Standing guard as independence proclaimed

September 02, 2020 - 08:49

Seventy-five years have since passed, but the glory of that day never fades

Ly Ly Cao & Minh Phuong

September 2 is no ordinary day on the Vietnamese calendar, and this year especially so.

Rewind 75 years to September 2, 1945, which is forever etched into the memory of every single Vietnamese.

This is our Independence Day.

Many around the country will have stories to tell. The older generation witnessed first-hand the remarkable events of that special day.

Those younger will speak of their ancestors, who proudly played a part in shaping Việt Nam’s future.

Phạm Gia Đốc, on the other hand, was right in the thick of it. He remembers clearly the events of that day because of the important role he played.

ON DUTY: Phạm Gia Đốc was assigned to protect the podium where President Hồ Chi Minh declared independence. VNS Photo Ly Ly Cao.

As a member of the first police department, he was in charge of protecting the podium where President Hồ Chí Minh read the Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Việt Nam in Hà Nội's Ba Đình Square on September 2, 1945 .

At that time, though, he didn’t know exactly who he was protecting.

“After we had seized power from the French colonialists and the Japanese Imperial Army, I was mobilised to the Department of Northern Police,” Đốc said.

“Two days before the event, the director ordered me to protect the podium. I was worried. I had no idea what the podium looked like, what I had to do, or who was to address the crowd.

“Everything was confidential at the time, so we didn’t know anything. We just knew there would be a podium, but didn’t know that the President was to proclaim independence.”

As a policeman, however, Đốc followed orders.

“At the podium that day, I just stood straight, kept my eyes ahead, and didn’t move,” the 97-year-old veteran said.

“From looking ahead, we could see who was coming in and who was going out, because there was only one way to the podium.”

Returning to the past once more, he remembered the atmosphere of that day, when people heard President Hồ read the Declaration of Independence.

“The huge square was full of people,” Đốc said. “Everyone stood silently listening, and after President Hồ Chí Minh finished his speech there was happiness all around.”

“People cheered and chanted slogans supporting the new Government and the independence of Việt Nam. Their voices echoed everywhere and everyone was excited and happy.”

Few people at the time knew exactly who Hồ Chí Minh was. All most knew was that Nguyễn Ái Quốc was the leader of the revolution.

But in fact Hồ Chí Minh was Nguyễn Ái Quốc.

DAY OF DAYS: Independence was declared on Sunday September 2, 1945. VNA/VNS Photo.

“When they introduced President Hồ Chí Minh, I felt strange,” Đốc remembered. “Why was Hồ Chí Minh speaking, when it was supposed to be Nguyễn Ái Quốc?”

“During the revolution we knew of Nguyễn Ái Quốc, who was to become President, but then Hồ Chí Minh appeared. I wondered where this man Hồ Chí Minh had come from. But I only thought it, and said nothing. We all stood next to each other, but no one said a word.”

“So when we were back at the Department of Northern Police, we asked who Hồ Chí Minh was, and when we found out it was Nguyễn Ái Quốc we finally felt at ease.”

Seventy-five years have since passed, but the glory of that day never fades and will stay in the heart of this old veteran and every Vietnamese citizen today, tomorrow, and the future. - VNS