carefully evaluated the balance of forces between the two sides after
having contended with us in South Vietnam to avoid losing additional land,
and carried out the barbarous, evil scheme of using B52?s to bomb Hanoi and
Hai Phong, and blockading the North. Only after evaluating their capability
and will and those of their adversary were they willing to pick up a pen and
sign the agreement, and agree to a number of conditions which did not benefit
them. We also carefully weighed the strength of the enemy, their schemes,
and the possibility of concluding agreements with many points that benefited
us. Thus the Paris Agreement was signed on the basis of the enemy and ourselves
weighing the strengths and weaknesses of each other and the balance of
forces in the world. By signing the Paris Agreement the Americans were willing
to accept a partial defeat, but that was all. We had won a victory, but
- 36 -
not yet a complete victory. But that defeat for the United States and victory
for us proved that the revolution was stronger than counterrevolution. So how
could we be weak and the enemy strong?

The most important provisions of the agreements, one which affected the war
as a whole, were that all U.S. and vassal troops had to withdraw from South
Vietnam and that the United States had to end its war of destruction in the
north of our country. The interesting thing about those provisions was that
they seemed to fit in with the Vietnamization strategy and with the Nixon
Doctrine of "regional alliances and self-defense,M so that the United States
would not have to flee even though it had been defeated. It was interesting
in that it helped the United States withdraw its troops to America, satisfy
the demands of the American people, and extricate itself from a dilemma: it
was no longer being able to maintain a U.S. army abroad but was being increasingly
defeated to the point of complete defeat. That withdrawal from South
Vietnam as stipulated by the agreement, i.e., with the agreement of the two
sides, helped the United States to avoid losing face. As for us, those provisions
were extremely important for the development of the revolution in our
country and in Indochina. Prior to the agreement we had to fight both the
puppet troops and hundreds of thousands of U.S. and vassal troops strongly
supported by U.S. naval and air forces, including B52 strategic bombers.

Once the agreements took effect and the U.S. and vassal troops withdrew from
the battlefield, the puppet troops could no longer rely on the U.S. troops and
no longer were strongly supported by U.S. air and naval forces. The puppets'
firepower was much weaker than that of the Americans, Although the puppet
troops were increased in number and were provided additional facilities and
weapons-some of which were more modern than those they had in the past-by
their U.S. masters, in order to develop the effectiveness of the new combat
arms and new forces, a period of training and tempering was required. However,
meeting the technical requirements of the puppet army and of modernization
was not an easy matter and could not be achieved in just a few years.

That is not to mention the morale status of the puppet troops, who were perplexed
by the reaction of the popular masses after the Paris Agreement was
signed. In actuality, on the battlefield-according to the reports from
all units and localities-after the agreements took effect the firepower of
the puppet artillery and air force decreased appreciably and was increasingly
tending to decline even more. The puppet artillery and air support given the
infantry was very poor, for their firing was inaccurate and the number of
shells was limited. The puppet troops, who were accustomed to relying on the
U.S. troops, now had to fight alone without the effective aid and support of
the United States, so their morale clearly declined. Thus after the agreements
the balance of forces on the battlefield changed in an important way
in our favor. The fighting strength of the puppet troops declined clearly
and our position and strength developed strongly. Even so, there was no basis
for thinking that after the Americans withdrew the puppets got stronger, and
were stronger than we were, which was no different from imagining a ghost in order to scare oneself.

The agreement stipulated the ending of all U.S. military activities against
the territory of the DRV by all forces, on the land, in the air, and at sea,
no matter what their point of origin. Thus the socialist North would have
- 37 -
very good conditions to develop the great effectiveness of the base area of
the entire conditions, and would have good conditions for fulfilling as well
as possible its role of being the great rear area of the revolution in South
Vietnam. If we had good position and strength in the South and throughout the
nation it was certain that wa would victoriously fulfill our glorious revolutionary enterprise, although we would have to overcome many difficulties.
But we also had to realize our remaining weaknesses and not be subjective,
so that we could endeavor to overcome them. Our armed forces were in disarray
and had to be urgently supplemented and consolidated. Our local troops
and guerrillas were still too few and there were still many deficiencies in
our proselyting work among the enemy. But we would overcome those weaknesses
from a position of victory and strength and with a spirit of enthusiasm and
self-confidence.

Due to a lack of such understanding, there was worry that our forces exposed
to the enemy would be annihilated and that our free areas would be lost, so
a number of mistaken viewpoints were rectified by the conference of the Political Bureau and its 21st Resolution. Otherwise, countless calamities would
have resulted. One of those viewpoints was that we should urgently stabilize
the situation by abandoning the contested areas and take the initiative in
forming two areas: our area and the enemy's area. One was that we should
readjust and reorganize our forces and withdraw our forces from enemy areas
to our areas so that they could be consolidated and reorganized. One was
that we should carry out those tasks as soon as possible. Another was that
we must have clearly defined areas in order to have appropriate struggle
slogans, and could not waver.

Clearly, the puppet regime of Nguyen Van Thieu desired that very much. They
were very afraid of the interspersed, "leopard spot" configuration on the battlefield.

Our forces were everywhere, even in their urban areas and in their
capital. They were able to evaluate the operational and combat effectiveness
of each of our party members, commandos, and guerrillas. They were also able
to evaluate one of our small armed units in an area under their control and
in enclave guerrilla areas. Each such person and each such unit was a gunbarrel
pointed at the enemy's temple, a source of support for the people's
morale, and a pillar of the local secret mass organizations. Each of their
actions was a source of propaganda which bolstered patriotism and the revolution and opposed suppression, oppression, and injustice. Their actions spoke louder than their words. Their image was that of a light in darkness, a
light which although small at first was spreading over an increasingly larger
area and could never be extinguished. Each party member and soldier, and each
small unit, in turn, had a source of support in our larger units-platoons,
companies, battalions, or larger units-scattered all over the various areas,
in temporarily occupied areas, the contested areas, and the areas contiguous to
our free areas. That was a system from which we could not lose a single link.

It was an all-encompassing strategy of revolutionary war which caused the
enemy troops to suffocate, to worry apprehensively day and night, and think
that all places had to be defended and they could be safe only with large
forces. Had not the Americans calculated that to cope with one of our men
they had to have 5, and then 10 to 20 men?
- 38 -
Despite that, should we voluntarily withdraw our forces from the areas controlled by the enemy and the contested areas to the rear in order to consolidate them, and ourselves erase the very effective "comb's teeth11 position of the revolution, which terrified the enemy? By doing so would we not give the enemy a hand so that they could do other, more important things, which they had been unable to do after many years of fierce attacks and pacification?
If it was argued that that was a temporary measure for a certain time, while
we consolidated our forces, so that after we had regained our strength we
could return and operate more effectively, that was due to the imagination of
impractical people. In fact when, in the B2 theater, we withdrew or abandoned
a certain base, even on our own accord, within a few days the enemy would occupy that area, gain control of the people, launch sweeping operations, and set up outposts. When we wanted to send forces back to open up an area or an
enclave, and organize our masses, we practically had to start from the beginning.

It was even more difficult than work in areas in which we had never had
a base, and much blood had to be shed by our comrades and compatriots. The
comrades who operated behind enemy lines and in contested areas have much experience in that regard. Each comrade and each unit remaining in a base and
creating the core of a political or guerrilla base was extremely valuable in
a life-and-death struggle such as that between ourselves and the enemy. Every
loss of an infrastructure or a base nucleus was a source of worry and pain
which we had to find all ways to overcome.

Here I would like to mention the example of unparalleled heroism on the part
of the cadres and men of the 320th Regiment who, in 1969-1970, we.re assigned
the mission of operating in Long An Province, in the Due Hue, Ben Luc, Can
Duoc, Can Giuoc, Tan Tru, Chau Thanh, and Tan An areas. During that period,
none of us could forget that after Tet Mau Than [1968] the Americans sent
additional troops to Vietnam, stepped up shipments of all kinds of weapons
and ammunition, attained their highest troop level during the war, and insanely
counterattacked us. The Americans and puppets continuously attacked, and
carried out very fierce sweeping and pacification operations. In many places
our people were massacred and herded into strategic hamlets. Many infrastructures were lost and many comrades were lost, especially in the areas adjacent to cities and the highly populated areas which were important strategically.

Long An was such an area. It surrounded Saigon from the northwest to the
southwest and was a highly populated, fertile area, was the gateway to the
Mekong Delta, connected the delta with Saigon, and connected our Dong Thap
Muoi area with the northern Tay Ninh revolutionary base. Long An was also a
province with a long revolutionary tradition of fighting the French and the
Americans. The National Liberation Front of South Vietnam bestowed on its
people, who were very patriotic and resolute, the golden words "Loyal and
resolute, all the people fight the enemy." For those reasons the Americans
and puppets concentrated their attacks there and at times made Long An a pacification test point. But they still suffered a bitter defeat.

In addition to all kinds of puppet forces, the Americans used part of the
25th "Tropical Lightning" Division and the 3d Brigade of the 9th Division. I
remember that the Long An cadres said to me, "It's true that the enemy is
climbing down the ladder of [deescalating] the war, but they have placed the
feet of the ladder in Long An Province!" Long An was the last rung, so the
- 39 -
more they deescalated the more troops they sent there and the more fiercely
they attacked and bombed! It was truly a strange metaphor-everyone laughed
when they first heard it-but it described well the developments at that time.

We definitely would not allow the enemy to succeed there, for that would
considerably influence the common movement. The Regional Command held many
discussions, weighed all factors, and decided to strengthen our forces in
Long An. It sent the 320th Regiment, along with the local forces, to fight
the enemy, maintain the movement, and maintain our infrastructure and guerrilla
bases. The 320th Regiment was a unit with many accomplishments which had
undergone much testing in combat and in bearing terrible hardships. It had
been an independent main-force regiment which had long operated as a whole
unit in a mountains-and-jungle environment, but now it was sent to a highly
populated lowland area with open terrain that was intersected by many rivers
and canals, and had to fight flexibly, by individual companies and battalions,
and often had to disperse into platoons and squads. It not only had to fight
to annihilate the enemy but also had to proselytize and organize the masses,
proselytize enemy troops, eliminate spies, kill tyrants, and guide and coordinate
with the guerrillas and district troops. Sending a concentrated main-force unit to operate in such a dispersed manner, so that it could be said to be no longer a main-force unit, was a reluctant necessity under those circumstances and at that time.

In a war in which our varied operational forms are many and varied and the
situation on the battlefield changes every day, such decisions are not unusual.
At a time when the guerrillas and local troops in that area had been worn down
and had not yet been consolidated, but we had to maintain the movement, that
was a correct decision. But there are also instances in which it would be
incorrect to use main-force troops in lowland areas, or think that by sending
in main-force units it would be possible to open up the lowlands. That is not
the case (I will have more to say on that subject later).

On 18 December 1968, on behalf of the Regional Military Party Committee and
the Regional Command, I went to a location in Tay Ninh Province to work and
assign missions to the regiment in its assembly area, in order to prepare in
all ways for the new task. I walked for about 10 days; with a pack on my
back, using a rattan walking stick, with my pants rolled up above my knees,
and wearing well-worn rubber sandals. I and a heavily armed bodyguard squad
made our way along twisting jungle paths and open areas flooded with stagnant
water. In the wild tropical jungles there were all kinds of big trees intertwined
with vines that had become tattered and denuded, and trees that had
lost their tops and leaves because of bombs, shells and chemical poisons.
It was a pitiful sight. Comrade Hung, my loyal bodyguard, who was small but
wiry and was from Be Cat, which also has many jungles, lay in a hammock near
mine in a clump of trees that had not yet been defoliated. After a hard day's
journey, he was quietly swaying his hammock. I asked, "Hung, why don't you
get some sleep so you'll be fresh when we set out early tomorrow morning?
We still have a long way to go.11 Hung replied, l!0h! I saw you laying there
quietly so I thought you were asleep! I'm so sad that our jungles have been
so devastated. It takes decades for a tree to grow so big." Hung pointed
to a large tree near us that had been uprooted by a bomb and continued, "My
home area has also been devastated." To console both Hung and myself I said,
- 40 -
"After we kill all of the enemy troops our country will be much better. Our
people are able and creative, so why worry? Our jungles will again be green."

In the regiment's bivouac area the jungle was a little better. There were
temporary huts made of small branches and roofed with ntrung quan"
leaves (leaves as large as a man's hand which do not burn even when dry and
grew all over the jungles of South Vietnam). Each hut was big enough for a
squad. My squad and I were also assigned a hut. Representatives of the Long
An Party Committee and provincial unit had arrived on the previous day to participate in a work session and discuss a coordination plan with the regimental
staff. I met comrade Nguyen Due Khoi, the regimental commander; Le Van Minh,
the political officer; and Hong Hai and Trinh Ngoc Cham, the deputy regimental
commanders. Those beloved, brave cadres would gloriously sacrifice their
lives in battle in 1969 and 1970. I also met many other outstanding cadres
in the regimental command, the regiment's staff, political, and rear services
organs, and the battalion commands. Some of them became martyrs and others
matured, gained experience, and added to the glorious tradition of the regiment,
or were assigned elsewhere.

The meeting took place an hour after I arrived, just as soon as the cadres
could be convened. We needed no assembly hall and there were no desks and
chairs-the men sat on mounds of earth and logs in a cleared area in the jungle
under a canopy of green leaves. We worked only during the day. At night,
under the light of the stars and the moon, I visited the huts and talked with
the cadres and men about their home areas, their families, the war situation
in South Vietnam, Hanoi and even the situation in the United States and the
world. We talked about all sorts of things, serious subjects, frivolous
subjects, and even private thoughts and problems. Every night I visited
the huts and returned to my hut late at night to go to sleep. Even so, I
didn't have enough time to visit all of the huts.

Standing before a map of eastern Nam Bo-including Long An and Go Cong Provinces
and part of Dong Thap Muoi-hanging from a tree trunk, and holding a
bamboo stick I had just taken from a nearby cluster of bamboo, I solemnly and
directly assigned missions to the regiment. Then I discussed the terrain and
our situation and that of the enemy in the places in which the enemy would
operate. None of the regimental cadres knew anything about the area. Because
I had served since the anti-French resistance war and had waded and walked over
the entire area, I was the only one who knew about the people and terrain
there and gave the men an initial briefing. I gave them specific instructions
about the operational missions, guidelines, and modes, the tactical forms the
enemy had used and would use in each area of the province, and the tactics and techniques we needed to apply to win victory. I spoke about the mass proselytingmethods, the task of organizing guerrillas and assisting the local
troops, and the task of combining the regiment's unit with the local village
and district units and the regiment with the provincial unit. Finally, I
instructed them about the party work and the political work, and about the
spiritual and material lives of the cadres and men in all forms of activity:
in large units, in small units, and in individual, scattered teams.
- 41 -
After that briefing the men had 2 days in which to discuss all aspects. I
cleared up their remaining questions.

I could never forget those days of urgent and serious work and the sincere,
overflowing sentiment in the 320th Regiment. Its men, both the cadres and
enlisted men, accepted their mission enthusiastically, discussed it excitedly,
and tried to envision the coming battles and the hardships awaiting them.

Not enough can be said about the extremely difficult period during which the
cadres and men of the regiment shared hardships with the local cadres and with
the guerrillas and people, holding their ground despite bombing and shelling
that were so fierce that their only fortifications were the roots of coconut
trees. Who wouldn't remember their strange lives: every day living in the
mud and stagnant water, firing at helicopters and airplanes, resisting the
sweeping operations and nhit and run"* operations of the 3d Brigade of the
U.S. 9th Division, and every night discussing with the people plans to attack
the enemy or buying food and ammunition from strategic hamlets. How could one
forget the tense, worrisome night crossings of the Vam Co River? It took a
company 5 to 7 days to cross from one district to another, then it had to
cross Route 4, along which the enemy had placed outposts, barbed wire, minefields,
etc. In addition, for month after month we had to carry our wounded
to the rear and bring up weapons, ammunition and recruits via a route nearly
100 kilometers long in the interspersed area, with the slogans "Persistence,
stalwartness, and taking the offensive," and "living and fighting here, and
also dying here, for the success of the revolution.11 (Today, before Tet the
people in the Can Duoc, Tan Tru, Due Hue and Chau Thanh areas tidy up the
graves of the unknown soldiers of the 320th Regiment in remembrance of them!)

The regiment and the localities were able to maintain the revolutionary infrastructures and bases of the districts, villages, and guerrilla enclaves during
the most difficult period. During the spring of 1975 the regiment, then part
of the 8th Division of Military Region 8, along with the other forces participated
in the annihilation of each battalion and regiment of the puppet 7th Division, in coordination with the uprising of the people, in order to liberate the Tien Giang area. With its example of glorious combat, the regiment, along with the other units and localities all over the battlefield, provided the B2 theater with valuable experience. Because of such models on the battlefield, the comrades in COSVN and the Regional Party military Commission would not agree to withdraw their forces to the rear, but gave the order to consolidate and reorganize on the spot and maintain the interspersed position in the three areas, and positively reported that opinion to the Central Committee.

There was also the question of two areas or three areas. Throughout the life or-
death struggle between ourselves and the enemy, a fierce, tense struggle
*"Hit and run11 was a local term describing a widespread tactic of the U.S.
troops in Long An at that time. That tactic was carrying out a surprise
attack by landing small units from a few helicopters which flew low and slow.

The troops would fire indiscriminately and fiercely into a few suspected positions
of our troops, bases of local cadres or places where people were concentrated.

Then they would quickly jump aboard the helicopters and make a quick
getaway.
- 42 -
took place in all parts of the theater, and on that basis there took form
three areas. One was the area in which we were strong, our large units stood
fast, and the people participated in all activities and in attacking the enemy
by all means, political, military proselyting, and military. Another was the
area in which the enemy was strong, exercised military and political control,
and heavily suppressed and exploited. In that area, we secretly organized
the masses and had guerrillas, commandos and sappers. We had political cells
in which the people secretly had the cadres and helped the revolution by
deceiving the enemy in many ways and operating openly and legally. There were
guerrilla bases in which weapons and food were cached; there were guerrillas,
and sometimes local troops and spearhead main-force units which operated in
place. Of course, there were party chapters to provide on-the-spot leadership,
the central factor of the movement. Between our area and that of the enemy there was a so-called contested area, which was large or small depending on
the location. That was an area in which the two sides were equally strong
and were fiercely competing with each other; it was constantly undergoing upheaval and change, at times every day and every hour. In that area most of the popular masses supported the revolution and there were all kinds of revolutionary forces and organizations. District and provincial local troops often operated there, and at times a main-force unit of the military zone or of the upper echelon came into the area to fight the enemy and support the local
forces. The enemy often launched sweeping operations, shelled and bombed,
and herded the people into areas under their control. It may be said that
the struggle there, waged by all means at the disposal of both sides, took
place every hour, night and day. Some places were controlled by the enemy
during the day and by us at night. Each side tried to push out the other so
that it could gain full control. Therefore, the contested area changed continually,like a strip of sand buffeted by winds from two directions. If the
wind blew more strongly from one direction the sand would pile up on the
other side and spill over on that side, and vice versa. As long as there
were two sides-revolution and counterrevolution-and they continued to
struggle to control the land and people there would be a contested area. It
would disappear only when there was no longer a struggle between the two
sides, i.e. when one side yielded and the other side won complete victory.

The Paris Agreement did not end the struggle between revolution and counterrevolution and could not immediately end the armed struggle, for the enemy committed violations and grabbed land as described above, hoping to achieve the result of there being only one regime-the puppet regime-and one army-the puppet army. Thus the viewpoint that we should form only two clear areas-the enemy area and our area-in order to have struggle guidelines appropriate to each other in order to immediately stabilize the situation, and so that we could consolidate and rebuild our weakened armed forces and build up economy and governmental administration was completely inappropriate. I still remember that in the meeting held by the comrades in COSVN to prepare for the
Political Bureau conference they agreed unanimously that on the basis of the
actual situation in the B2 theater it was necessary, under all circumstances
and at all times, to keep up the struggle in all three areas. Only if we gave
up the struggle would we lose the contested area. In fact9 if we did so, the
area under our control would gradually become a contested area and then would
become an area controlled by the enemy, so that eventually there would not be
both our area and a contested area but only an area under enemy control.
- 43 -
89-4690
According to an analysis by those comrades, there could never be a stable
situation on the battlefield because neither we nor the enemy would give up
the struggle; even if there was no longer armed struggle there would be political
and economic struggle.

During the plenary meeting of the Political Bureau comrade Iran Huu Due, who
had been sent to the Tri Thien [Quang Tri-Thua Thien] theater to study the
actual situation, returned to report to the conference that Tri Thien had completed
a territorial realignment: the enemy's area extended from the railroad
to the sea and our area extended from the railroad to the Laotian border. Our
units had been withdrawn to our area so that they could be strengthened. The
situation had stabilized and our men were enthusiastic, etc.

We expressed our viewpoint that to do so was dangerous. Such stability would
be only temporary. After the enemy had time to reorganize they would attack
west of the railroad and if we resisted the contested area would reappear.

But this time the contested area would be entirely west of the railroad. Without
meaning to we would voluntarily turn over additional land to the enemy and
help them destroy our interspersed position, eliminate the "leopard spot11 configuration, and fill out their area, an area with fertile land, good roads and
a large population which included nearly all of the towns and cities. Anyone
could see what the prospects for the future were. As far as the enemy was
concerned, such a territorial realignment was ideal. The puppet Thieu regime
and the U.S. strategic research companies had researched three territorial
realignment modes to serve as a basis for the struggle at the conference table
in Paris.

1. A territorial realignment by dividing South Vietnam along a parallel. The
area north of that parallel would belong to the Viet Cong (the PRG of the RSVN)
and the area south of that parallel would belong to the puppet Thieu regime.
2. A division along the length of South Vietnam. The mountainous area along
the Laotian and Kampuchean borders, which had few people, was poor economically,
and had poor roads, would be the "Viet Cong11 area and the area along the
sea, which had a large population and was advantageous in all regards, would
be the area of the puppet Thieu regime.
3. An in-place ceasefire, with forces remaining where they were and interspersed
zones of control would be formed.

Of those three modes, the puppets were most afraid of the third, with its
interspersed "leopard spot" areas of control, for they felt there could be no
ceasefire with such an arrangement and that it was quite possible that the
people would arise to oppose and annihilate them. If their area were not an
integrated whole it would be very difficult for them to develop their economy,
effectively control the people, etc. They preferred the vertical division
according to the second mode, for such a dvision would be entirely beneficial
to them. They thought that before long, with U.S. aid they would become rich
and strong, control large numbers of people, and eventually annihilate the
PRG of the RSVN and gain sole control of South Vietnam.
- 44 -
We struggled at the conference table, but only by shedding much blood on the
battlefield were we able to force the enemy to reluctantly accept an in-place
ceasefire. So would we now voluntarily bring about a vertical division?

Resolution 21 stated clearly that MAt present the positon and strength of the
revolution in South Vietnam are stronger than at any time since 1954n and that
!!The new victory of the people of Vietnam, Laos, and Kampuchea has led to a
change in the comparison of forces in the Indochinese Peninsula that is more
favorable than ever for the South Vietnamese revolution."

The actual development of the situation proved increasingly that those observations
were very correct. The revolutionary forces had become much stronger
than the counterrevolutionary forces in South Vietnam.

Later, at the plenary conference of the Political Bureau of the party Central
Committee held in December 1974 to discuss the 1975-1976 strategic plan, i.e.
nearly 2 years after the true situation became clear, Le Due Tho stated that
since the Paris Agreement we had, in general, evaluated the enemy too highly
and ourselves too lowly. The actual situation on the battlefield had clearly
shown that Zone 5 was afraid that if it attacked, the enemy would attack from
the rear, but when the upper echelon ordered it to attack it was victorious.
Tri Thien also feared the enemy. In the Mekong Delta, in December alone we
eliminated more than 500 illegally placed enemy outposts. In only 1 month
we attained 70 percent of the 6-months dry season norm. Now, the actual
situation was clearly that we were stronger than the enemy.

Resolution 21 also confirmed that "The path of the revolution in the South is
the path of revolutionary violence. Under all circumstances we must take advantage
of the opportunity, maintain the line of strategic offensive, and provide
flexible guidance in order to advance the revolution in the South.n The
resolution set forth the strategic guidelines and modes for each area: "The
liberated area...must build and consolidate," "the contested area...must maintain
our position and strength and gradually improve them..." and "the area
controlled by the enemy...must lead the masses in struggle."

The determination of that strategy and the assignment of those missions
weakened (although not entirely ending) the belief that the Americans and puppets
could observe the agreement, and that there could be peace and stability.

It also lessened fears that the enemy was strong. During that Political Bureau
meeting it was also decided that we must resolutely retaliate against the
enemy for having violated the agreement. Resolution 21 stated that "At present
the active, positive direction most beneficial to the revolutionary cause of
the entire nation is always holding high the flag of peace and justice, and
struggling politically, militarily, and diplomatically to force the enemy to
carry out the Paris Agreement, in order to defeat the enemy." Clearly, our
party affirmed at the very beginning that the Paris Agreement was a victory
for us, and that we had to struggle to force the enemy to strictly implement
them and that our cause was just and we were certain to be victorious. We
signed the agreement and honored our signature. We would also force them to
honor their signature. We would not allow the Americans and puppets to sabotage
the agreement. In order to maintain the accomplishments of the revolution,
- 45 -
we had to punish the enemy for violating the agreement by its land-grabbing
and pacification activities. We would not retaliate passively in places
where the enemy thought it advantageous to violate the agreement and attack
us. We had to take the initiative by retaliating against them very painfully
and attack the places from which their attacks originated and in
places disadvantageous to them. In that spirit, in September 1973 we made
an open declaration over our radio station to warn the enemy and so that
the world could clearly understand our legitimate actions.

We hoped that after that warning the Americans and puppets would awaken so
that we would not have to act and actually open fire. There were still conditions
for carrying out the agreement; the door was still open at Paris and
Tan Son Nhat. But Thieu may have thought that he was truly strong and that
his U.S. master was still a solid source of support. Therefore, Thieu increasingly
stepped up the fighting, despite the agreement and despite our warning, and hoped to rule forever in South Vietnam. The United States, for its part, thought that once it withdrew its troops it could still, by means of its Vietnamization strategy, remain permanently in South Vietnam.

Let us listen to a story told by an American, Weldon A. Brown, in his book
"The Last Helicopter”:

MThieu continued to think that with U.S. aid and with the secret commitments
made by Nixon, he had nothing to worry about. The commitments were still valid
and he had been strengthened because the United States had provided him additional
jet combat aircraft and very modern weapons, so much so that in 1975, when the U.S. Congress forbade the continuation of combat aid, Thieu still felt secure because of the commitments made by Nixon. The aid program and our promises caused Thieu to have a false sense of security, as a result of which Thieu turned down all efforts toward reconciliation or negotiations with the opposition and ignored the Paris Agreement. During the first year after the signing of the agreement, Thieu carried out small attacks and pushed the communists from a number of areas in the Mekong Delta and along the coast, set up outposts there, and resettled refugees in the newly occupied areas, and even had his troops raid Kampuchea."

"Thieu did not want the political process to succeed and weaken his regime, no
matter in what form." Anthony Lewis wrote the following:

"Thieu prevented people from traveling from one area to another, and changed
political prisoners into common criminals so that he could continue to detain
them, and forbade all political parties except his own to operate. Thieu not
only refused to observe the provisions of the Paris Agreement but regarded
propaganda in favor of those agreements in South Vietnam to be a crime. When
the ceasefire was about to take effect Thieu launched harassing operations.

Thieu needed our tacit support for those acts, which violated the agreement,
and it appears that he got his wish. Just before the ceasefire took effect
Washington quickly shipped Thieu weapons valued at $1 billion. According to
one source, at the beginning of February 1975 Thieu told an American reporter
that since the Paris Agreement was signed the United States had never pressured
him to make political concessions to the communists, that is to observe
- 46 -
the peace-keeping provisions. Shipler wrote that Ambassador Martin and the United States did nothing to prevent those foolhardy acts and did nothing to persuade Thieu to carry out the Paris Agreement."
Thus it is clear which party violated the agreement and deliberately stepped up the war. It was essential that the violator be punished.
- 47 -






CHAPTER THREE
Punishing the Agreement Violators

After the Political Bureau meeting we met with the Military Commission of the
party Central Committee to discuss the specific implementation of the Political
Bureau's Resolution. On 1 June 1973 the B2 delegation met to discuss the
contents of a preliminary guidance message to be sent back to our theater and
make preparations for our return. I still had a lot of specific things to do
with the General Staff, the Political General Department, the Rear Services
General Department, and the combat arms commands, so that they could clearly
understand the actual situation in our theater, listen to our opinions, and
give their specialized guidance, and to obtain their valuable assistance with
regard to planning, materiel, and technical matters. I then hastily prepared
to set out.
I was about to return to the green jungle, the battlefield aflame with combat,
and my combat units after a period of absence. I felt very anxious and happy.
That spontaneous happiness enabled me to discover a feeling that had long been
inside me: I regarded the base as my home, the battlefield as my home area,
and the cadres and men of the organs and combat units as my relatives. When
I was assigned the mission of leaving the battlefield to go to Saigon and participate
in the Four-Party Joint Military Commission I thought that I wouldn't
return and I felt anxious and nostalgic, as if sadly bidding adieu to my home
area. Now that I was about to return to the base and the battlefield, I was
as happy as if I were about to return to my old village and my loved ones.
Perhaps the decades I had lived on the battlefield, in the wide open spaces,
with constantly changing scenery, the jungle birds, and the fish, had conditioned
my soul to respond only to the green jungle. Or perhaps I had yearned
all my life for independence and freedom and had pledged to take up arms and
fight until the final objective was attained, so my life had been tied in
with the battlefield. That was not entirely the case. Even as I take pen in
hand to write these lines I understand even more clearly the nostalgic reason
for the life and society of soldiers during many long years of war. How beautiful
and how noble is the sacred comradeship for the goal of liberating the
homeland and the people. During the difficult days of hunger and thirst we
shared each piece of jungle root, and each bit of firewood and custard apple,
and shared with one another each drink of spring water we had brought from the
other side of the mountain. On the Truong Son route, every year, after months
of carrying heavy burdens, climbing mountains and fording streams to the point
of exhaustion, we shared each spoonful of sugar or bit of salt, or offered one
another our last quinine tablet to help one another reach the objective. Each
human life was precious and the homeland needed every soldier, but we regarded
our joys and sorrows. If one heard that the other won a battle and did a
better job than he did, he would enthusiastically study the other's example.
If one heard that the other had been defeated he would be worried and seek ways
to help out. Everything was for the common cause. Everything was for the
revolution. One for all, all for one. Such was life in the "green jungle."
Such was life among comrades in arms in two wars of resistance, in the Duong
Minh Chau, War Zone D, Dong Thap Muoi, and U Minh Forest bases. Love for one's
- 48 -
comrades and fellow unit members, the jungle, and the streams were immense
and unlimited. That was love we learned from Uncle Ho, from his immense love
for the nation and for the workers and fighters. That love transcended space
and time and was the same everywhere and at all times.
Anyone who had lived such a life would be indulgent and nostalgic. It was not
that the battlefield had captivated me, but that my heart and morality made me
attached to it.
All along the Truong Son route during that trip south there was much less
enemy bombing and shelling. All activities became much more pleasant and
animated. From one troop way-station to another and from one segment to
another there was specialization and efficiency was many times higher than in
the past. The men were happy when they met our delegation traveling south
from Hanoi. Everyone wanted to know whether there was anything new with regard
to lines and policies. Had the Political Bureau issued a resolution on
the new situation and missions? The cadres in charge of the units and stations
whispered in my ear, "What does B2 intend to do?f! and "What are the
prospects?11 They promised to do all they could to aid the battlefield. I
was very moved. Those comrades would give us their all-out assistance and
support the battlefields, but that area itself was a battlefield. They were
not only aiding the battlefields but were also fighting heroically under
fierce bombing and shelling, no less so than at the front. They had a truly
noble spirit of thinking only of their comrades and the total victory of the
revolution. The same was true all over the country during wartime. Millions
of people acted as one, believed in the party, and worked, fought, and sacrificed
everything for victory, for the success of the revolution in the South,
and for the unification of the homeland.
Of course, it was unavoidable that certain backward elements would violate
discipline in a cowardly* manner: some were afraid of dying and sought ways
to avoid going to the front, but they were a small, insignificant minority.
During that arduous, dangerous trip I dreamed of the battlefield. After the
victory we would have a country extending from Lang Son to the Ca Mau Peninsula,
from the border to the islands, with an immense sky and immense seas. We
would have 40 to 50 million Vietnamese who lived new-style lives. We would
build a new society, a socialist society, and would create the new socialist
man, just like the society and people the heart and morality of which had
formed me. It was necessary to eliminate the bad customs which the way of
life of selfish individual competition in the artificially prosperous society
and consumer society left behind by U.S. neocolonialism. We had to put an
end to thankless habits and vile individual desires which resulted in husbands
mistreating wives, children abandoning their father, and friends being changed
depending on one's needs of the moment. The new society had to be a society
in which there is no oppression, exploitation, or injustice, in which everyone
is able to develop their talents and participate in building the nation and
* That is, fearing death and remaining in the rear, or transferring to other,
less dangerous units.
- 49 -
in a free, well-off, happy life for everyone. The new man must be exemplary,
virtuous and talented.
Virtue is manifested in behavior between people, between the general and the
specific, in the family and in society. Everyone must love and respect each
other, and be faithful, sincere and loyal. Such people have nothing in common
with people who smile cordially in one's presence but betray one behind
one's back, who "stabs you in the stomach with a dagger while praying to
Buddha." It must be Vietnamese morality and communist morality, which combine
to form the virtue of Ho Chi Minh.
Talent is manifested in the specific results of completed tasks and missions,
not in superficial boasting and exaggeration. If words are not accompanied by
action they have no value, theory not demonstrated by reality is only empty
theory. Every individual must be exemplary in study, work, combat, production,
and one's way of life, and life in an exemplary, close-knit family and an
orderly, harmonious society. If we are not exemplary no one will listen to
us, and if families are not harmonious and exemplary there is no way to create
an orderly, just society. I think that our society of the future must be a
pure society made up of pure people. That society differs from the Maoist
society described by comrade P.P. Vladimirov in his book "Yanan Diary":
"The principled nature of the party is replaced by reverent minds, a personality
cult, and a self-effacement of the individual. The self-effacement had,
in general, become a characteristic of life in Yanan. While trying to avoid
making waves at any price, and keep one's position, or even rise higher, people
appear to have gone crazy. Honor, virtue, friendship, etc., are forgotten."
Such people clearly are not communists. Such a society is not a socialist
society.
I had a dream about a road. I had an enthusiastic exchange with the comrades
in the Command of Group 559 at the Group's headquarters. We decided that once
the revolution succeeded and our country was unified we would develop that
Route 559, the eastern Truong Son route, the famous "Ho Chi Minh Trail," into
a truly modern Ho Chi Minh road. It would be a highway running north-south
along the Truong Son, following the old 559 route, which would be improved,
broadened, and meet standards. Along the way there would be erected monuments
to commemorate the feats of arms of each segment of the road, of the
heroic martyrs, so that future generations could always know about the backbone
road of the homeland which passed down the length of the nation, a road
that unified the nation even then. That backbone extended from Hanoi,
the nerve center, and from the socialist North to the South, which was engaged
in a life-and death struggle. In the future, if we were capable of
doing so, we would also build a parallel railroad. The Ho Chi Minh highway
and the Ho Chi Minh railroad would in fact be backbone routes for a country
that was developing strongly. All of our dreams would become reality. We
were sacrificing ourselves in combat to achieve success so that future generations
could continue to build a rich and strong state so that our people
can have a civilized, happy life.
- 50 -
At the end of June the water level of the Sekong River had risen and the
current was flowing swiftly. Two well-built boats of Group 471 (under the
559 Command) took us downstream through many rough rapids. Each time we
passed through a rapids my entire body shook. A soldier sat in the stern,
his hand on the tiller and looking ahead intensely. Another stood imposingly
on the bow, his two hands clutching a long pole, prepared to push the boat
away from dangerous holders sticking up out of the water or submerged below
the surface. Meanwhile, the boat continued to rush along with the swiftflowing
current. Many times I thought it was about to be smashed to pieces
against a rock. We got out of a vehicle and boarded a boat, then left the
boat and resumed the journey by land. On each occasion we were greeted warmly
and given all-out assistance, and the partings were reluctant. It is impossible
to remember all of the people along that wartime route. They included
cadres and enlisted men and there were females and males. They were all alike:
they had calm expressions in the face of danger and had bright smiles and loved
their country, and had a will of iron. We became friends immediately after we
met, and parting was difficult.
As soon as I came ashore I met comrade Cuu (Colonel Huynh Van Cuu), deputy
head of the Regional Protection Bureau, accompanied by several others, who
had brought several "command cars" to take us back to the base. Cuu was a
cadre who specialized in organizing our official trips and visits to the battlefield.
He was very experienced in insuring safety and rapidity. I hugged
him and firmly shook hands with everyone. He looked me over and said, "You
look thinner but are still firm. When we heard that you were returning we
were all happy. I thought that I wouldn't have the opportunity to escort you
again!" "Did you think that I would remain in Saigon?" I asked, "In fact I
wanted to stay there, as a member of the Four-Party Joint Military Commission
and Concord, if it were set up. But the enemy wanted no part of it. They
don't want peace, but only war, so I had to return to the green jungle with
you."
Our convoy arrived at the base at dusk. Over a period of half a year many
things had happened, but the scenery, the land, and the sky at the base were
practically the same.
Comrade Tarn Hoa, i.e. Nguyen Xuan On, the chef de cabinet of the Regional
Command, along with comrade Le Van Xup, a bodyguard who had been an aide since
I first returned south, and Misses Xuan Thu and Huong of the military medical
team, and Lien and Tarn of the mess team, ran out to the gate to give me a
rousing reception.
When I entered the house I looked around. In the rich green garden there were
fresh greens, fruit trees, bananas, grapefruits and luxuriant pink plums.
Comrade Chin Dung, who was old and had served with the old 309th Battalion
during the anti-French resistance, and now diligently tended the garden,
boasted to me about his accomplishments and observed, "For a long time now the
enemy have reduced their bombing and strafing here, so the vegetation is
healthy. When peace is achieved this entire denuded jungle area will become
fruit orchards and fields of green vegetables. I will be able to return to
my home village of Cam Son in My Tho and live out my old age." Chin Dung
- 51 -
turned around and continued his introductions. "This is the young man Tai
and this is Miss Thao. The secretarial team will prepare for their wedding
so that we can drink some wine in celebration.
While Thao and Tai were blushing and trying to hide their smiles, Kien Chien,
the deputy chef de cabinet, and the youths Diep, Cach and Luu of the Civil
Affairs Team laughed aloud and shouted encouragement. Everyone crowded
around asking all sorts of questions. I didn't have time to respond adequately
to any of the questions. It was truly moving, as if we were a
family. I suddenly asked comrade "Five Poison11 (i.e. Nguyen Van Hoanh), my
secretary, to take from the car the gifts 1 had brought from Hanoi and distribute
them to everyone. He was called by that name because his name was
Nam [Five] and he was a chemical corps cadre, and to distinguish him from
comrade "Five Red Medicine," a military medical doctor who also worked at
the organ. The gifts didn't amount to much, a package of "Capital" cigarettes
for the men and needle, thread and hair clasps for the women. They had only
sentimental value.
As if suddenly remembering something pleasant, brother Tarn Hoa pulled me to
one side and asked, "Do you know that the puppets have openly complained,
demanding that you return to Saigon? It's so funny. They said that Hanoi
had placed you under 'house arrest,' and that Hanoi must return you to them!"
"It's nothing but a psychological warfare trick," I said. Tarn Hoa continued,
"When brother Hai Khiet, a member of the Joint Military Commission, reported
that you had gone to Hanoi for good they became enraged. They threatened our
delegation that if Lt Gen Tran Van Tra did not return they would send vehicles
to take away our entire delegation. They may really do that, for the
puppets have stopped at no vile act in the past. Thus our comrades there
must have plans to fight to defend themselves. The tense situation has lasted
several months. I'm really concerned about them."
I replied, "We will struggle to force them to observe the Paris Agreement.
They won't dare do anything to our people, for we are strong legally, politically*
and militarily."
After I rested a few days COSVN held a meeting to disseminate Resolution 21
and organize its implementation. Toward that end, a conference of military
administration cadres from all over the B2 theater was held in September 1973
in an attractive bamboo grove in the base area. In attendance were large
numbers of leadership cadres of the provinces, military regions, mass organizations,
and regiments and divisions. The discussions were very seething and
enthusiastic. Those comrades reported on the actual situations in the localities
and units, our good points and deficiencies during the recent period,
related them to theory and to the resolution, and evaluated what was correct
and what was incorrect. The main features of the situation-the question of
whether we or the enemy were stronger, whether there should be two areas,
whether our forces should be consolidated on the spot or withdrawn to, how
we should retaliate, etc.-were analyzed. The discussions were very specific
*Bui Thanh Kiet, a senior colonel and deputy head of the military delegation
of the PRG of the RSVN to the Two-Party Joint Military Commission.
- 52 -
and dealt with each detail and aspect, so that implementation could be correct
and in order to avoid leftist or rightist deviation. Especially, those
comrades spent a good deal of time discussing the military proselyting policy
after the agreements. According to one view, we had to stress political
struggle and military proselyting should be our strategy; it was necessary
to use many military proselyting stratagems by the masses to paralyze the
enemy's military operations, and that was a form of attack. We had strong
military forces but we would avoid using them, for using military forces
would be very entangling and would cause a lack of mutual confidence and
tension. We had to dare achieve national conciliation and eliminate enmity.
Such one-sided views were based on our subjective thoughts and desires and
did not take into account the actual plots and acts of the enemy, and would
cause the lower echelons to have pacifist, rightist thoughts and cease to
fight. One cadre said of the lower echelons, "The men have been fighting
for decades. Isn't that enough? Now we must !fbe green on the outside and
red on the inside,11 promote military proselyting, and transform supporters
of the enemy into our supporters.f! According to another, "We still have
troops, weapons, and ammunition. We can take what we need from the United
States and Thieu and we will not have to worry about insufficient supplies,
etc." Although they dared not say so openly, in their hearts the lower echelons
wanted to say to such cadres, "We don't want to keep on fighting merely
to satisfy our personal desires. We want the country to be at peace and for
the killing of the people to cease. But if the enemy launches sweeping and
land-grabbing operations and shoot at us, and plot to eliminate the revolutionary
gains we have made recently, what are we to do? Put up our hands and
shout the slogan 'Peace forever'?" No. We sincerely did not want a recurrence
of the grievous naivete of the 1954-1959 period. In my heart I still
mourn the many comrades who fell in battle-with weapons in hand but not
daring to fire-during that period, and mourn the many local movements that
were drowned in blood. Because they were afraid of being criticized and of
acting contrary to the (military proselyting) policy, the guerrillas in My Tho
had to attack on the sly (without the knowledge of the upper echelon) the
enemy outposts that had been set up illegally in their base area. In Mo Cay
and Ben Tre, where our troops had to retreat continually in the face of enemy
land-grabbing operations and not retaliate against them, they lamented, "How
could we sink any lower?" and ultimately were able to recover the district's
base area by retaliating on their own accord.
After the conference of military administration cadres, I met with the military
cadres to discuss the details of the military plan for the 1973-1974 dry season,
the first full dry season since the signing of the agreements. In essence,
the plan reconfirmed our explicit attitude of observing and defending the
agreement, and thus punishing the violator. We endeavored to do what we had
declared we would do: resolutely and actively punish the enemy, even in the
places from which they launched the agreement-violating attacks. If we were
to carry out that plan we had to be strong politically, legally and militarily,
and strong not only with regard to forces but also with regard to our
deployment of the various kinds of forces in the various areas, in accordance
with a strong strategic posture which provided for all contingencies. We had
to consolidate and rectify our armed forces on the spot and had to develop
- 53 -
the position and strength of the revolution in all three areas: our area,
the enemy's area and the contested area. All localities had to use all political
forms to proselytize and win over the enemy troops, and force the withdrawal
of or wipe out the outposts and positions illegally set up in all
areas after 28 January 1973. It was necessary to insure the democratic rights
of the people-their right to travel and earn a living-and their right to
dismantle the strategic hamlets and return to their old village if they so
desired. We had to annihilate all forces launching attacks, carrying out
sweeping operations, robbing the people, or interfering with the people's livelihood.
All such activities were illegal. We informed our delegation to the
Two-Party Joint Military Commission of our plan so that it could coordinate
its struggle at the conference table.
A review of the situation since the agreement was signed showed that there had
been many changes in the B2 theater. Between January and April 1973, in all
military regions and provinces the enemy had used all types of troops to attack
and encroach upon our areas, and endeavored to achieve pacification, herd the
people, conscript recruits and clear terrain. Especially around Saigon they
used bulldozers to flatten the people's houses and gardens, and used soldiers
and prisoners to cut down vegetation, clear out mangrove trees, set up additional
outposts, and sent out "Phoenix" spies to uncover, arrest and kill
patriots they called "Viet Cong infrastructure.11 After May 1973, thanks to
the close guidance of COSVN and the Regional Command, and of the local
leadership echelons, we retaliated fiercely so the enemy forces were stopped
and were gradually repulsed. Outposts which had illegally been set up were
wiped out, surrendered, or were withdrawn, increasingly larger numbers of
enemy troops deserted, and the enemy's regular and local units were hit hard
and revealed weaknesses and suffered increasingly larger losses in the various
areas.
The situations of our side and the enemy developed in two increasingly contrasting
directions. For our part, the cadres, enlisted men, and people realized
that the United States had been defeated, the puppets had weakened, we
were victorious, and our status was improving, and were enthusiastic and
confident and participated positively in all tasks of opposing the enemy. For
the enemy's part, the officers and enlisted men of the various kinds of forces
realized the truth-that the United States had been defeated-and were tired
of the war, were afraid the war would continue, and wanted peace. When carrying
our military operations they did so perfunctorily, and sometimes did not
carry out the operations at all but falsified their reports (this happened at
the regimental and battalion levels). The number of draft-dodgers and deserters
increased steadily. The forces controlling the people were also negative
and relaxed their control. Therefore, the people struggled and engaged in
livelihood increasingly far from home, and one by one returned to their old
villages and our liberated area. At the same time, the upper-echelon Americans
and puppets, who were very obstinate and subjective, drated one plan
after another and ordered the lower echelons to implement them. Thieu
instructed the sector (provincial) echelon as follows:
1. Expand your territory, gain control of the population, maintain the area
under your control, maintain security, and do not lose a single village or
- 54 -
hamlet. (The overall norms were to control 11,000 of the 13,000 hamlets in
South Vietnam, and that by February 1974, 65 percent of hamlets must be
Class A-tightly controlled-hamlets.)
2. Take and defend all strategic lines of communication.
3. Annihilate the enemy armed forces and supply and transportation forces in
all areas, especially those crossing the border.
4. Isolate and blockade the enemy economically, and sabotage and destabilize
the enemy's base areas and liberated area.
5. Step up monitoring, espionage, and the use of airborne reconnaissance
commandos to grasp the situation, study objectives, and draft contingency
plans while awaiting the opportunity to retake the areas we held prior to
29 March 1972.
He also issued specific instructions to each area:
1. In the areas under our control and the cities, wipe out the seeds of uprising
and prevent uprisings by patrolling, ambushing, eliminating the Viet
Cong infrastructures, tightly controlling the people, stepping up psychological
warfare, organizing the people, consolidating the governmental administration,
normalizing the people's lives and creating conditions for economic
restoration and development.
2. In the consolidation area (i.e. the contested area), made up of the Class
and Class D hamlets, push back, stop aud annihilate the Viet Cong political
and military forces; restore and consolidate the governmental administration,
raise the level of security, expand the area under our control, and use political
and economic means to bribe the people, but rely principally on military
means. The territorial military forces will gradually be concentrated to
carry out attacks in that area.
3. In the Viet Cong mopping-up area (i.e. our liberated and base areas), concentrate
on attacking the transportation corridors to achieve an economic
blockade, and on reconnaissance and intelligence activities. Depending on
the situation, use air power and artillery to attack supply depots and transportation
facilities, win over the people, maintain a government in exile, and
create instability. Maintain military activities and draft plans to retake
the area.
With regard to their pacification plan, they stated that it was necessary to
launch many pacification campaigns in each sector and military region, as well
as nationwide, and increase the density of small unit operations; set up many
additional outposts; and bulldoze the terrain in the contested area and our
liberated area. In 1973 alone their norm was to destroy 12,000 hectares. In
areas under their control, they were to relocate the people, set up hamlets,
clear wasteland, and encroach upon our liberated area. Their 1973 plan
called for the relocation of 100,000 people and the establishment of 20 hamlets
in the provinces of Long Khanh, Phuoc Tuy, Binh Tuy, Lam Dong, Kien
- 55 -
Phong, Ninh Thuan, and Dae Lac. Expenses would total 50 billion puppet South
Vietnamese piasters.
The enemy made the following national objectives: taking and holding as
much territory as possible; endeavoring to control the people, especially the
peasants; and increasing actual military and political strength. Military Region
III and Military Region IV constituted the enemy's heartland. On
6 March 1973 Thieu met with the Military Region commanders and province chiefs
and said, "I place the life-or-death struggle on the shoulders of the highranking
commanders of those two military regions (Military Region II and Military
Region IV).
Thus the puppet Thieu regime not only ignored the Paris Agreement but took
advantage of it and of the honesty of its adversary, which believed in peace,
stability and national concord, and endeavored to consolidate and develop
their forces, step up their land-grabbing attacks, and eventually completely
eliminate the liberation troops and the PRG of the RSVN. If we were not vigilant,
if we were rightist and gave ground, the puppet forces would become increasingly
strong and their position would improve, and the situation would
have developed differently. Clearly, after the end of April we reacted and
retaliated, while the enemy revealed weaknesses and deficiencies, were
stopped and retreated. Following the Political Bureau conference COSVN,
in a spirit of debate, guided opposition against the enemy more resolutely
and the situation on the battlefield developed increasingly to our advantage.
Even in the period from January to April, when we were losing much of our
land and population on the other battlefields, in Military Region 9 (western
Nam Bo), where the enemy concentrated the largest number of troops and which
they regarded as the center of their land-grabbing attacks-especially in the
Chuong Thien area and the area between Can Tho, Soc Trang, Ca Mau, and Rach
Gia Provinces-we held our ground. We were able to do so because comrade
Sau Dan (Vo Van Kiet) at that time secretary of the Military Region 9 Party
Committee, agreed with the military region command, headed by comrade Le Due
Anh, that the enemy would never willingly observe the agreement, that war was
still war, and that nothing had changed. Therefore, the main-force regiments
of the Military Region remained in place and, along with the local forces and
guerrillas, operated as usual, attacked resolutely, retaliated fiercely, and
annihilated entire enemy battalions (the 3d Battalion of the 16th Regiment of
the puppet 9th Division and the 86th Ranger Battalion). That clearly did not
indicate that our forces had weakened and the enemy forces had become stronger
since the agreements, as some comrades imagined.
By means of those activities, Military Region 9 liberated an area 20 kilometers
long along the Nuoc Due Canal in southern Chuong Thien, and a number
of other areas. The population of those newly liberated areas amounted to
600,000, in 11 villages and 152 hamlets, not counting the people in the contested
area who returned to our area to produce. At the same time, Military
Region 9 wiped out all of the land-grabbing outposts illegally set up by the
enemy, after which the garrisons of some enemy outposts that had been established
prior to the agreements also fled in panic. The heroic actions and
brilliant specific results of the soldiers and people of Military Region 9
- 56 -
were outstanding and unique in comparison to the other military regions, and
were praised by the Political Bureau and set an example for the other battlefields.
But surprisingly those specific acts were completely contrary to a
whole series of policies at that time, just after the signing of the agreement:
that we should urgently stabilize the situation, create two zones, one
controlled by us and the other controlled by the enemy,, withdraw our forces
to the rear so that they could be consolidated, and not use troops rashly
but struggle politically, principally by military proselyting. Using military
proselyting, using the masses to paralyze the enemy's military operations and
neutralize the enemyTs outposts, were types of attacks, as mentioned above.
Especially, the actions of the military forces of Military Region 9 were based
on the viewpoint that there had been no agreements, that nothing had changed,
and that it was necessary to keep on fighting. That was an incorrect understanding
of the Paris Agreement and the new strategic phase. But it was correct
in that it correctly evaluated the obstinacy and perfidy of the enemy,
just like during the Geneva Agreements period, and resolutely retained the
revolutionary gains that had been made. It was in accord with the actual
situation and was not illusory and Utopian. "Luckily," that was a distant
battlefield, so upper-echelon policies were often slow in reaching it and
the rectification of mistakes was often not prompt. Let us here mention one
point: reality is extremely valuable, whether it is the reality of something
mistaken or something correct; it is the basis of theory and of policies and
lines. Any theory, policy or line not based on reality is mistaken.
In one of their long-range plans the enemy intended to:
"Between February and August 1973, endeavor to occupy and control the major
part of the territory of South Vietnam.
"Between September 1973 and February 1974, endeavor to consolidate the gains
that had been made and defend them solidly.
"Then, in 1974 or at latest 1975, there would be a political solution and a
general elections to make things legal. There will be only one governmental
administration (i.e. that of Thieu) and one strong army (i.e. the Army of the
Republic of Vietnam). The war will wither away. The Viet Cong will only be
an opposition party which engages exclusively in political struggle, nothing
more and nothing less.
"Otherwise, we will use large-scale warfare to completely eliminate the Viet
Cong in 1976 and 1977."
With regard to the economy, to accompany that political-military plan they
drafted a long-range 1973-1980, 8-year plan which was promulgated on 20 May
1973. The plan was divided into three periods:
"1973-1974: restoration and rebuilding.
"1975-1976: development and consolidation.
"1977-1980: self-sufficiency and a reduction of aid."
- 57 -
The aspirations, plans and acts of the enemy were one-in-the-same from the
very beginning.
On the basis of the actual developments on the battlefield between them and
the middle of the rainy season, we could see what the schemes and actions of
the enemy were. We studied the implementation of Resolution 21 of the party
Central Committee and concretized it in the form of COSVN Resolution 12, on
the basis of which we drafted the B2 theater's operational plan for the 1973-
1974 dry season. After presenting the plan and obtaining the approval of
COSVN, I reviewed the plan for the last time and approved it in September
1973 so that the staff and the battlefields could have time to meticulously
organize its implementation and report to the Military Commission of the
party Central Committee.
The main battlefield that was selected was the Mekong Delta, which the enemy
had selected as the focal point for their pacification, land-grabbing, population-
grabbing, and plundering activities. We had to stay the bloody hand
of the enemy and resolutely punish them. We had to regain and retain the
liberated area we had prior to 28 January 1973. In order to attain that goal
we had to closely coordinate our activities with the other battlefields and
not allow the enemy to make peace in places they were weak and at a disadvantage
in order to concentrate troops to attack in places where they had the
advantage and in places strategically important to them. We decided to
strengthen the forces-both the manpower and weapons of Military Regions 8 and
9, the delta battlefield, so that those two battlefields could fulfill their
mission of being the principal battlefields in that phase. At that time, a
problem that was posed within the ranks of military cadres, as well as among
the civilian cadres, was how the forces of the delta should be strengthened.
Since we had selected the delta as the main battlefield we had to deploy
strong forces of all three types there in order to defeat the enemy. Thus
many main-force troops were concentrated there.
In the short range as well as in the long range, the question was whether the
two sides should continue to fight in the eastern part of the theater like two
water buffaloes clashing with each other or whether we should surprise the
enemy by selecting another area, i.e. the Mekong Delta, in which to concentrate
our forces and attack.
Those who shared that opinion wanted to redeploy our forces and send the
region's main-force troops to augment the rural areas in the delta. They
thought that to liberate the highly populated, rich delta would be to win
the war. In fact, that was not a new viewpoint but had persisted for a long
time. According to that viewpoint, we had to liberate the rural areas before
liberating the cities. It was contrary to our party's line regarding the anti-
U.S. war. That was a strategy of attacking in all three strategic areas: the
lowland rural area, the jungle-and-mountains area, and the cities. It was a
strategy of attacking with both military forces and mass political forces, and
of always combining offensives and uprisings. Therefore, the position of
cities was very important. In that strategic offensive the main-force attack
would be the decisive blow, but our increasingly well-equipped main-force
- 58 -
units could be concentrated to fight on a large scale in an open delta area
with many rivers and canals and with marshy terrain. In that area the enemy
held the lines of communications, which were defended by a system of strongly
fortified outposts. The enemy also had fleets on the river and had complete
control of the air. Our experience had shown us that when fighting the U.S.-
puppet troops it was best if we concentrated troops in regimental units equipped
with light military equipment. If divisions were organized, they had to be
light divisions, and the method of command and tactics could not be the same
as on the jungle-and-mountains battlefield. At the same time, we had to
develop extensive guerrilla forces, large numbers of elite sappers, and strong
local troops in order to wage marvelous, continuous, seething guerrilla warfare
and revolutionary people's war, flexibly combine the three types of troops
on all kinds of terrain, and in all kinds of weather, by means of the three
combat columns, combined campaigns, and both military forces and the political
forces of the masses. We were entirely capable of fighting in that manner,
had large numbers of revolutionary people, had superiority and had experience.
Each battlefield was different with regard to conditions, missions, objectives
and capabilities. We had to have appropriate methods for organizing and deploying
forces and could not be imitative, and certainly could not base our
actions on our subjective desires.
The Regional Command had always affirmed that the eastern Nam Bo battlefield,
including Saigon, the principal battlefield of B2, was the war-deciding strategic
battlefield which would determine the outcome of the war. There we
were capable of bringing into play the great role of main-force units. The
terrain was favorable for the concentration and use of large main-force units
and the use of all weapons and technical facilities. It was an area in which
we were capable or organizing, deploying and stockpiling rear services facilities
and materiel-technical support facilities for a large army and for major
campaigns. That battlefield had an important strategic position. We could
threaten the enemy, force the enemy into a passive defensive position, and
annihilate much enemy manpower, combining lightning attacks with storm-like
uprisings to smash the U.S.-puppet war center and ultimately knock out the
enemy there.
The delta battlefield played a very important role throughout the course of
the war, for both we and the enemy relied on the treasury of people and
materiel there to build up military, political and economic forces and change
the balance of forces between the two sides. At times we made it the main
battlefield in that sense, but only at certain times in the course of the
war, such as during that dry season and the rainy season of 1974 or, in the
past, in 1962 and 1963. However, it was not the battlefield that would decide
the war. Therefore, B2 had long made its strategic deployments and
force deployments on the basis of the role and position of the battlefield,
in a strategic offensive plan of a truly revolutionary war. It was vital that
the eastern Nam Bo main-force units not be weakened; on the contrary, they had
to be further strengthened. I remember that in 1965-1966, when the Americans
were sending large numbers of troops into South Vietnam, a number of comrades
in charge of the city of Saigon directly asked me, "The Americans are bringing
in large numbers of troops and strong weapons, and are changing over to
a limited war, so should we change our strategic line? Should we disperse
- 59 -
our main forces so that we can wage a protracted guerrilla war in order to
defeat the enemy? I emphatically said no. I explained the passive, fireextinguishing
role of the Americans; that they had large numbers of troops
but were not strong and we were still attacking them; and that we would not
disperse them to fight as guerrillas but would organize many additional
divisions-at that time only one division had been organized in B2-and advance
to the formation of crops. There was absolutely no question of changing
the strategic line, or of defeating the enemy by waging a protracted
guerrilla war. However, that attitude did not die away entirely; the struggle
against it was prolonged. A long time had passed since then. The Americans
had to get out and the puppets were aggressive but that aggression was in its
death throes, so the eastern Nam Bo main-force troops had become even more
important. We had endeavored to strengthen the main-force units of eastern
Nam Bo and decided to reinforce the forces in the delta by many different
means. We would positively and quickly send many additional troops, weapons
and ammunition, and facilities in order to promote the development of the
three types of on-the-spot troops; assign to the regional main-force divisions
the mission of urgently organizing and training a number of technical combat
arms companies and battalions so that they could be sent down to the military
alliance; send to Military Region 9 the 1st Regiment of the main-force 1st
Division of the Region, which was operating in the Bay Nui-Ha Tien area;
step up close guidance of plans and modes; and guide a plan for closely coordinating
the battlefields, including those of the main-force units, so that
the enemy could not concentrate on attacking in the lowlands as they saw fit.
During that dry season B2 carried out the task of protecting, consolidating,
and expanding the communications-transportation corridors connecting the
Regional base in eastern Nam Bo with the Dong Thap Muoi base, and on down to
the U Minh Forest base, along three routes:
-The route along the Kampuchean border to Bay Nui, Ha Tien, Rach Gia and the
U Minh Forest.
-The My Tho route through Ben Tre, Vinh Tra and Ca Mau.
-The river route via the Tien and Hau rivers.
At the same time we strengthened the route connecting eastern Nam Bo with the
great rear area via the Truong Son 559 route. With the agreement and positive
assistance of the Rear Services General Department, the Regional Rear Services
Department worked with the military regions in urgently building up the
materiel reserves of the region and the military regions, starting with the
beginning of the dry season, so that they could continue to take the initiative
and develop strongly.
The weapons and equipment supplied by the General Staff to B2 in 1973 were
being received and transported efficiently. But there was as yet no upperechelon
distribution plan to transport and stockpile the supplies for 1974
early and positively. If we waited for a decision, we would lose transportation
time and slow things down, and if unexpected obstacles were encountered,
the stockpiling plan could be upset. I had been thinking about that problem
- 60 -
since I attended the plenary meeting of the Political Bureau in Hanoi in May,
but could find no solution to it. I went to meet with comrade Dinh Due
Thien, then head of the Rear Services General Department. Comrade Thien was
straightforward and enthusiastic; enthusiastic toward his friends and comrades
and toward the common endeavor. A large man, he was a person who
dared to think and to do, was open, kind, easy to get to know, and especially
was good-natured. The military cadres of the north and south, the old revolutionary
cadres who had been active in the past, both men and women, and the
enlisted men, knew about and sympathized with his good nature and folksy
"obscenity." After I explained the problem and expressed my concern that
I had not been able to resolve it, he laughed it off and said, "There's no
problem. Why can't a battlefield commander think out the solution to such
an easy problem?"
I was surprised and looked at him inquisitively. After hesitating a moment
he said very slowly, with a very sympathetic expression, "Let me be the
chief of the general staff for an hour. I will immediately sign an order
giving B2 several thousand additional tons of weapons, then I will sign
similar orders for the other military regions."
I burst out in laughter when I realized that he was joking. I joked with him
in turn, "If I had unlimited powers, I'd let you be the 'Son of Heaven' for
24 hours so that you could be granted all your wishes and marry a beautiful
princess just like Hassan did. But I won't assume responsibility if you,
like Hassan, are sent to an insane asylum and receive 50 lashes a day!"*
We laughed together merrily. But then he presented a plan: "If you agree,
I'll lend you in advance 2,000 tons of weapons of various kinds from the
total to be distributed to B2 in 1974."
I was extremely happy. We had reached agreement about a loan. He did not
forget to emphasize, "Later I will deduct what supplies I'm sending you in
advance. Tell your men to take good care of them. If you use them up and
demand more, I'll have you all thrown in jail."
There remained the problem of transportation. I was certain in advance that
the people responsible for transportation would be prepared to take on that
additional difficult task. That turned out to be the case.
It was a dry season in which the two sides were trying to gain control of
the land and the people. The enemy's objective was to gain control of the
areas they controlled prior to 29 March 1972. They acted as if the Paris
Agreement did not exist. Our objective was to retake the areas under our
control prior to 28 January 1973. That objective was legally in accord with
the Paris Agreement. The central focus of Military Region 9's plan was to
punish the enemy troops for encroaching on our U Minh base area and retaking
the highly populated areas in Go Quao and Giong Rieng in Rach Gia, and in
Vinh Long and Tra Vinh, which made up a strategic area between the Tien and
Hau Rivers. The central focus of Military Region 8's plan was to punish the
* From a story about a dreaming youth in the book "A Thousand and One
Nights."
- 61 -
enemy for occupying the heart of our Dong Thap Muoi base and retake the
highly populated Cai Be and Cai Lay areas in My Tho Province, which lay
astride strategic Route 4, the backbone of the delta, along with areas in
Ben Tre Province which bordered Vinh Long and Tra Vinh in Military Region 9.
Another objective of those dry season activities of the two sides was to
control rice. On 24 August 1973 Thieu convened in Can Tho a so-called Rice
Conference. The quota they set for that dry season was stealing 1 million
tons of rice. On 29 August 1973 the puppet general Vinh Nghi, commander of
Military Region IV, directed the 16 province chiefs in the delta to steal
and turn over more than 400,000 tons of husked rice (equal to 1 million tons
of paddy) by the end of 1973. We had to combine punishing the enemy with
breaking up that rice-stealing plan, protect the people's property and build
up our stocks. Military Regions 8 and 9 were not the only ones fulfilling
that mission. Military Region 7 (eastern Nam Bo) and Military Region 6
(southwest Trung Bo) also had to combine retaliation with gaining control of
the rice harvest so that they could have rice stocks and readily available
rice.
During that dry season the regional main-force units also had a rather difficult
mission. In addition to gaining time so that we could build, consolidate
and organize, especially the combat arms, step up tactical and technical training
and improve our ability to carry out coordinated combat arms operations,
and support the localities, the 9th and 7th divisions were deployed along the
enemy's intermediate defense line of Saigon in the provinces of Tay Ninh and
Binh Duong to coordinate with those provinces and help them fulfill their dry
season missions. The principal missions of those two divisions were to
threaten the intermediate line and inner line (the outskirts of Saigon) of the
enemy's Saigon defenses and to pin down the 5th, 25th and 18th divisions, and
the ranger groups of the puppets' III Corps, so that they could not withdraw
to. reinforce the delta or launch attacks in other places, and so that they
could not complete and strengthen the defenses of their capital.
More must be said about the enemy's plots and acts in the Saigon area, as part
of their general strategic scheme, after the agreement. Prior to 1972, Saigon
was protected by three solid defense lines. With our "Nguyen Hue" campaign
and our 1972 dry-season military operations throughout the region we smashed
the outermost defense line and penetrated the middle defense line, so that
only the inner lin.e remained intact. Thus the defenses of Saigon were rather
thin and unreliable. After the Paris Agreement was signed the Saigon puppet
regime launched sweeping operations to occupy the contested areas and our
liberated area, and consolidated and filled out the areas under their control.
Especially, they paid all-out attention to bolstering the defenses of Saigon,
their nerve center. They continually launched large and small operations to
wipe out our political and guerrilla infrastructure in the outskirts of the
capital. After launching those sweeping operations they used bulldozers to
flatten the gardens and houses of the people in such areas as Cu Chi, Hoc Mon,
Thu Dau Mot, etc. They used deserters from their army who had been captured
to cut down the vegetation in the Lai Thieu and Thu Due areas and the nipa
palm groves at Binh Chanh, Nha Be, Can Duoc and Can Giuoc. They set up additional
outposts, placed obstacles, laid mines and dug antitank trenches in the
Bien Hoa area in order to further strengthen the capital's inner defense line.
- 62 -
In places they did not control, such as our long-established guerrilla bases
around Saigon, including the six maquis villages at Thu Due, the Rung Sat
Zone, Duyen Hai, An Son, Lai Thieu, Tan My, Binh Ly, Hoc Mon, and the three
villages of southern Ben Cat-which they called the "Iron Triangle11-Vuon
Thorn, Ba Vu, Tarn Tan, Binh Chanh, the Can Duoc area, Can Giuoc, Nha Be, etc.,
they bombed and shelled day and night, pursued a scorched earth policy,
created a "free fire11 area, and tried to eliminate those guerrilla bases.
The puppets' 1973-74 dry season plan was to take 60 of our liberation base
enclaves in eastern Nam Bo, especially around Saigon. They plotted to restore
the middle defense line by retaking Route 2 at Ba Ria, the Dat Cuoc area
north of Tan Uyen, the Dau Tieng, Long Nguyen, and Thu Dau Mot areas, the
Boi Loi area in Tan Ninh, Ho Bo, An Nhon Tay and Cu Chi. They launched a
large, division-sized operation in the Long Nguyen and Dau Tieng areas,
which were in our liberated area and were gaps in their middle defense line
to the north. But we defeated them, wiped out entire puppet battalions, and
prevented them from attaining their objective. But strengthening the defenses
of Saigon was still a matter of life and death, so they still did not abandon
their plan to occupy our areas so that they could restore their defense lines.
Our plan was to not only hold on to the liberated areas, stop their encroachment,
and annihilate the troops carrying out the sweeping operation, but also
to prevent them from completing their defenses of Saigon according to their
plan to form a strategic enclave, thus forcing the puppet III Corps forces
to always be passive and on the defensive in an unstable battlefield position,
and to always worry that the Saigon defense line would be penetrated. Furthermore,
their very skimpy strategic reserves could not withdraw to the other
battlefields. That created an additional fierce contradiction for the puppet
troops with regard to Thieufs stupid strategic line of spreading his troops
out to defend every place, in order not to lose a single village or hamlet,
thus forcing them to always be passive strategically and tactically, and to
have no way of escape from that entirely disadvantageous situation.
The Regional main-force 5th Division directly supported the delta by counterattacking
the enemy troops encroaching in the Kien Tuong area along the Kampuchean
border, and expanded the corridor connecting eastern Nam Bo with the
delta via the western part of Tay Ninh Province. Meanwhile a small mainforce
detachment, along with sappers, punished the enemy in the Bu Bong and
Tuy Due areas in Quang Due Province to protect the corridor connecting with
the Truong Son 559 route, while also supporting the soldiers and people of
Military Region 6, in which enemy troops were encroaching in the Binh Thuan
and Binh Tuy areas.
Bu Bong was an enemy strong point near the Kampuchean border. The enemy troops
stationed there continually launched sweeping operations and attacks in the
surrounding villages, raided our transportation corridor, and used artillery
to interdict that corridor day and night, which created considerable difficulties
for the transportation of supplies to us. In order to punish the
enemy at the point of origin of their violations, and to begin the 1973-74
dry season campaign, we used the 429th Regiment, a strong sapper regiment
reinforced by an infantry detachment, to take that 4 November 1973. Then we
expanded the liberated area around Bu Bong and took the Tuy Due intersection,
- 63 -
thus insuring that our transportation corridor was unimpeded and safe. Just
as we had hoped, the puppets sent the 22d Division of their II Corps, along
with three Regional Fbrce regiments, and an armored regiment which was landgrabbing
in the Ninh Thuan-Binh Thuan coastal area to attack us, in hopes of
cutting our transportation corridor. We retaliated fiercely, wiped out part
of their manpower, held on the entire liberated area, and created conditions
for our forces in Military Region 6 to effectively oppose the enemy in
western Phan Thiet.
Also in order to carry out our warning that we would punish the enemy where
their attacks originate, on 5 and 6 November we used artillery of the 13th
sapper regiment to shell Bien Hoa AFB and destroyed a number of aircraft and
installations at the air base. For a long time enemy airplanes had taken
off from that base to bomb such places in our liberated area as Loc Ninh, Bu
Dop, Lo Go and Ka Turn, and the enemy used the Rang Rang airfield, which was
situated in the midst of one of our base areas (War Zone A), for target practice.
At those places we shot down 30 enemy airplanes between October and
December 1973. Beginning in November 1973, every time the enemy bombed and
strafed our liberated area we shelled, or carried out sapper attacks on, enemy
airbases. Furthermore, we inflicted even more painful blows by destroying
enemy fuel depots no matter where they were located. On 2 December 1973 the
Nha Be gasoline depot, the largest fuel depot in South Vietnam, was infiltrated by
sappers of the 10th Regiment who blew up a large number of tanks. Millions of
liters of gasoline and oil were destroyed and smoke and flames rose hundreds
of meters into the air, lighting up the Saigon sky. That resounding feat of
arms of the 10th Sapper Regiment let the enemy know that we would do what we
said, and warned them to watch out. That tank farm on the outskirts of Saigon
was surrounded by a thick network of marshy rivers and canals. It had been
attacked many times in the past, so the enemy had taken very careful precautions.
They increased their forces, changed their defensive employment,
placed obstacles and laid mines, used dozens of German Shepherd dogs and used
radar, etc. Before the attack I personally reviewed the plan and all details
had been prepared. Bay Uoc (Colonel Le Ba Uoc), political officer of the 10th
Regiment, reported that "The unit selected to carry out the attack, made up of
more than 10 cadres and enlisted men, entered the depot area for a first-hand
inspection and inspected each fuel tank. We guarantee that the attack will be
victorious.!1
The sappers' tradition was to penetrate through to their target and win a
certain victory. The men of the 10th Regiment made good on that pledge.
Thus at the beginning of the rainy season we and the enemy were both very
active all over the B2 theater. We achieved rather close cooperation among
the military regions and between the local and main-force units, stretching
out and pinning down the enemy everywhere, and winning many victories. In
the Mekong Delta the enemy had to change the focal point of their activities.
Between the signing of the agreement and the end of the 1973 rainy season the
enemy took the Hau Giang area in our Military Region 9 and concentrated the
entire 21st and 9th Divisions, a number of ranger and Regional Force units,
and river patrol boats in order to carry out land-grabbing operations. Because
- 64 -
they met with fierce retaliation, the enemy could not achieve their objectives
and suffered heavy losses. Although they set up a number of additional outposts
in such places as Bay Nui, Ha Tien, and Song Trem in the U Minh Forest,
in many other places we expanded our liberated area and the enemy's plan to
take the area which included parts of four provinces was completely defeated.
At the beginning of the dry season they had to send some river patrol boats
from Can Tho to Cat Lai in eastern Nam Bo and send the 9th Division to Kien
Tuong and some ranger battalions to III Corps, leaving behind in the Hau Giang
area only the weakened 21st Division and a number of ranger battalions and
Regional Force troops. They concentrated their troops in the Tien Giang area
of our Military Region 8 principally to encroach upon Dong Thap Muoi and the
Kampuchean border area, interdict our transportation corridor to the Mekong
Delta, and cope with our 5th Division. By concentrating troops there they
intended to hold the area southwest of Saigon, a very important area between
Saigon and the Mekong Delta, so that Saigon would not be isolated and so that
the puppet regime could have a base that was strong socially, politically,
militarily and economically. That clearly demonstrated the U.S.-Thieu scheme
to closely combine Military Region III and Military Region IV (the old Cochin
China) into the vital strategic area of all of South Vietnam. They strengthened
those two military regions in all regards so that they could advance to defeating
the enemy or, if necessary, withdraw into a strategic enclave there in
order to continue to exist. But that scheme was carried out only half-heartedly,
with a lack of spirit, by a greedy and blind strategy: "Under all circumstances
it is necessary to hold on to everything and not lose a single
village or hamlet to the Viet Cong.11 That is usually the case: people who
lack actual experience and are short on courage and boldness think one way
and act another. As they act they are scared to death, even in their thoughts.
The overall strategic design of the B2 Command at the beginning of the 1973-74
dry season may be summarized as follows: keeping the pressure on Saigon, keeping
the enemy pinned down, and forcing them to passively defend their capital-
their nerve center-so that we could take the initiative in effectively punishing
them for violating the agreements, expand our rear area and the highly
populated areas, and create an unimpeded supply corridor so that we could
stockpile material-technical means. We would improve our position and strength
and change the balance of forces in a manner favorable to us in all regards.
We deployed the 9th and 7th Divisions and the sapper and commando forces (I
will say more about them later) around and close to Saigon, and even inside
the capital, along with the local forces, guerrillas and popular mass forces,
to struggle against and punish the enemy in order to lay siege to Saigon and
prevent the enemy from acting freely. We deployed the 5th Division and sappers
in Kien Tuong to draw the enemy in that direction and prevent them from
Concentrating their attacks in our highly populated Hau Giang area. We
opened the Bu Bong-Tuy Due corridor to connect the 559 route with the corridor
in western Tay Ninh, the eastern Nam Bo route, the Mekong Delta route,
and the other routes, in order to transport supplies to and build up reserves
on the various battlefields for that important strategic period.
We expanded our rear area so that our bases and liberated areas could be integrated,
support one another and form a solid bloc, while in forward areas
we actively developed the guerrilla forces, local troops and organized masses.
- 65 -
Having gained experience with regard to our method of attacking Saigon, and
the enemy's defensive methods, during Tet 1968, we studied and drafted a contingency
plan for a general offensive and uprising, if it should occur. For
as stated above, the Americans and puppets had obstinately sabotaged the
Paris Agreement, refused to observe the ceasefire, and launched increasingly
larger military operations against us, so of course the war continued and
developed and could end only with the victory of one of the sides. In diplomatic
negotiations, on the basis of each other's strength the two sides
should make concessions to and understand each other. But in war, to hesitate
and be unprepared is to die. The enemy, furthermore, planned to completely
annihilate us in 1976 and 1977. We had to prepare in advance for a
general offensive and uprising so that we could win total victory. In 1968,
on the basis of the situation, the terrain, and the key objectives within the
enemy's capital, we delineated five offensive directions and deployed our
forces in those directions. We used the method of coordinating military
attacks with mass uprisings and outside attacks with inside attacks, with the
inside forces being the revolutionary masses, the commandos, and the sappers,
followed by the shock troops and local forces, and the outside forces being the
main-force units. During Tet of 1968-a real, large-scale exercise-we won a
great victory. It was not a complete victory only because the situation and
balance of forces did not permit it. Now, the enemy's objectives had not
changed very much. The basic changes were in the situation and in the
balance of forces between the two sides. The forecasting of the situation
and the planning strategic contingencies must be done early, for only then can
we carry out some specific tasks of the strategic contingency plan. Such
preparations require time and we cannot wait until things become too clear,
which causes haste and prevents preparations from being made in advance, perhaps
to the point that the opportunity is lost. In 1972, because we lacked
foresight and did not prepare in advance, when we defeated them in Quang Tri
the enemy left Hue practically wide open but we did not take full advantage of
that favorable opportunity. Of course, in addition to lacking foresight and
advance preparation we also lacked flexibility and failed to boldly exploit
that opportunity. Strategic commanders must be able to think broadly and
deeply, look far ahead, foresee how the situation will develop, and make
preparations in advance. By his efforts he must create conditions for the
lower echelons to win certain victory. By his dynamism he must propel and
guide the situation in the direction of winning victory for us. By his daring,
he must act promptly when an opportunity arises.
Beginning in September 1973 the Regional Staff, along with the B2 strategic
intelligence operatives who had been planted in the headquarters organs of the
puppets and Americans, reviewed the enemy objectives we had to take, monitored
the situation on a daily basis, and kept abreast of the enemy's plans and
orders. It must be emphasized that during the war the B2 theater-which
encompassed the jungle-and-mountains, lowland and urban areas, including
Saigon, the enemy's capital-was an all-encompassing battlefield and one with
the largest enemy forces and many important strategic and campaign objectives.
All developments there affected the overall situation, so the upper echelon
authorized the Regional (B2) Command to organize and guide its most important
secret strategic intelligence element, which also aided the upper echelon.
- 66 -
That intelligence unit helped us learn the details of many U.S.-puppet plans
and obtained from the enemy a number of valuable documents, so we were able to
promptly assess the situation and take effective countermeasures. Our intelligence
agents, except for a small number who became corrupted-it was inevitable
that some would be-had a loyal revolutionary nature. Many of them heroically
sacrificed their lives, many achieved merit, and many of them become Heroes of
the Armed Forces. In accordance with the force organization and deployment
that had been approved by the Regional Command, I assigned comrade Ba Iran
the mission of withdrawing the 367th Regiment-one of our sapper-commando
groups that had been responsible for the Phnom Penh (Kampuchea) battlefield
to help our friends but for which there was now little need-in order to reinforce
Saigon. We had completed the organization and deployment of our commando
and sapper regiments inside the capital and in the outskirts. At the B2 level
we organized a Sapper Command-called Group 27-headed by comrade Dang Ngoc,
who called himself "Phong." Si was a robust, sincere cadre who was ready to
struggle in defense of justice and was not afraid of personal danger, which
was a precious virtue, especially at a time when there were unwholesome
phenomena in society. Si himself was a sapper cadre who had matured in
combat. He was calm, resolute, said little but did much and finished what he
began. On 30 November 1973, when I inspected the 27th Group, it had more than
6,000 cadres and men who were trained and experienced in combat. In addition
to the headquarters organ the group consisted of forces which engaged directly
in combat and were deployed in the various areas in the outskirts. North of
Saigon there were the 115th and 119th sapper regiments; east of Saigon there
were the 116th Regiment at Long Thanh and the 10th Regiment at Rung Sat; west
of Saigon there was the 117th Regiment and the 113th Regiment, which was
responsible for Bien Hoa. We were forming an additional regiment south of
Saigon. Group 27 also directly controlled a sapper regiment that had achieved
many feats of arms: the 429th Regiment. With regard to commandos, within the
city there was organized Group 316, commanded by comrade Nguyen Thanh Tung
(i.e. Muoi Co). It was organized into many "Z," each of which was responsible
for an important objective. The sappers and commandos were deployed by
area or objective. They had the missions of continually consolidating their
organization, training in combat skills, studying and grasping the objectives
they had been assigned to take, perfecting their operational plans, and training
the cadres and men on the terrain and around the objectives for which
they were responsible. They also had to immerse themselves in the masses,
understand the people in the area they were operating, and create a political
base to serve as a source of support from them. On 15 December 1973 comrade
Dao, the political officer of the Sapper Command of the High Command, who had
come south to inspect the sapper situation in the B2 theater, said, "The B2
sappers have developed and matured, have participated in combat and campaigns
with good results, and at present have been assigned missions and organized and
deployed in accordance with a new strategic status. That is due in part to
the guidance of the Regional Command, which drafted a strategic plan early and
has specific guidelines and modes. Furthermore, the sappers have a tradition
and have much combat experience." He also contributed many valuable opinions
regarding the organization and training of B2 sappers.
During the 1973-1974 dry season there was another problem that was no less
vexing for us: the defense of the Loc Ninh liberated area, the regional base.
- 67 -
For a long time the enemy had continually threatened and attacked that area
by air, and was determined to prevent us from stabilizing our base area,
despite having to pay the price of losing many airplanes to our anti-aircraft
forces. The puppet III Corps had a plan to use strong forces to take Loc Ninh
and were only awaiting the opportunity and order of its supreme command and
U.S. master. Aware of that, we had to prepare a plan to stop and defeat
them in order to hold on to our base area. The questions were what forces
we should use, how many troops we should use, what our fighting method should
be-defensive, counteroffensive or offensive-and whether we should fight on
a small scale or a large scale? When could the enemy attack? Should we
deploy forces in advance to await the opportunity to strike a lightning blow
against them? If so, how long should we wait? Would we tie down our limited
forces in a passive status? We had to think carefully about a whole series of
such problems in order to make correct decisions at a time when the battlefield
was in a state of flux.
The Military Commission of the party Central Committee sent us a message
which emphasized that Loc Ninh was not only important militarily but had a
great political significance in the present situation. Therefore, the enemy
was continually plotting to take it. We had to hold it at all costs, immediately
send a main-force division there, and draft a plan to counterattack
and annihilate the land-grabbing enemy troops.
Carrying out the order of the Military Commission, we immediately convened a
conference of staff, political and rear services cadres to study a plan to
defend Loc Ninh. The discussion was quite animated. Everyone realized the
importance of defending that base, as the Military Commission had just pointed
out. It was also a matter of the honor and prestige of our Liberation Army.
We assessed the general situation in the B2 theater and in the region, reviewed
the enemy's forces, and estimated their method of attack. Which forces could
the enemy use? What would be the scale of the attack, what would be the
points of origin? What were their other capabilities? We knew that in order
to attack Loc Ninh the enemy would mainly draw their forces from III Corps,
with the puppet 5th Division serving as the backbone, along with part of the
25th and 18th Divisions, a number of ranger units, and the 81st Airborne
Brigade, part of their general reserves. It was certain that they would use
Lai Khe, the base of the puppet 5th Division, as the starting point, and that
the main line of attack would be along Route 13 through Binh Long, a city
that had been heavily damaged. But the 5th, 25th, and 18th Divisions also
had to concern themselves with defending Saigon and with mending its defense
lines, which were then in tatters. Especially, the puppet 5th Division was
responsible for defending Saigon to the north, a very important direction, and
faced large enemy forces and our liberated area, which restricted its freedom
of movement. They were also well aware that taking Loc Ninh would be no easy
matter, and that one or two divisions alone would be insufficient. The
experience of the clashes over a period of many years on the eastern Nam Bo
battlefield, even when the U.S. troops were still there-the "Big Red One11 1st
Infantry Division, the "Tropical Lightning" Division, the 1st Cavalry Division,
their most modern division, etc.-which the puppet troops had often accompanied,
could not escape smelling defeat. Could the enemy send additional forces from
- 68 -
the 1st, 2d, and 4th Military Regions? That would be very difficult, and not
many forces were available, for if they were to carry out the "don't lose a
single hamlet or village11 strategy and grab land in order to become the masters
of all of South Vietnam, as they aspired to do, where would they get the
troops to concentrate in one spot?
Thus in order to attack Loc Ninh they would have to have a meticulous plan,
make very careful calculations, use many forces and have skilled command-something
even they were suspicious about. What then should we do? We reached the
decision that we would, by means of a plan to gain the initiative, force the
enemy to concern themselves with defending Saigon, tie their hands and feet,
and prevent them from sending forces from Saigon to attack Loc Ninh. Thus we
would not bring in a division to defend Loc Ninh but would, on the contrary,
move up close to Saigon and prepare to strike at their heart if they adventurously
set out to attack us. At Loc Ninh we organized a front made up of
local guerrillas and headquarters guerrillas, combined with the regional antiaircraft
and mechanized forces there and a recently consolidated main-force
regiment, the 201st Regiment, serving as the backbone. Those forces would
appear everywhere, wear down and stop the enemy wherever they attacked, even
on the fringes of the base. Meanwhile, our main-force units would, if
necessary, leisurely concentrate at a predetermined assembly point and strike
lightning blows to annihilate enemy units which we selected. That was the
valuable experience of our counteroffensive campaign against the U.S. Junction
City operation in northern Tay Ninh in 1967. Westmoreland was struck a painful
blow in that operation, and after the dazzling blow of Tet 1968 he had to
endure the disintegration of his military career, even though at one time he
had been called "the most skilled U.S. general." Thus we carried out the order
of the Military Commission creatively and in a manner completely in accord with
the situation in the B2 theater at that time. We pressured the enemy, forced
them to defend Saigon, struck them a mortal blow, and ended for all their plots
to consolidate and complete the Saigon defense lines and to concentrate
forces to attack and take Loc Ninh.
That was in May 1974, when the puppet III Corps was eager to take An Nhon Tay
in order to link up with Ben Cat along Route 7 and across from Thai My-Go Noi
(Trang Bang)-Provincial Route-15 An Nhon Tay to Rach Bap-Ben Cat. Their plan
was to make the Rach Bap post a fortified bridgehead on the eastern bank of
the Saigon River. A post that would be placed on Provincial Route 15 at
An Nhon Tay would serve as a bridgehead on the western bank of the Saigon
River and connect with Route 7, Go Noi, and Trang Bang. Thus they would
create an intermediate defense line which, although it contracted a bit in
comparison to the old one, would form a continuous, solid defense line north
of Saigon. Once that plan was fulfilled, the forces of III Corps would be
relatively free to concentrate in order to attack Loc Ninh or some other
place. In order to carry out that plan, in March and April they assigned a
number of additional ranger battalions and armored squadrons to the 25th
Division, which attacked from Dong Du to Trung Lap along Route 2 past Cu Chi
and Trang Bang, and Go Noi on Route 7, setting up outposts in order to encroach
on our liberated area and clearing away vegetation. They used forces stationed
at Jinet and Rach Bap to attack north in the direction of Bung Cong in a
coordinated, mutually supporting operation. Having grasped the enemy's plan,
- 69 -
we resolutely retaliated against the land-grabbing and smashed the enemy's
plot to complete their defense line along Route 7, east and west of the Saigon
River.
West of the river, the independent 16th Regiment, under the direct control of
the Regional Command, along with the "Determined To Win" Battalion of the
Saigon Military Zone, and the local forces and guerrillas of Cu Chi,
fiercely retaliated against the puppet 25th Division and successfully defended
the An Nhon Tay liberated area east of the river. In mid-May our 9th Division,
which was stationed at Long Nguyen in Ben Cat District, deservingly punished
the enemy at Jinet, wiped out that post, and isolated the Rach Bap post, the
garrison of which was forced to flee in panic. We liberated a segment of
Route 7 east of the river from Rach Bap to Kien Dien and directly threatened
Ben Cat. Meanwhile the 7th Division, coordinating with the 9th Division,
attacked and heavily damaged the Phuoc Hoa base on Route 16 near Tan Uyen,
wiped out some enemy manpower and armored vehicles, and forced the abandonment
of a number of illegal land-grabbing outposts. Thus the enemy was unable to
carry out its plan and was unable to take An Nhon Tay to extend its area of
control west of the Saigon River. On the eastern side of the river we took
a 10-kilometers-long area, pushed the enemy farther from the river, and connected
our Long Nguyen base north of Route 7 with our An Thanh base, i.e. the
three villages south of Route 7 in Ben Cat District, the famous "Iron Triangle.1
The northern doorway to Saigon was not closed, but was opened wider, and the
enemy's defense line was not completed but was further breached. The enemy
responded vehemently to that development. They concentrated there most of the
III Corps forces, the entire 3d Armored Brigade, and strong air and artillery
support, and launched one counterattack after another over the course of
several months but each time was defeated. The enemy was able to concentrate
such forces in part because of the insufficiency of the activities of our
7th Division in the area of Phuoc Hoa in Tan Uyen District. It was unable to
draw in and disperse the enemy in order to reduce the burden on the 9th Division.
But our liberated area there was kept intact. Thus in May and June just
one of our divisions-the 9th-effectively coped with practically all of the
forces of the enemy's III Corps in an extremely fierce, heroic and resourceful
manner, stood its ground, maintained the liberated area, inflicted heavy losses
on the enemy and created a great strategic advantage for us.
By the spring of 1975, only 9 months later that area had been further expanded
to the rear and became the starting point of one of our important offensive
columns in the Ho Chi Minh Campaign. Our 9th Division had been worn down because
it had to fight continuously for nearly 2 months with an enemy force
that was more than three times larger, but the campaign and strategic value
of those battles, as well as the political significance of their effect on the
morale of the puppet troops and the psychology of the people in Saigon, were
very great. Frank Snepp, a CIA specialist stationed in Vietnam, where he was
responsible for strategic research and analysis and for drafting "field
evaluations" for the CIA to serve the drafting of policies by the U.S. Embassy
in Saigon and in Washington, wrote of those battles during the summer-fall
fighting as follows: "Although the North Vietnamese troops only launched probing
attacks to the north and northeast of Saigon and had themselves recently
been battered, the South Vietnamese 5th and 18th divisions suffered heavy
- 70 -
losses, especially in the "Iron Triangle," and were now exhausted and no
longer capable of fighting."*
At that time there was some criticism of those battles, that it was unnecessary
to suffer such losses and that it was a mistake to select that area for the
battles. That was because such people did not fully understand the significance
of destroying the enemy's ability to defend the Saigon enclave during
the final strategic phase, and the significance of forcing the enemy to assume
a passive defensive position and tying their hands so that we would be free to
act on the critical battlefield during that decisive period. The accomplishment
of those objectives required a process of resolute struggle, resourcefulness,
and bravery, especially at a time when there was not much difference in
the balance of forces between the two sides (although if we had not been
strong we would not have been able to accomplish that). That our strength was
able to overwhelm the enemy was as clear as day, so what's the use of arguing.11
That was also an important test for better understanding of the enemy on that
strategic battlefield, of their strength and capability, and how they reacted.
Evaluations of different battles only express the evaluation of a strategic
period and the role of each part of the battle. But the battlefield commander
must have specific and actual understanding of our position and strength and
those of the enemy. He must seek every way to place the enemy in an unfavorable
position and place ourselves in an advantageous position. He must promptly
and correctly evaluate each strategic period and know what must be done to
promptly prepare for the successful war-deciding battle on his battlefield,
especially when that battlefield will play the role of ending the war.
With regard to strategy, unlike tactics, he waits until the final hours before
breaking through.
In June 1974, the Regional Command reviewed all aspects of the situation in B2
after a dry season of challenges, challenges to the actual strength of both
sides on the battlefield and to the will of both sides and the implementation
of plans they drafted in the 1973 rainy season, with both sides trying to win
victory. The beginning-of-season rain poured down in torrents, foreshadowing
a season of heavy rainfall, like every other year in B2. The enervating midday
heat of summer had given way to a comfortable coolness. Here and there the
green jungle was sprinkled with the gold of ripe "gui" fruits. The soldiers
of eastern Nam Bo were familiar with the bittersweet taste of the "gui" fruit.
Since there were deficiencies in all regards, and meat and fish were scarce,
"gui" fruits were valuable foods to our main-force troops. How delicious were
the pots of soup consisting of wild green and ripe "gui" fruit. It was a
sweet-sour soup which cooled one's insides. During operations in the mid-day
heat of summer, when they were carrying heavy loads, if the troops drank a
small glass of "gui" juice during their 10-minute break they would have enough
energy to reach their destination. During the meeting held to review the
situation, everyone was able to drink pleasing "gui" juice, but what
was the most pleasing were the brilliant results of our dry-season activities
in all parts of the theater, at a time when the enemy had entered the threshold
of a period of essential defeat. We had completely bankrupted their insane
*From the book "Decent Interval," by Frank Snepp. Published by Random House,
New York and Toronto, November 1977.
- 71 -
plan to retake all areas they held prior to 29 March 1972, an excessively
greedy plan which regarded the enemy lightly and was the clearest evidence
that they were trampling the Paris Agreement. They were defeated in their
plan to pacify the highly populated areas and the areas under their control
were not only unstabilized but were reduced. They were unable to steal the
planned amount of rice from the people and to blockade the enemy economically.
Except for the Dong Thap Muoi base of Military Region 8, which they took and
in which they set up nine large and small outposts, they failed to take or
destabilize 60 nViet Cong11 guerrilla enclaves in eastern Nam Bo and around
Saigon. They remained intact although the enemy caused trouble at times.
Not only was the enemy unable to mend their lines defending the capital,
but those lines were further penetrated, both to the north (Route 7 at Rach
Bap in Ben Cat District) and to the east (Route 2 at Ba Ria), which caused the
enemy's defensive position to become even more vulnerable and unbalanced.
They could never gain the initiative on that battlefield, even though Thieu
had told his military region commanders that that battlefield-Military Regions
III and IV-was "of life or death importance to all of South Vietnam."
Furthermore, they had become bogged down in a defensive position and their
forces were spread out all over. They wanted to take and pacify the highly
populated coastal areas in Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan, but had been drawn to
and suffered losses in the mountains and jungles of Quang Due. They wanted
to expand their control and plundering of rice in the rich Hau Giang area
but they were drawn to Kien Tuong, along the Kampuchean border, by the enemy
and tied down there. Afraid of exposing its western flank, III Corps had to
send six task forces to attack the Queo Ba and Due Hue areas, so it had to
accept the loss of Route 2 at Ba Ria, thus shattering the middle defense line
of Saigon at that point, while we connected our two base areas north and
south of Route 2. They were not only unable to concentrate forces to take
the enemy's famous Loc Ninh base but had their hands full trying to defend
their nerve center! From that point the enemy corps was capable of concentrating
forces in a certain area only if the other areas were not being
attacked. Their strategic reserves were too small, at that time consisting
solely of the 81st Airborne Ranger Brigade. The airborne and marine divisions
were tied down in Tri Thien [Quang Tri-Thua Thien]. There seemed to be nothing
the General Staff or, more accurately Nguyen Van Thieu, could do to affect
the situation in a certain military zone than watch as one disastrous defeat
followed another. That was the result of a stupid strategy which did not
correctly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the two sides but greedily
wanted to hold each village, hamlet, and outpost and not give an inch to the
"Viet Cong." Their forces were spread thinly all over the place, to the extent
that they no longer had any mobile reserve forces.
That situation of the enemy, which lasted until the end of the war, caused the
enemy forces, which were three or four times larger than ours, to be annihilated
piece by piece, until they were totally annihilated.
After May, the enemy also realized that it lacked strategic reserves, so it
decided to withdraw the Airborne Division from I Corps to serve as general
reserves, but in carrying out that decision, it could only bring the division
to Saigon brigade by brigade, slowly and over a long period of time. Even
during that dry season there were events that allowed the enemy to evaluate
- 72 -
its capability and realize how mistaken its strategic line. Throughout the
dry season, especially during the latter months, most of the IV Corps forces
in the Mekong Delta were drawn to My Tho and the Kampuchean border in Kien
Tuong. In Hau Giang, the 21st Division had to disperse into battalions but
still could not bolster the morale of the regional and self-defense forces.
Many outposts were abandoned and many villages and hamlets were lost. The
IV Corps commander had to take the initiative of abandoning a number of small,
squad and platoon-sized outposts in order to reinforce more important outposts
of company size or larger to obtain additional troops and make up for attrition.
Only when they had no other choice and faced the peril of annihilation
were they willing to abandon some outposts, villages and hamlets. They began
that task during the dry season of 1974 and eventually had to abandon the
Central Highlands during the 1975 dry season.
The tendency of defeat for the U.S.-puppets and victory for us in the war,
which began with the 1973-1974 dry season and ended with the total defeat
of the enemy, had its origins in an erroneous strategy that was pursued from
the beginning by the Americans and puppets: the strategy of defending all
parts of the country, of spreading troops thinly to prevent the MViet Cong"
from taking a single inch of the land, in accordance with Thieu's "four no's"
policy.
How about the army that propped up the traitor regime? Although the Americans
endeavored to strengthen and equip it so that it could replace the U.S.-troops,
the fighting quality and numbers of the puppet army continued to decline.
After the Paris Agreement they feverishly conscripted troops and rapidly increased
the number of regular and regional troops. Beginning in June and
July, their troop strength steadily declined. They admitted that between
January and May 1974 the number of troops lost in combat and through desertion
was more than 100,000, an average of more than 20,000 a month. During
that time, the number of youths they conscripted to supplement their armed
forces amounted to only a little more than 10,000 a month. Their IV Corps
suffered the highest losses; each battalion had only about 200 troops-some
units had only 150 to 180 men-and there was no way to build up those units.
The ratio of equipment losses rose to a high level. Of more than 1,800 aircraft
of the various kinds, they could use only about 1,000. Of their more
than 100 F5 jet aircraft they could use less than half. They were forced to
take such stern measures as making a census of their troops and opposing the
evils of "ghost soldiers" and "rear echelon warriors." Even the table of
organization of the General Staff declined by 20 percent. Unnecessary units
and miscellaneous support units were eliminated. Troops were taken from
self-defense units and put into regional force units, and were taken from
regional force units and put into regular units. Conscripts were brazenly
rounded up and monks were taken from pagodas and forced to do military service.
Even so, their situation did not improve in the least, but continued
to decline.
For our part, by the end of the dry season we had retaken all the areas we
had held prior to 28 January 1973, including the area north and south of Route
4 in My Tho, in which the enemy feverishly grabbed land after the agreements.
- 73 -
We not only expanded the liberated area to more than 20 villages with a population
of more than 300,000 people, principally in the Mekong Delta. That was
a result of our punishing blows; when we wiped out one illegal land-grabbing
outpost, the enemy troops abandoned four or five others in panic. (When we
annihilated an enemy battalion on a land-grabbing operation in violation of
the Paris Agreement, the enemy abandoned three or four nearby hamlets.)
Clearly, the puppet troops were aggressive when we drew back, but when we
resolutely attacked they became dispirited and ran for their lives. In all
three areas our organized mass forces, guerrilla forces, and local troops were
developed. The contested area was extended into the area under enemy control
in all military regions in the B2 theater. The main-force troops of the
military regions and of the Regional Command were augmented, trained and
rationally deployed to create a potent offensive status, especially in eastern
Nam Bo and around Saigon. While we held on to the base areas and the
guerrilla enclaves in eastern Nam Bo and around Saigon, our rear-area base
areas were expanded and consolidated to the greatest extent ever. It was an
integrated liberated area extending from Quang Due Province to Phuoc Long,
Binh Long, and Tay Ninh along the Kampuchean border. Our Loc Ninh base was
connected with the large liberated area of Long Nguyen in Ben Cat District
because we wiped out the Nha Bich outpost on the Be River and the puppet's
Tong Le Chan outpost-which was secretly abandoned during the night-on the
Saigon River. Those two puppet ranger bases were isolated in our liberated
area. The enemy tried to hold them to serve as staging areas from which to
send spies deep into our area to gather intelligence, and to send rangers to
attack our transportation corridor, supply depots, and organs, if we were careless.
They would also be tactical bridgeheads for large-scale operations to
take our bases in the future.
After the agreement, one of the enemyTs difficulties was supplying those two
positions and rotating its garrisons, for it was surrounded entirely by our
liberated area at the conference table of the Four-Party Joint Military Commission,
and later of the Four-Party Joint Military Commission. On the basis
of Article 3(b) of the Protocol on the ceasefire in South Vietnam we continually
demanded that the Americans and puppets discuss the determination of
military transport corridors, so that one side could pass through an area
controlled by the other side when necessary. But the Americans and puppets
obstinately ignored us. Once, out of humanitarianism, although no such agreement
had been reached, we allowed puppet helicopters to evacuate wounded from
the Tong Le Chan base. But we resolutely refused to allow enemy military
vehicles, military boats, or military transport planes with the mission of
supplying food and ammunition or bringing replacements to pass through our
area before an agreement had been reached as called -for by the Paris Agreement.
In April 1975 the enemy troops at Nha Bich, foolhardily launching an operation
to open the road to Chon Thanh to obtain supplies, passed through our area.
Our 7th Division punished and wiped out the troops carrying out the operation,
as well as those in the outpost. The enemy knew that they had made a mistake
and were completely silent and bit their lips. Having learned from that
experience, the enemy troops at Tong Le Chan, taking advantage of an overcast
night, secretly abandoned the post and fled through the jungle to safety in
their area. Then the enemy played a slanderous propaganda trick by claiming
that we had wiped out the Tong Le Chan camp, thus violating the Paris Agreement.
- 74 -
Their protest led nowhere because there was no evidence. But our rear area
was expanded and filled out. The Loc Ninh base was connected with the MIron
Triangle,11 only about 30 kilometers from Saigon. Also during that dry season
our transportation corridors from the rear to the front-from the Truong Son
route to the eastern Nam Bo base, and from there to the military regions-were
unimpeded. Even the most distant and difficult places, such as the central
coastal areas of Military Region 6 and the U Minh Forest in Military Region 9,
received shipments of fresh troops and materiel, some for supplementation,
some for reserves.
Thus after the 1973-1974 dry season the situation in the B2 theater had become
clear. Our position and strength had grown. The enemy was caught in a passive
position which it could not reverse because it was becoming increasingly
weak but its methods were outmoded and confused and its extremely obstinate
and illusory political and strategic line was continuing to sabotage the
Paris Agreement and seeking ways to completely annihilate its adversary.
Such was the situation at the beginning of the 1974 rainy season.
We were not the only ones who analyzed the transformation of the situation
after the end of the 1974 dry season in that way. On the American side there
were also people who realized, more or less, that that was the case. Weldon A.
Brown wrote in the concluding part of his book "The Last Helicopter,11 as
follows:
MDavid Shipler, a NEW YORK TIMES correspondent and an experienced observer in
South Vietnam during the last months before the collapse of South Vietnam,
declared that the illusion of American strength had blinded Thieu. Shipler
observed that in the summer of 1974 Hanoi had begun to step up its pressure
all over South Vietnam. Shipler wrote that during that critical time an American
diplomat predicted that if Washington continued to supply weapons to
Saigon, but didnTt pressure Saigon into a political accommodation, Washington
and Saigon were certain to lose the war."
It is praiseworthy that an American diplomat was able to realize the reason
for the inevitable defeat of the Americans and puppets, and when it began.
- 75 -
89-4690




CHAPTER FOUR
The Greatest Rainy Season Ever
In general, with regard to weather the B2 theater was divided into two seasons,
a rainy season and a dry season, both of which lasted 6 months. In the mountainous
region, the rain arrives early and is heavy. In the lowlands the rain
arrives late and is lighter. Especially during the rainy season the water
flows down from the high-elevation watersheds in large volume and at a rapid
rate, overflowing the basins of low-lying rivers and canals, especially the
Mekong River basin, before slowly draining into the South China Sea. During
the dry season it is possible to walk all over the Dong Thap Muoi area, a
low-lying depression in the lowlands, but during the rainy season it becomes
a vast sea, with the water reaching depths of 4 to 5 meters in some places.
The principal means of travel is by boat. In eastern Nam Bo, although the
jungle-and-mountains area is high-lying the rainwater also inundates the
fields and roads and the red soil becomes muddy. Such weather and soil conditions
exerted a considerable influence on the activities of the concentrated
units and the technical combat arms. Therefore, in the rainy season our large
units and those of the enemy were forced to scale down their activities and
take advantage of that time to prepare for the coming dry season, when they
would send powerful forces to attack each other. Over the course of many
years of the war, that had become the rule. But the 1974 rainy season was an
unusual rainy season in the B2 theater. We were determined to break that rule
and act urgently to create a new opportunity and change the gloomy rainy season
into the brilliant dawn of a new period. During the June conference, during
which the Standing Committee of COSVN reviewed the 1974 dry season and
discussed the coming direction, its secretary, Pham Hung, concluded that:
MIn this year's dry season a new factor has appeared: We are winning victory
and ascending while the enemy is weakening and descending. We must not stand
still but must win even greater victories and force the enemy into even greater
decline. During this year's rainy season we have many advantages and many
capabilities for winning greater victories than during any previous rainy
season, even greater than those of the past dry season. Regardless of the
weather and the difficulties, we must step up our activities in all regards,
create a new status and new strength, materially and with regard to morale,
for the military regions, provinces, localities, and main-force units so that
they can begin the 1974-1975 dry season with a strong, vigorous spirit. In 1975,
especially during the 1975 dry season, we will be capable of winning victory,
transforming the situation, and creating a new turning point, one of decisive
importance.l!
There was nothing mysterious about COSVNTs prescience. It was based on the
actual situations of ourselves and the enemy on the battlefield and reflected
the results of the activities of millions of comrades and compatriots in all
hamlets, and of tens of thousands of guerrillas, local troops, and main-force
troops, who contended with the enemy for each person and each inch of ground,
every day and every hour, all over the theater. It was a result of profound
- 76 -
understanding of ourselves and the enemy. It was a result of full understanding
of the objectives of our revolution, firmly grasping revolutionary
methods, and clearly understanding what we had to do and where we had to go,
and at the same time profoundly understanding the plots, acts, desires and
capabilities of the enemy.
At that time questions were asked that caused us to think a good deal: "Why,
when facing that hopeless situation, did the puppet Thieu regime continue
obstinately to adhere to its reactionary political line and deny the true
situation in South Vietnam-that there were two zones, two regimes, two armies
and three political forces-but refuse to admit there was a third force, was
unwilling to form a coalition with the fViet Cong,1 and was determined to
sabotage the Paris Agreement and continue the war?11 "Why did they continue
to hang on to the stupid military stragegy of defending everything, landgrabbing
all over the place, and trying to wipe out the liberation armed
forces and liquidate the PRG of the RSVN?"
We had long known that the puppet Thieu regime was only a lackey, a tool of
the U.S. imperialists. All of its thoughts were under the guidance, and
all of their actions were under the command baton, of their masters. Thus
the answer to those questions lay in the plots and policies of the United
States.
In his book "A SoldierTs Report" Westmoreland admitted that "He (P. Harkness)
and the other U.S. officials went to Vietnam to implement a national policy
that had been drafted in Washington." As for the statements of the South
Vietnamese military and civilian leaders quoted in a report prepared for the
U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense titled "The Collapse of South Vietnam,"
"According to Tran Van Don, General Vien admitted the dependent role of South
Vietnam. Another general agreed that the South Vietnamese leaders had been
pressured into the implementation of American plans." Nothing could be clearer
than words that slipped out of the Americans and puppets after their complete
defeat.
Our people's war against the U.S. imperialists was very complicated with regard
to both content and form from the very beginning and-through its developmental
processes-to that time. It was not merely a national liberation war against
aggression and was not merely a class war between revolution and counterrevolution
in our country, but was more complicated, a war which manifested the
struggle between the forces of progress and reaction all over the war, which
converged on the key battlefield: Vietnam! Immediately after France was
forced to sign the Geneva Agreements, the United States opposed them and was
determined to intervene in Indochina and throw out the French, so that it
could assume the role of international gendarme. The U.S. plot to occupy
South Vietnam and make it the first line of defense against the socialist
camp and prevent the influence of socialism from spreading, so that it
could become the masters of the rest of the world (except for the socialist
countries). The Americans thought that Vietnam, although a small country,
occupied an important strategic position in the world. The United States,
rich in dollars and modern weapons, was capable of and had to defeat the
socialist bloc there without having to clash with the Soviet Union or China
- 77 -
(China was at that time still a country in the socialist bloc). The U.S.
leaders thought the prospects of that strategy were high; they were selfconfident,
did not deeply study the Vietnamese nation and people, disregarded
the experience of their French friends, and ignored the just voice of Americans
who protested the war and of the progressive people of the world. As a
result, the more bogged down they became the more they had to escalate the
war, and the more they escalated the war, the greater were their losses in
men and materiel. Like a greedy, addicted gambler they continued to lurch
from one defeat to another. After they had escalated to the top-most rung
they of course had to deescalate, but both escalation and deescalation were
measures for carrying out the global strategy of the U.S. imperialists and
carrying out their plot to achieve global hegemony and oppose the socialist
bloc. When the strategy of "massive retaliation," based on a monopoly on nuclear
weapons, was bankrupted and the three revolutionary currents were
attacking victoriously all over the world, the United States had to shift over
to a strategy of "flexible response" with its three types of war-special,
limited and general-in order to take the initiative and win under any circumstances,
and especially in order to oppose the national liberation wars.
After that strategy was applied on the Vietnam battlefield in 1961, the special
war was defeated at the end of 1964 and the beginning of 1965 and the
special war was bankrupted in 1968, but the balance of forces in the world
and the conditions at that time did not permit the United States to start a
general war and use nuclear weapons, so the strategy of flexible response was
rendered impotent. Perplexed and confused, Johnson hastily came up with the
"de-Americanization" policy in hopes of pulling his feet out of the Vietnam
quagmire. But the U.S. imperialist leaders and strategists were unwilling to
accept the disgrace of defeat and still believed that the United States was
destined to rule the world. They were very afraid that if they lost Vietnam
they would lose a whole series of other countries according to the "domino
theory." Therefore, after Nixon became president he adopted a strategy of
"regional defensive alliances" which was in fact a policy to mobilize and win
over the forces of the world to oppose the socialist bloc, so that the United
States would not stand alone. In Vietnam they transformed that strategy into
the Vietnamization-not the de-Americanization-of the war. People were partially
correct in saying that Johnson wanted to get out of Vietnam by "de-
Americanizing," while Nixon wanted to remain in Vietnam by "Vietnamizing the
war." In fact, Nixon, unlike Johnson, had not been demoralized, so he tried
hard to pursue the unchanging objectives of the U.S. imperialists. Before
and after the Paris Agreement the United States implemented its strategy of
Vietnamizing the war by seeking all ways to make the puppet army and regime
strong militarily, economically and politically so that they could defeat the
liberation armed forces and annihilate the PRG of the RSVN, keep South Vietnam
as a nation dependent on them and permanently divide our country. Those objectives
had never changed. The only change was using Vietnamese blood to replace
American blood. The Americans were forced to sign the Paris Agreement although
its contents were not advantageous for them and their puppets. But they
signed it anyway, thinking that they could reverse the situation by dishonest
and crooked schemes, by the economic strength of the United States and by its
intricate, insidious diplomatic activities all over the world. They regarded
the Paris Agreement as only a means, as a tactic, during a certain strategic
phase. They signed the agreement so that they could implement the provisions
- 78 -
beneficial to them while misrepresenting and rejecting those that were not
beneficial. Their objective was still to serve their victory. The strength
of weapons and dollars are the true "laws" of the U.S. imperialists in the
world today. Their own words have very clearly revealed their insidious
plot. Lt Gen Tran Van Don of the Saigon puppet regime, said in his book "The
Unending War in Vietnam" (published by the Presidio Press, California and
London, 1978), "He (i.e. Charles Whitehouse, the .deputy U.S. ambassador who
accompanied the Kissinger delegation to Saigon in mid-October 1972 to explain
the Paris Agreement and persuade Thieu to sign them) said to me, "The agreement
has some good points and should be signed. It is only a piece of paper and
will change nothing, you will see."
At the beginning of January 1973 Tran Van Don and Bui Diem, heading a special
delegation sent by Thieu to Washington to learn of the U.S. intentions, reported
to Thieu that Alexis Johnson, a U.S. undersecretary of state, said privately
to me (i.e. Diem): "We have been friends many years, and I am speaking to you
as a friend. The fact is that the United States has not changed its objectives
in Vietnam." And in a Top Secret message sent to Thieu at that time, Nixon
stated that "The freedom and independence of the Republic of Vietnam are still
supreme objectives of America's foreign policy."
Thus it is clear. The deep-lying plot of Nixon and Kissinger was to, by signing
the Paris Agreement, send the U.S. troops home, secure the release of the
U.S. POWTs, calm down U.S. and world opinion, and shore up the U.S. military
forces, which were no longer prepared to carry out the U.S. global strategy,
while having a period of several years of breathing space in Vietnam in order
to carry out the following insidious plots:
1. Providing additional equipment, weapons, and modern technical equipment in
order to transform the puppet army into a strong force capable of annihilating
the liberation armed forces. Increasing economic development aid and investment
for the puppet Thieu regime in order to develop that regime, which the
United States recognized as the only legal regime in South Vietnam, into a
Southeast Asian regime that was strong militarily, politically and economically.
2. Providing reconstruction aid for North Vietnam, using material-technical
bait to tempt North Vietnam, infiltrate and monopolize it, and by that means
restricting the north's aid for the NLFSVN, using the north to restrict activities
in the south, and plotting to achieve the peaceful transformation of the
regime in the north.
3. Using the policy of U.S.-style detente on a worldwide basis to create
pressure and limit the aid of the socialist bloc for both the north and the
south, in hopes of strangling our ability to fight. In fact, after reaching
agreement at Shanghai to retain Thieu and keep South Vietnam in the U.S. orbit,
China limited its aid to Vietnam, especially with regard to large weapons and
transportation facilities. In the "Nixon's Trip to China" chapter of his
memoir "The White House Years," Kissinger recounted the working sessions of
Zhou Enlai and Nixon: "Zhou's position on Vietnam was a masterpiece of tortuous
circumlocution; he objected to Nixon's opinions more out of sorrow than
anger. He expressed 'sympathy' for the people of North Vietnam but said
- 79 -
nothing about common interests. He referred to China's obligation to help
Hanoi not in terms of the solidarity ideal, or in terms of legitimate national
rights, but in terms of the historical debt owed Vietnam because of the
Chinese Empire in the past.
"His principal argument regarding the necessity of an early end to the war
was that it caused the United States to become bogged down and to waste much
energy which should be expended on more important parts of the world. Zhou
criticized our negotiating position in a very perfunctory manner. He demanded
that we withdraw our troops from South Vietnam. He never supported Hanoi's
political program-and of people who criticize us-regarding a coalition
government and the overthrow of Thieu.11
Then Kissinger concluded, "Our diplomatic activity was about to succeed in
isolating Hanoi." The United States truly believed that its scheme to divide
the countries of the socialist bloc, and its worldwide detente policy, were
about to bear results.
4. Along with the above plots, it was necessary to flout their strength by
retaining a strong U.S. military force in Southeast Asia to serve as a deterrent
force, intimidate weak-willed people, and support the Thieu clique.
By means of schemes, the Thieu regime would gradually become stronger, the
PRG of the RSVN would become increasingly stronger, Thieu would be capable of
eliminating the opposition and gaining full control of South Vietnam, and
South Vietnam would be transformed into dependency of the U.S. imperialists in
that strategic location on the western shores of the Pacific.
In accordance with that scheme, the United States was continuing to implement
its strategy of Vietnamizing the war in South Vietnam despite the Paris Agreement.
The President and the other key officials in the U.S. administration at
that time stressed that in order to persuade Thieu that the United States
would always be by his side, it was necessary to provide him with all kinds
of aid and be prepared to reintervene in South Vietnam if necessary. Even
Kissinger had promised Thieu, in the course of his trip to Saigon in October
1972, that the United States would use military forces to attack and occupy
North Vietnam by attacking north from the 17th Parallel. Thieu gleefully suggested
that it would be necessary to land troops nearer the objective than
attacking north from the 17th Parallel. Although Thieu and his clique were
concerned about their fate as servants, were ordered around and treated with
contempt by their U.S. masters, and had weak position and strength, they were
still confident of the support of their masters and thought that if they got
into trouble their masters would certainly not go back on their word but would
protect and assist them. The puppet Brig Gen Le Trung True, who had been an
aide as the chairman of the Interministerial Committee to Coordinate the Ceasefire^
admitted that "The United States always bragged about its peerless
strength. Thieu had absolute confidence in the military strength of the
United States, and thought that since the United States was involved in Vietnam
it would remain involved to the end."
- 80 -
Because it was so confident of that, the Thieu clique was blind to the real
situation and continued the war in order to fulfill its subjective desires and
the intentions of its masters. Such were the plots of the United States and
the acts of Thieu. He was under no illusions that the disciple and master
would strictly adhere to the agreement. The United States not only wanted to
occupy South Vietnam but had the even more insane desire of invading and occupying
the North, in order to divide and control the socialist bloc. That illusion
had the very encouraging support of his new ally-China-and had been
tested during the recent period and events. If the Chinese rulers during the
1960's had not given one signal after another, by many different means, so that
the United States could understand that it was free to act in Vietnam provided
that they did not clash with China-"If you don't bother us we won't bother
you"-in 1965 the United States would not have dared to brazenly send troops
to South Vietnam, and then wage a war of destruction against and blockade the
North. If in 1972, at Shanghai, they had not promised to save Thieu and South
Vietnam for the United States-as Luigi Sommarugia wrote in the Italian newspaper
IL MESSIGORIO on 3 April 1979, "China accepted the U.S. recommendation
that Thieu be retained in South Vietnam, with the result that Vietnam would,
like Korea, be permanently divided. In return, Nixon promised that China could
join the United Nations and take a seat on the Security Council, and that the
United States would abandon its policy of supporting Taiwan"-the United States
would not have boldly withdrawn its troops from Vietnam and changed its strategy,
but still believed that it could remain permanently in South Vietnam.
In brief, that meant that whether the United States remained in Vietnam or
left Vietnam it had the assurance, ironically, of its gigantic friend to the
north, a country bordering ours.
It had been a year and a half since the Paris Agreement was signed. The actual
developments in South Vietnam did not follow the meticulous arrangement the
United States had made, or the plan that had been drafted by Nixon and Kissinger.
The reason for that was something Nixon and Kissinger did not take into
consideration and could not comprehend. That was the effect of their adversary's
intelligence and courage in thought and action. If after 1973 we had
believed that by one means or another the Paris Agreement would be implemented,
just as we had believed that 2 years after the Geneva Agreements there would
be a general election, or if we had incorrectly evaluated our strength and
that of the enemy, and had been guilty of leftist or rightist mistakes in
thought and action, the situation would have been different. Of course,
faltering steps could not be avoided during the initial period. But a
faltering period of the first 3 or 4 months of a new strategic phase of a
long war was a short period. It was not sufficiently long for the enemy to
take advantage and win victory. On the contrary, we were vigilant, our party's
guidance was acute and timely, and our people and armed forces were closely
united in combat and revolutionary struggle, so we were on the ascent and the
enemy was on the decline and could recover. The enemy's wily, cruel schemes
were not timely and could not be carried out. The puppet military forces
could not become stronger, but were becoming dispirited and were falling
apart. They wanted to augment their large civilian self-defense forces and
build strong, mobile regional forces capable of occupying and defending all
areas, but now those two forces were now declining numerically, many surrendered
- 81 -
or deserted, and outposts and bases were abandoned. They wanted to concentrate
their regular forces into completely mobile forces with modern, highly sophisticated
equipment and weapons in order to reduce the number of troops and
save money for economic development while still maintaining a strong military,
but now they were forced to urgently increase their troop strength and the
number of units, but still did not have sufficient forces to hold the localities
and there were no mobile forces. They wanted to expand and stabilize
their area in order to appeal for foreign economic construction investment,
but that area shrank and was unstable, and no one dared invest in it. They
had a serious budget deficit and U.S. aid had to be used for military expenditures.
They wanted to create a strong ruling party, the "Democratic Party,"
but they forced everyone to join "Mr Thieu's Party," which was made up entirely
of opportunists and political speculators who joined in hopes of attaining promotions
and getting ahead, who stole and bribed to their heart's content, and
bullied the people. How could there be a strong ruling party? Thus the
puppet Thieu regime did not become stronger in all respects, as the United
States hoped, but was becoming weaker in all regards-militarily, politically,
economically, etc.-and was in ruins and going downhill.
After the U.S. imperialists were defeated, they had to retreat militarily and
shift over to employing all sorts of devilish plots to set up a "prestigious
puppet" to replace them and firmly control South Vietnam. But that puppet did
not stand erect but had begun to collapse, so at that time what was needed was
a shove sufficiently strong to push it into the abyss so that neither the pupil
nor the master could save it. That was an opportunity.
The correct evaluation of that situation and a correct realization of the
opportunity were extremely important with regard to strategic guidance on a
key battlefield that was representative of all of South Vietnam.
Lenin said that "Revolution is a science, but at the same time it is an art.
It demands sensitivity toward the situation and timely positive response to
changes in the situation. Revolution is always creative." COSVN and the
Regional Military Party Commission evaluated and were aware of that changed
situation in order to guide all rainy season plans and activities, while also
drafting a 1975 plan, especially for the 1974-1975 dry season, and reporting
it to the Military Commission of the party Central Committee.
During the July 1974 conference of COSVN the secretary stressed that "The
winning of a decisive victory in 1975-1976, especially our efforts during the
1974-1975 dry season, is within the purview of Resolution 21 of the party
Central Committee and COSVN Resolution 12, which call for the winning of a
decisive victory during the next few years. We must fulfill our rainy season
mission and positively prepare to fulfill our 1975 mission. Great efforts are
required on the part of the entire party. The basis of our decisions was the
situation during the recent period, especially during the past 4 months of
1974. A directive will be issued to the military regions and provinces to
review the implementation of Resolution 12, make all-out efforts during the
rainy season, and make truly good preparations for the 1975 dry season, with
a truly resolute spirit. We will make a full report to the Central Committee
and recommend that it guide the combining of diplomatic struggle and coordination
on all battlefields in South Vietnam."
- 82 -
The contests of the 1974 rainy season activities, according to the guidance
of COSVN and the Regional Military Party Commission included:
-Continuing to defeat the enemy's pacification plan by launching counteroffensives
and offensives, expanding the area under our control, and developing
the political struggle movement for the masses to arise to become the
masters in the various areas, especially in the Mekong Delta and the area
around the capital. Holding a conference in September 1974 to recapitulate
the task of opposing pacification throughout the B2 theater.
-Strengthening our forces militarily and politically in order to create the
position and strength to enable them to fulfill their 1975 mission. We had
to be strong in each village, each district, and each province so that we
were capable of developing those areas on our own. In comparison, in 1960
there were nearly 5 million people in the liberated and contested areas but
were brilliantly successful in the simultaneous uprising. In 1968, when we
controlled nearly 4 million people, we won a victory in the Tet Mau Than
general offensive and uprising. Thus the norm regarding the number of people
we had to control by the end of that rainy season, and prior to the 1975 dry
season, was equal to the 1968 level.
-Concentrating on rapidly accelerating the urban work. At that time, the
contradiction between the ruling comprador bourgeois-bureaucratic-militaristic
clique and the various strata of people was becoming fierce, especially in the
cities. We were capable of creating a strong urban fist.
-Firmly grasping the armed forces and being concerned with development, training
and combat. The time had come when all three types of troops had to be
developed rapidly and strongly so that they could fulfill their key mission
of being the decisive forces.
-Building up the liberated area and base areas and insuring the transportation
corridors . Despite the handicaps of the rainy season and the efforts of
the enemy to stop us, we had to, by all means, augment the supplies and rear
services of the forces, areas, and military regions so that they could be prepared
to win big victories during the dry season.
-With regard to the party's leadership, it was necessary to motivate the
cadres, enlisted men, and masses ideologically. We had to enable the entire
party, the entire army, and the entire population to clearly understand the
insidious plots of the Americans and puppets, clearly understand our new victories
and the new factors of the situation and enthusiastically endeavor to
advance. In view of the insidious plots of the enemy, they had to realize
that there was no other course than to use revolutionary violence to oppose
counterrevolutionary violence, and that it was necessary to attack strongly
in order to defend our right to live. Everyone had fully to bring into play
their capability and responsibility in order to win a big victory. It was
necessary to oppose rightist tendencies and vagueness regarding the enemy.
-The echelons and sectors had to rectify their table of organization and
working methods so that they could be appropriate to the new situation,
- 83 -
streamlined, appropriate to the actual situation and the grassroots situation,
and have the highest effectiveness.
One of the most urgent tasks during the rainy season was preparing military
forces for the dry season. Since all of the forces had to participate in
fighting the enemy in all three areas and attain the norms assigned by the
upper echelon for the rainy season, all three types of troops and the military
organs had to be concerned with organizing and developing units, and with
training in order to increase their combat effectiveness and complete our
deployment on all parts of the battlefield. That Regional Command force
development plan was approved by the Military Commission on 6 June and immediately
afterward disseminated to the military regions and the various echelons,
down to the base level. The intention of the plan was to mobilize the localities,
to the greatest extent possible, to achieve the unlimited expansion of
the village and hamlet guerrillas and local district troops, so that the districts
could have battalions,and the villages companies, with which to defend
themselves and expand the liberated areas without requiring the aid of the
provincial forces. That was based on the actual experience of My Xuyen District
in Soc Trang Province and of a number of places in Kien Phong Province. During
the recent dry season we effectively retaliated against enemy land-grabbing and
by that means expanded the liberated area, so that it was made up of many hamlets
and villages which formed a contiguous area. In such places, the popular
masses arose and participated enthusiastically, along with the guerrillas
and local troops, in attacking the enemy and wiping out, or forcing the abandonment
or surrender of, many outposts set up by the popular PF and RF troops
in the villages.
The provinces had to expand efforts to encourage youths to enlist and, along
with recruits assigned by the upper echelon, supplement existing units or be
organized into strong provincial battalions. Depending on its circumstances,
each battalion should have between one and four battalions. The provinces
capable of doing so, and required to do so by their missions, could organize
a light regiment and a few independent battalions. During that period, except
for Military Region 6 and Saigon the other military regions-7, 8 and 9-were
to have a number of independent regiments directly under their command. In
order to enable the military region commands to remain fully abreast of all
military and political forces, and command the offensives and uprisings
throughout the military region, and in order to streamline organization and
have a strong main-force fist, in August 1974 the Regional Command decided to
organize a light division for each of the military regions by consolidating the
independent regiments, strengthening the combat arms, and organizing division
command organs commanded by a deputy military region commander. Military
Region 9 organized the 4th Division, made up of the 10th, 20th, and 30th regiments
and commanded by comrade Nguyen Dinh Chuch. In Military Region 8 there
was the 8th Division, commanded by comrade Sau Phu (Senior Colonel Huynh VAn
Nhieu) and consisting of the 18th, 24th and 320th regiments. In Military
Region 7 its two independent regiments-the 33d and 4th-were organized into
the 6th Division commanded by comrade Dang Ngoc Si (code name Hai Phong).
In Military Region 6, where our conditions were difficult in all regards,
which was distant from the aid and command of the upper echelon, and which
lacked manpower, materiel, and transportation facilities, in order to be
- 84 -
appropriate to the mission and operational guidelines and mode there, we had
only organized independent infantry battalion, sapper units, guerrillas, and
armed work teams. In view of the new situation and the missions that would
be assigned to the military regions, in May and June 1974 the Regional Command
ordered the merging of the 186th, 840th and 15th infantry battalions, and the
artillery, communications and other companies, to form the 812th Regiment,
which was to undergo urgent training and make Binh Tuy and Binh Thuan provinces
its main area of operations. Because it did not clearly understand
the intention of the Regional Command, the military region was not yet clear
about forming that regiment. The Regional Command explained to it the necessity
of organizing the regiment and ordered that it be organized immediately
to promptly fulfill its mission and avoid missing the opportunity. In 1975
that regiment, along with the local forces and other units, liberated most
of Binh Tuy and Lam Dong provinces, all of Tuyen Due Province, and part of
Ninh Thuan Province, thus brilliantly fulfilling the mission of the military
region.
In the Saigon Special Zone, in addition to the forces deployed by the Regional
Command inside and outside the city, because of its special conditions we only
organized separate battalions, such as "Determined To Win" battalions 1, 2, 3
and 4, along with the district local troops, guerrillas, armed security forces
and armed youths. (The Gia Dinh Regiment was formed later.)
By that time the Regional Command directly controlled the 5th, 7th and 9th
Divisions, the 201st, 205th, 16th and 271st independent regiments, the 27th
Sapper Group, the 316th Municipal Commando Group and a very limited number
of combat arms units. In the B2 theater there were five battalions of vehiclepulled
artillery of the various kinds, including two battalions of 105mm and
155mm artillery pieces captured from the enemy which were very short of ammunition,
and three battalions of tanks and armored vehicles which were understrength
and included M41 tanks and M113 troop carriers captured from the
enemy. The combat engineering and communications units were even weaker.
There was only one river-crossing combat engineer battalion with insufficient
equipment, a construction battalion, two battalions of combat engineers, three
bridge-and-road battalions, two wireless radio battalions, and a wired communications
battalion. For a long time we had complained to the comrades with the
General Staff and in the Combat Arms Command of the High Command that our forces
were too small at a time when we were responsible for a large, key theater
such as B2, and of course had often demanded additional personnel, facilities,
equipment, weapons and ammunition. What commander would not want to control
ample combat forces and have reserves so that he can fulfill his mission as
well as possible. Perhaps that was why some of the comrades at the General
Staff complained that B2 had a localistic, partialistic attitude and demanded
more than the Bl, B3 and B4 theaters. We heard many such complaints, not
directly, but from others who related those biased observations to the extent
that when we discussed military forces we often said, "Let us heed what the
Greek philosopher Pythagoras said: "If you suffer an injustice, console yourself;
the person truly worthy of pity is the one who caused the injustice."
We added that a skilled general did not always have to have plentiful forces
in order to win.
- 85 -
Even so, when we felt that it was necessary to do so we still made recommendations
to the upper echelon, and continued to demand additional forces. We
decided to organize a corps for the B2 theater by combining the 9th and 7th
divisions and a number of existing combat arms units, and recommended that
the High Command give us an additional division and tank and artillery units,
and that those units arrive at the battlefield at the beginning of the dry
season so that a strong corps on that important battlefield. After receiving
the approval of the High Command, at the military conference held in July 1974
the Regional Command officially decreed the formation of the corps, called
the 4th Corps, of which comrade Hoang Cam would serve as commander and comrade
Hoang The Thien as political officer. In addition, the 271st and 205th
independent regiments were formed into the (understrength) 3d Division, commanded
by comrade Do Quang Hung, to facilitate command. The 3d Division, as
well as the 5th Division, the 16th and 201st Regiments, the 27th Sapper Group
and the 316th Commando Group were directly under the Regional Command so that
they could be used wherever necessary.
The formation of a corps at the B2 theater level and of divisions for the
military regions was a positive preparatory step with regard to the theater's
main-force units, in order to meet the demands of the situation and the operational
policy adopted by COSVN and the Regional Military Party Committee for
the coming period. It was warmly applauded by the people, the sectors and
the echelons who helped carry it out. It inspired the soldiers and people
of the B2 theater to enthusiastically advance to the winning of new victories.
It also demonstrated the greatest period of large-scale force development ever
in the B2 theater, with regard not only to main-force units but also provincial
and district local troops and village and hamlet guerrillas. The armed forces
were not the only ones to be developed rapidly during that period; the party
forces at the base level and the mass political forces also grew much larger
and stronger, even in areas in which we had been very weak. For example, Cho
Moi District in Long Xuyen Province was a district in the weak area, and was
a narrow strip of land between two large rivers, the Tien Giang and Hau Giang.
Prior to 28 January 1973 there were only two party chapters in the district
and very few of the masses were organized, although the people there were very
good and had a long revolutionary tradition. By the end of the 1974 dry season,
however, we had eight party chapters which encompassed 11 of the total of
13 villages. We were able to create hundreds of secret and special guerrillas
and had 79 agents in 15 civilian self-defense groups and intergroups of the
enemy. Our cadres could move about and mobilize the masses to struggle everywhere
in the province. Another example was Cho Gao District in My Tho Province,
which lay immediately east of National Route 4 and was bordered by the
Tien Giang River, the Cho Gao Canal, and a branch of the Van Co River. The
terrain presented many difficulties for our cadres operating there. There were
20 villages in the district. In 18 of them there were party chapters and mass
infrastructures. In all, at that time our military and political forces numbered
4,336, while the enemy had 3,318 RF, PF and civilian self-defense troops.
We gained superiority in a district which had been one of our weak districts.
Furthermore, a number of village officials and families of puppet soldiers
contributed tens of thousands of dong to the district's resistance war fund.
According to combined data, by the end of 1974 there were 3.4 million people
living in the liberated and contested areas in the B2 theater, in low-level and
- 86 -
high-level revolutionary organizations, which was not far below the 1968 level.
During the rainy season we could endeavor to increase that number even more.
The reason for that was that COSVN continually monitored and guided the military
regions and provinces, by direct contact with the localities and by
means of directives 01 to 08, the principal contents of which were urgently
creating position and force and changing the comparison of forces between
ourselves and the enemy. The norms regarding the development of actual military
and political strength in the localities, and activities to oppose the
enemy and expand the liberated area, which were assigned by COSVN and the
Regional Military Party Commission to the military regions and provinces for
the recent dry season had been attained and surpassed. COSVN also was confident
that the norms that had been set forth for the rainy season in the B2
theater would be surpassed to an even greater extent. All of the cadres who
participated in the military conference in July expressed determination to
overcome all norms assigned by the upper echelon. Those comrades brought up
a very new situation: the popular masses all over were aware of the decline
of the enemy and our victorious position, just as stated in the party resolution,
which proved that the masses had caught up with the guidance of the
party or, in other words, that the masses were marching in step. Whenever
that is true, whether in wartime or in peacetime, the revolution will have
the strength to do everything, to resolve many difficulties which were seemingly
unresolvable.
During that July military conference we disseminated and explained the April
1974 resolution of the Military Commission of the party Central Committee
which had been approved by the Political Bureau in order to, on the bases of
the most recent developments in the situation, supplement Resolution 21 of
the party Central Committee. The resolution evaluated the new U.S. plot as
follows: "The basic plot of the U.S. imperialists is still to carry out the
'Nixon Doctrine,1 impose neocolonialism in South Vietnam, and transform South
Vietnam into a separate, pro-American country, but shift over from using U.S.
military forces directly in the fighting to using the puppet army and regime,
with the effective aid of the United States with regard to military advisers,
economics, and finance."
"In order to implement that scheme, the United States has from the beginning
consistently carried out a policy of both signing the agreement to restore
peace and helping the Saigon puppet regime continue the war."
The resolution observed that MIn places in which we have resolutely counterattacked
and attacked the enemy have been confused and passive and have encountered
difficulties. They have been pushed back in Military Region 9 and
have been stopped in Military Region 8, and although they had succeeded in
grabbing a little land in Military Region 5 they were stopped. We have
wiped out a rather large part of the enemy's manpower, defended our liberated
enclaves in the Mekong Delta and around Saigon, defended our vast liberated
areas and base areas, and maintained our strategic threat to the enemy.11
The resolution gave specific guidance to the battlefields: "Go all-out to
take advantage of time to strengthen forces, strengthen material resources,
and concentrate guidance on insuring that the lowland areas, especially the
Mekong Delta, undergo a clear transformation in our favor.
- 87 -
"Military Region 5 must correctly evaluate the situation, clarify the thinking
of cadres and the operational mode, cooperate closely with the main-force units,
the local troops, and the militia and guerrilla forces, achieve close coordination
between the Central Highlands and the lowlands, essentially restore the
movement to the 1972 level and further expand it, and defend and gradually fill
out the liberated areas and base areas in the Central Highlands and the western
parts of the lowland provinces.
"In eastern Nam Bo we must defend the liberated enclaves around Saigon and
consolidate them into strong staging areas which form an increasingly tighter
noose threatening Saigon, and further consolidate and expand the corridors connecting
the outskirts of Saigon with the vast liberated and base areas.
"Tri Thien must consolidate its position in the contiguous area, penetrate
deeply down into the lowlands, create political and guerrilla bases, weaken
the enemy's control, advance to coordinating the three spearheads (political,
military and proselyting among enemy troops), advance the movement, reconstitute
the three areas, destroy the enemy's multiple defense line position, and
continually threaten the enemy in order to pin down the airborne and marine
divisions and create advantages for the other battlefields in South Vietnam,
while at the same time maintaining and strengthening the liberated area.1'
At the conference there were also presented a detailed evaluation and assessment
by COSVN of the rainy season plan and a preview by COSVN and the
Regional Military Party Commission of activities necessary to win a great victory
during the 1974-1975 dry season. The cadres attending the conference,
who had battlefield experience and had been in constant contact with the base
levels and with danger during the different periods, agreed unanimously with
COSVNTs assessment of the situation. That unanimity became collective strength
with which to implement the party's resolution and strength which was passed on
to the party members and masses.
Immediately after the military conference, comrade Pham Hung, as secretary of
COSVN, secretary of the Regional Military Party Commission, and political officer
of the Regional Command, joined us in explaining the resolution in detail
to groups of cadres from each military region. Especially, we discussed with
the cadres from the Saigon Municipal Unit the development and deployment of
the various kinds of military and political forces, both secret and open, as
well as the operational forms, especially the form of armed activity in the
outskirts and in the city. Comrade Pham Hung personally resolved questions
in the consciousness of the city's cadres regarding the deployment of sapper
regiments in the outskirts and military activities in those areas. Many
cadres had the mistaken viewpoint that the party organization and mass organization
in the outskirts were still weak and that sappers and local troops
should not be deployed there because they might be exposed, because they
feared that the enemy and launch sweeping operations had destabilized the
situation, thus preventing them from building infrastructures. They were
especially afraid that if the sappers or local troops fought the enemy there,
all of their bases would be broken up. If armed forces were stationed there,
would they not fight if the enemy arrived? Thus the question of "How should
we fight to avoid breaking up the bases?" greatly confused them. A number of
- 88 -
places withdrew their armed forces or forbade them to fight. He emphasized
that "Our party's line is to attack the enemy in all three strategic areas-
the jungles-and-mountains, the lowlands, and the cities-and to attack them
with both armed forces and political forces. If that is to be accomplished
it is necessary to organize and deploy military forces combined with mass
forces. The only differences among the areas is how to organize forces and
what types of forces to deploy. We must attack the enemy by means of all
three offensive spearheads, so it is necessary to study how the attacks by
the three spearheads should be carried out and where in order to win small
and large victories. We absolutely must not fight a protracted guerrilla war
and not refrain from combat. In war, we cannot hope for stability in order
to organize forces, and forces organized under such conditions of artificial
stability cannot be of high quality. In the present strategic phase we must
further tighten the noose on Saigon, and must be prepared to achieve coordination
among the various areas in order to win a victory during the coming dry
season. We must not be tardy. When cadres have correct viewpoints and
struggle bravely, and when there is close coordination between the local
party committee echelons and the military command echelons, there will be
correct modes. We must be bold, and dare to think and do."
A very important, unforgettable example of daring to think and do was the
transporting and stockpiling of food and ammunition for the B2 theater during
the rainy season by warriors who truly were "the first to go and the last to
return," in the tradition of the Nam Bo resistance war, warriors who endured
difficulties and hardships but were taciturn and were so happy over the victories
of their comrades that they all but forgot their own victory. They
were the rear services warriors? Throughout the rainy season, with its heavy
rain and mud, tens of thousands of rear services troops, along with hundreds
of thousands of people worked day and night on all routes from the rear to the
front, through muddy, flooded fields, and the rivers and water of Dong Thap
Muoi, the U Minh Forest, and all over the Mekong Delta, to the mountains and
jungles of Military Regions 7 and 6, to the outskirts of Saigon, and into the
capital. Perhaps the rear services branch of B2 reflected most clearly the
skilled combination of all elements in our anti-U.S. war: combining the army's
rear services with the national rear area, combining on-the-spot purchasing and
production, combining specialized rear services with the people's rear services,
combining military forces and mass forces enlisted men and civilian laborers,
regular troops and guerrillas, large-scale and small-scale, open and secret,
secretly carrying supplies across enemy areas at night, secretly using
trucks and boats to transport supplies on roads and rivers, transporting
supplies into the cities, combining the modern with the primitive (ox carts,
cargo bicycles, motorboats, rowboats, backpacks, etc.), and combining the
supply work with combat to annihilate the enemy and defend our supply forces.
Even in the command structure of the Regional Rear Services Department combination
was necessary to insure a high degree of effectiveness of its work.
Comrade Tu Khanh (Maj Gen Dao Son Tay), the department's political officer,
who had been a worker in the Ba Son factory in Saigon, was born in Gia Dinh
Province, participated in the revolutionary movement at an early age and
joined the Indochinese Communist Party. In the anti-French war he was a
deputy commander of the Military Command of Gia Dinh Province. During the
anti-U.S. war, before changing over to the rear services sector he was the
- 89 -
regional artillery commander. Thus he knew a good deal about the military,
the city and the people of Saigon, and the eastern Nam Bo region. He was
loyal and sincere and loved and was deeply concerned for .the cadres and men
and knew how to insure that the troops would fight victoriously. The department
commander, Bui Phung, from the outskirts of Hanoi, had served as a staff
officer of the Rear Services General Department and was expert at his profession.
Comrade Tu Vo (Vo Phat), the department's deputy commander, who had
been secretary of the Long Chau Tien provincial party committee during the
anti-French period and had engaged in revolutionary activities in the Mekong
Delta and in Kampuchea, was a person with many accomplishments in creating
local sources of materiel for the sector. The lower-echelon cadres made a
similar deployment so that they could combine their talents, virtue and knowledge
of their work, familiarity with the battlefield, ability to locate
sources of materiel, and knowledge of human nature. The assignment of great
tasks must be accompanied by organizing and selecting people who are capable
of carrying out those tasks, in order to insure their success. It would be
impossible to relate all of the combinations that were made to create the
combined strength which enabled the B2 rear services sector to support all
battles and campaigns, no matter where or when they took place, from the beginning
to the end of the war. Even during the period in which the B2 theater
was experiencing the greatest difficulties and shortages with regard to food
and ammunition, especially in War Zone A in northern Bien Hoa in 1966, the
region deployed and kept there the 81st Rear Services Group commanded by
comrade Muoi Thien. Therefore, when the 9th Division had to fight in that
area it had rice and ammunition without having to take them along and be
slowed down. While en route to an assignment in 1966, I visited the 81st
Group. Comrade Muoi Thien and his men assured me that they were determined
to !lhold their ground" no matter what the situation. In addition to being
attacked by bombs, shells and poison chemicals, the men serving there had
another dangerous enemy: malaria. For that reason, during "the 9 years11**
the men had a saying, "The Ma Da and Song Be-heroes meet their end" (the
place where the Ma Da River flows into the Song Be River was famous for being
insalubrious and caused the death of many of our soldiers from malaria during
the anti^French period.
There, "miraculous speed" must be understood as preparing the battlefield in
advance, and having supplies where and when they are needed. If that was to
be accomplished, it was necessary to foresee developments early, accurately
and promptly, and be an organization that was skilled in making preparations
in advance, efficient, and made up of brave and resourceful people. There can
be no miraculous speed if we "wait until the water reaches our feet before
jumping." If one waits until something happens before acting, how can one
act in time? The Americans and puppets had large and small transport planes
and many helicopters and could not get the job done in time, let alone having
to meet requirements under urgent conditions. The B2 rear services had the
technique of "feathering the nest in advance." It cached hundreds and thousands
of tons of food, weapons and ammunition in the guerrilla enclaves and
*Senior Colonel Vo Van Lan, now commander of the Rear Services Department of
Military Region 7.
**"The 9 years" referred to the anti-French period.
- 90 -
the areas in which the main-force and local troops would operate when necessary,
and cached explosives, weapons and ammunition in the outskirts of cities
and next to the enemyTs airfields, ports and supply depots; and inside the
cities, near important objectives, such as for the sappers and commandos in
Saigon, whom we used in accordance with plans drafted by the upper echelon.
Without cleverly organized forces commanded by suitable, capable cadres and
without revolutionary masses, such tasks could not have been carried out. In
order to prepare for the 1974-1975 dry season, during the rainy season the
rear services sector transported to the military regions, including Saigon,
more than 3,000 tons of weapons and ammunition, and supplied to the units
sufficient quantities of base ammunition loads and food for combat and for
reserve stocks. It stockpiled in areas in which the dry season battles would
take place, especially in eastern Nam Bo, nearly 30,000 tons of materiel, including
nearly 8,000 tons of ammunition and 1,500 tons of POL. Something else
noteworthy about the B2 rear services sector was that it tried to create local
sources of materiel whenever possible, and only requested from the upper echelon
what it could not obtain locally. In 1973 and the rainy season of 1974, the
materiel obtained locally by the B2 rear services sector amounted to 73 percent
of the theater's needs, so only 27 percent were requested from the
central echelon. Correctly carrying out the order of the Regional Command,
the rear services sector insured that there were always on hand stocks of
food, medicine and military medical equipment; enough POL for from 3 to 6
months; and sufficient weapons and ammunition for 1 year. Achieving those
feats on a distant, key, extremely fierce battlefield was a very significant
accomplishment. When I met with them, those rear services troops who gave
their all in all campaigns, they were spontaneously happy despite the hardship
and danger, and said nothing about their work.
At the beginning of 1975, I went to the Ta Lai ferry crossing on the Dong Nai
River in War Zone A in northern Bien Hoa. I talked with the driver of a truck
full of ammunition who was robust and lively. He was bending over feeling the
tread of a worn tire but suddenly stood straight and said, "I'm from Ha Bac
and came south in 1973. My name is Pham Van Mieng." The comrade who was
driving the motorboat that was pushing the ferry across the river was older,
and was thin but wiry. He said, "I'm from Ca Mau, and enlisted during the
simultaneous uprising. My name is Ut Den. I'm studying new things up here.
Back home I only knew how to drive a boat with an outboard motor to take my
wife to the market." "So you have a wife,11 I said, "Do you have any children
yet?" He replied, "I had a 3-year-old boy who was shot to death by the PF on
a sweeping operation. Then I enlisted for good because I was determined to
get revenge." I felt sorry for him. I asked, "How about comrade Mieng?"
He replied, "I don't have a family yet. After we win I'll volunteer to stay
on here." "So," I said, "are you interested in some girl?" "No, sir," he
replied, "I have to take care of my truck night and day." I remember that in
1968, when crossing the Saigon River at night, I met at a ferry crossing in
a bamboo grove that had been tattered by bombs and shells but was still capable
of camouflaging small groups, several very young girls who were carrying heavy
boxes of ammunition to bunkers on the bank. I recognized two of them, Miss
Tham and Miss Lien, Warriors of Emulation who had participated in victory
celebrations at the regional base and at the Rear Services Department. Most
of the girls were from the outskirts of Saigon and had enlisted to do rear
- 91 -
services work in the Saigon-Gia Dinh Zone. When they recognized the commander
they were very pleased and gathered around, excitedly asking, "When
will Saigon, Tan Thoi Nhat village, and Be Diem be liberated?" Another interrupted,
"How About Tan Hiep village in Hoc Mon? You only think of your own
village." "Will we be able to go home after Tet?" I wonder where Tham, Lien
Mieng, and Ut are now! So many people, including rear services cadres, fell
on the battlefield. The first rear services director of B2, comrade Nguyen
Van Dung, a worker from Saigon, his hair grey after two resistance wars, also
sacrificed his life in the line of duty. In that war there was no division
into rear area and front line. The rear services personnel always had to
advance to the force and enthusiastically go in advance to prepare the
battlefield.
In August and September 1974 the Regional Staff, along the lines delineated
by COSVN and under the guidance of the Regional Command, drafted an operational
plan for the 1974-1975 dry season that foresaw the winning of a decisive victory
within the next few years. At the beginning of October, COSVN discussed
and approved the plan. During the meeting, each comrade in COSVN clearly and
specifically analyzed the situation on the battlefield and the overall situation,
and unanimously decided to win a decisive victory and complete the
national democratic revolution in 1975-1976; 1975 would be the pivotal year
and in 1976 we would victoriously conclude the war. It was not easy to reach
such unanimity. There was much hesitation and reflection, and much analyzing
and going over problems again and again. Everyone spoke of the decline of
the puppet army and regime in the various areas. In the cities there had
appeared a mass political struggle movement to oppose the corruption and impotency
of the puppet Thieu regime, and that situation had considerably
affected the morale of the enemy troops. Everyone concluded that our position
and strength had become stronger and had developed uniformly on all battlefields.
Our village and hamlet guerrillas had wiped out and eliminated enemy
outposts. But there was still concern about a number of remaining weaknesses:
although the guerrilla and local forces had recently developed strongly,
numerically they did not yet meet requirements; our main-forces had not yet
fought a major annihilating battle; and although the mass movement had become
stronger it was not yet strong enough to carry out an uprising and overthrow
the puppet regime. Our three strategic blows-main-force, rural and urban-
were not yet uniform. Our urban attacks were still weak. Although the United
States had been defeated and had to withdraw its troops from Vietnam, and the
situation in the United States was in upheaval politically and the United States
was in poor shape economically and financially, it was essential that we be
clever in order to limit U.S. intervention and insure that we won a rapid,
efficient victory. All of those concerns were very correct. They were the
truth and everyone realized that it was necessary to make great, continual
efforts in order to insure victory within that period of time.
The participants reached unanimity in determining the stage of the revolution
and the stage of the war we were in, and agreed with the opinions of Muoi Cue
(comrade Nguyen Van Linh, deputy secretary of COSVN): "The Thieu regime is in
a state of serious decline, in part because its contradictions are developing
and in part because our attacks are becoming increasingly strong. We must
attack even more strongly and more often, and not allow them to regain their
- 92 -
strength. We are now capable of pushing the enemy back step-by-step, winning
partial victories, and eventually winning total victory. The puppet regime
cannot hold out beyond the 1975-1976 dry season." Bay Cuong concluded that
TIThe enemy is undergoing an all-round crisis that is also affecting the
central regime, not merely just one aspect or a certain area. The puppets
will decline at an increasingly greater rate, like a truck going downhill,
and there is a possibility that that rate will suddenly increase. We still
have deficiencies and weaknesses, but we are capable of overcoming them and
are in the process of doing so. We are winning a big victory even during the
current rainy season. We are capable of making good preparations for the
coming dry season. We estimate that we can complete the national democratic
revolution in 1976. The year 1976 will present an extremely important opportunity.
But 1975 must be the pivotal year; only if we endeavor to win victories
that year can we create conditions for winning a decisive victory in
1976. We say 1975, but in fact the decisive period will be the 1974-1975
dry season. It is necessary to fully grasp the spirit of the dry season plan
discussed by COSVN and the Regional Military Party Commission, fully explain
the significance and contents of the dry season from top to bottom, and understand
that this year's dry season plan is a closely coordinated campaign plan
encompassing all the military regions-the Military Region 6 to Military
Region 9-both the main-force and local troops, and the rural, jungle-andmountains,
and urban areas. It must be coordinated very harmoniously. This
time, more than at previous times, we have a plan for coordinating, discussing
and carefully preparing, from top to bottom, and in both the military
and the party echelons. We are determined to win a big victory. Thus the
leadership and guidance of COSVN and the Regional Military Party Commission
must be tight during this year's dry season. There must be close coordination
between the party committee echelons and the equivalent military echelons
in guidance and command. We must do a truly good job of carrying out the dry
season plan, while also preparing to develop strongly if the situation develops
in our favor. We must try to win the greatest, most timely victory in 1975.n
During that COSVN meeting we also discussed the eventuality of the situation
developing rapidly and the puppet army and regime collapsing earlier than we
had foreseen, especially if there occurred a military-political development
in Saigon itself. In such an event the B2 theater would, by itself, have to
launch the final attack on the enemy's headquarters lair and conclude the war,
and must not fail to take advantage of such an opportunity. I reported to
COSVN that we would go all-out to step up the development of local armed
forces and guerrillas, and have the localities intensify the development of
revolutionary mass forces in order to prepare for such an opportunity. But
with regard to main-force units the B2 theater was still very weak, and lacked
both the infantry and the technical combat arms to fulfill such a difficult
mission. I recommended that the Military Commission of the party Central
Committee immediately assign the B2 theater three or four divisions so that
we could insure success in that final battle. From the point of view of
the possible development of the situation, the strategic line, our method of
organizing, deploying and using forces, and the position and role of the
B2 theater, sending us three or four additional divisions during that phase
would have been entirely rational. I reported in outline our plan for attacking
Saigon and spoke of the necessity for those additional main-force units.
- 93 -
After discussing the situation the comrades in COSVN agreed unanimously and
decided to request those forces from the central echelon immediately. But so
that those divisions could reach our theater in time we would request the
central echelon to assign those units on a rotational basis, i.e. send divisions
from the Central Highlands to the B2 theater, then send replacement
units from the Tri Thien theater to the Central Highlands, and so forth,
until a sufficient number of units were deployed on the battlefield. By doing
so we could reduce the time required to move the units.
COSVN and the Regional Military Party Commission reported our plan to the Central
Committee and its Military Commission, and recommended that the Political
Bureau convene a meeting of representatives of all theaters to discuss a unified
plan for all of South Vietnam during that phase.
The 1974-1975 dry season plan approved by COSVN was in fact a plan to prepare
for a general offensive and uprising in the B2 theater, a plan to create conditions
for advancing to winning victory to end the war in that key theater.
Therefore, it had to be based on the preparation in advance of a plan for a
general offensive and uprising throughout the B2 theater. In fact, we had
nurtured that contingency plan for a long time beginning with the preparation
and execution of the General Offensive and General Uprising of Tet Mau Than
[1968]. During decades of combat in that theater, first against France and
then against the United States, our military cadres had practically memorized
each terrain feature, village, river and canal. We also fully understood our
enemy and their capability to defend and respond in each period. More importantly,
we fully grasped our party's leadership line in that war. We attacked
the enemy by both military forces and political forces. Parallel military and
political efforts would inevitably lead to a completely victorious general
offensive and general uprising. Unanimously approving of and confident in that
leadership line, we were always certain that the time would come when we absolutely
had to carry out a general offensive and general uprising. Therefore,
after the adoption of party Central Committee Resolution No 9 in 1963, a resolution
which delineated that line very clearly, we in the theater that included
Saigon-Gia Dinh, the capital of the puppet regime, continually thought about
how the general offensive and general uprising should be carried out. In 1964
the B2 theater delineated five lines of attack on Saigon, then organized the
Saigon Special Zone into subzones 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 for the purpose of organizing
and deploying forces and direct the general offensive and general uprising
of Tet Mau Than. During that time we selected the objectives inside and outside
the city, and organized appropriate types of forces to combine attacking
from inside out to attacking from outside in. Tet Mau Than was an extremely
valuable practical experience. Every day the war was developed by the use of
many different forms and scales was also a day which further enriched our
thought and provided us with additional experience. Now we were standing in
the threshold of a second general offensive and uprising in Saigon and all
over the B2 theater. Having mulled it over in our minds for many years, we
had little difficulty in drafting a plan for Saigon and all of the B2 theater
to serve as a basis for the 1975 dry season plan.
It was not a plan to launch a general counteroffensive against the enemy
troops from a certain front, as in a regular war. We would not use exclusively
- 94 -
military forces-powerful main-force corps-to wipe out the enemy and chase
them from the Central Highlands, or advance from Quang Tri to Thua Thien, Quang
Nam, and Da Nang, then down to Saigon, then pursue the enemy to Cau Mau, Con
Son, Phu Quoc, etc. Indeed, we would be incapable of doing so even if we
wanted to, and it would be dangerous to do that if we were capable of doing
so, for there was the danger that the enemy would gradually draw in their
troops to form an enclave in a certain area and then, with the support of
superior U.S. air and naval power, counterattack. The "Gavin Plan" had called
for such a strategic enclave in the Mekong Delta. Gavin was a well-known U.S.
general who came to Saigon in 1972, when the Americans and puppets were being
knocked about and were being heavily defeated from Quang Tri to eastern Nam Bo.
Against that background, is recommended a strategy of gradual retrenchment and
withdrawal if the puppet forces were defeated. The last area to be defended
would be My Tho-Vinh Long-Can Tho. He reasoned that the Mekong Delta was a
manpower pool, the source of sustenance for Saigon, and the heartbeat of the
"capital." The Mekong Delta would be a place for consolidating forces and aiding
Saigon. There it would be possible to strengthen defensive forces and
create the capability to counterattack the enemy under even the worst possible
conditions. He remembered the lesson learned when puppet troops were sent from
My Tho to save Ngo Dinh Diem in a certain year. He also thought that the
Mekong Delta, which fronted the sea and Con Son, Tho Chu, Phu Quoc, and other
islands, afforded a strong position and would facilitate the entry of U.S.
forces from the Pacific. The ways the colonialists viewed things differed
very little. In 1946, a directive sent to the DfArgenlieu, the French High
Commissioner in Indochina, Moutet, the French minister for overseas colonies,
stressed that: "Cochin China is the true focal point of our overall policy
in Indochina. We must succeed, and succeed rapidly, in Cochin China because
the future of the presence depends almost entirely on our victory or defeat
there." DTArgenlieu also had the.viewpoint that "Cochin China is the key to
the Indochinese Federation in the French Union. If the authority of France is
consolidated there,the Indochinese Federation in the French Union will become
a reality." "The importance of Cochin China must never be forgotten. It
will be the long-range foundation of the Indochinese Federation and the foundation
of our influence."
Nguyen Van Thieu vehemently opposed Gavin's plan and thought that it was stupid
and a surrender to the "Viet Cong." But that was a time when Thieu thought
that he was still firmly in power and relied on the strong supporting pillar
of the United States. But now that his tenure was no longer secure, was not
the Gavin plan the best solution? The Western Press commented that "With a
population of about 10 million in the Mekong Delta, could not Nguyen Van Thieu
be the president of a Southeast Asian country with an area of about 60,000
square kilometers?
But we had thought all that out before Gavin, as well as possibilities Gavin
hadn't thought of.
^According to documents of the Historical Office of the Military Science
Department.
- 95 -
From the very beginning, our party adopted a strategic plan of a marvelous
general offensive and general uprising of a revolutionary people's war developed
to a high degree. We attacked the enemy by means of military forces
organized in many appropriate forms, combined with mass uprisings, on both a
small scale and a large scale, in all areas: the jungle-and-mountains area,
the lowland rural area and the urban area. In view of the fact that the enemy
had complete superiority in the air, at sea, and on the rivers and canals, had
modern weapons and facilities, could move rapidly by helicopter on all kinds
of terrain, and had strong firepower, our principal forces were those deployed
on the spot. Everywhere there were revolutionary forces, so everywhere the
enemy troops went they were attacked by both military forces and mass political
forces, by large forces and by small, elite forces, and by visible forces as
well as by invisible forces. Even our main-force units fought only mobile
warfare, but they remained within certain areas and cooperated closely with
the local forces. There were no main-force units that operated all over the
theater and apart from the localities. Our superiority was that the localities
were very decisive in nature, but all the localities were united very
closely from the central level. Did not Tet Mau Than in 1968 demonstrate that?
On the same day, at a signal given by the central level, hundreds of cities,
and thousands of villages and enemy objectives were attacked fiercely, to the
point that the enemy troops, so much so that the enemy troops didn't know
where to turn, and had no place to which to withdraw or retreat. The enemy
were dizzy in Vietnam and even in the United States. Such was our miraculous
speed, miraculous speed which encompasses a vast space in a short period of
time, miraculous speed in combat activities, in campaigns, and more important
in a strategic phase, in a method of concluding a war.. Don't think of miraculously
rapid attacks merely in terms of large, mobile units traveling long
distances, for if you do you can't understand the actual situation.
Firmly grasping those strategic viewpoints, throughout the 1974 rainy season
COSVN and the Regional Military Party Commission went all-out in monitoring
the localities and in supervising them in rapidly developing their military
and political forces, and in creating position and strength, so that each
place could expand its liberated area. In October 1974, COSVN issued a directive
which stressed that "villages must liberate villages, districts must
liberate district, and provinces must liberate provinces, throughout the B2
theater." The introduction of that immortal action slogan, based on the strategic
viewpoint of combining offensive and uprising and on the actual developments
on the battlefield, at that time created a terrible strength. The B2
theater's 1974-1975 dry season plan was based on the assumptions that B2 itself
would have to carry out a general offensive and uprising in Saigon and
that each military region and province would have to take care of their own
battlefield needs without waiting on forces from the upper echelon, but cooperate
closely in a common plan with regard to objectives and time, under the
leadership of the central echelon. The contingency plan for a general offensive
and uprising throughout the B2 theater was drafted on the basis of the
following important factors:
First of all, it was necessary not to push the enemy back from one line of
resistance to another, and not to allow them to withdraw into strategic enclaves
in any area, in Saigon, in the Mekong Delta, or even on the islands in the South
- 96 -
China Sea and the Gulf of Tonkin, as Gavin had planned. As for withdrawing
into an enclave at Saigon, we had gradually taken steps to prevent the enemy
from creating solid lines of defense and had gradually eliminated the possibility
that they could form an enclave in Saigon. As for withdrawing into
enclaves in the Mekong Delta or on islands, the most effective measures were
carrying out timely and strong attacks and uprisings by the on-the-spot military
and political forces, by strategicially cutting the Mekong Delta up into
many segments, and by annihilating the enemy in each area in order to prevent
them from concentrating in a certain place to assume the defensive.
The second element was that we had to interdict, surround and isolate the
enemy troops by means of both campaigns and individual battles, in order to
annihilate them and prevent them from concentrating, supporting one another,
and reinforcing one another. The enemy forces in the B2 theater were relatively
large and consisted of the forces of more than two military regions, in addition
to the forces of their Capital Special Zone and their general reserves.
Wherever the enemy troops were they had to be attacked simultaneously, so that
many would become few and strength would become weaknesses. If that was to be
accomplished we had to firmly grasp the method of "two feet and three spearheads,
and launch unexpected, timely, continuous, and repeated attacks all
over the place and at the same time.
The third was eliminating the enemy's strengths and exacerbating their weaknesses.
Throughout the course of the war, the Americans and puppets relied
principally on a strong air force, control of the skies, strong air support,
and mobility by transport aircraft or helicopters. Then there were the naval
forces, the river flotillas, the mechanized troops and the artillery. Without
strong air support the puppet troops would quickly lose their will to fight,
which could easily lead to disintegration and surrender. In the B2 theater
there were three large airfields-Bien Hoa, Tan Son Nhat, and Lo Te in Can
Tho-which were their ultimate sources of support and strength. Other than
those airfields they would have to rely on the aircraft carriers of the U.S.
7th Fleet offshore. We had to have a plan and deploy special forces in advance,
in order to interdict those three airfields to the greatest possible
extent, along with antiaircraft forces to guard against air attacks.
The fourth element was an attack on the enemy's nerve center to liberate
Saigon, the most heavily defended place. Since it was a political, cultural
and commercial center there were many roads connecting it with all parts of
the country. Most important were Route 1 and the railroad, which connected
Saigon with central Vietnam, and Route 4, which connected Saigon with the
delta, which was the rice basket and manpower pool, and also Military Region
IV, which still had relatively strong military forces. There were also
Route 15 and the Long Tau River, which connected Saigon with the Pacific at
the port of Vung Tau, which could be used for landing U.S. troops to save the
puppets or as a port of debarkation for puppets returning to the motherland.
Since Saigon was the war command headquarters, there were all kinds of lines
of communication extending to the regions, the units and even the U.S. 7th
Fleet. In order to liberate Saigon, it was first necessary to isolate it from
the surrounding areas so that forces could not be withdrawn into Saigon to form
an enclave, so that the enemy could not flee, so that there could be no
reinforcements or way out. The result would be chaos and disintegration.
- 97 -
The fifth factor was that the attack on Saigon had to be strong, rapid and
effective, and that the key objectives had to be taken practically at the same
time in order to insure a miraculously quick victory and prevent the enemy from
defending the city, consolidating their forces and using buildings in the city
for defensive purposes, thus turning the city into rubble and creating difficulties
for the attackers. There was yet another problem: we could not allow
the political sorcerers to have time to build a stage and bring out the marionettes
in order to produce a miracle and prevent the victory of the revolution.
In order to do so, we had to closely combine storm-like attacks from many
directions on the outside with attacks and uprisings all over the city. We
had to avoid having to fight for each street and each house, and to take each
objective. Strong main-force units would attack into the city from many directions,
while the sappers and elite troops attacked objectives inside the city,
the masses arose to take over the neighborhoods and government offices, defend
the factories, etc. We had to prevent the enemy troops from having even the
slighest bit of morale, so that they would disintegrate en masse. We would
wage a revolutionary war within our compatriots' hearts: our party had
directed us to firmly grasp the strategy of general offensive and uprising,
with attacks and uprisings, with attacks from outside in and from inside out,
and simultaneous attacks. That was miraculous speed. In order to accomplish
that, COSVN and the Saigon-Gia Dinh Municipal Party Committee studied the
deployment of each party chapter, each party member, each leadership activist,
and each organized mass cell-youths, women, middle school students, and
college students-in all important neighborhoods and organs. The armed forces
included armed youths, armed security forces, commandos, and sappers, who were
assigned objectives in the city and in the outskirts; they had been steeled
and had a tradition. How about the main-force units which would attack into
the city from the outside? They would be a very decisive factor in our success,
so they had to be strong and we had to make very careful calculations.
Even in a coordinated combat arms attack there also had to be coordination
among the various kinds of armed forces and semi-armed forces, and coordination
between the military forces and the political forces of the organized and
unorganized political forces.
The plan called for the main-force units to attack from five directions. That
part of the plan was based on the most essential objectives inside the city that
we had taken quickly, practically at the same time. It was based on the nature
and deployment of those objectives in the city and their relationship to the
areas outside the city. It was based on the terrain and topographical features
around the objectives and around the city. It was based on the enemy's defensive
deployment and the capabilities of the staging areas from which we would
launch our attacks, etc. Of those five directions, the northwest and north were
the most advantageous. The terrain in both of those directions was good, dry,
level and open, which facilitated the use of technical equipment, mechanized
equipment and large main-force units. In attacking from those directions it
would be necessary to cross open, sparsely vegetated areas near the An Ha
bridge, the Rach Tra River and Lai Thieu, but those areas were narrow and
easily crossed. The staging area for the attacks-although we would have to
fight to further consolidate the staging area prior to launching the attacks-
bordered our vast rear area and facilitated the movement and deployment of
forces, supplying from the rear, and communications with the rear area and the
- 98 -
campaign headquarters. In their defensive deployments the enemy troops
paid much attention to those two areas, for they were contiguous to our base
area and our main-force units operated there continually. The enemy had deployed
two relatively strong divisions in those areas, but they had been dispersed
with regard to both width and depth and thus could not form a fortified
defense line made up of fortified outposts, for their defenses had already
been fragmented. The key objectives those two attacking columns had to take
were not situated in the city and the attack routes were not complicated.
To the east, the terrain was favorable but the people did not fully support
us. Our organized masses were still weak. An attack would be launched from
that direction because it was necessary to attack and take such large and
strongly defended objectives as the Bien Hoa AFB, the city of Bien Hoa, and
especially the headquarters of the puppet III Corps, the corps with the mission
of commanding the main forces defending Saigon. It would also be necessary
to cross two large rivers, the Dong Nai and the Saigon. Although the
roads were good, if the enemy destroyed the bridges it would be very difficult
to reach the objectives in time. The staging areas of the attacks in that direction
were distant from the rear area base and many difficulties would be
encountered in transporting food and ammunition. Only if we fought to expand
the direct rear area of that column in advance could we create supply routes
and build up rear services stockpiles, for the enemy still occupied those areas.
The western and southern directions were the most difficult and complicated.
In both of those directions the terrain, before we reached the staging areas
and in the staging areas themselves, was low-lying and marshy, and was crisscrossed
by many rivers and canals. Especially to the south troops on foot
could not leave the road, not to mention mechanized vehicles and artillery.
Drinking water had to be brought along. If vehicles and artillery were to
reach the staging areas from which the attacks were to be launched, they
would have to fight their way through and place a pontoon bridge across the
Van Co River. Our supply lines would be long and difficult, because there
were no roads. If the cadres and units had not operated in the area for years
and did not have expert knowledge of the terrain, the localities, and the enemy,
they could not overcome the many difficulties in order to create valuable lines
of attack. But once the obstacles were overcome so that the attacks could be
launched, there would be formed very lethal offensive columns the enemy did not
expect which would insure the coordinated success of the entire campaign.
To the west and east we had a mission that was extremely important to insuring
the victory of the campaign: completely surrounding and isolating Saigon before
the attacks were launched on the center of the puppet capital. That mission
included cutting Route 4 connecting Saigon with the Mekong Delta, cutting
Route 1, and cutting the railroad to central Vietnam and Route 15 and the Long
Tau River to the sea.
In order to insure that all five offensive columns could enter Saigon at the
same time to take the most important objectives in accordance with a closely
coordinated campaign plan, at a time when each direction had such differing
conditions and characteristics, there had to be meticulous advance preparations
and a number of extremely important tasks had to be carried out many
- 99 -
months in advance. One of those tasks was preparing forces for the western
and southern directions. As stated above, those two directions required
forces which knew the terrain well, were accustomed to operating in the marshy
river and canal areas, etc. Especially, to the south we could not use vehicles
and vehicle-towed artillery, but had to use portable artillery. The
units had to be accustomed to fighting on complicated terrain under difficult
conditions and take along their weapons, ammunition and food, and would be
supported only by light artillery. There it was only possible to use regimentsized
units that were lightly organized and streamlined. They had to know how
to disperse and concentrate flexibly, know how to cross rivers by using on-thespot
facilities and even without facilities, etc. They had to be units which
were accustomed to living with the local people, knew how to coordinate closely
with the guerrillas and local troops, and know how to persuade the people to
fight with and support the combat forces. To the west we could use vehicles
and artillery, even heavy vehicles and artillery, but we had to be expert at
moving vehicles and artillery on complicated terrain, secretly crossing rivers
at night, clever camouflaging, etc. In both directions it was necessary to
meticulously prepare the approach routes from distant locations to the bivouac
areas, and prepare the assembly areas and assault positions, which was a very
difficult task because some of those areas were interspersed with those of the
enemy. It would also be very difficult to stockpile supplies in those two
areas, with regard not only to transportation but also to the erection of
supply depots and medical aid stations, the transportation of wounded, etc.
On the basis of the draft plan for a general offensive and uprising in the B2
theater, the staff drafted a 1974-1975 dry season plan for the B2 theater which
would begin in December 1974 and was divided into two phases:
-Phase 1, from the beginning of December 1974 to the beginning of February
1975.
-Phase 2, from the beginning of March to the end of May 1975.
The principal contents of the dry season plan were to continue to disrupt the
enemy's pacification plan in the Mekong Delta, expand the liberated area, bring
many additional people over to the revolution, expand and fill out the rear
base area and the corridors connecting it with the battlefields, especially
the principal eastern Nam Bo base and the areas east and west of Saigon, annihilate
whole battalions and regiments of the puppet troops, liberate the district
seats, continue to improve our position and strength, accelerate the
decline of the puppets and be prepared to create and take advantage of opportunities
in order to win victory. The locations and objectives of the attacks
to annihilate the enemy and expand the liberated area, etc., had to be appropriate
to the draft plan for a general offensive and uprising all over the B2
theater, as mentioned above. To accomplish those tasks and meet the norms that
were set would be to positively prepare all conditions for the decisive victory.
In the Mekong Delta the key objectives of the attacks against the enemy were in
the provinces of Vinh Long, Tra Vinh and Ben Tre. Vinh Long and Tra Vinh were
situated between the Tien Giang and Hau Giang Rivers in the center of the Mekong
Delta. Route 4 and the Mang Thit River were two strategic routes passing
- 100 -
through the provinces. To expand the liberated area and control of the population
we would have to create conditions for cutting Route 4, gaining control of
the Mang Thit River, and closing the Can Tho and My Thuan ferry landings, i.e.
to cut the Mekong Delta into three parts and cut the enemy's Military Region IV
into many isolated segments. That would be a strategic blow which would quickly
smash the U.S.-puppet illusion that they could withdraw into a strategic
enclave there after being heavily defeated elsewhere, so that they could stage
a counterattack. Ben Tre, a province with favorable terrain, bordered on Go
Cong, Can Duoc and Can Giuoc. Our victory there would both support the Vinh
Long and Tra Vinh fronts and create a good staging area for the attack on Saigon
from the south. In order to insure the southern attack on Saigon, the
Regional Command planned to create two lines of advance: the first from the
Long Dinh area in My Tho across Cho Gao, Tan Tru and Tan An, and then to Can
Duoc, Can Giuoc and Nha Be; and the second from Ben Tre through Go Cong, then
Can Duoc, Can Giuoc and Nha Be, then attacking into Precincts 7 and 8 in Saigon.
Both lines of advance passed through areas that were strategically important
to the enemy, which had set up many outposts in them. The terrain in
those areas was difficult and they were far from the liberated areas. Therefore,
if we did not act to create the necessary conditions many months in advance,
and did not have expert units, it would be difficult for us to fulfill
the plan*
In addition, Military Region 9 had the secondary mission of expanding the U
Minh liberated base in the direction of Can Tho in order to prepare for the
interdiction of the Lo Te airfield in Can Tho and the attack on the "Western
Capital11 [Can Tho], the headquarters of the enemy's IV Corps. Military Region
8 had the secondary mission of expanding the Dong Thap Muoi liberated area to
Route 4, in order to prepare to cut Route 4 in the My Tho area and wipe out the
puppet 7th and 9th Divisions to prevent them from reinforcing Saigon. The
Regional Command also assigned Military Region 8 the mission of preparing regiments
to participate in the campaign to liberate Saigon from the south, for
only with the forces of Military Region 8, and active preparations of that
military region, could we have conditions for carrying out that lethal surprise
attack. The region also provided for the possibility of sending two
Military Region 9 regiments from Tra Vinh to participate in the attack on
Saigon from the south.
The main-force units of the region and of Military Regions 7 and 6 had to
launch attacks to expand and complete the base areas and make preparations for
the forces north, northwest, east and west of Saigon to surround, isolate and
exert increasingly greater pressure on Saigon. At the very beginning of the
dry season it was necessary to liberate Route 14 from Dong Xoai to the Quang
Due border in order to expand the regional base to the rear until it bordered
on the Central Highlands, connect the Regional base with the area east of
Saigon, and create conditions for opening up that route and building up
material-technical stockpiles for that area in advance. In order to liberate
Route 14 and attain those objectives, it was necessary to eliminate, at all
costs, the key Dong Xoai objective, after which the provincial capital of Phuoc
Long would be completely isolated. We needed only to surround the enemy there,
for they were incapable of reacting. But if conditions permitted we would
liberate all of Phuoc Long Province, thus filling out our rear area base and
- 101 -
causing psychological and political repercussions that would be very beneficial
to us. The forces of Military Regions 6 and 7 had the missions of
liberating the districts of Hoai Due and Tanh Linh in order to create an area
in which to assemble our troops and stockpile food and ammunition for the
attack from the east on III Corps headquarters and then on Saigon. Then they
were to coordinate with the upper-echelon forces to cut Routes 1, 20 and 15.
The regional main-force units also had to extend the corridor in western Tay
Ninh, and liberate the Ben Cau and Queo Ba areas in Due Hue District and the
northern part of Due Hoa District, in order to create a staging area from
which to blockade Saigon from the west and create an area from which to
launch the attack on Saigon from that direction. It was necessary to take the
enemy position on Mt. Ba Den, a high point which controlled the areas north and
northwest of Saigon, which was an observation point for monitoring movements in
our base area and a communications center for relaying communications between
the enemy's III Corps and all of its forces in those areas. We had to expand
and fill out our base to the front by taking Binh Long, Chon Thanh, and Dau
Tieng and controlling Route 26 for our forces and a staging area for the
attacks on Saigon from the northwest and the north.
Thus the 1974-1975 dry season plan for the B2 theater was in essence continuing
to attack the enemy to accelerate their decline, changing the balance of forces
so that it was even more in our favor, and creating the opportunity for winning
a decisive victory, which would in a practical way prepare for-or it could be
said begin-the theaterfs general offensive and uprising and create conditions
for the assault on the enemy's final lair.
The soldiers and people of the B2 theater began their dry season activities
with very clear awareness of that important strategic phase, with confidence
in victory, with a high degree of determination and with an enthusiastic
spirit. The Regional Command, working directly with each military region and
with each unit, reviewed their plans and inspected their preparation in all
regards. Never before had a campaign been so meticulously and diligently prepared
militarily, politically and with regard to both the attacking forces and
the uprising forces, under the direct command of COSVN. Those seething, secret
and urgent tasks were carried out very positively throughout the 1974 rainy
season, the greatest rainy season ever!
In order to inspire, them as they began that long-awaited dry season, in November
1974, the Regional Military Party Commission and Regional Command sent to
all main-force, local and guerrilla cadres and men a letter of encouragement
which included the following passages:
"The entire party, army and population are very determined to win a truly
great, all-round victory in 1975 in order to bring about a turning point with
the decisive significance of changing the balance of forces in our favor and
creating a solid foundation on which to advance to winning a total victory.
"The 1974-1975 dry season victory will be decisive with regard to all in 1975.
"...Living in the sacred area of the Bulwark of the Homeland, the home area of
the Nam Ky uprising, the general offensive uprising of Tet Mau Than, and many
- 102 -
brilliant feats of arms, you must clearly manifest a heroic spirit and be
determined to record the 1974-1975 dry season in history with truly dazzling
feats of arms.
"Overcome all hardships and difficulties and trod upon the heads of the enemy
in advancing to win victory."*
At the end of October, COSVN received a message from the Politibal Bureau ordering
comrade Pham Hung and me to Hanoi to participate in a meeting of the
Political Bureau of the party Central Committee, along with representatives of
the theaters all over the South, to discuss the plan for the coming period.
Our delegation set out on 13 November. During the same period, the forces all
over the B2 theater were also busily setting out to the assembly areas to begin
the dry season fighting according to the plan. I instructed comrade Le Due
Anh, the regional deputy commander, who would replace me during my absence,
that in addition to making regular reports to the General Staff he should report
to me on all developments in all parts of the battlefield. I would very
enthusiastically receive news of victories, but I would be even more concerned
with and monitor the difficulties and obstacles in the process of carrying out
the plan.
Comrade Due Anh reminded me, "Try to explain things to the Military Commission
and request additional forces for our theater. The 4th Corps is still crippled
and weak, the weakest of all the corps, but it is the main force of the key
theater. 1 just can't understand." I promised that I would fulfill that mission.
Both those who were going and those who were staying behind were full of
confidence in our victory.
We once again set out on the route that follows the nation's mighty Truong Son
range, along route 559, the Ho Chi Minh Trail. But this time we traveled much
faster and with less hardship, for we traveled the entire distance from Loc
Ninh to Hanoi by motorboat or automobile. The route passed through eastern
Kampuchea, crossed southern Laos via Route 9 past Cam Lo and Dong Ha, passed
through the former Zone 4, and went on to Hanoi. The "Ho Chi Minh Trail" was
no longer a trail but was a system of motor roads with many north-south and eastwest
branches which were supplemented by the Mekong River, the Sekong River,
etc., and had been further embellished by communications lines stretched taut
by the wind and POL pipelines that crossed streams and climbed mountains. Here
and there POL stations, machine shops, truck parks, and headquarters were
operating busily. On one hill after another there were cleverly camouflaged
gun emplacements and antiaircraft proudly and imposingly pointing skyward.
That was a far cry from May 1959-the birthday of the trail-to the early
1960fs, a period during which I was in charge, and assigned to comrade Vo Bam
and a number of other "old reliables" the task of gropingly tracing out the
route. As they went they had to make their way step-by-step, and when returning
they left no footprints, yet the comrades in the Political Bureau and the
Military Commission of the party Central Committee continually admonished us
to "be careful, be secret and be sure of yourselves."
*From the archives of the Military Science Office of Military Region 7.
- 103 -
Maj Gen Vo Bam, a member of the Communist Party in the 1930Ts, was from My Lai
in Quang Ngai, the scene of a terrible atrocity by the United States. His spirit
of revolutionary enlightenment, added to his love for his home area, caused
him to have an iron will as strong as his husky body. During the first days
of cutting a path through the jungles there were countless hardships. Heavy
things were carried on the backs and shoulders of rubber-sandaled troops. Now,
everyone who traveled the "Ho Chi Minh Trail" was full of confidence in the
bright future and realized the mighty development of that vital route, which
grew miraculously in the style of Phu Dong and the immortal bamboo of Vietnam.
The Vietnamese bamboo, which still stood proudly all along the route, was victorious
and will always defeat all reactionary powers, and all bombs, shells,
poison chemicals, electronic equipment or anything else in the future.
- 104 -









CHAPTER FIVE
Beginning of a New Phase
I arrived at Hanoi before the Political Bureau meeting began. I reported to
the General Staff on the situation in the B2 theater and listened to briefings
on the overall situation and on the situations of the other theaters. I inquired
about the possibility of assigning additional forces, weapons, and
facilities to the B2 theater, something I had worried about a good deal, so
that the theater could meet the requirements of the current situation. All
along the route, and in Hanoi, a thought that never left my mind was that we
had a good opportunity and that if B2 received some additional forces it would
win a big victory and thus considerably affect the course of the war all over
South Vietnam. Comrade Le Ngoc Hien, at that time in charge of operations at
the General Staff, informed me that our reserves of weapons and ammunition
were still very thin, especially large offensive weapons, artillery and vehicles.
Thus the upper echelon had directed that their issue and use be very
tightly regulated. We had to use weapons captured from the enemy to fight the
enemy. With regard to forces, he could only let me know about the number of
troops that would be sent to the theaters. The B2 theater had to set aside
40 percent of the troops supplied it for the Mekong Delta, in order to
strengthen the provincial and district forces. In addition, it was necessary
to rapidly develop militia and guerrilla forces so that the on-the-spot forces
would be sufficiently strong to fight the enemy, so that the main-force troops
in the military region could be more concentrated and mobile.
With regard to the 1975 plan, he informed me that the General Staff intended
to make the Mekong Delta the principal battlefield, to concentrate all efforts
on smashing the enemy's pacification plan, gaining control of additional people
and resources for the revolution, and changing the balance of forces significantly
in our favor. Eastern Nam Bo would concentrate on opening unobstructed
corridors to the battlefields and on tightening the noose around Saigon. The
only main-force blow would be in the southern Central Highlands, with the objectives
of extending the strategic corridor past Due Lap in order to complete
that route and annihilating enemy manpower. We would save our strength for
1976, when we would carry out a large-scale strategic annihilating campaign,
advance to a general offensive-general uprising, and win a complete victory.
The year 1975 would be divided into three phases:
-Phase 1, from December 1974 to February 1975. During that phase only B2
w.ould be active because it had already drafted a plan.
-Phase 29 from March to June, would encompass all of South Vietnam.
-Phase 3, beginning in August, would be a phase of small-scale activity in
preparation for 1976.
When I listened to the General Staff briefing on the plan I was anxious and
worried, for the spirit and content of the B2 plan were not in accord with
- 105 -
those of the General Staff. The Regional Military Party Commission and COSVN
assessed that the situation in the theater had changed in a very fundamental
way, that our position was improving and we were winning many victories, while
the puppets were on the decline. We could not allow them to recover, or give
the United States time to shore them up. Thus in 1975, from the beginning of
the dry season, all over South Vietnam we had to attack strongly and were certain
to win a great victory and create a new opportunity for the decisive
phase of the war. The B2 dry season plan had been based on that spirit and
had been reported to the party Central Committee, and we had recommended that
the Political Bureau and the Military Commission of the party Central Committee
draft a plan to guide and coordinate all of South Vietnam. But according
to the General Staff plan, only the B2 theater would be active during the first
phase, which was certain to limit our victory, and the enemy could cope with
our attacks more easily. The 1975 plan of the General Staff called for only
small-scale attacks, the disruption of pacification, the opening of supply
corridors, and putting pressure on Saigon, in preparation for the largescale
fighting which would begin in 1976. It thought that the opportunity
would not stand still and wait for us, but that it would slip by and the
situation would develop in a different direction without our strong and timely
influence on it.
Later, during a private working session with Le Due Tho, he said to us, "The
situation is very clear and the tendency is also clear and cannot be reversed.
We must have a strategic plan for the 2-year 1975-1976 period. The opportunity
in 1976 will be very important. We must go all-out to prevent the enemy from
withdrawing into large strategic enclaves in 1976.
nOur materiel stockpiles are still very deficient, especially with regard to
weapons and ammunition. The situation in our country and the situation
abroad are very complicated and it will be difficult to augment our strategic
reserves very much. Therefore, we must limit the fighting in 1975 in order to
save our strength for 1976, when we will launch large-scale attacks and win a
decisive victory. Only if our strategic intention for 1976 is clear can we
have a direction for guiding plans and activities in 1975. We should not and
cannot prolong the war indefinitely.11
Because the meeting was not held to discuss plans I merely presented my opinions
in brief. I strongly agreed that the enemy would try to withdraw into
strategic enclaves after they had been heavily defeated, and we had to guard
against that eventuality by many different means, beginning at an early date.
We should not limit the fighting in 1975 in order to save our strength for
1976. On the contrary, only if we attacked strongly in 1975 could we victoriously
conclude the war in 1976. The opportunity was at hand and should be
grasped in order to create further opportunities. We must not let the opportunity
slip by. Our COSVN had discussed and reached agreement about that problem
and would submit a detailed report to the Military Commission of the
party Central Committee and the Political Bureau.
I studied the messages sent to us from the theater. .Only after reading a message
from Le Due Anh did I learn that B2, implementing a message from Van Tien
Dung and brother Ba (comrade Le Duan, the general secretary), had adjusted the
- 106 -
plan with regard to the B2 forces, i.e., we would not attack Dong Xoai, would
not use large main-force units, heavy artillery and tanks, but would only
launch small-scale attacks. Thus Military Regions 6, 75 8 and 9 and Saigon-
Gia Dinh in the B2 theater would continue to act in accordance with the plan
we had drafted, with a little readjustment: the regional main-force units
would not fight on a large scale and would not attack Dong Xoai but would be
sent to attack the Bu Dang or Bu Na areas on Route 14 far to the north. In
addition, the General Staff had decided to assign to B2fs 7th Division and
429th Sapper Regiment the mission of preparing to attack Gia Nghia during the
second dry season phase (March 1975) in order to coordinate with the principal
focus of the campaign organized and commanded by the General Staff: Due Lap
(in the southern Central Highlands). I was even more disturbed, for the
overall B2 dry season plan encompassed the entire theater and not only closely
combined the lowland and jungle-and-mountains areas and the local and mainforce
troops, but also actively prepared for the second dry season phase and
for all of 1975. To readjust the plan and shift around forces in that manner
would be to hinder the B2 plan and enable the enemy to react strongly, especially
in the delta. Why was that so? We drafted the B2 1974-1975 dry season
combat plan on the basis of an assessment and evaluation of the common situation
of ourselves and the enemy, in order to attain an important part of the
objectives of a strategic phase, as mentioned above. In order to win victory
in the various parts of the B2 theater, as planned, the plan had to include
measures to keep the enemy pinned down so that they could not be free to move
forces to cope with our attacks in places of their choosing, and we had to
divert and disperse the enemy. Our B2 theater had two strong divisions-the
9th and 7th-which had achieved many feats of arms in fighting the puppets and
Americans in eastern Nam Bo. Especially, the 9th Division was the first mainforce
division in South Vietnam to travel the long route from Binh Gia, Bau
Bang, Dau Tieng, Tet Mau Than and Loc Ninh to the present. The enemy continually
monitored each movement of those divisions in order to find out about
our intentions and operational plans. During the first phase of the dry season
we had intended to use only part of the 7th Division and the independent
regiments. The rest of the division was to remain in place in the Tan Uyen and
Phu Giao areas in Thu Dau Mot Province. The 9th Division, stationed in Long
Nguyen area of Ben Cat District, would not yet participate in the fighting but
would carry out feints in order to tie down III Corps forces in the intermediate
area and in the outskirts of Saigon so that they could not be sent elsewhere,
especially to respond to our attacks in the Mekong Delta. The plan was
based on the enemy's assumption that during the dry season we would attack to
liberate Tay Ninh Province so that we could make Tay Ninh City the capital of
the PRG of the RSVN. We would use feints to make the enemy think that they
had guessed right and so that they would tie up forces in the defense of that
area. Meanwhile, we would use a regiment of the 7th Division, reinforced by
a company of tanks and two companies of heavy artillery, to launch a surprise
attack to take Dong Xoai, and use regiments 271 and 201, along with local
forces, to liberate Route 14 within the enemy's Military Region III. We sent
another regiment of the 7th Division to block the only road between Phuoc Vinh
and Dong Xoai and had a contingency plan to annihilate enemy reinforcements
brought in by air. The Dong Xoai position was the key base in Phuoc Long Province
and along that stretch of Route 14, for it was the throat, the doorway,
the lifeline connecting the entire province with the other areas of the puppet
- 107 -
89-4690
Ill Corps. If Dong Xoai were lost the rest of Phuoc Long Province and Route 14
would be isolated and it would become difficult to supply that food-poor
mountain region province. The objective of our liberation of Route 14 was to
open up a corridor to the east in order to transport weapons, ammunition, and
food for stockpiling in the War Zone A base and east of Route 20 in preparation
for the column that would attack Saigon from the east. That corridor had to
pass through Dong Xoai, or near it, and extend northward. If we could not
liberate Dong Xoai, our transportation corridor would continue to be blocked,
i.e., the objective of the plan would not be attained. If we were able to
take Dong Xoai, the enemy troops in Phuoc Long would be desperate, which would
create conditions for us to liberate the entire province if necessary. Thus
although Dong Xoai was only a position, a district capital and a relatively
fortified subsector, it was an important link of the overall dry season B2
plan, and an opening battle that would surprise the enemy and inspire our
armed forces. If we did not attack Dong Xoai and open up the corridor to
the east, but sent the 7th Division from the area, it was clear that the B2
plan would be considerably affected.
For that reason, I was very worried. I promptly reported my thoughts to
Pham Hung and Hai Van (Phan Van Dang, a member of the standing committee of
COSVN). Hai Van, who was present in Hanoi, joined the B2 delegation, which
now had three members. We recommended that we be allowed to meet with the
Military Commission of the party Central Committee and the General Staff so
that we could express our opinions and request that we be allowed to retain
our old plan and that the 7th Division not be sent to the Central Highlands.
The meeting took place on 3 December. I explained as best I could B2fs dry
season plan and the justifications for it-on the strategic, campaign and
battle levels-perhaps not eloquently but clearly and sincerely, for the
sake of our theater and in the common interest. One comrade asked what would
happen if we attacked Dong Xoai and the enemy reacted by sending in a division,
and suggested that we would be forced to use all of the 7th and 9th
Divisions to wipe out those reinforcements, thus tying up our main-force units
at the very beginning of the dry season. I had to explain in detail our situation
and that of the enemy in the theater as a whole, and asserted that if the
enemy responded they could not send more than a regiment to Dong Xoai. (In
fact, when we did attack Dong Xoai the enemy sent no troops to save the puppets
there, and even when we attacked the Phuoc Long provincial capital the
enemy sent only about 200 rangers of the 81st brigade.) I was able to make
that assertion and reflect the actual situation because we in the B2 theater
knew the enemy and the terrain well, and knew what roads the enemy would have
to use to go to Dong Xoai and Phuoc Long, what their manpower and air transport
capabilities were, and our capabilities and methods for stopping and annihilating
them. I had confidence in our plan to keep the enemy pinned down in
Saigon. When a military commander on a battlefield briefs and reports to the
upper echelon he must have a strong sense of responsibility and must be accurate,
clear and definitive.
I requested that the 7th Division not be sent to the Central Highlands because
in the present strategic phase we believed that it was necessary to send additional
forces from the other theaters to eastern Nam Bo and apply pressure in
the Saigon area, and not send forces in the opposite direction, away from
- 108 -
Saigon. That was not a matter of localism but was in the interests of the
strategic phase and of 1975. If needed for the General Staff plan, I agreed
to send the 429th Sapper Regiment to Gia Nghia, which would be sufficient.
During that meeting it was agreed not to transfer the 7th Division but only
the 429th Regiment. I was very pleased and expressed deep gratitude for the
attention given the lower echelon. As for attacking Dong Xiao, that matter
had not been fully resolved. Many participants expressed opinions, but no
conclusion was reached:
-We should take the initiative in using our main-force units and not let the
enemy draw them out, wear them down, and try them out.
-We were fighting mainly to wipe out enemy manpower. It was not necessary to
hold land during the coming phase, so it was not necessary to attack Dong Xoai.
-The 1975 situation was not urgent. We should be prudent, so there was no
need to attack Dong Xoai.
-The strategic foci of 1975 would be the lowlands, Gia Nghia, the transportation
corridors, and Tri Thien-Da Nang.
-Only by large-scale enemy-annihilating blows could we change the balance of
forces in our favor and transform the situation.
Pham Hung expressed disagreement with such reasoning. He said, nThis is a matter
not only of Dong Xoai but also of the B2 plan. If we change it, I'm afraid
that the lowlands and the common direction will be affected. We must understand
that in this war we attack the enemy by both military forces and political
forces; we attack and arise, arise and attack, and advance to a general
offensive and general uprising. Therefore, on the basis of many conditions,
there must be many ways to transform the situation; annihilating large numbers
of the enemy is not necessarily the only way to bring about a transformation.
For example, when we control several million people and master the battlefield,
numbers are not a decisive factor. The fact that the enemy's military forces
are large is not a sign of strength. We must first of all reach agreement
with regard to our battlefield, and which phase we are in, and only then talk
about what actions we should take,"
After that meeting Pham Hung, Hai Van, and I often discussed and evaluated the
situation, the present strategic phase, and the overall plan and the B2 plan
in particular, on the basis of the discussions in COSVN before we left, in
order to prepare for the coming Political Bureau meeting.
I thought that in war, annihilating large numbers of the enemy troops in a few
battles or in a few campaigns is a real requirement for transforming the situation.
That is entirely correct, if not the only condition in a conflict between
the regular armies in an ordinary war. But in the national liberation war
against U.S. aggression, our line was not a regular, ordinary war. Confident
in the strength of the people, who arose to determine their own destiny, our
party advocated a revolutionary war combined with an armed uprising of the
people. We had to use military forces combined with popular mass forces.
- 109 -
We fought the enemy with weapons, politically, and by proselyting enemy
troops. We had to carryout attacks and uprisings simultaneously, culminating
in a general offensive and general uprising. The nature of our war was both
opposing foreign aggressors and waging a civil war against the militarists
and comprador capitalists in our country. For that reason, the revolutionary
consciousness of the people was a notable strength, a valuable strategic
weapon. The political program of our National Liberation Movement was a
rallying point, a flag, a rallying of the masses to advance to the creation
of a new life, one with freedom, independence, well-being and happiness. It
was a strength, a factor in victory and not merely in transforming the situation.
If that was true strategically, our war was also unlike ordinary wars
with regard to campaigns and tactics. During decades of fighting the Americans
and puppets, we continually searched and thought about, experimented with,
and made appropriate changes in, our fighting methods, in order to achieve the
greatest possible effectiveness and expend less blood, rice, ammunition, etc.,
so that we could fight for long periods of time, if necessary, and bring about
decisive victories in relatively short periods of time. We did not fight the
enemy with their methods but forced the enemy to fight our way. We did not
compete with the enemy with regard to materiel and technology, or merely in
terms of military strength, but with regard to will, determination, intelligence,
bravery, cleverness, virtue and persistence, and with regard to both
force and position. Our country's patriotism and thirst for freedom and happiness
would inevitably defeat the slavery and exploitation of the Americans and
puppets. Therefore, if we continued to think in the old way, only understood
things the way we understood them in the past, and continued on our usual path,
that would be completely inappropriate to the new phenomena and to a new war,
which was not a carbon copy of the previous war. If COSVN and our Regional
(B2) Command concluded that immediately after the 1974 dry season there had
been a clear transformation all over South Vietnam, that we were victorious and
on the ascent and the enemy had been defeated and was on the decline, and then
took the stand that it was necessary to attack continually, carried out all
tasks during the greatest season ever, and then drafted an all-round plan for
the 1974-1975 dry season and for all of 1975, in order to win a decisive victory,
we did not do so thinking that only when we launched attacks to annihilate
the enemy on a large scale would the situation be transformed. That
change in the situation was clearly due to a large number of factors, military
and political, military forces and popular forces, material and spiritual,
domestic and foreign, on the part of the enemy and ourselves, and with regard
to position and force. When a certain point is reached, forces will undergo
a qualitative change. Guidance must be responsive in order to realize that
point and understand the new quality that has appeared, and not wait for or
try to bring about a large-scale annihilating blow in order to transform the
situation.
Due to such a concept, and on the basis of the actual situation on the battlefield,
we concluded that that point had arrived, the situation had been transformed,
the opportunity was evident, and if in 1975 we attacked strongly the
opportunity would give rise to other opportunities, which we would endeavor
to grasp in order to win victory. That was a matter of the science and art
of the leadership and guidance of war and revolution. Regarding 1976 as an
important opportunity was correct, but was only correct if we would work to
- 110 -
create that opportunity throughout the course of 1975, and even prior to that.
An opportunity does not create itself, so we should not sit and await the
opportunity. An opportunity has objective conditions but it must be created
primarily by subjective means.
A few days later, after supper, I was walking along the corridor emerged in
deep thought when the telephone rang. Pham Hung invited me to go with him to
visit brother Ba [Le Duan] at his home. I was pleased, agreed immediately,
and set a time to arrive at Pham Hung's house so that we could go together.
Up to that time, because I was busy and had many things to worry about, I
hadn't had an opportunity to meet with brother Ba. At exactly 1930 hours
Pham Hung and I arrived. Brother Ba came to the door, greeted us warmly, and
led us into the living room. He appeared to be healthy, agile and very happy.
Not waiting for us to inquire about his health, he asked whether the change of
climate we had experienced in Hanoi had affected our health. Then he inquired
about the comrades in COSVN and the Regional Military Party Committee, then
about a number of others he knew in the military regions and provinces. But
that was just a way of starting the conversation. He then went directly to
the point and talked about matters everyone was thinking about. That was
characteristic of him. When he met with cadres he spoke, spoke that the
cadres could understand clearly and deeply and remember carefully. When during
a conference, a cadre stood up to make a comment about something about
which he was concerned, brother Ba would begin to talk and often would talk
5 to 7 minutes at a time, then let the cadre continue. He said, "The situation
is very good and we are winning many victories. We are winning because we
are strong, strong politically and militarily, in the rural areas, in the
cities, among the people, with regard to our fighting methods-main-force
fighting, guerrilla fighting, sapper fighting, fighting by female troops, etc.
Only by such combination can we win. Combination with regard to strategy,
forces and revolutionary methods. In fighting us the United States used a global
strategy: they fought us and the socialist bloc. We also must use a global
strategy. Independence, democracy and socialistism cannot be separated from
one another. We must use the combined forces of Vietnam and the world. We
must use combined revolutionary methods to the highest degree, attack and
arise, arise and attack, and use political forces and military forces, mainforce
units, local forces, and guerrillas, fight in all three areas, and use
the three offensive spearheads. That is science. In order to have a correct
line there must be such correct methods.
''Militarily, in the present phase we must think, think, continually think,
think, to clarify the problems. In 1975, how will we win victory? What political
and military developments will there be in 1975? Have you wiped out any
subsectors yet? Can you hold Rach Bap? What are the deployments in eastern
Nam Bo? With regard to the encirclement of Saigon, how does the present phase
differ from the past 2 years? With correct deployment, victory is 60 to 70
percent assured. How should we fight during this phase? Annihilate and
achieve mastery, achieve mastery and annihilate, or what? Should we fight to
annihilate all of the enemy or to rout all of the enemy?
He spoke in such a way as to explain, and asked a series of questions that
needn't be answered. Perhaps he brought up matters, provoked ideas, and
- Ill -
gave guidance so that the cadres would have to think and try to come up with
the right answers by themselves. But I noticed that he was concerned with
the defense of Rach Bap and with breaking up the enemy's strongly defended
defensive enclave at Saigon. He was concerned about the deployment of our
forces in and around Saigon, to form a solid offensive battlefield position.
It was true that correct deployment was 60 to 70 percent of a victory. I
truly believed in that saying. Intelligence, resourcefulness, courage, and
meticulousness should be used when organizing and deploying forces to form
a solid strategic battlefield position, for only then can one talk about defeating
the enemy. The strategy of Sun Tzu of the Warring States period in
ancient China paid much attention to deploying formations and arranging forces.
According to that strategy, "Generals reach the peak of military art only when
they know how to bring into play the greatest strength of the forces at their
disposal, when they know how to change those deployments so that they can be
appropriate to the changing circumstances, and when they know how to create
an opportunity to cause the enemy troops to become divided and dispersed, so
that strength becomes weakness and many becomes few.11* A person who is a
general in the present era, an era of revolution and science, with the leadership
of a Marxist-Leninist Party, must know not only how to arrange the forces
at his disposal into the most rational formations, but must also know how to
create forces, organize many kinds of forces with many fighting methods, and
combine all types of military forces with the political forces of the masses,
forces in our country and forces abroad. He must know not only how to deploy
formations to attack the enemy at the front but also in the enemy's rear area
and within their ranks.
Just after Pham Hung finished speaking of the prospects of our winning victories
during that dry season, I asked brother Ba, "You just sent a message
instructing us not to attack Dong Xoai. Why did you do so?M He replied, "The
General Staff reported to me that you were going to throw main-force units into
the fight from the very beginning of the dry season. To attack Dong Xoai,
and then fight a whole series of other large battles, would not be appropriate.
We must fight in such a way as to conserve our strength. In the present situation
you must always have available powerful forces so that when the opportunity
arises you will be able to win victory." I explained to him my intentions
and method of using forces. I said that at the beginning of the dry season we
would still have a strong reserve force: the 9th Division and a number of
regiments. Pham Hung added, "We won't have to use large forces to attack Dong
Xoai but are certain of winning a victory. We have thought things over carefully."
Brother replied, "If that is so, then go ahead and attack. There's
no problem." I couldn't believe what I heard and immediately asked for a
confirmation, "So you'll allow us to take Dong Xoai so that we can complete
our corridor to the east, as called for by our plan?" He replied, "But you
must be certain of victory and not use large forces." When I heard those
words I felt as if a great burden had been lifted. I was very happy and
couldn't wait to send a guidance message to the theater. That night I drafted
a message so that Pham Hung and Hai Van could approve it and send it to COSVN
and the Regional Command instructing them to carry out the original plan, i.e.,
to begin the dry season main-force activities by attacking Dong Xoai. But it
* AIR UNIVERSITY REVIEW, 1981, July-August issue.
- 112 -
was too late. Implementing the directive of the party Central Committee, the
B2 Command had changed the plan and would not attack Dong Xoai but would only
use small units to attack some small posts on Route 14 in the Ba Dang or Bu Na
areas. It was too late to return to the old plan. On 6 December a message
was received from Le Due Anh, who reported, M0n the day we received the message
from brother Ba we convened a meeting of the Regional Military Party
Commission to adjust the plan, rearrange our combat formations, send the tanks
and 130 mm back to the base area, explain the situation to the troops, etc.
Therefore, we cannot begin the attack in the Route 14 area before 12 December,
while all over the B2 theater the fighting will begin during the night of
6 December and the early morning of 7 December. If we return to the old plan
now we will have to rearrange our deployments, move the tanks, explain the
situation to the troops, etc. Under the guidance of the COSVN standing committee,
we should carry out the adjusted plan and not delay the date of the
offensive. We will proceed in accordance with our 5 December message to the
High Command, brother Bay (Pham Hung), and brother Tu (Iran Van Tra).ff*
Prior to that, when I departed from the theater on 16 November to represent
the B2 Command, brother Le Due Anh e.e. Le Due Anh, sent the following message
to the High Command:
"Received brother Dung's message of 24 October. We are reporting some points
the High Command must know immediately.
"...The winning of a good victory during the first phase of the dry season
will create additional conditions for winning great victories throughout the
dry season and in 1975. If we wait until phase 2 before attacking strongly, the
1975 victory will be limited. Therefore, we recommend that the High Command
approve the plan we have drafted....
"Everything will be reported (by Pham Hung or myself)** in detail directly to
the High Command."***
On 18 November brother Sau Nam sent the following message:
"...Received message 484 from brother Dung, with opinions of brother Van****
and have just received message 491 from brother Ba. We have discussed them and
concluded that we do not yet fully grasp the intentions and overall plan of the
Central Committee and its Military Commission as regards the relationship
between the B2 theater and the other theaters in the South. We will carry out
the directive of the upper echelon and adjust our plan as follows:
*From the archives of the B2 War Recapitulation Section of the Ministry of
National Defense.
**Note by the author.
***From the archives of the B2 War Recapitulation Section of the Ministry of
National Defense.
****Comrade Vo Nguyen Giap.
- 113 -
"1. With regard to regional main-force units:
"-During Phase 1, the main-force operations will be intended to wear down and
annihilate part of the enemyTs manpower, and draw in and stretch out the enemy
so they cannot concentrate in the delta and around Saigon, help the localities
retain their rice, and free the people, while also continuing to consolidate,
train and conserve our strength so that during Phase 2 they can operate strongly,
in accordance with the requirement of coordinating with the other theaters,
as directed by the Central Committee.... Meanwhile, we will continue to prepare
for the Phase 2 high-point, such as by preparing the battlefield, training
troops to attack objectives along the lines of using portable artillery-
nothing heavier than 85 mm direct-fire guns-and without using tanks or 130mm
artillery.
"These are some adjustments in Phase 1 plan. After brother Hai Nha* returns
and brother Tu** goes north to m<
as directed by the High Command.
JU JU
Tu " make his report, we will make additional changes
"But to guard against the possibility that brother Tu may arrive in Hanoi
later than expected and before Hai Nha returns, recommend that the High Command
provide additional guidance so that we can implement it in
The matter of Hai Nhafs return, mentioned in the message was, according to
Hai Nha, as follows:
"In November 1974, after being released from Hospital 108 in Hanoi I prepared
to convalesce at Sam Son beach. Le Ngoc Hien came to see me and inquire about
my health. He said that the General Staff needed someone who was capable and
reliable to take orders to the B2 theater and report on a number of situations
and the 1975 plan, and asked me whether I was healthy enough to return. I was
very pleased to be able to return to the theater immediately to participate in
the fighting, so I said that I was healthy enough to undertake that important
mission. Brother Hien accepted my offer and told me to go to meet with Le
Trong Tan, deputy chief of staff, the following night. As scheduled, 1 went to
meet with brother Tan, who said, fWe need you to return to B2 immediately, and
take instructions, regarding the 1975 plan and the intentions of the Military
Commission of the party Central Committee. Pham Hung and Tran Van Tra are
about to come north. But they have been sent a message telling them not to
come, because you can return to report on the decisions that have been made
up here. The 1975 plan does not call for large-scale fighting but for the
conservation of weapons, ammunition, and forces, and for training, in order to
await the 1976 opportunity. f Brothers Tan and Hien gave me a detailed briefing
so that I could take mental notes and brief others when I returned. They told
me to meet the following morning with Van Tien Dung, the chief of staff, to
receive my mission and instructions.
"The next morning
*Maj Gen Lyong Van Nho
**Tran Van Tra
***From the archives of the B2 War Recapitulation Section of the Ministry of
National Defense.
- 114 -
"The next morning I went to meet with brother Dung at the 'Dragon House,1 at
that time the offices of the Military Commission of the party Central Committee
and the Ministry of National Defense in Hanoi. After inquiring about my health
he asked whether I fully understood my mission. I reported that brothers Tan
and Hien had briefed me in detail, and that I understood the mission. He
asked me to repeat what I had been told to make certain that I understood
everything. I repeated everything from beginning to end. The main contents
were the following.
"I will return immediately with instructions for B2 from the General Staff.
Brothers Hung and Tra would no longer have to come north.
"In 1975 we will not fight on a large scale, but will be concerned only with
disrupting pacification in the Mekong Delta. In eastern Nam Bo, the mainforce
units will not fight on a large scale. B2 intends to attack Dong Xoai
and Phuoc Long, but the General Staff disagrees. It should only fight on a
small scale and take a few small positions on Route 14. This year it should
fight on a small scale in order to conserve forces and await an opportunity.
It should not use tanks and heavy artillery without the case-by-case approval
of the General Staff.
"Brother Dung said, 'Your understanding is correct! It is necessary to conserve
forces and await the opportunity. This year we will only fight in the
delta and disrupt pacification. We are still very short on ammunition, especially
heavy artillery shells. We should not fight on a large scale, then not
have the forces to fight when the opportunity arises. You must understand that
staff cadres such as yourself are responsible for making recommendations to
the commander, and that the commander does not bear sole responsibility. So
you now fully understand the opinions of the upper echelon. But I will compose
a message going over the same points, so that brother Ba can sign it and send
it to the B2 theater in advance.1
"I also took along that message from brother Ba (i.e. message No 491, referred
to above in the message from Sau Nam to the General Staff) and delivered it to
brothers Sau Nam and Hai Le."*
As it happened, Pham Hung and I, not having received that message, set out on
the designated day and, fortunately, did not meet Hai Nha. If we had met him,
perhaps we would have hesitated a little between continuing and returning.
However, as early as mid-October we had recommended the holding of a meeting
of the Political Bureau and all theaters in the South, so even if we had encountered
Hai Nha and he had passed on to us those opinions of the Military
Commission and told us not to go to Hanoi, I'm certain that we would have requested
permission to continue our journey so that we could report directly
our assessment and evaluation of the situation, based on the actual conditions
in the theater, of COSVN and the Regional Military Party Committee, and to
recommend an operational policy for 1975, in order to fulfill the 1975-1976
*"Sau Nam" was Le Due Anh, deputy commander of the Regional Command. "Hai Le"
was Le Van Tuong, deputy political officer of the Regional Command.
- 115 -
2-year plan. It is very important that the lower echelon report on the situation
accurately and promptly, and recommend its opinions bravely and with a
sense of responsibility. The upper echelon must do everything necessary to
solicit the opinions of the lower echelon, listen closely to the opinions of
all sides, and seriously and objectively analyze and consider in order to
reach correct conclusions. To do so is to insure success. That has always
been the truly democratic and centralized working method of the Political
Bureau of the party Central Committee. We felt that we had a responsibility
to go to Hanoi to accurately report on the situation.
So that our comrades back in the B2 theater could be at ease when guiding the
activity phase we sent a message to COSVN and the Standing Committee of the
Regional Military Party Committee that was signed by both Pham Hung and myself.
It included the following passages:
"After a preliminary exchange of opinions with a number of comrades in the
Political Bureau and the Central Military Party Committee, a high degree of
unanimity was reached regarding the assessment and evaluation of the overall
situation and the direction to be taken in the coming period. But more specifically,
there are still many problems that we must continue to discuss,
especially our dry season plan.
"We will recommend that our old plan for the Regional main-force units be
left unchanged...."*
After learning that B2 was operating in accordance with the adjusted plan I
sent back a guidance message (message No 567/ZK):
"...After Bu Dang and Bu Na, go all-out to take Dong Xoai which, although not
a large position, will have both a campaign and strategic effect. The 7th
Division may be used to attack Dong Xoai...."**
On 20 December 1974 brother Sau Nam sent a message reporting that "On Route 14
we have completely liberated the segment from bridge 11 near Dong Xoai to beyond
Bu Dang on the border of the Kien Due subsector.... At Bu Dang, Vinh
Thien and Bu Na we captured four artillery pieces and 7,000 artillery shells,
more than 3,000 weapons of the various kinds, and more than 300 POWTs, and
are continuing to track down others."***
On 27 December 1974 there was another message:
"...In order to avoid missing the opportunity for a campaign to win a big victory
when conditions permit, we have readied a tank company to serve as a reserve
force. On 26 December we wiped out the Dong Xoai strongpoint complex
without using tanks."****
^Archives of the Committee to Recapitulate the War in the B2 Theater of the
Ministry of National Defense.
**From archives of the B2 War Recapitulation Section of the Ministry of
National Defense.
***Ibid.
****Ibid.
- 116 -
Immediately afterward we received the following message from Hoang Cam, commander
at the Phuoc Long front:
"Group 301* to R,** copy to General Staff: Attacked Dong Xoai subsector at
0035 hours 26 December. By 0830 had taken all of Dong Xoai subsector.1'
-Nam Thach-***
Thus Route 14 within the sphere of responsibility of B2 had been completely
liberated. Our rear area base and transportation corridor had been expanded.
Although our attack plan had been changed and then changed again, and our
forces had been deployed and redeployed, and we had to attack gradually and
step-by-step, from a small scale to a large scale and more slowly than we had
desired, the enemy troops still were incapable of reacting and did not send
any infantry reinforcements, but were resigned to the loss of all three subsectors:
Bu Dang, Dong Xoai, and, before that, Bu Dop which had been taken
by a local battalion of the Phuoc Long Province unit. The enemy also sent in
airplanes to strafe and bomb, but to no effect. The enemy troops remaining
in Phuoc Long were perplexed and very shaken up. In view of that favorable
situation we requested permission from brother Ba and the Military Commission
of the party Central Committee to liberate all of Phuoc Long Province, as
provided for by our old plan, should the opportunity arise. I expressed the
opinion that our troops could fulfill that mission and said that I was certain
that the enemy was incapable of sending strong reinforcements to Phuoc Long if
it were attacked. I explained the campaign and strategic value of liberating
Phuoc Long Province. After carefully weighing the situation, they agreed. I
was delighted, but in order to insure victory I requested permission from
brother Ba to use a company of tanks and a company of 130mm artillery. I
promised that I would personally command the operation to insure success. He
agreed. Phuoc Long was a mountain-region province with rough terrain. To the
north and east of the provincial capital there were many high mountains, and
the deep, swiftly flowing Be River flowed through those areas. To the west and
south the land was more level, but at the southern gateway to the province was
situated Mt.Ba Ra, the highest mountain in that area. It is 735 meters above
sea level and had many rock cliffs, large boulders and green vegetation. The
enemy had long ago set up on the peak of that mountain a wireless communications
relay station and an observation post equipped with optical and electronic
equipment capable of monitoring a large area. If necessary the enemy could
use a regiment to use the complicated, dominating terrain of that mountain to
strongly defend the Phuoc Long provincial capital. Because of the rough terrain
of Mt. Ba Ra and of Phuoc Long Province, during the period of French
domination the French colonialists used the Mt. Ba Ra area as a place for
concentrating and keeping under surveillance the patriotic political activists.
Many of our cadres and party members were detained there for many years, living
apart from society, miserable and sick because of rampant malaria. They
^Forward HQ of the Regional Command.
**Code designation of the Regional Command.
***Hoang Cam.
- 117 -
included such women as Hai Soc Ba Diem, Nguyen Thi Luu, Nguyen Thi Dinh, Hai
Be An Giang, Hai Ninh Hau Giang, and many others. Five kilometers to the
west of Mt. Ba Ra there was situated Phuoc Binh, a relatively bustling district
seat. In Phuoc Binh there was an intersection of roads going to Bu
Dop, Dong Xoai, the provincial capital, and to Route 14, at the Lieu Due
intersection. In Phuoc Binh there was also a relatively good Class-2 airfield,
the province's air base, that was used for Phuoc Long Province and to
support air force operations in that entire mountains-and-jungles area.
Because of the natural terrain of that mountain region province and the enemy's
defensive deployments, if we were to attack and liberate Phuoc Long Province
with our limited forces we had no other choice than to first take Dong Xoai in
order to isolate all of the remaining troops in the province. We had to take,
at any cost, the communications station and observation post on Mt. Ba Ra and
the Phuoc Binh intersection and airfield. Only thereby could we punch through
to the provincial capital and annihilate the enemy troops, whose defensive
deployments relied on the rough and complicated terrain consisting of mountains,
rivers, lakes and ponds.
We sent a message to the B2 Command to guide the development of the Dong Xoai
victory by rapidly taking Mt. Ba Ra and the Phuoc Binh airfield and completely
liberate Phuoc Long Province. I did not forget to mention that we had been
authorized to use a tank company and a 130mm artillery company. I composed the
message, signed it, and had the General Staff send it. But that afternoon,
when sitting beforeamap, studying the enemy's deployments in Phuoc Long Province
and envisioning how the enemy might react to our attack, comrade Le Ngoc
Hien arrived. He handed me the message I had written and said that he had not
yet sent it because I had stated that we had been authorized to use tanks and
heavy artillery, which the upper echelon had forbidden us to do. I was a little
perturbed, because I was afraid that that message, like the one a few days previously
(instructing the B2 Command to implement the original dry season plan)
would be received too late. To express my displeasure, I told comrade Hien
that as a theater commander I should have the right to send a command message to
my forces. I was not about to have my message censored and be forced to amend
against my wishes. I had received permission to use heavy weapons and bore
full responsibility. I requested him to send the message and told him that he
would be responsible if it arrived late and we missed the opportunity.
Thus everything necessary to liberate Phuoc Long Province had been amicably
agreed to. There was unanimity from top to bottom. Later, during discussions
held to recapitulate the war, a number of cadres who did not understand the
situation thought that the liberation of Phuoc Long Province along the lines
of "peeling off layers of defense" from the outside in, from Bu Dang, Bu Na,
Dong Xoai, Phuoc Binh, then the provincial capital, was a matter of fighting
at first on a small scale and then on a large scale, that it differed from
another method of using strong forces to strike at the center, at the enemy's
*Maj Gen Nguyen Thi Dinh, formerly deputy commander of the Regional Command whom
the PLA cadres and men usually affectionately referred to as "Sister Ba."
During the period of the 1960 simultaneous uprising she was secretary of the Be
Tre Party Committee. At present she is chairman of the Vietnamese Women's
Federation.
- 118 -
heart, and then attack from inside out, like a blossoming flower. That is an
interesting description, but it is not in accordance with the truth. A lesson
based on such a conclusion would have no value. Military strategy is a science.
It cannot be understood by muddled thinking remote from reality. With regard
to attacks on provincial capitals, there are hundreds of ways to attack hundreds
of provincial capitals-a different method for each provincial capital-and not
just two ways. The selection of a fighting method is not based on the subjective
thinking of one person or another, but must be based on a series of specific
factors: where is the provincial capital located, and what are its campaign
and strategic positions in the enemy's defensive system? What key objectives
must be taken to liberate that provincial capital? How are those objectives
distributed on the battlefield? What are the fortifications and forces
defending it? What are the terrain and vegetation of the provincial capital?
Where will the enemy troops make their stand? Where will the enemy reinforcements
originate and by what facilities will they be brought in? What are the
scale and capabilities of our forces in all regards? What are the staging
area, approach route, etc? Even by asking such simple questions it is evident
that the selection of a fighting method must be based on the actualities of
space and time, and on our situation and that of the enemy; we cannot sit and
think about an existing fighting method then automatically apply it to a provincial
capital, making adjustments as we go. The skill of a commander is
demonstrated in his ability to grasp the actual situation, and accurately
analyze the enemy's situation, our situation, the terrain, the important objectives,
and the opportunity that is to be created or already exists, in order
to make a decision that is appropriate, creative, and leads to victory. That
is not to mention the developments, the factors which arise every minute and
every second and must be dealt with. Often battles in fact end in a way unlike
that envisioned in the original plan. Sometimes a plan is very good but
the person in direct command of the attacking unit makes a mistake in dealing
with a complicated development, or deals correctly with a disadvantageous
situation, with the result that the battle ends in a very different way. In
making recapitulations it is necessary to the objective historical truth to
make an accurate analysis, in order to learn valuable lessons.
Thus prior to the Political Bureau conference our delegation, representing
B2, had endeavored to report on and discuss our position and won the approval
of the Political Bureau and party Central Committee for the dry season plan B2
had drafted on the basis of unanimity in evaluating our actual situation and
that of the enemy. We had been authorized to attack Dong Xoai and Phuoc Long.
On 22 December Pham Hung sent a message to the Standing Committee of COSVN
which included the following contents.
"1. The opinions brought back by Hai Nha reached B2 before we had arrived at
our destination. During our work sessions it was decided that the 1975 plan
envisioned to COSVN and prepared after the June 1974 conference is entirely
correct. You must oversee, and closely monitor and guide its implementation,
especially during the present dry season phase. We and the others here are
very pleased over the results of the first phase of the dry season. Because
of the developing situation you considered things carefully and made rational,
timely changes, but the 1975 plan remains essentially as we drafted it. If
we are able to fulfill the 1975 plan, especially during the present dry season,
- 119 -
In the second phase of the dry season campaign there will be coordination
among the theaters, which will be the best way to insure the fulfillment of
our dry season plan and does not represent a major change.11*
On 29 December, Pham Hung and I signed the following message to the Regional
Military Party Committee and the COSVN Standing Committee:
"1. The situation at the beginning of the dry season in our theater is that
the localities and units have endeavored to win victory and have achieved
rather good results, although some places are still not up to par. We are
very pleased and are confident that we have many good prospects for attaining
and surpassing the plan if the various echelons firmly grasp the situation,
are not subjective and complacent, and are prepared to overcome difficulties
in order to win greater victories. We will thereby have a solid basis for the
coming phases, in correct accordance with the strategic design. Those of us
here are very pleased and are endeavoring to guide all aspects so that the plan
can be carried out well..
ffo A. • • •»•
"Because of the decision to win a bigger victory this year and create conditions
for the coming period, our aid plan has been adjusted. We have been
authorized the full amount we requested-27,000 tons-not the 11,000 tons reported
earlier. We are now discussing and arranging transportation. Thus you
should study the truly appropriate and economical use of those supplies, and
pay attention to increasing supplies to the military regions and to using them
well, accompanied by utmost economizing...."*x
During the period prior to the Political Bureau meeting I had the time and the
opportunity to meet with a number of cadres I knew who worked with the Ministry
of National Defense and the General Staff. Because of the nature of their missions
they monitored the situation on the battlefield on a daily basis and also
know the latest news about me. To meet and chat with them was a rare opportunity.
We discussed with one another everything from what was going on in the
capital to what was going on in our theater, so we could not escape talking
about our work. Some responsible cadres informed me about the General StaffTs
plan to attack Due Lap and extend our transportation corridor. It would use
three main-force divisions of the B3 theater and the General Staff, reinforced
by a tank battalion and a battalion of 130mm artillery. It was certain that
the strategic corridor would be extended and that the B2 theater could be
supplied more easily and rapidly. The B3 staff and comrade Vu Lang were enroute
to study the battlefield and make preparations in all regards. I asked
why it was necessary to use three divisions, tanks and heavy artillery to take
Due Lap, which was merely an isolated subsector, and a few small positions on
Route 14.
^Archives of the B2 War Recapitulation Section of the Ministry of National
Defense.
**Ibid.
- 120 -
They replied that the objective was not only to take Due Lap and a few small
positions but also to draw in the enemy in order to inflict losses-perhaps
large losses-on them. We would take the initiative by selecting the battlefield
and drawing in the enemy in order to inflict large losses on them, as
well as extending our corridor.
I expressed to those comrades my opinion that the terrain around Due Lap was
rough and restricting, that Route 14 passes between relatively high mountains
and there was thick vegetation, so the enemy would not be so stupid as to send
forces there so we could annihilate them. Would not the enemy react mainly by
using their air force to strafe and bomb our formations? Furthermore, at that
time the enemy realized that they needed their forces for much more important
objectives than distant, remote Due Lap. Although we needed Due Lap to extend
our strategic corridor, it did not have much bearing on the enemy's strategic
defense plan for South Vietnam as a whole. If we were going to send such
strong forces there, why not strike directly at Ban Me Thuot instead of
attacking Due Lap? If we liberated Ban Me Thuot, we would take an objective
of campaign and strategic importance and shake the entire Central Highlands.
Our corridor would automatically be extended and solidified. Such forces would
be sufficient to attack Ban Me Thuot, where the enemy was vulerable and which
it regarded as a rear area divisional and regimental base. Although the province
was large and the terrain was advantageous, it was weakly defended, the
enemy had few forces there and, especially, the enemy would not suspect that
we would send such large forces there and attack Ban Me Thuot. Furthermore,
such a move would be appropriate to the present strategic phase of the war,
in which we had to launch large-scale attacks to annihilate the enemy and
liberate land, and to create a major opportunity. We were no longer in a
period of extending our strategic corridor.
They argued as follows:
That matter required further discussion, but if the time had come to launch a
large-scale Central Highlands campaign more than those forces would be required,
The General Staff was drafting such a plan. We would use large, overwhelming
forces and begin with a direct attack on Kontum, annihilating the enemy and
liberating that province. Then we would immediately attack the headquarters
of the puppet II Corps at Pleiku. We would wipe out the 22d and 23d Divisions
and the puppet forces there and liberate the entire Central Highlands. By
beginning with an attack on Kontum we would have favorable conditions, for
it was adjacent to our vast liberated base, road network and 559 supply depots,
which were sufficient to support the campaign. We had many favorable conditions
for concentrating large forces and using all kinds of technical equipment*
I disagreed. I smiled and said in a pleasant voice, "You are indeed soldiers
of the king. You have fought, and always think about fighting, with plentiful
forces, weapons and ammunition. That is far different from us, poor soldiers
on a distant, difficult battlefield who count every bullet and are very envious
of you. So that is why Le Ngoc Hien the other day reported to the General
Staff that in 1972 there were consumed in South Vietnam as a whole 220,000
heavy artillery shells, and that Quang Tri alone consumed 150,000 of them!
- 121 -
I think that to attack Kontum and Pleiku is to attack where the enemy is
strongest. They have built up their forces over a long period of time. To
do so would be to fight the enemy on their terms. The enemy has long predicted
that we would attack Kontum so it has concentrated its forces and
attention there. Although we were capable of concentrating large forces
and preparing all necessary conditions, the enemy was on guard and we would
not have an easy time of it. But to attack Ban Me Thuot would be to completely
surprise the enemy and to attack the enemy's undefended rear. They would
be quickly annihilated and disintegrated and we would not have to use large
forces. If their rear area was taken, the enemy in the forward area would be
perplexed and shaken. Ban Me Thuot was an important strategic position, for
the large "Hoa Binh" airfield was located there, strategic Route 21 connected
Ban Me Thuot with Ninh Hoa and Nha Trang, and beyond Ban Me Thuot lay Gia Nghia
and Dalat, so if Ban Me Thuot were lost the entire puppet II Corps in the Central
Highlands would have at its disposal only Route 19, which passed through
rugged mountainous terrain and was easily cut, and only the Pleiku airfield
would be left for receiving supplies and reinforcements. The other routes,
such as No 5 and No 7, also passed through mountainous terrain and there were
many bridges, which were very weak, and it was not certain that they could
handle the traffic, especially mechanized equipment. If we cut off those
roads, it was certain that hundreds of thousands of people and the enemy's
technical equipment would be endangered and could not be rescued. I compared
the effect of attacking and taking Ban Me Thuot on the remaining Central Highlands
provinces to chopping down a large tree at its base: all of its branches
and the trunk would have to fall. Only such an attack would be an effective
campaign and strategic blow which would afford us a certain victory and a big
victory.
I reported that conversation to Pham Hung and Hai Van and discussed the situation
with them in detail. It was my belief that an attack on Ban Me Thuot would
have strategic significance in the present phase of the war and that it must be
considered. They agreed that we should abandon Due Lap and launch an attack
directly against Ban Me Thuot. We recommended that Pham Hung discuss the matter
with the comrades in the Political Bureau.
On 18 December 1974 a joint meeting of the Political Bureau and the Military
Commission of the party Central Committee, attended by representatives of the
theaters in South Vietnam, began in an atmosphere of victory which had spread
from the B2 theater. By that time the entire B2 theater had begun the first
phase of the dry season and had won many victories. In the Mekong Delta the
enemy's pacification plan had been shattered. We had liberated many villages
and hamlets and expanded the rural liberated areas at Tieu Can, Tra Cu, Cau
Ke, and Duyen Hai in Tra Vinh, Mo Cay and Giong Thorn in Ben Tre. We had
liberated the Hung Long subsector in the Hau Giang area and the Tuyen Nhon
district seat in the Tien Giang area. That was the first time we had taken
and held a subsector and district seat. We had wiped out a battalion, and
inflicted heavy losses on three other battalions, of the puppet 21st Division
reaction force sent to Hung Long. We had mastered segments of the Ong Doc,
Cai Tau and Bay Hap Rivers in Ca Mau, the Xa No Canal in Can Tho, the Co Co
River in the My Tu District of Soc Trang Province, the Vam Co Tay River in
Kien Tuong, etc. In eastern Nam Bo we had liberated Route 14 north of Dong
- 122 -
Xoai, taken the Lo 0-Mt. Giam high point, liberated a number of villages in
order to isolate the Hoai Due and Tanh Linh district seats inBinh Tuy Province,
surrounded the Mt. Ba Den position, and wiped out a number of enemy
outposts in Tay Ninh Province. In the outskirts of Saigon, the forces of the
Saigon provincial unit, along with the sappers, had stepped up their activities
against the enemy, overran outposts, created enclaves in the Cu Chi,
Hoc Mon, Go Vap, Binh Chanh, southern Thu Due, Long Thanh, and Nhon Trach
area, and shelled and interdicted the Bien Hoa air base. Only 2 weeks into
the dry season in the B2 theater good results had been attained in annihilating
the enemy and liberating areas, and in popular uprisings to achieve
mastery, which indicated the resounding victories that were to come and the
clear decline of the puppets. Those actual developments on the battlefield
said more than any reports or interesting theories.
The conference concentrated on discussing the 1975-1976 2-year strategic
plan to complete the national democratic revolution which the Political Bureau
had posed during the rainy season. COSVN and the Regional Military Party Committee
(i.e. the B2 theater) had also discussed that plan since our regular
session held to review the situation during the first 6 months of 1974. The
foresight of the supreme leadership and the thoughts of the lower echelon of
a typical battlefield coincided. Theory and practice were in synchronization.
But the specific developmental process, the steps that were to be taken, and
the measures that were to be applied required much more discussion if unanimity
was to be achieved. That was inevitable. If everyone agreed readily to a
proposal or if there were no differing opinions, that would be proof of a
pitiful poverty of intelligence and thought.
At the beginning of the conference the representatives of the B2 theater and
Military Region 5 reported on our situation and that of the enemy, on the
actual situation on the battlefield, on the direction and prospects of their
future activities, and on their recommendations and requirements. For B2Ts
part, we presented a succinct briefing on developments since Resolution 21 of
the party Central Committee, during the. dry season-and then the rainy season-
of 1974 and the specific results in the Mekong Delta, in military Region 6 and
7, and in Saigon itself. I reported in detail on our objective of preventing
the Saigon puppets from strengthening their defense lines and from being able
to withdraw into an enclave in the future, by activities in the Route 7-Ben
Cat area and by liberating Rach Bap. We brought the conference up to date on
the development of our political and military forces, especially the organization
and deployment in the outskirts of and inside Saigon, which formed a
tight encirclement of the puppet capital. We reported on COSVNTs assessment
and evaluation of the recent situation and the new factors that had appeared,
and concluded that we were strong and on the rise and the enemy was weak and
on the decline. We reported especially on the 1975 dry season: we had to
attack strongly and win big victories all over South Vietnam in order to victoriously
conclude the war in 1976. Finally, we did not forget to recommend
that B2 be provided additional materiel, weapons and personnel-requests to
which COSVN had agreed-first of all a main-force division at the beginning
of the 1975 dry season in order to strengthen the 4th Corps. We recommended
that a plan be drafted to coordinate the activities of all theaters in South
Vietnam, and that the High Command order the organization of a strong
- 123 -
strategic reserve force in order to promptly win a decisive victory when the
opportunity arose in the main theater. We recommended that since the eastern
Nam Bo battlefield, which included Saigon, was one on which large numbers of
the enemy would be annihilated and on which the war would be concluded, and
the reserve force would surely be used there, it should be deployed immediately
in the Central Highlands so that it could act promptly when necessary. We
emphasized that our 1975 operational plan was based on the results that were
attained in 1974, and on a situation which had developed in a manner extremely
advantageous to us, and that its guiding principle was that we must rapidly
and continually develop our attack and place the enemy in peril. We must not
hold back, lest we miss the opportunity.
After the various theaters reported, comrade Le Ngoc Hien, on behalf of the
General Staff, presented a briefing on the 1975 operational plan. The plan
was based on the assessment that the enemy had to remain on the passive defensive
and try to defend what places it could defend. They had weakened organizationally
and with regard to morale. We were winning victories but still
had deficiencies and weaknesses. The plan set forth a whole series of norms
for the battlefields with regard to liberating land and people; annihilating
and routing the enemy; decreasing their troop strength, and preventing them
from making up their losses; wiping out the enemy's material-technical reserves,
etc. The plan included provisions regarding the building up of our
forces during the year, the creation of unimpeded corridors, and materiel reserves
and rear-area services in the various areas. In 1975 we had to do a
truly good job of completing all preparatory tasks in order to Insure that we
could fight on a large scale and that the General Offensive and General Uprising
would be victorious in 1976.
He reported in detail on the current status of our military forces on the
battlefield and at the central level, and on the quantity of technical equipment
and ammunition available in the various areas and in reserve and their
planned allocation and use on the battlefields during the 2-year period. With
regard to heavy artillery shells, he reported that of the total on hand (100
percent), more than 10 percent would be used in 1975, 45 percent would be
used in 1976, and the remainder, nearly 45 percent, would be kept in reserve.
Thus as it began its deliberations the conference had been fully briefed on
the battlefield situation and had been briefed on the 2-year plan and the 1975
plan by the General Staff and the battlefields. The conference debated in an
atmosphere of vigor and enthusiasm. I don't know what the others were thinking,
but I was moved beyond words. That conference would determine the conclusion
of the nation's 30-year war. Had there been any other people who had to take
up arms and endure terrible death and destruction over a period of 30 long
years of bitter, endless struggle, as had the Vietnamese people? In our war
against the United States to liberate and unify the homeland there were many
instances of three generations-grandfathers, fathers and sons-rushing to the
front, sometimes in the same unit. There were many instances of whole families
or groups of families being killed by the bombs and shells of the enemy
during sweeping operations. And in our country there is practically no family,
from Hoang Lien Son and Cao Lang to the Ca Mau Peninsula, Phu Quoc, and Co
Dao, which has not lost at least one member. We had endured countless
- 124 -
sacrifices and hardships for that day, the day that would determine a glorious
feature. What a heavy responsibility we had! Every thought and every opinion
expressed during the conference seemed to bear the weight of 4,000 years of
history, of tens of thousands of sorrowful burdens, and to be watched by millions
of pairs of eyes of the Vietnamese people, the oppressed people of the
world, and our friends in all five continents. Many of the comrades spoke
enthusiastically, and some spoke many times.
Everything evolved around our assessment and evaluation of the situation at
home and abroad. If we attacked strongly, how would the puppets react? What
would the United States do? Would it dare intervene, or did it have other
schemes and plots? What were the best revolutioary methods we could apply?
What steps should be taken during the 2-year period? How about 1975? And
1976? Two years of fierce fighting would not be brief, but they would be
the last 2 years of more than 30 difficult years, so the end seemed so near.
When concluding the conference, brother Ba said, "Prepare yourselves: 2 years
are short but sometimes they can be long.'1 And when expressing his opinions,
brother [Pham Van] Dong said, "When will the puppets collapse? We may not
have to wait until 1976. It may come quickly, and not gradually.!! [Vo Nguyen]
Giap and many others stressed, "The decision to complete the national democratic
revolution in the 1975-1976 2-year period is correct. But our planning
must provide for the contingency that it could end in 1975, or perhaps not
until 1977. Only then can we be prepared to take the initiative."
Pham Van Dong paced back and forth, thinking and then stopping to express an
opinion, his face always rosy, his voice firm. He said, "In evaluating the
enemy, we must answer a few questions, but without thinking in an outmoded way.
We are in a new phase. The United States has withdrawn its troops in accordance
with the Paris Agreement, which it regards as a victory after suffering many
defeats with no way out. Now, there is no way that they could intervene again
by sending in troops. They may provide air and naval support, but that cannot
decide victory or defeat." Then he laughingly said, "ITm kidding, but also
telling the truth, when I say that the Americans would not come back even if
you offered them candy." Everyone laughed in delight. He continued, "For our
part, the most important factor is that a revolutionary movement has arisen in
the south. It is very new, and is both military and political. Military violence
at the highest level is accompanied by political violence. Both Military
Region 8 and Military Region 9 have reported thusly, which is very good. The
situation will develop very rapidly. Truong Chinh arose, put on his glasses,
glanced at a notebook he was holding in his hand, and began to speak in a
solemn voice. He was always like that. He was always careful, as if not
wanting to make even a small mistake. He paid attention to each word and
comma in his articles. His speeches always had a beginning, a main part, and
a conclusion. I did not take notes, but will here mention only a few of his
ideas. He said, "The enemy is under pressure from three sources: our military
attacks, the military struggle of the masses, and economic-technical
difficulties. Therefore the enemy has weakened very rapidly. The enemy army
has not been able to resolve the contradiction between holding on to land and
people and fighting a war of mobility. But it is still viable, had not yet
suffered heavy losses, and can still obtain recruits. It still receives large
amounts of U.S. aid and holds the important strategic roads. For our part,
- 125 -
we have grown stronger in all regards. We have the initiative on the battlefield.
In 1974 we fulfilled our plan. If we can also take Phuoc Long, that
will be eloquent proof that we have become much stronger. The enemy has the
tendency to form defensive enclaves. It will be difficult for us to prevent
them from withdrawing into enclaves around the large cities. It will be difficult
for us to attack the enemy once they have withdrawn into large, fortified
enclaves, and attacks on cities are very complicated. Will the United
States step in? In fact, it still has 25,000 military advisers in civilian
clothing. If the United States senses danger it will intervene, but it will
be difficult for them to intervene with infantry and their use of air and naval
forces must be circumspect and limited. We must create conditions for
striking a strategic annihilating blow, but we must not limit ourselves to
just one annihilating blow.11
Every day news was received of victories in the B2 theater. Most encouraging
was the news from Tra Vinh, a delta province and a principal focus of the first
phase of the dry season, that we had annihilated many of the enemy, overrun
many outposts, and liberated many villages and many people. Everyone attending
the conference, especially, of course, the B2 delegates, were very pleased.
The actual events on the battlefield had verified our evaluation of the situation
as if the soldiers and people of that distant battlefield were particularly
directed in the discussions at that conference. When making his speech,
Le Due Tho presented the following evidence: "In December our forces in the
Mekong Delta eliminated more than 500 enemy positions and in a period of only
a month attained 70 percent of the norm for the 6-months-long dry season....
In eastern Nam Bo, we have taken all of Tanh Linh District and a number of
villages in Hoa Due District in Binh Tuy Province. In Tay Ninh we have
surrounded the Mt. Ba Den base and wiped out a battalion of the 49th Regiment
of the puppets' 25th Division. In Phuoc Long Province we have taken the
Phuoc Binh airfield and subsector and Mt. Ba Ra, and are now attacking the
city." Everyone attending the conference was anxious to learn the results of
the Phuoc Long battle. Suddenly, one day, while we were in session, a comrade
from the Operations Section of the General Staff, brought and read a message
from the battlefield which reported that "Because the enemy has sent in the
81st Airborne Ranger Brigade to reinforce the city and have put up a stiff
resistance, we have temporarily withdrawn our troops to reorganize and study
the situation before resuming the attack." I was astonished and unbelieving.
I was sitting almost opposite brother Ba who, after he had listened to the
reading of the message, looked directly at me as if to ask why. I had requested
permission to attack Phuoc Long and to use some heavy artillery and
tanks. I had assured him that we were certain to win a victory and that the
enemy could not reinforce the city. If we failed to take the Phuoc Long
provincial capital, it would be difficult to conclude that my other evaluations
were correct. The operational ability of our main-force troops in
eastern Nam Bo would clearly have been proven to still be very low. Actual
results on the battlefield are the most accurate yardstick for measuring the
level and leadership-command ability of the cadres and the fighting effectiveness
of the armed forces. But I still thought that the situation was not
that way at all, and still had confidence in the B2 troops and cadres and was
certain that Phuoc Long would be liberated.
- 126 -
There was a basis for my confidence. I had lived with the B2 main-force
troops from the time of the formation of the first battalions and regiments
more than a decade ago. I had contributed my small part by looking after
each cadre and weapon, and being concerned with training and combat, during
one period after another and onto the present time. I had participated with
them in nearly all of the important campaigns in the B2 theater. I understood
them as I understood myself and had as much confidence in them as I
did in myself. I regretted that I could not be present to share the hardships
with them in that strategic battle for Phuoc Long. But I always believed
that with me or without me they would be what they were: resolute
and determined-to-win main-force units.
How about the command cadres? A unit is no better than its cadres, people
who had become steeled and had come of age in the course of hundreds of large
and small battles, and most of whom served in two resistance war periods. I
had assigned them very difficult missions, given them extremely strict orders,
and shared with them difficult, dangerous moments as well as glorious victories.
I based my thoughts and actions on them. Each of my lower-echelon cadres who
fell represented the loss of part of my body and soul. Until the day I die 1
will never be able to erase the image of comrade Tran Dinh Xu, a commander who
was calm and steadfast under all circumstances and who sacrificed his life
heroically while serving as the commander of the Saigon Special Zone in 1969,
or of comrade Nguyen The Truyen, a very brave division commander who entered
the puppet capital during Tet Mau Than in 1968 and later died during the fierce
fighting in the outskirts. Nor could I forget comrade Nguyen Van Nho (Hai
Nho), from Tan An, who was a resolute old guerrilla who participated in the
Nam Ky uprising in 1940. He disregarded all hardships and dangers. In 1968
he set up his headquarters on Route 1 near Ba Queo to command the troops attacking
Tan Son Nhat airfield from the west-. He sacrificed his life heroically in
1969 while serving as the deputy commander of Military Region 8. There were
many other such cadres. The person directly commanding the Phuoc Long battle
was comrade Hoang Cam, who had been the commander of the first division formed
in the B2 theater and who was now the corps commander. Over a long period of
combat he and his unit had fulfilled even the most difficult missions assigned
them. The person who had replaced me as regional commander, comrade Le Due Anh,
had many times served as my chief of staff. In 1973, while serving as commander
of Military Region 9, he resolutely retaliated against the enemy and won
glorious victories. The other cadres who were then on the battlefield were
also resolute cadres who had passed many challenges. I was able to evaluate
their capabilities and deficiencies, so my confidence was well founded.
I knew that our first attack to liberate an entire province, with complicated
terrain and strong defensive works, would not be easy and that there would be
difficult moments and that the battle would ebb and flow. But the ultimate
result would be that our men would win. Convinced of that, I calmly expressed
my opinion to the conference that once we had taken Phuoc Binh and Mt. Ba Ra
the enemy could not make a stand in the city for long and it was certain that
they could not send large numbers of troops there. I was still confident that
our troops would take Phuoc Long within the next few days. I immediately sent
a message to the theater inquiring about how the battle was really going and
stating that it was necessary to send in sufficient reinforcements to overwhelm
- 127 -
the city. The next day we received a message from the B2 Command stating that
our troops had not been withdrawn, but that there had been an erroneous report
from a cadre at the front, and that the independent 16th Regiment and the 2d
Regiment of the 9th Division were being added to our forces in order to annihilate
the enemy troops in the city. I felt relieved. Before brother Ba concluded
the conference we received the following message from the B2 theater:
"During the afternoon of 6 January 1975 our troops eliminated all of the pockets
of resistance that the enemy had retaken on 5 January by using 250 airborne
rangers who had just been sent in.... Our policy is to continue to
mop-up the enemy remnants defending the city and in the rest of the province.
If the enemy launch a counterattack, we will annihilate each enemy regiment
and division, both those sent in by air and those arriving by road. We will
create conditions for our attacks in areas that threaten the enemy, hold down
our losses to a minimum, and protect the lives and property of the people."
We also received a message from the B2 Staff: "During the early morning of
3 January we launched an all-out attack on the Phuoc Long subsector and city,
and by 1530 hours on 6 January we had killed or captured all of the enemy
troops and completely liberated Phuoc Long Province."* I sighed a sigh of
relief and was liberated from all of my worries of the past few days.
The news that we had completely taken Phuoc Long City arrived while we were in
session. Everyone jubilantly stood up and shook hands with one another to
celebrate the victory. The B2 delegates were not the only ones whose hands
were shaken. That showed that the victory had a common significance, not just
for the B2 theater. It signified something about the fighting capabilities of
our army and the weakness of the enemy army. A new page of history had been
turned and a new phase had begun. No one directly expressed what he was thinking,
but facial expressions and mannerisms said more than words, and everyone
seemed to be in agreement. After several minutes, everyone returned to their
seats. Brother Ba said, "For the first time a province in South Vietnam has
been completely liberated. That province, furthermore, is near Saigon and we
have expanded our important base area in eastern Nam Bo. That event reflects
more clearly than anything else our capability and the reaction of the puppets,
and especially of the United States." Everyone expressed agreement with and
approval of that statement. Did the cadres and men who participated in the
battle of Phuoc Long-the 7th Division, the 3d Division, the 9th Division, the
sappers, and the local forces, guerrillas, and people in Phuoc Long-especially
the comrades who fell there, understand the value of their feat of arms? Did
they know that they and the soldiers and people of the Mekong Delta, by their
actions during Phase 1 of the dry season, and not our B2 delegation, had reported
most specifically and eloquently about the actual situations of ourselves
and the enemy in the present strategic phase of the war to the Political
Bureau of our party Central Committee, which is the supreme revolutionary
leadership organ and determines all victories of the revolution. I sent back
a message lauding the victory, but could not fully describe the scene at the
conference and my own emotions.
^Archives of the B2 War Recapitulation Section of the Ministry of National
Defense.
- 128 -
What was the enemy's assessment of the Phuoc Long affair? According to the
U.S. study "The Collapse of South Vietnam," "The report thereafter tried to
outline the collapse of that 'hard defense line1 structure, beginning with
the loss of the Phuoc Long provincial capital on 6 January 1975. According
to many respondents, the loss of that city meant that South Vietnam had begun
to disintegrate...."
Buu Vien regarded the loss of that province as having an important significance.
"To test the resolve of the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, and especially
to probe the reaction of the U.S. Government, the truth is that the
communists selected an easy objective. The loss of Phuoc Long had a great
significance. It was the first time in the history of the Vietnam war that a
province had fallen to the communists."
Immediately after Phuoc Long was lost, what did the Americans and puppets in
Saigon think and do, and what did the puppet generals think? Duong Hao, in
his book "A Tragic Chapter [Mot Chuong Bi Tham], published by our People's
Army Publishing House in 1980, wrote that:
"Later, when relating the consequences of the Phuoc Long defeat, Col Pham Ba
Hoa, chief of staff of the puppets' Logistics General Department, said that
"The frantic days of the fighting at Phuoc Lon,g were tense days for all officers
at the GHQ of the puppet army, especially after Phuoc Long fell. It may
be said that all of us were stunned. An atmosphere of worry enveloped everything,
and grief pressed heavily on everyone. Grief not only because of the
defeat at the very gateway to Saigon, but also because the loss of Phuoc Long
resulted in large losses: 6,000 to 7,000 troops killed or routed.
"The main factor was that the Phuoc Long defeat reflected the position and
strength of the ARVN forces. They were attacked at only one place but didn't
have enough forces left to cope with the attack, so what would happen if they
were attacked in many places? Phuoc Long was an event that demonstrated quite
clearly the effectiveness of the 'Vietnamization' strategy that had been
carried out during the past 6 years. In the past, the ARVN was able to escape
from many perilous situations because it was saved by U.S. aid. The
United States supplied all kinds of equipment to make up for losses and provided
powerful fire support, even infantry support, so that the ARVN could
have the strength to resist. Now, after the painful defeat and the loss of
a province, the United States did nothing, although Mr Thieu often met with
Martin to request intervention by the United States. The Ministry of Foreign
Affairs of the Republic of Vietnam also sent an official diplomatic note,
then General Khuyen held a conversation with Smith (head of the DAO). All
of those efforts amounted to nothing.
"That situation made us extremely confused and pessimistic. It may be said
that Phuoc Long was a test of strength between the two sides and that the result
was evident."
- 129 -
The conference continued. Le Thanh Nghi, as was his custom, spoke softly and
slowly; regardless of the attitude expressed by those around him, he continued
to speak until he had said all that he wanted to say. After analyzing the
situation he commented on the plan, and emphasized that additional forces
should be sent to the B2 theater, the sooner the better. There had to be
general strategic reserves and reserves for each of the important theaters.
But how could the corps making up the general reserves be sent to the main
theater in time if it is kept in the north? Le Due Tho stressed that it is
necessary to pay adequate attention to coordinating the three fists. Only if
we attacked strongly and won big victories in 1975 could we be in a better
position in 1976. Van Tien Dung said that forces could not be sent immediately,
that it was necessary to build up our forces and give them combat
training, then there were the problems of materiel and rear services, roads,
etc. Furthermore, additional forces could not be sent to the B2 theater until
the Central Highlands campaign was over, and no other divisions were
available. The 316th Division could not be sent to eastern Nam Bo until May
1975. Upon hearing that brother Ba looked at us and said, "We fight in our
own way, which is to combine the political, military and strategic fists.
Otherwise we cannot be victorious. Because of the common difficulties, a
few months' delay won't hurt anything. We must not disrupt the Central Highlands
plan." I remained silent but I said to myself: we'll continue to
fight in the way popularly known as "having the right ratio of rice and fish,"
i.e. no matter how many forces we had we would use them in the most appropriate
way. But we were determined to win a big victory.
On 8 January 1975 brother Ba concluded the conference. To paraphrase him, he
said, "The conference included the participation of Military Region 5 and
Nam Bo, and it is very encouraging that there was a high degree of unanimity
and determination to complete the democratic national revolution in the 1975-
1976 2-year period, as proposed by the Political Bureau. We have thought a
good deal and discussed a good deal, and we have reached a higher degree of
unanimity among the battlefield commanders.
-In 1959-60 the mass movement was very strong but our military forces didn't
amount to much.
-While fighting the United States we were strong militarily but the enemy
used all barbarous methods to suppress the masses.
-Now we are stronger both militarily and politically, so we are capable of
creating combined strength.
"Therefore, it is necessary to grasp even more firmly the laws of revolutionary
war and the mass revolutionary movement. They are one in the same....
"At present we have the initiative on the battlefield in winning control of
the people and the right of mastery. We have created an integrated strategic
position extending from Tri Thien to Nam Bo, and on to the Mekong Delta. We
have created very strong and mobile main-force fists. We have created such
fists in the Mekong Delta as Military Regions 9 and 8, which are continuing
to develop. We have created an overwhelming staging area around Saigon, which
- 130 -
is a very great strategic advantage. A mass movement has begun to arise in
the cities. Those things prove that we are strong. On the basis of those
strengths, we are preparing to carry out our 2-year plan.
"The puppets are on the decline in all ways, militarily, politically and
economically, because of our attacks and because of their inherent weaknesses.
"How about the United States? It has suffered many defeats, including the
defeat of its global strategy. After it became involved in Vietnam, the
United States became weaker and found itself endangered. If it returns now,
it will lose everything. Even so, we must be on guard. The United States
might use its air and naval forces to a certain degree. If we do not attack
strongly and rapidly, but prolong our attacks, the United States will intervene
to a certain extent to save the puppets from total defeat.
"But something that must be stressed is that even if the United States intervenes
we are still determined to fight and are still determined to liberate
the south and unify the homeland, for the simple reason that we do not want
to be enslaved and lose our country. We want freedom, independence and unification.
"Our revolutionary guidelines and methods are as follows:
"Attacking an4d uprising, uprising and attacking, the three offensive spearheads,
the three strategic areas, annihilate and achieve mastery, achieve
mastery and annihilate, and advancing to a general offensive and general uprising.
"What must we do in 1975?:
"-The eastern Nam Bo main-force units must win a clear-cut victory in the
Nam Bo lowlands in order to create an integrated liberated area from eastern
Nam Bo to the Mekong Delta. We must liberate more rural areas and liberate
more people. We must tighten our encirclement around Saigon and wipe out the
puppet main-force units defending Saigon, so that even greater pressure can
be exerted on Saigon. We must enable each locality to become stronger and
fulfill their missions and be sufficiently strong to take advantage of the
opportunity. We must strike a strong blow in the Central Highlands, and
attack Ban Me Thuot. Military Region 5 must pay attention to the Binh Dinh,
Da Nang-Tri Thien and Hue areas.
"We must take subsectors and district seats and then take district seats and
cities.
"Only if we can accomplish those things in 1975 can we achieve our objectives
in 1976, so 1976 will be a result of 1975.
rfWe still have difficulties, but we are determined to overcome them in order
to advance to fulfilling our missions. For the sake of national independence,
socialism, and peace in Southeast Asia and the world, we must win a complete
victory. We have a responsibility to our people and to the people of the
entire world."
- 131 -
When concluding the conference, brother Ba did not mention what decision had
been made about the attack on Ban Me Thuot. I thought that perhaps he was
leaving that decision up to the Military Commission of the party Central Committee
prior to that- I had the opportunity to explain to him that in order to
liberate all of Phuoc Long Province, which had complicated terrain and which
the enemy paid attention to defending, B2 used a total of two divisions, in
combination with the local forces. Those two divisions were under strength
and had been formed by combining independent regiments. They were not strong
units and they were supported by very few heavy artillery pieces and tanks,
but we were able to fight over a prolonged period and launch one attack after
another, even after we had lost the element of surprise. If we attacked Ban
Me Thuot, we would have three divisions and strong tank and heavy artillery
forces, so we were certain to win a victory.
After the conference I was extremely enthusiastic and confident. It was now
only a matter of waiting and hoping that the Military Commission would decide
whether or not to attack Ban Me Thuot so that we would have a basis on which
to draft B2!s plan for the second phase of the dry season, for the decision
about whether or not to attack Ban Me Thuot would affect all theaters in the
south. I believed that if we attacked Ban Me Thuot the pace of the war would
be greatly accelerated. Thus the B2 plan had to be well coordinated or we
could not promptly take advantage of the situation. I decided to find out
about that before returning to the B2 theater.
On 15 January our delegation met with brother Ba to receive our final instructions.
This time he went into very specific detail about the fighting methods,
the annihilation of enemy units, and the depletion of their reserves. With
regard to the deployment of our forces in the Saigon area, our commandos and
sappers had to be strong. He continued to stress the necessity of combined
forces and a combined strategy. He spoke about the nature of the main-force
fist, the lowlands fist and especially the cities. He said that it was necessary
to pay all-out attention to the mass movement, which had to become a high
tide, the spearheads of which were the women, youths, middle school students,
college students and trade union members. In political leadership and guidance
in Saigon we had to be very alert for the political situation changed very
rapidly, every day and every hour, so we had to be resolute and acute as was
Lenin.
It was difficult to win political power, but it was a hundred times more difficult
to maintain political power so we had to begin to think about that
problem immediately. We had to be determined and be confident of winning big
victories in 1975.
On 20 January we met with Le Due Tho so that he could give us additional advice
about a number of matters. He said, "Our leadership and guidance experience
has always been to evaluate fully the enemy and ourselves. Then he told
us that a decision had been made about Ban Me Thuot. He said, "I attended the
regular meeting of the Military Commission and informed it of the Political
Bureaaf sdecision to attack Ban Me Thuot. The Commission only received the
order, and did not further discuss it."
- 132 -
In his book f'The Great Spring Victory/1 Senior General Van Hen Dung wrote that
MJust after the meeting began comrade Le Due Tho suddenly opened the door,
entered and sat down. We were aware that the Political Bureau was not satisfied
when it saw that the decision to attack Ban Me Thuot was not yet an explicit
content of the operational plan. Thus comrade Le Due Tho came to
emphasize to us that it was necessary to attack Ban Me Thuot. He said very
emotionally, "We absolutely must liberate Ban Me Thuot. We have nearly five
divisions in the Central Highlands, so surely we can take Ban Me Thuot.11
We were very pleased by that decision and thereafter we continually thought
about the possible developments in South Vietnam as a whole and how to draft
the B2 operational plan so that we could coordinate activities in the delta,
in eastern Nam Bo and in Saigon. It was certain that we would have to run
and could not take our time. I remembered brother BaTs unforgettable expression
during an urgent period of the war, f'We must run while forming ranks
and not wait until we form ranks before running."
On 24 January 1975 our delegation set out to return to the B2 theater, full
of animation and excitement. I could not stop thinking about the objectives
we had to attack and on how to use forces. A very difficult mission awaited
us. We had to get back to the B2 theater quickly.
The results of the activities of the first phase of the 1974-1975 dry season
all over the B2 theater were truly brilliant. We had won big victories and
surpassed all norms that had been assigned. I had been worried that if only
the B2 theater was active during that phase we would encounter many difficulties
because the enemy could concentrate on countering our moves, but that
did not occur because the enemy was clearly confused and passive and had seriously
weakened. Although the enemy had concentrated the air power of the 2d
and 4th Military Regions on countering our attacks in Military Region 3-at
Phuoc Long and Binh Tuy they flew more than 100 fighter-bomber sorties a day
and used as many as 160 helicopters-they could achieve nothing on the battlefield.
They transferred the 4th Ranger Group from Kontum to Long Binh, which
was then replaced by the 8th Ranger Group which came down from Due Due, and
sent the 4th Airborne Brigade and then the 2d Airborne Brigade from Da Nang
to the Hoang Hoa Tham base and the 4th Marine Brigade from Tri Thien to the
Song Than base, not to carry out a counterattack but to strengthen their defenses
north and northeast of Saigon. The results we attained during the
phase from December 1974 to February 1975 were greater than in any previous
phase. We completely liberated a province, 4 districts, 72 villages and 489
hamlets, and essentially liberated 52 other villages. We liberated 584,800
people. We wiped out 22 battalions, inflicted heavy losses on 25 puppet
battalions and overran 1,548 military posts, including a sector, 8 subsectors,
3 strategic zones and 88 subsector branches. We destroyed 108 airplanes, 110
boats and 494 vehicles, killed 56,315 of the enemy and captured 12,122 weapons,
786 radios, 118 vehicles, and 2 airplanes.
Although those figures were very significant, they still did not fully reflect
the value of the victories won during the first phase of the 1974-1975 dry season
in the B2 theater. Those victories were results not only of the first
phase but also the entirely logical development of the victories of the 1974
- 133 -
dry season and rainy season. COSVN and the Regional Military Party Commission
foresaw those victories when they realized the transformation that had taken
place on the battlefield with regard to the balance between ourselves and the
enemy by the end of the 1974 dry season, after which we continued that trend
by means of our activities during the rainy season and the first part of the
1974-1975 dry season. The soldiers and people of the B2 theater understood
the enemy's situation and their own, so they attacked and arose tirelessly
from the 1973-1974 dry season to the 1974-1975 dry season; the more they
fought the stronger they became, and the greater their strength the more
their position improved. During that time the puppets, who began to decline
during the 1974 dry season, were attacked continually all over the place; the
more they declined the less capable they were of reviving. The actual situation
proved that COSVNTs assessment and evaluation of the situation was correct,
and that therefore its policy was correct.
For the first time in decades of war a province (Phuoc Long) had been completely
liberated. That province, furthermore, was a border province of the enemy's
Military Region III, the strongest military region, which had the mission of
defending the U.S.-puppet capital and war headquarters. That event occurred at
a time when the puppets still had forces totaling more than 1 million troops
in theory and nearly 1 million actual troops, who were strongly armed with
U.S. weapons and facilities, and were built up, trained and commanded by the
United States in order to carry out its strategy of Vietnamizing the war. Even
so, the Americans and their puppets could not send a main-force unit to respond
to our attack and defend the gateway to Saigon. As for the United States, it
had to stand to one side and look at the puppet regime, a child it had painfully
given birth to decades ago and which now was on the threshold of a
dangerous period of rapid decline. The liberation of Phuoc Long was no different
from a sword pointed at the throat of Saigon. The Saigon puppet regime,
like an obstinate, excessively parsimonious person who would rather.die than
lose an inch of ground, spread out its troops to defend every faraway place.
As a result, it was defeated everywhere it was attacked and could send no reinforcements.
Instead, it ordered 3 days of national mourning for Phuoc Long!
In fact, that was the funeral of the traitorous Thieu regime, the terminal
period of which began with Phuoc Long.
Also during the first phase of that dry season another outstanding event terrified
the Americans and puppets: the offensive and uprising of our soldiers
and people in the Mekong Delta, which demonstrated that the ability of villages
to liberate villages, districts to liberate districts, and provinces to liberate
provinces was real and that that was a correct policy. In a little more
than 2 months we wiped out 15 enemy battalions, knocked out of action more
than 34,000 of the enemy, and overran 168 military posts, including 2 subsector-
district seats, 2 strategic zones, 11 bases and 65 subsector branches. By
the attacks of the armed forces and the 3 types of troops, in coordination with
uprisings by the popular masses, 51 villages and 414 hamlets were completely
liberated and 49 other villages were essentially liberated. Some 48,900 people
were liberated. Especially, the area in which the greatest victories were
won and in which the revolutionary movement was strongest was the Tra Vinh-
Vinh Long area, the No 1 focus of Military Region 9 and a vital area of the
Mekong Delta. If General Gavin was closely following the course of the
- 134 -
fighting, he was aware that his strategem of withdrawing into a strategic
enclave in the Mekong Delta had been bankrupted and could no longer be
carried out.
Even in Saigon and its outskirts, in which the enemy paid much attention to
strengthening defenses and suppressing uprisings, an area to which the enemy
sent more and more forces as they were increasingly defeated in order to save
their necks, the revolutionary movement was also seething during that phase
and we won notable victories. During that period, in the outskirts we completely
liberated 3 villages, 37 hamlets, and 17,000 people, and essentially
liberated 4 other villages. The enemy had to withdraw into their outposts and
in many places did not dare sleep in the posts at night and did not have
confidence in their fortifications and weapons. The control of the puppet
regime was weakened and the people could move about more freely, to the
degree that the people living in the city came to the outskirts to contact the
revolution and receive missions from the revolution. That situation was almost
identical to that of Tet Mau Than. Those activities did not involve
main-force troops, tanks or heavy artillery. He had only sapper units, commandos,
local troops and guerrillas, but those small, elite units exerted an
effect because they knew how to cooperate with the people who thirsted for
freedom and peace and who arose to achieve mastery.
During that dry season we also liberated the Tanh Linh and Hoai Due areas in
Binh Tuy Province to serve as a future staging area to cut Route 1 and as the
starting point for the attack on Bien Hoa and on Saigon from the east. We also
took a relatively broad strip along the Van Co Tay River to create conditions
for our forces to cut Route 4 when necessary and to surround Saigon and cut it
off from the delta.
We also began to effectively interdict Bien Hoa AFB and the enemy could do
nothing about it. Especially, to the north of Saigon, which had enormous
strategic importance, we rendered the enemy deaf and blind by taking both of
the important observation and communications relay stations-in fact two enemy
fortresses-Mt. Ba Ra and Mt. Ba Den, two high points.
The victory of the 1974-1975 dry season helped us to have better understanding
of the enemy and ourselves, and of their strength and ability to act, while at
the same time helping us to understand ourselves and our actual capabilities,
the Revolutionary measures that had to be taken, and where we stood in the
final stretch of the long path we had traveled over 10,000 days of warfare.
- 135 -






CHAPTER SIX
A Once-in-a-Thousand Years Event:
The Spring General Offensive and Uprising
A people who know how to arise and take up arms and wage a life-or-death war
to liberate themselves from the yoke of slavery must also know how to conclude
the war in the most advantageous way. Under the wise leadership of the
party, we had sacrificed and fought staunchly and had signed the Paris Agreement
in hopes of ending the war in an atmosphere of national reconciliation
and concord and end U.S. intervention with honor. But our enemies thought
differently. They turned to an insidious plot intended to cause the war to
"fade away11 so that they could win complete victory. But in life, people who
play with fire get burned. The United States was able to evaluate our fighting
strength and courage, but it did not yet understand the cleverness and intelligence
of the Vietnamese people, and thought that it could deceive us. If
the legality of the agreement could not end the war, the only method would be
the use of revolutionary violence. Our people were much in need of peace, but
true peace that was tied in with freedom and national independence and was in
accord with the conscience of mankind. With a strong sense of responsibility
toward our people and the people of the world, the Political Bureau of the
party Central Committee issued a resolution calling for the completion of the
national democratic revolution throughout our nation and the eventual unification
of the homeland during the 1975-1976 period. Implementing that resolution,
the Political Bureau made a specific decision: to attack Ban Me Thuot and the
Central Highlands, in order to create a favorable opportunity for the concluding
phase of a fierce war that had lasted 30 years.
Two years had past since the Paris Agreement. But the sound of gunfire had not
ended on any of the battlefields. Vietnamese blood continued to flow. The
Americans and their vassals could return safely to their countries because we
observed the agreement, while the Americans continued to carry out their strategy
of "Vietnamizing the war" and not "bringing peace to Vietnam." That
"2 years" figure had a double meaning. The Geneva Agreements decreed that
after 2 years there would be general elections to unify our country, but the
Americans and Diem tore the treaty to shreds before the ink had dried on it.
During those 2 years the guns of Diem's army never fell silent, as it shot and
killed patriots in the "denounce communists" and "kill communists" campaigns.
But there was a fundamental difference between those two 2-year periods.
After the Geneva Agreements our entire army had to regroup in the north, so
in the south there was only the Diem army, which was free to fire on unarmed
people. But after the Paris Agreement our army remained in place and its
positions were interspersed with that of Thieu's army in the jungles-andmountains,
lowlands and urban areas. The enemy could not freely violate the
agreement without being punished. None of their nefarious plots could escape
the vigilant eyes of our people and our liberation armed forces. Throughout
the 1973-1974 dry season, then the 1974 rainy season, then the 1974-1975 dry
season, there was one violation after another and one punishing blow after
another, and now the positions and strengths of the two sides had changed: we
- 136 -
were stronger than the enemy. The liberation of Phuoc Long Province was a bloodred
milestone, so both we and the enemy could see it clearly. But although it
could be seen, it was necessary to do something. Up to that time there was
enough time to strictly implement the agreement and end the war, or so I
thought. Both of our diplomatic delegations continued to nhold their ground,"
one in elegant Paris and the other at Tan Son Nhat, "a socialist concession in
the middle of Saigon,!! as it was called by Western journalists. But time was
passing, one day after another, and long after the gunfire stopped at Phuoc
Long it had to resume at Ban Me Thuot. So it was all over: the truck was
racing full speed down a steep incline and could not be stopped.
I thought of the Ban Me Thuot battle in that way: the truck had started its
engine. Its effect could be compared to a fuse which would detonate the "firecracker"
of the puppet army and regime, which had weakened seriously but were
strangely still subjective and obstinate.
From the time I learned that the Political Bureau had ordered the attack on
Ban Me Thuot I was certain that we would win a brilliant victory in that
battle, for the forces we would use were many times superior to those of the
enemy, both quantitatively and qualitatively. We would strike an unexpected
lightning blow in their undefended rear. Most of the puppet troops there were
stationed in the division and regiment rear-area bases. The enemy had concentrated
their military forces in, and paid much attention to, the forward areas:
Pleiku and Kontum, That defensive deployment of the enemy was based on their
assumption that our main attack would be in Kontum, a view they continued to
hold until the day Ban Me Thuot fell. And as stated above, like a tree that
had been cut down at the base, after Ban Me Thuot fell there would be no way
to hold on to the Central Highlands. If Thieu did not immediately order the
evacuation of Pleiku and Kontum to obtain the troops to defend the coastal
provinces, before long those two provinces would also be lost. Later, when
the Central Highlands were lost, which led to the disintegration of the
coastal provinces and to complete defeat, the United States hastily covered
up the main reason for its painful defeat in the Vietnam war and in Indochina,
which weakened and troubled the United States, by blaming Thieu for
abandoning the Central Highlands on his own accord, without asking the opinion
of the United States. A number of Western journalists echoed that U.S.
propaganda argument, and even some of our cadres thought that that was the
truth, for they did not clearly understand the campaign and strategic signifi^
cance of the attack on Ban Me Thuot. The disastrous U.S.-puppet defeat was
due to the unjust, antiprogressive, anticonscience of mankind aims of the
barbarous war of aggression, manifested by a passive defensive strategy of
keeping control of the population, setting up outposts and holding ground
everywhere. Once the enemy had awakened and wanted to withdraw their forces
to form an enclave in an important strategic area with rich population and
material resources-the old Nam Bo area-it was too late. We had calculated
our moves in advance so that the U.S.-puppets were no longer free to withdraw
into an enclave, but were cut up into fragments and were subjected to attacks
and uprisings all over at the same time, which disintegrated the puppets1
entire 1-million-man army.
- 137 -
Comrade Le Duan had asked a strategic question, which I quoted above, "Attack
to annihilate all or to disintegrate all?" To "attack to annihilate all"
does not mean to annihilate the enemy to the last soldier and the last unit,
but to strike one or a series of blows to annihilate the enemy's principal
forces, for only then can we cause the enemy to lose all capability to resist
and enable ourselves to win total victory. To "attack to disintegrate
all" does not mean not striking a shattering blow to cause the rapid decline
of the enemy, until they no longer have the will and capability to resist or
counterattack, which leads to complete disintegration and complete defeat, even
though they still have many troops and large quantities of weapons and equipment.
The shattering blow does not necessarily have to annihilate the principal
enemy troop concentrations, but annihilate a certain part of the enemy
forces and take a number of strategically important localities, thus creating
a decisive situation by causing the enemy to lose all of their morale and
will to fight, become chaotic, and when subjected to repeated attacks and
uprisings will disintegrate into large segments and then completely collapse.
The policy and methods to be selected depend on each specific war and on the
specific strategic phase. It may be said that that is an art in the conduct
of war. That art is manifested specifically in the organization and division
of the battlefield and organizing the deployment and use of combined forces,
and the fighting method of coordinating the various kinds of forces and the
localities in each period of time. That is the art of creating and developing
to a high degree the combined strength of the nation and the strength of the
era. It is the art of leading and guiding general offensives and uprisings in
a revolutionary war and armed uprising waged by our party. When one understands
those secrets one will understand that the U.S.-puppet defeat was in
no way surprising or strange. Their destiny was determined by a solidly deployed
strategic position which gradually put them onto a path which led to
a grave that had already been dug. It definitely was not caused by any one
erroneous decision by Thieu in the Central Highlands campaign or in any other
previous or succeeding campaign. Both the United States and Thieu started
the war, were subjective and obstinate, committed political and strategic mistakes,
and were buried together in the pit of defeat, so they cannot blame
each other. As for us, the wisdom of the party and its correct revolutionary
objectives, strategic line, revolutionary struggle methods, and manner of concluding
the war led our country along the glroious path of total victory.
When thinking about the Ban Me Thuot battle, the Central Highlands campaign
and the development in South Vietnam as a whole after the Central Highlands
campaign, especially the possible developments in the B2 theater, I was both
enthusiastic and very anxious. I understood that the situation would develop
very rapidly and that our theater would be profoundly influenced. The opportunity
would be priceless, and would require us to take bold and prompt
action. But we had so little time-it had been only a month since we returned
to the base area from Hanoi-to disseminate the Political Bureau resolution and
make all necessary preparations so that we could open fire on "D Day" with
coordinated actions in all parts of the region, as ordered by the High
Command.
Two days after returning home, on 3 February, I worked with the Regional Staff,
rear-services, and political organs and with the 4th Corps to grasp our situation
and that of the enemy in the military regions, and reviewed B2fs plan for
- 138 -
the second phase of the dry season, in order to prepare for the meetings of
COSVN and the Regional Military Party Commission. Fortunately, B2fs dry season
plan was essentially on the right track. During the COSVN conference
from 13-16 February, many specific problems were posed and discussed so that
they could be resolved. In the process of approving B2Ts plan for the second
phase of the dry season plan, the comrades in COSVN worried about the units
that would put pressure on and attack Saigon from the south. They stressed
the necessity of quickly stepping up our activities in the Cho Gao, Go Cong
and southern Long An areas because our movement was not yet strong there and
it was not yet assured that our armed forces could move up close to Saigon's
4th, 7th and 8th precincts. Another source of worry was the armed forces,
especially the main-force units, in the theater, a key theater which was at
that time still too weak. The additional forces we had requested from the
central echelon had not yet arrived, and the strategic reserves were deployed
too far away. In addition to the military plan, the conference stressed the
necessity of immediately drafting plans for mass uprisings, to insure the use
of the combined forces of the people and the armed forces, and to organize a
unified command made up of comrades in the party committees, military units,
governmental administrations, youth, women's and peasants associations, and
military proselyting organs in each village, district and province, especially
in Military Regions 8 and 9 in the Mekong Delta. That truly was a plan
for a general offensive and uprising: it was necessary to insure that the
villages could liberate villages, the districts could liberate districts,
and the provinces could liberate provinces. The conference also discussed in
detail the organization and work of the military management committees after
the liberation of towns and cities. On the basis of the experience we had
gained in solving problems in Phuoc Long City just after its liberation,
such as organizing and insuring safety, caring for the lives of the people,
insuring ordinary activities and production, punishing spies and saboteurs,
etc., we would provide prompt guidance for the localities. Finally, the conference
discussed measures for disseminating and explaining the Political
Bureau resolution without exposing secrets. It was necessary to maintain
military secrets and national secrets in all phases in order to insure success.
Failing to carefully discuss measures to maintain secrecy, being
found out before one could act, and everyone knowing about a decision just
after it was made were reasons for failure and could not be forgiven. That
was a difficult problem. The echelons and sectors had to thoroughly understand
their missions, be inspired so that they .could endeavor to win the greatest
possible victory, and carry out plans as well as possible without letting the
enemy know and make countermoves. Brother Bay Cuong emphasized emphatically
that it was necessary to act without saying anything, or very little. We
had to oppose exaggeration, revealing one's intentions before acting, and
promising much but delivering little. It was necessary to resolutely:
-Say nothing about the completion of the democratic national revolution.
-Say nothing about the 1975-1976 2-year plan.
-Say nothing of the general offensive and general uprising.
- 139 -
89-4690
-Say nothing about the new resolution; act as if there was only Resolution 21,
the resolution of which the enemy was aware. Disseminate the work step-by-step,
under tight control but promptly.
In accordance with the spirit and contents of that COSVN conference, we held a
Regional Military Party Commission conference at the end of February to initiate
all military tasks.
Before we began the second phase of the dry season in March, in accordance
with the order of the High Command, the situation of the enemy forces in the
B2 theater had undergone a number of changes. Most painful for the Americans
and puppets was the fact that the pacification on which they had spent so much
effort and money had been heavily defeated. The most evident defeat was in
the Mekong Delta, which was highly populated and rich and which they hoped
to make their final redoubt. After going all-out in January to carry out
operations to retake land and relieve sieges along the border in Kien Tuong,
in the Cho Gao area in My Tho, in the Thay Pho area in Tra Vinh, in the Thoi
Binh area in Ca Mau, and in the Rach Gia-Ha Tien area but achieving no results,
and indeed suffering losses in the lowlands, the enemy had to shift over to
opposing our new offensive phase, which they expected before or after the
lunar new year (about 10 February). In eastern Nam Bo they intended to concentrate
troops and attempt to retake Phuoc Long City by means of their "Operation
271,M but they were unsuccessful because since they were being attacked everywhere
they could not put together sufficiently strong forces. They shifted the
focus of their efforts on taking Mt. Ba Den, a position that was vital to them
not only with regard to the defense of eastern Nam Bo and Saigon but also for
the defense of Kampuchea and Phnom Penh (Lon Nol). Between 20-26 January the
puppet III Corps, in the presence of a representative of GHQ, used forces of
the Tay Ninh Sector and the 25th Division, with strong artillery support (an
average of 6,000 rounds a day) and air support (84 sorties per day), launched
an extremely vicious attack on the mountain. They used 29 helicopters to land
many waves of troops to retake the position atop the mountain, but met fierce
resistance and lost much manpower and many airplanes and helicopters. Ultimately
the enemy had to accept defeat and withdraw to defend Tay Ninh.
The very significant victory of the battle to take the Mt. Ba Den position and
the fighting to hold that position in the face of a fierce enemy counterattack
was an extremely brilliant feat of arms of one of our small but elite units:
the 47th Reconnaissance Battalion of the Regional Staff, reinforced by 2 sapper
companies of the 429th Regiment, an antiaircraft machinegun unit, and a mortar
unit, a total of 300 cadres and men. Clearly understanding the value of the
battle, the Regional Command designated comrade Ba Tran, the regional deputy
chief of staff, and comrades Son Bich and Chin Loc, commander and political
officer of the intelligence branch, to approve the operational plan, and
assigned comrade Huynh Long, deputy intelligence commander, and comrade Hai,
commander of reconnaissance forces, to directly command the fighting. During
the night of 3 December our units attacked the Mt. Ba Den position from three
directions. To the southwest the main unit, led by comrade To and his deputy
comrade Thang and with five enlisted men, penetrated to the center of the
strongpoint and killed many of the enemy. But the enemy, aided by airplanes
and helicopters, counterattacked and retook the position. Toan died
- 140 -
heroically. Under the guidance of the upper echelon, the unit changed over to
laying siege to the position, cutting off all sources of supply and not allowing
a single helicopter to land troops. The imperiled enemy troops had to
withdraw at the end of December, but nearly all of them were killed or captured,
Because it was an important strongpoint with modern equipment used to monitor
a large area and with a communications station that relayed messages to battlefields
in both Vietnam and Kampuchea, both the puppet GHQ and III Corps were
determined to retake it by means of extremely fierce attacks. But our small
reconnaissance-sapper unit defeated a combined enemy force dozens of times
larger. That was a victory of both position and force, of cleverness, intelligence,
courage and combat skill, will and determination, willingness to bear
difficulties and hardships, and selfless sacrifice for the great undertaking
of the people and the nation. In that sense, was the battle not a microcosm
of our liberation war against the U.S. imperialists? Few defeated many, small
defeated large, the benevolent defeated the uncouth and the brutal, and justice
defeated perversion. The battle was even more valuable because it took
place in the last phase of the war and rendered the enemy deaf and blind so
that we could attack their final lair.
During that period, our intelligence reported that the enemy learned of our
intentions for the 1975 dry season high point, from Tet to June 1965: we
would concentrate on disrupting their pacification program, the focus of which
was in the Mekong Delta; weaken the puppet army; force Thieu to resign; and
achieve a political solution by forming a coalition government. Or perhaps
we would launch a general offensive to take such cities as Quang Tri, Kontum,
Tay Ninh, Long Khanh, Kien Tuong, and Chuong Thien. On 18 December, at the
Presidential Palace, the puppet Ministry of National Defense reported on the
military situation and predicted that:
-In Military Region 1 we would attack to force the withdrawal of the district
seats near the mountain region, threaten the lowlands, shell the Da Nang airbase,
and take Hue.
-In Military Region 2 we would seek to permanently cut routes 1, 19, 14 and
21, to isolate and attack Kontum and Pleiku Provinces.
-In Military Region 3 we would attack to take Tay Ninh City, force the
abandonment of Chon Thanh, Phu Giao, and Tri Tarn, and isolate Saigon by blocking
routes 1, 4, 20 and 15.
Then it concluded that we would begin our spring-summer campaign in March
1975 to implement our key plan for 1975: strongly attacking the pacification
program, winning control of additional land and people, and depleting their
military potential. The other military regions would coordinate their activities.
The "communists" had nearly completed their activities.
On all battlefields they strengthened their defenses and sent out reconnaissance
troops to spy on and monitor our forces. They urgently restored the
units that had recently suffered heavy losses or been wiped out. The enemy
continually alerted the various echelons that we would attack during the lunar
new year period, then announced that our attack would begin on 14 February,
- 141 -
then that it would begin on 20 February, etc. They paid special attention
to Chuong Thien in western Nam Bo, Kien Tuong in central Nam Bo, and Tay
Ninh, Hau Nghia, and Long Khanh in eastern Nam Bo. Most of the forces of
the 25th Division were concentrated in the vicinity of Tay Ninh City. The
entire 18th Division was sent to the area east of Saigon, around Xuan Loc.
The airborne and ranger troops were sent to search the northern outskirts
of Saigon.
In general, in late February and early March the enemy was certain that we
would launch a dry season offensive and had a plan to counter it. But they
still were not certain about the scale of the offensive and by what means we
would carry it out, did not know when it would begin, and guessed wrong about
the focus of our offensive. Meanwhile, the morale of their officers and men
continued to weaken; they were very tense and did not believe that they were
capable of coping with us. There was also disorder in the ranks of the puppet
army and administration. Thieu and Khiem were at odds and Ky was eagerly
awaiting an opportunity to carry out a coup dfetat and take power. The United
States had to seek all ways to help Thieu and avoid a dangerous political upheaval.
Martin, the U.S. ambassador, and Polgar, head of the U.S. CIA in
Saigon, acting feverishly, stayed the hand of Ky, advised Khiem to suppress
the opposition parties, protected Thieu, covered up for the Thieu regime in
the United States, and came to grips with U.S. public opinion and the U.S.
Congress.
In Saigon, the mass struggle movement became increasingly strong: there were
demands for relief from hunger, the workers opposed layoffs, and "refugees"
demanded rice. The women's movement demanding the right to live also struggled
seethingly. Newspapermen protested the closing of five opposition newspapers
and the arrest of dozens of journalists. There were demonstrations and fasts
demanding the release of political prisoners, that Thieu resign, and that a
government be formed to carry out the Paris Agreement.
After the loss of Phuoc Long and the Mt. Ba Den strongpoint, Tan Ninh Province
was threatened and there were many rumors that we would liberate Tay
Ninh so that it could become the capital of the PRG and the RSVN. The situation
in that city was very chaotic. Some of the people, fearing that they
would be killed in the fighting, fled to the countryside, to areas controlled
by the revolution, or even to Saigon. The people living near the puppet military
strongpoint left the area so that they would not be caught up in the
fighting. The Cao Dai leaders, realizing that the puppet army could no
longer protect them and the Holy See was in danger of being destroyed, declared
their "neutrality11 and encouraged the puppet regime to withdraw its
military forces, including the civil guards, from the "holy ground," although
they had long relied on those forces to oppose the liberation troops.
In An Giang, the Hoa Hoa sect organized its own armed forces to defend itself
and to carry out its own political scheme once the Thieu regime collapsed.
On 30 January 1975 Thieu issued a decree dissolving the Hoa Hoa militia, for
he could not allow "an army within an army." Therefore there were clashes
between the Hoa Hoa armed forces and the Thieu police in Sadec, Kien Phong and
Long Xuyen. Thieu1s bloody suppression resulted in many deaths and hundreds
of Hoa Hoa militiamen were captured, including its leaders.
- 142 -
Thus by the beginning of the second phase of the 1974-1975 dry season, all
over South Vietnam, and especially in the B2 theater, the puppet Thieu regime
was faced with an extremely confused situation militarily, economically,
politically and socially.
On the basis of the plan for the second phase of the dry season that had been
approved by COSVN, the Regional Command assigned missions to and approved the
plans of 4th Corps, the divisions and the military regions. Comrade Tarn
Phuong, i.e. Maj Gen Le Quoc San, commander of Military Region 8, personally
accepted his mission. He was very enthusiastic and confident of being able
to correctly implement the plan of both liberating the provinces in his military
region by means of attacks and uprisings and fulfilling the important
mission assigned him by the Regional Command: insuring the success of the
theater as a whole, using his forces to participate in the all-out assault on
Saigon from the south and on the main objective-the puppet national police
headquarters-and taking and cutting strategic Route 4 in order to cut off
the puppet capital from the south. He said to the Regional Command, "The
soldiers and people of Military Region 8 have the great honor of being able
to participate in the historic campaign to take Saigon, the final U.S.-puppet
lair. Only after many years of war could we arrive at this glorious hour.
On behalf of the armed forces of Military Region 8, I promise to carry out
the plan that has been approved and win the greatest possible victory, in
order to be worthy of the confidence of the upper echelon.
As for Military Region 9, although he had to travel a long way and overcome
many difficulties, comrade Ba Hai, i.e., Maj Gen Pham Ngoc Hung, commander of
the military region, also went to the Regional Command to personally accept
his mission* He had taken the risk of traveling openly, but his trip was
very meticulously organized. He promised to select the 1st Regiment, the
strongest regiment in the military region, which along with the provincial
3d Regiment and the local militia forces, were liberating the strategically
important Vinh Binh-Tra Vinh area, and cutting Route 4 and the Mang Thit River,
if so ordered, to join the forces of Military Region 8 in attacking Saigon
from the south. Although difficulties were involved in interdicting the Le
Te airfield, he promised to go all-out to fulfill that mission in order to
contribute to the common victory. Meanwhile, comrade Sau Hat, i.e. Senior
Colonel Nguyen Trong Xuyen, commander of Military Region 6, was very worried
about his difficult mission of liberating an area from Binh Tuy Province to
Di Linh, Dalat and the coastal provinces in his military region, for in that
military region we had many difficulties in all regards. The organized mass
forces were not yet sufficiently strong and with regard to armed forces there
were still very few local troops, there were not many guerrillas, and there
was only one main-force unit: the 812th Regiment. His careful weighing of
his strength in comparison to such a great mission was entirely appropriate
to the sense of responsibility of a cadre with actual combat experience. On
behalf of the Regional Command I analyzed the situation in the B2 theater as
a whole and the advantageous factors in the present strategic phase that would
create very great strength with which the military region could fulfill its
mission. In coordination with the other forces, troops and people in the
military region, the main-force 812th Regiment would make a worthy contribution
and would win a big victory, as in other parts of the theater. He felt
- 143 -
more at ease and promised to make a maximum effort, but I sensed that he was
still quite worried. Even so, I knew that he would fulfill his mission because
he had confidence in the upper echelon and in the overall efforts of
the theater as a whole in that important phase.
Senior Colonel Le Van Ngoc, commander of Military Region 7 and, comrade Dang
Ngoc Si, deputy commander of the military region and commander of the 6th
Division, were present at the Regional Command to accept their missions.
They briefed us on the weakness of their understrength divisions and requested
the Regional Command to urgently provide additional troops and equipment,
but made a firm promise to overcome all difficulties in order to correctly
implement the plan. The military region's most important mission was
coordinating with the 812th Regiment of Military Region 6 in rapidly mopping
up the enemy in the Tanh Linh and Vo Dae areas of Binh Tuy Province to create
a convenient staging area from which the 4th Corps could attack Xuan Loc, Bien
Hoa and Saigon, and cut Route 1 between Xuan Loc and Rung La in order to isolate
Saigon from the coast of central Nam Bo, cut Route 15 between Saigon and
Vung Tau, and join 4th Corps in attacking the enemy.
With regard to 4th Corps, it still consisted only of the 7th and 9th Divisions
and its combat arms were still very weak. Initially, as requested by B2, the
General Staff intended to send the 968th Division from the Central Highlands
to reinforce 4th Corps, then decided to replace it with the 316th Division,
but it could send neither. Finally, it decided to send the 341st Division,
which was undergoing training in our Military Region 4. On 11 February I sent
a message to the High Command recommending that the division be sent south
urgently: "Recommend that brother Tran (i.e. the commander of the 341st Division)
be sent south early. Only if half of it arrives by the first part of
March can it arrive in time." We must assign in advance a number of cadres
who are familiar with the battlefield and are combat experienced so that as
soon as the unit arrives, they can reinforce it and provide urgent tactical
training (the division had not had much actual combat experience). We also
readied a technical reconnaissance unit consisting of experts and the light
equipment and machinery needed for their work, to be turned over to the disposal
of the division staff. In general, the 4th Corps was still understrength
with regard to both infantry and combat arms. Even so, the operational
plan assigned it by the Regional Command divided it into two areas of
operation: Binh Long, Binh Duong and Tay Ninh, and Route 20, Long Khanh
and Bien Hoa. Each of those two areas required a division from the corps,
combined with the forces of Military Region 7 and the local provincial forces.
The comrades in the Corps Command expressed their aspiration of being able to
concentrate the entire corps in one area of operations so that it could have
stronger combat strength with which to strike an annihilating blow in order to
create a common transformation in the theater. We at the Regional Command had
thought about and reflected upon many aspects of that problem. The principal
reason we formed the corps was to use it in a concentrated manner so that it
could have the strength to strike annihilating blows, in order to both win big
victories and steel the units, so we were completely sympathetic with the
worries and thoughts of the corps. But, regrettably, we were in a period in
which there would be very rapid changes on the battlefield. The Ban Me Thuot
battle was certain to create a strong transformation all over South Vietnam
- 144 -
and force the enemy troops on the eastern Nam Bo battlefield, which included
Saigon, to urgently take up strong defensive positions. It was an area in
which the enemy would react quickly and strong, with maximum effort, to save
themselves. In order to defeat we had to know not only how to concentrate
large strong forces, but also, and especially, to take steps and carry out
schemes to disperse the enemy, deceive the enemy and prevent it from discerning
our intentions, so that we could launch surprise attacks and win certain
victories. We were already behind schedule in forming our corps. We had not
yet received the additional forces we had requested to deploy in the various
areas in accordance with a strategic-campaign position that provided for all
contingencies, including sudden military and political developments. Therefore,
we had to know how to deploy and use the forces we had on hand in the
most effective way in order to win the greatest, most timely victories. The
B2 theater had the enormous responsibility of insuring that the final, decisive
attack on Saigon was launched at the right time and won a certain victory.
If it was to fulfill that responsibility it was necessary to create at an early
date favorable conditions for deploying forces; to move up close to and tightly
encircle Saigon; to create staging areas from which to launch attacks from
the various directions; to be prepared for all contingencies; and to be able
to act immediately once the opportunity arose and the order was given. If we
had to start thinking about a plan for an offensive against and an uprising
in Saigon during the rainy season of 1974 in order to draft a plan for the
1974-1975 dry season, now it was even more important that we be prepared to
carry out that offensive and uprising. Although the corps was still understrength,
it was made up of elite divisions which were very familiar with the
battlefield and of experienced cadres, and it was the main force available to
the Regional Command. Therefore, we had to make very careful calculations when
using it, so that it could be used very properly from both a campaign and strategic
point of view, and in accordance with the extremely important current
phase. On the eastern Nam Bo theater, if at that time we had concentrated in
one area the enemy would have concentrated their forces in the same area and
fiercely opposed us. We had to flexibly maintain the initiative so that we
would not be caught up in a tug of war between ourselves and the enemy. If we
were to strike effective manpower-annihilating blows we had to attack the key
points and draw in the enemy in order to annihilate them, but the enemy would
defend those key places to the end. Therefore, the Regional Command decided to
use the corps in two different areas to expand the staging areas north, northwest
and east of Saigon, and launching surprise attacks on and annihilating the
enemy in places very advantageous to us without having to clash with the enemy
in places vitally important to them, while at the same time deploying our forces
so that they could launch an offensive when necessary. Our forces were small
but would become strong and would win one victory after another.
Another important focal point of the B2 theater's activities was to annihilate
the enemy and expand the liberated area in western Tay Ninh and in the Ben
Cau-Queo Be area in order to create a staging area for the attack on Saigon
from the west and for blockading Saigon from the southwest and cutting it off
from the Mekong Delta. Therefore, the Regional Command decided to use the 5th
and 3d Divisions in those areas. Later, in order to insure the success of the
attack from the west-a very difficult but very important direction-the
Regional Command decided to form Group 232-corresponding to a corps-to unify
- 145 -
the command of both divisions, the local forces, and the subordinate combat
arms. Comrade Nam Nga, a diligent and brave cadre who had high regard for
justice and who had gained much experience in commanding main-force units
during the anti-French resistance war in southernmost Central Vietnam, had
personally commanded the fighting in Binh Tuy during the first phase of the
dry season and had been on the staff of the Regional Command for years, was
appointed Group Commander. His political officer was comrade Tarn Iran, i.e.
Maj Gen Tran Van Phac, and his deputy commander was Maj Gen Nguyen Van Nghiem.
With regard to the sappers and commandos in the Saigon area, in order to
achieve unified, close command in the various directions the Regional Command
decided to set up commands for each of them. Those north of Saigon were commanded
by comrade Muoi Co, i.e., Nguyen Thanh Tung and comrade Nguyen Van
Tang, an Army Hero; those to the southwest were commanded by comrades Nguyen
Van May and Guyen Van Hat; and those to the east were commanded by comrades
Tong Viet Duong and Le Ba Uoc.
D Day of the second phase of the 1974-1975 dry season campaign-in fact the
beginning of the general offensive and general uprising all over South Vietnam-
had been set by the High Command: MThe night of 9 March and the early morning
of 10 March 1975." That day had arrived. In coordination with the B2 theater,
from the mountains and jungles of Military Region 6 to the Mekong Delta and the
area around the capital, and the main-force troops, local troops, militiamen,
and guerrillas, enthusiastically rushed forward together to annihilate the
enemy. The entire B2 theater simultaneously arose and attacked! Except in
a few areas in which we encountered initial difficulties, our attack slowed
down, and our victories were limited, such as in the Hau Giang area of Military
Region 9, and in Ben Tre Province (Military Region 8), our attacks went
well and everything went according to plan. We were winning a resounding
victory.
In the Saigon area the forces of the municipal unit and the sappers, by launching
absolutely secret surprise attacks, and insuring their victories without
harming the theater as a whole, were authorized to open fire during the night
of 8 March and the early morning of 9 March. A large number of enemy outposts*
in the directions that had to be cleared for the movement of our forces and
for activities the sappers and commandos were about to carry out, were wiped
out. The civilian self-defense forces, which became demoralized after they
were attacked and were educated by the people, largely disintegrated during
that period. The enemyfs control in many areas in the outskirts of the city
was weakened. Outstanding victories were won in the taking of a number of
enemy outposts around Hoc Mon on Route 8 and in the Rach Tra area, which were
important to the enemy defenses north of Tan Son Nhat airbase and Saigon.
In Binh Chanh, the headquarters of the 86th Ranger Battalion at Tan Tuc suffered
heavy losses. At Thu Due, about 40 percent of the enemy's Sicona chemicals
depot was destroyed. On 20 March the Quyet Thang Battalion, in cooperation
with the local troops and guerrillas, wiped out an escorted 51-truck
convoy taking ammunition to Cu Chi along Route 1, and wiped out or inflicted
heavy losses on four enemy companies sent to relieve the convoy.
- 146 -
In the Mekong Delta the 4th Division of Military Region 9, along with the
local forces and guerrillas, liberated Kinh Xang, 0 Mon, and Thi Doi, moved
up close to Thoi Lai and Kinh Xang Xano, wiped out or forced the withdrawal
of many outposts, and liberated a number of villages. In Vinh Tra the 1st and
2d Regiments cooperating closely with the on-the-spot forces, surrounded the
Thay Pho strategic zone, wiped out the outposts on the Vinh Xuan road, wiped
out two enemy battalions sent as reinforcements, forced the enemy in that strategic
zone fo flee, inflicted heavy losses on the Cai Nhum and Cai Von subsectors,
cut Route 4, and essentially mastered the Mang Thit River. In Long An,
beginning on 9 March the 1st Provincial Battalion annihilated an RF Battalion
in Ben Luc District. The 8th Division of Military Region 8, which began its
second-phase activities on 11 March, wiped out the Nga Sau base, an important
position in the Cai Be area, bordering the Dong Thap Muoi region, in My Tho
Province. The enemy used the 10th Regiment of their 7th Division to carry out
a fierce counterattack to retake that position on 14 March, but we wiped out
two battalions and the remainder of a third battalion was wiped out when we
retook the base.. Many other posts in Cai Be and Cai Lay Districts were wiped
out or forced to withdraw. Meanwhile, between 11-14 March, the 3d and 5th
Divisions, annihilated enemy troops and completely liberated the Ben Cau,
Moc Bai, An Thanh, and Tra Cao areas. By 20 March they had overrun the enemy
position at Queo Be in Due Hue District, extended our corridor in western
Tay Ninh Province down to the Dong Thap Muoi area, and mastered a broad strip
along the western bank of the Van Co Dong River in Tay Ninh and Long An Provinces,
just as planned. That was the famous "Parrot's Beak11 area which the
Americans had greatly feared, for they regarded it as a vital staging area
from the "Viet Cong" could threaten Saigon from the west. They launched many
operations in that area, and dropped many bombs and laid many minefields in
trying to transform that area into a killing zone. Especially, in 1970, U.S.
and puppet troops passed through that area and penetrated deeply into Kampuchea,
thus beginning the period in which the Vietnam war was expanded into the
Indochina war. Now that "Parrot's Beak" area had been cleared of enemy troops,
had been expanded eastward to the Van Co Dong River and southward to near the
Van Co Tay River, it had become a staging area for us that was much more
solid than in the past. When Queo Ba was threatened during the 1974 dry season
the puppet III Corps urgently sent six task forces to sweep and defend
that area at the same time. Now that their position and strength had weakened,
the puppets viewed the enemy's staging area, which had been extended
closer to Saigon from the west, as being many times more dangerous than in the
past.
Thus less than a month into the second phase our soldiers and people in the
Mekong Delta had attained notable accomplishments and were continuing enthusiastically
and effectively to disrupt pacification, win control of the population,
and win the right of mastery. In eastern Nam Bo, on the western bank
of the Saigon River, on 11 March the 16th Regiment wiped out the Suoi Dong
Hung position and on 12 March the 9th Division took the Tri Tarn Subsector and
on 13 March liberated all of Dau Tient District east of the Saigon River and
the Ben Cui area west of the river. On 17 March the Cau Khoi position was
taken and we gained control of a segment of Route 26 in Tay Ninh .Province.
Thus we had liberated a vast area along both banks of the Saigon River to form
a staging area for the attack on Saigon from the northwest. The enemy used
- 147 -
the 3d Cavalry Brigade and a 25th Division force to counterattack along Route 2
at Suoi Ong Hung. That presented us with a good opportunity to annihilate an
important part of the armored forces of III Corps, but due to deficiencies in
our preparations and combat operations we could only inflict heavy damage on
the enemy and force them to withdraw them to defend the area south of Bau Don.
The armed forces of Tay Ninh Province during that time coordinated very well
by attacking directly Route 22, cutting that road from place to place and from
time to time, thus forcing the puppet 25th Division to defend that road in
order to insure that Tay Ninh would not be isolated. To the east, between
15-18 March the 6th Division of Military Region 7 extended the liberated area
along Route 2 from Xuan Loc to Ba Ria and completely liberated Route 3 from
Hoai Due to Gia Ray. On 20 March it took the Ong Don intersection and Suoi
Cat, and by 28 March it had mastered a 50 kilometers-long segment of Route 1
from Suoi Cat to Rung La, thus cutting the lifeline connecting the central
Vietnam coast with Bien Hoa-Saigon. The 812th Regiment of Military Region 6
completed the annihilation of Vo Due and liberated a large area in Binh Tuy
Province and the districts of Hoai Due and Tanh Linh, thus creating a good
staging area from which the 4th Corps could later attack Xuan Loc and Bien
Hoa. Then the regiment, according to plan, moved quickly to coordinate
with the 7th Division on Route 20 in the direction of Dalat. On 15 March the
7th Division launched its attack and by 18 March had completed the taking of
the Dinh Quan district seat, a fortified strongpoint which backed up to a
store outcropping and controlled important Route 20. After taking Dinh Quan
the division took the Da Oai strategic zone and, along with the local forces
mopped up the enemy, expanded the liberated area and mastered Route 20. On
28 March it launched a lightning-fast mechanized attack which liberated the
city of Lam Dong in only 2 hours. Thus we had completed the expansion and
connecting of an important, integrated and solid base area extending from
Dong Thap Muoi west of Saigon, running from the western and northern parts
of Tay Ninh Province to Phuoc Long, War Zone A in northern Bien Hoa, and to
Binh Tuy and Ba Ria on the South China Sea. Saigon had in effect been surrounded
from the west, north and northeast. The 812th Regiment, reinforced
by an element of the 7th Division, took advantage of the opportunity and
occupied the town of Di Linh. Thus all of Lam Dong Province had been liberated.
That represented a great victory on the eastern Nam Bo theater during that
period. It greatly strengthened our position north and east of Saigon and
defeated the enemy's scheme to form a defensive enclave.
In Part II ("The End11) of his book "Decent Interval, Frank Snepp wrote that
"The next day the communist forces opened a new front in the southern part
of that area (the puppet Military Region II) and advanced to Lam Dong City,
3 hours from Saigon by road, without meeting any resistance (more accurately,
resistance had been quickly crushed). At that very moment Thieu and his generals
were once again debating and weighing the possibility of setting up a
defense line immediately north of the city (Saigon), extending from Tay Ninh
to Nha Trang. Before nightful, Polgar (the U.S. CIA chief in Vietnam) personally
went to the Presidential Palace to inform Thieu and his generals that
their plan had been smashed, for Lam Dong Province, the backbone of that defense
line, had fallen into the hands of the North Vietnamese troops."
- 148 -
With the loss of Lam Dqng and Route 20, the city of Dalat and all of Tuyen Due
Province (as it was called by the puppet regime) were isolated. Route 11,
which connected Dalat with Phan Rang on the coast, was a very dangerous, twisting
up-and-down road that could not be used to save the city. The liberation
of Dalat was the responsibility of the B2 theater, but B2Ts forces were small
and it had to move in close to Saigon and thus could not move up to liberate
Tuyen Due Province. After the Central Highlands were liberated our strong
forces there could come down to take Dalat, then continue on to eastern Nam Bo,
very conveniently and promptly. Therefore I sent a message to Van Tien Dung,
then the commander of our forces on the Central Highlands battlefield, recommending
that he send forces down to liberate Dalat because our forces had to
advance toward Saigon and could not go to Dalat. Brother Dung replied in the
affirmative. But the enemy troops, very confused and terrified, and threatened
by our local armed forces there, fled from Dalat. An element of the
812th Regiment, along with local forces, took over Dalat on 4 April, pursued
the enemy, and liberated Route 11 as far as the Thanh Son airfield. All of
Tuyen Due Province, including the important city of Dalat, had been liberated.
North of Saigon, after Cau Tieng was liberated the city of An Loc in Binh Long
Province (to use the puppet regime's term) was tightly surrounded. There we
had used forces drawn from the organs of the Regional Command, in coordination
with the local forces and guerrillas, to threaten and attack the enemy from the
beginning of the second phase of the dry season. On 23 March the enemy troops
withdrew to Chon Thanh, a district seat far to the south on Route 13. By that
time part of the 341st Division sent by the central echelon had arrived. We
used a regiment of that division, along with an element of the 9th Division,
to pursue the enemy and attack Chon Thanh. During the night of 31 March,
after suffering heavy losses, the enemy troop remnants abandoned Chon Thanh.
All of Binh Long had been liberated. Our main base area had been expanded
and filled out until it reached close to Saigon, near the bases of the puppet
5th Division at Lai Khe and Phu Loi and of the puppet 25th Division at Dong
Du, which became the outposts for defending Saigon from the north and the
northwest. Even so, the enemy was still blindly trying to defend Tay Ninh,
a city that had become distant and isolated, merely because it was afraid that
it would become the capital of a revolutionary government.
In March the B2 theater had won great victories, thanks to active coordination
with the principal battlefield-the Central Highlands-and by taking
full advantage of the turmoil caused by the Ban Me Thuot battle and the succeeding
battles. The harmonious coordination of all theaters in the south
during the strong simultaneous attacks and uprisings were the result of the
rapid decline and disintegration of the puppet army and regime. In Hanoi,
the Political Bureau and the Military Commission of the party Central Committee
had very closely monitored the overall situation and the situation on each
battlefield, promptly reported on all developments in each area, and promptly
guided and corrected the activities in each direction. It may be said that
the Political Bureau and the Military Commission guided, and in fact exercised
coordinated command of all the battlefields and guided the activities
of all the offensive columns.
- 149 -
By 11 March we had essentially taken the city of Ban Me Thuot. When he was
informed of that victory by the High Command, comrade Le Duan said, !'We previously
had estimated 2 years but now, after Phuoc Long and Ban Me Thuot, we
may step up the pace. Is this the beginning of the general offensive and
general uprising?11 Flexibility in such a situation is always the key to
timely actions. The reporting of that victory was a great source of inspiration,
but the Military Commission continued to urge the battlefields to
launch strong attacks and win big victories. On 12 March comrade Vo Nguyen
Giap sent a message to comrade Van Tien Dung in the Central Highlands
which included the following passage:
"The Political Bureau and the Military Commission have determined that if a
large part of the enemy's manpower is annihilated, the city of Ban Me Thuot
and many district seats are lost, and Route 19 is cut, the remaining enemy
forces in the Central Highlands will form an enclave at Pleiku and may be
forced to carry out a strategic evacuation of the Central Highlands. Therefore,
the Political Bureau and the Military Commission have directed that it
is necessary to immediately surround Pleiku, cut off both the enemy's air
route and land routes, and make good preparations to annihilate the enemy in
both contingencies."* Clearly, we accurately predicted, at an early date, the
enemy's actions. Not until 15 March did Thieu, because of the desperate situation,
meet with his generals at Cam Ranh and decide to abandon the Central
Highlands. On 15 March they secretly, and in an arduous and chaotic manner,
began to implement their plan, and on 16 March Hanoi reported that the forward
headquarters of the puppet II Corps and the U.S. Consulate had been
shifted from Pleiku to Nha Trang. Between 18-24 March, the withdrawing enemy
troops were completely annihilated or routed. The Centr