Feat of arms

Outlook - - FRONT PAGE -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Viet Nam

© PressReader. All rights reserved.