Archive for Black April

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.

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Southern Heroes: Le Minh Dao, The 18th Division, and the Battle of Xuan Loc

Posted in IV. Columns, Modern History, VII. Research with tags , , , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by Ian Pham

“Please, do not call me a hero.  My men who died at Xuan Loc and the hundred battles before are the true heroes.”  – Le Minh Dao, Brigadier General, 18th Division, South Vietnam

On this day, 37 years ago, the tanks of the North Vietnamese Army rolled into the city of Saigon.  The city’s inhabitants gathered frantically outside the gates of the U.S. embassy, begging the Americans to shelter them from the advancing Communists.  That day, thousands of Vietnamese families packed up their entire lives and embarked on a journey across the seas to escape the grasp of Communism.  April 30, 1975 was a dark day in Vietnam’s history, but prior to this fall, the South Vietnamese Army would achieve one last glorious victory.

In the weeks prior to the fall of Saigon, the Communists in the North were still figuring out how to capture the city.  One strategically important location was Xuan Loc, which the Communists planned to capture before moving on to Saigon.  As the 4th Corps of the North Vietnamese Army assembled their forces in the jungle north of the city of Xuan Loc, they were greeted by some unexpected guests.  The 18th Division of the ARVN (South Vietnam), under Brig. General Le Minh Dao, would derail the NVA’s plan to capture Xuan Loc, showing the world that even without the U.S., the ARVN was still a force to be reckoned with.

“Even though we knew we had lost the war, I still fought.  I was filled with despair after the loss of the northern Corps, but I still fight.”

The Battle of Xuan Loc was the last major struggle before Saigon’s fall on April 30, 1975.  With the passionate and inspirational leadership of Brigadier General Le Minh Dao, the 18th Division of the ARVN resisted heavy fire from the Communist forces from April 9-21, when the division was recalled to defend Saigon.  The brilliance of the 18th Division can be seen by its numbers, dealing a miserable amount of pain to the 4th Corps of the NVA.  On the first day of battle, the NVA under Major General Hoang Cam lost more than 700 hundred men to the ARVN and Le Minh Dao, whose losses were below 50 soldiers.  After four days, Cam’s death toll climbed to 2,000, while Dao’s still only in the hundreds, the 4th Corps still had not advanced (Pribbenow & Vieth, 2004: 191-199).

By April 13, the 4th Corps and the North Vietnamese Army were forced to change their strategy.  According to NVA Commander Tran Van Tra, because of the fierce resistance of General Dao and the 18th Division, it was no longer in the interests of the NVA to continue pressing in Xuan Loc (Pribbenow & Vieth, 2004: 200).  From then until April 21, the Communist forces would concentrate their forces in other areas around Xuan Loc, and Le Minh Dao would continue to fight them until receiving orders to return to Saigon.  The general’s retreat was just as masterful as his advance, which required much daring and intellect to outmaneuver the Communist forces.

“I was their general, I wish to be the last man from the 18th ARVN to be released.  I could not look them in the face otherwise.”

Sadly, the success story ends here, with Le Minh Dao’s successful retreat back to Saigon.  From this point onward, South Vietnam would run out of steam, and the ARVN would no longer have the means to fight.  Brigadier General Le Minh Dao and the 18th Division were only few of many brave individuals who sacrificed their lives for the free and democratic South.  On April 30th, even after Duong Van Minh and the Southern government surrendered, Le Minh Dao still wanted to keep fighting.  However, with the knowledge that the corps commander and the deputy had taken their own lives, Dao knew that it was done.  On May 9, Le Minh Dao turned himself over to the Communist forces, serving a prison sentence of 17 years.  He would remain in prison until May 4, 1992, when he was finally released.  Le Minh Dao currently resides in the United States, his accomplishments forever immortalized in the pages of history.

 

Further Reading on the Battle of Xuan Loc:

Pribbenow, Merle L. & George J. Veith.  ”Fighting is an Art: The Army of the Republic of Vietnam’s Defense of Xuan Loc, 9-21 April 1975.”  The Journal of Military History, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Jan., 2004), pp. 163-213.

The Rescue of 1975, America’s Untold Accomplishment

Posted in Did You Know?, Modern History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2010 by Ian Pham

When South Vietnam fell to the Communist forces of North Vietnam on April 30, 1975, a wave of Vietnamese citizens fled the country in order to avoid persecution by the new regime.  The former South Vietnamese Navy, with the help of the Americans, would succeed in saving an estimated 30,000 Vietnamese refugees.  This accomplishment would go unrecognized for nearly thirty-five years.  The American soldiers didn’t regard the rescue as anything significant, viewing their rescue as just part of their duty.

The USS Kirk, an American military vessel, encountered the Vietnamese refugees on and around Con Son Island, immediately providing them with food, water, shelter, and medical assistance.  The USS Kirk then led the Vietnamese naval vessels, fishing boats, and cargo ships, filled with refugees, to safety, meeting up with other US Navy ships.  As a result of their efforts, approximately 30,000 Vietnamese refugees were taken to safety in the Philippines and out of the Communists’ reach.

It is only recently that this great humanitarian accomplishment became largely recognized.  Since America held a feeling of bitterness towards Vietnam after the tragic conclusion of the war, the public was not interested in the happenings in that general area.  Also, the soldiers themselves never considered what they did to be anything extraordinary, so the story was never widely publicized.  Today, rising interests in humanitarian work have prompted journalists and investigators to explore the American feat in Vietnam, so the story of this great rescue is finally known to the world.