Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam war’

Luu Van Loi

Luu Van Loi, a retired senior ministry of Foreign Affairs official, was 94 years old at the time this interview was conducted.  Loi, a native of the Hanoi area, was working as a junior official in the French colonial government when the Viet Minh recruited him to secretly join the “resistance” during the early 1940.  He quickly became involved in “enemy proselytizing” operations (propaganda efforts directed against French soldiers and officials).  During the war against the French in the late 1940s-early 1950s he continued to be responsible for enemy proselytizing operations as part of the Viet Minh armed forces, including publication of a newspaper and other publications directed against French military personnel.  In 1954, after the battle of Dien Bien Phu, he served as a member of the Viet Minh team that conducted negotiations with the French Army for an exchange of prisoners of war.  Loi subsequently became a member of the Vietnamese military delegation to the joint commission responsible for implementing the Geneva Agreement. He participated in the 1962 negotiations Geneva negotiations on Laos.  Following the 1962 Geneva negotiations, Loi was assigned to the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry, where he worked in the office of the Vietnamese Foreign Minister.  He was a member of a special secret Party committee (codenamed “CP-50”) that was responsible for research and staff support for peace negotiations with the U.S.  He was sent to Paris in September 1972 as a member of legal advisor to Le Duc Tho on the North Vietnamese delegation to the Paris peace talks.  Loi is the author of a number of books on Vietnamese diplomatic history, including the seminal work “Le Duc Tho-Kissinger Negotiations in Paris,” which is an account of the secret U.S.-North Vietnamese peace negotiations in Paris from 1969 until 1973.

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Dinh Xuan Ba

Dinh Xuan Ba, a native of Thanh Hoa province in North Vietnam, attended school in the Viet Minh-controlled “free zone” of Thanh Hoa in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Following completion of his secondary education, Ba joined the province assault youth organization and was sent off to support a number of major military campaigns, including the Dien Bien Phu operation. As an assault youth member he helped to build and maintain roads near the Chinese border for use by Viet Minh supply-truck convoys being sent to support the Dien Bien Phuc campaign. Following the Geneva Agreement and the French withdrawal, he was selected for training to become a Public Security officer. After spending several years as a Public Security officer, his talent for mathematics was discovered. Ba became a professor of mathematics at the University of Hanoi in the early 1960s, a position he held throughout the war against the Americans. In this interview, he describes wartime conditions in Hanoi and the evacuation of the university to a rural “dispersal area” up near the Chinese border. At the time of this interview, Ba was the director of a large private corporation in Hanoi.

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Luu Doan Huynh

Luu Doan Huynh was born in Xieng Khoang Province, Laos, in the late 1920s.  His father was a non-commissioned officer in a French Army unit, the Guarde Indochinois, that was stationed in Laos.  Huynh was attending high school in Vientiane, Laos, in 1945 when the Japanese ousted the French and took over the government of Indochina.  He joined a Viet Minh unit fighting in Laos and was wounded in the spring of 1946 during fighting against the French army when it returned to retake control of Indochina following the end of WWII.  After an extended period of recuperation in northeastern Thailand, where the remnants of his unit fled following their battles against the French, he returned to Laos to fight with his old unit.  When the Burmese government recognized the Viet Minh and wanted to send a delegation to visit the Viet Minh “liberated zone,” because Huynh spoke some English he was assigned to escort the Burmese to visit a Viet Minh zone in Central Vietnam.  Huynh then went to Burma where he participated in the transfer of a significant quantity of weapons that were being given to the Viet Minh by the Burmese government.  Following this weapons transfer, Huynh was sent in 1948 to Bangkok to work as a member of the Viet Minh government’s “representative office” there.  When the Thai government forced the Viet Minh mission in Bangkok to close in 1951, Huynh returned to Vietnam via Hong Kong and China and was assigned to the Foreign Ministry.  He was then sent to Moscow to work as a secretary in the Vietnamese Embassy in Moscow.  Following his tour in the Soviet Union, Huynh returned to Vietnam, where he was assigned to work in the Americas Department of the Foreign Ministry.  He served a tour in India at the DRV Embassy in New Delhi, working under then Ambassador Nguyen Co Thach.  Huynh was transferred to the China Department of the Foreign Ministry in the mid-1960s and worked there through the rest of the war.  When Henry Kissinger made a trip through Asia in the summer of 1971 was first announced, Huynh wrote an assessment for his superiors stating that he believed that Kissinger was planning to conduct secret negotiations with the Chinese during his stop-over in Pakistan. When it was revealed that Kissinger had used his stopover in Pakistan to make a secret trip to Beijing to initiate the Nixon Administration’s “opening to China,” Huynh was awarded a promotion for his prescient assessment.  After the war ended in 1975, Huynh served tours in the Vietnamese embassies in Bangkok and Canberra before being assigned to the Foreign Ministry’s Institute of International Relations.

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Van Ky

Van Ky, a musician, was born in Central Vietnam during the late 1920s. As a 15-year old schoolboy in Thanh Hoa he joined the Viet Minh movement and worked clandestinely distributing leaflets and proselytizing. He was arrested by the French authorities in 1944 and imprisoned and tortured. After the Japanese coup against the Vichy French colonial regime in Indochina he was freed along with other political prisoners and resumed his clandestine work with the Viet Minh. Following the August 1945 revolution he became the chief of the Viet Minh self-defense militia forces in a district of Thanh Hoa province. After serving in this post for over a year, his musical talent was recognized and he was assigned to a small roving propaganda/entertainment unit that worked clandestinely in the French-occupied area of Quang Tri-Thua Thien province in the late 1940s. After a year in this dangerous work, he returned to Thanh Hoa and served in the province’s culture and entertainment unit until the end of the war against the French. He continued his musical work during the war against the Americans, spending the entire time in Hanoi. Van Ky is a well-known songwriter whose most famous work is the song “Hope” [Hy Vong], which was written during the war against the French and became very popular.

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Dr. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Toan

Dr. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Toan, a female doctor who rose to the rank of colonel in the North Vietnamese army, was born into a wealthy, aristocratic family. Her father, Ton That Dan, was a member of the royal family and served as a minister in Emperor Bao Dai’s Imperial Cabinet. She was educated in the exclusive Dong Khanh School in Hue City. During the August 1945 revolution when the Viet Minh took over the government, Miss Toan, who was still in her early teens, joined the Viet Minh forces in Hue City as a member of a medical aid/casualty evacuation team. After the French Army regained control of Hue City, she continued to work with the Viet Minh resistance by collecting information on French activities, proselytizing, serving as a courier, etc. After being arrested a number of times by the French, the French police issued an order expelling her from Hue City. In a desperate effort to save her daughter from the French secret police, Toan’s mother sent her to Saigon to attend the exclusive Marie Curie School. In Saigon, however, she established contact with the Viet Minh student movement and participated in student protest activities as part of the student organization led by Pham Xuan An, who later became a Time magazine correspondent and a spy for the communists. Afraid for her daughter’s life if she were to be arrested again by the French, Toan’s mother arranged to have her sent out to a Viet Minh base area to join the Viet Minh resistance. Toan was eventually was sent to the Viet Minh resistance headquarters in the Viet Bac area, near the Chinese border. After being tutored by one of her relatives, who was a famous Vietnamese doctor, Toan enrolled as a medical student at the Viet Minh-run University of Hanoi Medical School in exile. In 1954 she was were sent off to the front lines to help care for the massive casualties the Viet Minh suffered during the Dien Bien Phu campaign. As soon as the battle of Dien Bien Phu ended, Toan married a Viet Minh general, Cao Van Khanh, the deputy commander of the Viet Minh 308th Division, in a ceremony held in the bunker that had been the headquarters of the French commander at Dien Bien Phu. After the 1954 Geneva Agreement was signed, she returned to medical school in Hanoi. After her graduation, she worked throughout the war against the U.S. as a doctor at Military Hospital 108, the best hospital in all of North Vietnam. After fighting in South Vietnam during the war, Toan’s husband Cao Van Khanh died in 1980 at the age of 63, reportedly as from the effects of the U.S. defoliant called “Agent Orange.” One of Dr. Toan’s son’s later died at a relatively young age of a cancer that was attributed to the effects of his father’s exposure to “Agent Orange” during the war. At the time of the interview, Dr. Toan was a member of the executive committee of the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange Association.

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Colonel Tran Trong Trung

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Colonel Tran Trong Trung was born to a poor peasant family in North Vietnam during the 1920s. After attending some classes and working to support his family, he went to work as an interpreter for the French in a mine in the mountainous region northwest of Hanoi. There he established contact with the Viet Minh resistance and worked to proselytize his fellow workers. He joined the Viet Minh armed forces when the Japanese overthrew the French colonial government in early 1945. Because he spoke French and some English, he was sent to Tan Trao to serve as a Viet Minh liaison officer with the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) team that was sent into North Vietnam to assist and train the Viet Minh in July 1945. Following the Viet Minh takeover of the government of Indochina, Trung went to work as a secretary in the General Headquarters of the Viet Minh Armed Forces, working under the Viet Minh Chief of Staff, General Hoang Van Thai. He served on the General Staff for some years before transferring to the enemy proselytizing department, which conducted propaganda and proselytizing activities against French troops. He conducted enemy proselytizing activities during the siege of Dien Bien Phu. Trung served as an artillery officer during the late 1950s-early 1960s. He returned to work in the North Vietnamese General Staff Headquarters for several years in the mid-1960s. In early 1968, Trung was sent to fight in South Vietnam and Laos, where he spent the last years of the war until he was wounded in 1974 and sent to China for medical treatment. Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, he worked in the Army’s History Branch researching and writing histories of the war. Trung is the author of several books, including a book titled “Supreme Commander Vo Nguyen Giap” (Tong Tu Lenh Vo Nguyen Giap), which covers General Giap’s activities during the war against the French. The bulk of this interview is devoted to high-level strategy discussions and Colonel Trung’s analysis of General Vo Nguyen Giap’s role in the conduct of the wars against the French and the Americans.

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Colonel Luu Dinh Mien

Colonel Luu Dinh Mien was born in Haiphong during the mid-1930s. His family fled to the Thanh Hoa Viet Minh “free zone” following the French re-occupation of Haiphong. Mien attended school in Thanh Hoa throughout the war against the French. After the signing of the Geneva Peace Agreement and the communist occupation of Hanoi in 1954, Mien moved to Hanoi to complete his high school education. He then joined the North Vietnamese Army. After basic training, because of his educational background he was assigned to work as a teacher in an Army “Cultural School” in Haiphong (“Cultural Schools” provided supplemental education to poorly educated North Vietnamese soldiers, primarily officers). In the late 1950s, Mien was sent to attend Hanoi University and graduated with a degree in “Pedagogical Studies” (teaching). He served as an instructor at the Army’s “Mid and High-Level School” (the equivalent of the U.S. Army Command and Staff College) during the early-mid 1960s. In late 1965 Mien was sent to attend a special one-year English-language training course in Hanoi. After graduating from English language training, he was assigned to the General Political Department’s Enemy Proselytizing Branch [Cuc Dich Van]. He described his duties there as analyzing news reports and other information to develop enemy proselytizing themes to be used against U.S. and South Vietnamese troops. He also said that one of his duties was to meet with and debrief captured American pilots (during the interview Colonel Mien was reluctant to discuss this aspect of his duties and would not provide the names of the pilots he interviewed). Mien also made a number of relatively short (several months each) trips into battle areas in the northern part of South Vietnam during the war to support enemy proselytizing operations. During the final offensive against South Vietnam in 1975 Mien was sent south to conduct enemy proselytizing activities, but returned to Hanoi shortly before Saigon fell to North Vietnamese forces on 30 April 1975. After the war Mien worked in enemy proselytizing assignments, (including work against the Khmer Rouge forces in Cambodia and assisting with the “reeducation” of captured South Vietnamese officers) until he retired. [Note: According to a 5 October 2008 story in the Washington Post, Luu Dinh Minh was one of the North Vietnamese interrogators who questioned Senator John McCain after McCain was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese in Hanoi in 1967. Mien is described in the story as a former military interrogator who participated in the initial questioning of McCain. Mien is quoted in this story as saying, “I was what the Americans called a brainwasher. … We explained to the Americans why we had fought the French, why we were fighting them, and why it was wrong for them to bomb us.” The article says that Mien remembered McCain “as a prisoner who ‘liked to talk’ and who frequently boasted about his family’s naval traditions.]

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