|Heroes' welcome: Residents greet the triumphant Vietnamese troops returning to A battalion's Liberation Day specialHa Noi. — File Photo
Told by Lt Gen Pham Hong Cu,
transcribed by Hai Hoa
It was a great honour for Binh Ca Battalion to be the first army unit to arrive in Ha Noi and take over the city from the French troops. It was a rare incident in the nation's history that the battalion was also the first army unit that had received the order to withdraw from the city at the onset of the national resistance war against the French.
During the Binh Ca battle, I was the battalion's first political commissar. But when the battalion returned to Ha Noi to take over the city, Cu Huy Hau occupied the position. Hau and his army crossed the Duong River to enter Ha Noi on October 8, 1954.
Before entering the city, the soldiers were ordered to take over French troops' positions inside the city; to protect and support the local residents and guard against the enemy's plunder and destruction while ensuring safe passage for resistance forces to formally take over the city on October 10.
Another task of the battalion was to ensure that normal life would continue in the city, including stable supply of electricity and running water.
On the morning of October 8, the Binh Ca Battalion crossed the Duong Bridge. A convoy of GMC troop carriers and three armored vehicles with French troops came and took us to the Armistice Committee with its headquarters at the Don Thuy Hospital (now Military Hospital 108) for a meeting.
At the meeting we tried to create a very amicable atmosphere and chanted the slogan "Long live peace". Our initial gesture was able to defuse the tense situation right at the beginning of the meeting.
On the afternoon of October 8 and 9, the situation in the city was rather quiet with some small sporadic fighting.
Besides carrying out their mission to protect people's lives and property, soldiers of the Binh Ca Battalion also engaged with the departing troops. To show their goodwill and desire for peace, the soldiers put flowers in their rifles' muzzles. Soldiers who knew some French chanted, "Peace! Repatriation!"
Vietnamese and French troops joined in protecting 35 important locations.
During the two intensive days of "seeing off" the French and welcoming Vietnamese troops back to Ha Noi, soldiers of the Binh Ca battalion did their tasks well, despite a few soldiers positioned in some areas not having enough food to eat.
On October 9, the French troops started to leave Ha Noi. Viet Nam's Battalion 79 and the Thu do (Capital) Regiment, together with more than 20 Soviet-made Molotova troop carriers from Dich Vong in Tu Liem District arrived at Cau Giay on time.
On the way from Dich Vong to Cau Giay, we saw several red and yellow star flags hoisted. But when we entered Cau Giay, there was a forest of red flags. From there, a convoy of vehicles carried soldiers from Battalion 79 to their designated positions in Buoi, Thuy Khe, the French General Governor's Palace (nowadays it is the Presidential Palace), Ha Noi Citadel, Ha Noi Water Plant, and the Yen Phu Power Plant and other sites.
When we arrived in these places, we saw a few French troops and soldiers from the Binh Ca Battalion stood on guard together.
Wherever the liberation troops arrived, there was a forest of red and yellow star flags. They were given a hero's welcome.
The same afternoon, at 16 hours, all remaining French troops gathered at Long Bien Bridge and crossed the Red River, leaving Ha Noi forever.
A very special moment I still remember now, French Colonel D'Argence sitting in a military jeep, made a sudden stop in the middle of the Long Bien Bridge.
Ta Duy Duc, an officer from the Thu Do Regiment approached him.
The French colonel told him "Today you take over up to here. And from here to Gia Lam (the other side of the bridge) it is still our land." It was 16.30 hrs and Duc said farewell to the officer in French.
In the morning of October 10, the atmosphere in Ha Noi was electric. All houses were wide open to welcome the city's Liberation Day. Streets everywhere were festooned with flags, banners and flowers welcoming the return of the resistance forces.
At 8am, soldiers from Division 308 clad in military uniforms with the badge "Dien Bien Phu Fighter" pinned on their chests entered the city to thunderous cheers from the people.
In the afternoon of the same day, a historic flag hoisting ceremony took place at the Ha Noi Citadel. A big national flag fluttered atop the city's flag tower against the deep blue sky.
At 15.00 hrs sharp, a siren rang out from city's Grand Theatre. Everyone in the city turned their heads towards the Tower Flag at the Hoang Dieu Citadel.
The Masters of Ceremony were Major General Vuong Thua Vu and Dr Tran Duy Hung. General Vu, then the Chairman of Ha Noi Military Administration, read a message from President Ho Chi Minh to the people of Ha Noi.
It said: "Over the past eight years, the government has left the capital to carry out the war of resistance and save the country. Although we were far away from each other, the government was always beside the people. Thanks to our people's solidarity and unity and the bravery of our soldiers, we have won the war. The government has returned to the capital and its people. We're in the same house with great joy and happiness." — VNS