Thousands gathered at the old Quảng Trị Citadel yesterday morning for a requiem for soldiers who died during a 81-day battle here during the summer of 1972.— VNA/VNS Photo Văn Điệp
QUẢNG TRỊ — Thousands gathered at the old Quảng Trị Citadel yesterday morning for a requiem for soldiers who died during a 81-day battle here during the summer of 1972. This year’s event also marks the 70th War Invalids and Martyrs Day and the battle of Quảng Trị Citaldel’s 45th anniversary.
Fierce fighting for control of the citadel, the central province’s symbol of power, started from June 28 and ended on September 26, resulting in heavy casualties on both sides.
The fight contributed to Việt Nam’s triumph at the Paris Conference and was a prerequisite for the General Offensive and Uprising in the spring of 1975, which completely liberated the south and reunified the country.
The old citadel, just under 3,000sq.m, and a small area around it were bombarded by the combined fire power of American B52 strategic bombers, the 7th Fleet and thousands of artillery pieces.
An estimated 328,000 tonnes of bombs were dropped on the old citadel and a small town of some 10,000 houses around it. By the time the fighting ended, the town was almost leveled. No houses remained intact.
The requiem, held on a yearly basis in July, allows war veterans, families of fallen soldiers and countrymen to gather and pray for the souls of the dead from both sides.
It is also meant to be a reminder to the country’s young generation of their forefathers’ determination and sacrifice during their struggle for freedom and independence, according to organisers of the event.
At the ceremony, people also pray for lasting peace and the souls of their loved ones, who lost their lives during the battle. Historians believe that the number of casualties from both sides may total twenty thousand with thousands of others injured. Many were maimed for life.
Defence Minister Ngô Xuân Lịch, other officers and thousands of war veterans and soldiers from across the country laid wreaths and offered incense at the war martyrs altar, built at the centre of the ruins of the old citadel as a shared grave for fallen soldiers who were never found. The defence minister also visited the Trường Sơn National Martyrs’ Cemetery and Road No 9 National Martyrs’ Cemetery.
Earlier on Thursday night, 30,000 paper lanterns were floated down the Thạch Hãn River, which runs along the northern wall of the old citadel. Buddhist monks and thousands gathered by the river in a prayer, while an incense burning ceremony was held in Trường Sơn Cemetery, the final resting place for thousands of Vietnamese soldiers who died during the American War in Việt Nam. — VNS