Feat of arms
When the Vieät Nam People’s Army was formally established 70 years ago, it had to hit the ground running, and soldiers in the vanguard were well aware of the importance of winning their first battles. The story of the first two battles is one of incredible daring and a trigger-happy tragedy.
He removed his false introduction papers and showed the guard the red stamp. Then he pushed the guard aside and marched into the post, with Squad 1 following on his heels. Comrade Thu Sôn led his squad straight into the enemy's arms storeroom. Squad 2 followed Squad 1, encircled the post's interior, and occupied the mess hall with the post's soldiers.
Some soldiers were eating supper, while others were hanging their clothes out to dry.
"Raùt-saàm-maêng!" (Fall in!) " Squad Commander Thu Sôn shouted in French.
With this order, the soldiers lined up to salute our unit arriving from the district.
Seventeen indigenous soldiers and one special soldier for insurrections stood in formation in the courtyard. Thu Sôn trained his gun on them.
"We are the revolutionary army," he shouted. "Raise your hands and surrender. If you don't, you'll be killed. Hands up!"
All the troops in our squad pointed their guns at the enemy soldiers.
Our entry had caught the garrison by surprise, leaving them no time to oppose us. They raised their hands in surrender.
At just that moment, our scout, who had been stationed three kilometres away on the Nguyeân Bình road, galloped into the fort. He reported that the French commander was returning on horseback, along with several unarmed regional soldiers.
We had to address this development and capture the French commander. I ordered one group to keep the captured regional soldiers silent out behind the post. Others from our unit arranged the scattered booty in the courtyard. I ordered those guarding the post perimeter to pretend they were the post's guards from the regional forces. Another group hid in the rafters under the verandah roof, waiting to ambush the post commander. Aiming their guns, they would force him to surrender. We had decided to capture the commander alive; if he resisted, we would open fire. I gave orders to our unit outside the post. Should the Frenchman see them and flee, they were to shoot and give chase.
Hoaøng Saâm, Thu Sôn, Luaän, and I lay on rafters under the verandah roof.
"When the Frenchman enters," I whispered, "I'll shout, ' Hands up.' If he raises his hands, jump down and capture him. Don't open unless I give that order."
The Frenchman sat atop a huge sorrel horse. He rode leisurely into the post as if everything were usual. The moment he dismounted, the Frenchman heard a shout: "Hands up!" Suddenly there was gunfire. Bullets struck the post commander and his horse. Both collapsed onto the courtyard. Luaän had shot them.
Here was a problem we hadn't sufficiently foreseen - the difficulty in repressing our hatred when facing the enemy.
The villagers heard the gunfire and, realizing something had happened, hurried toward the post. They were surprised and delighted when they recognized us. Applauding, they clasped our warriors' hands and cheered when they saw the corpses of the Frenchman and his horse in the courtyard. However, some villagers worried that the enemy would surely terrorize them in revenge.
If we'd been able to capture the post commander alive, we would have re-educated him through the careful explanations we used with enemy troops. Then we would have released him. Had that been the case, we might have achieved some political gain, and we might have limited the enemy's reaction. But we didn't have that choice. This unexpected challenge forced us to find a solution.
I ordered our troops to gather the booty, clean the battlefield, and leave nothing useful behind. We would distribute the pigs, chickens, blankets, mosquito nets, bowls, and plates among the villagers. One group of our soldiers carried the corpses away for burial and removed traces of blood from the courtyard.
We told the local people what to do when the imperialists sent their soldiers. The villagers had only to say: "We saw indigenous troops arriving from the district seat. They entered the post. Then we saw the post soldiers leave and follow the indigenous troops who had come from the district. We don't know where they went."
We also told our compatri- ots: During this period, the youth - both men and women - should leave the village temporarily to avoid the enemy's terror.
We instructed the captured indigenous forces, saying we would take them to another site, where we would provide them with thorough explanations. Afterwards, those wanting to join our revolutionary army could enlist. Those wanting to return home would receive safe-transit papers.
Morale-booster: President Hoà Chí Minh encourages soldiers at an anti-aircraft unit. VNA/VNS Photo
Watchful: Border soldiers and residents on a patrol in Haø Giang Province. VNA/VNS Photo Ngoâ Myõ