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Liberation day remembered

Army tanks enter the busy coastal city of Da Nang as the people pour into the streets to greet the liberation troops

The following document was written 30 years ago when Tran Mai Huong, a young reporter working with the Liberation Press Agency, travelled with photographers and the army into the newly liberated coastal city of Da Nang. Viet Nam News presents the translated version by Nguyen Huy Dung.

It was 3pm on March 29, 1975, and the city of Da Nang turned red and blue with the colours of the flag for the National Front for the Liberation of South Viet Nam (NFLSVN).

From Phuoc Tuong and Thanh Khe roads to Nguyen Truong To street, the liberation army marched into the city among a storm of applause as hundreds of thousands of people gathered. A motorcade carrying the flag of the Provisional Revolutionary Government moved across the Trinh Minh The Bridge over the Han River, stopping now and again because of the thick swarm of people that poured into its path. The mothers in the crowd couldn’t hold back their tears. We walked with the liberation troops, and an elderly man from District 3 exclaimed to us: "My dear children! Just pause for a while so I can watch the liberation flag a moment before you move on." It was so crowded that few could get close to the flag, but I noticed the old man watched it from afar, breaking into tears at the sight.

On the street corners, liberation soldiers were surrounded by cheering groups of people. Locals brought whatever they had on hand – rice, water and cakes – to offer the soldiers. Young girls and boys embraced the soldiers in the way they would have close relatives. The love for the liberation soldiers in Da Nang overwhelmed all those present. The revolution’s momentum didn’t stop in Da Nang – it continued southward with historic strength.

The city of Da Nang was the birth place of the patriots Hoang Dieu, Thai Phien and many more. And it was the very spot where Ong Ich Khiem made the first shot against the French. It is thus the city of the uprising people. Leading up to the liberation, thousands of Sai Gon army recruits from the Hoa Cam training camp rose up and brought their armaments back to aid revolutionary forces. In the wards of An Hai Nam, An Hai Bac, Mang Thai and Nai Nghia, and many others of District 3, the underground liberation militia joined with locals to reclaim power before the enemy could force them to flee. On the morning of March 29, thousands of locals entrapped and took over the US Consulate that stood at 60 Bach Dang Road.

We moved into the city of Da Nang within the first hours of liberation, proud to stand in the cheerful atmosphere of the city that had stood up and taken control of its destiny. Throughout the city, from the Phuoc Tuong base to Non Nuoc camp and Son Tra peninsular, and from the Da Nang airport to Thang Binh beach, the new flag flew everywhere. Walking through the streets of Thanh Khe, Hung Vuong and Dong Khanh, we met a flock of people marching North on National Highway 1. A few days before, they had fled from Hue and Quang Tri to Da Nang, and they were joyfully returning to their homes. Over one million returned to the city embracing the revolution. Rows of boats boasted the revolutionary red flag on the Han River.

Da Nang rekindled all day. With the electricity coming back on, lights increasingly blazed on the horizon. Clean water ran to every corner of the city. In front of City Hall in Bach Dang Street, where the US Consulate continued burning, a young female militia proudly carried her gun to keep guard of the city. We saluted the girl. She had helped liberate the city; scattered in the mud at her feet were pictures of former president Nguyen Van Thieu. An old man in shorts chatted with liberation soldiers. The soldiers introduced him to us. He was Tran Dau, a fisherman from An Chanh, and he told us, tears coating his eyes, "My dear friends, it is so wonderful; for years, we suffered, and now things are completely different."

30 long years

Life in the city quickly returned to normal. All districts and wards established revolutionary people’s committees. The major markets of the city, such as Han, Moi and Con markets, opened the day after liberation, and in the afternoon, the bell of the Cathedral tolled, calling believers to mass, while in the Pho Da pagoda, the sound of the wooden tocsin and prayers echoed. Self defence forces in the city have welcomed hundreds of new recruits.

The people of Da Nang enjoyed the first day of liberation as masters of their own lives. On the wharf, Vo Ba Cu put a red banner on his left arm and slung an AR15 over his shoulder for his watch shift. A native of Hue he lives in the Dong Da market area and has for some time. He recalled the hard days with the former employers. When the employers fled, they left dozens of ships. The workers considered the ships as their property and decided to protect them for their country.

Like minded, Le Duc Loc, a car mechanic at 197 Phan Chu Trinh Street, said, "I had to pay hundreds of thousands of Sai Gon Dong to escape working for the military. We have looked forward to your arrival. Following liberation, I decided I would drive to the port and work for the Revolutionary People’s Committee, hoping that I could make some small contribution to the revolution." Loc joyfully volunteered to be our driver for part of the day, driving us around the city and showing us his birth place.

Since liberation, the city has become a place where the formerly oppressed can walk in freedom. Lam Hong Long, a photographer of the Liberation News Agency, who travelled with us the day after liberation, was imprisoned in the Con Ga Prison of Da Nang some 29 years ago [1946]. With his camera, he has captured with emotional intensity the images of newfound freedom. Vinh An, a young woman from District 1, was a student of the Da Nang Senior High School before she escaped to a resistance zone to serve the revolution. The day after liberation, she returned and joined the city’s Information Board. She is perhaps one of the most cheerful people we have encountered. Wearing her best clothes and riding her motorcycle, she directed reporters and photographers of the Giai Phong News Agency (Liberation News Agency) as they toured the city. Now and then, she stopped to meet with old acquaintances and friends. In her jovial words, she told us, "This feels like a dream, after 30 long years, we finally have our day! This is the happiest day of my life."

After witnessing the enemy’s bitter defeat, Da Nang has embraced its liberation. Across the city, weapons, guns, tanks, jeeps and many other remnants of the enemy’s chaotic and panicked retreat lay strewn.

In the Da Nang airport remains clusters of empty aircrafts, bearing the emblem of the Sai Gon Air Force. These memorable days of March will enter into the history of Da Nang, echoing the 10 years leading up to this time. Only 10 years ago [1965], on March 23, did the first US marines land on the soil of Da Nang to start their devastating invasion. Two years ago [1973], also on March 29, the last US troops in South Viet Nam withdrew from Da Nang. History repeated itself today, March 29, 1975, as the revolutionary army marched into the city of "bravery and loyalty" to join locals in the uprising, welcoming a new era of self-determination.

The general’s office

The Headquaters of I Army Corps, with tens of thousands of troops from Divisions 1 and 3, the Marines and special mobile forces of the Sai Gon regime, had been overrun. I remember watching young liberation soldiers playing in front of the Nguyen Tri Phuong camp, on Nguyen Truong To Street, where the defeated commander of the army corps, General Ngo Quang Truong, had given the order "Protect Da Nang at all cost!"

As the order was published in the media, the General fled Da Nang. Many troops and officers were left behind as Truong took a ship to Sai Gon. A liberation soldier escorted me to the general’s office. It was there, on the second floor of the house at the right wing of the camp, that I observed the material result of a purely panicked mind – everything in the room was scattered. Maps, documents, notebooks and photos were thrown to every corner. The three-star flag (Truong was a three-star general) and his portrait photo were on the floor.

A young soldier mockingly posed in the General’s chair, evoking a good laugh from other soldiers present. Truong was probably a man who liked to show off, and as such there were many books on the shelf of the office. I took one down, and it read: Flood and Storms of Central Viet Nam.

A thought suddenly flashed through my mind – it was a storm of fire, of Central Viet Nam and the whole of the nation, that engulfed the careers of Truong and his followers. It was the same storm that brought dawn to this city – and made the sunlight of today able to shine so bright in this new era.

VNS - (29/03/2005)

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