Khe Sanh – An epic of war and peace

PANO – These days, various veterans across the country have gathered in Khe Sanh village, Lang Vay, and Ta Con Airfield in Quang Tri Province to visit old battlefields and recall the Khe Sanh Victory, liberating Huong Hoa district 45 years ago.

Besides, several artistic programs have also helped recapture this victory (July 9th) and our army and people’s unforgettable moments.

As the commander of Battalion 3 of Regiment 9 of Division 304 in the battle to besiege Ta Con entrenched fortification where 6,000 American marines and over 1,000 troops of the Republic of Vietnam were stationed with strong fire-power in 1968, Major General Nguyen Duc Huy, the former Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of Military Zone 2, could not forget the 170 day fierce battle in Khe Sanh village.

He said that his unit was assigned to encircle the enemy to create favourable conditions for our army and people in southern urban areas to conduct the General Uprising and Offensive in Spring 1968. To do that, his unit dug two main trenches, over 5 kilometers long, to help our army easily reach Ta Con Airfield-Entrenched Fortification. From this location, they could approach the enemy’s first defensive line.

The unit’s great efforts and active combat helped make operations at Ta Con Airport ineffective, forcing the enemies to deploy the US 1st Cavalry Division and the 3rd Airborne Brigade of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) to ease the besieged fortification.

However, heavy casualities were reported in the fighting. Major General Nguyen Duc Huy still remembered that his comrade, Bui Gia Ngoan, Company 1’s deputy head, had his legs cut off by a shell in combat to prevent the enemy from reinforcing Ta Con fortification on Road 9 in the village of Khoai early April 1968. While Ngoan’s comrades were trying to take him back to the rear, Ngoan cut the remaining flesh on his legs with a bayonet on his AK rifle and said that “The enemy was attacking fiercely, you must come back to your fighting positions and I kept taking command”. Ngoan’s brave and resilient deed encouraged other cadres and soldiers to achieve feats on the battlefield. Unfortunately, due to his bleeding, Ngoan died after his unit defeated the enemy’s 7th attack. In 2011, Bui Gia Ngoan was bestowed posthumously the title of the Hero of the People’s Armed Forces.

Another comrade that Major General Nguyen Duc Huy could not forget was a young soldier who protected him by pushing him into a trench and then covering it with his body during the enemy’s shell rounds. To date, he does not know whether that brave soldier is still alive and what his name is.

Another veteran coming to Khe Sanh village this time is Tran Thi Tach, the former artist of Huu Ngan Military Zone’s art troupe. She was 18 when volunteering to Front B5 in 1968. Amidst fierce battles against foreign invaders, her colleagues and she sang to ease pain for war invalids under surgery. She remembered exactly a soldier named Thuong at the military medical field station of Battalion 18 of Division 304. Thuong’s right leg was seriously wounded and needed to be cut. She encouraged him with a popular opera song while tightly holding his wounded leg to be cut. But the war invalid died before the end of the song.

With troops who directly joined the battle in Khe Sanh village, the glorious past is unforgettable. Meanwhile, for people in Huong Hoa district, that past is a driving force for them to turn the ruined battlefield of Huong Hoa, full of bomb craters and poor infrastructure, into a developing one.

Forty five years after the battle, Huong Hoa is striving to become a model mountainous district. The district’s per capita income is VND 16.5 million per year. Its total food output reached 9,969 tonnes last year, an increase by 7.6 percent against 2011. Local people’s living standards have greatly improved with strong investment in developing cultural activities, education, and health care. Huong Hoa is deserved to be the hero in combat and labour hero in the renewal process.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Thuan Hue, chief of the district’s Military Command, the district has tried to build Huong Hoa as a strong defence area because Huong Hoa is seen as a key place for defence and security, and is on the bustling and thriving East-West Economic Corridor.

The epic of Khe Sanh, Huong Hoa, was made 45 years ago and today is still being written.

Translated by Mai Huong

Khe Sanh victory celebrated

Three houses of gratitude presented to policy beneficiaries

Warring land on the reunion day