April 30, 1975: All come back this morning... - by Phan Nhật Nam (1)
For young Vietnamese Americans
Translated from the original in Vietnamese ( most of the article)
...Finally, Tan Son Nhat airbase really struggled, dying, sinking in the fire of hell when the artillery shells and Communist missiles from Dong Du, Cu Chi; Hau Nghia and Gia Dinh boundaries began to fall in without stopping. The 130-mm bullets, 122-mm rockets accurately poured down. Tan Son Nhat struggled, cramped, collapsed, dying in black smoke and flame ... The execution lasted from 1 am on the 29th until dawn.
Morning of April 29: some of the generals had left, the senior officers also had left their posts and units, but Air force Lieutenant Trang Van Thanh remained. He started the C119 Hỏa Long— alone— , flew to the blue sky, trying to protect Tan Son Nhat . From above, seeing clearly the artillery positions of the communist troops, Thành tilted the plane's wings, indignantly pouring down 7.62 mm bullets, and all of the firepower of the two 20-mm cannons under the wings ... Fire erupted down under; the anti-aircraft group of the communists fired back , but did not succeed. Thanh calmly, skillfully sneaked out of the bullets of the enemy.
Thành landed back in the familiar runway, which was now fuming by the enemy's bombs in the previous afternoon, and the heavy bombardment from the midnight to the morning of this tragic day. In calm, utmost quietude Thanh finished reloading the plane, he returned to the sky on Tan Son Nhat airport - the gateway of the South. He looked down at the positions of the Communist artillery that were temporarily suspended because of his attack. It turned out that a whole country could only have this last desperate defense.
Nosing down the plane, tightening the ignition system next to the seat, he took the aiming route alone. He alone. Yes, he by himself - First Lieutenant Trang Van Thanh, from the Boy Cadets. The plane's body shook strongly... Fire! Fire! Fire burned across the left wing of the plane, right at the gas tank, next to the seat. Thanh tugged on the emergency latch to free his body from the plane. All was stuck. He used his hand to push the cockpit's door to release himself, the parachute swung sharply. But the gores, the strings of the parachute were tangled with the door. Thành was trapped and held tightly by the chute and door frame. Flaming fire! Consuming fire! The pilot drowned in the fire, dying in the sky of his motherland.
From Lam Son Square, starting from Nguyen Hue Street, the crowd gradually gathered to see the faces of the " bộ đội Viet Cong " ( communist troops) . Two more army trucks arrived in front of Rex ( cinema theater ). The communist troops jumped down, rushed to the veranda. They lay, crawled, scrambling. There was the pounding sound from the foreign facilities; the iron gates shook, broke; the glass panels were cracked, the furniture was dragged, hurried on the road. The crowd grew. They were mobbing, shouting. The crowd ran towards Building Brink, the Đồn Đất area, the Grall hospital; places Americans had occupied before and left, offices that the owners had left.
Suddenly, they all settled down to listen clearly. Some people committed suicide. Someone just shot himself. Who? A Soldier. Nobody yet knew; the crowd then only had this info: he was one of our soldiers. Where? Out there by Marine Corps statue. Faintly among the sound made by the chord of the tank chains smashing through the doors of Dinh Độc Lập (Independence Palace), a small bang of the bullet pinned in the head of Lieutenant Colonel of the National Police, Nguyen Van Long, only a few minutes after Duong Van Minh's surrender order .
There was a small platoon of paratroopers which served as a security force for the Bắc Hải officers' quarters. Upon hearing the order of surrender, the platoon leader was fierce: "I don't surrender; I and the platoon will go to the pier to continue fighting." Lieutenant Huynh Van Thái gathered the platoon, lined up, ordered them to move. The platoon of soldiers came out of the quarters by the entrance of To Hien Thanh Street, turned to Nguyen Tri Phuong, went to Tran Quoc Toan Fish Market, then headed to the pier. But the paratroopers of Lieutenant Huynh Van Thái did not come to the Bach Dang wharf. Arriving at Nga Sau Cho Lon roundabout, they formed a circle, pointing their guns to the sky and shouted, "The Republic of Vietnam Forever . I'm dead, oh Father! ”And they tossed the grenades. The grenades continually bursted loudly, after those words to say the last goodbye to South Vietnam.
In Region IV of Cuu Long River Delta, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thàng, a wife of a local soldier at Giong Trom post, replaced her husband to keep the post to the last grenade. She ended her life next to the bodies of her husband and children, with weapons and transmitters all destroyed. Don’t leave Viet Cong anything! Her husband had told her before his death. By the same time with the suicides of famous generals such as Nguyen Khoa Nam, Le Nguyen Vy, Tran Van Hai, Le Van Hung, Pham Van Phu and Ho Ngoc Can… many people took their lives when South Vietnam collapsed.(2)
Japan is a great nation with a sacrificial ritual, i.e. Seppuku for Samurai (suicidal abdominal gashing) when personal, collective, or national honor is offended. The Vietnamese people do not have such a mighty ritual. However, Vietnamese people also have their own ways of expressing Patriotism, how to preserve human dignity. Vietnamese people use death to testify to that aspiration through silence and simplicity but no less noble.
Phan Nhật Nam is a famous soldier-writer in the Vietnamese language. Some of his novels, records were translated into English. After 1975, Nam was sent to communist concentration camp for 14 years. It is a ‘miracle’ that he is still alive since the books he had written before 1975 fiercely denounced communism. He finally arrived in the U.S. He was also a paratrooper captain before turning to become a war correspondence some time in the late 1960s
Through the years I have read stories about individual cases in which whole families in South Vietnam committed suicide when the South collapsed in 1975.
Original in Vietnamese
30 Tháng Tư, 1975: Tất cả hiện đủ trong buổi sáng hôm nay…
Phan Nhật Nam
April 30, 2019
Sự chết bắt đầu trùm chiếc cánh tối tăm hung hiểm lúc 6 giờ 15 chiều ngày 28 Tháng Tư, 1975, khi chuỗi bom dưới cánh những chiếc A37 do viên phi công phản trắc Nguyễn Thành Trung hướng dẫn rơi xuống phi đạo Tân Sơn Nhất.
Đạn phòng không bắn lên, phi cơ F5 đuổi theo muộn màng, vô vọng. Cửa ngõ tháo chạy của Sài Gòn đóng sập lại. Cuối cùng, Tân Sơn Nhất thật sự vùng vẫy, hấp hối, chìm dần trong lửa hỏa ngục khi dàn đại pháo, hỏa tiễn Cộng Sản từ Đồng Dù, Củ Chi, ranh giới Hậu Nghĩa, Gia Định bắt đầu đổ xuống không ngắt nhịp. Từng trái đạn 130 ly, từng hỏa tiễn 122 ly chính xác rơi xuống. Tân Sơn Nhất vật vã, co quắp, rã chết, sụp vỡ, hấp hối trong khói đen, lửa ngọn… Cuộc hành hình kéo dài từ 1 giờ sáng ngày 29 tiếp tục đến rạng đông.
Sáng 29 Tháng Tư, những tướng lãnh đã ra đi, những sĩ quan cao cấp cũng rời bỏ nhiệm sở, đơn vị, nhưng, Trung Úy Phi Công Trang Văn Thành còn lại. Thành có biệt hiệu “Thành Mọi,” bởi nước da ngăm đen, quá độ ra chỗ đậu tàu. Anh nổ máy chiếc C119 Hỏa Long, đơn độc bay lên trời xanh bảo vệ, cứu viện Tân Sơn Nhất.
Từ trên cao, thấy rõ những vị trí pháo của binh đội Cộng Sản. Thành nghiêng cánh, chúc mũi chiếc Hỏa Long căm phẫn trút xuống tràng đạn 7.62 ly, và tất cả hỏa lực cơ hữu của hai khẩu đại bác 20 ly gắn dưới cánh… Lửa nháng lên dưới thân tàu, toán phòng không Cộng Sản phản pháo, nhưng không kịp, Thành bình tĩnh, tài giỏi lách ra khỏi vùng hỏa tập lưới đạn của giặc.
Thành đáp xuống lại phi đạo thân yêu quen thuộc đang bốc khói mịt mù bởi cuộc dội bom chiều hôm, và cuộc pháo kích cường tập từ sau nửa đêm về sáng của ngày đau thương tang tóc này. Mặc, Thành tự tay nạp đạn vào tàu, anh trở lại bầu trời trên phi cảng Tân Sơn Nhất – cửa ngõ của miền Nam. Anh nhìn xuống những vị trí pháo Cộng Sản mà giờ này tạm ngưng hoạt động vì vừa bị anh tấn công. Hóa ra cả một quốc gia chỉ còn được lần cứu viện bi hùng tuyệt vọng này.