|The photo series depicts the route taken to plant the National Front for the Liberation of South Việt Nam flag atop the Notre Dame Cathedral Paris on January 18-19, 1969. — VNA/VNS Photo|
PARIS — Vietnamese Ambassador to France Đinh Toàn Thắng has met with the three Swiss nationals who planted the flag of the National Front for the Liberation of South Việt Nam on top of the Notre Dame Cathedral during peace negotiations held in Paris on January 18-19, 1969.
At the gathering in Paris on March 25, Bernard Bachelard, Olivier Parriaux, and Noé Graff from Lausanne, Switzerland, recalled their 30-hour journey to plant the flag on January 18-19.
The event took place over 50 years ago, but it was not until 2019, when the cathedral’s spire collapsed in a fire, that the full story was revealed.
The trio timed their action to coincide with peace negotiations in Paris on January 18, 1969.
At that time, Bernard Bachelard (a 26-year-old physical education teacher), Noé Graff (a 24-year-old law student), and Olivier Parriaux (a 25-year-old physics student) were strongly engaged in the movements protesting the wars waged by the US and France in Việt Nam.
Parriaux noted that as soon as then US President Lyndon Johnson ordered a halt to bombing in North Việt Nam and expressed readiness to negotiate, the three Swiss realised the talks in Paris would be a special event leading to the international recognition of the Front which had been set up nine years before that.
To draw maximum attention to their protest, they selected Notre Dame Cathedral due to its height and its significance.
Parriaux made the plan, Graff was in charge of driving and guarding, and Bachelard, with support from Parriaux, climbed to the spire to fly the flag.
|Vietnamese Ambassador to France Đinh Toàn Thắng (right) speaking with Olivier Parriaux, Noé Graff, and Bernard Bachelard (from left). — VNA/VNS Photo Thu Hà|
This action required thorough preparations as they were not Parisians. Parriaux recounted that they didn’t know how to reach the spire.
The trio reached Paris around noon on Saturday, January 18, 1969.
Bachelard and Parriaux hid in the cathedral’s bell tower and waited until the evening when they moved to the spire, while Graff stood guard.
They also cut some iron bars to prevent firefighters from following them, ensuring the flag would stay on the spire long enough so that people could see it the next day, on Sunday, January 19.
Their action took 30 hours, and before returning home, they dropped by the headquarters of the Le Monde daily to inform them of what they had done, Parriaux added.
It was not until 3pm on January 19 that the flag was removed by a firefighting team, who had to use a helicopter to access the spire.
The flag planting drew a lot of attention from the international media, Parriaux said, adding they were satisfied with the influence of this event.
Nobody knew who was behind the flag-planting, and the three kept the truth to themselves for 50 years.
Only when they decided to write a book in the days following the cathedral spire's collapse after the fire in 2019 were their identities revealed.
Further convincing them to come forward was Quân đội Nhân dân (People’s Army) newspaper's article on the act that heralded it as an important event in the cathedral’s centuries-long history, he added.
Titled “Le Viet Cong au sommet de Notre-Dame” (The Vietnamese Communist atop Notre Dame), the book was launched by the Lausanne-based FAVRE publishing company in January 2023 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Việt Nam (January 27, 1973).
Expressing his gratitude towards the Swiss nationals, Ambassador Thắng described their flag planting as a demonstration of peace-loving people’s support for Việt Nam, noting amid the resistance war against the US, the international community’s support played a significant role in helping the Vietnamese people secure the 1973 Paris Peace Accords and move towards the national reunification in 1975. — VNS