Our Islands: The Battle for Hoàng Sa, 1974

On January 16, 1974, 200 miles off the coast east of Da Nang, a group of Vietnamese islands known as the Paracel (Hoàng Sa) Islands were approached by Chinese naval ships who showed signs of aggression.  In response to the Chinese threat, the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) ordered in their own troops, resulting in a three-day stand-off between China and South Vietnam.  President Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam advocated a peaceful negotiation with the Chinese Navy. Unfortunately, reaching out to China turned out to be futile, their intentions to take the islands were quite clear.  By January 19, after communication attempts by South Vietnam proved to be impossible, the South Vietnamese Navy opened fire on the Chinese aggressors, quickly sinking one of their ships, killing a Chinese commander and several high ranking officers.

This confrontation quickly escalated into a large scale naval battle between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Vietnam.  The Chinese military greatly outnumbered that of the South Vietnamese.  After 35 minutes of intense naval combat, both sides retreated to their respective bases.  The Chinese army suffered immense damage to their forces, the Vietnamese as well.  Several days after the battle, the People’s Liberation Army (China) returned to the islands with a larger fighting force, eventually succeeding their invasion.  The South Vietnamese Navy no longer had the resources to go on fighting, exhausting all of their ships in the previous confrontation.  As a result, the Paracel Islands fell into the hands of the Chinese.

Although the Chinese accomplished their objective, it is important to consider the challenge that South Vietnam was faced with.  The Vietnamese Navy only had four warships at their disposal compared to the eleven warships wielded by the Chinese, this excludes the reinforcements sent by the Chinese on the following days.  When one looks at these numbers, it is obvious that the odds were not in favour of the Republic of Vietnam.  The Vietnamese soldiers understood this, but were willing to fight nonetheless.  The United States, who were no longer serving in Vietnam by this time, believed that the South should have quietly retreated while China advanced on the islands.  This did not happen.  Faced with the impossible task of fighting off the enormous state of China and at the same time dealing with the invaders from the North, the democratic South Vietnam did everything in their power to fight the opposing forces.  The soldiers of South Vietnam courageously fought to the end, fully aware of the impossible odds.

13 Responses to “Our Islands: The Battle for Hoàng Sa, 1974”

  1. There was one outstanding note in this battle and that was the Captain of the disabled ship of the South Vietnam Navy, Major Nguy Van Tha, ordering all his sailors to leave ship in search of safety. He stayed with the sinking ship to fulfill his duty: “A Captain never leaves his ship under any circumstances; Ship sinks, the Captain dies with ship.”

    • thanh huyen Says:

      This is a much-moved story. If possible, please give me or online the story in details. Although stand in any front of that time, the sacrifice for Hoàng Sa or to protect our sovereignty is the heroes. We have to do something to memorize this event.

  2. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Christian, iwspo.net

    • Thanks Christian, I’m glad you enjoy reading what I have to say, it really means alot. I look forward to writing more articles for readers like you.

      Thanks again,
      – Ian

  3. Paracel and Spratly islands belong to Vietnam. It’s a truth which nothing can change.

  4. I hope there are more posting regarding like this.

  5. thanh huyen Says:

    Thank for your blog to make people aware of china’s invasion on Paracel island and protect justice. We have to do something to deverve with the sacrifice of vietnamese ancestors and soldiers in the battle for Hoang Sa.

  6. Nate Mark Kaufman Says:

    Just another installment in the long story of theft by the Communist government of China. Thank you, Ian, for trying to show the world the evils of Communism. Good luck on your next articles.

  7. We must not forget that while the courageous South Vietnamese Navy fought the Chinese invasion, the cowards in North Vietnamese Communist regime (namely the Prime Minister Pham Van Dong) signed a document giving the Paracels and Spratly islands to China.

  8. While the courageous South Vietnamese Navy fought the Chinese invasion in 1974, the North Vietnamese Communist cowards signed a document to hand over both the Paracels and Spratly islands to China.
    See Lu Duan’s wife confirmed Vietnamese Communist handing both archipelagos to China here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqAa7a62XVc

  9. Hi there, yes this post is in fact good and I have learned lot of things
    from it regarding blogging. thanks.

  10. Hello! This is my 1st comment here so I just
    wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I genuinely enjoy reading through your articles.
    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that
    go over the same topics? Thank you so much!

  11. Don’t forget that entire chinese task force (all 4 ships) has less fire power than single S vietnamese ship.

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