38th Anniversary of Black April

Hoi B. Tran


In his book titled “No More Viet Nams” published in 1985 President Richard M. Nixon commented:


"No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now. Rarely have so many people been so wrong about so much. Never have the consequences of their misunderstanding been so tragic."


I know there are people who want to forget, to put a closure on this controversial subject, the Viet Nam War. I am also aware there’ve been thousands of books, studies and documentaries written about the Viet Nam War. But one thing I am sure you’ll agree with me that it is rather rare for the general public to have an opportunity to hear about this very same subject from a Nationalist Vietnamese veteran. Today, on the 38th Commemoration of Black April, this old Nationalist Vietnamese veteran is sharing with you his first hand account of what happened in the long Viet Nam War from 1945 to 1975.


At this stage of my life, I am 78, I have no political agenda to pursue. In fact, I may be cleared for take off anytime for my last flight West and, therefore, my only ambition is to voice the truth in an attempt to debunk as much as possible all the lies, all the distortions and biased reporting about the Viet Nam War.


Below are some questions requiring honest answers:


1- Was Ho Chi Minh a nationalist patriot who ousted the French & restored

independence for VN as portrayed by some Western writers and historians?


2- Who started the war in Viet Nam and was it immoral that the U.S. should not

have gotten involved?


3- Were the US Armed Forces defeated by the N. Vietnamese Communists?


4- What were the causes that led to the demise of the Republic of South VN?


5- Were people in South VN happy with the North Vietnamese liberators after

their so-called liberation of the South in April 1975?


Here is the first one:


I was born in Ha Noi, North VN in the mid-thirties, 1935 to be exact. Just three months prior to my 10th birthday the Japanese forces in Indochina staged a surprise attack and overthrew the French Colonists. The following day the Japanese envoy granted Viet Nam her independence within Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. By and large, most Vietnamese were excited and happy although it was not exactly the kind of independence they had hoped for but at least the French colonists were ousted. For in the past, many patriotic groups had struggled to expel the French but all failed. While the Vietnamese were enjoying their superficial independence, the US dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945 forcing Japan to surrender unconditionally on Aug 14, 1945. The capitulation of Japan created an anarchy state in VN. Ho promptly exploited the situation & used his armed propaganda brigades embedded in Ha Noi to seize power. On August 28, 1945, Ho formally declared the country to be the Democratic Republic of VN, an independent nation & proclaimed himself President & Minister of Foreign Affairs concurrently. The following week, Ho had his cadres convened a meeting at the Ba Dinh Square to introduce his government & cite the Declaration of Independence he plagiarized from the U.S. I was a 10 year-old Vanguard Youth Troop and I was present with my group to sing patriotic songs in this historic event.


Shortly after becoming President of the Democratic Republic of VN, Ho showed his true color as a loyal servant of the communists and a traitor. He followed communist’s doctrine overzealously. Between 1953 to 1956, he launched the inhumane Land Reform Campaign that viciously slaughtered at least from 60,000 to 150,000 landowners that they labeled as wicked landlords and about 50,000 to 100,000 were imprisoned. With his death squads, Ho began to viciously liquidate his compatriot political opponents if these people were pure nationalists or non-communist. On March 6, 1946, HCM compromised and signed an agreement to allow French forces to return to VN for five years and, in return, France would recognize his government. Ho’s wily move was very unpopular with nationalist Vietnamese patriots at the time and Ho was viewed as a traitor to the cause of the August revolution.


But the honeymoon between Ho Chi Minh and the French did not last long. In Nov 1946, a French ship bombarded Hai Phong, a coastal city in North VN. This incident and many subsequent clashes between French and Ho’s forces led to the Dien Bien Phu battle in the Northwest of Ha Noi in 1953. Dien Bien Phu garrison was set up by French Gen. Navarre in an attempt to lure Ho’s forces into a set piece battle so they could destroy them with air power and artillery. But Navarre did not know that Ho Chi Minh received substantial logistical supplies from communist China including military advisors and technicians. It was later revealed that Ho’s forces had more artillery than the French and they even had the deadly rocket launchers, the Stalin Organs from the Soviet Union. Obviously, they outgunned the French and numerically outnumbered the French defenders by five to one. On May 7, 1954, Dien Bien Phu fell into the hands of the communist attackers. The fall of Dien Bien Phu forced the French to sign an agreement in Geneva on July 21, 1954 that divided VN into two countries at the 17th parallel. North VN remained under Ho Chi Minh as the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam and south of the 17th parallel was a separate non-communist country under the government of Emperor Bao Dai.


If Ho Chi Minh had been a true nationalist patriot, he should have contented with the independence that Viet Nam inherited bloodlessly at the departure of the Japanese. He must have known that he was very lucky to be at the right place at the right time to, all of a sudden, have become president of the Democratic Republic of VN. Under the circumstances, Ho should have concentrated all his efforts and committed all available resources into rebuilding the war-ravaged country and reviving the dying economy in North VN. He should have fulfilled the attractive slogan he always used in the past to mobilize millions Vietnamese patriots who were willing to fight & die for: Independence-Freedom-Happiness.


In principle, the Geneva Accords of July 1954 had afforded VN her independence with two political regimes similar to Germany or Korea. What most Vietnamese had been longing for had been achieved, they no longer had to live under French colonial rule. If Ho had not been too greedy wanting to gobble up the RVN by force, both countries, the DRV and the RVN would have been peaceful and prosperous. There would have been… no war. But it was unfortunate for the Vietnamese people on both sides to have such an evil man like Ho Chi Minh. And with military supports from communist China and the Soviet Union, Ho determined to attack and invade South VN. To stop communist expansion in Indochina at the time, the US and the free world jumped in to help South Viet Nam. The US did not invade South VN as propagated by the North Vietnamese communist propaganda machine. On the contrary, it was HCM & the communists that caused the long 30-year war in Viet Nam from 1945 to 1975.


Now, second question:

Was the war in VN immoral and the U.S. should not have gotten involved?


Regardless of what people think and say, my personal opinion has always been; the U.S involvement in the war in VN was just and noble. It was just because we, the US of A would not get involved in any conflict overseas if we had no direct or indirect national interest in it, economically, politically or militarily. History shows the U.S. was very hesitant and careful prior to getting involved in WW1 and WW2. When the Soviet Union and Chinese communists directly supported the North Koreans to invade the Republic of South Korea on June 25, 1950, the U.S. did not intervene until the United Nations condemned the invasion as a violation of the agreement between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to divide Korea at the 38th parallel during WW2. After the end of the Korean War in 1953, the two giant communist countries, the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, were so eager to export communism to other nations especially in third world nations in SEA to incite anti-capitalism and stir up revolt under a very nice and attractive slogan “liberation war”. And the People’s Republic of China switched their support to HCM in North Viet Nam to fight the French at Dien Bien Phu.


In Nov 1956, when attending a party at the Polish Embassy in Moscow, Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union shouted to the West “We will bury you. In Latin America on Jan 1, 1959 Fidel Castro turned Cuba into a first communist country in the Western Hemisphere. While in Viet Nam, the North Vietnamese communists under Ho Chi Minh began to escalate their terrorist activities and war effort in South Viet Nam with support from the Soviet Union and the Chinese communists. On October 14, 1962 U.S reconnaissance plane discovered nuclear missile sites being built on the island of Cuba by the Soviet Union. With a series of provocative acts and threatening movements by the Communists at the time, it’d be very difficult for the U.S to ignore aggressive communist expansion. So it was Just and Noble for the U.S. (and the Free World) to come and help South Viet Nam, a small nation being invaded by the communist bloc.


Now the 3rd question:

Were the US Armed Forces defeated by the N. Vietnamese Communists?


My answer is a resounding NO!!! The following facts are very difficult to deny.


1- Anyone with a minimum understanding of the Viet Nam war would agree that through political negotiation, our negotiators along with delegates from the Republic of South Viet Nam, North Viet Nam and the Provisional Revolution Government signed a Peace Accords in Paris, France on January 27, 1973 to end the conflict politically.


2- In compliance with the Peace Accords, the last U.S. combat unit left South Viet Nam on Mar 29, 1973, two months after the Accords was signed.


3- After U.S combat troops had completely left the theater, the Armed Forces of the Republic of (South) Viet Nam continued to fight the well-supplied, better-equipped North Vietnamese invaders for a little over two years following the Peace Accords. But everything has a limit, because of the lack of logistical supports, the Republic of (South) Viet Nam collapse on April 30, 1975. How could the bold-faced communists of North Viet Nam brag about defeating the U.S militarily when there was not a single U.S soldier on the battlefield in Viet Nam?


The 4th question:

What were the causes that led to the demise of the Republic of (South) Viet Nam?


With the benefit of hindsight substantiated by a myriad of declassified secret documents, everyone interested in this subject could find at least four major reasons that paved the way for the catastrophe of April 1975 in the Republic of (South) VN.


1- President Johnson's limited war policy and his desultory strategy coupled with his micromanagement of the war through the Rules of Engagement (ROE) in Viet Nam detrimentally affected the outcome of the war and the destiny of South Viet Nam. In March 1967, South Viet Nam Premier Nguyen Cao Ky had a second meeting with U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in Guam. In this meeting Premier Ky asked Pres. Johnson to equip the Vietnamese Armed Forces properly, provide adequate logistical support & he would lead an invasion of North Viet Nam with 100% South Vietnamese forces. This would compel North Viet Nam leaders to retreat their forces from the South to defend their territory. But Premier Ky’s proposal was flatly denied.


2- Freedom and democracy was also a double-edged sword that really hurt our cause. For example; the tyrannical regime of North Viet Nam aligned well with Red China and the Soviet Union. They did not have a horde of hostile, biased war reporters to sully their military, they had no freedom of assembly for their citizens to gather in large number to organize antiwar or to protest against their government. They did not have celebrity like Jane Fonda or former government official like Ramsey Clark to smear them while praising the enemy. Superficially, they had no antiwar movements in Hanoi, not in Peking or in Moscow. Under the eyes of the world, they appeared to have a just cause and a united rear base supporting them.


3- Red China and the Soviet Union, two major allies who generously provided military & economic support to Ho Chi Minh in North Viet Nam, dealt with Ho very cleverly and diplomatically in public while U.S. officials treated their South Vietnamese ally like their pawn. It was no secret that U.S officials from the U.S Embassy in Saigon to Washington DC, more than often treated their Vietnamese counterparts with an imperious and arrogant attitude. The undiplomatic behavior of the U.S officials unknowingly provided Ho Chi Minh’s propaganda machine convincing reason to call the Republic of (South) Viet Nam a puppet government of the American Imperialist and that they must fight the American to liberate the South and save our fatherland.

4- Because of increasing political turmoil and antiwar movements in America, the U.S forced the Republic of (South) Viet Nam to sign a flawed & deadly Peace Accords on January 27, 1973 to end the war in Viet Nam. Less than 5 months after the signing of this flawed Accords, U.S Congress passed the Case-Church Amendment forbidding any further U.S military involvement in Southeast Asia. This was a green light for the communists to proceed with their invasion plan. In September 1974, U.S Congress cut military aid to the Republic of (South) Viet Nam to the bone. The South Vietnamese Armed Forces were fighting with fuel and ammunition on quotas while Red China and the Soviet Union quadrupled their logistical supports to their ally North Viet Nam. The balance of power was too lopsided in favor of the North Vietnamese communist invaders.


In an article titled “Heroic Allies”, Harry F. Noyes III, an USAF officer and Viet Nam veteran posed this question: “Would Americans do any better under the conditions that faced the South Vietnamese in 1975? Would U.S. units fight well with broken vehicles and communications, a crippled medical system, inadequate fuel and ammunition, and little or no air support -- against a powerful, well-supplied and confident foe? You are the judge.

And now the last one:

Were people in South Viet Nam happy with the North Vietnamese liberators after the so-called liberation of the South in April 1975?


At long last, the whole world has seen evidence that the communist invaders from North Viet Nam were very cunning and clever. They knew how to shield the cruel bloodbath from the curiosity and scrutiny of the world. A network of hard-labor death camps were established and camouflaged under a nice and civilized name: Re-education Camps. These camps were places where the communist liberators could exact their most fiendish revenge against those of the former regime they labeled “lackeys of American Imperialists owing a blood debt to the Vietnamese people”. Another inhumane invention the liberators from North Viet Nam created following their invasion of the South was nicely called: “New Economic Zone”. These New Economic Zones were hastily set up in some virgin jungles barely tolerable living conditions with serious threat of malaria disease in an attempt to punish family members of the military or government civil servants of the former regime.


I have personally met many former officers of the ARVN who were incarcerated in these horrible re-education camps by the communist liberators. One of them was my classmate in Officer Candidate School flight training with the USAF in 1958. This Vietnamese Air Force friend of mine was locked up in a metal container under the sun where the temperature could easily reach 110 degrees only because he refused to sign a confession describing the war crimes the prison wardens claimed my friend committed with the U.S imperialists against the people of Viet Nam. According to various reports on human rights corroborated by these former re-education camps inmates, the North Vietnamese liberators brutally forced inmates to perform hard labor but provided them minimum amount of food and no medical care. Many inmates starved to death and others were left to die painfully and slowly from diseases. In addition to do hard labor, all inmates were forced to undergo political indoctrination classes.


While military officers, bureaucrats, politicians, religious and labor leaders, intellectuals and lawyers were imprisoned in re-education camps, their family members were denied food ration card, education and job opportunity and were forced to move to New Economic Zones. There they were subjected to harsh physical labor, including land reclamation and agriculture work, because all the New Economic Zones were supposed to be self-sufficient. In reality the New Economic Zones were not prepared for the huge influx of urbanites & the living conditions were exceptionally harsh. The camps had very poor infrastructure, no tools, no seeds for crops, no pumps or farm equipment including minimal or no health services. Unprepared and unskilled at making a living in the harsh rural environment, a large number of urbanites fled Viet Nam in what became known as the exodus of the boat people.


There are two living stories that truly exemplify the kind of freedom & democracy in South Viet Nam under the regime of the North Vietnamese liberators. The first one is from Truong Nhu Tang, the founder of the National Liberation Front and a loyal collaborator of the Vietnamese communist invaders. Following the so-called liberation of the South in April 1975, Mr. Truong became Minister of Justice of the Provisional Revolutionary Government. But after having lived with his communist comrades, Truong escaped the country he contributed so much to create.


In his memoir published in the U.S in 1985 titled “A Viet Cong Memoir – An Inside Account of the Viet Nam War and its Aftermath”, he dedicated the book as follows: “To my mother and father. And to my betrayed comrades, who believed they were sacrificing themselves for a humane liberation of their people. According to the author, two of his brothers were victims of the re-education system. Through connection & persistent efforts, he was able to get his younger brother out after four months but his elder brother was still being incarcerated somewhere in a more secure camp in North Viet Nam at the time he wrote his memoir in 1985. In the last paragraph of the foreword of his book, the disillusioned high-ranking member of the National Liberation Front has this to say: “The West knows, I think, extraordinarily little about the Viet Cong, its plan, its difficulties, especially its inner conflicts. The circumstances of war and the great care taken to conceal its workings combined to mask the revolution in secrecy. But the Viet Cong was no monolith, the motives of its members often clashed, violently. And many of us who composed its political core have felt that its goals were, in the end, subverted. The human motives, the internal struggle, the bitter resolution, these are the things I have attempted to record here.


The second story is from Bui Tin, a more familiar and popular name in America in the early 1990s. Col. Bui Tin joined the communist party since 1945 when he was 18 because his father was a close friend with Ho Chi Minh. He was an Army officer in the Dien Bien Phu battle in 1954 and in the subsequent years Col. Bui became a war reporter & then Deputy Editor of the official party daily newspaper Nhan Dan. When South Viet Nam fell on April 30th 1975, Bui Tin was present at the Independence Palace.

After the illegal invasion of South Viet Nam under the deceptive patriotic slogan Liberation of the South, Bui Tin had the opportunity to see and witness the real living condition of the people in South Viet Nam with his own eyes and became disillusioned. Bui Tin defected in 1989 and lived in Paris, France. Since his defection he revealed some of the myths about the great Uncle Ho and critically denounced the communist regime he once naively, blindly and conscientiously served. This is what he said about Ho Chi Minh in Lubbock, Texas: “The tale about Ho Chi Minh being a great thinker with a simple life, full of virtues, taking pains to improve himself through continuous learning and practice, casting away all his personal pleasures of life in the interests of the nation, has recently reached a comic level, for the Hanoi authorities have tried to convince their own State-controlled Buddhist Association to canonize Ho Chi Minh as a `Buddha`. But the truth is coming out more and more every day with the passing of time. In complete contradiction with the image of Ho Chi Minh as a man dedicated to the welfare of his people, accepting the sacrifice of a lifetime of celibacy, it is now well-known that Ho Chi Minh got married in Hong Kong, lived together for some time with Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, had numerous mistresses at various places where he passed through, had offspring out of wedlock, and, worse still, he completely ignored his former wedded wife, Tang Tuyet Minh, who went to great pains and tried in vain to contact her husband after he had become President of the country.”

In his book titled “From Enemy to Friend” Col. Bui has this to say about South Viet Nam after the so-called liberation by the North: “I was a witness to what happened in the South after April 1975. I lived in Saigon for 4 consecutive years, going to Hanoi only occasionally. My mission was to organize the Southern Edition of Quan Doi Nhan Dan and to gather information for this newspaper while based in the South. The Southern population had just had time to reassure itself that there would be no bloodbath or people’s courts set up at every street corner when a series of chilling measures was suddenly launched. The officers and government workers of the old regime, members of old political parties, and many others were ordered to report for “rehabilitation or reeducation”, which turned out to be imprisonment for an indefinite period!

On the 33rd anniversary of the fall of South Viet Nam known as Black April, Bui Tin openly said: “Today I am ready to raise my voice and let all of the people hear clearly: Our nation Vietnam was not liberated after April 30th 1975, nor was it unified. On April 30th the Communist Party won, but all of the people lost, to be ruled from that point on by a one-party dictatorship.

The Communist Party then implemented a policy of dominant occupation in the South, arresting millions of people and seizing property, discarding the South VN National Liberation Front, and brought about the tragic scene of millions of boat people fleeing the country. Is this liberation? Is this unification?

After April 30th, 1975, the Communist Party monopolized authority, not allowing freedom of assembly, the press, or elections. Is this what is called national liberation? Is this freedom?

In conclusion, I am sure the legacy of the Viet Nam war will be indelible in the mind of many Vietnamese and Americans. The pros and cons, right or wrong of that war will always be debatable depending on whom you talk to. However, if you talk to this old, retired Vietnamese veteran, you can rest assured I have no hidden agenda or personal ambition to stretch the truth. In fact, my only dream is to honestly voice the truth to set the record straight before taking off on my last flight west. And to me, the honest truth has always been:


- Unlike some Western scholars, historians & writers who were either naïve or ignorant to portray Ho Chi Minh as a nationalist, a patriot, a Vietnamese George Washington, an Asian Tito when in reality Ho was a vicious, wicked & dishonest individual. It was Ho who dragged Viet Nam into the long 30-year war from the North to the South.


- The United State of America never invaded Viet Nam. American Armed Forces were in Viet Nam to help the South Vietnamese in their legitimate self-defense against the North Vietnamese communist invaders. The U.S intervention was not immoral as the liberal mainstream news media, the left-leaning elements and the draft dodger cowards of the sixties in America trying to smear.

- The shameless lie widely bragged by the propaganda machine of North Viet Nam that they had defeated the American Imperialist military in the Viet Nam War to liberate South Viet Nam must be rectified. This is absolutely necessary in order to remove the unjust stain smeared on the annals of the U.S. Armed Forces by the communists and the leftist, liberal U.S. news media in the 1960s and 1970s.


Hoi B. Tran

April 30th, 2013