Ly Tong, ex-fighter pilot known as the ‘Viet­namese James Bond’

The Buffalo News - - OBITUARIES -

Sept. 1, 1945 – April 5, 2019

Ly Tong, the for­mer fighter pilot known as the “Viet­namese James Bond” for his dar­ing stunts – in­clud­ing hi­jack­ing a plane to drop 50,000 po­lit­i­cal leaflets over his home­land, call­ing on ci­ti­zens to over­throw the com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment – died Fri­day night in San Diego. He was 74.

Tong be­came fa­mous in 1992 when he hi­jacked an Air­bus A310 on a char­ter flight for Viet­nam Air­lines. The jet had departed Bangkok and was about 80 miles from Ho Chi Minh City, for­merly known as Saigon, when Tong flashed a plas­tic knife and coat hanger and claimed that he had a bomb, ac­cord­ing to the Avi­a­tion Safety Net­work.

He or­dered a flight at­ten­dant to take him to the cock­pit, where he di­rected the Bulgarian cap­tain to fly low. Quickly, he re­leased sacks stuffed with fliers out of the cock­pit win­dow. The leaflets urged Viet­namese to “build an in­de­pen­dent, free and pros­per­ous Viet­nam.” He signed it: “Com­man­der of the Up­ris­ing Forces.”

He parachuted from an emer­gency exit into a swamp, where the Viet­namese gov­ern­ment ar­rested him two hours later.

No one aboard the air­craft was harmed.

His sen­tence of 20 years in prison was cut short af­ter the U.S. and Viet­nam nor­mal­ized re­la­tions. Tong was granted amnesty in 1998.

Tong joined the South Viet­namese Air Force and at 17 was as­signed to the Black Eagle fighter squadron.In the 1970s, his A-37 jet was shot down, and at the end of the Viet­nam War, the North Viet­namese im­pris­oned him, send­ing him to reed­u­ca­tion camp out­side the coastal city of Nha Trang.

He es­caped from camp in 1980 and in 1984, af­ter re­set­tling in Louisiana, he grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of New Or­leans and moved to San Jose, Calif., where he got in­volved in com­mu­nity pol­i­tics, join­ing protests and even­tu­ally writ­ing books on Viet­namese his­tory and cul­ture.

– Los An­ge­les Times

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