LỜI NÓI ĐẦU:
Theo lời yêu cầu của một số đồng nghiệp người Mỹ và cũng là những cựu quân nhân Hoa Kỳ từng tham chiến tại Vietnam, tôi đã viết và phổ biến hai bài hồi ký dưới đây bằng tiếng Anh trong dịp lễ Cựu Quân Nhân Hoa Kỳ vào năm 2005.
The Paris Agreement was signed by communist and our side in order that all foreign troops supporting South Vietnam (SVN - Republic of Vietnam) would withdraw, then talk for peace would be continued between two sides of North (NVN - Communist Vietnam) and South.
Indeed, after the complete pullout of our allied forces and the cut of our military aid, the North VN getting more supplies, weapons, and all help from other communist countries started sending more troops from North and opening the whole aggressive attack to every place in the South and created unstable security over the remote areas of our territory. To deal with this situation, the police force was trained, reorganized and equipped with more capability of military fighting. I was among the military officers transferred to Police force to be chief of police and security deputy of Hung My Village, Dam Doi County, An Xuyen Province.
FORT OF HUNG MY VILLAGE
Hung My Village at this time was under heavy pressure of our enemy. It was a swampy, bushy, woody land and entangled by crossing rivers, canals and creeks. It was good for communist to wage the guerilla war. My police post, village council office, and military post were situated around a listening tower at the center of a triangle fort, and there was a watchtower at each corner. Policemen, self-defense militiamen, village military guardsmen, armed administrative officials and other public servants combined our strength in the fort. We all sheltered inside the bunkers that were built along the defense perimeter and fortified by spiked ditches, barbed and concertina wire fences, ramparts and mine fields. The bunkers with loop holes and connected by trenches would become our fox holes and defense lines when attacked by enemy forces, or when we were rained with enemy mortars, cannon balls, and missiles. Our duty was to protect the village from enemy occupation, to collect and provide intelligent information about communist movement, to restore order and security, and to enforce the law in this village.
Our village was under Dam Doi County in both military command and administration, but enemy closed all roads led to it. Our activities of supply, transportation, evacuation and hospitalization had to be supported by Air force helicopters and Navy boats. Otherwise, we had to walk through the trails endangered with ambush, explosive, and booby trap. Because of this isolation, we got priority of fire from air, sea, and artillery support.
One day when I was attending a supplemental intelligent course at National Police Institute, the enemy held a decisive attack to our fort of Hung My Village. After the rainfall of their artillery strike, enemy outnumbered and finally broke through our desperate resistance. All of my fellow fighters were killed or captured except two could escape and survive.
THE LAST DEFENSE OF CITY KHANH HUNG, BA XUYEN PROVINCE
Soon after I was transferred to serve at police command post in Khanh Hung City of Ba Xuyen Province, the communist started launching general invasion, and could control the northern region and half of the middle central part of South Vietnam. Beside the regular work in the office, we were divided and formed into combat units.
Then, everywhere the emergency state was declared, and situation of restriction or confinement at post was changed to stand by. The bad news kept coming and was that communist forces with thousand tanks could advance closer and closer to the south and nearer to our capital of Saigon. The hours of curfew in the day was extended.
For us, we were dispatched to check points or sent to seize the key terrain or set up blockhouses and sentry boxes around Khanh Hung City. More pillboxes were also erected hastily at critical points, and residents were advised to build safety shelters. A week before April 30th 1975, I was additionally appointed as a commanding officer of a combined unit. An armored truck equipped with M30 machine gun was also handed over my new unit to patrol the city. Few days later, enemy struck a combat outpost of city, but was repelled. My unit was among reinforcement troops to clear the enemy in this battle.
In the morning of April 29th 1975, all officers were called for a military brief at operation center. The communist forces were intending to defeat the last defense line of Saigon Capital. They also prepared to commit a general aggressive over all cites of the South Vietnam.
From classified information, the communist would begin attack to our Khanh Hung City at 1:00 AM of April 30th 1975, and departed from Dai Giac Temple. Khanh Hung City was immediately inflicted by 24-hour curfew, and all civilian activities were suddenly shut down. People were hurriedly running home to leave only the soldiers and roadblocks on the streets. When ordered to reinforce a checkpoint nearest to this temple, I brought half of unit to this place, and continued patrolling the city with the rest.
Sitting in front seat of armored truck and next to its driver, I looked at the watch and it was showing about 10 minutes to 1:00 AM, immediately I ordered the truck rolled fast to the direction of Dai Giac Temple. When we came at a short distance from checkpoint, the gunshots started breaking the quietness of the night and this area was gradually sinking in the gun smoke. In a moment, I responded by firing the first shot of the gun in hand, the machine gun mounted on the truck started grumbling its mouth and sketched numerous trajectories at enemy. The enemy column was dispersed and retreated to public market (the place where people came to sell or buy goods. It was often open from early morning to afternoon). Then, the firing was echoing everywhere around the city. We were ordered to hold out our positions by all means until getting air support and reinforcement.
The parachute flares lightened, and we stood fast through the night with support from field artillery and combat artillery, but had to abandon a small section of city on the other side of the river. The enemy also gained control the civilian hospital in this section. Air support was called; two mobile battalions of provincial military and a tank company of the 21st Army Division were on the way to city for reinforcement. At dawn of April 30th 1975, the armed helicopters and a reconnaissance airplane appeared in the sky above us. They started strafing the enemy lines while we were ordered to report casualties and losses, supply and ammunition requisition. Finally, we were allowed to have 15-minute meal and wait for the next move.
At about 10:00 AM of April 30th 1975, the platoons of reconnaissance and provincial assaulting force were dispatched to our position when we were on the main street and near to the bridge crossing the river. After a plan of counter attack was briefed, I swiftly made a roll call, ordered to check gas, ammunition, and other supply. I tapped my hand on the shoulder of every man in my unit. They understood that I wanted them to be in the readiness of fight, and nodded their heads on reply.
Everybody was in advancing formation, the engine of the truck was already on and the gunner was sitting still while firmly holding his M30 machine gun. Suddenly, a businessman rushed to me telling that our Saigon Capital was just been fallen into enemy hand. I grabbed a radio from him, then turning to pale as listening to the address of our Joint Chief of Staff for an unconditional surrender. I called back the police command post and provincial military headquarter, but answered by an officer of the day that all communication was cut off. I decided to take the whole unit back to Police Command Post and saw all documents were burned, torn off or littered all over places. It meant the order of document destruction was already carried out at least few hours ago as a signal of the bad omen. Instead of giving out an order, I said “SORRY!” and asked my unit to lay down their weapons on the floor, and disband. I walked around the command post, and finally took away the serial number plaque. Attached to the chain was also a Buddha statue given by my parents for luck. I kissed then threw them into drainage, and knew that there would not be any more luck since this time. Next, I removed the rank on uniform and discarded it to the same drainage. Walking out of the command post, my eyes felt sore as guns, ammunition, uniforms, boots, and all kinds of our military supply lying down in disorder on the streets. Some soldiers only wearing the under white shirts and military under shorts run past and waved their hands to me, and I knew that they tried to leave this area before the enemy forces came in. I had to follow them, taking off my uniform and boots then heading to a nearest house. Its owner gave me a shirt, a pant from his son and invited me for a small meal, but I was feeling too sick. I walked home with bare foot. Passing me, some people were talking together that they saw many bodies of soldiers who were abandoned at the last terrific minute of a lost war. The others with bleeding wounds were bandaging themselves.
HUYNH, DAT TUAN