Archive for Black April Day

Southern Heroes: Le Van Hung, the ARVN, and the Battle of An Loc

Posted in Modern History with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2017 by Ian Pham

levanhungPhoto via Freedom For Vietnam

Introduction and Commemoration

Words cannot express the deep pain felt by the loss of our nation, South Vietnam, nor can it be expressed the endless gratitude felt for those brave soldiers who so valiantly gave their lives for a cause that was so noble, and in the face of such overwhelming odds.

On this day, April 30, 2017, we pay tribute to the fallen heroes who gave their lives to defend our nation and our freedom, as well as those blessed heroes who lived on to tell the tale of their fallen brothers and sisters in arms. Furthermore, on this day, we pay our gratitude, not only to the soldiers, but also the common citizens, those brave souls who departed from South Vietnam after its fall on April 30, 1975, and embarked into that harrowing endless blue, the Pacific Ocean, in search of freedom and a better life for the future generation of Vietnamese youth.

There is so much to be proud of as a person of South Vietnamese origin. We hail from a nation of freedom, human rights, and national pride. It was South Vietnam who stood up to China in 1974, when the Chinese invaded our islands in the eastern sea. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, we fought to take them down with us, and to keep alive our claim over these islands.

South Vietnam was the elite nation of Southeast Asia, with freedom of speech, religion, association, and press, as well as the strongest economy in the region, and numerous prestigious universities that acted as host to many students studying abroad from other neighboring nations. Moreover, South Vietnam was a nation of patriots and heroes. The soldiers of South Vietnam fought to defend the country from any invader, and were not ashamed, nor afraid to proclaim their allegiance, nationality, and citizenship as to the Republic of Vietnam.

This brief article will not come even close to covering the many accomplishments and heroics of South Vietnam and its people. Instead, it will focus on one of the myriad instances of South Vietnamese courage, honor, and strength.

As a commemoration of South Vietnam and its heroes on this April 30, I will present to you a retelling of one glorious battle of the Vietnam War, one in which the South Vietnamese soldiers were, as often the case, outnumbered by a staggering concentration of North Vietnamese troops. In the face of overwhelming odds, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), under the command of their fearless leader, Brigadier General Le Van Hung, stood their ground, stared in the face of death, and, with their trademark South Vietnamese defiance and audacity, fought and crushed the North Vietnamese in what one U.S. general lauds as “the greatest victory in the history of warfare,” (Schafer, 1999: 56).

This glorious battle, this momentous victory, took place in and around the small South Vietnamese city of An Loc in the spring of 1972. Despite its magnitude and scale, historians in the west have largely ignored the An Loc battle in the decades following the war (Schafer, 1999: 53; 55). Luckily, the Battle of An Loc has been well covered by those who fought there, by both South Vietnamese and American accounts, and numerous sources have emerged since then to tell the tale. Thus, what happened at An Loc can be told to future generation, its heroes immortalized in the annals of history.

Covered in this brief account are the heroics of the ARVN, the lopsided defeat of the communist forces despite their superior numbers, and some details about the many courageous soldiers who fought there, which includes most prominently the commander of the battle, General Le Van Hung.

The Heroes of An Loc

There were many heroes at the Battle of An Loc. Some of these heroes are recognized prominently in historical accounts, but sadly, as is the reality, many, indeed, most of the soldiers who gave their lives at An Loc remain unnamed in the pages of history. As is professed so eloquently by Van Nguyen Duong, an ARVN officer who served at An Loc, that along with all the prominent names at An Loc, “all ARVN commanders of smaller units, officers, NCOs and soldiers at An-Loc and on Route 13, were heroes,” (Duong, 2008: 160).

These famous names mentioned by Duong include Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Minh, commander of the III Corps & Region, Colonel Le Quang Luong, commander of the 1st Airborne Brigade, and, of course, Brigadier General Le Van Hung, field commander of An Loc and the commander of the ARVN 5th Infantry Division (Duong, 2008: 160). General Hung commanded all of the ARVN forces at An Loc (Duong, 2008: 150). Under him, the South Vietnamese would achieve an overwhelming victory over the communist North Vietnamese, in a battle that, despite being ignored by the west, as it did not fit their antiwar narrative, was larger than the Dien Binh Phu confrontation between the Viet Minh and the French in 1954 (Duong, 2008: 148). For his services at that battle, General Le Van Hung would be lauded in history as the Hero of An Loc (Duong, 2008: 211).

There is no mistake that there were many heroes in the Battle of An Loc. Though they cannot all be named in this brief article, it is important to understand that thousands of South Vietnamese soldiers gave their lives in defense of An Loc, and the defense of South Vietnam, its people, and its ideals. When we remember the great and prominent names in history, we must remember the unnamed soldier as well.

The Battle of An Loc

The Battle of An Loc was initiated by the North Vietnamese, and consisted of three communist assaults in the spring of 1972. The first attack commenced on April 11, the second on April 15, and the last on May 11, 1972 (Lester, 2010: 56). The An Loc confrontation was part of a greater North Vietnamese military campaign, known as the Easter Offensive of 1972, which began on March 30 of that year (Lester, 2010: 56). This ambitious military operation, orchestrated by North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap (Lester, 2010: 56), was aimed at quickly ending the war with a swift capture of Saigon (McDermott, 2012: 3).

The entire North Vietnamese military operation stretched into the summer of 1972, and proved to be an abject failure for the communists. In history, this “disastrous end of the communist Summer 1972 Offensive Campaign in South Vietnam” came to be known as “Red Summer 1972,” (Duong, 2008: 161). The Battle of An Loc is a major part of this communist failure, and South Vietnamese triumph.

At An Loc, the South Vietnamese forces, which consisted of only 7,500 troops, would stand their ground in the face of 21,000 North Vietnamese invaders and ultimately win the fight against the communists (Lester, 2010: 56).

The North Vietnamese forces encircled the city of An Loc on April 6, with South Vietnamese and U.S. bombing NVA positions commencing on April 11 (Lester, 2010: 56). It was during this phase that the North Vietnamese attackers shelled the city with artillery, while their ground enforces approached the city using civilians as human shields (Thi, 2009: 83-84). In response to this barbaric communist tactic, South Vietnamese and U.S. defenders had to operate around the civilians, shooting over and behind the hostages, and causing the hostages to scatter “in all directions” before finding refugee in An Loc. The hostages would be settled into temporary refugee camps by the South Vietnamese government (Thi, 2009: 84). It is important to stress here the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians by the North Vietnamese, who, over a course of several days, killed several hundred innocent civilians with their shelling attacks, “the majority” of these civilians “were women and children,” (Duong, 2008: 151).

Throughout the first phase of the An Loc battle, communist NVA units and tanks were quickly overrunning different sectors of the city. However, their initial advances would be pushed back by the ARVN, with major help from South Vietnamese and U.S. air support. Initially overwhelmed by the communist onslaught, the young ARVN soldiers and members of the PSDF (People’s Self-Defense Force) would recover and fight back against the NVA, actively hunting down and destroying the tanks of the North Vietnamese that were steadily rolling around the city (Thi, 2009: 89-90). In the air, the VNAF and the USAF bombed North Vietnamese positions to effectively weaken the enemy’s formations around the perimeter, while the “more versatile and maneuverable Cobra attack helicopters” handled the communist tanks inside the city (Thi, 2009: 89-90). By April 13, the ARVN held the southern sector, while the NVA held the north of An Loc. According to Lam Quang Thi, “The battle subsided somewhat by the evening of April 13 without a clear line of contact,” (2009: 97).

On April 15, the communists launched their second attack of the Battle of An Loc (Lester, 2010: 56). The onslaught consisted of once again shelling An Loc with intense amounts or artillery, as well as repeating their previous tactic of using tanks to push deeper into the city (Thi, 2009: 100-101). While the more than “1,000 artillery rounds of all calibers” devastated the city, the tanks deployed by the North Vietnamese were quickly targeted and eviscerated by the ARVN units, who learned quickly from their experiences in the first phase of An Loc (Thi, 2009: 100-101). The South Vietnamese, under General Hung, then went on the offensive.

In the evening of April 15, communists in Wendy Hill were attacked and overrun by ARVN forces. The 9th Division of the VC in the northern sector of the city was then confronted by the ARVN on April 17, and by dawn of April 18, “ninety percent of this commercial section was recaptured,” (Duong, 2008: 154-55). From this point onward, street to street fighting would endure for the next few weeks in An Loc (Duong, 2008: 155).

The communists would try to reverse their fortunes in these faltering offensive efforts, which, up to that point, were all ending in failure (Duong, 2008: 155). Concentrating a staggering 10,000 troops, 5,000 rounds of artillery, and twenty tanks, the NVA attacked the South Vietnamese at Wendy Hill and Hill 169. With initial short-lived successes, the ferocious and heavy communist onslaught would ultimately be crushed like their previous attempts. Over the course of three days, April 19-21, the North Vietnamese would lose 2,000 troops and all twenty tanks, rendering them unable to launch their third offensive for the next three weeks, all the while “unable to advance on inch” against the ARVN and General Hung (Duong, 2008: 155-56). During this hiatus, the North Vietnamese continued to fire indiscriminately into An Loc “nearly 2,000 rounds a day from heavy artillery guns,” killing not only some defenders, but also the civilian residents of An Loc (Duong, 2008: 156).

Finally, the last offensive launched by the communists in the Battle of An Loc happened on May 11, and was the largest NVA attack to be thrown against the city (Lester, 2010: 56). This third offensive by the North Vietnamese was “the most devastating” concentration of artillery shelling by the communists throughout the entire Vietnam War (Duong, 2008: 156).

The massive communist assault on May 11 saw the launching of 11,000 rounds of artillery at An Loc, nearly leveling the entire city, with only the “iron morale of the defenders” standing strong (Duong, 2008: 156). However, despite the heavy artillery shelling and their attacking of the defenders on every front, the communists did not change their tactics, and thus, in this third and largest assault, their troops and tanks were again slaughtered and crushed by the South Vietnamese and their U.S. allies (Duong, 2008: 156). Although the attack lasted until May 14, the brunt of the communist attack was repelled by mid-day of May 11, with the failure of the NVA troops to capture any of their objectives. All the NVA had to show as a result were their “Panicked” communist troops fleeing from VNAF and U.S. airstrikes, and “all forty tanks” from the communists laying “dead on the battlefield,” (Lester, 2010: 156).

By May 14, the third phase of the North Vietnamese attempt to capture An Loc was completely and utterly defeated by South Vietnam with the help of U.S. air support. The losses incurred by the North Vietnamese were so enormous that another attack was no longer possible (Duong, 2008: 157). Thus, the worst fighting of the battle at An Loc was over. The ARVN had won, and the communists had lost.

The following month saw the ARVN carry out search and destroy operations in and around An Loc to clear the area of communist presence, a task made much easier with the help of U.S. air support (Duong, 2008: 157-58). By the latter portion of May, the majority of communist anti-air defenses were eliminated from the vicinity of An Loc, and in the early part of June, helicopters were able to land for medivac and resupplying (Lester, 2010: 56).

The victory of the South Vietnamese would be marked on the afternoon of June 12, with the raising of the national flag at the top of Dong-Long Hill. The President of South Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu, would fly to An Loc on July 7, 1972 “to honor the ARVN heroes who had fought the biggest battle of the Vietnam War,” (Duong, 2008: 158).

The Significance of An Loc

The Battle of An Loc was the biggest battle of the Vietnam War, an engagement in which the allied forces of South Vietnam and U.S. air support crushed the invading forces of the North Vietnamese. As shown earlier in the article, the North Vietnamese outnumbered the South Vietnamese threefold, with a mere 7,500 South Vietnamese defenders up against 21,000 communist invaders. Despite these odds, and to not underplay the substantial help of U.S. air support, the South Vietnamese were able to hold An Loc against the invaders, dealing staggering blows to the communists. By the measures of former ARVN officer Van Nguyen Duong, the North Vietnamese lost five times more than the South Vietnamese overall in the Easter Offensive, with a large portion of these losses coming from An Loc (Duong, 2008: 159). At An Loc alone, communist losses amounted to 6,500 dead, compared to 2,300 South Vietnamese killed in action (Lester, 2010: 56).

In the words of George J. Veith, “the heroic defense of An Loc in 1972 had been the most glorious South Vietnamese feat of arms of the war,” (Veith, 2012: 257). For all its glory, An Loc is by no means the only momentous victory achieved by the ARVN. At Kontum, as well as Quang Tri, and in the entire failed communist Easter Offensive, the North Vietnamese forces were not only “convincingly defeated,” but at times “badly mauled” by the South Vietnamese (Thi, 2009: 220). This point is raised here for the purpose of demonstrating the effectiveness of the ARVN as a fighting force, and to dispute the longstanding fallacy that South Vietnam’s armed forces were built of cowards, deserters, and incompetents.

Adding to this point of unfair treatment of South Vietnam by the U.S. media, it will be pointed out here that, despite the scale of the battle and the significance of its victory, the Battle of An Loc was largely ignored by the western media (Thi, 2009: 2). Reason for this omission comes from the fact that admitting to the fighting mettle of the ARVN and victory at “An Loc would contradict the U.S. media’s basic premise that the war cannot be won because the ARVN was a corrupt and ineffective fighting force,” (Thi, 2009: 5). In short, the media tried to weave a false narrative to slander the ARVN and South Vietnam throughout the entire war, and in so doing, refused to acknowledge the victory at An Loc (and every other South Vietnam victory, for that matter) because it would expose the media for the lie they have been cultivating for so long.

An Loc is not only a momentous and glorious victory against Communism, it is a reminder to the liberal media of the lies they have told to the American people for decades. Furthermore, the study of the Battle of An Loc is a stepping-stone for the gradual correction of biased media coverage of the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 70s. The lies that the leftists told during the Vietnam War era endured for decades following the war. It is only late in the last decade that the truth has begun to come out. In time, with more studies from the perspective of the South Vietnamese, a more balanced understanding of the Vietnam War will eventually emerge, and the deception of the leftist media will be brought to light, in all of its shame and disgust. In time, the courage, honor, and sacrifice of the South Vietnamese people will find its rightful place in history. Coverage of An Loc is just the beginning.

In the context of the war itself, An Loc is significant for a number of reasons. If An Loc were to fall to the communists, “Saigon would be shaken and Vietnamization would fail,” and so in order to save the war effort, to save South Vietnam, it was “of vital importance” to save An Loc (Duong, 2008: 153). Furthermore, as has already been mentioned, the victory at An Loc is damning evidence of the capability of the ARVN as a fighting force, despite what the leftist media tried to lead the world to think for decades. The South Vietnamese were brave, capable, and extremely deadly fighters, and, among the many examples of this fact, An Loc shines as one of the brightest. To conclude this portion of the essay, I will include a quote by Mike McDermott, a former U.S. paratrooper who served in Vietnam, and at An Loc:

“We who served with Advisory Team 163 will never forget our Vietnamese paratrooper brothers. They demonstrated a special kind of dedication and courage throughout the long years of the war that, for them, started in 1946 and ended in 1975. They were consistently tough and resilient no matter the odds they faced, the support they received, or their battlefield prospects… I pledged myself to a righteous cause… I and so many others were betrayed by the American government,” (McDermott, 2012: 4).

General Hung, the Hero of An Loc

Brigadier General Le Van Hung was the main commander who led the South Vietnamese in the fight at An Loc. While there were many heroes at An Loc, the scope of this essay will only be able to cover one, and who more fitting than the man who, under impossible odds, stood his ground, rallied his troops, and led the ARVN charge to victory in what some laud as the most important campaign of the Vietnam War (Schafer, 1999: 56).

In his account, Lam Quang Thi describes the sentiments of the ARVN soldiers towards General Hung, who is regarded highly by his soldiers, and viewed as the man who “undoubtedly” held together the “fabric” of An Loc’s defense against the extensively larger enemy forces (2009: 209). By the accounts of the ARVN soldiers who served under him, as well as the U.S. personnel who advised him, General Hung was a man who “never buckled,” was “always calm under pressure,” and “never panicked and was in full control of the situation,” (Thi, 2009: 2010).

Adding to this, and based on the findings, I will present the argument that General Hung was a courageous and fearless leader who was not afraid to die for his country and his soldiers. One fascinating display of dogged courage by General Hung and the ARVN took place during the first phase of the communist invasion on April 12, while the North was still on the attack in An Loc. As an NVA tank approached his command post, General Hung grabbed a grenade and prepared to throw it at the tank outside his bunker, before his fellow ARVN soldier, Col. Le Nguyen Vy, “emerged from the underground bunker,” shot a rocket at the tank and destroyed it himself (Thi, 2009: 89). A South Vietnamese television reporter, who covered the entire An Loc battle, recalled that during this confrontation, as the enemy tanks drew closer to his position, General Hung assured his staff that he will not let himself be captured alive, and gave them instructions on what to do should he need to commit suicide (Thi, 2009: 89).

Several days prior on April 9, when he was too busy to meet three South Vietnamese war reporters, he relayed a message to them via one of his men: “I will defend An Loc to the death, I will never come out of the city alive, if I lose it,” (Duong, 2008: 152). In the words of Thi, “Hung’s vow to his men that he would never be taken alive had galvanized the spirits of the defenders during the darkest hours of the siege,” (Thi, 2009: 209). His courage, determination, and leadership would give his soldiers the strength, not only to prevail, but to crush the communist invasion, by staggering margins. It is because of his courage that General Le Van Hung would be known in history as the Hero of An Loc.

General Hung vowed that he would never be captured alive by the communists, and, as is shown by the tragic end to the Vietnam War, he was a man of his word. To the very end, General Hung kept his promise, to his country, to his soldiers, and to his people.

On April 30, 1975, upon receiving word that the new president of South Vietnam, Duong Van Minh, had agreed to surrender to the communist North Vietnamese, General Le Van Hung killed himself (Duong, 2008: 220). With nothing more he can do, after giving everything he could possibly give for his country, General Hung did the only thing he could do, and that was to give his life in honor of his nation.

General Hung was not the only person who committed suicide that day. Four other high-ranking South Vietnamese military leaders, Major General Nguyen Khoa Nam, Brigadier General Tran Van Hai, Brigadier General Le Nguyen Vy, and Major General Pham Van Phu, had all taken their lives that day (Duong, 2008: 220). Furthermore, many other high-ranking commanders, air force officers, low-ranking officers, NCOs, and even enlisted soldiers chose to die with their country on that Black April Day (Veith, 2012: 496; Duong, 2008: 220). Rather “than escape or prison,” (Veith, 2012: 496), and “With dignity, they sacrificed their lives for the honor of their land, regime, and army,” (2008: 220). Le Van Hung, along with these soldiers, and so many others, represents the courage, honor, and sacrifice of the nation of South Vietnam. We must never forget.

Closing Statement

South Vietnam was a nation of freedom, human rights, and national defense. Moreover, South Vietnam was a nation of heroes and patriots. On this day, April 30, 2017, we remember the fallen nation, its brave soldiers, and its people. We are proud to hail from that nation of South Vietnam.

Always and forever, we will carry on its legacy.

 

Sources:

Duong, Van Nguyen. The Tragedy of the Vietnam War: A South Vietnamese Officer’s Analysis. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. 2008.

Lester, Gary. Review of Hell in An Loc: The 1972 Easter Offensive and the Battle That Saved South Vietnam, by Lam Quang Thi. Air Power History (2010): 56.

McDermott, Mike. True Faith and Allegiance: An American Paratrooper and the 1972 Battle for An Loc. Tuscaloosa: Alabama University Press. 2012.

Schafer, John C. “Phan Nhat Nam and the Battle of An Loc.” Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 13 (1999): 53-75.

Thi, Lam Quang. Hell in An Loc: The 1972 Easter Offensive and the Battle That Saved South Vietnam. Denton: University of North Texas Press. 2009.

Veith, George J. Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam 1973-1975. New York: Encounter Books. 2012.

 

Here’s Some Artwork/Wallpaper for the Coming Black April Day

Posted in Art, Modern History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2017 by Ian Pham

FFVN Main

Hello all.

I generally don’t like making promises ahead of time, but in this case, I’ll make a exception. The promise is that I will be making a post for this coming Black April Day, April 30, 2017. It’s kind of a given, since that day is monumentally significant to us Vietnamese people. However, I am going to verify it here, and say that yes, there will indeed be an article written and published for Black April Day 2017.

In the meantime, here is some artwork that you can put as your laptop’s background wallpaper, or have it as your profile picture on Facebook or wherever else on social media, or simply save it just because.

The pictures are self-explanatory. They are commemorative and honoring of the fallen nation of South Vietnam, and all of the men and women who gave their lives fighting for that nation’s freedom, against the Communist North, and against the Chinese. At least there was one Vietnamese nation in modern history that had the gull to stand up to the Chinese, am I right? That nation was South Vietnam, by the way, for all my friends who haven’t connected the dots.

Well, without further ado, here are the artworks, which come in two languages: English and Vietnamese.

Enjoy.

#1: “Never Forget”

April A

#2: “Never Forget (Vietnamese)”

April B

#3: “We Remember”

April C

#4: “We Remember (Vietnamese)”

April D

If you like, use one (or more) of these as your profile picture on your social media accounts and/or share with your friends and family as a way to commemorate and spread awareness about April 30 and its significance to the overseas Vietnamese communities.

Cheers.

 

UPDATE:

To access the artwork on Facebook, click here!

Remembering South Vietnam: A Tribute to The Republic

Posted in Economics, IV. Columns, Modern History, Politics, Society with tags , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2016 by Ian Pham

Remembering South VietnamPhoto via Flickr

This is just a brief tribute to the former Republic of Vietnam and all the brave men and women who fought so bravely to protect the country. We all know very well the story of its tragic fall, but we also know very well what a great nation it was.

This year, to commemorate the day that Saigon fell to the communists, I want to remind everyone of the greatness of South Vietnam. By recognizing the actions, ideals, and achievements of the Southern Republic, I aim to demonstrate to us all why April 30 is such a sad day for any Vietnamese who loves freedom.

Every year since 1975, April 30 marks the fall of a proud, vibrant, and prosperous Republic, one that flourished culturally and economically, and carried itself with courage, pride and dignity. Moreover, this day marks the fall of a democracy, a young democracy, but a true democracy nonetheless.

South Vietnam was a nation that nurtured its young. It was a nation that had a deep love for education, invested heavily in education, and went to great lengths to ensure their citizens the access to this education. In only two decades of its existence, South Vietnam successfully expanded its educational programs by leaps and bounds, growing exponentially at the elementary, secondary, and university levels. To put neatly, South Vietnam was a nation of smart people, with endless potential for advancement and growth.

In terms of economy, South Vietnam was highly competitive, a leader in the Southeast Asia region, and a contender in Asia as a whole. Starting from its humble beginnings as a postcolonial state, South Vietnam showed rapid growth immediately after its birth as an independent nation. Over the course of its lifetime, up until its fall in 1975, South Vietnam prospered economically, excelling in agriculture, heavy industry, and trade. Due to its success, its capital city Saigon garnered huge respect from the world, and earned itself the famous title of “Pearl of the Orient.”

When speaking of democracy in South Vietnam, there is no doubt that the Southern Republic was a true liberal democracy. Secret ballot elections, universal suffrage, multiple political parties, freedom of speech, expression, and association, and checks and balances between its executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, South Vietnam met all of these criteria. In all, South Vietnam was a free country, one that championed the rights of its people, adhered to the rule of law, and kept its people safe.

Lastly, I would just like to recognize South Vietnam as a brave and noble nation that fought with every ounce of its strength to defend its people, from domestic terrorism by the National Liberation Front, the all too familiar invasions from North Vietnam, as well as an abrupt naval invasion by the People’s Republic of China.

In all of these cases, South Vietnam responded, and with whatever resources it had, the Southern Republic fought. This was the nation that captured many VC terrorists, even converting many of them to forsake their communist allegiances and come over to the Republic. Moreover, this was the nation that kept the North at bay for 20 years, and, statistically speaking, eviscerated the communist forces in the majority of engagements on the battlefield.

Finally, South Vietnam was the nation to open fire on the Chinese when the latter sent their warships into Hoang Sa (Paracel) in 1974, thinking that they can push the Southern Republic around. With all that has been shown, it simply needs to be understood here that South Vietnam was a nation that stood tall and fought hard. It was a proud nation, a brave nation, and an honorable nation that kept its people safe.

The loss of this Republic on April 30, 1975 is more than just a page in history. It is a tragedy, marking the day that every freedom-loving Vietnamese person lost their home.

The sadness brought about from the loss of the Republic of Vietnam stems from the greatness of its legacy. Because of its ideals, and because of its bravery, the memory of South Vietnam continues to resonate in the hearts and minds of every freedom-loving Vietnamese person across the world, even inside Vietnam today.

South Vietnam has become a symbol of what it means to be truly Vietnamese in the modern era: smart, hardworking, brave, loyal, and living with integrity. These are the things that the Republic of Vietnam stood for, and these are the type of people who hail from its origins and carry on its legacy. The yellow flag of freedom represents our roots as people of a proud and honorable nation, and reminds us of our undying love for independence and democracy.

In all of this, we cannot forget our veterans. The troops that sacrificed themselves, paying the ultimate price both physically and mentally to defend the ideals of the Republic and keep the people safe, their sacrifice must never be forgotten.

To the soldiers of South Vietnam, the soldiers of the United States, and soldiers of the allied nations who gave their lives to defend freedom in Vietnam, we thank you, for everything.

This is a tribute to the nation of South Vietnam, and all the brave men and women who fought to defend the country and its ideals. This is for you.

Thank you.

A Short Commemoration on This First Journey to Freedom Day

Posted in IV. Columns, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on April 30, 2015 by Ian Pham

Journey to Freedom Day in OttawaA crowd of over 500 people gathered in downtown Ottawa today for the inaugural Journey to Freedom Day celebration. Photo via Julie Oliver/Ottawa Citizen

Earlier today, Canada celebrated its first annual Journey to Freedom Day, a day of commemoration for the fall of Saigon, the harrowing journey of the Vietnamese boat people in search of freedom, and their vast contributions to Canada following their arrival. The significance of this day reaches far beyond Canada, however, as Vietnamese refugees were fortunate to find a new home in many different nations across the western world since departing from South Vietnam on and after April 30, 1975.

We don’t have much time left before the day is over, so I will have to make this brief.

Today, we mourn the loss of the Republic of Vietnam to the Communist North. It is on this day, forty years ago, April 30, 1975, that the Northern tanks stormed through the gates of Saigon’s Presidential Palace, signifying the end of the Vietnam War. Without getting into the politics of it all, it is acknowledged as a day of sadness, panic, and heartbreak. On that day alone, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people fled the country in frantic hysteria, with the sea being their only way out.

It is on that day that the journey to freedom began, and the day that a new chapter in our history commenced. For the next two decades, two million people would leave Vietnam in search of a better life. Of this two million, two hundred and fifty thousand would not make it.

For those fortunate enough, new homes would be found in distant lands such as Australia, Europe, America, and Canada. They were the lucky ones, the survivors, and they are our parents or grandparents. It is because of them, because of that journey, that we all have this life today. They risked their lives, they braved the dangers of that voyage across the ocean, and as a result of their strength and courage, we all are blessed with this life and this freedom. It is for this reason that a day such as Journey to Freedom Day carries so much significance across the world. Though Canada is the first to acknowledge the significance of April 30, we are all connected by the stories behind this day. We are all Vietnamese, and we are all here because of someone before us, who was brave and strong enough to embark on that journey to freedom.

Whether we are in Canada, the United States, Australia, or Europe, we are all here for the same reason, because someone before us took that harrowing voyage, that journey to freedom. Thus, it is important that we all understand the significance of Journey to Freedom Day, and how, despite being from different parts of the world, we all share that same history, the foundations brought forth by that incredible journey.

On this day, we remember the fallen. The soldiers, the people, and the nation of South Vietnam. Furthermore, we, on this day, commemorate the courage and sacrifice of the boat people on that perilous journey, and in that, we must never forget how precious a gift freedom truly is.

Enjoy your Journey to Freedom Day, everyone.

Always remember.

Canada Passes Bill S-219, Officially Marking April 30 as “Journey to Freedom Day”

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2015 by Ian Pham

Journey to Freedom Event, OntarioPhoto via Twitter @MarkAdlerMP

It’s official, folks. As of late last week, April 30 will be known each year in Canada as Journey to Freedom Day, a day of commemoration for the Vietnamese boat people, their long and dangerous journey across the ocean after the fall of South Vietnam, and ultimately, their new beginnings and incredible contributions as proud and free citizens of Canada.

Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Minister of Multiculturalism, and ardent advocate of the Journey to Freedom Day Act since its inception, issues the following statement:

“This year Canadians will mark the first annual Journey to Freedom Day, thanks to a Senate bill which received Royal Assent today.

“The Journey to Freedom Day Act, which was introduced in the Senate in April 2014 by the Honourable Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, designates April 30 as a day to commemorate the thousands of Vietnamese ‘boat people’ Canada has welcomed since the end of the Vietnam War.

“Designating April 30 as an annual day of commemoration will give Canadians the opportunity to reflect on the journey of more than 60,000 Vietnamese refugees to Canada, to recognize the remarkable role Canadians played in helping them settle in their new home through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program, and to celebrate the contributions of Canadians of Vietnamese origin to our country.

“I encourage all Canadians to reflect on the heartbreaking and inspiring voyage of the Vietnamese boat people, which is an important part of our country’s history.”

Mark Adler was the sponsor of Bill S-219 in Canada’s House of Commons during its lengthy process of becoming law. His hard work in support of the Journey to Freedom Day Act is another huge reason for its great success.

Here are some tweets and retweets by Member of Parliament Mark Adler on the passing of the Journey to Freedom Day Act:

There’s not much else to be said here, folks. It’s done, and it’s beautiful. The significance of this law echoes far beyond Canada itself, as freedom-loving Vietnamese across the world are rejoicing the passing of this law, and commending Canada for this great commemorative act.

Congratulations to Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, Member of Parliament Mark Adler, Defence Minister and Multicultural Minister Jason Kenney, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and everyone involved in making Journey to Freedom Day a reality. Thank you for all your hard work, thank you for making this possible, and thank you for your service. You just made history.

In all, congratulations to Canada for being the first country to pass this trailblazing legislation. From Vietnamese communities across the world, inside and outside of Vietnam, you have done us all proud!

Journey to Freedom Day Becomes LawPhoto via Twitter @MarkAdlerMP

#JourneyToFreedomDay2015

#40YearsRememberingSouthVietnam

#LestWeForget

Canada Aiming to Pass April 30, 1975 Commemoration Legislation, Known as the “Journey to Freedom Day” Act

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2015 by Ian Pham

Harper in Toronto Tet 2015

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to a large crowd at the Tết 2015 Festival in Toronto in February. In his speech, the Prime Minister announces Canada’s intention to pass the “Journey to Freedom Day” Act. Photo via Vietnamese Association of Toronto

The Government of Canada is in the process of passing a new law commemorating the arrival of the Vietnamese “boat people” refugees to Canada after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Known as the “Journey to Freedom Day” Act, or Bill S-219, the legislation honors all of the Vietnamese people who escaped South Vietnam in the wake of the Communist takeover. If passed, April 30 will be known every year in Canada as “Journey to Freedom Day,” an official day of remembrance, recognizing the courage and sacrifice of the Vietnamese boat people and their incredible journey to freedom.

Originally put forth by Canadian Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, the law has already been passed by the Canadian Senate in December 2014, and has since been referred to the House of Commons for further consideration.

According to Senator Ngo’s website:

“I am extremely honoured to announce that Bill S-219, known as the Journey to Freedom Day Act, passed the Senate on December 8, 2014, and has now been referred to the House of Commons.”

“The bill regarding Journey to Freedom Day, alternatively known as Black April Day by the Vietnamese-Canadian community, establishes a day to commemorate the thousands of refugees who fled Vietnam in pursuit of freedom, and it pays tribute to Canada’s humanitarian tradition of welcoming thousands of refugees during and after the Vietnam War.”

“For the past 39 years, Vietnamese-Canadians have gathered on April 30 to remember a new beginning and to thank Canada. In 2015, the Vietnamese-Canadian community will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the boat people’s resettlement in Canada. I envision the Journey to Freedom Day Act as a way to mark this milestone year, to thank Canada for saving our lives and to commemorate the Vietnamese refugees’ new-found freedom.”

As expected, the Vietnamese government in Hanoi is not happy about this development. According to The Globe and Mail, Nguyen Tan Dung has written directly to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in protest of the new bill. In Dung’s letter, he claims that the legislation presents “a distorted version of Vietnam’s history,” and will likely “damage the bilateral relations both countries have worked so hard to build.” Moreover, a Vietnamese diplomat in Canada claims that the new bill “hurts” Vietnam, as April 30 is described by Hanoi as a day that marks the end of the war and “the beginning of reconciliation.” The Communist government has also accused Senator Ngo of “dredging up the past” in introducing Bill S-219, among the aforementioned and other similar complaints.

In response to Hanoi’s objections, members of the Canadian government have stated clearly that this is a private member’s bill, and does not signify Canadian foreign policy. Furthermore, Senator Ngo reaffirms the fact that the Journey to Freedom Day bill has nothing to do with Vietnam’s current regime, but rather with the Vietnamese refugees, and Canada’s warm welcome of these refugees after April 1975.

Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Minister of Multiculturalism, and Member of Parliament, explains that he supports Journey to Freedom Day because it celebrates the 60,000 Vietnamese who “risked their lives in search of freedom and found it in Canada.” Mr. Kenney also adds that, “Canada continues to have respectful relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

Senator Thanh Hai Ngo sums up the purpose of the bill in a simple statement: “Freedom is not free, and the boat people paid for their freedom with their perilous journey.”

There are many reasons to support this bill, it delivers a positive message and commemorates that incredible and terrifying journey which made today possible for so many of us. It also celebrates the significant role that overseas Vietnamese have played in building up their new home countries after leaving Vietnam in 1975 and the years onward. This bill may be introduced in Canada, but the significance is not just in Canada alone. Across the western world, Vietnamese refugees have braved the ocean waves in their search for freedom.

As Vietnamese people who love freedom, democracy, and human rights, and this includes not just those of us in Canada, but also the U.S., Australia, Europe, and everywhere else, it is important that we support this bill and what it represents. This law marks an important epoch for people of Vietnamese origin living overseas, and can set an example for other nations if they so desire to pass similar legislation in the future.

To my readers in Canada, if you haven’t already, please take a moment to sign this petition and share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and anyone who may be interested. The petition is put forth by MP Jason Kenney, and lets Canadians show their support for “Journey to Freedom Day,” also known as Bill S-219.

It only takes a second to sign, and every signature counts.

>> Click here to sign the petition! <<

Let’s make this happen!

Sources:

Joan Bryden (The Canadian Press), Kim Mackreal (The Globe and Mail), Member of Parliament Jason Kenney, Prime Minister of Canada, Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, Senator Thanh Hai Ngo (2), Vietnamese Association of Toronto

April 30, 1975: Commemoration Day for the Fall of Saigon

Posted in IV. Columns, Modern History with tags , , , , on April 30, 2013 by Ian Pham

North Vietnamese Troops Occupy Saigon, 1975Normally, I would have some special article based on some notable historical figure of Vietnam to attach to a day like this.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to do such a thing, so I’m just going to get straight to the point.  This article is dedicated to that fateful day on April 30, 1975, when the North Vietnamese steamrolled into Saigon to bring an end to the long civil war.

There really isn’t much left I can say about this day.  It was a tragedy, a day that marked the fall of one of Vietnam’s brightest periods in the modern era.  South Vietnam was not without its flaws; there were numerous corrupted idiot officials in the government.  However, despite these bad eggs, the key values which Republic of Vietnam represented were democracy, freedom, and liberty.

fallSouth Vietnam never got to reach its full potential because of the war, but in its short lifetime, the RVN gave a glimpse of what Vietnam was capable of.  The people of Vietnam, then, now, and always, have so much to offer to make the country great.  Unfortunately, because of Ho Chi Minh and his Communists, the endless talents of the Vietnamese people have been, and continue to be squandered and suppressed.

On that day, thousands of scared and heartbroken South Vietnamese people pored into the American embassy in Saigon.  Many others jumped on the nearest boat and set sail into the open sea.  All of this to escape the impending brutally and slaughter that followed after the North Vietnamese formally consolidated their rule over the population.  Many of the refugees lost their lives at sea, but some were lucky to land in many countries such as Australia, France, Canada, and America.

fall-of-saigonThese survivors started new lives overseas, and are our mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, our brothers, and our sisters.  They were the boat people, those who braved the perils at sea to start all over, in an alien place that we all take for granted today.  As the new generation, we don’t really know how lucky we are to be living in a land of opportunity, liberty, and freedom.  I’m not just talking about America, but of all liberal democracies across the world.

If you are a Vietnamese whose loved ones are among the few to survive the dangerous journey across the seas, and have provided you with an amazing life in this wonderful democracy of ours, I suggest you go to them and give them a giant hug.  After that, tell them that you love them, and then thank them for providing for you in a land of freedom, democracy, and equal opportunity.  Today may be a sad day in history, but it is also a time to appreciate the gifts that we so often take for granted: freedom.  Have a nice day, my fellow leaders of tomorrow.  To my people in Vietnam, a change will come, and you will be the ones to do it.  Just believe.