Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong has served in the
following units of ARVN:
- Graduated in January 1st, 1955 – Thu Duc Reserve Officers Promotion #5 For the People (1954-1955) ~ Same with Brigadier-General Le Van Hung and Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Van Huong Rinh (Contact Services/ Technical Directorate), with the rank as of Second-Lieutenant and served in the Airborne Corps.
- Involved in the coup with General Nguyen Chanh Thi and incarcerated at Con Dao island prison (1960-1964)
- Bureau #3 Chief (Contact Services/ Technical Directorate)
- Technical Directorate Headquarters
- National Police
- 22nd Infantry Division
- Sub-Zone Binh Dinh
- Infantry Division #5 (Brigadier-General Le Nguyen Vy’s Assistant in Operations)
- Prisoner at Hoang Lien Son (North Vietnam)
- Prisoner at Xuan Loc Z30A (South Vietnam)
- 1993 sentenced to 12 years imprisonment with the charge of trying to overthrow the Communist Govenment
- Released in 1998 thanks to the intervention International Commission
- Emigrated to U.S. in 1999 (Program H.O.)
- Passed away in June 2011 in San Jose California
- Buried in Southern California
The War history of the ARVN is a military history with so many famous and glorious victories and the ARVN has been hailed internationally as one of the top combative forces in the world, but it is also an army full of bitterness, sorrow, shame, torment, humiliation by being forced to succumb in the most painful way. The ARVN has fought bravely with victories which are remembered now and later forever. There were ARVN generals, talented and clever commanders , brave and virtuous, upright who were honored. There were heroes who died for the Nation and who continue to be worshipped in the Nation’s spirit, and also there were the well-trained combative units which continue to shine brightly in the military history. There were sites where fierce battles happened that continue to resound from this long time ago until today, and also, forever later.
But it is a pity that there were so many anonymous soldiers who fought and scared to death the enemy, then who have quietly make a sacrifice of their lives to protect the freedom for theircountry, and there were talented and clever commanders who were forgotten, then disappeared in the darkness of time.
This unintentional injustice which guiltlessly went by with time is like adultery; was it becausethey were secondary warriors compared to the reservist forces , the Infantry Divisions ...? These Regional Forces and Popular Forces, inherently equipped and also insufficientlysupported about logistics, they were considered sub-combat units, but in fact they were thecore and indispensable units of the war that, day and night had to face the enemy, without having any carefree moment like to go back to the the city-rear as the reservists did after thebattle, to be rewarded and warmly welcomed.
It is a pity that, these men and no one else, had to sacrifice themselves to protect every inch square of land, to the point that they even refused any reward, including spiritual rewards. Anexample of such a case was about a Popular Forces platoon leader, who combined also the position of My Hiep Village Chief, in the Phu My District, Province of Binh Dinh who refused the honour nomination of Hero Warrior in 1973 – He didn’t accept the reward of a Taiwan trip; he begged Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong to allow him to stay to be able to defend his village. He said:
- "Please Colonel allow me to stay home. If I leave now, My Hiep Village would be precarious! ". We have to add that the local guerrillas were well known as tough and merciless; "StoneChurch", “Ba Dan Slope" were name places not unfamiliar with Province Binh Dinh people, thanks to the atrocious and brazen local group of guerrillas.
One of the forgotten areas was the battlefield of Binh Dinh and also were the soldiers of the"Tay Son, Fabric Tunics Peach Flag" land. And this article should be seen as a belated apologyof a surviving soldier of the Binh Dinh battlefield.
Binh Dinh battlefield - not later – was already always a violent war zone during the resistance fighting against the French. Territories names like An Khe, Hoai An, An Lao. . . were foreverterrible marks for the French expeditionary army, partly because of the strategic location of these lands, and also because of the local people. During the period of the resistance against the French, the French expeditionary army, despite so many many strives, had never pacified and controlled the area, and it was also why a not small number of patriots were deceived by the communists from Hanoi who had raped the People label and convinced these men to valiantly fight in their ranks.
After the Geneva Accords, some of them regrouped to the North, while a large number stayedto quietly build their infrastructure. The people of Binh Dinh, with the patriotic tradition of theland of Quang-Trung, were propaganda tricked by the disguised People flag, and it was why numerous Binh Dinh people looked towards Hanoi. But these people’s ethos is the distinction between Nationalism and Communism and this trait lead to the tragedy of a merciless conflict.Knowing this, the Communist Military Region 5 had always considered the Binh Dinh battlefieldas a decisive one, forcing them to put all efforts, propaganda, and manoeuvre to promoteslaughtering one another and building up hatred.
Binh Dinh battlefield had always involved the most veteran units of the Communist Military Region 5. When Chu Huy Man was the Region Commander, he used to maneuver the "heroic"Division 3 Gold Star , and the To Die Battalions, the 405th Special Reconnaissance Battalion which was rewarded the red flag, with the Regional Regiment and the elite District units underthe command of the most fanatic and cruel officers, not to mention the reinforcement in 1965 by the Phu Yen Local Regiment commanded by the “one-breasted Nguyen Thi Lanh, nicknamed the immortal Female”.
Binh Dinh battlefield erupted violently in the early months of 1965, while the Republic of Vietnam was floating in instability. Fierce battles taking place all around, stretching from Phu Ly to Bong Son with front line Phu Ly, Dai Thuan, Phu My, Pass Nhong, Diem Tieu, Van Bao, Phu Cu. . . seemed to have started at once. It was not by hazard that suddenly, in September of 1965, the Red Elder Division (Aero-calvalry First Division), then the 101th Division, the 173rd Parachutist Brigade which were the most combative of the American troops had to take turns to be present at Binh Dinh, to control An Khe and Kon Hanung Secret Zone. It was not without reason that the first rated Tiger Division of the Korean Army was assigned to protect security along Highway 19, but couldn’t fulfill the complete safeguard of this vital route.
Binh Dinh province was considered the largest in the country with an area of about 10,000 kilometers square, extending 120 km in length from Cu Mong Pass to Binh De Col, and stretching 90 km across from Phuong Mai Point onto the boundary with Pleiku Province, with 3 / 4 of the area as immense jungles, including the secret zone of Kon Hanung in the North of An Tuc district, bordering the provinces of Kontum and Quang Ngai. Secret zones An Lao, Van Canh, Vinh Thanh, Base 226th between the three districts of eastern Vinh Thanh, western Phu My and southern Hoai An. They called this secret zone as the iron triangle encompassing the mountainous region of My Tho belonging to the District of Phu My, where they hided their units then pushed out for the most violent attacks . The registered population count in January 1973 was 996,673 people (this figure was not absolute), divided into 14 districts: Hoai An, Hoai Nhon, Phu Cat, Tuy Phuoc, Tam Quan, Van Canh, Nhon Binh, and Nhon Dinh. (Later, Vinh Thanh, Tam Quan, Van Canh were transformed to Administrative Correspondence Directorate, and only An Lao, the scene of Double Springs, Hill of the Cross fierce fightings in 1964, has been lost.)
As of the end of 1972, the Regional and Popular Forces belonging to Binh Dinh Sub-zoneincluded the Headquarters of the 2 Groups 271st and 272nd, 18 Battalions of Regional Forces,12 Independent Companies, 620 Platoons of Popular Forces (not mentioning the number of Country Building Forces and People's Self-Defense Forces). To reinforce the battlefieldsituation, there were the 22nd Infantry Division with 4 Regiments: 40th, 41st, 42nd, 47th but theRegiments 40th and 41st must be positioned permanently in Binh Dinh. The 2nd Corps only had the 4 Regiments of the 23rd Division and 2 Regiments left of the 22nd Division distributed evenly for the rest of the provinces of the Corps responsible territory. In addition, during the most crucial period, Groups 6th and 4th of the Rangers were sent to reinforce to guard thethree districts north of Binh Dinh. Even with such a large force, it was still not enough tospread out and pacify.
The last civil Chief of Province was Mister Bui Thuc Duyen, and then after that, the transition was accomplished with the officers of the RAVN at the end of 1963: Colonel Tran Van Tuoi,Colonel Nguyen Thanh Sang, Major Tran Dinh Vong , Major Thinh, Lieutenant-Colonel LeTrung Tuong, Lieutenant-Colonel Tran Dinh Vong (second assignment), Colonel Nguyen MongHung, Colonel Phan Minh Tho, Colonel Nguyen Duy Bach, Colonel Nguyen Van Chuc, ColonelHoang Dinh Tho and the last Province Chief concurrently also Sub-zone Chief was ColonelTran Dinh Vy.
Colonel Nguyen Van Chuc, a professional senior officer of the Corps of Engineers became Chief of Province combining the position of Sub-zone Chief in mid 1971, with the sub-zone Depity Chief as Colonel Ha Mai Viet (Armoured Army), and Chief of Staff as Lieutenant-ColonelNguyen Van Cu from Army’s Ordnance. This was the period when the officers who didn’t belong to fighting units had to deal with the heaviest military pressure on the battlefield of Binh Dinh.
During this violent situation, the key positions were filled in by officers who had served in Sub-zone Binh Dinh as long as at least 10 years, growing up through battle experience, very knowledgeable of lethal sites and of personnel but they were considered as at a too low-level (Major), not worth for command and leadership. So Colonel Chuc submitted the demand to the Joint General Staff for 50 Lieutenant-Colonels to replace the incumbent officers. JGS approved and transferred 30 officers of the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel of all branches to Binh Dinh Sub-zone. JGS supplied 16 of them, and 14 by the Army Corps 2 Headquarters to meet the requirements of Colonel Chuc. The vast majority of these middle and senior level officers were disappointed, feeling like been exiled with these mismatched positions. The only person who accepted the job with all his heart, with wisdom and enthusiasm was Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong. He left as Director of the Center of Operations for 2nd Army Corps to become Logistics Deputy Chief of Staff under Army Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Van Cu, the Chief who used the PRC25 like a telephone ... Fortunately, Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong came, responsible of a modest position but with talent and a great military mind, coupled with enthusiasm and a pure heart. It was this dynamic Commander who won glorious victories, rescueing Binh Dinh which seemed almost lost with the Division 3 Gold Star completely invading the three Binh Dinh northern districts of Tam Quan, Hoai Nhon, Hoai An. Major Hong Bao Hien, Hoai Nhon District Chief died in the battleground, and the defending forces of the three districts had to retreat by sea because of the overall strength of the enemy. Soldiers were confused , the city of Qui Nhon was abandoned, 70% of the population fled to the South. In the meantime, battles broke out everywhere. The 22nd Division Regiments from De Duc (Phu My), were mobilized to strengthen the front of Tan Canh. Colonel Dat, 22ndDivision Commander and a number of staff officers were captured, the situation became an extreme chaos, and Qui Nhon city was bombarded. Sub-zone Headquarters hardly had any adequate plan to deal with a situation which was getting more critical.
The Operation Center of sub-zone Binh Dinh was solidly built by the U.S. military as an underground fortress, fully furnished, capable to withstand the enemy bombardment, includingair strike, well defended but was still destroyed by infiltrated traiterous elements. Major ThaiXuan Lu, and two officers (one Korean - one American) became war casualties, Captain BuiTrong Thuy seriously injured. The Operation Center was completely destroyed.
Previously, the Center Director was concurrently assumed by the 3rd Bureau Chief, and it comprised of 1 air support officer, 3 officers L19 Air Observation for 3 shifts, each one consisting of 1 officer + 1 non-commissioned officer + 1 private. Since the Center was fortified, due to the battle demand, 3 U.S. advisers teams including 1 major + 3 captains + 3privates also assumed the shifts parallely with the Vietnamese ones. Besides, the Center was reinforced with an ALO / FAC air force team, 1 navy officer and a sophisticated communicationsystem with experienced audio specialists.
The author who wrote this worked at the Center from the time that Chief Warrant Officer LeVan Loc was Bureau 3 Chief, second-lieutenant Hua as air support officer. After a short time, when Hua was transferred, I was assigned to replace him in the L19 Air Observation team, including lieutenant Lia, second-lieutenant Phu, Chief Warrant Officer Sy, Chief Warrant Officer Tuan. In those days, sometimes Sub-zone Head was Major, with the assistant only as captain (Captain Nguyen Be) and the chiefs of Staff like Captain Thai Sanh Tham, Captain TranNgoc Dien, Captain Do Vu, Captain Trinh Tieu. With passing time, even having gaining experience, they only moved up slowly the laddle, their titles not changing.
At the end of 1971 Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Huu Thong became Center of Operations/Binh Dinh Sub-zone Director . About three months later, he was appointed Commander of 42ndRegiment, 22nd Division. (Colonel Thong committed suicide at the beach of Qui Nhon on March31st 1975 when the 42nd Regiment retreated from An Tuc to the stand and die position at AnKhe Pass. Here 42nd Regiment fighted off F10 Communist Divisions, refusing them the passing to spill down from An Khe Pass, killing 600 enemies. F10 had to make a detour around the Nam Trieu Chain to run over and invade Qui Nhon. Colonel Thong together with Colonel Thieu’s 41st Regiment pulled back to liberate the city, beating off the F10 and Communistlocal forces, then stayed to defend to death Qui Nhon until the last bullet.)
I would like to recall that when Colonel Thong left, I also submitted to be assigned to the position of Binh Dinh Political Warfare Company Commander. The next year in 1972 because of the demand of the war, I was called back to the Operation Center to assist Major Nguyen NgocXuan, Head of the 3rd Bureau also accumulating the title of Center Director. The Center role was to monitor the war situation, to recognize all the activities of the defense forces in the province, to ask for flare lighting, to ask for emergency artillery support depending to the battle situation, and to evacuate the wounded.
Only with territorial forces consisting with 18 Local Battalions, 12 Independent Companies, 620 Popular Forces Platoons, the Center had to be able to verify the 3 habitual troops and ambush points for each platoon. This meant that every night the Center received encoded reports from the units, decoded them, then updated on the map "Friendly Activities" with all occurring military operations throughout the province with statistics of friendly and enemy casualties. The Center had to record emergency aerial strikes, and planned every detail for the next day early morning briefing. This was done by the officer on duty and the officer assistant who would brief had to master every detail and to answer with certainty any event within 24 hours. Even the results of the air strikes by the USAF or VNAF must be initialled and taken full responsibility by the Center.
It was a turbulent and schizophrenic period. Three District Chief majors who had lost battles were transferred to become the 3 on-duty Teams chiefs, and captains who had plenty of experience and who mastered thouroughly their duties were pushed down as assistantofficers. Among these 3, only Major Thai Xuan Lu tried hard and fulfilled his responsibility, but the other twos, usually were absent with vague reasons supplied from the residence ofColonel Ha Mai Viet, the Sub-zone Deputy Chief, then I had to directly replace these absent on-duty Teams Chiefs!
(The reason for me to write down a lot is to explain how qualified and worth I was to writeabout war in Binh Dinh, and about the accuracy of victories by the local Popular and Territorial Forces. And the more important one was that I was later lucky and proud to be placed directlyunder the authority of Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong.)
Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong was transferred to Binh Dinh with the new responsibility as Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations while assuming also the position of Center of Operations Commander. With his dynamism plus a spirit of selfless and infinite service for the country, added to a shining talent, he had overshadowed higher-level commanders, and this made him an exile: he was ordered to establish immediately a Light Command Post on the top of the mountain Ba Hoa without any road exiting down from it, and therefore he had no more opportunity to permanently administer the Center of Operations. Yet after the destruction of it, he was suspected and investigated. . .
Fortunately, he escaped the sword of death thanks to the fact that he came down to the Center no more than once, by been so busy at Ba Hoa Mountain. Not only him, but I was alsosuspected to be an underground communist when Colonel Dat, the 22nd Division Commander and a number of his Field Command Post officers were captured.
Colonel Chuc worked to be promoted to Binh Dinh Field Commander because he wanted to be able to mobilize all the forces at will; it was why Colonel Chuc usually stayed at the 22ndDivision Headquarters at Ba Di Mountain (about 15 km flight distance from Qui Nhon on top of a large hill) as a real Division Commander should behave. One day, in the afternoon, Qui Nhonwas shelled, causing injuries to three civilians. I had to communicate directly with Colonel Chuc at the Division Headquarters. After having reported everything to him, he ordered me through the Post Hot Line:
- “Call Major Sang to pass my order to pull out 2 platoons of the Popular Forces at the Mountain Han and Vung Chua to defend the city!”
Abandoning these two high positions meant allowing the communists to bombard Qui Nhon. I gasped by hearing his order, fearing that I didn’t hear him correctly. I asked him to repeat the oral order. Once again, Colonel Chuc repeated his order then hung up. I was sweating, then phoned Lieutenant-Colonel Tri (Chi?) to check about this order. He confirmed that he was standing besides Colonel Chuc and also heard clearly this order. I asked Lieutenant-Colonel Tri a favour by recording this in detail in the in-duty diary book of the Division Center of Command and I also wrote accurately in the diary book of the Sub-zone Post of Command. At the same time, I personally invited Major Sang to come by the Center to accuse reception of this order, and also to communicate again with Colonel Chuc to be detailed about it. After that, I didn’t know if Major Sang directly asked for confirmation with Colonel Chuc or not, but immediately that night, the VC rained cannon-balls on Qui Nhon, and the placements of their guns were exactly Han Mountain and Vung Chua, from where the two platoons of Popular Forces just withdrew by order of Colonel Chuc. I reported to Colonel Colonel Chuc, he asked:
- "Then where were now the two platoons of Popular Forces at Mountain Han and Vung Chua?"
I repeated his afternoon command of the day, he yelled in the phone:
- "I did not order this to you, it was the VC who ordered it to you!"
And hung up. Less than 30 minutes later, Lieutenant-Colonel Dieu, Military Security Chief ofthe Zone came to investigate; I explained everything and gave to him the diary book of the Center. Lieutenant-Colonel Dieu had to hurry to the Division Command Center to compare,then after that, Lieutenant-Colonel Dieu informed me that Colonel Chuc had confirmed his order, but was too busy and forgot about it (!).
Up to now, 30 years have passed, I always remember and is grateful to the 22nd Division Center of Command Lieutenant-Colonel Chief. I did not have any discontentment with Colonel Chuc, and instead always respected him. Not only that, I was very impressed by his militaryengineering professional talent. The reason that I mention this to the readers is to let themsympathize with him as not been properly used, creating for Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong too many obstacles in all aspects. Fortunately, not long after that, Colonel Chuc was appointed Director of Military Engineering, and promoted to Brigadier-General, along with the majority of Lieutenant-Colonel rank officers that he asked for who were then really "liberated."
Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong was appointed as Political Warfare College Chief of Staff , but heasked to stay at the battlefield of Binh Dinh which was really boiling. Colonel Hoang Dinh Tho, the actual Quang Tin Province Chief, was transferred to become Province Chief combining the position of Sub-zone Binh Dinh Chief. Colonel Tho was an outstanding officer in many aspects;from there on, the face of the Sub-zone changed completely with men under him:
- Deputy Chief: Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong
- Chief of Staff: Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Duc Trung
- Bureau 1 Chief: Major Vo Duc Tin
- Bureau 2 Chief: Major Kieu Van Sam
- Bureau 3 Chief: Major Nguyen Ngoc Xuan
- Bureau 4 Chief: Major Du Van Ha
- Deputy Chief of Staff/Political Warfare: Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Lam
- Bureau of Information Chief: Major Quy
And the Center of Operations was given back the old stable days.
After efforts to relieve the enemy pressure on the southern districts, on May 7 of 1972 the operation to re-capture the northern part of Binh Dinh with 22nd Division as prime force has cleared the three northern districts of the enemy forces. At the same time, the 22nd Division forces belonging to Military Zone 2, together with the Rangers had fought off the communist forces from Sa Huynh embouchure. The war situation relatively calmed down. However, under the military view, this was the quiet period before the storm, when the enemy was re-organizing and preparing for another fierce battle. Predicting that, Lieutenant-General Nguyen Van Toan of Military Zone 2 Headquarters specifically summoned Colonel Hoang Dinh Tho, Province Chief and also Sub-zone Chief with Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong Sub-zone Deputy Chief to the villa Hoang Cam at Qui Nhon. Following concerns about the enemy’s intentions, he said (according to Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong later recount):
- "2nd Corps with too large an area of responsibility, is also a region with permanent enemy pressure, yet under me, there are only 2 Divisions, the 22nd and 23rd, almost 8 Infantry Regiments. Just Binh Dinh has permanently hold on 2 regiments, with the 6 left, I have to cover a too large territory. With the ever increasing enemy pressure, I need you two to help me; in any way try to use the Regional and Popular Forces to replace some of the responsibility of the two "boys" 40 & 41 (40th and 41st Regiments) to allow me to have more ability to cope with the situation ahead, that I predict, will become more and more violent. I suggest Tho to assign the military responsibility to Tuong; I put all my faith in you two! ".
After that, I never saw Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong having a minute of rest. Even when his wife and children from Saigon came to Quy Nhon to visit him, they had to wait the whole week without been able to see him. This dedicated warrior had forgotten his personal happiness and even self-igonred. He shared his troops’ austere life . He was everywhere, always around the smallest units to take care, to comfort and to settle his soldiers’concern . He monitored, checked, selected, organized, trained the Regional and Popular Forces, the men of which were picked among the units with proven fighting and heroic experience, then specially trained as shock and reconnaissance units. These soldiers, through training courses, could cope with any entrusted special duty, including the Hawk tactic with heli-transport. Sub-zone reconnaissance inter-teams with two companies, consisting of brave and experienced soldiers were placed under the command of Lieutenant Khuynh, one of the elite officers of the armed forces. These inter-teams accomplished glorious victories, and didn’t fail his trust in them.
Thus, after a short time, the Regional and National Forces’s spirit raised up, self-confident that they were worth any veteran forces. Not only had them protect safely the vital ways and effectively stopped any ennemy intention but also they were continuing to expand their controlled area. By the end of 1972, the security situation got better day after day and soldiers’ spirit went up while at the same time the enemy was cornered in.
The Clearance battle of De Gi
The De Gi Base was a tip of land, an embouchure between Phu My and Phu Cat Districts. It was an important naval base under the command of Navy Lieutenant- Commander Cat. To the north, through a wide creek water which lead from the sea to the Freshwater Marsh, was the Radio Detection Station built alone on a mountain top. Highway 1 was at the west of the base, linking to it from the Phu Ly bridge was the 21km long provincial road running parallelly to a small river which flowed into the Nuoc Ngot Marsh, sandwiched between the northern slopes of the Ba Mountain (also known as Hon Chung). De Gi Base, a strategic embouchure with the sophistically equipped Radio Detection Station, could control a vast East Sea area. From here, the connection lead to base zone 226th among mountains, adjacent to the 3 districts Phu My, Hoai An, Vinh Thanh, and open down to a large plain at the South, including the Binh Khe , Phu Cat, An Nhon, Tuy Phuoc districts .
Since the Sa Huynh embouchure was recaptured by 2nd Division , cutting off any possibility of transporting enemy food and weapons from the East Sea to the inland logistics, Division 3 Gold Star’s feet were on fire because the orders from Hanoi and 5th Military zone were by all means to win at least one gate for use in the area after the armistice to take effect. All efforts of the Division 3 Gold Star and their local forces were useless in trying to extend their control zone, and instead, the Regional and Popular Forces forced them into a passive status, always been hunted down. Chu Huy Man must ultimately accept the Full Force plan submitted by the Communist Major Vo Van Ung. Chu Huy Man appointed him as Brigade Chief to implement this plan (which Ung had pledged to finally achieve the victory). This Brigade consisted of 7 veteran Battalions belonging to the 3 Gold Star Division:
5 Infantry Battalions
1 Special Mission Battalion
1 Artillery Battalion
Total forces of the Phu Cat District Group
The strict order was that by any cost, Base De Gi had to be taken, regardless even if the truceagreement already came into effect. The fight broke out at dawn on January 27th 1973. TheRadio Detection Station occupied by the Navy Coastal 21st Group was unexpectedly overwhelmed by the ennemy Special Mission Battalion.Genh Mountain was a mountain caplooking down at the Navy base, and stationed by a former unit of the Korean Tiger Divisionwhich had quietly withdrawn without notice to transfer it to Vietnamese forces, allowing the Phu Cat District communist forces to occupy it.
At 8 am on January 27th 1973, right at the first minute that the Armistice Agreement came in effect, Base De Gi was attacked by the full force of the Communist Brigade. From Genh Mountain, from the Radio Detection Station, thousands enemy rounds of ammunition poured into the base. The naval forces defending the base, only about 1 tenth of the enemy forces, heroically fought back and repulsed several waves of assault, causing heavy loss of human lives to the enemy. Met by this fierce resistance of the defense force, they used speakers to urge the defending force to surrender. Through the communicating system, Major Cat condemned this violation of the Armistice Agreement. Their Brigade Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Vo Van Ung theorised that by the Hanoi time, the truce didn’t start yet. At the same time he beheaded a Popular Forces man and threw the headless corpse on a 3-wheeled Lambretta onto the entrance of the Naval base, with threats of "Surrender to live, to fight is to beheaded, no one will escape! "
Instead of scaring the defenders with this brutal act, it had increased the soldiers’ determination to become like steel, who squashed every suicidal attack of the enemy. The enemy's artillery from two high positions rained down, the helicopters couldn’t land; at the same time, enemy fire from the Genh Mountain and the Radio Detection Station dominated the whole area.
This offensive violation of the Armistice Agreement by the VC was reported to the International Commission for Control of the Agreement stationed at the Training Camp of Phu Cat with the request to be recorded to the minutes. Facing this violent behaviour of his Communistbrothers, the Polish Delegation Head could’t deny it, and had to sign the minutes (later this Polish Head was sacked!).
Amid all the Communist efforts to encroach and appropriate the land, then to secure the population before and after the cessation of hostilities, the residential local units and forces in Binh Dinh in particular, and around the whole country in general, had to spread out everywhere to stop the enemy's plot. The ennemy encountered fierce combativeness of the Regional and Popular Forces who not only prevented them to achieve their intention, but also severely destroyed their might in every battle. Even the main vital roads : National-Highway 1, from Pass Cu Mong to Binh De, Highway 19 from Ba Di to Pass Mang Giang, the soldiers of R&P Forces had unbelievably and absolutely secured the traffic.
Facing this situation, the ARVN General Staff has urgently airlifted the 7th Rangers Inter-Group commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Bui Van Huan from Military Region 1 as enforcement, with instructions just to be used only as an auxiliary force, not as prime combatant one. 2nd Corps held an emergency meeting at Phu Cat Airport to cope with the situation, including the Corps Commander, Lieutenant-General Nguyen Van Toan, 22nd Infantry Division Commander Major-General Phan Dinh Niem, Binh Dinh Sub-zone Chief Colonel Hoang Dinh Tho, Binh Dinh Sub-zone Deputy Chief Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong, Rangers Inter-Group Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Bui Van Huan, Deputy Army Chief of Qui Nhon City Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Van Thanh, Phu Cat District Chief Lieutenant-Colonel Khong Trong Huy. . . The meeting was to plan the military clearance operations and to select the commander for this expedition. At that moment, an express official message came from the Presidential Palace. President Nguyen Van Thieu had intructed to give absolute command power to Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong and required to avoid as much as possible damage to the people in operational areas.
(Later it was known that the Phu My and Phu Cat Districts people through their elected representatives, filed a request to President Thieu to give the responsibility for military operations to Lieutenant-Colonel with the reasons as: with the expedition Eagle 800th , thepeople loss was heavy, and later with the Korean forces defending this area, it was even worse. But particularly with Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong, when he came to Binh Dinh, even withplenty of operations and more clashes with the Communists, the people had no loss of life or property ...)
Thanks to the people of Binh Dinh’s trust, the former military operations were named Total Triumph. The name for military operations to clear De Gi by Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen ManhTuong was Peace to the People. As the military commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong asked 2nd Corps Commander Lieutenant-General to have all the operations absolutely keptconfidential. (Even after that, Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong still always kept any military initiatives absolutely secret, ordering Battlefield Headquarters to stop any radio communication until the final victory.)
This security policy had lead to another great victory: the elimination of the 405th HeroicSpecial Mission Battalion Commander Major, capturing its whole commanding staff, confisticating numerous weapons when attacking into their den at the boundary of Binh Dinhand Phu Yen, breaking their advancing punch to attack the fuel and ammunition depots of theMilitary Zone II at the Pass of Binh Son (Binh Dinh ).
Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong kept this military operation specially confidential, even the Operation Center did not know, no one knew and even the participating units who were the selected Popular Forces for this raid only were informed at the last minute. Until theLieutenant-Colonel himself went on air at 3 am to order the Operation Center and the MilitarySecurity plus the Military Police to come to the airport to have the prisoners and war booty delivered.
Even with the communist attempt to destroy the Air Force Military Base 60th, by the counteroffensive battle to relieve Phu Cat Airport in May 5th 1974, Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong had useda cavalry surprise attack to hit "Even the Thunderstorm couldn’t close its ears", annihilating the 2nd Regiment of the 3 Gold Star Division.
The request was fully approved, and forces were placed under the Lieutenant- ColonelNguyen Manh Tuong, including:
7th Rangers Inter-Group: reserve forces
2 Battalions belonging to 41th Regiment, 22nd Infantry Division
1 Battalion belonging to 42nd Regiment, 22nd Infantry Division
1 M113 Armoured Vehicles Group
1 Artillary Battalion
1 Advanced Research Company
1 Battery of 115 mm
1 Battalion of Tuyen Duc Regional Forces
The correlation comparison between us and the enemy was, we 3, ennemy 5, i.e. 3 / 5. Theexpected result was not really very bright with an offensive military operation to relieve troops by a subdued number compared to the enemy combatants, while they were waiting in a pre-selected and arranged front by them. And added to that, the order was to clean up everything in only 7 days.
While everyone agreed that this military operation couldn’t end up with good results, Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong still believed in victory. Using the tactic of surprise, of absolute confidentiality, he then requested Brigadier-General Phan Dinh Niem, 22nd Infantry Division to allow him to use the Division Advanced Research Company to rapidly conquer Genh Mountain,and a Rangers Inter-Group Battalion to retake the Radio Detection Center which were the two high spots been occupied by the Phu Cat District Communist First Group and one Special Mission Unit belonging to the 3rd Gold Star Division which already sweared to die to defend the place. Brigadier-General Niem refused with the reason that the Advanced Research Company was in the period of convalescence, therefore unable to fully accomplish the assigned duty. Feeling the Division Commander’s worry of casualties, Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong didn’t mind and said that he would use instead 1 Regional Forces Company to accomplish this honourific responsability.
No one, or at least except Corps Commander Lieutenant-General Nguyen Van Toan who already knew Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong’s military capabilities and talents as the former Director of Corps 2 Center, did trust Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong. Major-General Phan Dinh Niem doubted about the Regional Forces’ effectiveness. Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong affirmed that an army combativeness didn’t depend on its name but on its training, its spirits and also on the unit commander himself. He would only ask Lieutenant-General Corps Commander to promote right away to Captain the Lieutenant commanding the Regional Forces Company. Lieutenant-General Toan accepted this request with the condition that he to be the victor .
Immediately after leaving the meeting room, Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong went to the Regional Forces 209th Battalion under Captain Nguyen Ba Gat. He met privately with Lieutenant Phuoc, the 1st Company Commander of the Regional Forces 209th Battalion and let him know that his unit would have to conquer Genh Mountain with the speedy tactics just by using only grenadesin the battle, and he promised, if victorious, he would immediately on the field add the captain stripes on Lieutenant Phuoc’s uniform. Lieutenant Phuoc promised that he would easily take Genh Mountain in no more than 30 minutes.
(Lieutenant Phuoc said that, since childhood, he used to herd the buffalos in this area, and heknew better than anyone else all of the Genh Mountain terrain, and attacking with grenadeswas the most effective way). Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong discussed the expedition conduct withthe officer whom he understood and chosen. He only required Lieutenant Phuoc not to disclose this secret military operation with anyone, even to his closest ones.
On N1 day, before midnight, one Rangers Company was dropped down like thunder to attackon the Radio Detection Station; in less than half an hour, its had controlled the terrain, kicking out from the target the forces of 3rd Division Golden Star with the enemy leaving behind numerous personal weapons and dead bodies.
Date N at 5 am, Lieutenant Phuoc’s 209th Company came closed to the front then suddenly started to attack with hundreds of grenades; just 15 minutes later, the Phu Cat District Communist ran away, leaving on the scene deads, wounds and weapons. The 1st Company of the RF 209th Battalion victory was so complete and brief that nobody could believe it . On its side, it had only one soldier slightly injured by his own grenade fragments. At the same time, Captain Tri’s Battalion of the 42nd Regiment (becoming in 1975 Lieutenant-Colonel) from the southern foot of Ba Mountain moved over the summit of it then stormed down to attack the ennemy rear. The surprise of the assault was so that the enemy Brigade Commander threw away his personal bag filled with documents to flee. The 2 Battalions of the 41st Regiment together overwhelmed the unprepared ennemy who only could run away.
Also on day N, the M113 Armoured Vehicles Group landed on the beach a few kilometers south of the base to attack the enemy forces which were besieging it; nearly all the ennemy artillerycontracted, their soldiers even trampled on their comrades dead bodies to escape.
The pursuit operation started and just five days after the date N, the military operation was finished with a complete victory, with no loss on the friendly units. The military operation AnDan 1/ 73 accomplished its goal and calmed down the population with the involvement of the Dalat Political Warfare Student Officers Company during their civil affairs practice before the graduation of the Third Promotion of Political Warfare Officers. Just in 5 days, a complete victory, the re-establishment of a stable life for the people of the Phu My and Phu Cat areas, without any people loss of life and property, ensuring the total accomplishment of the Presidential Palace orders were really deserving Binh Dinh People's trust and love bestowed on them.
And the next day, President Thieu invited all the ambassadors to pay a visit to De Gi which was just cleared of communist forces, still plenty of evidence of a violation of the armistice by theVietnamese Communists , and the President treated them with the reputed raw fishes recipes of De Gi, the famous land of these quiet soldiers, the Binh Dinh Regional and Popular Forces...
(Around June 1973, Communist Major Vo Van Ung suddenly defected to rally to South Vietnam. By his account, , the De Gi defeat took out 3 / 4 combatants of the Communist Inter-Group, the majority dead plus numerous wounded and priosoners taken. Division 3 Gold Star was shaken, Military Region 5 amazed, Hanoi in shame. Ung was downgraded to aspirant. Whenrallying, he earnestly pleaded to meet the author of all his misery: Lieutenant-Colonel NguyenManh Tuong.
Vo Van Ung, a native from village Hoai Nhon, Binh Dinh, was a battle seasoned famous officerof the Division 3 Gold Star who raised up from the rank of a private. Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong received him with kindly smile, gentle and simple. Ung frankly admitted that he could not haveimagined that one day he would be defeated with such a shame. But he really admired theunusual and lightning military operation that he never even dare to think of. But there was only one thing that he didn’t esteem much:
- "Sir, if I was you, my two remaining battalions would not be able to escape, no one else would survive, with air bombing and artillery and completely cornered."
Lieutenant Colonel Tuong still gently smiling, streched out the military operations map andsaid:
- "Look here, I already expected what you worried, however, if I did like that, there would be so much people loss of life and property. For me, even if to be able destroy completely your 2 battalions only to have just one people uselessly dead, I decided not to! ". Ung couldn’t expect that in his life, he was to meet a military genious, and specially with a so philantrophic behiavour in this dead or alive struggle ...
Clearance battle of Phu Cat airport
After De Gi battle, Division 3 Gold Star military potential was almost destroyed to none, enemy's military activities were reduced almost to nothing. The two 4th and 6th Rangers Inter-Groups were distpatched to control the ennemy at Hoai Nhon and Tam Quan Districts and a section of Phu My district which was the 41st Regiment responsibility. The security situation was relatively stable. Highways 1 and 19 ran smoothly and were Regional and Popular Forces responsibility. The Communists sent a letter expressly denouncing Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong as the one who was encroaching upon their already controlled areas, violating the armistice. It was ridiculous because at the Phu Cat Center of Training, even the Armistice Control Commission Head was forced to recognize that the culprits were the Ciommunists themselves. In addition, the ambassadors of all countries had personally visited the base shortly after it was retaken, and were the most reliable witnesses. Therefore, this letter wasn’t taken into consideration..
During the period from January 1973 to May 1974, more and more hamlets with the securitycategory "V" were gradually raised to “A”, the secure area surrounding Qui Nhon City kept expanding, despite the ennemy effort to counter-attack which failed completely .
At the same time, although the military situation was relatively calm, it was the hardest periodfor Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong. He was present everywhere, improving the training of the units, and also reorganizing and coordinating them. One of the units that he had put all the effort to establish then train was the Sub-zone Joint Reconnaissance Team. He went to every Regional and Popular Forces platoon to try to find out and select each combatant. He tried to understand all the soldiers’ personal situation, life, thoughts and feelings, and he picked out courageous and astute individuals to give the commanding responsibility from squad leader and above. Lieutenant Khuynh was appointed Sub-Sector Joint Reconnaissance Team Commander, with the strength of two companies. All his hard work had been compensated in the battle to relieve Air Force Tactical Base 60th of Colonel Nguyen Hong Tuyen which was stationed at Phu Cat Airport.
Air Force Tactical Base 60th
Phu Cat Airport was a major military airport, built by the U.S. Air Force in the years 1966-1967. It sit at the boundaries between the three districts of An Nhon, Binh Khe and Phu Cat, stretching towards South West - North East direction, running from the Van Son Mountains, besides the Con river, then raising to Mot Mountain, closed to the Phu Ly bridge of Phu Cat District. PhuCat airport was huge, even larger than Phu Hiep airport (Phu Yen). All jet aircrafts could use it at ease. When U.S. troops left Vietnam, Air Force Colonel Nguyen Hong Tuyen assumed responsibility as Air Force Tactical Base 60th Commander. From here, all types of aerial support mission were born to effectively cover combat operations in a huge area.
On a Sunday morning in May 1974, Colonel Hoang Dinh Tho, the Provincial Chief and also Sub-sector Binh Dinh Commander was in Saigon for a meeting. Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong was Commander ad interim. It was still very early. Warrant Officer Nguyen Dinh Doc, a non-commissioned officer full of talent and experience (he lives now in Canoga Park, Southern California) of the Sub-zone 2nd Bureau submitted to Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong an ennemy decoded message with only a mere 10-word "At Chu Bai unit already in set-up regrouping position". This meant that Gold Star 3rd Division was about starting a major operation, however, its goal remained unclear.
As a commander who always mastered the friendly forces’ situation, combined with his ownseparate intelligence gathering system, he deeply knew the enemy capability, its strength andhabits, and also the Gold Star 3rd Division commanders’ personalities. He carefully and objectively followed and updated all the enemy forces movements, de-selecting along the procedure its goals and its troop moving ability.
Finally he affirmed that the goal of this “At Chu Bai" was the 60th Tactical Air Force Base.Immediately he called the base commander Colonel Nguyen Hong Tuyen, who luckily was athome (Base 60th), and informed him that there was something extremely important to discusswith and asked him to wait there for him to come because the magnitude of the problemcouldn’t be spoken by phone. Colonel Tuyen urgently sent an helicopter to immediately pick up Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong .
To maintain confidentiality, they were the only two present in this secret meeting. Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong reporeted to Colonel Tuyen that tonight the ennemy would attack his Base. So named “At Chu Bai” enemy forces should certainly be a very powerful force.
Base defense forces included Air Force military personnel and Regional Forces Battalion 263rdwith about 600 Army soldiers under Major Pham Huu Ky which was assigned at the beginning to reinforce the base protection. However, given the huge size of the base, defending forceshad to be streched too thin. The air-strip lied along the direction North-East-North and South-West-South, and forced the Base to accomodate along it.
Eastern flanks of the base were dense residential areas of the three districts of An Nhon, Tuy Phuoc and Phu Cat where the enemy couldn’t hide and move heavy weapons. So it was for sure that the communist offensive would come from the west side of the base, which was sparsely populated. Far away, in the West was Vinh Thanh Mountain, borderlessly adjacent to the enemy secret sanctuaries. The northern plains of Binh Khe District, from De Mound upwards were stunted grounds which, after year and year of torrential rains pouring down from Vinh Thanh, were transformed to eroded zones plenty of dried eel-like cracks, ideal for troop movements, secret and very closed to ennemy target from the Vinh Thanh Mountain eastwards, adjoining the Phu Cat Airport.
The western slopes were dominated by two high hills. One at North-West-North, inside the defense perimeter, Hill 69th, was occupied by a platoon of Regional Forces Battalion 263rd. The other one right at the West was Hill 151th about 1 kilometer away from the Base with a Popular Forces platoon belonging to the Sub-sector Binh Khe.
To attack a target as large and important as Air Force Tactical Base 60th, Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong estimated the ennemy forces to be from the regiment level and above, strengthened by air defense batteries, by artillery , by missiles units to counter the base planes, not allowing them to be airborn, and at the same time, used to destroy the arsenals and the critical targets thanks to the detailed maps provided by the traitors. The Base Commander Colonel ordered a total curfew, at the same time, every defense plans were quietly carried out to be ready for the enemy. Facing such a serious situation, Lieutenant-Colonel Truong didn’t have any reserve force other than the Sub-sector Reconnaissance Inter-group commanded by Lieutenant Khuynh with about 250 soldiers. To defend and not let the enemy overwhelm the Base was essential, but to counterattack to destroy the enemy was a more important issue.
Right at that moment, a convoy transporting a Rangers Battalion to the Lam Son Training Camp for fighting skill upgrading was passing through. After surmounting many difficulties in this Sunday morning, Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong was allowed by Major General Phan Trong Chinh to dispose of it to strengthen the defense of the airport, but with the promise not to use it for attack and clearance. Realizing that with the remaining forces, he couldn’t attack directly but would have to use the cavalry to carry a quiet at the beginning then thundering and speedy thrust to the enemy flank at the most unexpected time. Lieutenant- Colonel Truong asked the Military Corps permission to use the Armoured Vehicles Group stationed in An Khe to protect the roads for supply convoys from Qui Nhon to Pleiku. But Lieutenant-General Toan, Corp 2 Commander was in Saigon for meeting, Aspirant-General Cam, Deputy Commander was not present, and the on-duty officer informed that they didn’t know where he was.
In such an urgent situation, Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong had to fly the specially dispatchedhelicopter by Colonel Tuyen to An Khe, met Lieutenant My, the Armoured Group Commander, pretended that the Corps had put his Group under his command, then also ordered the temporary suspension of supplies convoys to the Highlands until new order. The Armoured Group was ordered to speed down An Khe pass to Binh Khe to wait for order.
He explained the attack plan. The Armoured Group and the Reconnaissance Inter-group’ responsibilities were to push on the southern flank of the enemy, with the northern Con Riverbank as starting point. His plan was that Reconnaissance Inter-group accompanied the armoured carriers to thrust northwards with the maximum fire power, with maximum speed, without stopping to collect the war booty, the goal was to split apart the enemy front. In themeantime, he would use the Rangers Battalion to fake a direct front strike force, with all the firing power of the artillery to engage the enemy.
Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong landed on the north bank of the Con River about 50 m far away fromQuang Trung Temple, then lead Lieutenants My and Khuynh into it to accomplish the Incense Burning ceremony, praying the protection and benediction of the valiant hero who had swiftly anihilated the 20 thousand Qing troups in the Spring of 1789. Then together they flew the helicopter to reconnoiter the terrain because the area encompassing Binh Khe North, PhuCat West, An Nhon offered many disadvantages for a lightning attack by tanks and required the commanders to rigorously master the topography.
Using just one Armoured Group plus one Reconnaissance Inter-group as the attacking spearhead to be the main force to assault enemy troops with the strength and firepower 10 times more than his wasn’t something anybody dared to try, not even to only think about. But inpast and present war history, from East to West, there were famous generals who accomplished victory in many situations thanks to the elements of surprise and speed.
That Sunday night, the Tactical Air Force Base was ready for the enemy. And indeed, the Communist army started with thousands of all types of ammunition rounds. The Gold Reconnaissance Battalion moved in impetuously to attack the high post 151th defended by a Popular Forces Platoon belonging to Binh Khe Sub-sector. Hill 151th was lost and occupied by the enemy who used it to dominate the airport. Only Hill 69th located inside the North-West-North perimeter defense, defended by a Battalion 263rd Platoon which sweared to fight to death, had repulsed several attacks of the enemy. The Gold Star 2nd Regiment, nicknamed as the "ace playing card" expected with the element of surprise and firepower advantage to easily breach the defensive line and overwhelm the base. But it didn’t know that we were waiting for it, then fiercely pushing back all tentatives.
Meanwhile, at the front line, the Rangers Battalion, equipped with heavy weapons, started to open thundering fire, and with disguised vehicles as tanks, draw all the fire power of the enemy who believed that our tanks started to attack ... Right while the communists were attacking the base, the Sub-zone Reconnaissance Inter-Group silently moved forwards to hit the ennemy’s left flank. In the dense darkness, hypnotized by the faked outwards attack of the tanks (disguised by the Rangers), the whole Gold Star Regiment and their reinforce units condensed all their fire power on it. They didn’t expect that Death was closing on their left side. Only when the full firepower of the armored forces and the Reconnaissance Inter-Group deafly hit them like a thunderstorm that terror submerged the enemy line, and still not yet able to turn to fight, layers and layers of enemy forces were cut down ...
In the dark night, when they started to realize of the sudden attack on their left flank, torrents of fire already poured down on them, multitude fell dead, others wounded, while many threw away their weapons to flee to be finally gunned down. The entire Gold Star "Hero" Regiment 2nd instantly was broken in pieces and its men just tried to run to escape... The Gold Star Division 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion from the 151th hill didn’t know anything, until a company from the Sub-sector Reconnaissance Inter-Group lead by Lieutenant Khuynh hit them from behind with just grenades. The Gold Star Reconnaissance Battalion Commander was cut down from the first minute, the whole unit been only able to run in all direction for their life without even keeping their weapons, terrified by the very unexpected thrust carrying death from their rear ... Ennemy deads sprawled around on the hill, among them some of the Popular Forces who were sacrified at the start of the battle. It was a terrible retreat, leaving behind numerous diversified weapons for our troops. Conversely, as a sacred miracle, our attacking forces ended up almost unscathed.
Lieutenant Khuynh took off the personal bag from the Gold Star Division 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion Chief dead body. All the enemy's intentions were recorded in the captured documents showing that this battle was just the beginning for a much bigger one on the whole territory of Binh Dinh Province. Their plans were spoiled and broken from the beginning. While the surviving Regiment 2nd remnant of the Gold Star Division 3rd was fleeing away, Sub-sector Phu Cat organised an urgent heli-mission with 2 Popular Forces Platoons to jump down on the battlefield as planned to clean it up. They confisticated a brand new type of “missile thrower” with disseminated huge rockets (this was the newest weapon of the Communist China firing with an up-to-date and sophisticated aiming mechanism. The United States had asked to borrow it to study, because it was the most advanced missiles firing weapon by Communist China been taken in battlefield in the South Vietnam, many times more accurate than rocket launchers previously found). Also were seized:
- one 120 mortar
- four 82 cannons
- one 122 cannon
The number of individual and heavy weapons, plus human casualties left on the battlefield was uncounted, almost the whole enemy forces were destroyed. The negligible loss offriendly forces was a real miracle. The only exception was the sacrifice of the Popular Forces Platoon stationed on Hill 151st at the beginning of the battle.
After the victory, Brigadier-General Cam, Deputy Commander of 2nd Corps, proposed to General Toan to punish Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong with 30 strictly forbidden days by having disposed of the Armoured Group without the authorization of this ‘wandering around general” general (!!!), while the Aerial Tactical Base 60th two Air Force lieutenant-colonels were promoted to Colonels right on the front, and only a restricted number of officers, non-commissioned officers and privates were promoted ... This injustice deeply surprised and outraged Colonel Nguyen Hong Tuyen as well as everybody involved in the operation. Even Air Force Commander Lieutenant-General Nguyen Van Minh also was angry. He had paid a visit to the Base to hold a victor celebrating banquet and congratulated by speaking about Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong as a “saviour” of his Service Arm. He also ordered all his men to never forget all the amazing effort of the man who had saved them and brought victory to them, without missing to always giving priority to Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong public and private demands . From now on, Colonel Tuyen always tried his most to satisfy all Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong’s request for air support. It was the reason why the 22nd Infantry Division put up the protest against this with the General Staff which sent a Colonel to investigate. Colonel Tuyen explicitly replied:
- "It was so easy to understand, Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Manh Tuong has helped us with all his might when we were in danger, given us emergency aid and quickly liberated our shotdown crews. Meanwhile, the Division did not do anything for such requirements. Therefore, naturally we have to support with all our capability Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong.
To treat like that the commander who ‘fathered’ the Phu Cat Battle victory had vexed Lieutenant-General Minh who couldn’t stay silent. So in a meeting of generals in Saigon, with the presence of General Tran Thien Khiem, the current Prime Minister, Lieutenant-General Minh had raised this question. Khiem asked General Cao Van Vien about it to have Vien explained that the “quotas were completely filled!”. General Khiem ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Tuong’s file to study and immediately signed a decree promoting him to Full Colonel.It was around August 1974.
After being promoted to Colonel, a belated reward, Colonel Tuong was transferred as Operations Deputy Chief for General Le Nguyen Vy, 5th Infantry Division Commander. Since that day, I didn’t see him again until late 1977 when I met him at Hoang Lien Son Prison during a labour work of carrying some kinds of bamboos. I stood respectfully in military protocol to greet him, choked with tears . He remained relaxed as in the old days, still with the same eyes and same smile of the old time. It seemed that the maltreatment in prison didn’t affect him. This old soldier who had won so much respect from me before, now made me feel so much more respectful with his impassive way of calmly enduring degrading humiliation of a jail life.
Seven years later, in 1984, I had the chance to see him again at the Z30A Prison Camp, Xuan Loc, where he lived quietly an exile life as a true religious devout man. He taught me about Zen, about inner energy strength, about how to master the "deep-long-soft-slow" energy. Zen meditation really helped him through everything, including disease which couldn’t invade the old warrior’s body. He very rarely had any family visit, leading an extremely frugal life, but yet he still shared his humble tiny gifts, for the unfortunate co-prisoners, regardless of relationship, just keeping for himself the salty soy sauce jars. In prison, I heard many people recalling his time as 5th Division Operations Deputy Commander, recounting the marvellous final withdrawal of his military career, with all his noble qualities, not only by 5th Division officers but also by many people who lived close to him during his prison life .
It was until 1992 that I met him again in Saigon. He lived alone in an alley on Cong Ly street.Day after day, he visited those who needed treatment from him. He did not accept anyremuneration from patients cured by him. In free time, he ascended the Vinh Nghiem Buddhist Pagoda bell tower to read the Books of Prayers.
In 1993, I was imprisoned again by the Vietnamese Communists with the crime "conspiracy to overthrow the government". But fortunately the World intervened and I was released in late 1998.
In early 1999, I came to the USA thanks to a belated examination and acceptance under the H.O. Program. And it was so much joy to be able to see him again. Accepting the request of the military writers group which were publishing the fascicule "Military History Nameless Battles", I have asked his permission to write a modest essay concerning the period of time he has attended and led the battles in the hard and dangerous battlefield of Binh Dinh, with all the glorious victories accomplished by the silent soldiers of the Regional and Popular Forces whom by his talent and virtue were lead to miraculous victories while self controlling to assure at the most people’s life and property . Many times he ignored my most sincere and ardent requests. While I just wanted to record the accomplishment of a talented military commander into the Military History, the man had clean up everything from his mind for his Zen world. And also because, with the tragic death of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam in the dark April 1975, all victories have become so painful, and remind them hurt so much that every one of us just had to silently repent his or her deeds which had contributed to this defeat.
With him, there are 3 scourges in the world which are:
1/ Small deed but big emolument
2 / No talent but high status
3 / Tiny mind but grandiose scheme
I absolutely felt myself for his pain, but I told him "The Republic of Vietnam was forced to be killed by many reasons. However, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam did fight very bravely, so many people have died, sacrifying their blood for a Free Vietnam, and by this time these anonymous warriors, these million people are living in the darkness , in a shameful ill-treated existence, in pitiful suffering ... So, raise our voice, PLEASE GIVE BACK THE HONOUR TO THESE SILENT SOLDIERS, give back to the future history the existence of a Republic of Vietnam and of an Army of the Republic of Vietnam which had dear sons and daughters worthy while unyielding, heroic while sacrifying, glorious while dying unjustly. Mention that, in honor of these soldiers who fought, then lain down like a cool spring, is like offering the fragrant incense for our suffering Vietnam Motherland. And finally, thanks to my arguments, he finally agreed to let me write the lines which are bringing back the glory for the South Vietnam soldiers.
Translated from Tran Thuc Vu
Letter to my
children and grandchildren
What now, Mama?
Wicked maneuvers of political games by Ho Chi Minh and the CPV
The Battle of Kontum
The Soul of Vietnam - Audio
Ever since you came
Night of the Flowered Lanterns
The Passionate Heart of a Father
I have already gone..
Soldier Excellence Award
Tomorrow I will go...
Trip to Vietnam Revives Hatred of Communism
Colonel NGUYỄN MẠNH TƯỜNG
The true about the Vietnam war
Letter to Descendants
Conical leaf hat
Touched by an Angel
Portland photographer behind viral Ferguson rally 'hug photo' knew 'this kid was special'
Cherries – A Vietnam War novel
The Blood-Red Hands of Ho Chi Minh
Carl Vinson Officer Receives Writing Award
Remembering the fallen
History of South Vietnam Marine Corps
Captain James Van Thach