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American War veterans recall final hours of the fall of Sai Gon

Update: April, 15/2015 - 08:58
HA NOI (VNS) — A special event revisiting and examining the role of "the Headquarters" of the 1975 Spring General Offensive and Uprisings took place yesterday in Ha Noi to mark the 40th anniversary of the Liberation of South Viet Nam and National Unification Day.

The Headquarters, located in Thang Long Citadel, was the place where all important policies and decisions were made in the lead up to the final liberation of South Viet Nam.

Speakers at the event acknowledged the great contributions of Le Duan, the first General Secretary of the then Party Central Committee; General Vo Nguyen Giap, the Commander in Chief of the Viet Nam People's Army; and General Van Tien Dung, Chief of Staff of the Viet Nam People's Army.

They also discussed at length the process of designing, constructing and operating the office of the Headquarters. It served as a centralising command center where the Politburo, the Military Commission of the Party Central Committee and the General Staff of the Viet Nam People's Armed Forces all worked for more than 7,000 days and nights and conducted over 1,000 meetings.

Other topics at the event included the renovation, conservation and enhancement of the great value of historical relics inside the Thang Long Citadel, including the house and underground hideout D67.

Participants uniformly saw the need to preserve the area because it would continue to serve as an important historic site for future generations.

In his address, Tran Viet Anh, Deputy Director of the Thang Long-Ha Noi Relic Conservation Centre said, "this workshop is an occasion to reiterate and further shed light on the leadership and the decisions made by the General Headquarters in the Thang Long Citadel during the General Offensive and Uprisings in 1975 Spring."

The event was an occasion for us to come up with a plan of action to protect and keep the relics for many years to come, said Anh.

Historic moment

Though four decades have passed, war veteran Vu Dang Toan recalled exactly the moment he and his comrades of Tank Brigade No. 203 entered Independence Palace on April 30.

"We were very excited about participating in the Ho Chi Minh Operation. On that morning, my Company No 4 was asked to march toward Sai Gon. At Sai Gon Bridge, I saw two other tank companies ahead of me. Several people died there," the Hai Duong native recalled.

In order to reach the city's centre, he and other soldiers had to damage an enemy warship on the Sai Gon River and their fighter jets which were trying to stop the liberation army from entering the city.

Finally, the enemy's warships and jets failed to prevent the liberation army from moving forward at the bridge, he said, speaking before an audience of 300 people representing 8.8 million war veterans and others who made contributions to liberation and reunification at a meeting held in HCM City yesterday.

The meeting was organised by the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs, Ministry of National Defence, Ministry of Public Security, HCM City People's Committee and Nhan Dan (The People) newspaper to praise people who had made contributions to the country's independence.

"Right after reaching the palace's main gate, I asked Nguyen Van Tap to hit the gate to enter the palace. After the tank coded 390 stopped, I grabbed a flag and jumped off the tank. At that time, Bui Quang Than was running toward me holding a flag, and I grabbed an AK gun," Toan said.

While Toan and Than were running to the palace's flagpole, they met Brigadier General Nguyen Huu Hanh, who was an assistant for then-president Duong Van Minh of the Sai Gon regime.

He did not know where the lift was, explaining they had taken over the administration only two days before.

While Nguyen Huu Thai and Bui Quang Than erected the flag on the palace's roof, Toan asked a member of the Sai Gon administration to enter a room, he said, adding that Captain Pham Xuan The, deputy head of Regiment 66, and lieutenant colonel Bui Van Tung, Political Commissar of Tank Brigade 203, had also arrived.

Minh told Tung that he had been waiting for the liberation army to arrive so that he could hand over the administration to them.

"But Tung said ‘you are defeated, so you have nothing to hand over. You must surrender without any condition'," Toan recalled.

President Minh and Prime Minister Vu Van Mau, he said, were then accompanied to the radio station to make an announcement to the public about the surrender.

Nguyen Van Tau, alias Tu Cang, also recalled his memory of a battle at Rach Chiec Bridge. The task of fighting to occupy the bridge was assigned to him on the night of April 27.

"After 20 minutes of opening guns at the bridge on the night of April 28, we occupied the area. The enemy later fought back. Several people died. We withdrew. We started to fight to control the bridge one more time for a few days and maintained an active position until April 30, when Tank Brigade 203 arrived," Tau recalled.

Of the 8.8 million veterans and others who made contributions to the effort, there are more than 1.1 million war martyrs, 800,000 war invalids, and 80,000 Vietnamese Heroic Mothers, according to statistics from the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs.

The meeting in HCM City was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam and Minister of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs Pham Thi Hai Chuyen. They awarded merit certificates to 300 people for their contributions to liberation and independence. — VNS

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