Major General Hoang Dan was born in 1928. General Hoang Dan died in 2003 in Hanoi, aged 75, while riding a motorbike on his way to school to pick up his grandson.
General Dan was born in Nghi Loc district, Nghe An province, the same province as of President Ho Chi Minh. General Hoang Dan is also related to Senior Lieutenant General Tran Van Quang, Deputy Minister of National Defense, and to Major General Hoang Niem, former Commander of the Information Army.
The lineage of General Hoang Dan’s mother in Nghi Loc is a descendant of General Nguyen Xi of the Le Dynasty. Nguyen Xi was a talented general of Le Loi, who had many merits in the war against the Ming army in 15th century. But the greatest merit of General Nguyen Xi was not only in the war against the Ming army, but also in the fact that he and the official Dinh Le killed the evil King Le Nghi Dan, and brought back Prince Le Tu Thanh, and Le Tư Thanh became King Le Thanh Tong. And in the history of Vietnam, king Le Thanh Tong was considered the greatest king of all feudal dynasties in Vietnam, which under king Le Thanh Tong reign, Vietnam had enjoyed the most brilliant development period of all feudal dynasties in Vietnam.
Is was can say that without general Nguyen Xi, there was no king Le Thanh Tong.
Back to the story of General Hoang Dan, he joined the Viet Minh army in 1946 to fight French colony, when he was 18 years old. During the war against the French, he participated in major battles, including the battle of Dien Bien Phu.
During the Vietnam War 1954-1975, he was sent to Frunze Military School in the Soviet Union in 1960 to study, then returned to Vietnam to work as a lecturer at the Department of Infantry, Military Academy in Hanoi.
In 1965, lieutenant colonel Hoang Dan was Deputy Head of Division 304, one of the 2 best divisions of Hanoi army (The other is 308 division). From 1968 to 1973, lieutenant colonel Hoang Dan was Division Commander of Division 304. During these 8 years of fierce war, Division 304 has gained many victories. During this period, it was said that the Saigon and American troops were more afraid of the 304th Division than of Hanoi Dac Cong- commandos.
During the five fierce fighting years of 1968-1973, Division Chief Hoang Dan commanded the 304th Division to participate in major battles: the battle of Khe Sanh 1968-1969, the battle of Lang Ve, the battle of Huong Hoa, the campaign of Route 9 – Southern Laos, the battle of the ancient citadel of Quang Tri in 1972.
In 1973, he was promoted to colonel.
In the battle of Quang Tri in 1972, although Colonel Hoang Dan’s 304th Division was very successful, destroyed 2 regiments of Saigon troops in fortified fortifications, but the whole campaign was unsuccessful, due to the wrong directions, mistake commanding of superior from Hanoi.
Above these wrong directions, there were directions to allow Hanoi army to attack only, no defense, no fortifications, no withdraw (3 no), and did not prepare good logistics, did not make roads that was proposed by General Vo Nguyen Giap.
Later, after the war ended, the opinion of Senior Lieutenant General Hoang Minh Thao, and Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Huu An also strongly criticized the direction of superiors from Hanoi during this period, makes Quangtri campaign unsuccessful on the side of Hanoi army.
Then, when Army Corps 2 of Hanoi army was established in 1974, Colonel Hoang Dan was assigned the task of Deputy Commander of Army Corps 2, whose general commander was Major General Nguyen Huu An.
1-Battle of Thuong Duc in 1974.
In 1974, at that time, Colonel Hoang Dan was serving as Deputy Commander of the 2nd Army Corps, the General Staff in Hanoi made a plan to capture Thuong Duc, assigned the 5th Military Region of Danang to execute, and the 304th Division of the 2nd Army took part to join as the main force. Actualy 5th Military Region of Danang was support force, and the 304 division was main force to capture Thuong Duc.
Thuong Duc is a mountainous area about 60 km from Da Nang city, near Laos. At this time, the Division commander of the 304th Division was Colonel Le Cong Phe, a former military teacher who attended Frunze School in the Soviet Union with Colonel Hoang Dan, and later, became the same military teacher of the Military Academy with Colonel Hoang Dan, and then later as Regiment Commander of the 24th Regiment which belong to the 304th Division, when Colonel Hoang Dan was Chief commander of 304 division.
That is, Mr. Le Cong Phe is both a colleague of a military school teacher, and a direct subordinate of Mr. Hoang Dan. Both of them worked together for decades, from the anti-French era, so they understood each other very well.
The mission of Division 304 and units of Local Military Region 5 of Danang was to capture the Thuong Duc district capital and Thuong Duc Military District, and attack reinforcements from Da Nang that must be sent to Thuong Duc to rescue Thuong Duc units when Thuong Duc was attaked.
According to the above assessment, because Thuong Duc is very important, if it were lost, Da Nang was threatened, so it was likely that the Saigon army will send division size to save Thuong Duc, and division 304 will try to fight the size of division of the Saigon army, to see how the combat ability of the division level of the two sides Sai Gon and Hanoi.
This was the first time Hanoi allowed Hanoi division to fight Saigon division, to check ability of fighting between Hanoi division, and Saigon division.
The Thuong Duc district capital and Thuong Duc Military District of the Saigon army have one main post, which is guarded by the 79th Battalion. Next to it, is the administrative district capital, protected by 2 platoons of local-security troops and a company of field police. The outer ring has small forts like Ba Khe, and peak 52, guarded by 1 remote sensing platoon, and 16 insurgent platoons.
The enemy’s force was quite large, about 2,000 people, all under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Quoc Hung. The whole area has formed a stronghold, which is organized quite continuously and closely, with 35 solid fortifications, semi-submersible blockhouses, underground tunnels, continuous trenches, and strong firepower.
According to General Hoang Dan later recounted, then, in 1974, when his superiors from Hanoi assigned his 304th Division task to capture Thuong Duc, everyone believed that the 304th Division with about 10.000 soldiers, plus thousand soldiers of 5th Local Military Region of Danang to fight 2000 soldiers of Saigon army would complete the easy task without any difficulty, because the 304th Division is a good fighting division.
And Hanoi army was outnumbered to Saigon army in Thuong Duc.
This was also the time when the Paris Agreement was just signed, the possibility of ending the war was near, so the task for the units at that time was to minimize the casualies of war. Soldiers’ casualties must be kept to a minimum.
“Naturally, at this point, we think a lot about the soldiers in our units, going through the most intense periods of war and still to alive to this day, we don’t want to sacrifice one more person. Of course, that was just a dream, because there were must be casualties in fighting. But more than ever, now we have to think carefully to minimize casualties”- General Hoang Dan later said in a speech about the battle of Thuong Duc.
General Hoang Dan analyzed the strength of the Thuong Duc fortresses of Saigon army was fire points. If the fire points can be destroyed, it will be not difficult to attack the fortress, and the casualties of Hanoi army were minimized.
If you want to destroy the strongholds of firing, you must be able to put the cannon to shoot directly to these firing strongholds. With large cannon, only 1, 2 bullets destroyed 1 firing position.
General Hoang Dan said that the gunner of 304 division who has to fire the third shot to hit the target was considered a bad shotter.
General Hoang Dan said, the problem of the Thuong Duc attack, was to get the artillery near the Thuong Duc base, and raise it to a high point, from there shoot straight, without shoot rainbows, at the enemy’s fire points.
Thus, a road must be made to pull the cannon up to the hill. But then the time was quite urgent, and having to make the road more than 40 km was not easy.
Fortunately, at that time, people in the area around Thuong Duc participated in helping the Hanoi army build the road. Thousands of Thuong Duc people, along with 4 infantry and engineer battalions of the 304th Division, completed the 40 km road in just 20 days, completed on July 17, 1974.
And luckily, no any people, peasant of Thuong Duc inform to Saigon army about this road building, so Saigon army did not know about the imminent attack.
(But now, in 2022, more than 40 years after liberation, after the war ended, after more than 40 years of socialist construction, if the war happens again, I don’t know if the people of Da Nang will be enthusiastic again to help the communist army or not).
Thanks to that road, the cannons were easily pulled to the Vu Gia River.
The remaining task is to pull the cannon up to a high hill, from which to lower the cannon barrel, then shoot straight from the above hill to the enemy’s fire points, called according to the military technical word, shoot at a negative angle.
Hanoi troops used to pull artillery at the battle of Dien Bien Phu. But in Dien Bien Phu, the artillery was located 4 to 5 km away from the battlefield, when pulling the artillery, it was possible to both shouting with big voice to encourage pullers, and pull the artillery noisily without fear of being detected by the France enemy. But in the battle of Thuong Duc, the artillery will fire directly, so it had to be pulled close to the battlefield, only 800 meters away from the enemy base, not more than 1000 meters at most, so it was impossible to make encourage shouting and pull the cannon noisily at the same time, because it was easy to be exposed. Thus, towing artillery at the battle of Thuong Duc could not be crowded, could not have a wide road, and had to be pulled quickly, neatly and secretly.
According to General Hoang Dan, at that time, there was a soldier who had a very good idea: disassemble parts of cannons, remove the barrel of the cannon, pull the barrel separately, pull the canon leg separately. Take 2 car tires and wrap them in 2 barrels, use 12 people to pull gently, without encourage shouting at all.
To pull the foot of the cannon, make the zigzag road a little wider than the foot of the cannon, inclined 30 degrees along the slope, only 15 people can pull it easily. (This experience of pulling artillery up to the high hills was later applied throughout the army, during the Ho Chi Minh campaign, as well as in the anti-Chinese war on the northern border in 1979-1989.)
8 straight 85mm cannons, 8 rocket launchers, and DKZ guns were raised to a high point of 118 for direct fire by this way.
In addition to this direct firing artillery force to shoot directly at the enemy’s fortifications, the 304th Division also dispatched a 105mm artillery battalion, and a 120mm mortar company, located about 3 km away from Thuong Duc to fire to the enemy, shooting the rainbow, to restrain the enemy cannons.
At that time, Colonel Hoang Dan, Deputy Commander of the 2nd Army Corps, from 2nd Army Corp base went down to Thuong Duc to direct the 304th Division to carry out all the above preparations.
Colonel Hoang Dan also worked with Division Chief Le Cong Phe, Deputy Master Nguyen An,,,, to make a battle plan, the basic content was to use the 66th Regiment to destroy the main base of Thuong Duc, and the 3rd Regiment and 1 Company, the local army of Military Region 5 to destroy 2 peripheral bases, and attack Saigon reinforcements.
At this point, all the most difficult preparations have been completed, very assured, Colonel Hoang Dan entrusted the command of Thuong Duc battle to Chief Le Cong Phe, and Deputy Master Nguyen An, while he returned to the Army Corps base to take charge of 2nd Corps training command, because 2nd Corps had just been formed.
But the development of the battle of Thuong Duc did not go as smoothly as originally planned.
Phase 1: From July 28 to July 31, 1974, the attack failed.
At 5:00 am on July 28, 1974, Hanoi artillery opened fire on Thuong Duc. Then the infantry attacked. The infantry crossed the acacia forests, down the fields, and entered the fortifications A, B, C, Go Cam, Ba Khe,,,.The Saigon army’s ammunition depot was hit and burned. Many Saigon fortifications were destroyed by direct artillery fire. Hanoi Soldiers used explosives to break the fence. But at the 4th fence, Hanoi soldiers began to be strongly counterattacked by the Saigon army, unable to advance.
According to Lieutenant General Pham Xuan The later, after war ended, Mr. The was then Battalion Commander of the 9th Battalion, 66th Regiment, commanded troops to attack Thuong Duc from July 28 to July 31 that year.
Lieutenant General The recalled: “The ultimate goal was to break through the Saigon army’s fence. There were many wounded soldiers on our side, stuck on the barbed wire fence of the enemy, and their comrades died miserably because they rushed to save each other”.
(After the Battle of Thuong Duc, Mr. The was promoted to Deputy Regiment, Regiment 66. On April 30, 1975, Mr. The’s 66th Regiment entered the Independence Palace first, and it was Regiment Deputy Pham Xuan The who was one the soldiers to led President Duong Van Minh to the radio station, read the Declaration of Surrender. Now retired General The currently living near West Lake, Hanoi).
During 4 days, from July 27 to 31, Hanoi troops suffered casualties and sacrificed more than 300 soldiers, but still could not enter the interior of Thuong Duc base, the fence was still not broken.
It can be said that the Saigon army fought quite tenaciously, bravely, and also very clever. After all, they are also Vietnamese, with the same blood as Ba Trung, Ba Trieu, Ly Thuong Kiet, Tran Hung Dao,,, so they are as clever and brave as Hanoi army.
Lieutenant Colonel of the District, commander of the force holding Thuong Duc Nguyen Quoc Hung was injured and broke his leg, but still bravely continued to lead soldiers to fight. Unfortunately, there were not many brave and clever people like that in Saigon army, so in the end they lost.
At that time, on July 31, the command of the 304th Division ordered to stop the attack, maintain the captured battlefield, and call the 2nd Army Corps for advice.
Phase 2: captured Thuong Duc
Colonel Hoang Dan was directing the 2nd Corps training, when on July 31, received electricity from 3 places at the same time, from the 304th Division, from the 5th Military Region, and from the Ministry of Defense from Hanoi, said that the Division 304 unsuccessful attacked on Thuong Duc. General Hoang Dan later recalled: “I was really surprised, because I believed that the 304th Division would definitely level Thuong Duc in 1 or 2 days”.
The 2nd Corps Command briefly discussed, and agreed that Colonel Hoang Dan must go down to Thuong Duc immediately, to grasp the actual situation, and to have direct instructions, because sitting far away from the 2nd Corps base, he did not know anything to guide, direct.
Colonel Hoang Dan immediately went down to the 304th Division, and listened to the situation report. After studying all the situation of 4 days of fighting, Colonel Hoang Dan drew the following conclusion: Subjectively despise the enemy.
“We swore to win without pride, to lose without discouragement, but why does these bad lessons keep repeating itself?”-General Hoang Dan recalled.
What is the specific of this enemy disdain subjectivity:
– Subjective artillery:
To defeat the enemy in solid fortifications, first of all, fire bases of enemy must be destroyed. This simple knowledge can be learned by any commander. We have 8: 85mm cannons, and 8 Chinese H12 rockets, and DKZ guns. The artillery fired from a distance of 3 km to control the enemy artillery consisted of 1 105 mm artillery battalion, 1: 120 mm mortar company, plus 82 mm mortars of the 66th Regiment, and of the 7th Battalion.
Such artillery forces were extremely powerful.
If you focus on direct fire artillery to shoot at enemy points of fire, and focus on indirect rainbow artillery fire on enemy artillery, restrain enemy artillery when troops approach the fence and open the fence door, then it is completely possible to ensure for 2 battalions to break through the fence, open the fence door, and attack inside the enemy base.
But our artillery commander is very subjective. Comrade Commander of the Artillery Regiment announced to his soldier brothers very subjectively: “This time will shave flat all the fortress Thuong Duc”.
And this comrade commanded the artillery was very actually to do that, that is, to shoot all over the fortress, shave all the trees and forests, without aiming at the enemy’s artillery positions. Artillery also did not know how the infantry operated, so when the troops attacked and broke down the fence, they did not focus on suppressing enemy artillery, only aimed at trees to shoot ” shaving, scraping Thuong Duc”.
–The subjectivity of the infantry:
After the infantry has destroyed 2 peripheral strongholds, it is necessary to stop, consolidate the battlefield, study the terrain, carefully observe where the enemy is, and bring in vehicles to open the fence doors to break the internal barriers, put more forces in, arrange the battlefield, create attackers, defenders,,,..
At the same time, the artillery must be concentrated to control the enemy’s artillery and mortars.
But the infantry did not do like that.
After capturing 2 peripheral strongholds, the infantry continued to attack in advance without any preparations, so it was only a target for the Saigon Army’s guns to shoot from the semi-submersible bunkers. As a result, more than 300 soldiers suffered casualties and sacrificed, without capturing the enemy base.
After drawing such a lesson, and spreading these lessons to the all leaders of the 304th Division, Colonel Hoang Dan and the division’s leaders directed the attack again, changing the way of command.
Comrade Long, Regiment Commander of 66th Regiment, went down to strengthen direction for Company 7. Comrade Nguyen An, Deputy Division Commander came down to reinforce 66th Regiment. Comrade Phan Ham, Deputy Director of Operations Department from the Ministry of Defence came from Hanoi to be a reinforcement for the 2nd Corps, now went down to Thuong Duc, sat with the Chief of Artillery Division, to direct not to shave the trees, but to shoot with aims.
Colonel Hoang Dan sat with Senior Master Le Cong Phe in command base of 304 division for joint instructions.
On the night of August 6, Hanoi army began to bombard enemy fire bases with focus. The infantry began to attack at dawn on August 7. The direct fire destroyed most of the enemy’s fire bases. With that command, after just over 4 hours, at 9:00 am on the 7th of August, 304 division captured Thuong Duc.
Phase 3, countered Saigon’s army counterattack.
The area of Thuong Duc was extremely important, so General Cao Van Vien of Saigon army, with the approval of President Thieu, sent the Airborne Division to Da Nang to regain Thuong Duc.
Brigadier General Le Quang Luong is the commander of the Parachute Division, a red beret force, very good at fighting. From August 8 to August 11, two Airborne Brigades 1st and 2nd were airlifted into Da Nang. General Luong left 1st parachute brigade in the North of Hai Van Pass to reassure the bewildered public that Da Nang might be threatened by the Hanoi army.
At this time, the troops of the 304th Division occupied Thuong Duc, and occupied the high points of 1068, and 1225, and built strong fortifications to prepare for the enemy’s counter-attack.
There are two ways to counter-attack, which is defense, or attack against counter-attack.
If you want to attack and counter-attack, you must have enough powerful forces. But at that time, the 304th Division was the Division in lacking, that is, there were only 2 Regiments of 66 and Regiment 3, lacking 1 Regiment, with about totally 5000 soldiers only, so the Division leaders chose to defend against counter-attacks.
On August 18, 1974, 10 days after Thuong Duc was captured by the Hanoi army, the Saigon Army Airborne Division began to attack and retake Thuong Duc.
The attack method of the Saigon paratroopers was also very methodical. First, they secretly approached our positions. After that, they fired artillery and bombers on our defensive positions. Then they attaked.
When the first wave of attack was unsuccessful, the paratroopers backed out again, fired again, bombarded, then attacked again for the second, third time,,,.
Saigon army never attack in hurry, they carefuly prepared before any attack.
The 1st Airborne Brigade attacked the 1062 high point, which occupied by the 3rd Regiment of Hanoi. Teams of three soldiers of the red berets and parachutes of the Saigon army clung to the hillsides, climbed the cliffs, threw grenades, and engaged in close combat with the Hanoi army. Our troops threw grenades down from the mountain, the red berets did not panic, dared to dodge, and climbed up again.
It was quite a battle against the good fighting enemy.
The high score of 1062 was won over and over again by both sides.
Both sides fought bravely, one trying to kill the other, but no one seemed to hate the other.
When capturing each other’s prisoners, both sides treat them kindly. A veteran of the Hanoi army who participated in the defense and recapture of Hill 1062, with an email address email@example.com, recounted that when retaking Hill 1062, there were 2 wounded Saigon paratroopers trapped on the hill. He sat with these two Saigon wounded soldiers, talked to each other normally in Vietnamese language, “nobody hates anyone”. A paratrooper introduced himself as Minh, living in District 11 of Saigon. After that, the battle happened again, he went to fight again, so he didn’t know what the two Saigon wounded soldiers were, whatever their fate was after that, he didn’t see them anymore.
On September 19, 1974, after more than a month of fighting, the red berets had recaptured the high point of 1062.
From there, the Saigon army declared that the recapture of Thuong Duc was within reach.
General Hoang Dan later recalled that Hanoi army had very little defensive experience. Perhaps because we are a revolutionary army, always thinking of advancing forward, of attacking first, then when we need to defend, it is quite awkward. General Dan said our combat unit commanders had very little to learn about defense.
Only a small number of commanding officers trained in military academies have received any training in defense. Soldiers in units directly engaged in combat had almost no training in defense. His 304th Division, in the battle of Quang Tri citadel in 1972, also defended, but failed, because we had too little experience in defense.
After the loss of Hill 1062, Military Region 5, and the Ministry of National Defense in Hanoi both blamed the 304th Division’s leaders, Chief Le Cong Phe, and Deputy Master Nguyen An, and asked to replace the Division’s commanders.
And at that time, Colonel Hoang Dan was asked to enter Thuong Duc for the third time, find a way to regain hill 1062, and keep Thuong Duc, defeating the Airborne troops of Saigon army.
The leaders of the 2nd Corps met, and decided to propose not to replace the leaders of the 304th Division, but to strengthen the forces of the 304th Division. Because in Thuong Duc, the 304th Division was a short division, lacking 1 Regiment, only 2 combating groups, while the staff of 1 Division is to have full 3 Regiments.
Before going down to Thuong Duc, Colonel Hoang Dan suggested to the 2nd Corps that if he go down to the 304 division in Thuong Duc with empty-handed, nothing would be resolved.
He suggested adding the 24th Regiment to Thuong Duc, so that the 304th Division would have full 3 Regiments. At the same time, he proposed to send 2 more Engineer Battalions to help the 304th Division make solid defensive fortifications. At the same time, he offered to supply 4000 more mortar shells to Thuong Duc.
Later, there were many opinions saying that without Colonel Hoang Dan, Thuong Duc would have failed, and the whole Vietnam war situation would have changed greatly, maybe without April 30, 1975, the war might have to be fought back a few years more,,,.
General Hoang Dan was very humble, he said that without the reinforced 24th Regiment, without 2 battalions of Engineers, and without 4000 shells, Mr. Hoang Dan could not do anything. Senior Lieutenant Colonel 304 Le Cong Phe also liked this idea, because it helped to justify to Mr. Phe that he failed in Thuong Duc not because he was not talented, but only because of his weak forces. (Currently, Major General Le Cong Phe is retired, and is the Chairman of the Veterans Association of Thanh Hoa province, his hometown. Mr. Phe always has a very respectful opinion of General Hoang Dan).
Colonel Hoang Dan and reinforcements entered Thuong Duc, and the first thing was to train the unit commanders on how to defend. Colonel Dan ordered to withdrew the unit commanders back to 304 division base for training for 2 courses for 6 days.
But if unit commanders, from Platoon Leader and above, go to training, what if the enemy attacks?
Colonel Hoang Dan directed that before withdrawing the commanders to study for defense, they must arrange direct fire, 85mm cannons, Chinese H12 missiles, and 37mm anti-aircraft guns already to fire. If Saigon army attack, these gun all will fire directly to Saigon army’s positions. If these guns shoots directly at the enemy infantry, it will be like throwing a whole bunch of grenades at the enemy.
During the 6 days of training, if the enemy made any movement, they should immediately focus their fire on the enemy, so as not to allow the enemy to charge.
Looking back now, in year 2022, if the Airborne Division had known then that the Hanoi army had withdrawn all its commanders for training, in those six days, they had focused on attacking, then it is very likely that they would have changed the battle, and change the Vietnam war.
But there was no any attack from Saigon Army on these days.
For each 3-day training session, the class is built with realistic sand and defense content, so the learning results are very high. After 3 days of training, the unit commanders know how to build defensive fortifications, know how to arrange fire in the defensive battlefield, know when to take shelter, when to rise to counterattack, when to extinguish artillery, when to advance forward,,,.
After 6 days, 2 training courses have ended, all combat unit commanders know how to play defensively, and are very confident in this fighting style. Colonel Hoang Dan also sent 2 battalions of engineers down to combat units, helping to build solid fortifications. Some units made their own fortifications according to the learned model, using materials available in the field.
After these prepararions, the 3rd phase of capture Thuong Duc began.
The 3rd battle in Thuong Duc started from the end of October, lasted 2 months, to the end of December 1974, was also very tough and fierce.
Both sides are very clever and brave. During these two months, there were many examples of clever and brave fighting on both sides. Hill 1069 was taken away by both sides and won back many times.
But while the Saigon Airborne Army did not change the way of fighting, keeping the old way of fighting, only attacked on the front and the rear, the Hanoi army changed the way of fighting, being very flexible, creative, the conterattack of the Hanoi army was very consistent and smoothly cooperation of each other between units.
Therefore, by the end of December 1974, the Saigon Airborne Division still could not recapture Thuong Duc, then had to withdraw from Thuong Duc.
When the Airborne Division retreated, it was pursued by Division 304, and Hanoi army was also able to liberate Dai Loc B area.
Winning the Battle of Thuong Duc brought General Staff in Hanoi to the conclusion that for the first time, one of Hanoi regular Divisions defeated a regular division of the Saigon army, since then, the General Staff concluded that the possibility of a big fight had come.
That was the premise for the Politburo to come up with a plan to attack in 1975-1976, and as a result, only 1975 ended the war.
After defeating Thuong Duc, the 304th Division closed to Thuong Duc, rested, and joined the Ho Chi Minh Campaign in March 1975.
The Vietnam War ended more than 40 years ago. Looking back from now, year 2022, what did we Vietnamese people fight each other for?
On January 27, 1974, our General Staff in Hanoi held a meeting in Do Son, Hai Phong, to discuss the 1974 war plan, including a plan to capture Thuong Duc. But just 10 days before, on January 17, 1974, the Chinese army attacked, and occupied all of our Hoang Sa archipelago.
If both South and North knew how to unite and protect the sea and islands together, we may has not lost Hoang Sa to China.
2-Northern border war with China.
In 1978, when we were preparing to attack the Polpot army in Campuchia, General Le Trong Tan, the commander-in-chief of Hanoi army in the Cambodian battlefield, called General Hoang Dan to Saigon, to help General Le Trong Tan make a plan to attack Polpot. After our Vietnamese army defeated the Polpot army in December 1978, General Hoang Dan went back to the North to work as a lecturer at the National Defense Academy.
On February 17, 1979, 20 Chinese divisions attacked all 6 northern border provinces, with the expectation that Vietnam must withdraw troops from Cambodia, then China can rescue Polpot.
The Chinese attack was a complete surprise to Vietnam party’s leadership, although Vietnam communist party at that time had many analytical opinions that it was possible that China would attack us to save Polpot’s life. Despite such proper analysis, there was no active preparation on our side.
At that time, our Vietnam side had 2 very subjective opinions:
1-Challenging Chinese to eat candy also China dare not hit Vietnam!!!
2-“China is densely populated, Vietnam will be flooded with just peeing by Chinese”-“Don’t worry, I will cut p,,,,,of China”.
Why “challenging Chinese to eat sweets, but China doesn’t dare to beat us”, no one can give any theoretical and practical basis. It seems that the victory over the US, and the victory at Dien Bien Phu in the past, gave Vietnam side a very subjective thought, forgetting that in history, China has lost many times to us, but China has never given up on their wish to annex Vietnam country, and whenever they had the opportunity, they sent their troops to fight Vietnam.
So on February 16, Lieutenant General Dam Quang Trung, Commander of the 1st Military Region in the northen border, still eloquently declared at a conference that “challenging Chinese candy to eat, they also dare not enter Vietnam land”.
A recent information on the internet shows-if this is true, in Hanoi, on the same day of 16th February 1979, Minister of Defense Van Tien Dung reduced the alarm to level 2, then leisurely went to Cambodia.
The next day, February 17, 20 Chinese divisions with more than 200,000 troops, plus 200,000 civilians serving transport and logistics, simultaneously attacked our land.
4 days after China attacked all our country’s border, on July 21, 1979, General Hoang Dan was appointed Commander of 5th Army Corps (also known as 14th Army), Commander of the Border Front Front in the North, organize to intercept Chinese troops.
At that time, General Hoang Dan had a plan to arrange the 337th Division to block the retreat of the Chinese troops on the Lang Son side, in order to defeat about a Chinese division, to warn them, to remind them of their lives.
But the Vietnam politburo was not allowed to intercept the Chinese troops, so General Hoang Dan had to pull his troops out and let the Chinese troops withdraw safely after 3 weeks occupied Vietnam.
In February 1981, General Hoang Dan resigned from the position of Commander of the 5th Army Corps to become the Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of Military Region 1, with Lieutenant General Dam Quang Trung as the Commander of Military Region 1.
Flat top mountain altitude 400 meters in Lang Son.
This flat top moutain in China is called Phap Lap Son, in Việt Nam is just called binh do 400- Flat top mountain altitude 400 meters.
In the middle of 1981, the Chinese fiercely attacked Vietnam garrison guarded this mountain to capture this 400 m mountain, that from there, they could control Việt Nam’s Lang Son side.
The Chinese army arranged 1 Infantry Division, and supporting units such as artillery, engineers,,,, about 30,000 troops, to sieze the 400 m mountain, successfully pushed out Việt Nam troops, and occupied it.
General Hoang Dan was ordered to retake this 400 m mountain.
General Hoang Dan used the 52nd Regiment of the 337th Division as the main force, adding support units such as the 198th Commando Battalion-DAC CONG, the 514th Engineer Regiment, the 11th Artillery Battalion,,.
He used 1 elite commando platoon DAC CONG secretly closed in on the Chinese army, attacked by surprise with artillery, grenades, explosives, and captured the 400 m mountain easily.
30.000 Chinese soldiers run away for their life. After that, the Việt Nam DAC CONG commando handed over the 400 m mountain to 1 Company of the 52nd Regiment to guard.
The Chinese side again arranged 3 battalions to take turns to attack to the high top of 400 m mountain, failed this time, rushed to another wave. After several assaults, they recaptured a high top of 400 m mountain.
The Chinese losses were quite large. Việt Nam defensive company was also almost wiped out.
After that, General Hoang Dan arranged small battles, fought against the enemy, pushed the flanks, and attacked deeply into the Chinese’s land.
He went up to the height of 400 m mountain, sitting calmly on the rock, watching the Chinese side to command, direct his troops, while many Việt Nam soldiers ducked into the tunnel to avoid artillery.
General Hoang Dan calmly said to the Việt Nam soldiers: “Life and death have destiny, guys. If you get to your destiny, then Chinese bullets will go into the tunnel and he will find you.”
During May 1981, the 400 m high top mountain was contested several times, with heavy casualties on both sides.
At the end of 1981, General Hoang Dan ordered Việt Nam’s troops to withdraw from the 400 m mountian, only using artillery to accurately shoot there, if the Chinese army crawled up.
The Chinese army knew that, did not dare to climb up anymore, but also only fired cannons at it. So actually from that time to now, no any troops of both sides to crawl up to this 400 m mountain, lt it alone for grasses to grow.
At the high top of 400 m mounatin, for the first time, the Chinese army learned how to fight the elite of the Vietnamese main army, “take few to fight many, defeat the strong with the weak“. But since then, China has also learned and imitated Việt Nam fighting style, so China’s fighting ability has also increased significantly.
The war situation with China seemed to have calmed down, so in July 1983, General Hoang Dan was again called back to Hanoi, working at the General Staff.
Vi Xuyen, Ha Giang in 1984.
However, in 1984, war with China broke out again at the border of Vi Xuyen district, Ha Giang province. In 1979, the Chinese attacked Việt Nam, their fighting skills and weapons were very poor at that time, so they lost.
After that, they immediately learned from failed experience, reorganized the army, retrained, re-equipped, developed all new weapons, infantry guns, cannons, rockets,,,.
They produced their own weapons, even good enough to export all kinds of weapons, missiles, bullets, weapons, military equipment, military equipment, artillery vehicles to all the world,,,..
And most of all, they are also very active in learning how to fight from our Vietnamese army.
Meanwhile, our army can hardly produce any weapons on our own, only improving and modifying some weapons from the time of the US and the Soviet Union. Ammunition of all kinds is also from the war with the US war remaining, so it must be shot sparingly.
Việt Nam side lack of all kind of weapons, if it was lost, then no any new weapon can be replenished again. Now, no any socialist countries to help Việt Nam weapon any more.
It was very danger situation during border war between Việt Nam and China.
In terms of combat organization, we hardly have any significant improvement, the soldiers are mainly new recruits, after 3 months of training, they are sent to the fighting posts, so there is no combat experience.
The most experienced anti-American soldiers were old, most of them had already retired, the remaining few were allowed to join the army to make skeletons of army units only. Leaders of Division, Corps,,,, still suffer from subjective illness, despise the enemy, thinking that Chinese army do not know how to fight.
So when the bloody battles occurred in 1984 in Vi Xuyen, we just fell back to the situation as of the incapable Chinese army in the past.
But Chinese army in 1984, after 5 years of fighting with Việt Nam was very different from the naive Chinese army in 1979.
It is only fortunate that the fighting spirit of Việt Nam soldiers was very brave, clever, and learns to fight very quickly.
In early 1984, China attacked in Vi Xuyen, occupying some high points of mountains in Vi Xuyen area, such as high points 1059, 772, 685, 1250,,,.
In July 1984, Việt Nam organized a fight to regain these high points, but without success, more than 2000 soldiers were sacrificed.
After this battle, Prime Minister Pham Van Dong was very angry and shouted, “Whose responsibility is this?”.
At that time, General, Chief of the General Staff Le Trong Tan stood up and said: “Sir, I am the Chief of the General Staff, I take responsibility for these losing, failing”.
According to a document attributed to Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Duoc, former Deputy Minister of Defense, in 1985, when Mr. Duoc was made the 356th Division commander, his superiors ordered Mr. Duoc to attack to regain the lost height points in Vi Xuyen.
Boss of Duoc said that there was no need to conduct field reconnaissance in advance, “There was no scouting at all. Just go up and fight.”
Lieutenant General Vu Lap, Commander of Military Region 2, when he learned that Chief Duoc was scouting the terrain, he also shouted at Duoc:–“Where is Mr. Duoc, who sent it to scout? Call him and tell him to come back, tell him it’s my order, no need scout, just advance forward to fight.”
General Duoc has wrote these facts in his memoir. (If this is a true memoir).
Reading the above paragraph, it seems that this is a group of forest medlars, buccaneers talking to each other, not Uncle Ho’s army, disciplined, orderly, having both comradeship, brotherhood, and love.
Actually, going to the field to investigate is a rudimentary knowledge of any commander, why this Military Region 2 commander does not want soldiers to check the field before fighting. Especially in July 1984, we already lost much in Vi Xuyen.
Lessons are too expensive, without learning from failed experience? Is this an invincible army that has won over the French, the Americans, won over Polpot?
The Việt Nam army that has fought continuously for more than 30 years, has a lot of combat experience, is considered by the world as the most skilled army in the modern world, but has a stupid way of commanding, baking troops like that?
Recalling the Battle of Buon Me Thuot in March 1975, Deputy Head of Division 316 Division Nguyen Hai Bang had himself to join scouts, swim across a river with many crocodiles, to get to the perimeter of Buon Me Thuot town to investigate the truth situation, from which to draw up a battle plan.
But now, fighting the Chinese invaders, but the superiors do not want to send the lower commanders to investigate the field, “There is no reconnaissance and observation at all. Just go up and fight.”
What is so stupidity. This stupidity will end of the Việt Nam army.
Veteran Dang Viet Chau, former Politician of 3rd Battalion, 876th Regiment, 356th Division, hometown of Nghe An, who had fighted in Vixuyen at that time, said that in the battle of July 12, 1984, his 876th Regiment alone, was responsible for the battle to recapture the high point 772, sacrificed more than 600 soldiers.
That day, there were 3 assault regiments occupying 3 high points 1059, 772, and 685. Our Vietnamese government has never announced the number of sacrifices of that battles on 12 July 1984. But if 1 Regiment sacrifices more than 600 men, then to put it simply, 3 Regiments will sacrifice nearly 2,000 men.
After that 12th of July, our troops at night, return to the battlefield to bring back the corpses of their soldiers brothers, or find the wounded, find that the weapons of our sacrificed troops are still intact, that is, the Chinese do not dare to crawl out to get Việt Nam weapon.
A loss too painful, but still not regain the lost high points.
Mr. Dang Viet Chau recalled that after the battle of July 12, 1984, Military Region 2 held a meeting to summarize and draw lessons from the failed July 12 battle.
Senior Lieutenant General Vu Lap, Commander of the Military Region asked, “According to you, do we win this battle or lost?”.
Mr. Chau attent this meeting, frankly replied louderly “lost”.
At that time, army officials attent this meeting looked at Mr. Chau “like another alien”.
Died to approximately 2,000 soldiers in just one day, the high points could not be regained, but this General Vu Lap did not know whether to lose or win, but also asked “we lose or win?”, it was a blind eye, and did not know the casualities of soldiers.
Returning to the story of General Hoang Dan, after the battle we lost on July 12, 1984 in Vixuyen, he was urgently promoted to Vi Xuyen, as the front commander of Military Region 2.
Veteran Dang Viet Chau mentioned above recalled many interesting memories of General Hoang Dan during the 1985 period in Vi Xuyen.
For example, when General Dan went to inspect the battlefield, he never stooped to avoid bullets like other soldiers, but kept walking straight and proud, because as he said, “life and death have destiny”.
Once, General Dan went down to visit Regiment 876, a 2-star 1st soldier standing guard at the door of the Ministry Regiment in Me village, Ha Giang, saw an old man wearing a 1-star badge, thought it was a private soldier, and shouted:
-“Old Comrade Private, stand back.”
General Hoang Dan was surprised, stopped, and politely said:
“-Yes sir, report to you comrade 1st class, I am a private soldier, please let me to meet Regiment Commander Huong”.
The Private First Class said loudly:
“-Hey, old man of the private soldier, this is not your place. Fighting is of our young soldiers, not your old soldiers. Please go back to the rear and take rest.”
At that time, Regiment Commander Huong had just come over, panicked, apologized to General Hoang Dan, and invited him in. General Dan both praised and criticized:
“You teache soldiers very well. But you have to teach the soldiers the commandments, rule of army. What is ridiculous that I am a major general, but he calls me a private soldier,” he said in the voice of Nghi Loc, Nghe An, his hometown.
But General Dan wore a very old badge of major generals, this badge is very old, faded, the gold glitter has disappeared, leaving only 1 star in the middle of the badge, looking like a private soldier. From that day, when visiting the units, General Dan was not seen wearing a major general badge anymore. Perhaps, he was afraid to be called a private again.
During his time in Ha Giang, General Hoang Dan was always close, friendly with the soldiers, sharing each cigarette with the soldiers, much loved by the soldiers.
During this time, General Hoang Dan directed Việt Nam troops to fight, encroached, dug trenches, dug fortifications to defence.
Thereby, greatly reducing casualties for soldiers.
Since 1986, the level of war gradually decreased, so General Hoang Dan was called back to the National Defense Academy. In 1995, at the age of 67, he retired.
History records that Major General Hoang Dan is a talented and virtuous general of the Vietnamese people’s army.
Hoang Dan and his superior, an army lieutenant general Nguyen Huu An were considered as 2 most talented Infantry army generals of Hanoi army.
In fact, I think General Hoang Dan deserves the title of full 4 stars general, not just a humble 1 star major general.
Compared to today’s generals, they are far behind Major General Hoan Dan. ///