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The Viet Cong

D445

Battalion Their Story

(and the Battle of Long Tan)
(and the Battle of Long Tan)

Ernest Chamberlain - 2016

Nui Dat – June 1969 Ernie Chamberlain – a Vietnamese linguist, served in South Vietnam

Nui Dat – June 1969

Ernie Chamberlain – a Vietnamese linguist, served in South Vietnam as an intelligence officer from April 1969 to November 1970. He later taught the Vietnamese language for two years at Point Cook, and was the Vietnam desk officer in the Joint Intelligence Organisation from late 1972 until April 1975 – visiting Vietnam in mid-1974. Ernie Chamberlain later served as the Defence Attache in Cambodia (1991-1993) and Head of the Australian Defence Staff in Indonesia (1996-1998). Following retirement from the Australian Defence Force in 1998, he served in East Timor for several years – principally in United Nations appointments. He has written several books on Timor. His earlier published works on the Vietnam War include: D445 Battalion (2011); D440 Battalion (2013); and the 33rd NVA Regiment (2014).

D445 Battalion –S ketch Map: Battle of Long Tan

(18

August 1966 –f

or analysis,s ee footnote 275)

D445 Battalion –S ketch Map: Battle of Long Tan (18 August 1966 –f or analysis,s ee

The Viet Cong

D445 Battalion

The Viet Cong D445 Battalion Their Story ( and the Battle of Long Tân ) Ernest

Their Story

(and the Battle of Long Tân)

Ernest Chamberlain – 2016

Published in Australia in 2016 by Ernest Chamberlain, Point Lonsdale VIC 3225.

Copyright Ernest Chamberlain

2016

email - chamber@pipeline.com.au

This work is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical photocopying or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author. Inquiries should be made to the author/publisher.

The author has also published:

The Struggle in Iliomar: Resistance in rural East Timor; Editions - 2003, 2004 and 2008 (ISBN 9780980562309). Perjuangan di Iliomar: Perlawanan di Pedesaan di Timor-Leste, 2004 (ISBN 0-9750350-

1-0).

Faltering Steps – Independence Movements in East Timor in the 1950s and 1960s; 2005 (ISBN 0 97500350 2 9). Faltering Steps: Independence Movements in East Timor – 1940s to the early 1970s; Editions – 2007, 2008 and 2010 (ISBN 9780980562330). Rebellion, Defeat and Exile: The 1959 Uprising in East Timor; Editions - 2007 and 2009 (ISBN 9780980562316). Forgotten Men: Timorese in Special Operations during World War II, 2010 (ISBN 978-0-9805623-2-3). The Viet Cong D445 Battalion: Their Story, 2011 (ISBN 978-0-9805623-4-7). The Viet Cong D440 Battalion: Their Story, 2013 (ISBN 978-0-9805623-5-4). The 33 rd Regiment – North Vietnamese Army: Their Story, 2014 (ISBN 978-0-9750350-

5-4).

National Library of Australia : Cataloguing-in-Publication Entry

Chamberlain, Ernest, 1944 –

The Viet Cong D445 Battalion: Their Story – and the Battle of Long Tan.

Bibliography; Index.

ISBN 978-0-9805623-4-7

Mặt t

Vietnam War, 1961-1975 – History. Vietnam War, 1961-1975 – Participation , Australian.

n dân tộ

giải ph ng miền nam Việt Nam.

Dewey number:

959.7043394

Every effort has been made by the publisher/author to contact holders of copyright to obtain permission to reproduce copyright material. However, if any permissions have been inadvertently overlooked, apologies are offered, and should the rightful party contact the publisher, all due credit and necessary and reasonable arrangements will be made at the earliest opportunity.

PREFACE

The Australian War Memorial has published a comprehensive three-volume official history of the Australian Army’s involvement in the Vietnam War. 1 Separately, each of the nine Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) infantry battalions that served in Vietnam has produced histories of their tour – or tours, of duty. Other units have also published histories. This modest work on the Việt Cộng’s 2 D445 Battalion 3 - a battalion on “the other side”, will hopefully complement those publications and the official histories – and also those of the Việt Cộng D440 Battalion and the 33 rd NVA Regiment. 4 This work of some 348,200 words presents a translation and close examination of The Heroic 445 Battalion : its History and Tradition (Tiểu Đoàn 445 Anh Hùng :

Lịch Sử/Truyền Thống) – ie the “445 Battalion History” published in 2004. 5 As near as possible to a literal translation of the Vietnamese text has been attempted. As comments on the text – and to add context, a considerable number of “Translator’s Notes” have been added as footnotes to the translation, creating an “exegesis”. The original footnotes in the Vietnamese text (totaling 39) have been retained – ie translated, and are indicated with an asterisk eg “6 *”.The large number of “Translator’s Notes” include detailed references to enable interested readers to readily access primary source material – much of it now available via the Internet. Many of these comments relate to intelligence material – such as captured NVA/VC documents, and also cite other Vietnamese and Australian histories that have somewhat different accounts

1 McNeill, I., To Long Tan – The Australian Army and the Vietnam War 1950-1966, St Leonards, 1993; McNeill, I. & Ekins, A., On the Offensive, Crows Nest, 2003; and Ekins, A with McNeill, I., Fighting to the Finish, Crows Nest, 2012. All were published by Allen & Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial.

2 In this work, the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) is referred to as the “North Vietnamese Army” (NVA); and the People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF), guerrillas and infrastructure are termed the Việt Cộng (VC) – as the general readership is more familiar with the terms “NVA” and “VC”. The term “Việt Cng” is avoided in Vietnamese communist writings. The Vietnamese communists did not refer to themselves as “Việt Cộng” (“Cộng Sản Việt Nam” - Vietnamese Communists) – as this was a pejorative term initiated and used by the Republic of Vietnam (RVN - ie South Vietnam), the US, and its “Free World” allies.

3 NVA/VC formation and unit nomenclatures included prefix letters to designate size eg “A” for section/squad; “B” – platoon; “C” – Company; “D” – battalion; “E” – regiment (also “Q”); “F” and “CT” – division; and “T” – Military Region. “B” was also used as a prefix for some fronts – eg B2, B3. “K” was often used as a prefix designation for hospitals. Sometimes abbreviated to “Miền”, COSVN’s principal cover designators were “R”, “Năm Trường”, and “Chín Nam”. “U” was a designator for provinces (eg: U1 and U3 were cover designators for the Biên Hòa Province Unit. The Bà Rịa Province Unit’s designator was U2, Bình Dương Province was U4, Tây Ninh was U5, Long Khánh was U8, and Phước Thành was U9).

4 See: Chamberlain, E.P., The Viet Cong D440 Battalion: Their Story, Point Lonsdale, 2013; and Chamberlain, E.P., The 33 rd Regiment - North Vietnamese Army: Their Story (and the Battle of Bình Ba), Point Lonsdale, 2014.

5 An exegesis – a translation with a comprehensive commentary, of a 1991 edition was published as:

Chamberlain, E.P., The Viet Cong D445 Battalion: Their Story, Point Lonsdale, 2011.

of events - including engagements with the Australian forces eg: the “History of the 5 th Infantry Division” (2005). 6 A series of 18 discrete annexes have also been included that cover a range of aspects of probable interest. These include translated extracts from the 5 th VC Division History; the organisation of 445 Battalion in mid-1966 before the Battle of Long Tân; an examination of the casualty figures for that Battle; outline biographies of nine key 445 Battalion cadre 7 ; and information on the Battalion’s Party organisation and activities – that also includes age and social data of the Battalion’s personnel in mid-1966. As the 275 th VC Main Force Regiment was the principal VC element at the Battle of Long Tân, an annex on the history and operations of that formation has also been included – together with an extract on the Battle of Long Tân from the Regiment’s mid-2015 History 8 , a biography of the Regiment’s commander – Nguyễn Thới Bưng, and appendices with the personal details of 176 of the Regiment’s personnel killed at the Battle of Long Tân. The work includes a comprehensive index – with the names of over 400 NVA/VC personnel. Many of the comments on the 445 Battalion History are based on an examination of captured NVA and VC documents and the debriefings of prisoners and ralliers (ie defectors). During the Vietnam War, this material was collated centrally by the Combined Intelligence Center Vietnam (CIC-V) in Sài Gòn – with the captured documents processed by its Combined Document Exploitation Center (CDEC). 9 A very large quantity of CIC-V material is held by The Vietnam Center and Archive (VCAT) at the Texas Tech University, Lubbock – Texas, United States. Without access to the records held by the VCAT, it would have been quite difficult to comment meaningfully on the text of the 445 Battalion History. Accordingly, access to the records held by Texas Tech University is gratefully acknowledged and noted in this work as “VCAT” material. This account of the D445 Battalion History differs in several aspects from their 1991 version – made available in English in 2011 (see footnote 5). This later 2004 edition is less descriptive of military engagements than the 1991 version, and has less direct speech. 10 Usefully however, it includes sketch maps not presented in the 1991 version – including of the Battle of Long Tân (18 August 1966) – see the reverse of the front cover and page 76. On that Battle – see pages 71-80, the Vietnamese writers have quoted long passages on the Battle of Long Tân from the work of the late British military academic

6 The 5 th Division History relates that the Việt Cng forces at the Battle of Long Tân in August 1966 were not fully prepared for the engagement against the Australian forces on 18 August 1966, see Annex K.

7 Almost all NVA/VC cadre, soldiers and infrastructure personnel had two-word nicknames/aliases/ pseudonyms (tự, bí danh). Invariably, these comprised a number (from 2 to 10) – or occasionally “Út” (meaning “youngest”), followed by their given name. Party members sometimes also had a secure -name – ie an additional “full” Vietnamese name of three words.

8 Hồ Sơn Đài - Colonel (ed), Lịch sử Trung Đoàn Bo Binh 5 (1965-2015) - The History of the 5 th ((275 th ))

Infantry Regiment, Nhà Xuất Bn Qun Đội Nhâ

Nội, 2015 – a Vietnamese-language copy was provided to the authro (Chamberlain) by Blair Tidey in late September 2015.

9 At the Australian Task Force base in Núi Đất, captured documents were processed by the Detachment of the 1 st Divisional Intelligence Unit before on-forwarding to CDEC in Sài Gòn. 10 The Vietnamese text of this 2004 edition lacks professionally editing – there are several errors of Vietnamese grammar and spelling, chronology, and dates. Some sketch maps lack an accompanying text.

Dâ

(The People’s Armed Forces Publishing House), Hà

and author, Dr John Pimlott – but not accurately. The Vietnamese text of this edition also implies that the D445 commander at the Battle was Vũ/Võ Quốc Chnh (Tư Chánh) – ie not Bùi Quang Chnh, which I consider highly unlikely. All published Vietnamese histories and senior Vietnamese veterans describe the Battle of Long Tân as a “mobile ambush” – with the Australian forces having been lured 11 into the Bà Điếc Plantation in the Long Tân area. Some Australian writers however have contended that the Việt Cộng force had planned to attack the base of the 1 st Australian Task Force at Núi Đất, and that the Long Tân engagement was an “encounter battle” that preempted such a planned attack on the base. These two views were examined in the Australian Official History published in 1993, and the late Dr Ian McNeill concluded that: “Too much information is missing to make a conclusive assessment of the enemy intentions and motives.” 12 The Vietnamese view of a planned ambush is unchanged. On 18 December 2014, senior Vietnamese veterans in Hồ Chí Minh City published an updated “official account” of “The Ambush Battle at Long Tân” – and an English translation and commentary on that article is provided for readers’ interest at Annex Q. Perhaps this 445 Battalion History – and the examining comments offered, will assist readers to reach a view on that aspect – and others. A very brief description of the Battle Long Tân by a D445 rallier is at Annex R. As with the Battle of Bình Ba (June 1969) 13 , the recent availability of some new Australian and US SIGINT (signals intelligence) material on NVA/VC operations in Phước Tuy Province has provided further insights into the Battle of Long Tân – and this is examined in Annex E, including “Top Secret” material declassified and released to the author in February 2016. While their 1991 D445 History concluded with victory in April 1975, this edition reaches out to 2004 - and covers operations against the “Saigon military remnants”, post- War “counter-revolutionaries”, and the Battalion’s operations against the Khmer Rouge forces in Cambodia. In their Preface to this edition, the Vietnamese writers acknowledge that “many documents were mislaid during the War and as it has not been possible to gather sufficient witnesses, the book no doubt has been unable to avoid shortcomings.” 445 Battalion’s strength varied considerably during the War. On its founding – ie as a battalion, its strength was reportedly 350-450, and it was at its strongest in January 1968 at 608 – just before the Tết Mậu Thân General Offensive. However, in January 1971 – according to their 1991 History, the “strength of a company was only about 20 riflemen.” According to the Battalion’s 2004 History: “Based on the reality of the battlefield situation, at the beginning of September 1971, the Sub-Region decided to disperse 445 Battalion, breaking it into three companies and allocating these as core elements for our campaign in the two critical regions. … In May 1972, the Sub-Region

11 The tactic is described in the Vietnamese accounts as “luring the tiger from the mountain” – a Chinese and Vietnamese saying (Vietnamese: Dẫn hổ/cọp khỏi núi; Sino-Vietnamese: Điệu hổ ly sơn; Chinese: 調 虎 離 山). See also footnote 270 in the main text and Annex R.

12 McNeill, I., To Long Tan, op.cit., 1993, p.364. Recently, Dr Peter Edwards has similarly summarised that: “The debate continues to this day.” – Edwards, P., Australia and the Vietnam War, Australian War Memorial/New South Publishing, Sydney, 2014, p.151.

13 Chamberlain, E.P., The 33 rd Regiment – North Vietnamese Army: Their Story, op.cit, 2014.

Headquarters decided to re-concentrate 445 Battalion after almost a year of dispersed operations.” – Annex C provides detail on 445 Battalion’s strength figures over-time. The 445 Battalion History lists 539 “martyrs”. However that list only includes one of its soldiers killed in action at the Battle of Long Tân - Trần Văn Chiến, a company commander (for a detailed examination of casualty figures for the Battle, see Annex F). Another interesting aspect is that while the combat effectiveness of NVA/VC forces was seriously hampered by high malarial rates, malaria is not mentioned at all in the text of the 445 Battalion History. At Annex O, this aspect is examined in relation to the 275 th VC Regiment – the major Việt Cộng element at the Battle of Long Tân. 445 Battalion was formally deactivated in 2008. A memorial to the Battalion has been mooted for several years. In July 2015, a Joint Province Committee determined that the D445 Memorial would be built on a two hectare site in Bà RịaTown adjacent to the Province Administrative Offices and the Public Security Headquarters. In November 2014, a 23-minute Vietnamese “documentary film” on the War in Phước Tuy Province was released that featured D445 Battalion and the Battle of Long Tân. 14 An Australian feature-length film on the Battle at Long Tân – titled “Danger Close”, was planned for release in mid-2016 but its production is now uncertain. 15 Annexes to the earlier exegesis of the D445 Battalion History (1991) – published in 2011, included translations and commentaries on several District and other local histories. These – together with additional material, will be re-published in 2016 as a “compendium” - ie as: “Phước Tuy: the Việt Cộng District and Local Histories”. 16 For “ready reference”, a map of Phước Tuy Province is provided on the rear cover; and the Vietnamese sketch map of the Battle of Long Tân has been included at the reverse of the front cover. Vietnamese-language histories rarely, if ever, include an index. However, as noted, an extensive index and a bibliography have been prepared and included at the end of this English-language publication.

Ernie Chamberlain

March 2016

14 Võ Văn Cm - Director, “Trưởng thành từ trong chiến đấu” - “Coming-of-age during combat”, Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu Television, 4 November 2014 – see the photographs at footnote 18 and at page 179.

15 Walsh, Martin (Producer)/Red Dune Films, “Danger Close – the Battle of Long Tan”.

16 The History of the Revolutionary Struggle in Long Đất District (1986); The History of the Struggle … of Đất Đỏ District (2006); The History of the Revolutionary Struggle … of Châu Đức District (2004); The Resistance War in Xuyên Mộc (1989); The History of the People’s Revolutionary Struggle in Tân Thành District (2014 ?); The Minh Đạm Base (2006); Châu Thành District – Struggle and Development (1988); The History of the Hòa Long Village Party Chapter (25 April 2009).

Lê Chính & Lưu Thành Luân (eds), Lịch Sử Tiểu Đòan 445: Đon Vị Anh Hùng Lực Lượng Vũ Trang Nhân Dân – 1965-2004 (The History of 445 Battalion: An Heroic Unit of the People’s Armed Forces – 1965-2004),

Nhà Xuẩt bn Quân đội Nhân dân (Armed Forces Publishing House), Hà Nội, 2004. (Phạm Quang Định)

The Party Committee – Military Headquarters Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province

The History of 445 Battalion:

An Heroic Unit of the People’s Armed Forces

(1965-2004)

(internal distribution)

The People’s Armed Forces Publishing House

Content Guidance (Chỉ đạo nội dung):

The Party Committee – Province Military Headquarters Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province

Editors (Biên soạn):

Lê Chính – Lưu Thành Luân with the assistance of Major General Nguyễn Minh Ninh and the war veterans of 445 Battalion.

Manuscript finalization (Hoàn chỉnh bản thảo): Nguyễn Đình Thống. Responsible for publishing: Phạm Quang Định.

CONTENTS

Introduction

PART 1

1

The Beginning

3

Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu, The Land, The People, The Military Tradition and the Layout of the Battlefield – the Cradle of 445 Battalion.

The Birth of 445 Battalion, Making an Important Contribution to the Victory of the Anti-American Resistance War of National Salvation on the Bà Rịa – Long Khnh Battlefield.

Chapter 1 Founding 445 Battalion, fighting while coming-of-age (1965-1968).

46

 

Chapter 2

445

Battalion in the period of opposing the strategy of the

“Vietnamization of the War” (1969 – 1972).

110

Chapter 3 Attacking the encroaching enemy, participating in the campaign to liberate Bà Rịa – Long Khnh (1973-1975).

156

PART 2

445

Battalion in the task of developing and defending the Fatherland (1975-2004).

Chapter 1 Defending the Government and the revolution, pursuing the puppet military remnants, and undertaking our international duty (1975 – 1989).

180

Chapter 2 High combat readiness, effective training, and developing a solid and complete unit (1989 – 2004).

196

 

Conclusion

209

Addendum

217

ANNEXES 17

Annex A – Key Cadre: D445 Battalion – Outline Biographies (nine). Annex B – Senior Cadre: D445 Battalion. Annex C – D445 Battalion: Strength Figures. Annex D – The Probable Organisation of D445 Battalion – Mid-1966. Annex E – The Battle of Long Tân: A Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Summary. Annex F – The Battle of Long Tân: Casualties and Losses. Annex G – The Party in D445 Battalion. Annex H – D445 Command and Political Reports – mid-1966. Annex I – D445 Battalion: Medals Submission – 10 July 1966. Annex J – Higher Headquarters. Annex K – The History of the 5 th Infantry Division (1965 – 2005): Extracts. Annex L – The Battle of Long Tân 18/8/66 – NVA/VC Revisited (a listing of participating elements). Annex M – The Battle of Long Tân: D445 History – 1991. Annex N – The 274 th Regiment - Not at the Battle of Long Tân. Annex O – The 275 th Main Force Regiment. Appendix 1: 275 th Regiment Personnel KIA - Battle of Long Tân (140 names). Appendix 2: Lieutenant General Nguyễn Thới Bưng – A Biography. Appendix 3: The History of the 5 th ((275 th )) Infantry Regiment (2015) – Extract. Appendix 4: List of Martyrs Killed at Long Tân – “18.8.66”. (Gò Ct Cemetery List of “36” – February 2016). Annex P – D440 Local Force Battalion. Annex Q – The “Ambush Battle” at Long Tân (December 2014). Annex R – The Battle of Long Tân – as related by the D445 rallier Huỳnh Văn Hoa.

Bibliography

Index

17 These Annexes were not part of the 2004 D445 History but have been included as additional reference material – as explained in the Preface.

This Gi ấ y Khen – “Letter of Appreciation” was awarded to Trịnh Văn Liêm

This Giy Khen – “Letter of Appreciation” was awarded to Trịnh Văn Liêm – a section commander in the 2 nd Company of D445 Battalion. Liêm was born in “Long Phước village, Châu Đức [sic] District, Bà Rịa Province.” The Letter recognises his bravery and other achievements in the battle at Phước Hi. Dated 10 January 1967, the Letter is signed by the D445 Battalion Political Officer, Đổ Văn Liên (CDEC Log 05- 1407-67). Subsequently, while serving as the Political Officer of the 2 nd Company, Trịnh Văn Liêm was killed in an Australian ambush at Cà Thi (Xuyên Mộc) on 31 December 1970 (see footnote 478). Awards for the Battle of Long Tân are related in Annex F.

Awards for the Battle of Long Tân are related in Annex F. A D445 (?) soldier

A D445 (?) soldier (left foreground) firing an RPG-2 (B40) rocket launcher. 18

18 This photograph – and the photograph at page 179, were included in a late 2014 “Documentary Film” on the history of D445 Battalion – ie: Võ Văn Cm - Director, “Trưởng thành từ trong chiến đấu” (“Coming- of-age during combat”), Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu Television, 4 November 2014.

1

Introduction

On 19 May 1945 [sic – Translator’s Note: should be “1965”], in an area of jungle at the Suối Rao Stream (Long Tân – Long Đất), the 445 Battalion – the local Bà Rịa Province 1 troops, was officially formed. The birth of 445 Battalion was a milestone marking the growth of the revolutionary movement in the region - and marking the coming-of-age of the armed forces of Bà Rịa Province that were greatly loved and helped by the people. Fighting right on its very own homeland, in every situation – including the most difficult and violent, the cadre and soldiers of the Battalion were always united and closely bound in taking up arms and confronting the Americans, puppets, Australians and New Zealanders. Despite the enemy’s wicked warfare of plots and schemes, our troops fought and won. The feats of arms, the memories, the painful losses throughout the Anti- American War of National Salvation, and the period of our International Duty in Cambodia have all left marks that will never fade in the hearts of the generation of cadre and soldiers of 445 Battalion – as well as in the Party chapters, the authorities, and the people of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province. The honourable title of an “Heroic Unit of the People’s Armed Forces” 2 – that the Party 3 and the Nation bestowed on the unit, will forever be a highly valued legacy of the armed forces of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province for the development and defence of the nation – the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. From its very founding until today, 445 Battalion has always been worthy of its title as the “Main Force Fist/Punch” of the Province. The Battalion operated effectively

1 Translator’s (E. Chamberlain) Note: Bà Rịa Province – the Sài Gòn Government’s Phước Tuy Province, was 445 Battalion’s principal area of operations. Occasionally, the Battalion also operated in Long Khánh Province and Bình Tuy Province – respectively to the immediate north and north-east of Phước Tuy/Bà Rịa Province. “Post-War”, the Battalion also operated in Cambodia. Phước Tuy Province was about 55 kilometres from east-to-west and about 35 kilometres from north-to-south (an area of 1,958 sq km – about 83% of the size of the Australian Capital Territory, or 21.3% of the size of Tasmania). The Province capital - Phước Lễ/Bà Rịa Town, was about 110 kilometres by road south-east of Sài Gòn via Route 15 (nowadays Route 51). In 1967, the population of the Province was about 103,000 - including Bà Rịa Town’s population of about 15,600; and was 112,683 in January 1970. An historical summary of Phước Tuy Province from the late 18 th Century can be found in O’Brien, M., Conscripts and Regulars – with the Seventh Battalion in Vietnam, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, 1995, pp.14-22. A detailed political history of the Phước Tuy-Vũng Tàu region from 1930 can be found in Liên đoàn Lao động tỉnh Bà Rịa Vũng Tàu, Lịch sử Phong Trào Công Nhân, Viên Chức, Lao Động va Hoạt Động Công Đoàn Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Giai Đoạn 1930-2006 (The History of the Workers’, Public Servants’ and Labourers’ Movement and Trade

Union Activities in the Period 1930-2006), Vũng Tàu, 2011.

2 Translator’s Note: 445 Battalion is included as an “Heroic Unit” in Hồ Sơn Đài & Trần Quang Toại, Đồng Nai Đơn Vị Anh Hùng (The Heroic Units of Đồng Nai), Nhà Xuất Bản Đồng Nai (Đồng Nai Publishing

Company), Đồng Nai, 1985, pp.14-20.

3 Translator’s Note: The Communist Party of Vietnam was disbanded in 1945 and re-emerged as a party – ie the Vietnam Workers’ Party (VWP – ie Lao Động Party), in 1951. In January 1962, it created its ostensibly separate “southern arm” – the People’s Revolutionary Party (PRP). The People’s Revolutionary Party organisation in the South was directed locally by Nội’s COSVN (The Central Office for South Vietnam) – see footnote 59 for detail on COSVN organisation and activities. Việt Cộng military units and the National Liberation Front were directed and controlled by the People's Revolutionary Party through its organs at all levels. In 1976, the PRP in South Vietnam was merged with the VWP of “North Vietnam” to reconstitute the Communist Party of Vietnam. For the functioning of the Party – including its Youth Group, and in North Vietnamese and Việt Cộng units, see Annexes G and H.

2

on an important battlefield of the Eastern Nam Bộ Region 4 (comprising Biên Hòa, Bà Rịa, and Long Khánh 5 ) – wiping out the enemy, destroying their grip, coordinating with higher main-force troops, fighting in many battles of annihilation, and contributing towards the bankrupting of the enemy’s war strategy . The title “445 Battalion” became symbolic of a spirit of revolutionary attack, a will for self-reliant strength, a proficiency in applying the methods of the people’s warfare of the Party and Uncle Hồ, and embellishing the legacy and the excellent nature of the “Troops of the Great Uncle Hồ”. With feelings of unbounded gratitude for the dedicated sacrifices of earlier generations – and the agreement of Province Standing Committee and the People’s Committee of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province, the Party Committee of the Military Headquarters of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province organised the writing of this book on “The History of 445 Battalion – An Heroic Unit of the People’s Armed Forces (1965 – 2004)” with the aim of recounting the process of the Battalion’s founding, its coming-of-age, and development through the historic stages by the Heroic 445 Battalion. In this way, valuable lessons and experiences in the process of developing a rich, solid and comprehensive region can contribute to the teaching of revolutionary history for today’s generation and for those that follow. The book: “The History of 445 Battalion – An Heroic Unit of the People’s Armed Forces (1965 – 2004)” is one contribution in a program to commemorate the 40 th anniversary of the founding of the Heroic 445 Battalion (1965 – 2005). As many documents were mislaid during the War - and as it has not been possible to gather sufficient witnesses, the book no doubt has been unable to avoid shortcomings. It is hoped that comrades and country-men will contribute constructive ideas to enable an opportunity to include revisions when republishing. The Party Committee of the Military Headquarters of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province respectfully introduces this book: “The History of 445 Battalion – An Heroic Unit of the People’s Armed Forces (1965 – 2004)”, to the broader readership.

The Party Committee of the Military Headquarters Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province

4 Translator’s Note: “Nam Bộ” was the communist term for the region of Vietnam south of the Central Highlands - equating to the earlier French colonial “Cochin China” region. The US historian and author,

Merle Pribbenow translated “Nam Bộ” as “Cochin China”.

5 Translator’s Note: For information on Long Khnh Province in the mid-1960s – including administration and population detail, see USOM, Information Brief: Long Khánh Province - Vietnam, December 1965 - VCAT Item No.6850102002. Long Khánh Province had a total land area of 4,000 square kilometres (double that of Phước Tuy) – with a maximum length of 90 kilometres and an average width of 70 kilometres. It comprised two Districts: Xuân Lộc and Định Quán – its population of 131,300 (1965) lived in 18 villages (107 hamlets).

3

The Beginnings

Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu : The Land, The People, Its Military History and the Layout of the Battlefield

The Cradle of 445

1. The Geographical Position, Historical Characteristics, and the Layout of the Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province Battlefield.

The Province of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu comprises eight administrative units: the city of Vũng Tàu, the town of Bà Rịa and the districts of Tân Thành, Châu Đức, Long Điền, Đất Đỏ, Xuyên Mộc, and Côn Đảo. Geographically, Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu lies between the geographic coordinates of 10 degrees 19 minutes to 10 degrees 18 minutes of latitude, and from 106 degrees 50 minutes to 107 degrees and four minutes of longitude – excepting the island of Côn Đảo which lies at 8 degrees 35 minutes to 8 degrees 45 minutes of latitude and 106 degrees 50 minutes to 107 degrees 4 minutes of longitude. The total surface area of the Province is 2,047.66 sq km. To the north, it borders Đồng Nai Province; and to the north-east Bình Thuận Province. To the west and to the south- west, it borders Hồ Chí Minh City – and to the south and south-east, the Eastern Sea ((ie the South China Sea)). In terms of its geographical position, Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu is the gateway to Eastern Nam Bộ. It lies astride a cross-Asia axis, with a system of seaports, airfields, and a convenient system of waterways. National Routes 51, 55, and 56 – together with a system of inter-provincial roads and inter-district lines of communication, comprehensively links Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province with other provinces within the country, and also internationally. Because the terrain was advantageous for military activities (both for us and the enemy), Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu routinely had changes in its administration. For the revolutionary authorities - from 1945 onwards, there were up to 14 changes in administrative borders:

- In 1945 (August): Bà Rịa Province and Cấp Province (Cape St Jacques) ((ie Vũng Tàu)) included Cần Giờ District.

- In 1945 (December): Bà Rịa Province.

- In 1951: Bà Chợ Province (Bà Rịa – Chợ Lớn).

- In 1955: Bà Rịa Province was re-established.

- In 1963 (at the beginning of the year): Biên Hòa Province was incorporated into Bà Rịa to form Bà Biên Province.

- In 1963 (at the end of the year): Bà Rịa Province was reformed.

- In 1966: Long Bà Biên Province (Bà Rịa, Biên Hòa, and Long Khnh) was formed.

- In 1967: Biên Hòa was removed from Long Bà Biên Province, and Bà Rịa – Long Khnh Province was established.

- In 1971: Bà Rịa – Long Khnh Province was disbanded, and Bà Rịa Sub- Region formed.

- In 1972: Bà Rịa Sub-Region was disestablished, and Bà Rịa – Long Khnh Province was re-instituted.

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- In 1975 (April): Vũng Tàu City was established as directly subordinate to the Eastern Region Committee, while Cần Giờ District became directly subordinate to Hồ Chí Minh City.

- In 1976: Bà Rịa – Long Khnh was incorporated with Biên Hòa to form Đồng Nai Province.

- In 1979: Vũng Tàu City was removed from Đồng Nai Province and Côn Đảo was removed from Hậu Giang Province to form the Vũng Tàu Special Region – and Côn Đảo was made directly subordinate to the Centre.

- In 1991: The three districts of Xuyên Mộc, Châu Thành, and Long Đất of Đồng Nai Province – together with the Vũng Tàu Special Zone - Côn Đảo, were formed into Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province.

In the period of the Americans and their puppets, the area always comprised three distinct provinces: Phước Tuy, Long Khnh, and Biên Hòa. Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province lies in a region with a tropical monsoonal climate that is influenced by the ocean. Consequently, its climate is relatively comfortable. More than 60 percent of its land area is composed of solid ground with mountain tops and high ranges that are difficult to access and lie scattered from the north of the Province down to the coast. Skirting a region of the Eastern Nam Bộ coastal plains, it is an area of special military advantage that includes the Mây Tào Mountains 6 , the Núi Dinh 7 and Núi Thị Vải Mountains and the Minh Đạm 8 Mountains. There are many rivers and streams in Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu. These include large rivers such as the Thị Vải River, the Xoài River (the source of the Dinh River), and the Sông Ray River. However, the principal sources of fresh water for the lives of the people and our troops during the Dry Season 9 were the Xoài River (west of Route 2) and the Sông Ray River (east of Route 2). Before 1975, the jungle areas in Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province ran for some distance along both sides of Route 15 (which today is Route 51), Route 23 (nowadays Route 55), Route 44, and Inter-Provincial Route 2 (now Route 56) – and these joined up with the jungles in Đồng Nai Province (Xuân Lộc, Long Khnh, Long Thành) and in Bình Thuận (Bình Châu, Mây Tào). In particular, the Hội Bài, Phú Mỹ, and Long Sơn mangrove jungle areas joined up with the Rừng Sc jungle 10 (Cần Giờ – Hồ Chí Minh

6 Translator’s Note: The Mây Tào Mountains straddle the Phước Tuy/Long Khánh/Bình Tuy tri-border area.

7 Translator’s Note: The Núi Dinh Mountains were colloquially called “The Warburtons” by Australian

troops – see White A.T., Starlight, Copyright, Brisbane, p.60 and http://www.malnral.com/Warbies.htm .

8 Translator’s Note: The Minh Đạm is a range of hills – and a Việt Minh/Việt Cng base area/secret zone within the areas/boundaries of the villages of Tam An, Phước Long Hội, Phước Hải and Long Hải (of Long Đất District in modern-day Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province). The Minh Đạm area is more than nine kilometres long and almost five kilometres at its widest. See: Phạm Chí Thân, Căn Cứ Minh Đạm 1945-1975 - The Minh Đạm Base 1945-1975, Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province Information and Cultural Office, 2006 - see translated extracts at Annex M to Chamberlain, E.P., The Viet Cong D445 Battalion: Their Story, Point

Lonsdale, 2011. Australian forces referred to the Minh Đạm area as the “Long Hải Hills”.

9 Translator’s Note: The Dry Season in southern Vietnam begins in November; and the Wet Season begins in April/May. The season timings are: Spring – January/February, March, April; Summer – May, June, July; Autumn – August, September, October; Winter – November, December, January. 10 Translator’s Note: The Rừng Sắc/Sác/Sát lies about 32 kilometres south-southeast of Sài Gòn and comprises about 1,250 square kilometres of tidal swamp. Its population in 1968 was about 18,000. The Lòng Tàu River runs through the Rừng Sác and connects Vũng Tàu/South China Sea with Sài Gòn. For a very detailed US report (circa mid-1968) on the Rừng Sắc and the Việt Cng Đoàn 10 Group (997-strong, including 211 guerrillas) see Haines, E.B., Rung Sat Special Zone Intelligence Study, 1968 – VCAT Item No.4000105007. For a comprehensive history of the conflict in the Rừng Sắc to 1975 – in Vietnamese, see:

Hồ Sĩ Thành, Đặc Khu Rừng Sác, Nhà Xut Bản Trẻ, 2003. 1 ATF conducted its “first combat assault” and

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City) and all have been resistance base regions, areas for rear service stocks, and regrouping and concealment areas for the revolutionary forces. A special area was the Nam ((South)) Xuân Sơn base (north of the old Route 23) that was a base for 445 Battalion during the resistance war against the Americans and that quite fully satisfied the requirements of clement weather, favourable terrain, and concord with the local people etc. The Suối Rau base was about five kilometres to the north-east of the centre of Long Tân village, about 10 kilometres from the Đất Đỏ District Sub-Sector 11 to the south, with the Long Lễ – Hòa Long Sub-Sector 12 kilometres to the south-west, Đức Thạnh (Ngãi Giao) 12 kilometres to the north-west, and to the east and the north-east it bordered the Xuân Sơn jungle (Châu Đức District). The base had an area of about 20 square kilometres and was located in the basin of the Lồ Ồ Lớn Stream and so the trees there were green throughout the year. 12 * Along both sides of the stream, were the slopes of hills with an average height of about 50 metres (above the water level), and there was a degree of cover from the older jungle that included many types of trees such as cò ke, lbuông, and paperbark etc. These were types of trees that did not drop their leaves and had thick foliage. The paperbark trees were a species of tree whose bark was easy to peel off.

It had an acrid taste, and the villagers used to peel off the bark and sell it to people who

ate betel nut. Along the rivers and streams in the Province, bamboos grew thickly, and this was

a source of food supply (fresh bamboo shoots) for our troops. In the jungle areas, there

were many types of animals such as: monkeys, mouse deer, sambar deer, and weasels. Thanks to these natural advantages and our close relationships with the people in the Tam Long area 13 (especially Long Tân and Long Phước) and Đất Đỏ (Phước Thọ, Phước Thạnh, Phước Lợi, Long Mỹ, Hội Mỹ) etc, the business of rear service supplies for the troops of 445 Battalion and the revolutionary forces was ensured - although at times there were difficulties when the enemy attacked fiercely and blocked our supply routes. Later, 445 Battalion created a number of new bases in Xuyên Mộc (in the Lê Phú rubber plantation) and the rear services area at Tà Lon Stream – but the Suối Rau base area remained the principal base for our troops, and the place from which the Battalion was launched into the General Offensive and Uprising in Spring 1975 that completely liberated Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province. The fertile rice paddies were concentrated in the Don Fields (Hòa Long village) and the fields in Long Điền, Đất Đỏ, Cu Nhí, and Lâm Sang (Xuân Lộc) that bordered the revolutionary base areas – places that were termed the “breast milk” of the revolution.

The Province contained many pools and swamps such as Bàu Nhm, Bàu Sấu, Bàu Ngứa, and Bàu Ma (in Xuyên Mộc District) that were within our base areas. These were places with large numbers of fish and prawns – a source of food supply for the revolutionary forces, including the 445 troops.

a “search and destroy” operation (Operation Hayman) into Long Sơn island – adjacent to the Rừng Sắc, in

the period 8-12 November 1966 – 1 ATF, Opord 1-14-66, 4 November 1966 in file AWM95, 1/4/16.

11 Translator’s Note: “Chi khu” – a military sub-sector, encompassing a Republic of Vietnam - ie Saigon Government, district. In Phước Tuy Province, these sub-sectors/districts were: Long Lễ, Long Điền, Đất Đỏ, Đức Thạnh and Xuyên Mộc. For detail on the functions of Phước Tuy Province Sector and its Sub-

Sectors, see: 1 ATF, Standard Operating Procedures, Núi Đất, November 1969 (revised) – AWM95, 7/3/88.

12 * The jungle and hill area of Long Tân – Hòa Long had Bù Lộp trees that were green throughout the year, and a very sweet soup could be made from the trees without needing spices. In 1966, the American imperialists spread poisonous chemicals, but the trees remained green. Our Province liaison personnel broke off some branches to make soup but were poisoned – with one comrade dying. The Province

Committee then advised that units were not to use that type of tree.

13 Translator’s Note: Tam Long – ie the “Three Long” villages of: Hòa Long, Long Phước, and Long Tân.

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The jungle and mountainous areas were where our countrymen the Châu Ro 14 people cultivated slash-and-burn fields – which were concentrated in the Hắc Dịch 15 , Gia Cốp, Long Tân, Cu Nhí, and Bàu Lâm areas etc. These were the rear service production bases – self-sufficient and self-supporting, for the troops of 445 Battalion throughout the anti-American resistance war. The population of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province was not large if compared to other provinces. 16 * However, within the Province, all the religions and beliefs were represented, such as: Buddhism, Christianity, Protestantism, Cao Đài 17 , the “Ông Trần” religion 18 , and the customs of the worship of ancestors, saints, heroes and ascetic luminaries etc. As a fertile, populous and wealthy region in Eastern Nam Bộ, since time immemorial refugees from many different regions have gathered here to work and re-start their lives. No matter from which elements of society, they all had a common spirit of attachment, compassion and chivalry. This tradition was increasingly expressed from the time that the Vietnam Communist Party came into being. On 3 February 1930, the Vietnam Communist Party was founded, marking a turn in the revolutionary history of Vietnam. The first Communist Party chapter in the Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu region was established in Phước Hải village (1934). Subsequently, three chapters were developed as: the Phước Hải Party Chapter, the Long Mỹ Party Chapter, and the Bình Ba – Xà Bang – Xuân Sơn Plantations Party Chapter. The establishment of the two earliest Party Chapters in Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province in the two villages on the edge of the Châu Long – Châu Viên Mountains (Minh Đạm) was an extremely important event that had a great influence on subsequent developments in the local revolutionary movement. In Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu at the time - apart from fishermen, salt workers, and farmers, a large group of rubber workers toiled in the rubber plantations and played an important role in the local revolutionary struggle. As their working conditions were extremely hard and miserable – and they were badly exploited, the rubber workers were

14 Translator’s Note: The Châu Ro are a minority Mon-Khmer ethnic group of about 26,800 (2009) of whom about 85% live in Đồng Nai, Bà Rịa and Long Khánh provinces.

15 Translator’s Note: The Hắc Dịch/Hắt Dịch area was defined by USMACV as the area bounded by coordinates YS 1790 – YS 4690 – YS 2572 and YS 4572, containing the jungle area south of the Bình Sơn Rubber Plantation and east of Route 15 to Route 2, with the Núi Thị Vải Mountains on the south. The small village of Hắc Dịch was located in the vicinity of YS 3477, about 11 kilometres west of the Đức Thạnh District Sub-Sector.

16 * The total population of the Province was 821,912 (in 2000). Under the American-Diệm regime, the concentration areas (khu tập trung) and the Agrovilles (khu trù mật) were places where the assembled people lived surrounded by barbed wire and minefields that the enemy set up to closely manage the population and not allow them any contact with the revolution. “Concentration area” was the term the enemy used before the “Đồng Khởi” uprising – into which they gathered their opponents, their families, and those associated with the revolution. Agroville was the term that the enemy used after we had risen up and destroyed camps in our “Đồng Khởi Movement”. The demagogic enemy recreated and used these to counter their problems in social and economic development in order to lure and entice the people. Translator’s Note: For the Đồng Khởi Movement – the Simultaneous/Concerted Uprising, see footnotes 26, 58, and 639.

17 Translator’s Note: Almost solely a Vietnamese religion, the Cao Đài - Đại Đạo Tam Kỳ Phổ Độ (The Great Faith for the Third Universal Redemption) was formally founded in southern Vietnam in 1926. With several million adherents, the “Holy See” of this syncretic religion is in Tây Ninh Province. The Cao Đài Sect’s armed forces fought against the French colonial regime and that of President Ngô Đình Diệm. For a history of the Cao Đài, see Chapter 19 in Department of Army, Minority Groups in the Republic of Vietnam, Pamphlet 550-105, Washington, 1966 – VCAT Item No.13450205001. For a May 1968 report by US Colonel (Retd) E.G. Lansdale on the Cao Đài leadership see VCAT Item No.23970224008.

18 Translator’s Note: The “Ông Trần” religion was founded by Lê Văn Mưu (1855-1935) - associated with the Tứ Ân Hiểu Nghĩa sect in An Giang Province that had resisted the French in the period 1887-1890. Lê Văn Mưu led 20 disciples to Long Sơn Island in 1900 and established the religion’s group there.

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soon won over to the ideas of the class struggle and the revolutionary struggle. This provided the conditions for the early establishment of the Vietnam Communist Party, and the propagation of the revolutionary path and Marxist-Leninist ideology among the ranks of the workers and labourers. 19 The large number of rubber workers were concentrated in an important area – that was occupied by our minority countrymen the Châu Ro people, and this saw the coming-into-being of the Bình Ba – Xà Bang – Xuân Sơn Inter- Plantation Party Chapter which was the precursor to the revolutionary struggle and the process of creating the local armed forces for the two periods of resistance. 20 The people of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu have always had a tradition of patriotism and revolutionary struggle – linked closely to their constant and wedded affection to their native land:

“When there is no mud left in Bưng Bạc, and Bàu Thành is empty of water, only then will my love fade”. 21

Despite having to live under the domineering enemy – and forced to abandon their fields and homes and live in the concentration camps and Agrovilles, the people’s hearts and minds were still with the revolution – and with the young fighters of 445 Battalion. When the villagers were forced to leave, they buried and concealed their property and food – leaving it completely for the use of our cadre and soldiers. Regarding those youth who left to join the war of resistance, our Party chapters and infrastructure cadre led the people in legal ways to prevent the enemy from oppressing the families of those youths who had joined us. Broad movements among the people were initiated – such as “Collecting agricultural contributions” and “The Mothers’ Association for the Soldiers”, and these provided additional strength for our resistance forces. Many generations of cadre and soldiers of 445 Battalion were deeply moved by our countrymen in Hòa Long – Long Phước when the villagers were forced to part with our unit. Uncle Ba Rớ (Nguyễn Văn Rớ) in Ấp Bắc (Long Phước) said – emotionally: “My family is leaving – but take any of the remaining chickens for your food.” Mother Tư (Võ Thị Ngày) said: “I’ve left my rice in the large pottery jar – take it, and cook some rice for yourselves.” Many families gave their children to the revolution. They earnestly - and with peace of mind, entrusted them to the “troops of 445”. Indeed, during the most violent and difficult situations, the honest-minded farmers took many very original initiatives to avoid the harsh inspections by the enemy and brought a lot of food, supplies and goods to the troops. Popular methods were: hollowing out the bamboo handles of hoes and machetes to conceal medicines and bandages within; concealing rice in hollow bamboo tubes (used to channel water from the flooded fields); carrying panniers with rice and medicine hidden underneath piles of pig and buffalo dung.

19 Translator’s Note: As noted, a detailed political history of the Phước Tuy-Vũng Tàu region from 1930 can be found in Liên đoàn Lao động tỉnh Bà Rịa Vũng Tàu, Lịch sử Phong Trào Công Nhân, Viên Chức, Lao Động va Hoạt Động Công Đoàn Bà Rịa Vũng Tàu Giai Đoạn 1930-2006 (The History of the Workers’, Public Servants’ and Labourers’ Movement and Trade Union Activities in the Period 1930-2006), Vũng Tàu, 2011.

20 Translator’s Note: For a brief history of Việt Minh activity post-World War II to 1954 in Phước Tuy Province - see Lưu Dương, “Những chặng đường phát triển của lực lượng vũ trang Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu” (“The Stages of Development of the Armed Forces Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu”), Cơ Quan của Đảng Bộ Đảng Cộng Sản Việt Nam Tỉnh Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, Vũng Tàu, 17 December 2009; and Lịch sử Đảng bộ xã Hòa Long (1930-2005) - The History of the Hòa Long Village Party Chapter (1930-2005), 25 April 2009 - see translated extracts at Annex N to Chamberlain, E.P., The Viet Cong D445 Battalion: Their Story, Point

Lonsdale, 2011.

21 Translator’s Note: This short piece of “lục bt” poetry – ie a traditional “6-8 word” verse form, also appears in the D440 Battlion History (2011), p.19 – see Chamberlain, E.P., The Viet Cong D440 Battalion:

Their Story, Point Lonsdale, 2013, p.15.

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On many occasions, the women and children would bring rice to the fields for their midday meal, but – going hungry, would pass it to the troops. There were families who encouraged many of their children to join 445 Battalion

– such as the family of Mrs Trần Thị Hai (of Long Phước) whose two sons were heroically killed; the family of Mrs Nguyễn Thị Trọng (of Long Phước) whose three sons that were sent to 445 all died courageously; and the family of Mrs Nguyễn Thị Côi (of Long Phước) whose four children joined 445 and three died heroically … etc. Additionally, there were hundreds and thousands of other circumstances that symbolized the militia spirit of whole country and that between the people of the Districts in the Province and 445 Battalion. The feelings of the people of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu for the revolution and the resistance war gave further strength to 445 Battalion – from its very first toddler-like

steps and its continuous development with gun-in-hand to protect the people and defend the Fatherland. The people did not shrink from hardships in order to provide cover for - and to nourish, 445 Battalion as it came-of-age. After the Geneva Agreement was signed in July 1954, the American imperialists installed Ngô Đình Diệm as President of the “Republic of Vietnam” making South Vietnam their new type of colony. Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu was created into a military base and rear area for their invasion. The Americans and their puppets built many military bases, ports, and rear bases for their main-force units in Bà Rịa. They strengthened a belt around sensitive locations that - together with Biên Hòa, protected their centre – Sài Gòn. To create a secure shield for their military installations and their pleasure centres at Vũng Tàu and Long Hải, from the middle of 1964 “the combined American- Vietnamese headquarters” (established in August 1964) decided to militarily incorporate the provinces of Bà Rịa and Biên Hòa into a military area directly subordinate to Headquarters III Corps, which they called the “Phước Biên Special Zone”. 22 This combined both military and civilian management under the authority of the officer commanding the Special Zone. Apart from the local forces, the enemy added to this region the 36 th Ranger Battalion stationed at Phú Mỹ, a mechanised squadron at Phước Lễ (Bà Rịa), and two platoons of 105mm artillery. The mobile forces of III Corps ready to support the Phước Biên Special Zone comprised: the 30 th , 33 rd and 35 th Ranger Battalions; the 3 rd and 4 th Marine Battalions - and additionally there were a number of units of the Airborne Brigade and an armoured cavalry regiment. The Phước Tuy Sector 23 and the Sub-Sectors of Long Lễ, Long Điền, and Đất Đỏ formed a “shield in the barrier” defending the Province capital. From this arc, Route 23 ran at an angle to the north-east out to the Xuyên Mộc Sub-Sector that obstructed access into our revolutionary base areas and towards the sea in the farthest area of Eastern Nam Bộ. From Phước Tuy [sic], Route 2 ran north to Xuân Lộc, dividing Bà Rịa into two parts

– East and West, and connecting with Route 1 that ran from the jungle areas down to the

sea. Along Route 2 were the Đức Thạnh Sub-Sector in the north - about 18 kilometres as

the crow flies from the Phước Tuy Province capital, with the Phước Tuy [sic] Special

22 Translator’s Note: Phước Biên Special Zone – comprising Phước Tuy and Biên Hòa Provinces, was promulgated by Ministry of the Interior Instruction No.023/TTL/I/TC/M, 11 May 1964.

23 Translator’s Note: As noted earlier, for detail on the functions of the Phước Tuy Province Sector and its Sub-Sectors, see: 1 ATF, Standard Operating Procedures, Núi Đất, November 1969 (revised) - AWM95, 7/3/88. Phước Tuy Sector was subordinate to the 33 rd Tactical Area (Khu 33 chiến thuật) that – with its headquarters in Xuân Lộc Town, encompassed the four provinces of Phước Tuy, Bình Tuy, Long Khánh, and Biên Hòa, and the city of Vũng Tàu. In the period 1961-1969, the ARVN 10 th /18 th Infantry Division – based at Xuân Lộc, had responsibility for the 33 rd Tactical Area.

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Zone and the strategic hamlet of Bình Giã creating the pincer claws that threatened our Hắc Dịch base. For our side, the Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu territory also held an extremely important position. It was one of the important supply gateways by sea for our armed forces located in the Eastern Nam Bộ and the Region 6 areas. It was also a strategic corridor connecting the coastal plain of the Eastern Nam Bộ region with War Zone D and the far areas of Southern Trung Bộ. It created a very large and connected battlefield for our revolutionary forces to continuously attack and wipe out the enemy, and to directly threaten Sài Gòn – the centre from which the Americans and their puppets managed the war. In the years following the signing of the ((1954)) Geneva Agreement, we strictly implemented the Agreement under the conditions that neither our government, military forces, armed forces - nor our weapons, had to be regrouped to the North. 24 The political mission of the whole Party did undergo a basic change: from armed struggle to political struggle. These were extremely difficult months and years for the revolution in the South in general. As for many of the provinces in Eastern Nam Bộ, the armed forces of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu were reformed quite early – before the Politburo’s Resolution 15. 25 * Our armed forces came into being in the difficult situation and straitened circumstances on all sides. However, from the very first days, we had the direct leadership of the Party and – for that reason, we quickly merged our organisations; conducted armed propaganda; built the revolutionary infrastructure; and created the nucleus for the revolutionary movement of the masses to rise up, kill the cruel oppressors, and advance towards initiating the Đồng Khởi Movement 26 across the whole of the South. That was the precursor – the very important condition, that allowed the Party and the people of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu to create the Province’s concentrated armed forces – the predecessors of the Heroic 445 Battalion.

24 Translator’s Note: Article 14 (d) of the 1954 Geneva Agreement allowed for a “change of zone of residence” – a 300-day period to 19 May 1955. In that period, 888,127 people (or 892,876 to 20 July 1955) reportedly moved from the North to the South. The Việt Minh leadership reportedly ordered 90,000 of its Southern troops to move to the North – see Zasloff, J.J., Political Motivation of the Viet Cong: the Vietminh Regroupees, Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, May 1968. According to a 1954 Top Secret US report, in 1954-55 there were 130,000 “Viet Minh departures for the North” (“87,000 Warriors, 43,000 Admin cadre, liberated POWs, and families”) – of whom 16,000 had assembled at Hàm Tân/Xuyên Mộc. –

The 1954 Geneva Agreement: A Retrospective View, VCAT Item No.

Long Haul”, in Wiest, A (ed), Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land (Wiest, A. ed), Osprey Publishing, Botley, 2006, p.56 – notes 42,000 of the regroupees to the North were military and, in North Vietnam, made up the 350 th , 324 th , and 325 th Divisions. Bùi Tín notes that North Vietnam “did not send whole units to the South” in “1959 and early 1960”, but infiltrated selected regroupees - Bùi Tín, Following Ho Chi Minh: The Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel, Crawford House Publishing, Bathurst, 1995. The Xuyên Mộc History (1989) relates that the Nam Bộ Committee selected the Xuyên Phước Cơ base area – near Cơ Trạch village, as a regroupment centre for about 12,000 troops. They later “moved to Phú Mỹ where they boarded vessels to regroup to the North.” Võ Kim Hanh (et al), Xuyên Mộc Khng Chiến 1945-1975, Nhà Xuất Bản Đồng Nai, Biên Hòa, 1989, p.89. For “regroupees”, see also footnotes 135 and 274.

25 * The Politburo’s Resolution 15 on: “The Way for the Vietnamese Revolution in the South” (January 1959). Translator’s Note: Although Resolution 15 was approved in January 1959, the guidelines for the implementation of the Resolution reportedly “went through three more drafts before it was finally presented in May” 1959. In May, Group 559 – that was to manage “the Trail” was also established. See: Nguyen, Lien-Hang T., Hanoi’s War, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2012, p.45.

26 Translator’s Note: The Đồng Khởi Movement – or the “Simultaneous/Concerted Uprising” against the Diệm regime (beginning in very late 1959 and peaking in 1960), is cited by communist sources as the start of the armed struggle in the South. The Uprising reportedly began in Mỏ Cày District of Ben Trế Province in mid-January 1960.

2410403028.
2410403028.

Bùi Tín, “Fight for the

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2. The Organisation and the Activities of the Predecessor Units of 445 Battalion.

In 1956, after many armed clashes with the Sài Gòn armed forces, the Bình Xuyên 27 were defeated, fled, and lodged their troops scattered throughout the Rừng Sc (Long Thành), the Núi Thị Vải Mountains, and the Giồng Châu Pha jungle etc. The Eastern Nam Bộ Inter-Provincial Committee assigned a number of military proselytising cadre to meet with the Bình Xuyên General Staff and discuss their joining with the revolution in opposing the American-Diệm regime. Our delegation persuaded Colonel Võ Văn Môn – the leader of a Bình Xuyên battalion, to break away and locate to Bàu Lâm (Xuyên Mộc) for a period. Subsequently, the group moved to War Zone D. At the same time, the Eastern Region 28 Inter-Provincial Committee appointed Comrade Nguyễn Quốc Thanh – a member of the Communist Party, to operate within a Bình Xuyên unit – following the persuasion of Nguyễn Văn Phú, a Bình Xuyên company commander. 29 * Comrade Nguyễn Quốc Thanh was appointed as a company second-in- command ((2ic)). In a short time, the Long Thành District Committee (Biên Hòa Province) had selected 15 core youths in the Rừng Sc area (now part of Nhơn Trạch District, Cần Giờ) to join the break-away Bình Xuyên armed unit. 30 * When Nguyễn Văn Phú was killed in an engagement, Nguyễn Quốc Thanh took control as the unit commander with more than 30 men under arms. These included 19 comrades – our infrastructure members that we had introduced into the unit (eight Party members and 11 members of the Labour Youth Group 31 ) to build a secret base and to operate in the Rừng Sc area (now part of the Districts of Nhơn Trạch and Cần Giờ). 32 In December 1956, almost 500 political prisoners destroyed the Biên Hòa prison – a victorious prison break-out. A group of political prisoners from Bà Rịa Province (comprising 20 comrades) led by Trần Ngọc Bửư (ie Su Tâm) cut through the jungle and

27 Translator’s Note: The Bình Xuyên gangster group first emerged in the early 1920s in Sài Gòn. In the 1950s - under “General” Lê Văn Viễn (aka "Bảy Viễn"), the Bình Xuyên was an independent military force within the Vietnamese National Army whose leaders once had lived outside the law and had sided with the Việt Minh. During its heyday, the Bình Xuyên funded itself with organized crime activities in Sài Gòn/Chợ Lớn while effectively battling communist forces. For the early history of the Bình Xuyên – ie to late 1955, see Chapter 19 in Department of Army, Minority Groups in the Republic of Vietnam, op.cit., 1966 – VCAT Item No.13450205001. On the Bình Xuyên, see also the interviews of General Edward G. Lansdale by T. Gittinger, 5 June and 15 September 1981, VCAT Item No.23970331002 and No.23970332001.

28 Translator’s Note: The Eastern Region - ie “Miền Đông”, was the eastern half of “Nam Bộ”. As noted, Nam Bộ comprised those provinces in the Republic of Vietnam from the Central Highlands to the south. A Military “Ban” – literally “Section”, has been translated as “Committee” at echelons above Province. A history of Việt Cộng political geography in the South from 1954 is detailed in: United States Mission in Vietnam (USOM), Viet-Cong Political Geography of South Viet-Nam – March 1971, Viet-Nam Documents and Research Notes No. 93, March 1971. The organisation of the Eastern Nam Bộ Region changed five times in the period 1967-1972 – see Communist Territorial Organization in the "Eastern Nam Bo" and the Saigon-Cholon-Gia-Dinh from 1966 to Date, June 1973 – VCAT Item No.2310510003. In late 1965, the Military Staff of Eastern Nam Bo (Military Region T.1) numbered 450 – including its organic headquarters support elements. For its senior cadre, see CDEC Bulletin No.250, 22 March 1966.

29 * Nguyễn Văn Phú had been our military proselytising agent since the war against the French.

30 * At Liberation, a number of those comrades were still active: Nguyễn Minh Ninh, Nguyễn Thanh Hiếu, and Đào Văn Tuấn.

31 Translator’s Note: The organisation of the People’s Revolutionary Party (PRP) included Party Labour Youth Groups (“Đoàn”) at all levels whose members aspired to Party membership. Selected members could graduate to probationary membership of the Party (at about age 24) – then full membership of the People's Revolutionary Party. See details at Annex G – “The Party” and the reports in Annex H for detailed numbers in mid-1966 for 445 Battalion before the Battle of Long Tân on 18 August 1966.

32 Translator’s Note: This early “Bình Xuyên” period, is covered in greater detail in the 1991 edition of the D445 Battalion History eg: “On 16 December 1955, the first three revolutionary soldiers were incorporated into the Bình Xuyên force.” See: Chamberlain, E.P., … D445 …, op.cit., 2011, pp.2-3.

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returned to the Hắc Dịch base. 33 Comrade Lê Minh Hà – representing the Province Committee, gave Comrade Trần Ngọc Bửư the task of organising political classes for the escapees, building a secret base, and undertaking armed propaganda activities. The terrain to the west of Route 2 became their base, and they created the first armed unit in the Bà Rịa area of the anti-American period. 34 At the beginning of 1957, the Eastern Region Inter-Provincial Committee deployed the unit led by Nguyễn Quốc Thanh from the Rừng Sác (Long Thành) to the Giồng jungle (Hắc Dịch) to build a base - and to receive and protect the group of political prisoners who had broken out and fled into the countryside. After they had completed the task of protecting the political prisoners and guided those from Western Nam Bộ back to Gò Công, Nguyễn Quốc Thanh’s unit returned to their Hắc Dịch base. From May 1957, six comrades from that group of political prisoners from Western Nam Bộ and Sài Gòn- Gia Định volunteered to remain and joined the C.40 unit – including Comrade Đỗ Văn Chương (Ba Liên) 35 who was later the Political Officer of 445 Battalion for a time. At the beginning of 1958, the Military Committee of the Eastern Region appointed Comrade Lê Minh Thịnh (Su Thịnh) to take a section and a radio to Bà Rịa and organise an armed force. After more than 20 days of cutting through the jungle and crossing hills, the group of Eastern Region military cadre safely reached the Suối Cả Stream.

In June 1958, C.40 was established in the Suối Quýt region with the title of the “Eastern Nam Bộ Liberation Forces”. 36 Comrade Lê Minh Thịnh was its commander, with Comrade Nguyễn Quốc Thanh as its deputy commander. 37 C.40’s military strength came from three sources - comprised about 40 cadre and soldiers, and was structured as

33 Translator’s Note: This period is related in Trần Văn Khánh (et al/đtg) and Ban Chấp Hành Đảng bộ tỉnh Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu (Executive Committee of the Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu Party), Lịch sử Đảng bộ tỉnh Bà Rịa- Vũng Tàu (1930 - 1975) (The History of the Party in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu), Nhà Xuất bản Chính trị Quốc gia (National Political Publishing House), Chương V (Chapter 5), Hà Nội, 2000. Trần Ngọc Bửư is shown as Trần Văn Bửu.

34 Translator’s Note: On 22 October 1956, the Sài Gòn Government (ie the Republic of Vietnam) retitled their Bà Rịa Province as “Phước Tuy” – which included the adjacent Cần Giờ District and Vũng Tàu. However, the communist side preferred the earlier title of “Bà Rịa Province”. While the Province capital

was officially titled “Phước Lễ” (until 1982), it was commonly referred to as “Bà Rịa Town” by both sides. Cần Giờ District and Vũng Tàu were subsequently detached from the Province which thereafter had an area

of 1,958 sq km – about 55 kilometres from east-to-west and 35 kilometres from north-to-south (ie, as noted,

about 83% of the size of the Australian Capital Territory; or 21.3% of the size of Tasmania).

35 Translator’s Note: For a biography of Đỗ Văn Chương - “Ba Liên” (also as Đỗ/Đổ Văn Liên and

sometimes incorrectly as Đồng Văn Chương), who became the political officer of 445 Battalion, see Annex

A – Key Cadre (nine outline biographies).

36 Translator’s Note: According to the Đồng Nai History (1986): “In the middle of 1958, at the Suối Quýt T-Junction, the armed forces of Bà Rịa led by Vũ Tâm and the Long Thành (Biên Hòa ) group led by Nguyễn Quốc Thanh united as one unit and took the title of the 40 th Unit ((bộ đội)) – with a strength of almost 30 … Subsequently, they established a number of bases at Phước Thái, Cẩm Mỹ, Gia Ray, Vũ Đắc, Định Quán, Xuyên Mộc … Footnote 1: The Commander of the 40 th Unit was Lê Thành Công, and Nguyễn Quốc Thanh was the Deputy Commander.” - Phan Ngọc Danh, Trần Quang Toại & Phạm Van Hy, Đồng Nai 30 Năm Chiến Tranh Giải Phóng (1945-1975) - The 30-year Liberation Struggle in Đồng Nai (1945-

1975), Nhà Xuất Bản Đồng Nai, Đồng Nai, 1986, pp.86-87.

37 Translator’s Note: Việt Cộng personnel did not have formal military ranks or insignia. Rather, they were

referred to by the functional title of their position. Generically, they were also referred to as “cán bộ” (cadre

– ie “officer-ranking”, ie section commander and higher) or “chiến sĩ” (combatant or soldier). Prior to 1958, the People’s Army of Vietnam (ie PAVN, the North Vietnamese Army – NVA) did not have rank insignia. Until the early 1970s, infiltrating NVA personnel routinely discarded their rank insignia - although some were still referred to by their NVA ranks – ie lieutenant, major etc. see Advanced Research Projects Agency, Basic Profile: NVA PW – MR3, Summary Report No.15, Washington, 14 January 1971, VCAT Item No.2321314001.

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four sections directly subordinate to the company headquarters. However, weapons and equipment were only sufficient to arm about half of its strength. The unit established a Party Chapter (of eight Party members) and a Labour Youth Group. The unit’s base was set up in the Bưng Lùng (Hắc Dịch) area. The coming-into-being of C.40 was an important marker in the process of re-establishing the Bà Rịa armed forces in the war of resistance against the Americans. In May 1959, the Ngô Đình Diệm government promulgated Law 10-59 that placed Communists outside the law. Many cadre, Party members and patriotic countrymen continued to be murdered, arrested, suffer every form of corporal punishment, and were disposed of secretly. The cruelty of the enemy increasingly inflamed a hatred of the enemy and heightened the resolve of the people of Bà Rịa to take up arms for the uprising. 38 The Politburo’s Resolution from the 15 th Conference (January 1959) affirmed that the basic path for revolution in the South was through an uprising that put the government in the hands of the people. Resolution 15 was a large step and a watershed for the revolution in the South in general and for the revolutionary movement in Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu in particular. On the night of 12 March 1960, C.40 of the “Liberation Forces of Eastern Nam Bộ” coordinated with our Secret Self-Defence elements 39 and the masses to attack the post at Bình Ba on Route 2 (nowadays Route 56) 14 kilometres north of the administrative capital of Phước Tuy Province. This began the armed uprising movement across the whole Province. Participating in the attack were 30 cadre and soldiers of C.40 led by Comrade Lê Minh Thịnh and Nguyễn Quốc Thanh. After only 15 minutes of combat, our forces had control of the battlefield, wiped out the gendarmerie ((hiến binh)) post commander, and seized weapons (including a medium machinegun). In this battle, Comrade Mười Hương was killed and two comrades were wounded (Mười Quang and Ba Khôi). 40

38 Translator’s Note: For a 1959 administrative survey of Phước Tuy Province, see: Local Administration in Vietnam – the Number of Local Units, USAID/Michigan State University, 1963 – VCAT Item No.

1490116001. Province population: 132,202; 7 cantons; 44 villages; 284 (or 277) hamlets.

39 Translator’s Note: Below the level of D445 Battalion and the local district companies, the Việt Cộng “irregulars” in Phước Tuy Province included village guerrillas, “self-defense forces”, and “secret self- defense forces”. In early December 1966, the United States Sector S-2 (Intelligence) advisor in Bà Rịa Town estimated the strengths of these elements respectively as: guerrillas – 467; self-defense forces – 245; secret self-defense forces – 207; Total – 917. The ARVN estimates were respectively 420; 1,445; 410; Total – 2,275. The MACV Order-of-Battle estimates were 405; 575; 410; Total 1,390. See – CICV, Estimate of Việt Cộng Irregular Forces Strength in SVN, 24 March 1967 – VCAT Item No.0240612012. Disagreement between MACV and the CIA on irregular force numbers continued until mid-September 1967 – ie until a MACV/DIA/CIA conference in Saigon, see footnote 244. USMACV removed “secret self defense forces” – “essentially low level fifth columnists, used for information collection” from their order-of-battle reporting in late 1967 – USMACV Briefing, 1 November 1967 – VCAT Item No.2120907019. The “CIA v MACV” disagreement was reported in the US media ie: CIA “reported enemy strength 150,000 NVN and VC troops in the South, Pentagon claimed 100,000, … White House said about 70,000” – “Know Your Enemy: The Numbers Game”, Newsweek, 4 March 1968, p.13 – VCAT Item No.F029200050770. An agreed assessment was formalised in: Director of Central Intelligence, Capabilities of the Vietnamese Communists for Fighting in South Vietnam (Special National Intelligence Estimate 14.3-67), Langley, 13 November

1967, pp.15-16. VCAT Item No.

F029200050309. For a summary, see Adams, S., (CIA), Chronology of

VC/NVA Problem, 22 Oct 1969, VCAT Item No. F029200060698.

See also footnotes 318 and 534. For

assessments of D445 strengths over time, see Annex C.

40 Translator’s Note: The engagement at Bình Ba is described in more detail in the 1991 D445 Battalion History – which states the attack occurred on 30 March 1960: “the first military exploit of the Province’s first concentrated unit.”

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The victory at Bình Ba had a strong impact on the revolutionary movement across the whole Province. Immediately after the battle, C.40 was strengthened by a further 15 recruits. The total number of cadre and soldiers in the unit was then 61. In April 1960, the Province Committee decided to remove key cadre from C.40 and also to recruit new troops to establish C.45 as an additional Province unit. C.45 became a Province unit with Comrade Nguyễn Quốc Thanh as its Commander and Comrade Ba Hà as the Political Officer. C.45 was stationed to the west of Route 2 and also was tasked as a mobile unit to wipe out a number of ((enemy)) units, and to defend the Hắc Dịch base ((see footnote 15)). It was also to conduct armed propaganda and support the political struggle of the people in a number of villages along Route 2 (nowadays National Route 56) and Route 15 (now National Route 51). C.40 continued to be termed a unit of the Eastern Nam Bộ Liberation Forces and was commanded by Comrade Sáu Thịnh 41 as Company Commander with Comrade Ba Đại as its Political Officer. C.40 was stationed to the east of Route 2 (in the Mây Tào area, Xuyên Mộc) with the tasks of armed propaganda in the villages along the coast and the region of Route 23. In May 1960, C.40 coordinated with our infrastructure to wipe out a section of puppet commandos 42 led by Tài – a notorious thug in the Xuyên Mộc region. They had killed 30 people involved in the old resistance war; and had beaten, injured, and crippled over 70 people. This commando section had been detached to Xuyên Mộc by the Phước Tuy Sector. 43 Assisting with this attack was Comrade Trần Văn Chiến (Sáu Chiến) 44 - one of our three underground agents in the ((enemy’s)) Self-Defence Corps ((Dân Vệ)) 45 post at Phước Bửư who had been recruited by Huỳnh Văn Tờ (Chín Tờ). Huỳnh Văn Tờ had been a Xuyên Mộc District cadre from the time of the anti-French resistance, and had been organised to stay behind to build our forces. Trần Văn Chiến had provided important information on the enemy to us, and this time directly coordinated with C.40 to kill Tài and his commando unit. Having determined the activity routine of the puppet commando unit, Trần Văn Chiến reported to C.40 and developed a plan to strike the enemy – while telling Tài that “there were Việt Cng 46 about” and, guiding him to round them up, went from Bà Tô to Bưng Môn. At about 8am, the whole commando section led by Tài – with Trần Văn Chiến leading, fell into C.40’s ambush (at the agreed site). Tài kept close to Trần Văn Chiến – not letting him get even a step away. When the commando group reached the middle of a clearing and came into view, Comrade Tư Minh fired a burst from his medium machinegun into about the middle of the enemy formation. When that firing ceased, our unit immediately assaulted, surrounding and killing 11 of the enemy on

41 Translator’s Note: Lê Thành Công (Sáu Thịnh) was also known as Lê Minh Thịnh. According to the

1991 D445 History, Sáu Thịnh was concurrently the head of the Province Military Section

42 Translator’s Note: The text uses the term “biệt kích” – a term used by the communist forces for enemy commando/special forces-type troops eg the Civilian Irregular Defence Groups/Mobile Strike Force (CIDG/Mike Force) elements, the Special Air Service, and earlier Diệm-era forces. In February 1960, President Diệm established 75 150-man commando companies – later to become ARVN Ranger units (ie the Biệt Động Quân). 1 ATF infantry patrols were also routinely referred to by the VC as “commandos”.

43 Translator’s Note: A “Sector” (Tiểu Khu) was the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) regional military command covering a province; “Sub-Sectors” (Chi Khu) were the subordinate district-level ARVN military commands. These regional levels commanded “territorial forces” - ie the Civil Guard/Regional Forces and Self-Defence Corps/Popular Forces.

44 Translator’s Note: Trần Van Chiến (Sáu Chiến) later become the commander of the Battalion’s 1 st Company – see footnotes 152, 163, 218, 278, 453 and Annex B – Senior Cadre.

45 Translator’s Note: The Dân Vệ were replaced by the Popular Forces (PF – Nghĩa Quân) in 1964.

46 Translator’s Note: The Vietnamese communists did not refer to themselves as “Việt Cộng” (a contraction of “Cộng Sản Việt Nam” - Vietnamese Communists) – as this was a pejorative term initiated and used by the Republic of Vietnam (RVN - ie South Vietnam).

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the spot. As for Tài, he turned and ran off, but Chín Hương rushed out and captured him. Before being shot and killed, Tài resisted determinedly - wounding Comrade Chín Hương and killing Comrade Su Tấn. The engagement ended after a determined exchange of about 30 minutes in which Tai’s commando section was completely wiped out. On our side, two comrades were killed – Su Tấn and our medic Hùng. Four comrades were wounded: Tm (Tm axit), Tư Minh, Tư Tuấn, and Chín Hương. That very afternoon and evening, Trần Van Chiến (Sáu Chiến) guided an element of C.40 that coordinated with our underground agents to completely wipe out the enemy in the Self-Defence Corps post at Phước Bửư – including the chief of the post, Lé. 47 These concentrated attacks were important combat outcomes for C.40 in the areas of Phước Bửư, the Cây Cm Slope, and Bà Tô etc as they were the first steps in destroying the enemy’s grip in the coastal region of Xuyên Mộc District. Also in May 1960, C.45 attacked the Xà Bang Plantation, seizing 120,000 đồng (in puppet currency). 48 This was quite a large amount of money at that time, and was used to further strengthen the unit’s rear service supply reserves.

After the attack on Xà Bang, the Province Committee ordered C.45 to fight a batttle that had decisive characteristics and was aimed at wiping out an important part of the enemy’s capability by forcing them to withdraw from their Hắc Dịch post - and thus expand our base area region in the Province. Our agents advised that there were 55 enemy

– equivalent to two platoons, in the Hắc Dịch post. With a change-over monthly, they

were to rotate a similar force on Friday. The Hắc Dịch post was occupied by a Civil Guard/Civil Defence Force ((Bảo An)) 49 platoon - that was directly subordinate to the Special Sector ((yếu khu)) at Phú Mỹ, and by a section of Self-Defence Corps ((Dân Vệ)) 50 . Every two weeks, they changed-over their troops. Each time when changing-over, the enemy conducted an operation with two platoons from the Special Sector at Phú Mỹ into the Hắc Dịch. One platoon would remain at the post, and the other would be replaced by a newly-arrived platoon. After some planning, our unit decided on a method of attacking the enemy outside their post at a point and time that the enemy were changing their troops in the area of the Bến Tàu Stream in July 1960. The area chosen was the Bến Tàu area which was quite open. There was jungle growing on the higher side of the area – with a small clearing opposite with only sparse jungle. The headquarters for the attack comprised: Comrade Nguyễn Quốc Thanh as its commander; with Comrades Lê Thành Ba, Trần Văn Bửư, Hai Súng, Ba Hà, and Tư Ù as deputy commanders. At that time, C.45 only had two sections armed with weapons – including an

FM. 51 The Province Committee reinforced the unit from the District’s armed propaganda elements and the defence element of the Province Committee. Long Đất District provided

a team of three comrades led by Trần Lương; the Cao Su Party Affairs Committee sent

three comrades led by Nguyễn Văn Cao; and the defence element from the Province Committee participated with three comrades led by Trần Văn Cường – a total of 41 armed

47 Translator’s Note: These actions are described in less detail in the Xuyên Mộc History (1989) that notes:

“Following the two victories at Phước Bửư village, a village guerrilla section was established.” Võ Kim Hanh (et al), Xuyên Mộc Khng Chiến 1945-1975, op.cit., 1989, p.106.

48 Translator’s Note: In May 1960, the black market rate was 1 USD equivalent to 90 đồng/piastres. The attack is also recounted in the Châu Đức Duc History (2004).

49 Translator’s Note: The Vietnamese text above uses the term “Bảo An” – ie the Civil Guard/Civil Defence Force – which was restructured/replaced by the Regional Forces (“Địa Phương Quân”) in 1964. However, even after 1964, the communists often still referred to the Regional Forces as “Bảo An”.

50 Translator’s Note: As noted earlier, the Dân Vệ (Self-Defence Corps) were replaced by the Popular

Forces (PF – Nghĩa Quân) in 1964.

51 Translator’s Note: An “FM” is probably a “fusil mitrailleur” (French) – “machinegun”.

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comrades. The Province’s military weapons section was able to make a “Mantis” gun 52 and provided locally-made mines to be used in the battle. Comrade Nguyễn Quốc Thanh had been wounded in the leg in the battle at Xà Bang but – with a determination to lead his unit victoriously in its first battle, used a walking stick to enable him to participate and command at the engagement. As our force was small and the enemy was more numerous, the agreed plan was to wait until after the enemy had changed over its troops and then open fire on the element that was returning to the post. Comrade Nguyễn Quốc Thanh commanded our element that would block the enemy column; Comrade Lê Thành Ba commanded our group to block the enemy’s rear; and Comrades Ba Hà, Tư Ù and Vũ Tâm 53 * led the main group in the killing zone 54 . At 8am, a Civil Guard/Civil Defence Force platoon from the Hắc Dịch post moved to their change-over site and fell into our ambush. Immediately afterwards [sic], the two Civil Guard/Civil Defence Force platoons that had patrolled from Phú Mỹ reached their assembly position. 55 There, they discussed their change-over of tasks and sat down in scattered groups – right at our ambush position, but not quite fully within our ambush site. This situation was not as had been planned. Usually, the enemy changed-over a platoon - but this time they had added an extra platoon to clear the way and to then escort the platoon that had just been relieved back to Phú Mỹ. The enemy force was many times larger than ours, and they were spread out over a large area. Comrade Nguyễn Quốc Thanh at the forward position crawled over to Comrade Võ Quốc Chnh – our comrade with the medium machinegun at the forward blocking position, to discuss changing the plan for our attack. At that time, an unexpected event suddenly occurred. An enemy soldier armed with a machinegun leaned his weapon against a tree while he relieved himself. Comrade Tùng in the guard group was forced to open fire immediately and killed the enemy soldier. Faced with this situation, the commander – Nguyễn Quốc Thanh, decided to give the order to attack. The medium machinegun carried by Võ Quốc Chnh (Tư Chnh) fired successive loud bursts of fire into the enemy ranks. The ambush element in the killing zone simultaneously engaged the enemy decisively. The firepower of the medium machinegun that Comrade Tùng in the guard group had just seized, was used by Comrade Su Chiến to add to our firepower, firing rounds thick and fast into the enemy who were outside the ambush site. Attacked by surprise, the enemy panicked and quickly disintegrated. We killed more than 30, captured 10, and seized 15 weapons – including three medium machineguns. The remaining enemy fled. The next day, the enemy still in the Hắc Dịch post also abandoned their post in fear and fled. Our underground agents in Hắc Dịch - who were Châu Ro minority people, brought two of the village’s Self-Defence Corps sections to hand over their weapons and to join the revolutionary armed forces. The C.45 unit’s battle at Bến Tàu was not only an engagement that was highly successful – killing many enemy and seizing a large number of weapons and also

52 Translator’s Note: The Việt Minh – and later the Việt Cộng, manufactured over 40 different types of “súng ngựa trời” – ie “mantis guns”. These were locally-produced tube-type recoilless rifles or rocket

launchers – dubbed “mantis guns” as their thin supporting legs resembled those of the mantis insect.

53 * Comrade Nguyễn Quốc Thanh - the deputy commander of the Province Unit - and concurrently the company commander, was the commander. Comrade Lê Thành Ba (Ba Bùi) - a cadre of the Province Committee; Comrade Vũ Tâm - a Province Committee cadre with responsibility for the masses movement in the villages along Route 15; Comrade Tư Ù; and Comrade Ba Hà were deputy commanders.

54 Translator’s Note: Literally: “quyết chiến điểm” – “decisive point”.

55 * Usually, the enemy changed-over one platoon, but on this occasion they had added an extra platoon to clear the way and to then escort the platoon that had just been relieved back to Phú Mỹ.

16

securing the revolutionary base area and liberating a village (the first village liberated in the Province), but it had greater meaning as it created an affection and a belief in us among the people. 56 The title : “Four Four Five troops” 57 came into being at that time. With the weapons we had seized, the Province Committee directed the recruitment of additional new troops for C.45 in order to establish two platoons. Accordingly, one month after the victory at the Bến Tàu Stream, we had three fully-constituted platoons. One month after the victory at Bến Tàu, C.40 deployed for an engagement at Khánh Lâm (Phước Thái) and wiped out a Self-Defence Corps section, seizing all their weapons. At the beginning of 1961, C.45 joined with the local Long Đất District armed forces to eliminate an enemy platoon at the Bờ Đập post. In this battle, C.45 employed both internal and external tactical methods – and so achieved a great victory, seizing 30 weapons of various types and equipment for the District troops and the village guerrillas. The Đồng Khởi Uprising 58 across the whole of the South from 1960 created an extremely important change. The form of the revolution’s armed struggle in the South became clearer each day and expanded rapidly. Our military proselytising elements and agents who had previously been active among the ranks of the Self-Defence Corps were withdrawn and formed into armed forces at the Province and local level. On 15 February 1961, COSVN 59 decided to unite the armed forces across the whole of the South into the South Vietnam Liberation Armed Forces. Our forces and the people of Bà Rịa were elated and joined the fighting with a new momentum. The Province Military Committee was established with Comrade Lê Minh Thịnh as the Head of the Province Military Committee - with Comrades Nguyễn Quốc Thanh 60 and Nguyễn Văn Đại as deputies. At this time, the revolutionary movement in the countryside had expanded widely and required an armed force as its core to support the masses. The Province Committee decided to assign a number of cadre and soldiers in the Province’s concentrated force to become this nucleus in order to create District armed forces. Comrade Biên and a section

56 Translator’s Note: This battle is also related in less detail in Chapter 5 of: Trần Văn Khánh (et al/đtg), Lịch sử Đảng … (The History of the Party in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu), op.cit., 2000. – but the “special weapon” is described as a “Moọcchê– ie mortar.

57 Translator’s Note: This claim is incongruous as “445” was not an entity until about six months later - ie in about March 1961 – see the following footnote 64. The 1991 D445 History makes a similar claim – but not until after the battle of the Long Phước tunnels in April 1963 ie: “The term ‘Soldiers of Four Four Five’ began to echo resoundingly throughout the region.”

58 Translator’s Note: As noted earlier, the Đồng Khởi Movement – or “Simultaneous/Concerted Uprising” against the Diệm regime (beginning in very late 1959 and peaking in 1960), is cited by communist sources as the start of the armed struggle in the South. The Uprising reportedly began in Mỏ Cày District of Ben Trế Province in mid-January 1960.

59 Translator’s Note: The Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN – Văn Phòng Trung Ương Cục Miền Nam) - directed from Hà Nội and located in the Cambodia/South Vietnam border area north-west of Saigon, was the communist political and military headquarters responsible for South Vietnam south of the Central and Southern Highlands - an area termed “Nam Bộ” (as noted earlier, equating to the French colonial “Cochin China” region). Geographically, the COSVN area covered the southern 32 of South Vietnam’s 44 provinces – reportedly containing 14 million of South Vietnam’s total population of 17.5 million (ie about 80%); 53% of its land mass; and 83% of the rice-growing areas (in 1968) – USMACV briefing, Saigon, 9 January 1970 - Sorley, L., Vietnam Chronicles: The Abrams Tapes, 1968-1972 (Modern Southeast Asia Series), Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock, 2004, p.336. COSVN however, did not control the area of its “geographic coverage” described above. Sometimes abbreviated to “Miền”, COSVN’s principal cover designators were “R”, “Năm Trường”, and “Chín Nam”.

60 Translator’s Note: In a Letter of Introduction dated 12 July 1966, Nguyễn Quốc Thanh was noted as having been “newly reassigned” to the Province Military School. CDEC Log 09-1864-66.

17

were sent to Long Đất District 61 ; and Comrade Nhẫn and a section went to Xuân Lộc District. Comrade Mười Nông and a section went to Long Thành District. Comrade Hai Thuận and Năm Kiên [sic] – together with a section, went to Châu Thành District. 62 Armed propaganda groups were organised to become the concentrated armed forces of the Districts, and were equivalent to platoons. At this time, the concentrated armed forces of the Province were also consolidated and re-organised in order to coincide with the developing situation and the move to a higher combat posture. At the direction of the Eastern Region Military Committee, the Province Committee decided to combine the C.40 and C.45 units into one company – C.445 Company, based in the Bưng Lùng base (Hắc Dịch village 63 ). All the weapons and equipment of the cadre and soldiers of the two units were merged to form the first Province-level armed unit that carried the title 445 Company. That company-level title was formally promulgated and used from that time. 64 445 Company was structured with four platoons (three infantry platoons and a combat support platoon); communications, reconnaissance, and production management sections; a medical treatment team; and a Western bugle team. 65 Comrade Nguyễn Văn Thanh (Tư Thanh) was the Company Commander 66 , Comrade Vũ Quốc Chnh (Tư

61 Translator’s Note: The Đất ĐDistrict History (2006) relates an earlier founding ie: “The armed

propaganda unit became a District local unit with the title of the 25 th Long Đất District Company”, and in late November 1960 “led by Comrade Lê Văn Việt laid an ambush at Đá Giăng (on Route 44) … Two ”

enemy in the vehicle were killed – including an American advisor

the Struggle and Development of the Party Committee, the Forces and the People of Đất Đỏ District (1930- 2005), Đồng Nai Collective Publishing House, Biên Hòa, 2006.

62 Translator’s Note: The Châu Đức District History (2004) relates at p.108: “The armed forces of Châu Thành District were established on 5 February 1961 – and, titled C.20, at first only comprised seven comrades with insufficient weapons and ammunition.” The communist Châu Thành District was restructured and renamed in 1965 – ie according to the Châu Đức District History (2004): “In 1965, to contend with the battle against the Americans, the Bà Rịa-Long Khánh Province Committee combined the two districts of Châu Thành and Đức Thạnh to form Châu Đức District.” - Nguyễn Công Danh & Lê Minh Nghĩa et al, Lịch sử Đấu Tranh Cách Mạng Của Đảng Bộ Và Nhân Dân Huyện Châu Đức (1930-2000) – The History of the Revolutionary Struggle of the Party Chapter and the People of Châu Đức District (1930- 2000), Nhà Xuất Bản Chính Trị Quốc Giả, Hà Nội, 2004. A local Party History notes that Châu Đức District was formed on 24 May 1965 with Nguyễn Văn Tiến (Năm Tiến) as the Secretary of the District Committee – with the Committee’s base in the jungle at Bằng Lăng (Đồng Nghệ). Trần Văn Khánh (et al/đtg), Lịch sử Đảng …(The History of the Party in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu), op.cit., 2000, Chapter VII. A draft history of Châu Thành District was prepared in 1988 ie: Trần Văn Cường (et al/đtg) , Châu Thành Đấu Tranh và Xây Dựng (1945-1985) – Sơ Thảo (Châu Thành District – The Struggle and Development – 1945-

1985 - Draft), Nhà Xuất Bản Đồng Nai/Nhà In Thanh Niên, 1988.

63 Translator’s Note: The small village of Hắc Dịch was located in the vicinity of YS 3477, about 11 kilometres west of the Đức Thạnh District Sub-Sector that was situated beside Route 2.

64 Translator’s Note: The formation of the 445 th Company at the beginning of 1961 is also related in the publication: Military Region 7 Headquarters (Quân Khu 7), 50 Năm Lực Lương Võ Trang Quân Khu 7 (The Armed Forces of Military Region 7: 50 Years), Wattpad, 1995. The Military Region 7 (Eastern Region) area – founded in 1945, was re-established in May 1961 to encompass the provinces of Tây Ninh, Bình Dương, Bình Long, Phước Long, Phước Thành, Biên Hòa and Bà Rịa.

65 Translator’s Note: The Đồng Nai History (1986) similarly relates that in 1962, “the 445 th Company – the concentrated Province Unit, was established with three platoons (120 troops) and sufficient weapons – and led by Năm Ninh ((Nguyễn Minh Ninh)) and Tư Chánh ((Vũ Quốc Chnh)).” - Phan Ngọc Danh …, Đồng Nai 30 Năm …, op.cit., 1986, p.101. Note: a draft version - ie “Sơ Thảo”, is also available, see Bibliography. For biographical detail on Nguyễn Minh Ninh (Năm Ninh) and Vũ Quốc Chnh (Tư Chánh) – and seven other key 445 Battalion cadre, see Annex A – Key Cadre.

66 Translator’s Note: However, according to the earlier 1991 D445 History, at the founding of the 445 th Company: “Comrade Tư Ù was appointed as the company commander of the 445 th Company and Comrade Năm Ninh ((Nguyễn Minh Ninh)) became its political officer and concurrently operated as the secretary of its Party Chapter. Comrade Tư Chánh ((Vũ Quốc Chnh)) was made second-in-command, and Comrade Ba

Đặng Tấn Hương (ed), The History of

18

Chnh) was the Company second-in-command, Comrade Nguyễn Minh Ninh was the Political Officer, and Comrade Ba Quang was the Deputy Political Officer. The Company’s main base was at Bưng Lùng (Hắc Dịch). In its first days after being established, the unit faced many thousands of difficulties – with most of those difficulties arising from external sources which were unavoidable for any small unit when converted into a larger unit. This included the perception of the unit’s leadership regarding its role, function, mission, management capabilities, direction of the unit’s build-up, training, and combat activities etc – as well as the psychological readiness of older cadre and soldiers – who had just arrived from many different sources, to accept the merger and conversion. Getting a timely grip on that situation, the Province Committee ordered agencies and the associated units of the two branches – military-civil and political-Party, to focus on coordinating with the Company Headquarters to find ways of resolving each issue by stages and steps. Next, the Province Military School and the Province Party School began a large number of training classes to rapidly create cadre in order to raise the standards of training, technical combat techniques, management capabilities in building the unit, and to create a new political awareness for the 445 Company cadre. The folk song and dance group from the Province Committee’s Political Propaganda Section was located close to the unit and regularly visited – at times in our base, at other times right on the battlefield. They raised the morale of the cadre and soldiers in a timely way – after every victory in battle, as well as when facing difficulties, challenges, losses, and sacrifices. Immediately after its founding – and while it was still consolidating, 445 Company engaged in its first battle against an enemy sweeping operation at Le [sic] Hill (about 1.5 – 2 kilometres as the crow flies from the Bưng Lùng base). On hearing that a puppet Civil Guard/Civil Defence Force battalion was moving into our base area, the Company Headquarters actively organised for a reconnaissance element to follow them closely to their temporary bivouac position at Le [sic] Hill (Đá Vàng Stream). Having swiftly organised our forces, a group of approximate platoon strength – that was heavily armed, quickly moved through the jungle in the darkness and rain to attack the enemy at first light. They attacked the battalion headquarters and inflicted considerable losses, forcing them to disperse, distracting them from their attack on the base of the Province Committee – and the enemy finally abandoned their operation. In this engagement, although not many of the enemy were killed or weapons seized, it was significant in defending our base – a site of concern to the unit as it was where we re-organised and also trained and familiarised our recruits. Additionally, it evidenced the Company’s spirit and determination to “dare to attack” and for “one to strike twenty” of the enemy – and it opened the first page of the Battalion’s subsequent tradition of resolving to fight and win. 67 After that counter-sweeping operation, 445 Company operated across a wide area from Long Thành to Xuân Lộc and from Bà Rịa to Long Đất, coordinating with the local District troops and village guerrillas to attack the enemy and to liberate a number of areas. With the strong support of the armed forces, the people in many places rose up, took control, and created many new organisations in the hamlets etc. The momentum of the revolutionary struggle in the Province increased strongly. Representative of our operational activities at that time was the attack on the Bình Sơn post. In May 1961, 445 Company moved secretly from the Bưng Lùng base to attack the Bình Sơn post (in the Bình Sơn Plantation, Long Thành District) with the aim of

19

seizing a lathe for use in the engineer’s workshop. The enemy troops stationed in that post were paid by the plantation owner to protect his property, so their fighting spirit was not particularly high. Consequently, when we attacked the plantation, we merely fired a few shots – showed the flag 68 , and the troops in the post fled. We quickly took control of the plantation, threatened and captured the plantation owner and his deputy, and seized many weapons and a lot of equipment from the enemy’s post – together with a large amount of supplies and food. In particular, we took a large-sized lathe and provided it to the engineer’s workshop. In this engagement, we mobilised about 200 workers to carry material off for us - machinery, food, and supplies. Our unit told the families of the plantation owner and his deputy – both French, to bring money in order to ransom them. In July 1961, 445 Company deployed its 2 nd Platoon – led by Comrade Su Chiến, together with a section of the Châu Thành District troops, to ambush the enemy in an area near the Phước Hữu T-Junction. Our aim was to strike the Self-Defence Corps at the Long Phước post that regularly conducted patrols to show their flag. However, on the afternoon that the unit had planned the ambush, the Self-Defence Corps element in the post did not come out. Our agents reported on the situation and proposed attacking a group of quisling 69 administrators returning from Bà Rịa - as a warning. Comrade Su Chiến agreed, re-organised our forces, and - stopping their vehicle, killed Luông and Tuồng – members of Long Phước village’s Administrative Council, at about 1630hrs to 1700hrs. On hearing this news, the wicked Commando Platoon of the Phước Tuy Sector immediately deployed about 30 minutes later. They blocked our withdrawal route eastward from the Phước Hữu T-Junction. When our 1 st Section withdrew past that spot, they encountered the enemy who opened fire first – but we suffered neither killed nor wounded. Our 2 nd Section – that included Comrade Su Chiến, heard the sound of gunfire – and knowing that our 1 st Section had been contacted by the enemy, hurriedly returned and attacked the enemy Commando Platoon from the flank and the rear and encircled them. Panic-striken, the commandos fled in the direction of the ricefields. The result of this engagement was that we killed a number of the enemy, seized seven weapons, and wounded Kiềm – breaking his leg (very afraid, he later left the commando unit to work as a civilian, and was subsequently imprisoned). At the end of 1961, the Staley-Taylor “Pacification” plan – aimed at pacifying the South in 18 months, was launched. This was basically the first plan of the Americans’ “Special Warfare” strategy. 70 The gathering of the people into “Strategic Hamlets” 71 was

68 Translator’s Note: Presumably, the flag of the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam – the Front was formed in December 1960.

69 Translator’s Note: The term “quislings” (“bọn tề”) – a synonym for traitors, was applied by the communists to Vietnamese who served the Sài Gòn government. The English term “quisling” has its origins with the infamous World War II Norwegian Nazi collaborator, President Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945). For government administration in Phước Tuy Province in 1969 – see USAID, Public Administration Bulletin, No.50, Saigon, 1 August 1969. For the Village and Hamlet Reorganization (Decree No.093-TT/NV), 2 June 1969, see pp.41-58. The Bulletin also includes Province and District appointments. 70 Translator’s Note: The “strategy” was announced in May 1961 – and, together with its component “Pacification program”, was colloquially referred to as the Staley/Taylor plan - ie after the Stanford University academic Eugene Staley and US General Maxwell Taylor (later US Ambassador in the Republic of Vietnam 1964-1965). For a useful contemporary review of “Pacification” to the end of 1968, see Young,

E.J., Stability in Rural Vietnam, December 1968, VCAT Item No.13510141001.

71 Translator’s Note: The “Strategic Hamlet” (Ấp Chiến Lược) program was wider than the earlier “Agroville” resettlement program begun by President Diệm in 1959. In 1964 – ie post-Diệm, the “Strategic Hamlets” program was “revitalized” as the “New Life Hamlets” (Ấp Đời Mới) - and in 1965 retitled “Secure Hamlets” (Ấp Tân Sinh – ie “New Life Hamlets”, but in Sino-Vietnamese). For a communist account, see: The Failure of Special War 1961-65, Vietnamese Studies, No.11, Hanoi, 1965 – VCAT Item

No.2120201001.

20

elevated to become a national policy. In March 1962, the Americans and Diệm commenced their “Sunrise Campaign”. 72 They combined their regular main-force units, Civil Guard/Civil Defence Force, Self-Defence Corps, and police on a large scale from company-level up to regiment-level to launch highly destructive attacks into the provinces of the Eastern Nam Bộ Region in order to round up the people into “strategic hamlets”. In Bà Rịa, the enemy concentrated a large force and launched a sweeping operation – “Thunder and Wind”, into the Hắc Dịch base. 73 In April 1962, the enemy began to build model strategic hamlets at An Nhứt (in Long Điền Sub-Sector), Hòa Long (Long Lễ Sub-Sector), and at Bình Giã (Đức Thạnh Sub-Sector). They established the Vạn Kiếp Training Centre 74 in Bà Rịa; consolidated the Long Lễ Sub-Sector; further strengthened their 611 th and 612 th Civil Guard/Civil Defence Force Companies under the Xuyên Mộc Sub-Sector; and established posts from Núi Nhọn Mountain to the bridges at Cầu Dài, Cầu Trọng and Suối Ct to support the gathering up of villagers and the setting-up of strategic hamlets in that area. Our armed forces and the people of Bà Rịa Province were forced into great hardships by these schemes and plots of the enemy. To confront the enemy’s scheme to gather the people and establish strategic hamlets in the territory of Bà Rịa, the Province Committee gave the task to the Province armed forces to join together with the local armed forces and actively strike the enemy and support our political forces and those of the masses of the three villages of Hòa Long, Long Phước, and Long Tân in Châu Đức District; and a number of villages in Long Đất District. In Long Phước, the 445 Company Headquarters tasked Nguyễn Văn Lài to kill Đội Đẹt. Đội Đẹt was a wicked thug who owed many blood debts to our countrymen in Long Phước. As a youth, Lài had volunteered to join our troops and was quickly trained in reconnaissance techniques – and was sent to work tending buffaloes for a family in Long Phước. After many days of closely studying our ways of fighting, Lài was given a long-barrelled revolver by our Political Officer Nguyễn Minh Ninh. He hid the weapon under a basket of mangoes and went off to sell them. Lài got close to Đẹt in a tailor’s shop near the Self-Defence Corps post in Long Phước where Đẹt usually sat and chatted with the owner. Lài fired very suddenly – shooting and wounding Đẹt in broad daylight. After his attack on that thug, Lài went into the jungle permanently with the unit and was appointed into 445 Company’s bugle group – although he was only 13 years of age. Đẹt avoided being killed but did not dare to be as bold as before. The villagers of Long Phước were very elated by this incident. After the shooting of the thug in Long Phước, 445 Company studied ways of attacking the Self-Defence Corps at the post in the Phước Tỉnh market. From studying the information provided by our infrastructure agents, it was apparent that the enemy there were very subjective and lacked awareness. They would routinely leave the post, stroll into the market, eat and drink, and prey on the people. At the same time, we also learnt that the routine and activities of a commando group – led by Mười Dẩu, included regularly travelling to the Phước Tỉnh market by civilian bus. With forward and innovative planning, in June 1962, 445 Company prepared a platoon disguised as troops

72 Translator’s Note: “Operation Sunrise” – launched in Bình Dương Province in late March 1962, began the Strategic Hamlet Program. In 1962, the focus of the Program was the six provinces around Sài Gòn (including Phước Tuy) and Kontum Province. Initially, 11,316 strategic hamlets were planned – but the program faltered with the assassination of President Ngô Đình Diệm in November 1963.

73 Translator’s Note: The 1991 D445 History adds: “but they were driven back by the 445 th Company.”

74 Translator’s Note: The ARVN Vạn Kiếp National Training Centre was located on Bà Rịa Town’s eastern outskirts and included the US MACORDS Team 89 compound.

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of Mười Dẩu’s commando group. Our disguised platoon was led by Comrade Tư Ù – the Company Commander. By night, our men moved secretly down from the Minh Đạm base to occupy an area of new jungle (on Đức Mẹ Hill) near the Lò Vôi T-Junction. In the morning - at between about 7.30am and 8.00am, the first bus from the direction of Long Điền appeared. We intended to stop the bus, but we feared being discovered because at the time a section of Self-Defence Corps troops were opening up the road. So, we held our ground and waited to stop the second bus at about 9.30am to 10.00am. At that time, the Self-Defence Corps element on security patrol would have returned to rest at their post. Our “false commando” platoon was set down by the bus at the top of the market, and then crossed the crowded market and entered the Phước Tỉnh post without raising any suspicions at all. In the post at that time, there was only a communications soldier – as all the others had gone out, and were scattered about seeking something to eat. Having threatened and captured the soldier - and seized the armoury, our Platoon Commander Su Chiến struck the drum that the enemy soldiers used for training, warning, etc - then our troops departed the place. We seized 15 weapons of various types and all the military equipment - and withdrew in the direction of the Cửa Lấp River. There, our infrastructure agents had prepared two boats to ferry our troops across the river for the move back to the Minh Đạm base. 75 Having crossed the river, our troops withdrew in the direction of Gò Sầm (in Vũng Tàu) and waited until dark before crossing the river and then returning to the Minh Đạm base. On the withdrawal route, we distributed pamphlets and propagandized to encourage the villagers. That was 445 Company’s first engagement using deception. It was very daring, and we had been able to maintain secrecy and surprise for quite a long period of time – thus enabling us to achieve a complete victory, particularly in political terms. The unit had successfully and openly conducted armed propaganda in an area settled by Christian refugees – ie all Catholics. 76 On our side, everyone was safe. The armed propaganda action at Phước Tỉnh evidenced the thoughtful preparation of the unit in a new way – a public attack by day using disguises. If they had been discovered – no matter at what stage, when moving into their assembly area, then they could have been surrounded by the enemy and wiped out. In August 1962, 445 Company employed a platoon to conduct an ambush at Đá Giăng (Long Hải) to wipe out Sáu Lỏ and his wicked commando platoon. Sáu Lỏ led a commando platoon in Long Điền District. Every day, he would lead his platoon on search operations, destroying our revolutionary infrastructure in the nearby areas. Capturing our cadre or infrastructure members, Sáu Lỏ would cut open their stomaches and remove the livers – and then return to the Long Điền market and eat them during a drinking session. Determined that Sáu Lỏ and his commando group must suffer retributive punishment, 445

75 Translator’s Note: As noted, the Minh Đạm is a range of hills – and was a Việt Minh/Việt Cng base area/secret zone within the areas/boundaries of the villages of Tam An, Phước Long Hội, Phước Hải and Long Hải (of Long Đất District in modern-day Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province). The Minh Đạm area is more than nine kilometres long and almost five kilometres at its widest. See: The Minh Đạm Base History (2006) ie: Phạm Chí Thân, Căn Cứ Minh Đạm 1945-1975 (The Minh Đạm Base 1945-1975), Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province Information and Cultural Office, 2006 – translated extracts at Annex M in Chamberlain, E.P., … D445…, op.cit., 2011. Australian forces commonly referred to the area as the “Long Hải Hills”.

76 Translator’s Note: The villagers of Phước Tỉnh were almost all Catholic – principally comprising refugees from the North following the 1954 Geneva Accords. In 1970, its population was 10,697 in four hamlets. The Catholic percentages of the hamlets were recorded as: 97%, 97%, 66%, and 96% respectively. The village was supposedly founded by Emperor Gia Long in the very early 19 th Century when he stopped there to take on water. In the modern era, it was “re-founded’ by 2,000 Catholics from the North in 1954. Bình Giã village (see footnote 122) in central Phước Tuy Province was also founded by Northern Catholic refugees.

22

Company devised a plan to ambush and wipe out the enemy in the Đá Giăng area when Sáu Lỏ and his commando platoon were conducting a search operation at Long Hải. Falling into our ambush, Sáu Lỏ and his group were wiped out, ending the days of brutality that they had inflicted on the people and our infrastructure agents in the Long Điền area. 77 Following that action, a platoon of 445 Company conducted an ambush to kill Thu and his pacification group 78 in the area of the Hòa Long T-Junction. Thu was the group leader – a Sub-Sector pacification cadre who had engaged in many wicked crimes - deceiving, enticing, and trying to win-over the people. He had raped women and destroyed much of our revolutionary infrastructure in the Hòa Long area. Once, on a pacification operation, he had shot and killed Miss Bửu – one of our movement’s cadre in Ấp Bắc hamlet of Hòa Long. After she had been killed, Thu heartlessly raped her. His vile act greatly outraged the local people. With the assistance of the villagers, a reconnaissance team from 445 Company – led by Lê Văn Tranh 79 , concealed themselves in a scorpion tree for several days in order to determine Thu’s routine and movements. As a result of that reconnaissance of the enemy, the unit devised a suitable plan to completely wipe out the pacification group and Thu by surprise in an open area of ground. 80 At the beginning of 1963, COSVN decided to establish Bà Biên Province by merging the two provinces of Bà Rịa and Biên Hòa – with Comrade Nguyễn Văn Kiệm [sic] as the Secretary of the Province Committee, and Comrade Lê Minh Thịnh (Sau Thịnh) as the Province Unit Commander. 81 Subsequently, Lê Minh Thịnh was assigned to the Military Region’s Central Rear Services Agency, and Comrade Nguyễn Việt Hoa (Mười Thà) was appointed as the Province Unit Commander. The central task of the whole Party was affirmed as speeding up our three-pronged attacks 82 and destroying the strategic hamlets across the Province. Our method of struggle was to coordinate the three- pronged attacks, use our weapons as leverage, kill the thugs, destroy their oppression, and move towards the disintegration of the enemy’s system of strategic hamlets.

77 Translator’s Note: According to the Đất Đỏ District History (2006): “Long Đất District’s C25 Company coordinated with the Province’s C445 unit to mount a daylight mobile ambush on the road at Đá Giăng joining An Ngãi to Long Hải wiping out an eight-man commando section led by Sáu Lỏ and seizing eight weapons.” Đặng Tấn Hương (ed), The History … Đất Đỏ District (1930-2005), op.cit., 2006.

78 Translator’s Note: The killing of Thu in August 1962 is very similarly related in The History of the Hòa Long Village Party Chapter (1930-2005), op.cit., 2009, except that Thu is described as a member of the “Popular Forces”. For translated extracts of the Hòa Long Village History, see Annex N in Chamberlain, E.P., … D445 …, op.cit., 2011.

79 Translator’s Note: Lê Tranh (Lê Văn Tranh, aka Năm Tranh) was interviewed by T. Burstall in November 1987 – see Burstall, T., A Soldier Returns – A Long Tan veteran discovers the other side of Vietnam, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1990, pp.141-145. Lê Tranh claimed to have later been the deputy commander of 445 Battalion in 1972-1974 – see Annex B. In both the 1991 and 2004 D445 Histories, Lê Tranh (Năm Tranh) was cited for his exploits in the defence of the Long Phước base on 21 May 1966. In this 2004 D445 History, he is later noted as one of two Battalion 2ics in May 1972.

80 Translator’s Note: A passage appears to have been inadvertently omitted. The 1991 D445 History adds:

“Following this, we deployed a platoon to secretly ambush and eliminate Thu in Hòa Long. A further seven enemy were captured. The most notorious and wicked thugs in the Long Điền, Hòa Long region had been judged and punished – and this limited the brutal and cruel activities of the other thugs.”

81 Translator’s Note: The Việt Cộng Bà Biên Province – encompassing Bà Rịa–Long Khánh–Biên Hòa was first established in April 1963 – see Annex J, Higher Headquarters. Nguyễn Văn Kiệm was also known as “Nguyễn Sơn Hà” – see the Châu Đức District History (2004).

82 Translator’s Note: Three-pronged or three spearhead attacks - literally: “ba mũi giáp công”, was a commonly-used term descibing a strategy of: military action, political action, and propaganda/proselytising/ agitation among enemy troops. The term “three-pronged attacks” was also applied to describe attacks by:

“local troops, militia, and guerrillas.”

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The punishment of the most notorious and brutal thugs in the Long Điền and Hòa Long areas made the other wicked thugs stay their hand, and they didn’t dare show their faces as boldly as before. Many of the Self-Defence Corps posts on the outskirts were automatically abandoned. The people were elated and increasingly had confidence in the struggle against the enemy who had been dragging the villagers into “strategic hamlets”. By the middle of 1963, the enemy’s system of strategic hamlets in Long Đất was relatively complete. Apart from the “model” strategic hamlet at An Nhứt (Phước Tỉnh), in Long Điền the fences of the strategic hamlets ran from the Bàu Thành T-Junction past Long Phượng up to the grave of Mr Huyện and to Dinh Cố – joining with the strategic hamlet at An Ngãi village. In Đất Đỏ, the fences encircled the three villages of Phước Thạnh, Phước Thọ, and Phước Hòa Long - with hamlet gates set up on Routes 52 and 23. In the sandy areas at Phước Lợi, Long Mỹ, and Phước Hải, the fences of the strategic hamlets cut across Routes 44 and 52 and ran along the coast to the Con Ó post up to Hàng Dương and past the Ếch post (the Sập post). Depending on the terrain, the fences of the strategic hamlets had at least three rows of barbed wire. Outside the fences, there were ditches with a width of two to three metres, two-and-a-half metres deep, with bamboo panji stakes and illuminating flares. In the Xuyên Mộc area 83 , at Bình Châu village, they built two strategic hamlets:

Lng Găng and Bến Lội. The village of Bưng Riềng had two strategic hamlets: Ấp Một and Ấp Hai; Phước Bửu village had three hamlets: Xóm Rẫy, Bà Tô and Núi Nhọn – on Route 23; Ba Mẫu village had one hamlet; Lng Bè village had one; and Bàu Lâm village had three. The strategic hamlets for refugees were wholly for refugees from Quảng Nam and Quảng Ngãi Provinces. Strategic hamlets were established for Nùng 84 refugees of 1954. Phước Bửu village had two hamlets: Gò Cà and Bà Tô [sic]. In Xuyên Mộc village - in the centre of the Sub-Sector, the enemy built a large strategic hamlet with strong fences surrounding the hamlets of Nhơn Nghĩa, Nhơn Trí, Nhơn Đức, and Nhơn Tâm. 85 In Châu Thành District, the enemy established the strategic hamlets of Phú Mỹ, Mỹ Xuân, Hội Bài, Phước Hòa (three hamlets), Chu Hải, Kim Hải, Hòa Long, Long Phước, Sông Cầu, Bình Ba, Xuân Sơn, Ngãi Giao, Bình Giã (three hamlets) – located along Routes 15 and 2. Among these, the strategic hamlet of Bình Giã was regarded as a model hamlet – an inviolable fortress. Supporting the movement to destroy the strategic hamlets, the Province armed forces regularly deployed to the principal areas to attack the enemy with raids and ambushes. On the night of 24/25 August 1963, 445 Company joined with the Long Đất District forces and the Military Region’s 800 th Battalion 86 – together with the guerrillas of Tam Phước and Phước Tỉnh villages, to concentrate for an attack on Ngô Đình Diệm’s palace at Long Hải, the officers’ convalescence centre, and the offices of the public security police at Long Hải. We killed tens of the enemy – including Second Lieutenant Đề. This was a large-scale battle with combined and relatively large forces that had a

83 Translator’s Note: The Xuyên Mộc District Unit – the 51 st Company, had been founded in October 1962 in the village - Võ Kim Hanh (et al), Xuyên Mộc Khng Chiến 1945-1975, op.cit., 1989, p.115.

84 Translator’s Note: As noted, the Nùng are a Chinese ethnic minority – 50,000 fled as refugees to the South from North Vietnam in 1954, led by General Vong A Sang. Separately, there is a Vietnamese Nùng minority people whose homeland is in the northern border provinces of northern Vietnam.

85 Translator’s Note: This paragraph is included in Võ Kim Hanh (et al), Xuyên Mộc Khng Chiến 1945-

1975, op.cit., 1989, pp.115-116.

86 Translator’s Note: In June 1962, the title of the 500 th VC Battalion changed to the 800 th Battalion/Đồng Nai Battalion. When the 274 th VC Regiment was later founded in March 1965 at the “Phước Thành Festival Place” – ie “Sân Lễ Phước Thành”, in War Zone D, the 800 th Battalion was an inaugural unit – and was initially retitled as “H-12 Battalion”. CDEC Log 08-076-66. For the 500 th Battalion formed in 1972, see footnotes 532, and 538.

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great impact on the psychology of the revolutionary masses - and on the puppet troops and administration as well. 87 To further fulfil the above mission, the Province Committee assigned Comrade Lê Thành Ba as the head of the Committee to destroy the strategic hamlets. The 1 st Platoon (445 Company, Bà Rịa [sic] Province) was deployed to Long Phước to assist the villagers in digging tunnels and to stay close to, and attack, the enemy. The Long Phước Party Chapter mobilised the villagers and the forces to participate in the digging of the tunnels. The Committee also mobilised the participation of labourers 88 from Hòa Long and from many of the villages along Route 2. Having just restored the stretches of tunnels remaining from the time of the resistance war against the French, the Committee directed the construction of a main tunnel from Ấp Đông hamlet to Ấp Bắc hamlet. Off this main tunnel, there were many side branches that all joined together to create a solid and linked complex. Within the tunnels, there were storehouses full of weapons, food 89 , tanks of water, and first-aid stations etc. 90 Having discovered that our forces were restoring the Long Phước tunnels, on 5 March 1963, the enemy deployed a Civil Guard/Civil Defence Force Company, a Combat Support Platoon from the Sector, and a Self-Defence Corps Platoon from the Long Phước post – together with M113 support, to sweep into Long Phước. Having predicted this situation, the Province and District reconnaissance elements and the village guerrillas took the initiative and blocked the enemy’s advance at some distance. Meanwhile, our remaining forces manned the tunnels, organised a large number of fighting pits, and set many minefields in order to wipe out the enemy. The enemy was strong in number and heavily equipped – but were completely surprised by their inability to access the tunnel systems. They were forced to withdraw to the main roads, re-group, and fire their artillery into the hamlets. In more than 20 days of fierce combat, the enemy’s plan to gather the people into strategic hamlets could still not be achieved. On our side, combined with our armed activities, the village Party chapters mobilised our core comrades – members of the Women’s Association, to constantly demonstrate against the enemy firing their artillery,

87 Translator’s Note: These attacks in late August 1963 are related out of chronological sequence, but are referred to in several other communist histories. The Minh Đạm Base History (2006) relates that on 24 August 1963, the “45 [sic] Company Provincial Unit” in conjunction with Long Đất District guerrillas and elements of the Military Region’s 800 th Battalion attacked an officers’ recreation facility at Long Hải – killing and wounding 19 and seizing 40 weapons – see Phạm Chí Thân, Căn Cứ Minh Đạm 1945-1975 - The Minh Đạm Base …, op.cit., 2006, p.45. The Đất Đỏ District History (2006), p.79 – omitting reference to 445 Company relates: “on the night of 24-25 August 1963, the District troops (C25), Eastern Region troops (D800), and the Long Hải guerrillas attacked Ngô Đình Diệm’s holiday centre and the puppet officers’ recreation area (the Huy Hoàng hotel – now the holiday centre for the Province union). We killed and wounded 19 enemy – including the wicked Second Lieutenant Để, and seized more than 40 weapons and a large amount of military equipment. A similar account appears in The Long Đất District History (1986), p.113 – see translated extracts at Annex L to Chamberlain, E.P., … D445 …, op.cit., 2011.

88 Translator’s Note: For “Civilian Labourer Policies” – probably issued by VC Military Region 5, that includes: categories (A, B, C), ages, work periods, exemptions, privileges, load weights (eg adult male:

25kg in lowland areas for trips of 20 days or more) including for pack bicycles, awards, disciplinary action, etc - see VCAT Item No.2311603006.

89 Translator’s Note: Literally “lương thực” – translated as “grain”. This term is sometimes more broadly translated as “cereals” – encompassing rice, corn/maize, manioc, potatoes and beans; and is also occasionally translated in other contexts more generally as “rations”, “provisions”, or “supplies”.

90 Translator’s Note: The other major Việt Cộng tunnel systems in Phước Tuy Province were at Kim Long in the Việt Cộng’s Châu Đức District and at Hắc Dịch in today’s Tân Thành District. The Long Phước tunnels were declared an historical site by the Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu authorities on 9 January 1990 – see “Đia Đạo Long Phước”, 26 September 2010 – note that the item also claims two Australian battalions were destroyed at the Long Tân battle in August 1966.

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stealing property, and arresting innocent villagers – and also encouraged enemy soldiers to oppose the war. Taking advantage of the enemy’s failure to attack, the Committee directed the mobilisation of the people in the villages and our labourers to continue repairing and expanding the tunnels, and strengthening the fighting positions and the firing loop-holes in Ấp Bắc and Ấp Tây hamlets – and preparing for new battles. On 1 April 1963, the enemy reinforced and deployed a Ranger battalion and Civil Guard/Civil Defence Force elements – equivalent to an infantry regiment, supported by a platoon of M113 armoured vehicles, a flight of combat aircraft, and artillery fire support to launch a new attack on the entrances to the tunnels at Ấp Bắc. 91 A column of enemy vehicles advanced violently. The leading M113 struck a home-made mine created by Comrade Thi Văn Cho – a 445 Company reconnaissance soldier, at the Cây Me culvert and burnt fiercely. The column of M113s stopped suddenly, not daring to move towards the tunnels. Seizing the moment, our troops launched several counter-attacks on the enemy infantry. In the afternoon, the enemy withdrew from the area of the entrances to the tunnels. On 8 April 1963 (the fiercest day of fighting in the 44 days and nights), the enemy rushed headlong to destroy the tunnels with the aim of forcing the people into the strategic hamlet at Long Phước. On our side, the Company’s fighting troops were reinforced with a platoon. At 8am, the enemy concentrated to attack. The main thrust of their infantry and tanks was focused to seize the firing loop-holes around our combat positions at the entrance to the Ấp Bắc tunnels. Two of our Company’s reconnaissance soldiers – Comrade Tốt and Comrade Tranh, used grenades to destroy a M113 at the Tranh Clearing (behind Ấp Bắc). The enemy had to temporarily halt their attack and re- organise their formations. At 10am, they continued with a new attack attempting to seize the tunnel entrance and eight of our firing loop-holes. In the afternoon, the enemy grouped for a strong attack against the defensive positions of 445 Company’s 2 nd Platoon in Ấp Tây (about 400 metres from the Ấp Bắc battlefield). There, the enemy were decisively opposed, but at the end of the afternoon we had expended almost all our ammunition and had used all of our grenades – so we had to withdraw into the tunnels. The enemy then seized that battleground and converged their forces to take Ấp Bắc. In the Ấp Bắc area, we had 12 firing loop-holes (set among banana trees – and covered with thick planks, earth, and grass). At about 11am, the situation became extremely dangerous as the enemy used 12 M113s to tightly cover over the 12 loop-holes with the vehicles’ underbellies pressing down on the loop-holes – which were also the main entrances that we used for entry and exit. The enemy used megaphones to call on us to surrender – threatening that if we didn’t surrender then they would throw petrol bombs into the tunnels and burn everyone to death. At this time, there were about 250 people in the tunnels – comprising our civilian cadre, guerrillas, core agents, and a platoon of 445 Company. All were trapped – and, unable to escape, were forced into a last-ditch defence. It was pitch black in the tunnels, and the silent and pervading atmosphere was stifling. Comrade Nguyễn Minh Ninh – 445 Company’s Political Officer who was personally leading our combat platoon, was also trapped underground. In this dangerous situation, Comrade Nguyễn Minh Ninh discussed the circumstances with Võ Quốc Chnh (Tư

91 Translator’s Note: The 1991 D445 History describes these engagements at the Long Phước tunnels in greater detail – eg: on the enemy: “the 38 th Ranger Battalion and the 61 st Civil Guard/Civil Defence Force Battalion coordinated with Self-Defence Corps elements and aircraft and artillery support to launch an operation over several days with the aim of wiping out the Long Phước liberated zone. At this time, the 445 Company’s strength was over 120 – organised in three platoons. One platoon was operating with the local combat force at An Ngãi (Đất Đỏ) – with the other two platoons in Long Phước.”

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Chnh) – the Company Commander [sic] to find a way of escape. There was only one anti-tank mine left that had earlier been locally-manufactured from a 15 kilogram bomb.

It had been used previously, but had failed to detonate. The bomb was opened for

inspection, and it was seen that the wires had been incorrectly joined. Nguyễn Minh Ninh

– the Political Officer, rejoined the wires and then decided to task two of our soldiers (Mười Dậm and Sáu Bảo) 92 to use a wooden plank to affix the mine to the underside of the vehicle blocking the tunnel entrance. Until the two soldiers returned to their hiding positions, Comrade Nguyễn Minh Ninh and Comrade Võ Quốc Chnh (Tư Chnh) waited

– one holding the battery and the other the electric detonating device. A resounding explosion split the air, and the enemy vehicle was thrown up into the air, and fell on its side with its tracks broken. Exploiting the situation, many of the cadre and soldiers of 445 Company leapt up

from the tunnel entrances and loop-holes and hurled grenades at the enemy. These included Comrade Sáu Bảo who threw an illuminating incendiary grenade at an M113

nearby and – in conjunction with our sniping fire, forced the enemy to withdraw in panic from the area of the tunnel entrances. From then until the afternoon, the enemy launched

a large number of attacks but did not dare to again place their vehicles over our firing loop-holes. They were constantly met with strong resistance from our forces defending the tunnels – with the fiercest resistance coming from the cadre and soldiers of 445 Company. At about 4pm, the enemy withdrew from the area of the tunnels and returned to their positions at the Long Lễ Sub-Sector. That night, as ordered from above, the platoon from 445 Company and the majority of the cadre and people secretly left the tunnels and dispersed into the countryside to consolidate our forces. A section of 445 led by Comrade Bảy Sng was

detached to remain behind and coordinate with the Long Phước village guerrillas and the District troops (20 th Company 93 ) to stick close to the enemy and continue the fight. In the following two days, the enemy continued with many attacks. They used their M113 armoured vehicles, recoilless rifles, and various types of mortars to fire from a distance into the area of the tunnels. At the same time, they also conducted reconnaissance patrols and caused stress and psychological and physical exhaustion for our forces still holding the tunnels. The enemy’s aim was to prepare for a decisive attack

if the opportunity arose.

On 11 April 1963, the enemy assembled a large force (including armoured vehicles and bulldozers) to attack into the tunnel complex. They used their recoilless rifles to destroy our fighting positions, and used their bulldozers to cover the tunnel entrances and to collapse the coverings of our communication trenches. The M113s crushed and flattened the surface of the ground. Our buried mine-detonating electrical cables were all completely cut and destroyed. In the tunnels, our effective strength, and our weapons and equipment became casualties and represented a large loss as they could

92 Translator’s Note: Nguyễn Mười Dậm - probably Quá h Văn Mười – was later noted as the commander of the Battalion’s 1 st Company in February 1968 – see footnotes 95, 96 and 325*. Nguyễn Văn Bảo (Sáu Bảo), noted above as a section commander, was interviewed post-War by T. Burstall in August 1987. Bảo – b.1943 near Long Mỹ, declared that he had “joined the guerrilla army” at 16, and had been a company commander in 445 Battalion in the period 1966-1968 (but “had not been involved personally” in the Battle of Long Tân) – then posted to 5 th VC Division - Burstall, T., A Soldier Returns, op.cit., 1990, pp.65-66. See also the following footnotes 96, 143*, 325*, 334, 360*, and 396* - and also Annex B. 93 Translator’s Note: The “20 th Company” was the Châu Thành/Châu Đức District Unit – ie as noted: “The armed forces of Châu Thành District that were established on 5 February 1961 – and, titled C.20 (C20, C- 20), at first only comprised seven comrades with insufficient weapons and ammunition.” - Châu Đức District History (2004) ie: Nguyễn Công Danh …, … Châu Đức District, op.cit., 2004, p.108.

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not be replaced in a timely way. In this adverse situation, our forces defending the tunnels decided to withdraw completely to save our strength. As a result of the 44 days and nights of staunchly hanging-on and fighting in the tunnels, 445 Company and the local armed forces had defeated the enemy – although at the peak of the fighting (8 April), we were outnumbered by ten to one. The enemy also had a powerful armoured force in support. However, we drove hundreds of enemy from the battleground and destroyed four M113 armoured vehicles. Following that battle, many of the cadre and soldiers of 445 Company were recommended by our higher command for the award of medals 94 and for letters of appreciation. In particular, two soldiers – Nguyễn Văn Bảo and Quch Văn Mười 95 , were proposed by our Political Officer – Nguyễn Minh Ninh, for admission into the Party on the battlefield. This was approved by our higher authority, and Comrade Đỗ Văn Chương (Ba Liên) – as the representative of the Party Committee, organised the admission of Comrades Bảo and Mười at the unit’s base camp at Đất Gai (Long Phước). 96 The battle at the fighting tunnels of Long Phước had proved the courage, will, and perseverance of 445 Company to attack and to wipe out the enemy. 445 Battalion had endured long days of fighting against a more numerous and better equipped enemy. In our role as a premier force, we had coordinated harmoniously with the District troops, militia, and guerrillas to fight a large battle, had wiped out much of the enemy’s capability, and staunchly held-on and fought. The battle had clearly evidenced that the features of people’s war and the coordination of the three forces (provincial, district, and militia/guerrillas) were completely compatible. This battle also showed the united spirit of our forces and the people (“the fish and the water”) fighting together side-by-side to defend our homeland. The battle of the tunnels and the creation of combat villages produced a jagged saw-toothed pattern of control 97 across the Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu battlefield from the very first years of the anti-American resistance war of national salvation. In May 1963, 445 Company was given the task of destroying the strategic hamlet at Bàu Lâm ((Xuyên Mộc District)), expanding the liberated zone, and creating favourable conditions for the corridor used to move weapons from the landing wharf at Lộc An 98 to the bases. Bàu Lâm was a hamlet located on the border of our base area

94 Translator’s Note: USMACV/CDEC translators in Saigon were not always consistent in translating terminology for NVA/VC medals. The author has translated Huân chương quân công as the Military Exploits Medal, and the lower grade Huân chương chiến công as the Military Feats Medal.

95 Translator’s Note: Quá h Văn Mười (aka Mười Dậm, real name: Quá h Văn Tâm) – born in Phước Hải village in 1941, was noted as a platoon commander in the 1 st Company. See his Personal History Statement dated 25 August 1965 at CDEC Log 12-2394-66.

96 Translator’s Note: The fighting at Long Phước is also described in the local Party history – including the admission into the Party of Nguyễn Văn Bảo and Quá h Văn Mười. Trần Văn Khánh (et al/đtg), Lịch sử Đảng …(The History of the Party in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu), op.cit., 2000, Chapter VI.

97 Translator’s Note: According to an early 1964 US report: “A recent report from COMUSMACV … states that the Viet Cong exercise 80% control in Phước Tuy, a non-critical province. It thus appears that Phước Tuy should be considered as a possible addition to the list of critical provinces” ((ie with the critical 13 of the total of 43 provinces)). Central Intelligence Agency, Memorandum: The Situation in South Vietnam (OCI 1061/64), 28 February 1964. VCAT Item No.F029100030389. For areas of control as assessed by USMACV at 31 May 1966 (11.5% of the Phước Tuy population under VC control), see footnote 229.

98 Translator’s Note: Lộc An is located on the coast in the Sông Ray River estuary about five kilometres north-east of Phước Hải village. The first landing of weapons and equipment from North Vietnam in May 1961 is related in the Đất Đỏ District History (2006) ie Đặng Tấn Hương (ed), The History of … Đất Đỏ District , op.cit., 2006, p.179; and also in the earlier Long Đất District History (1986) - ie Phan Ngọc Danh …, Lịch Sử Đấu Tranh Cách Mạng Của Huyện Long Đất, op.cit., 1986, pp.114-115 – giving the landing date as 29-30 November - see Chamberlain, E.P., … D445 …, op.cit., 2011, Annex L. However, according

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region at Xuyên Mộc. At Bàu Lâm, the enemy had created a “model” strategic hamlet. The hamlet was surrounded by a two-metres wide communication trench that was two- metres deep and protected by a barbed-wire fence. The hamlet had two entrance gates that were guarded throughout both the day and the night. The enemy had decided to turn that place into an anti-Communist fortress by creating divisions among our minority people and religious people – and arousing the villagers to oppose and destroy the revolution. Previously – on 30 December 1963 [sic], our Company had attacked the enemy at Bưng Riềng.

Having been provided with information by our underground agents on the activities of the enemy in the strategic hamlet, 445 Company secretly deployed and concealed three platoons within the village. Comrade Nguyễn Việt Hoa (Mười Thà) 99 – the Commander of the Province Unit, personally accompanied the Company. On the night of 15 January 1964 [sic] 100 , 445 Company split into three groups and suddenly broke into the Bàu Lâm strategic hamlet. It was dark and difficult to distinguish between friend and foe, and when we opened fire one of our comrades was accidentally killed (Comrade Liêm from Hòa Long village). With this surprise casualty – and unable to further develop our attack, the Headquarters ordered our troops to withdraw back to our assembly area. There, the Headquarters met and exchanged ideas. Our Political Officer – Lê Minh Việt 101 , put forward the idea: that as we had deployed - but had not yet been able to attack the enemy and had suffered a casualty - we needed to consolidate immediately and attack the enemy directly in order to maintain the fighting will of our men in the unit. We could exploit the aspect that the enemy were subjective and complacent, thinking that we usually came into the hamlets to conduct armed propaganda during the night and

to the The Minh Đạm Base History (2006), the vessel arrived at Lộc An on the night of 3 October 1963 – see Phạm Chí Thân, Minh Đạm Base, op.cit., 2006, p.45. A political/labour history also cites 3 October and relates that the onward movement was managed by Group 1500 (“Đoàn 1500” - previously Group 555) – assisted by the 5th Company of 800 Battalion (a “Regional” element) - Liên đoàn Lao động …, Lịch sử …, op.cit., 2011, p.16. A detailed account of this supply operation - confirming the date as 3 October, can be found in Nguyễn Quý Đại, “Hành trình từ những con tàu không số”, in Hàng hải VN - Một thời hào hung (“Những tập thể và cá nhân tiêu biểu ngành GTVT 1945-2005”) eg – the vessel, Number 41, was captained by Lê Văn Một and landed 40 tonnes of weapons and stores. This landing is briefly described in McNeill, I., To Long Tan – The Australian Army and the Vietnam War 1950-1966, Allen & Unwin/Australian War

Memorial, St Leonards, 1993, pp.219-220 citing the Long Đất District History (1986). However, in that official Australian history, “Đoàn 1500” (ie “Group 1500”) - a logistics element of the 84 th Rear Services Group (Đoàn 84), was incorrectly translated as “1500 cadres”. Further landings at Lộc An (29 November, 1 February 1965) are related in extracts from the Đoàn 125 History ie - Phan Lữ Hoàng Hà, “Chuyện kể về ‘đường mòn Hồ Chí Minh’ trên biển: Huyền thoại những con tàu”, vietbao.vn, 30 April 2005. For the landings at Lộc An and the operations of Đoàn 1500 see also the detail in: Nguyễn Đình Thống, Trần Toản, Trần Quang Toại, Hồ Sơn Đài (eds), Đường Hồ Chí Minh Trên Biển – Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, (The Hồ Chí Minh Trail by Sea - Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu), Nhà Xuất Bản Văn Hóa – Văn Nghệ, TP Hồ Chí Minh, 2014; and footnotes 119 and 131. 99 Translator’s Note: “Mười Thà - a military cadre, returned ((ie from North Vietnam)) at the end of 1962

and became the Province Commander.” - Phan Ngọc Danh

In late 1963, Nguyễn Việt Hoa (Mười Thà) was noted as the Province Unit Commander - ie of then Bà Rịa Province.

100 Translator’s Note: The date “15 November 1964” is out of “chronological sequence” and is patently incorrect. In the similar account of the attack on Bàu Lâm in the 1991 D445 History, that date is not included.

101 Translator’s Note: Lê Minh Việt - nickname: Sáu Việt (“Six Việt”), was subsequently (1966) the Deputy Political Officer of the Bà Rịa Province Unit.

,

Đồng Nai 30 Năm …, op.cit., 1986, p.101.

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withdrew before dawn. Accordingly, if we returned and attacked strongly, the enemy would be surprised and unable to react in time. With the agreement of Võ Quốc Chnh – the Company Commander, and the approval of Nguyễn Việt Hoa – the Province Unit Commander, the unit regrouped and deployed back to the “C” strategic hamlet. Following their routine, every morning before going on their clearing patrol, the enemy gathered to have breakfast in the market. Our unit deployed two platoons to ambush both sides of the road, with a platoon at the rear. Comrade Bé (Bé Giò) 102 had the heavy machinegun with our leading group at the “military barrier” in the market. When the enemy fell into our ambush, Bé Giò pulled the trigger on the heavy machinegun. At the same time, the 445 Company soldiers all opened fire together. Despite being attacked by surprise, the enemy stubbornly returned fire. After a few minutes of fighting, we had killed 27 of the enemy (including the brutal Hương). In our rear group led by Platoon Commander Bảy Sng, Nguyễn Phi Hùng staunchly held back the enemy and died courageously. Nguyễn Phi Hùng was a new soldier – from Phước Bửu village, and was young, handsome, and fought very bravely. Before dying, he raised his head up and shouted three times: “Long live Hồ Chí Minh”. Nguyễn Phi Hùng’s courageous sacrifice will be sung about by future generations. Our Political Officer Lê Minh Việt wrote a poem in praise of him that included the verse:

You fell as the sun was just rising, Dawn came and the grass in the early morning was covered in dew … . 103 *

After the battle, the cadre and soldiers of 445 Company – together with the villagers under the leadership of the Party Chapter, rose up and destroyed the Bàu Lâm strategic hamlet. Having completed its task outstandingly at Bàu Lâm, 445 Company was deployed to the Route 2 battlefield to join with the Cao Su District 104 Unit in conducting armed propaganda and mobilising the masses. Immediately on the first day of our deployment, C.445 won a resounding victory in a chance encounter with the forces of Đức Thạnh District in the area of Đức Mỹ hamlet (Bình Ba). This engagement was unforeseen by both sides. The Đức Thạnh District Chief had received intelligence information that at about 2pm each day Việt Cộng disguised as civilians would stop vehicles and conduct armed propaganda activities. The Đức Thạnh District Chief - with “forward and innovative planning”, intended to capture that Việt Cộng group. He was not aware that the group included the commander of the Cao Su District Unit, Mười Quang – a dangerous opponent that the District Chief had been hunting for frenetically. The District Chief and

102 Translator’s Note: Trần Văn Bé (Tư Bé, aka Bé Giò) was reportedly later a company commander in 440 Battalion in mid-1968 and appointed a 2ic of 445 Battalion on 4 November 1969. Subsequently, when Commander of the Châu Đức District Unit, Trần Văn Bé (Tư Bé) was killed by Australian forces on 4 February 1971 at YS 593877. Annex B to 1 ATF INTSUM No. 35/71, Núi Đất, 4 February 1971.

103 * A number of comrades still remember that this poem was published in the cultural pages of the magazine of the Bà Rịa – Long Khnh Propaganda and Education Committee.

104 Translator’s Note: The principal Việt Cộng districts (huyện) in the Bà Rịa (ie southern) half of Bà Rịa – Long Khá h (ie “Bà Long”) Province were Long Đất (ie Long Điền and Đất Đỏ were combined in April 1960), Xuyên Mộc, and Châu Đức – see the map at the back cover. Châu Đức District was formed from Châu Thành and Đức Thạnh Districts on 24 May 1965 [sic] – see the The History of the Hòa Long Village Party Chapter (1930-2005), op.cit., 25 April 2009. Occasionally, Cao Su (ie “Rubber”) District – encompassing the rubber plantations from Bình Ba to the north, including the Courtenay Plantation and several others in southern Long Khánh Province, operated as a discrete district. For the boundaries of Việt Cộng “sub-districts”, see the map: 1 st Australian Task Force (1 ATF), VC Districts and Sub-Districts, Special Overprint AFV/MISC/ 2187, Special Use S.E. Asia 1:100,000 – Sheet 6430 Series L607, circa 1971. The boundaries of the Việt Cộng “Bà Rịa” area were adjusted during several re-organisations – see Annex J, Higher Headquarters.

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his Deputy both led this operation personally. The Deputy District Chief and a section of enemy soldiers - disguised as civilians and with their weapons concealed, travelled on a three-wheeled Lambretta ready to “greet” Mười Quang. The District Chief also had a platoon of soldiers mounted on another vehicle – with rounds in the chambers of their weapons, ready to respond. The enemy’s intelligence information was completely accurate. Mười Quang – the District Unit Commander, was waiting for the vehicle carrying the group of soldiers disguised as civilians (about whom he was unaware) and ready to conduct armed propaganda. However – unknown to both Mười Quang and the Đức Thạnh District Chief, on that very day and in accord with their plans, 445 Company had also sent a force (a platoon) into the Bình Ba rubber plantation with the intention of acquiring a lathe for their engineering workshop. Our unit was regrouping in the rubber plantation about 500 metres away. Our Company Commander – Võ Quốc Chnh (Tư Chnh), and three of our reconnaissance soldiers led by Nguyễn Văn Bỉ 105 (the soldiers were: Lài and Nam), went to the edge of the road to check the situation. There, they met Mười Quang. They only just had time to greet him when the Lambretta carrying the group of soldiers disguised as civilians approached. The Commander of the Cao Su District Unit – Mười Quang, said farewell to our men and stepped forward onto the road to halt the vehicle. A volley of medium machinegun rounds fired from the vehicle passed over his head. Mười Quang immediately crouched very low to the ground. Immediately, Comrade Võ Quốc Chnh and Nguyễn Văn Bỉ’s reconnaissance team opened fire to assist Mười Quang. The enemy returned fire determinedly but were unable to match our marksmen. The vehicle rolled over, and we seized a medium machinegun and captured one of the enemy soldiers. Hearing the sound of gunfire, the Đức Thạnh District Chief reacted by rushing down in a military vehicle from the Đức Thạnh Sub-Sector. Meanwhile, our platoon in the rear heard the gunfire and – reacting, moved swiftly forward from the rubber plantation. The Company second-in-command – Nguyễn Văn Xuân (Hai Xuân), and the Platoon Commanders: Lê Minh Kiên, Ba Lòng and Mười Sinh, went forward quickly with our men to the edge of the road and fired fiercely on the enemy’s reaction force. As a result, the Civil Guard/Civil Defence Force Platoon was wiped out completely (including the District Chief). 106 Võ Quốc Chnh alone shot and killed five of the enemy with his familiar .45 Colt pistol. We seized a large number of weapons including a 60mm mortar, a Colt .45 pistol, and a PRC-10 radio 107 . Bảo – the Deputy Chief of Đức Thạnh

105 Translator’s Note: Nguyễn Văn Bỉ (aka Phục and Phúc) - born in Long Phước in 1934, had been a member of C445 since July 1961. See his Personal History Statement dated 25 August 1965 at CDEC Log

12-2394-66.

106 Translator’s Note: According to the Châu Đức District History (2004), ie Nguyễn Công Danh …, … Châu Đức District, op.cit., 2004, p.122: “In July 1964, the enemy continued to deploy infantry and Civil Guard troops from the Đức Thạnh District capital to seize Bình Ba. Troops from C.445 and the Bình Ba guerrillas resolutely opposed the enemy and killed the District Chief – Nguyễn Vĩnh Trinh, who had personally led the operation, and captured 11 of the enemy – including the Deputy District Chief, destroyed a jeep, and seized weapons including a 60mm mortar.” An account in the local Party history is similar - Trần Văn Khánh (et al/đtg), Lịch sử Đảng bộ tỉnh Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu (1930 - 1975) (The History of the Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Party Chapter), Chapter VI, 2000. The MACV account shows the engagement on 9 September 1964 and includes a Ranger company commander KIA, see VCAT Item No.F015800030379.

107 Translator’s Note: A US-manufactured AN/PRC-10 VHF FM manpack radio (.9 watt output). Its planning range was 8 kilometres with its short aerial. With RC-292 antennae at each end of a link, the range was 19 kilometres. As noted earlier, due to the PRC-10’s unsatisfactory performance, in mid-1965 General W.C. Westmoreland – COMUSMACV, ordered the replacement of the PRC-10 held by US forces in Vietnam with the more effective AN/PRC-25 radio. D445 reportedly also held the earlier - and less capable, PRC-6 “walkie-talkie”-style radio (range “less than a mile”) – see also footnote 200.

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District, was captured and taken prisoner. This chance-encounter battle became a great victory that even also surprised our comrades in the Province Unit. The fate of the prisoner was unanticipated. It was thought that District Chiefs and Deputy District Chiefs had committed enough crimes to be sentenced to death. It was known that Bảo had earlier passed his baccalaureate education, and had just graduated from officer training. Lê Minh Việt – the Political Officer, proposed that Bảo be re- educated then released. The unit organised a small meeting at our forward springboard base at Long Phước, displaying the momentum of our victory and deterring anyone from becoming lackeys and obstructing or opposing the revolution. Then, we made Bảo sign a promise abandoning the road of being a lackey of the enemy, and write a letter to his parents asking them to come to the base to ransom him. Through our liaison infrastructure, Bảo’s family (his mother and father, wife, and sister) came to the base and asked the revolution to spare him. They also promised to educate Bảo against following the enemy and opposing the revolution. His re-education and release had a great impact on our enemy proselytising effort at that time, raising the profile of the lenient policy of the revolution with the people in the region that had been temporarily seized. At the same time, this assisted the unit in gaining further experience in applying our three-pronged attack against the enemy in the future. Based on that victory, 445 Company 108 operated continuously across all the important areas of the Province, coordinating with the District armed forces and the village guerrillas to attack and force the withdrawal from a series of enemy posts, and destroying a number of strategic hamlets. 109 The people enthusiastically returned to their old areas to make their livings. On 11 November 1963, the internal factions in the puppet government conducted a coup and overthrew the dictatorial regime of Ngô Đình Diệm. Taking immediate advantage of the situation, on that night of 11 November, 445 Company joined with the Cao Su District forces to attack the strategic hamlet at Đồng Ngọc Khải. In this battle, Comrade Võ Quốc Chnh – the Company Commander, used his pistol (Colt .45) to kill

108

Translator’s Note: In October 1963, a 445B transport unit was formed – ie distinct from 445 Company.

A

supply route had been established from Bến Tre in the Mekong Delta north to Cần Giờ (Rừng Sắc) then

to

Phú Mỹ, across Route 15 and up into the Hắc Dịch base area – and extended northward into War Zone D.

445B – commanded by Lê Minh Thịnh (Su Thịnh), transported material – including arms, on the sector from Phú Mỹ into the Hắc Dịch. In February 1964, 445B was subsumed into a new K-10 regimental-sized transport organisation – which became the 84 th Rear Services Group in June 1965 (commanded by Lê Minh Thịnh). - Nguyễn Đình Thống (ed, et al), Đường Hồ Chí Minh Trên Biển – Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, (The Hồ Chí Minh Trail by Sea - Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu), op.cit., 2014, pp.77-97. The activities of 445B - and the Hắc Dịch base area as a “Thành Địa” (“Citadel”) of Eastern Nam Bộ, are also related in the Tân Thành District History (2014 ?). For captured documents related to 445B, see CDEC Bulletin No.1422, 8 November 1966; and CDEC Log 11-1293-66.

109 Translator’s Note: As noted at footnote 87, a major attack by Việt Cộng forces in late August 1963 is related earlier in this 2004 D445 History – but out of “chronological sequence”. According to The Minh Đạm Base History, on 24 August 1963, the “45 Company Provincial Unit” in conjunction with Long Đất District guerrillas and elements of the Military Region’s 800 Battalion attacked an officers’ recreation facility at Long Hải – killing and wounding 19 and seizing 40 weapons – see The Minh Đạm Base History, op.cit., 2006, p.45. The Long Đất District History (1986) also relates that: “on 25 August 1963, C25, C45 and Khu (D800) attacked the Long Hải complex – killing 19.” - Phan Ngọc Danh & Trần Quang Toại, Lịch Sử Đấu Tranh Cách Mạng Của Huyện Long Đất -The History of the Revolutionary Struggle in Long Đất District, Nhà Xuất Bản Đồng Nai (Đồng Nai Publishing House), Đồng Nai, 1986, p.113. The Đất Đỏ District History (2006) relates: on the night of 24-25 August 1963, the District troops (C25), Eastern Region troops (D800) and the Long Hải guerrillas attacked the Ngô Đình Diệm’s holiday centre and the puppet officers’ recreation area (the Huy Hoàng hotel – now the holiday centre for the Province union). We killed and wounded 19 enemy – including the wicked Second Lieutenant Để, and seized more than 40 weapons and a large amount of military equipment.”

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four of the enemy. Our troops surrounded and wiped out a Self-Defence Corps platoon and seized a pistol and a 60mm mortar. The people rose up and destroyed the Đồng Ngọc Khải strategic hamlet. Exploiting the impetus of that victory, 445 Company continued to coordinate with the Cao Su District troops and attacked the strategic hamlet at Xuân Son, liberating Xuân Son village (Châu Thành). At this time in Bà Rịa – Long Khnh, the liberated zone was expanded in almost all areas of the countryside. The enemy only held posts in the towns, Sub-Sectors and District capitals, and a number of key positions along the communication axes. Employing flexible combat techniques – sometimes concentrating our forces and sometimes splitting into small teams and sections, 445 Company joined with the District and village forces to strike at the enemy and to support our countrymen resisting the enemy’s efforts to drag them into strategic hamlets. We coordinated with the armed forces and the people to hold a number of villages and hamlets in the critical areas.

Map: The Attack on the Phước Hải Village Council Offices by 445 Company and C25 Company (on the day/night of 1 December 1963) 110

C25 Company (on the day/night of 1 December 1963) 1 1 0 At the end of

At the end of 1963 - prompted by the favourable changes in the situation, COSVN decided to re-establish Bà Rịa Province with Comrade Nguyễn Việt Hoa (Mười Thà) as the Province Unit Commander. Implementing COSVN’s instructions to continue the destruction of the strategic hamlets, the Bà Rịa Province Committee decided to begin a series of large-scale attacks on strategic hamlets across the whole Province. The armed forces of the Province were tasked to attack and wipe out the enemy, and support the struggle movement of the masses to rise up and destroy the strategic hamlets. At the beginning of 1964 111 , the Province Committee decided to deploy a number of cadre and soldiers from 445 Company to become the core of 440 Company led by

110 Translator’s Note: There is no text in the 1991 D445 History nor this 2004 D445 History describing an an attack on Phước Hải in December 1963. The Đất Đỏ District History (2006) does not relate such an attack, nor does the Long Đất District History (1986) – ie the higher headquarters for C25 Company. The map indicates: the 1 st Platoon of 445 Company and the 1 st Platoon of C25 Company attacking a post at Long Phước Hội; breaching the wire obstacles north-east of Phước Hải village; and attacking objectives within the village area - including the Village Council (“HD xã”). A Buddhist pagoda (“Chùa Thất”) and the South China Sea (“Biển Đông” – literally: “Eastern Sea”) are also indicated on the map.

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Comrade Năm Đành as Company Commander with Nguyễn Minh Ninh as its Political Officer. 112 After moving a number of cadre and soldiers to create 440 Company, 445 Company again consolidated and adjusted its organisation. Comrade Võ Quốc Chnh remained Company Commander, Comrade Lê Minh Việt (Su Việt) was the Political Officer, and Comrade Nguyễn Văn Xuân (Hai Xuân) was the Company second-in- command. The attack at Sông Cầu by 445 Company in October 1964 had a large and significant impact. We not only wiped out the enemy capability, expanded our area of control, but also had a strong effect on mobilising the masses. We had received intelligence 113 from our infrastructure agents that a Regional Forces 114 platoon routinely entered the Sông Cầu strategic hamlet (Hòa Long) at night and stayed among the people. During their stay, the enemy troops would check on the people, and obstruct and capture any of our cadre entering the village. The Company Headquarters put forward a plan to wipe out this group of enemy soldiers. Our Political Officer – and concurrently Party Chapter Secretary Lê Minh Việt, participated directly in creating the plan to attack the Sông Cầu strategic hamlet. At first, the plan intended we attack on the Saturday, but it was deferred until Sunday night as on the Saturday the enemy usually went out “on the town” until late – making it difficult to choose a place where we could attack them as a

group. Nguyễn Văn Tâm (Tâm Méo) – a Platoon Commander, armed with a medium machinegun was tasked with suppressive fire and signalling the commencement of the attack. In the middle of the night, the whole of 445 Company moved in close to the objective. According to our combined plan arranged between the unit and our revolutionary infrastructure within hamlet, Comrade Nguyễn Văn Tâm fired a short burst over the roofs of the houses to warn the villagers to go down into their shelters. Next, he lowered the barrel of his weapon and fired at the intense rate into our targets. The enemy were unable to react in time, and fled in fear for their lives – and fell into our ambush. Having thrown grenades, the whole reconnaissance team followed Nguyễn Văn Bỉ in assaulting the enemy. A number of the enemy were killed, a number surrendered, and the reconnaissance team shot three. After a few minutes of combat, we had complete control of the battlefield, having wiped out a Regional Forces platoon, seized all their weapons (comprising 30 rifles of various types and two medium machineguns), and captured seven. The villagers in the Sông Cầu – Hòa Long area greatly admired 445 Company’s skilful method of attack as not one villager was wounded. From generation to generation, our countrymen sang: “The weapons carried by the troops of 445 Company have eyes.” That very night, the cadre and

111 Translator’s Note: The 1991 D445 History and the local Province Party history relate that the ARVN officer responsible for Route 15 security – Major Nguyễn Văn Phước, came to an accommodation/détente (hòa hoãn) with the local communist forces – and provided 50 M.26 grenades and 2,000 rounds of ammunition to Võ Văn Lọt (commander of intelligence unit 316) in April 1964. Trần Văn Khánh (et al/đtg), Lịch sử Đảng … (The History of the Party in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu), op.cit., 2000, Chapter VI. Phước’s “local détente” is also related in the Đất Đỏ District History (2006), pp.187-188 and in the Tân Thành District History (2014). See also footnotes 306, 410 and 448 for accommodations and local détente.

112 Translator’s Note: List 1 in the Addendum to this 2004 D445 History states that this change occurred in

“10-1964”.

113 Translator’s note: Việt Cộng sketch maps of Sông Cầu hamlet were made on 31 July and 5 October 1963 by “agent 980” – CDEC Log 12-1845-66.

114 Translator’s Note: The Vietnamese text above uses the term “Bảo An”. However, as noted earlier, the Civil Guard/Civil Defence Force (“Bảo An”) was restructured/replaced by the Regional Forces (“Địa Phương Quân”) in 1964. However, as shown in the above text, the communists continued to routinely referred to the “new” Regional Forces as “Bảo An”.

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soldiers of 445 Company and the villagers tore down the barbed-wire fences of the Sông Cầu strategic hamlet. The Battle of Sông Cầu was swift, wiped out the enemy completely – and we suffered no casualties because of our successful preparation and the assistance and close coordination with our infrastructure agents and the people. At the same time, we had an effective reserve support element. With the experience of the attack on the Bàu Lâm strategic hamlet (May 1963) and the attack on the Sông Cầu strategic hamlet (October 1964), the unit clearly saw the utility of a reserve support element ((mũi vu hồi)) and exploiting the thrust of an attack. At the end of the 1964 Wet Season, 440 Company coordinated with our Secret Self-Defence 115 elements in the Bình Ba rubber plantation to attack the post at Bình Ba (Châu Thành). We wiped out a platoon of Popular Forces 116 , and seized 51 bags of rice (about five tonnes). 117 This rice provided a timely solution to our difficult situation by providing food for our Province concentrated armed forces and our political, Party, and infrastructure agencies. Also at this time, in implementing tasks assigned by our higher headquarters, a platoon of 445 Company joined with a Province labour unit 118 to safely move over 20 tonnes of weapons sent from North Vietnam - that had been landed at Lộc An 119 , back to the our bases.

3. Contributing to the Victory of the Bình Giã Campaign.

In 1964, the people’s war movement was developing strongly across the whole of the South. Our military and the people had defeated an important part of the enemy’s “national policy” of establishing strategic hamlets. The two-year plan - aimed at strengthening the “Staley-Taylor plan”, had its origins in the Americans’ plan for a “general attack to achieve a decisive victory in 1963” and to push forward with their “special warfare” to a peak – but they were unable to save the situation in either the political or military spheres. The above situation required that we urgently build the revolution objectively and with real strength in order to catch up with the requirements of our mission. In particular, on the military front, we needed a sufficiently strong punch to create a new complexion

115 Translator’s Note: See footnotes 39 and 244, and 314.

116 Translator’s Note: The Vietnamese text uses the obsolescent term “Dân Vệ” – ie: Self-Defence Corps. The Dân Vệ - together with the “Hamlet Combat Youth”, were replaced by the Popular Forces (PF – ie:

Nghĩa Quân) in 1964. However, the communists often still referred to the Popular Forces as “Dân Vệ”.

117 Translator’s Note: According to a contemporary US report: “On 9 September 1964 near Bình Ba, Việt Cng forces ambushed a Ranger Company and two Popular Force squads/sections led by the Đức Thạnh District Chief. Government forces suffered 12 killed – including the District Chief and the Ranger company commander – the Việt Cng force suffered two killed. A 60mm mortar, 15 weapons and a radio were seized by the Việt Cng force.” USMACV Military Report, Saigon, 5-12 September 1964 – VCAT Item No.F015800030379. The 1991 D445 History relates that both 445 and 440 Company were involved in this attack on Bình Ba village. It also mentions that each bag of rice weighed one “quintal” (ie 100 kilograms), and that: “This quantity of rice overcame the food difficulties of the provincial concentrated armed forces – and was also sufficient to support over 500 people in our civilian labour group within the Province.” See also the following footnote on “civilian labour” capabilities.

118 Translator’s Note: The organisation and management of civilian labour is detailed in the Bà Rịa-Long Khánh Province Forward Supply Council report of 25 August 1969 – that report also covers the purchasing and requisitioning of rice and other foodstuffs. - CDEC Log 02-1480-70.

119 Translator’s Note: As noted, Lộc An is located on the coast in the Sông Ray River estuary about five kilometres north-east of Phước Hải village. For the movement of weapons and supplies by sea to Lộc An, see footnote 98.

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for the revolution in order to move forward and win a decisive victory. In executing the policy of the Politburo and COSVN for the tasks in the Winter-Spring period of 1964- 1965, the Military Committee and Headquarters of COSVN decided to launch its first campaign in B2 120 on the Eastern Nam Bộ and the far Southern Trung Bộ battlefields with the objective to:

- Wipe out a part of the enemy’s capability, make changes in the balance of forces, and change the complexion to our advantage;

- Support the political struggle movement of the masses to enable them to rise up and destroy the enemy’s tight control, destroy the strategic hamlets, and speed up the people’s war;

- Expand the Hắc Dịch base to the east and west of Route 2, connect the Eastern Region with the coastal region of Military Region 6, construct landings and wharves to receive weapons from the North by the sea route; and

- Train the regular troops to a technical and tactical standard, raise the standard of leadership at all levels, and apply our experiences in organising and commanding a campaign.

In implementing the above objectives, the terrain chosen for the campaign had an area of about 500 square kilometres within the provinces of Bà Rịa, Biên Hòa, and Bình Thuận (ie the titles of those provinces at that time – nowadays the provinces of: Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu, Đồng Nai, and Bình Thuận). The main focus of the campaign was in Bà Rịa Province, with the lesser and associated areas being Nhơn Trạch – Long Thành (Biên Hòa), and Hoài Đức and Tnh Linh (Bình Thuận). The area south-east of Sài Gòn was a place that the enemy regarded as its rear area and close to its nerve-centre installations. If attacked there, they would surely concentrate their forces in response. We had the opportunity to wipe out the enemy’s capability outside their defensive networks. Our campaign would have a large impact on the political movement in the towns – and even in the “capital” of the enemy itself. Before the curtain was raised on the campaign, COSVN Headquarters directed the Eastern Region and Region 6 battlefields to move strongly and wipe out the enemy – as well as drawing the enemy’s attention away from the main object of the campaign, in order to ensure surprise. In particular, the Biên Hòa airport was shelled (on the night of 31 October/1 November 1964), and heavy casualties were inflicted on the American forces – as was admitted in the American media: “for which there was no precedent in the history of the American Air Force”. Within Bà Rịa at this time, 440 Company and 445 Company had each been coming-of-age, getting a firm grip on their political tasks, staying close to our infrastructure elements, and truly becoming the “regular punch” of the Province. They effectively supported the struggle movement of the masses and the people to rise up, destroy the strategic hamlets, and to take control. The majority of the strategic hamlets in the Province had been destroyed, and there only remained a number of “model” strategic hamlets adjacent to the Sub-Sectors and District capitals which were difficult for us to attack. Among these was the strategic hamlet of Bình Giã. Having been provided with information on the situation by our agent who was a member of the Châu Ro minority, 440 Company Headquarters decided to attack the Bình Giã strategic hamlet – a site that the enemy usually boasted of as being “inviolable”. Our

120 Translator’s Note: Created in 1961, the B2 “Bulwark” Front encompassed all the provinces of Nam Bộ, as well as the five southern provinces of Military Region 5 in Southern Trung Bộ: ie Ninh Thuận, Bình Thuận, Quảng Đức, Tuyên Đức, and Lâm Đồng. See: Trần Văn Tra, Vietnam: History of the Bulwark B2 Theatre, Văn Nghệ, Hồ Chí Minh City, 1982.

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unit’s determination was approved by the Province Committee and the Province Unit following their thorough and careful consideration and discussion. Bình Giã 121 village lies on Route 327 – off Provincial Route 2 ((to the east)), and adjacent to the Đức Thạnh Sub-Sector and 18 kilometres to the north of Bà Rịa Town. The village had three hamlets: Vinh Hà, Vinh Châu, and Vinh Trung (usually called:

Village 1, Village 2, and Village 3). The population of Bình Giã village (in 1964) was 5,726 – of whom 90 percent were Catholic refugees. 122 The enemy had built the village as a strategic hamlet with a system of strong defences, communications trenches, weapon pits, fighting bunkers, barbed-wire fences, and panji-stake traps. There were also thick minefields around very solid natural fences of bamboo. There - apart from the quisling administrators, the enemy had organised a military force comprising 147 Regional Force personnel (organised in several strongly-armed platoons), and a “Combat Youth” 123 force of 108 who were well-equipped (including with PRC-10 radios). Additionally, there was also a Ranger Company (2 nd Company, 38 th Ranger Battalion) with a strength of 131 that was permanently in the field to defend the Bình Giã strategic hamlet. Principally for these reasons, the enemy declared that: “Bình Giã is a fortress of anti-communism”, and “The Bình Giã strategic hamlet is inviolable”. In October 1964, 440 Company 124 opened fire and attacked Bình Giã for the first time. In that battle, Ba Lù (of the Châu Ro minority) acted as a guide, and our forces hid near the main gate of the strategic hamlet (towards Đức Mẹ Hill, the church in Village 2). At exactly 6am, the enemy soldiers opened the gate, and our forces simultaneously opened fire and poured through the gate. The bodies of many of the enemy were abandoned at the gate. Exploiting our surprise factor, our forces seized Village 2 and exploited towards Village 3. The fighting was fierce and decisive as the enemy regrouped their forces and counter-attacked. At 9am, they forced a number of reactionary religious villagers to demonstrate - demanding that we release the thugs that we had captured. A number of the more extreme villagers were armed with sticks and assaulted our troops. Comrade Trần Văn Chiến opened fire into the air to disperse the group of demonstrators. Our troops expanded their methods of attack on the enemy – propagandising the Party’s policy on religion and the United Front’s platform. In the Bình Giã strategic hamlet, more than 90 percent of the population were Christian refugees, and we had no infrastructure cadre in the villages. For this reason, before attacking Bình Giã, the cadre and soldiers of 440 Company – and other participating forces (comprising cadre involved with refugees and Assault Youth 125 ) were

121 Translator’s Note: In Vietnamese histories of Bình Giã, there are orthographic discussions on the “correct” spelling of the village complex - ie either “Bình Giả” or “Bình Giã”. The village was founded in November 1955 – with 2,100 Catholic refugees from Nghệ An (North Vietnam) led by their priests - including Nguyễn Viết Khai, via – initially, Bình Đông and Xuân Trường in the Sài Gòn area.

122 Translator’s Note: According to the account in a principal Vietnamese military history, the population of Bình Giã comprised “more than 400 families – religious refugees from the North, and almost all were the families of officers and soldiers of Ranger and Marine units.” - Nguyễn Văn Minh Colonel (ed), Lịch sử Kháng chiến chống Mỹ cứu nước – The History of the Anti-American Resistance War for National Salvation, Tập 3 (Vol 3), Nhà Xuất Bản Chính Trị Quốc Giả, Hà Nội, 1999.

123 Translator’s Note: In the 1991 D445 History, this group is titled: “Defenders-of-the-Church Youth”.

124 Translator’s Note: In the 1991 D445 History, both 440 and 445 Companies are described as attacking the village in October 1964 ie: “In October 1964, our two companies attacked Bình Giã. … A few days later, the two companies – the 445 th and the 440 th , continued to attack Bình Giã for a second time.”

125 Translator’s Note: First activiated in April 1965, “Assault Youth” were discrete elements – comprising mostly “full-time” males and females aged 16-35, that assisted NVA/VC forces principally in liaison and logistic tasks such as portering and battlefield clearance. For a Việt Cng report, see: VCAT Item No.2311008007; and for formal US assessments see: Director of Central Intelligence, Capabilities of the Vietnamese Communists for Fighting in South Vietnam (Special National Intelligence Estimate 14.3-67),

37

carefully instructed on the policy of the People’s Liberation Front on religion. When our forces attacked Bình Giã, they executed the policy very seriously and were received with consideration by the villagers. However, as the people had been incited and exploited by the enemy, a number of the villagers came out and demonstrated and hindered our attack. Further, we had to face the determined resistance of the enemy. Facing this situation, the Company Headquarters decided to withdraw. However, the next day, we organised an attack on Village 3 and wiped out a number of Rangers. Our refugee affairs cadre used megaphones to call on the enemy soldiers to surrender and conducted armed propaganda targeting the religious villagers who had been deceived by the enemy. Following those activities, our troops withdrew to regroup our forces. 440 Company attacked Bình Giã twice, but were unable to completely liberate it – only seizing Village 2 and Village 3 and wiping out part of the enemy’s capability. 126 Most important of all, our local armed forces were able to gain invaluable experience and lessons on attacking the enemy in a place where they had their most reliable defences. The Bình Giã strategic hamlet was no longer “inviolable”. At the same time, we were able to determine the enemy’s operational routine and methods. Every time that we attacked the Bình Giã strategic hamlet, the enemy would immediately mobilise a relief force of their mobile strategic forces from the Sub-Sector and Sector. This was a factor that the cadre staff group at COSVN Headquarters – who were investigating the battlefield in preparation for the 1964-1965 Winter-Spring Campaign, paid utmost attention. 127 The cadre staff group at COSVN Headquarters proposed conducting a much larger attack and holding-on in the strategic hamlet with the aim of sounding out the enemy’s reaction in order to choose our combat procedures and methods for the large campaign across the whole of the COSVN region. Only one week later, the third attack on the Bình Giã strategic hamlet commenced. This time, Comrade Nguyễn Việt Hoa (Mười Thà) – the Commander of the Bà Rịa Province Unit, directly participated in commanding the operation. Our forces comprised 440 Company, 445 Company – Province troops, Châu Thành District’s 20 th Company, Ngãi Giao village guerrillas, and a section of our refugee affairs cadre – as in the previous attack. The enemy reacted decisively. On that very afternoon, they mobilised 60 helicopters to land a Ranger battalion at Bình Giã to break the blockade. 128 Our troops dug trenches and hung-on for five days and nights against the enemy counter-attacks.

Langley, 13 November 1967 - VCAT Item No.

67-060, 1 July 1967 – VCAT Item No.F015900240978. For the actions of the C.12-65 Assault Youth Company in the Battle of Long Tân – 18 August 1966, see Annex F, pp.12-13.

126 Translator’s Note: As noted above, according to the 1991 D445 History, both 440 and 445 Companies

were involved in this second attack. That History relates: “However, this time the enemy deployed 60

helicopters in the afternoon to insert a Ranger battalion to relieve the

itself suffered over 20 casualties …”. The local Party history, also related that both 440 and 445 attacked Binh Giã “twice more” - Trần Văn Khánh (et al/đtg), Lịch sử Đảng … (The History of the Party in Bà Rịa- Vũng Tàu), op.cit., 2000, Chapter VI.

127 Translator’s Note: According to the 1991 D445 History, following the second attack: “When the 445 th Company and the 440 th Company withdrew from Bình Giã to consolidate their forces and to prepare for subsequent attacks, Comrade Năm Ninh and Comrade Sáu Việt met a group of COSVN staff cadre who had come to reconnoitre battlefields in the area. This group of COSVN staff cadre was led by Comrade Trần Đông Hưng and had come to study the battlefields in preparation for a large campaign in the Xuyên Mộc-

Long Đất region. Having listened to the ideas put forward by Năm Ninh and Sá

launch a large campaign against Bình Giã’, the COSVN staff cadre remained in the Route 2 area to follow

the situation.” Sáu Việt – the nickname for Lê Minh Việt, was subsequently (1966) the deputy political officer of the Bà Rịa Province Unit.

128 Translator’s Note: In the 1991 D445 History, the Ranger insertion is related as having occurred during the second attack – see the preceding footnote 126.

F029200050309;

and USMACV/JGS, Assault Youth, ST

The 445 th Company

Việt – ie: ‘We should

38

This unequal combat became fiercer each day. Our casualty numbers continued to rise – in 445 Company alone we had 20 casualties, and Comrade Lê Minh Việt (Su Việt) – the Political Officer, had to personally carry the wounded. 129 Facing such adverse conditions, the Province Unit Headquarters ordered a withdrawal to Đức Mẹ Hill to conserve our forces.

Having attacked Bình Giã many times 130 – although we had not achieved our goal as planned, we had discovered the enemy’s strong points and their weak points. This became the basis for COSVN Headquarters to decide that Đức Thạnh – Xuyên Mộc was the principal area, and that Bình Giã was to be the point of attack to raise the curtain on the 1964-1965 Winter-Spring Campaign in which we would employ our tactic of “attacking a position and defeating the relief forces” – and wiping out puppet regular forces. 445 Company was chosen as the detonator for “attacking the position”, holding-on in the strategic hamlet, and creating the conditions for our regular COSVN troops to “wipe out the relief forces”. Because of the importance of the initial attack task, 445 Company was reinforced with the 2 nd Company of the 1 st Battalion of Q761 ((271 st VC Regiment)) – a regular COSVN formation, commanded by Su Chy and with Su Mùi as the Company’s Political Officer. 440 Company was ordered by the Province Unit to withdraw and conduct operations in the Đá Giăng area (Long Hải) and undertake diversionary tasks while defending the Lộc An 131 coastal landing site and preparing to receive weapons there to resupply the Bình Giã Campaign.

129 Translator’s Note: The 1991 D445 History relates the “20 casualties” and the actions by Lê Minh Việt (Su Việt) as occuring during the second attack.

130 Translator’s Note: According to the 1991 D445 History, the two Companies attacked Binh Giã twice in

October 1964 – then, observed by the COSVN group, “The 445th Company and the 440 th Company launched three further attacks against Bình Giã. In the final phase, we held on for five days in the hamlets.”

131 Translator’s Note: For activities at Lộc An, see also footnote 98. According to an ARVN Marine officer:

“On 22/12 [sic], a NVA cargo ship carrying 44 [sic] tons of weapons landed at Lộc An. The most notable guns were the CTC [sic] personal firearms, AK 47 rifles, K50s ((sub-machineguns)), RPD ((medium)) machineguns and the B40 anti-tank rockets.” - Trần Ngọc Toàn, “The 4th Marine Battalion and the Battle of Binh Gia”, 24 July 2014. A Marine officer also stated that as the Marines moved south-east from Bình Giã to the site of a downed US helicopter: “Second Lieutenant Huệ came to me and said: ‘It seems as if the

2 nd Company is surrounded by an enemy battalion. But First Lieutenant Tùng is standing firm

captured three B40 rocket launchers, five AK-47 rifles and have killed seven enemy.’ ” – Trần Vệ: Tiểu

Đoàn 4 - Bình Giã Oi ! – Còn Nhớ Mãi, 2 September 2012. A US account relates that on 31 December

1964 east of Bình Giã: “most individual Viet Cong were armed with a new AK-47 assault rifle”. - Price,

D.L., The First Marine Captured in Vietnam – A Biography of Donald G. Cook, McFarland & Company, North Carolina, 2007. Translator’s Note continues: The foregoing indicates that elements of the Việt Cộng

forces at the Battle of Bình Giã were armed with the “highly effective” AK-47 automatic assault rifles. The 9th Division History (2010) states: “On 1 February 1965, … at Lộc An (Bến Tranh Landing, Sông Ray River), Group (Đoàn) 1500 and 271 st Regiment elements landed 70 tonnes of weapons (including a large number of AK-47 rifles). The 271 st Regiment was the first unit to be equipped with the AK-47.” Nguyễn Thanh Nhàn, Lịch sử Sư đoàn bộ binh 9 (1965-2010) (The History of the 9th Infantry Division), Nhà xuất bản Quân đội Nhân dân, Hà Nội, 2010. A history of Đoàn (Group) 125 notes that Vessel 56 landed 44 tonnes of weapons and equipment at Lộc An “in time for Military Region 6 units to use in the 2 nd Phase of the Bình Giã Campaign (January 1965)”. Vessel 56 landed 47 tonnes of weapons at Lộc An on “1 February

1965 for the militia of Region 6 to participate in the 3 rd Phase of the Bình Giã Campaign”. Phan Lữ Hoàng

Hà, “Chuyện kể …, op.cit., 30 April 2005. A recent press item relates” “On 1 February 1965, the third vessel – Vessel 46 [sic], carrying 70 tonnes of weapons landed safely at Lộc An. Most of the weapons in this phase were AK-47s, B40s and B41s [sic].” - Lưu Dương, “Bến Lộc An, một điểm đến của Đoàn tàu không số”, 22 November 2011. For the “final battle” of the Bình Giã Campaign at Chòi Đồng, see footnotes 151 and 154. See also the detail in: Nguyễn Đình Thống (ed, et al), Đường Hồ Chí Minh Trên Biển – Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, (The Hồ Chí Minh Trail by Sea - Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu), op.cit., 2014. For the ARVN, the US- supplied M-16 rifles “only began to arrive in April 1967” – “but only in sufficient quantities for ARVN Airborne and Marine units”. Westmoreland, W.C. General, Report on the War in Vietnam (as at 30 June

1968), Section II, pp.215-216.VCAT Item No.168300010017. See also:

they've

USMACV, An Evaluation of the

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The Campaign Headquarters 132 that was established comprised the following comrades: Trần Đình Xu – Commander; Lê Văn Tưởng – Political Comissar; Nguyễn Hòa – Deputy Commander/Chief of Staff; Nguyễn Văn Bứa – Deputy Commander; and Lê Xuân Lựu (Su An) – Deputy Political Commissar. Others participating in the Party Committee for the Campaign were Comrade Nguyễn Văn Chí – of the Standing Committee of the Eastern Nam Bộ Regional Committee, and comrade Lê Minh Hà – the Secretary of the Bà Rịa Province Committee. For the main attacks, the forces to be employed 133 comprised two infantry regiments (Q761 134 and Q762 135 ), four combat support battalions (regular COSVN elements), and two companies ie 440 and 445

Impact of Arming the Vietnamese Army with the M-16 Rifle, 30 June 1968. VCAT Item

No.F015800240227.

 

132

Translator’s Note: Some contemporary US histories incorrectly cite the 9 th VC Division as the commanding headquarters at the Battle of Bình Giã – eg: Westmoreland, W.C. General, Report on the War …, op.cit., pp.84-86 . However, the 9 th VC Division was not formally founded until 2 September 1965 – with Hoàng Cầm as its first commander. See: Hoàng Cầm, Chặng Đường Mười Nghìn Ngày (Stages in a 10,000-day Journey), Nhà Xuất bản Quân đội Nhân dân, Hà Nội, 2001; and Nguyễn Thanh Nhàn, The History of the 9 th Infantry Division, op.cit., 2010.

133 Translator’s Note: An official Vietnamese history relates that the forces in the Campaign – led by Trần Đình Xu, comprised: the 1 st and 2 nd Regiments, the 80 th Artillery Group, 445 Local Forces Company, and the Hoài Đức Local Forces Platoon (Bình Thuận). - The History of the Vietnam People’s Armed Forces, Vol III, The Coming of Age of the People’s Armed Forces of Vietnam during the Resistance War against the Americans for National Salvation (1954-1975), Military History Institute of Vietnam, People’s Armed Forces Publishing House, Hanoi, 1994 (see also as: Pribbenow, M.L., Victory in Vietnam, University Press of Kansas, 2002). A recent Vietnamese history also adds the following to the VC forces: “two infantry battalions – Military Region 7 (500 th and 800 th ), the 186 th Artillery Battalion (Military Region 6), and the Biên Hòa Artillery Squadron with four 75mm artillery pieces … .” - Phạm Vĩnh Phúc, Colonel (ed - et al), Operations in the US Resistance War (Tóm Tắt Các Chiến Dịch …), Thế Giới Publishers, Hà Nội, 2009, p.2. A recently-published major Vietnamese history states that the Bình Giã Campaign involved “7,000 troops” and “was waged widely across four provinces: Bà Rịa, Long Khnh, Biên Hòa, and Bình Thuận – with the main efforts [sic] in Bình Long [sic] and Phước Long [sic] … involving five regimental-level battles and two battalion-level battles … killing 1,755 enemy, capturing 293 (including 60 American advisors) …” - Lê Mậu Hãn (ed), Đi Cương Lịch Sử Vit Nam (The Fundamentals of Vietnamese History) - Tập III (1945-2006), Nhà Xuẩt Bản Gio Dục Việt Nam, Hà Nội, 2010.

134 Translators Note: Q761 Regiment (founded in July 1961) – also known as the “1 st Regiment, was later re-titled the 271 st Regiment (the Bình Giã Regiment) and was subsequently a founding formation of the 9 th VC Division in early September 1965. Q761was reportedly commanded at Bình Giã by Nguyễn Thế Truyện (aka Năm Truyện and also aka Năm Sài Gòn). Truyện later commanded the 5 th VC Division from 1966 until late November 1967 - and was killed in combat in early February 1968 during the NVA/VC Tết Mậu Thân (1968) Offensive while serving as Commander of Sub-Region 1. Bùi Thanh Vân (Út Liêm) was the second-in-command of Q761 at the Battle of Bình Giã. For the activities of the 271 st (Q761) Regiment at Bình Giã - “Trung đoàn Bình Giã”, see an account by its political commissar – Nguyễn Văn Tòng, at:

http://vietbao.vn/Chinh-Tri/Trung-doan-Binh-Gia/40060434/96/ .

135 Translator’s Note: Q762 Regiment – also known as the “2 nd Regiment”, C.58, and the Đồng Xoai Regiment, was later re-titled the 272 nd Regiment and was subsequently a founding formation of the 9 th VC Division in early September 1965. Q762 was raised in 1961 from former Việt Minh troops who had “regrouped” (“tập kết”) to North Vietnam in 1954-1955 and infiltrated back into the South - ie were “returned cadre” (“cán bộ hồi kết”). For a comprehensive booklet on the history of the 272 nd Regiment (dated 19 May 1967) that includes the Regiment’s major ambush on Route 2 on 9 [sic – probably 13] December 1964 and an ambush on Route 15 on 17 December 1964 - see CDEC Log 03-2284-68, CDEC Log 03-2656-67, and also footnotes 149 and 154. At Bình Giã, Q762 Regiment was led by Tạ Minh Khâm with Nguyễn Thới Bưng (Út Thới) as the Regiment’s second-in-command. Subsequently, Nguyễn Thới Bưng is believed to have commanded the 275 th Regiment at the Battle of Long Tân on 18 August 1966. In the period August-October 1966, Bưng was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff of the 5 th VC Division until reportedly moving to the COSVN staff in January 1967. Nguyễn Thới Bưng later served as Commander 9 th VC Division – and on retirement in the late 1990s, was Vietnam’s Vice Minister of Defence (as a Lieutenant General). Born in 1927 in Tây Ninh Province, he passed away on 22 January 2014. For further information, see his biography at Appendix 2 to Annex O – The 275 th VC Regiment.

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Companies (Bà Rịa). Regional and local forces would also cooperate. 136 The primary combat method 137 of the Campaign was to attack the enemy outside their defences, employ ambush tactics, and deploy to attack and defeat the enemy’s tactic of “heliborne movement” and “armoured vehicle transport”. On the night of 4-5 December 1964, the curtain went up on the Bình Giã Campaign. 138 Our participating forces included: 761 ((271 st )) Regiment, 762 ((272 nd )) Regiment, COSVN artillery combat support units 139 , and 445 Company (Province troops). Among these, 445 Company had the mission of attacking directly into Bình Giã. The two COSVN regiments were the principal forces to wipe out puppet reserve troops attempting any relief operation. At this time, 445 Company’s numbers had been strengthened to 140 comrades (with 120 comrades to directly participate in combat). The Company’s weapons were almost all Thompson sub-machineguns, carbines, and Garand rifles. Our fire support was quite strong, comprising: 14 medium machineguns, two 60mm mortars, and two heavy machineguns. The Long Đất District Unit had seized a heavy machinegun 140 from a “Cotcach” vehicle during the battle at the An Nhứt bridge (in August 1963), and this had been given to Comrade Nguyễn Văn Quang 141 to use. Comrade Nguyễn Văn Quang and his heavy machinegun were inseparable during the years of fighting the Americans during which he achieved many outstanding feats in combat.

136 Translator’s Note: As noted above, a 2009 translation of a 2003 official Vietnamese publication identifies the participating forces as: the 271 st and 272 nd VC Regiments; “two infantry battalions of Military Zone 7 (500 th and 800 th ), 186 th Artillery Battalion (Military Region 6), the Biên Hòa Artillery Squadron [sic] with four 75mm artillery pieces, 53 60-82mm mortars, 41 57-75mm recoilless rifles, and eight 12.7mm anti-aircraft guns; and local militia.” - Phạm Vĩnh Phúc, Colonel (ed - et al), Operations in the US Resistance War, op.cit., 2009, p.2. However, the Châu Đức District History (2004) clarifies that: “Military Region 6 was responsible for the secondary objective (Hoài Đức-Tánh Linh); and the forces responsible for the coordinating attack at Nhơn Trạch-Long Thành comprised the 500 th Battalion, main-force troops from Military Region 7, and Bien Hòa regional forces.” The Battle is also recounted in - Trần Đoàn Lâm, The 30 Year War, Thế Giới Publishers, Hà Nội, 2012 (English), pp.537-540. The account in the Châu Đức District History (2004) also includes a detailed coloured sketch map of the Battle – see pp.124-129 of that work.

137 Translator’s Note: The political and logistic preparations for the Campaign are related in the local Party history – including the establishment of the K76A Hospital in Base Area 1 (Bàu Lâm village) and the K76B hospital west of Route 2 at Gia Cốp etc. Trần Văn Khánh (et al/đtg), Lịch sử Đảng …(The History of the Party in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu), op.cit., 2000, Chapter V. For later detail on K76A Hospital in the Mây Tào Mountains – including organisation and sketch maps, see Annex A to the 6RAR/NZ After Action Report – Operation Marsden, Núi Đất , 23 February 1970 (file AWM95, 7/6/30).

138 Translator’s Note: According to the 9 th VC Division History (2010): “On 20 November 1964, the 271 st Regiment assembled to the east of Route 2 south of Xuân Sơn; and the 272 nd Regiment was located south- east of Núi Nghệ. On 2 December 1964, the artillery troops shelled the headquarters of the Đức Thạnh Sub- Sector, and 445 Company (Bà Rịa local forces troops) attacked the Bình Giã ‘strategic hamlet’ killing 60 Regional Force personnel and seizing control of the whole ‘strategic hamlet’.” Nguyễn Thanh Nhàn, The History of the 9 th Infantry Division, op.cit., 2010. A US cryptological history of the War notes: “The Binh Gia Campaign at the end of 1964 showed the first extensive use of Morse to set up and coordinate a local campaign” by the VC. The first US signals intelligence (SIGINT) personnel had arrived in Saigon in May 1961 and provided direction-finding and analysis support to the South Vietnamese forces. - Thomson, R.J., United States Cryptological History, Series VI, Book II: Centralization Wins, 1960-1972, NSA – Fort Meade, 1995, p.504, p.539.

139 Translator’s Note: The 1991 D445 History cites the supporting “COSVN Artillery Regiment” as “Q563” [sic]. The COSVN Artillery Regiment’s title was Q763 (cover designator: Đoàn 80) – and comprised four battalions.

140 Translator’s Note: A photograph of Nguyễn Văn Quang’s “heavy machinegun” at p.80 of this 2004 D445 History shows a US .30 calibre medium machinegun.

141 Translator’s Note: Nguyễn Văn Quang (1944-2000) – see also footnotes 140, 220, 228, 309, and 613, was later declared a “Hero of the People’s Armed Forces” and - after training in North Vietnam from 1968 to 1972, returned as the second-in-command/Chief of Staff of 445 Battalion in March 1972.

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At 3am on 5 December 1964, 445 Company was divided into two groups for the attack on Bình Giã. 142 At this time, because of the requirements of our battlefield tasks, the unit’s military cadre had been sent for training at the Military Region 143 *, so our leadership during the battle were almost all political cadre. The principal attacking group – the 1 st Platoon, was under the direct command of its commander, Ba Lòng. Our Political Officer – Lê Minh Việt (Su Việt) and the Deputy Company Commander – Đào Thanh Xuân, also went with this group. The secondary group – the 2 nd Platoon, was under the direct command of its Platoon Commander Lê Minh Kiên (Ba Kiên) and its Platoon Political Officer Tô Dũng. Both groups concentrated on attacking through the main gate of Village 2. The enemy had been attacked many times, and so they were very vigilant and had taken precautions. They regularly changed the configurations of their mines and their defensive system. The 1 st Platoon group had approached close to the hamlet gate when they tripped a grenade, wounding three comrades. Hearing the sound of the exploding grenade near the hamlet - and suspecting that we were again going to attack, all calibres of the enemy’s firepower fell upon our troops. At that moment, Nguyễn Văn Quang’s heavy machinegun – which he had set up 60 metres from the hamlet gate, fired long bursts that restrained the enemy’s firepower and allowed our reconnaissance soldiers to place explosives against the hamlet gates that then blew them apart. When Comrade Hường’s bazooka had blown apart the hamlet gates, the two infantry groups – one-and- all, assaulted through the gates. The heavy machinegun in the hands of Nguyễn Văn Quang fired resoundingly and stamped out many of the enemy’s firepower groups. Thanks to his strength, burly stature, and his technical mastery of the weapon, from his very first use of the heavy machinegun, Nguyễn Văn Quang had brought into play the firepower superiority of that weapon. He carried the heavy machinegun and actively supported assaults on decisive positions, effectively supporting our attacking elements. After more than 10 minutes of fighting, our assault groups had beaten the Regional Force platoon into disarray and – expanding our attack, had seized in turn Village 2 and Village 3 – and wiped out tens of the enemy. Cooperating closely with 445 Company, the regular troops of the 2 nd Company of Q761 ((271 st )) Regiment’s 1 st Battalion - led by Company Commander Su Chy and Political Officer Su Mùi, attacked and seized Village 1. 144 The Campaign’s “point- attacking” force had successfully completed its mission and created favourable conditions for the “relief-destroying” forces that were ready to strike the enemy in many other locations. Implementing the orders of the Campaign Headquarters 145 , 445 Company – together with the 2 nd Company (1 st Battalion, Q761 Regiment) consolidated their defences

142 Translator’s Note: “On 2 December 1964, in support of 445 Battalion’s [sic] attack on Bình Giã, the 1 st Battalion of Q761 and COSVN artillery attacked the Đức Thạnh Sub-Sector headquarters” - Nguyễn Văn Minh Colonel (ed), Lịch sử Kháng chiến …, op.cit., Tập 3 (Vol 3), 1999. 143 * These included the Company Commander – Võ Quốc Chnh (Tư Chnh); and Comrades Nguyễn Minh Khanh (Hai Khanh), Nguyễn Văn Bảo (Su Bảo) and Đào Văn Tổng (Tm Tổng).

144 Translator’s Note: The 1991 D445 History similarly notes: “On the same night, a battalion of 761 Regiment attacked and seized Village 1.”

145 Translator’s Note: The Campaign Headquarters was located in the Núi Nưa Hill area (YS 540745) about 5 kilometres south-east of Bình Giã. As noted, for an account of the Battle of Bình Giã by the 1964-65 political commissar of the 271 st “Bình Giã” Regiment – see Nguyễn Văn Tòng, Trung đoàn Bình Giã, 18 December 2004. http://vietbao.vn/Chinh-Tri/Trung-doan-Binh-Gia/40060434/96/ . The article also includes a group photo of commanders – left-to-right: Bùi Thanh Vân (2ic 271 st Regiment), Tạ Minh Khâm (Commander 272 nd Regiment), Nguyễn Văn Tòng (political commissar 271 st Regiment), and Nguyễn Thới Bưng (2ic 272 nd Regiment). The article is also http://tuoitre.vn/tin/chinh-tri-xa-hoi/chinhtri/20041218/trung- doan-binh-gia/60434.html (Tuổi Tre Online, 18 December 2004).

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and hung on. In the face of the strong enemy counter-attacks, in two days of fighting, 445 Company lost nine comrades killed (including Comrade Hoàng Văn Tín – a platoon cadre and member of the Châu Ro minority from Hòa Long village), and tens of other comrades were wounded. Holding-on together with 445 Company and the 2 nd Company regular troops (of the 1 st Battalion, Q762) [sic – an error, should be Q761], was a platoon of Assault Youth (front-line conscripted labourers) led by Ba Lèo who carried the wounded. This large front-line labour force comprised Assault Youth from the villages who had volunteered to serve in the Campaign. They were very brave - crossing through the enemy artillery fire and air attacks to move our wounded to the rear. A forward surgery section - under Assistant Doctor Nguyễn Thanh Hiếu 146 , was constantly at the side of the unit – both conducting surgery in-place for our wounded while also ready to fight the enemy and defend the Company Headquarters. Although only recently an Assistant Doctor, Hiếu came-of-age in the fighting and learned much from the experience. Assistant Doctor Nguyễn Thanh Hiếu – having accumulated this experience and whole-heartedly treating the wounded, gained the confidence of the cadre and soldiers of the unit. In the second [sic] day of the Campaign, the enemy used helicopters to lift the 38 th Ranger Battalion from Phú Mỹ and landed them south-west of Đức Thạnh (near Ruộng Tre). This force was attacked by 762 ((272 nd )) Regiment and scattered. At 6pm, the remaining elements of the 38 th Ranger Battalion had huddled together in the church at Village 2 (comprising about two companies). They exploited the church precinct to fire on 445 Company. Implementing our religious policy, our troops did not fire into the church, and so we were unable to advance. The Company Headquarters had a rushed meeting and decided to deploy two recoilless rifles opposite the church and to fire the weapons along the two corridors in order to support our troops in assaulting the enemy. At the same time as these assaults, the unit’s civilian proselytising element and the refugee affairs section spoke with the religious villagers around the church explaining the Front’s policies and the tricks of the enemy. 147 After five days and nights of attacking the enemy in the Bình Giã strategic hamlet, the unit was ordered to withdraw and to cooperate with the regular regiments in attacking the enemy relief forces. The Campaign Headquarters assessed the fighting spirit of 445 Company as very high and unyielding. As a local armed force participating in a large COSVN campaign for the first time with an “attacking-point” role, 445 Company had combined very effectively with the regular troops. We had fought courageously, held-on doggedly, and completed our mission outstandingly as the detonator of the Campaign.

146 Translator’s Note: Also as “Nguyễn Văn Hiếu” (Năm Hiếu) – later in this 2004 D445 History. For detail on 445 Battalion’s medical equipment and stores as at 5 July 1966 and 8 August, see the signed report by the Battalion’s doctor on D445’s medical supply holdings – Nguyễn Văn Hiếu, that includes several thousand chloroquine tablets for malarial prophylaxis and treatment. CDEC Log 12-2427-66.

147 Translator’s Note: According to a 9 th VC Division History (2010): “On 8 December, the 1 st Battalion of the 271 st Regiment attacked the Đất Đỏ Sub-Sector, killing 100 and seizing 32 weapons.” Nguyễn Thanh Nhàn, The History of the 9 th Infantry Division, op.cit., 2010. As noted at footnote 135, on 9 (or 13) December 1964, the 272 nd Regiment ambushed a squadron of the ARVN’s 3 rd Battalion/1 st Armored Regiment clearing Route 2 on the southern edge of Bình Ba village (in the area of the Sông Cầu crossing). 14 M1113 vehicles were reportedly destroyed, and 107 killed (including seven US personnel). See a secret internal-distribution 272 nd Regiment booklet (No.121/T-T dated 15 May 1967) – CDEC Log 03-2284-68, VCAT Item No.2310206019 - and also CDEC Log 03-2656-67 for an 11-page report on the ambush by VC Military Region 1. On 14 December, the 4 th Marine Battalion – a III Corps Tactical Zone (CTZ) reaction force, was deployed to Đức Thạnh Sub-Sector, cleared Bình Giã and Route 2 south to the ambush site, and recovered the bodies of those ARVN killed. The Marine battalion then cleared Route 2 to Phước Lễ/Bà Rịa Town, and returned via Route 15 to its base at Dĩ An. See: Trần Ngọc Toàn (Lieutenant, 4th Marine Battalion, 1964) – The Bình Giã Front, 10 January 2000 – http://www.k16vbqgvn.org/tranbinhgia.htm .

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In Phase 1 of the Campaign, 440 Company had a diversionary mission in the Long Hải area (Long Đất District) with the aim of attacking and deceiving the enemy in order to maintain the secrecy and surprise for the main attack of the Campaign on Bình Giã. On 25 December 1964 [sic], 440 Company launched an attack on the enemy “Mai Phoọc” and “Tép Phoọc” troops at Đá Giăng, inflicting heavy casualties on them. 148 We significantly depleted an enemy company, killed a company commander, seized 10 weapons of various types, and a PRC-25 [sic] radio. 149 Exploiting Phase 1 of the Campaign, at 4am on 28 December 1964, the sounds of gunfire heralded the start of Phase 2 of the Bình Giã Campaign. 445 Company again attacked into Bình Giã to lure the enemy into pouring in troops. Afterwards, the Company again joined with 761 ((271 st )) Regiment and 762 ((272 nd )) Regiment to attack and to disintegrate the 33 rd Ranger Battalion and the 4 th Marine Battalion – crack forces of the enemy’s Strategic Reserve, that came to the relief of Bình Giã. 150

148 Translator’s Note: This engagement is related in the Đất Đỏ District History (2006): “On 24 December 1964, the Provincial 445 [sic] Company joined with District troops to ambush the enemy at Đá Giăng (Route 44) from An Ngãi to Long Hải. … The Military Region’s 800 th Battalion provided two 75mm recoilless rifles (RCL). … On 25 December at 0030hrs, the enemy vehicles fell into our ambush. … In 30 minutes, we destroyed two enemy companies – there were 150 enemy corpses, including an American advisor. We destroyed four armoured vehicles, captured 18 enemy, and seized 48 weapons and a PRC-25 [sic] radio. These were two companies of corporals being trained to become post commanders in the villages as part of plan to strengthen the enemy’s pacification program.” The ambush is also described in the Long Đất District History (1986): Phan Ngọc Danh …, Lịch Sử Đấu Tranh Cách Mạng Của Huyện Long Đất, op.cit., 1986, p.121.

149 Translator’s Note: According to the 1991 D445 History: “The 440 th Company was then ordered to deploy down to Long Đất – together with 761 Regiment, to attack the enemy at the Đất Đỏ Sub-Sector and the surrounding area, and to create the conditions for 762 Regiment to destroy a squadron/company ((chi đoàn)) of armoured vehicles advancing on Route 2 [sic] to relieve Đất Đỏ [sic – should be Bình Ba, 9 December 1964]. After the fighting, only three of the enemy’s 14 armoured vehicles remained intact and 100 enemy had been killed – including nine American advisors. The first phase of the Bình Giã Campaign had concluded in victory.” This is a confused and incorrect reference – probably meant to refer to the ambush of ARVN armour on Route 2 at Bình Ba on 9 (or less likely 13) December 1964 by the 272 nd VC Regiment – see footnotes 135 and 147. However, a later engagement in the Đất Đỏ area is related in the Long Đất District History (1986): “At the end of December 1964, the 445 th Company (Province) assisted the Đất Đỏ area – attacking at Đá Giăng on Route 44 between Long Hải and An Ngãi on 24 December 1964. Long Đất was provided with two 75mm recoilless rifles (RCL) by 800 Battalion; two companies from the Long Hải training centre were destroyed (150 killed - including a US advisor).” - Phan Ngọc Danh …, Lịch Sử Đấu Tranh Cách Mạng Của Huyện Long Đất, op.cit., 1986, p.121. AN/PRC-25 radios were not introduced into Vietnam until late 1965 – accordingly, AN/PRC-10 radios were probably seized.

150 Translator’s Note: On 28 December 1964, two Ranger companies with armed helicopter support reportedly failed to retake Bình Giã village (elements of the 30 th and 38 th Ranger Battalions). On 29 December 1964, the 33 rd Ranger Battalion and a company of the 30 th Ranger Battalion were landed from helicopters in the Bình Giã area, followed by the 38 th Ranger Battalion on 30 December. The 4 th Marine Battalion (428-strong) moved from Biên Hòa on 30 December and joined the Ranger battalions at Bình Giã. The Marines secured Bình Giã and a company was deployed to the south-east on 31 December to secure the site of a downed US helicopter – and were engaged by Việt Cộng main-force elements. Having suffered heavy casualties, the 4 th Marine Battalion elements fell back to Bình Giã that evening. On 3 January 1965, elements of the ARVN Airborne Brigade (1 st , 3 rd and 7 th Battalions) deployed to Bình Giã to secure the area. See: Battle of Binh Gia, Project CHECO Southeast Asia Report No.47, January 1965 – VCAT Item No. F031100170123. See also the account – with maps, by an ARVN Marine Corps participant - Trần Ngọc Toàn, Lieutenant, “The Bình Giã Front”, 10 January 2000. The 4 th Marine Battalion suffered 112 killed – including the Battalion commander and his 2ic, 71 wounded, and 13 missing. In the Battle of Bình Giã, three US servicemen were captured (two advisers with the 33 rd Rangers, one with the 4 th Marine Battalion). Four US helicopter crewmen were also killed when their aircraft was shot down on 30 December 1964. See also: Trần Vệ, Second Lieutenant, “Tiểu Đoàn 4 – Bình Giả ơi! Còn nhớ mãi” (“I Still Recall Binh Gia”), 2 September 2012; and Moyar, M., Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War 1954-1965, Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp.336-340.

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Supported by COSVN and Province troops, the people and the District and village armed forces had destroyed a series of strategic hamlets along Routes 2, 52 and 44 - and the coast near Xuyên Mộc. We had opened up the resistance bases from Châu Pha to Hắc Dịch, and the east and west of Route 2 were joined with War Zone D and the provinces of Military Region 6. On 3 January 1965, Phase 2 of the Bình Giã Campaign was completed successfully. 151 The military feats of 440 Company and 445 Company 152 that contributed to the general victory of the Bình Giã Campaign were extremely important. 153 However, our sacrifices were not small – 30 of our cadre and soldiers fell, and many comrades were wounded. 154

151 Translator’s Note: The 1991 D445 History summarized the Campaign: “We had removed 1,755 enemy from the battlefield – including 60 American advisors. We had captured 293 enemy, destroyed 45 military vehicles, shot 56 aircraft down in flames, and completely destroyed two battalions and one armoured vehicle company. We had inflicted heavy casualties on six other battalions. Importantly, for the first time we had destroyed an armoured company and a battalion of the puppet strategic reserve (the 4 th Marine Battalion). The puppet forces’ tactic of deployment by helicopters and armoured vehicles had been bankrupted by our great Campaign.” The Đất Đỏ District History (2006) relates: “In the Bình Giã Campaign, we wiped out (removed from the enemy order-of-battle) the 33 rd Ranger Battalion; the 4 th Marine Battalion – that had come as a reinforcement from Vũng Tàu; an M113 armoured squadron at Sông Cầu; shot down an aircraft piloted by an American lieutenant colonel in the rubber plantation at Xuân Sơn village; and killed Major Nguyễn Văn Nho – the commanding officer of the 33 rd Ranger Battalion. According to the official history of the 5 th VC Division (2005), the communist forces at the Battle of Bình Giã inflicted the following casualties: “2.000 enemy captured; 45 M113s destroyed; 56 aircraft shot down; 611 weapons seized; and three battalions, an armoured company and two detachments of mechanized vehicles destroyed.” - Hồ Sơn Đài – Colonel (ed), Lịch Sử Sư đòan Bộ Binh 5 (1965-2005) The History of the 5 th Infantry Division (1965-2005), The People’s Army Publishing House, Hà Nội, 2005. A principal Vietnamese military history cites enemy losses similar to the 1991 D445 History cited above ie: the Sài Gòn Government’s forces suffered: 1,755 killed; 193 captured; 45 vehicles destroyed (mostly M113 armoured personnel carriers); and 56 aircraft - Nguyễn Văn Minh Colonel (ed), Lịch sử Kháng chiến …, Tập 3 (Vol 3), op.cit., 1999. The 9 th Division History (2010) also relates that subsequently - on 9 February 1965, the 272 nd Regiment under its 2ic Nguyễn Thới Bưng, attacked two ARVN Airborne battalions that had been inserted in the Chòi Đồng area (Cù Bi village, west of Route 2 – about eight kilometres north-west of Bình Giã). In a three-hour battle, “more than 300 enemy including 30 Americans” were reportedly “eliminated from the fighting”, and the 272 nd Regiment suffered “43 killed and 84 wounded”. “This was the final battle that concluded the victorious Bình Giã Campaign.” - Nguyễn Thanh Nhàn, The History of the 9 th Infantry Division, op.cit., 2010. According to ARVN Airborne histories, the 5 th and 6 th Airborne Battalions were deployed into the Hắc Dịch area on 9 February 1965 – with the 7 th Airborne Battalion in a blocking position to prevent VC withdrawal towards Route 15. The date for the end of the Campaign is also stated as “7 March 1965” – Phan Lữ Hoàng Hà, “Chuyện kể về ‘đường mòn Hồ Chí Minh’ trên biển:

Huyền thoại những con tàu.”, 30 April 2005. The 1991 D445 History – as in several Vietamese histories, concludes: following “the victory of the Bình Giả Campaign, General Secretary Lê Duẩn stated “… ‘With the Battle of Ấp Bắc in 1963, the enemy realized that it would be difficult to defeat us – after the Bình Giả Campaign, the enemy realized that they had lost to us.’ ” The foregoing statement is inscribed on the “Bình Giã Victory” memorial in Bình Giã village – which includes a “North Vietnamese” flag, ie not a “National Liberation Front (NLF)” flag.

152 Translator’s Note: An Order by the Eastern Nam Bộ Military Region Headquarters dated 22 March 1965 awarded Certificates of Commendation to the following “C.445” personnel: Trương Văn Van – Assistant Squad Leader; Nguyễn Văn Thu - Platoon Leader; and Trần Văn Chiến – Company Executive Officer. CDEC Log 03-1342-66.

153 Translator’s Note: Hồ Văn Phong - a reconnaissance team leader of “445”, was awarded a Certificate of Commendation by the Bà Rịa Province Unit for his achievements during the Bình Giã Campaign – having “killed seven enemy, including one officer during the attack on Bình Giã hamlet.” CDEC Log 12-2405-66.

154 Translator’s Note: Other VC casualties are unclear. However, in April 2013, the remains of some of the fallen 271 st and 272 nd Regiment personnel were recovered from the Bình Giã battlefield and reinterred in the Châu Đức cemetery (271 st Regiment: 25, killed in the period 28-31 December 1964; 272 nd Regiment:

one killed on 9 December 1964, seven on 3 January 1965, and 22 on 9 February 1964 at Chòi Đồng – “the last of the battles of the Bình Giã Campaign”).

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*

*

*

The predecessors of the Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu armed forces were created from many different sources – comprising a force of Long Thành District’s core youth, an element of the Bình Xuyên forces that had been won over to our ideals by the Party, a group of political prisoners who had escaped from the Tam Hiệp prison, and about a section provided by higher headquarters. When first established, our weapons and equipment were rudimentary and inadequate. Our main task was armed propaganda and supporting the people’s political struggle movement. However, thanks to the direct leadership of the Party and the protection and mutual help of the people, the predecessor armed forces of 445 Battalion developed and swiftly came-of-age. From our first armed propaganda unit (C.40) established in 1958, we developed into two Companies (440 and 445) in 1964. The combat capability of these predecessor units continued to strengthen and develop in leaps and bounds: from killing tyrants, destroying the oppression, small independent attacks employing deception and diversionary tactics etc – then up to concentrated combat actions closely combined with local forces (comprising District troops, militia, and guerrillas). Higher level forces (regular troops) fought relatively larger battles, wiping out much of the enemy’s capability (such as the counter-sweeping operations in the Long Phước tunnels, attacking the enemy at Sông Cầu and Bình Giã, and - most of all, the attack on the Bình Giã strategic hamlet). The combat achievements of the predecessor units of 445 Battalion made an important contribution to the success of the Đồng Khởi movement in our home Province, destroying the American-Diệm strategic hamlet plan in Bà Rịa Province – and, most of all, achieving the victory of the Bình Giã Campaign. This was indeed an historic time marking the coming-of-age of the concentrated armed forces of Bà Rịa Province, and heralding a new and stronger capability to be developed into the future.

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PART ONE (p.67)

The Founding of 445 Battalion; Contributing Significantly in the Victory of the War of National Salvation against the Americans on the Bà Rịa – Long Khánh Battlefield

Chapter 1

Founding 445 Battalion, Fighting While Coming-of-Age (1965 -1968)

1. Founding 445 Battalion – the Pillar of the Bà Rịa-Long Khánh Armed Forces; Combat Activities and Support of the Revolutionary Movement (1965 – 1967).

Following the defeat of their “Special Warfare” strategy - with the aim of saving the situation and avoiding the collapse of the Sài Gòn puppet regime, the Americans moved to a strategy of “Limited War” and brought in American expeditionary forces and their vassals to fight directly on the battlefields in the South. By the beginning of 1965, the regional revolutionary movements had developed quite strongly. The majority of the strategic hamlets 155 in the Province had all been destroyed – including the important model strategic hamlets on Route 15 adjacent to the Bà Rịa Sector. 156 The liberated areas of the Province had expanded – with the Minh Đạm 157 base joining the liberated areas of Long Đất and Châu Đức 158 Districts to Xuyên Mộc District

155 Translator’s Note: As noted, the “Strategic Hamlet” (Ấp Chiến Lược) program was wider than the “Agroville” resettlement program begun by the Republic of Vietnam’s President Ngô Đình Diệm in 1959. “Operation Sunrise” – launched in Bình Dương Province in late March 1962, began the Strategic Hamlet program. In 1962, the focus of the program was the six provinces around Sài Gòn (including Phước Tuy) and Kontum Province. Initially, 11,316 strategic hamlets were planned country-wide. In Phước Tuy, as at 31 July 1963, reportedly 135 of the Province’s planned 162 strategic hamlets had been completed – covering 121,000 (87% of the Province’s population), see USOM, Notes on Strategic Hamlets, VCAT Item No. 2397021101. However, the program faltered with the assassination of President Ngô Đình Diệm in November 1963. On 23 February 1964, the program was “revitalized” as the “New Life Hamlets” (“Ấp Đời Mới”) program - and in 1965 retitled “Secure Hamlets” (“Ấp Tân Sinh” – ie still “New Life Hamlets”, but in Sino-Vietnamese).

156 Translator’s Note: A Sector (tiểu khu) was the military area equivalent to a province; a Sub-Sector (chi khu) equated to a district. In mid-1966, the Phước Tuy Sector Commander was Lieutenant Colonel Lê Đức Đạt – with the Sub-Sector Commanders: Long Lễ – Lieutenant Trần Tấn Pht; Đất Đỏ – Captain Lương Đình Chi; Đức Thạnh – Captain Nguyễn Văn Bé; Long Điền – Captain Trần Thanh Long (ex Xuyên Mộc); Xuyên Mộc – Captain Lê Văn Đức. USOM, Office of Rural Affairs, 1 July 1966 - VCAT Item No.23970222002. In the 1970s, a Sub-Sub-Sector (phân chi khu) covered a village or group of villages. The Long Đất District History (1986) states that in 1974 11 military Sub-Sub-Sectors (phân chi khu quân sự) were established in that District (ie then VC Long Xuyên District).

157 Translator’s Note: As noted, the Minh Đạm is a range of hills – and a Việt Minh/Việt Cộng base area/secret zone within the areas/boundaries of the villages of Tam An, Phước Long Hội, Phước Hải and Long Hải (of Long Đất District in modern-day Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province). The Minh Đạm area is more than nine kilometres in length and almost five kilometres at its widest. See also: Phạm Chí Thân (ed), Căn Cứ Minh Đạm 1945-1975 - The Minh Đạm Base 1945-1975, Sở Văn Hóa Thông Tin Tỉnh Bà Ria-Vũng Tàu - Bà Ria-Vũng Tàu Province Information and Cultural Office, 2006.

158 Translator’s Note: As noted at footnote 62, the communists’ Châu Thành District was restructured and renamed in 1965 – ie according to the Châu Đức History (2004): “In 1965, to contend with the battle against the Americans, the Bà Rịa-Long Khánh Province Committee combined the two districts of Châu Thành and Đức Thạnh to form Châu Đức District.” A local Party History notes that Châu Đức District was

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and up to War Zone D. The recruiting movement in the regions of the Province was extremely active – particularly in the two districts of Long Đất and Châu Đức, and hundreds of youths volunteered to serve in the armed forces of the Province and the Districts. Provincial armed forces were created and expanded in all three categories. The number of troops and weapons were notably increased after the victory at Bình Giã. To implement the Resolution of the Military Region and the Province Committee and to establish concentrated armed forces, on 19 May 1965 the Bà Rịa Province force was officially established at the Suối Rao Stream (Long Tân village – Long Đất District) – on the basis of combining two units: 440 Company and 445 Company, enlisting recruits from the two districts of Long Đất and Châu Đức; and further strengthening the force with elements taken from organisations of the Province Committee and the Province Unit. The total force numbered about 450 comrades. Comrade Bùi Quang Chánh (Sáu Chánh) 159 was the Battalion Commander; Comrade Lê Thành Ba (Ba Bùi) was the Political Officer 160 – and concurrently Secretary of the Battalion’s Party Committee; Comrade Võ Quốc Chnh (Tư Chnh) was the Battalion’s second-in-command 161 ; and Comrade Nguyễn Minh Ninh was the Deputy Political Officer. 162 The Battalion was structured with four companies – including a fire support company (C4). 163 It included a

formed on 24 May 1965 with Nguyễn Văn Tiến (Năm Tiến) as the Secretary of the District Committee – with the Committee’s base in the jungle at Bằng Lăng (Đồng Nghệ). Trần Văn Khánh (et al/đtg), Lịch sử Đảng …(The History of the Party in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu), op.cit., 2000, Chapter VII.

159 Translator’s Note: Earlier on 23 February 1965, as “Nguyễn Quang Chánh”, Bùi Quang Chánh had been assigned to the “Bà Rịa Province Concentrated Unit” as the “Battalion Commander” – see captured document: T1 Headquarters, Decision 015/QD, CDEC Log 09-1863-66, Bulletin No.1063. According to the Đồng Nai History (1986): “On 19 May 1965 in the Long Tân base (Long Đất), the Bà Rịa Province

Committee established the Provincial Main Force [sic] Battalion with the title of 445 – with Comrade Tư Chánh ((ie Võ Quốc Chnh)) as the Battalion Commander and Comrade Lê Thành Ba as its political

officer.” – Phan Ngọc Danh

1991 D445 History and this 2004 D445 History (ie the text above) have corrected the name of 445

Battalion’s inaugural commander to “Bùi Quang Chánh (Sáu Chánh)”. Bùi Quang Chánh’s appointment as the inaugural Battalion Commander is also related in the local Party history - Trần Văn Khánh (et al/đtg), Lịch sử Đảng …(The History of the Party in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu), op.cit., 2000, Chapter VII. However, a number of other publications have cited “Tư Chánh” as the initial 445 Battalion Commander – probably influenced by the Đồng Nai History (1986) eg: the Đồng Nai Monograph (2001) ie: Địa Chí Đồng Nai, Nhà Xuẩt Bản Tồng Hợp Đồng Nai, Biên Hòa, 2001. For biographical notes on Bùi Quang Chánh (Sáu Chánh) – and eight other key 445 Battalion cadre, see Annex A – Key Cadre.

160 Translator’s Note: According to the Military Region “Decision 015/QD” document of 23 February 1965 noted above, Tư Nghĩa was initially appointed as the Political Officer of D445 Battalion - ie the “Bà Rịa

Province Concentrated Unit” – ie by T1 Headquarters, Decision 015/QD, 23 February 1965 - CDEC Log 09-1863-66, Bulletin No.1063.

161 Translator’s Note: Company Commander Võ Quốc Chnh was appointed as the Deputy Commander of D445 Battalion - ie the “Bà Rịa Province Concentrated Unit”, by T1 Headquarters, Decision 015/QD, 23 February 1965 - CDEC Log 09-1863-66, Bulletin No.1063.

162 Translator’s Note: Nguyễn Văn Chợ – alias Ninh, was appointed Assistant Political Officer of D445

Battalion - ie the “Bà Rịa Province Concentrated Unit”, by T1 Headquarters, Decision 015/QD, 23 February

1965 -CDEC Log 09-1863-66, Bulletin No.1063. See also the following footnote on subsequent political

officer appointments.

163 Translator’s Note: According to a footnote in the 1991 D445 History: “The four companies were three infantry companies and one fire support company - 1 st Company: Sáu Chiến as company commander and Tô Dũng as political officer; 2 nd Company: Sáu Thu as commander and Hai Khanh as political officer; 3 rd Company: Năm Thành as commander, Khởi as political officer; 4 th Company: Tư Như as commander, Thống as its political officer.” Translator’s Note continues: Subsequently on 20 October 1965, the Bà Rịa Province Unit formally promoted: Trần Văn Chiến (Sáu Chiến) from company executive officer to company commander; Tô Dũng from platoon leader to assistant political officer; Nguyễn Minh Khanh (Hai Khanh) from assistant political officer to political officer; Nguyễn Đức Thu (Sáu Thu), Trần Văn Khởi, and Nguyễn Văn Thống from platoon leaders to executive officers - CDEC Log 09-1876-66. Note however, that

, Đồng Nai 30 Năm …, op.cit., 1986, p.123. However, it appears that both the

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headquarters and staff, political and rear services sections – together with a surgical section led by Assistant-Doctor Nguyễn Văn Hiếu. 164 The Battalion’s Party Chapter had five cells. Every company had a cell and a branch of the Youth Group. At the beginning, innumerable difficulties and straitened circumstances had to be faced. 165 However, with the Province Committee and the Province Unit paying the utmost attention to assisting us, the Battalion quickly consolidated all aspects in order to commence operations. Cadre were provided to strengthen the Headquarters and the Surgical Section, and personnel were withdrawn from some organisations to reinforce the Battalion’s numbers. The Province Committee provided 100,000 piastres (Sài Gòn currency) – the equivalent of seven tonnes of rice, and that was put aside in three storehouses as a precaution against any contingencies. In the process of combat operations, development, and coming-of-age, 445 Battalion’s rear services were able to inherit the experience of building the people’s rear services organisation, the in-place rear services, the creation of storehouses among the people, and the operational transportation of principal supplies by shoulder-borne porterage. 166 The unit put away reserves in preparation for each engagement and operational phase – the most important being burying rice in ammunition containers and tin cans right in its area of operations. Because the operational area was very large and the people’s rear services organisation and the in-place rear services covered a wide area, there were times when each element of 445 Battalion suffered hunger. However, this did not last long – even when the enemy attacks were at their fiercest. The Battalion’s military equipment service was created immediately after the Battalion was established. The Battalion had two sewing machines – one was provided by the rear services, and the other belonged to Năm Mỹ (born in Hòa Long). When she fled to join the Battalion, she asked her family to let her take a sewing machine with her so that she could make clothes for the troops. During both operations and the period of development, the Battalion’s rear services requested and were given an additional 6-7 sewing machines by the people, and recruited a number of skillful craftsmen such as Comrade Trương Thanh Tùng (from Tây Ninh), Comrade Tư Chúc (a native of Long Điền), Comrades Bảy Kiên and Tm Tùng (from Phước Lợi), and a number of other comrades with skills in making uniforms for the troops.

the date on that document (Command Committee T.1 No. 602/TB) was incorrectly written as 20 October 1966, instead of 1965. See CDEC Bulletin No.1064, 21 September 1966.

164 Translator’s Note: For Nguyễn Văn Hiếu – see CDEC Log 12-2427-66. However, note that earlier in this 2004 D445 History, he is also referred to as Nguyễn Thanh Hiếu. Also, a discrete medical history reports his name as Nguyễn Thanh Hiếu – see: Lê Thanh Dũng (et al), Lịch Sử Ngành Y Tế Bà Rịa-Long Khánh (1945-2006) - The History of the Bà Rịa-Long Khánh Medical Services (1945-2006), Vũng Tàu, 2008.

165 Translator’s Note: The 1991 D445 History notes: “The issue of rear services support required immediate attention and was resolved in stages. Comrade Ba Tâm was appointed the staff officer responsible for rear services, and Comrade Nguyễn Tuấn Giải (Mười Giải) became its adjutant.” For Nguyễn Thanh Tâm (aka Ba Tâm), see CDEC Log 05-1808-67, and Log 05-1797-67. For his correspondence with the 445 Battalion adjutant - Nguyễn Tuấn Giải (Mười Giải), see CDEC Log 05-3474-67, and Log 05-3406-67. Subsequently, Nguyễn Thanh Tâm – as the Battalion 2ic, was killed in an ambush by 1 ATF’s 7 th Battalion (7RAR) on 31 December 1970 at Cà Thi in the Xuyên Mộc area – see footnotes 382, 383, 396, 476, 478, 479, and 641. Nguyễn Tuấn Giải (Mười Giải - b. Quảng Ngãi, North Vietnam) was noted as a platoon commander in the 5 th Company of 445 Battalion in January 1966, attended a COSVN training course at the H21 Rear Services School in February-early August 1966, and was formally appointed adjutant (quản lý) of 445 Battalion in September 1966. The Battalion adjutant was responsible for managing rear services support - including finances. Nguyễn Tuấn Giải’s captured diary indicated that he was enroute from H21 back to Phước Tuy Province at the time of the Battle of Long Tân on 18 August 1966.

166 Translator’s Note: Several US references calculated NVA/VC porterage on a basis of 50lb (22.72kg) loads per porter and a trip of 30km per day. See also footnote 88 for VC labourer policies.

49

Uniforms, camouflage hats, hammocks, and webbing straps were all beautifully made. Following suggestions from the troops, the Battalion Headquarters agreed to direct the rear services to create light and compact equipment for the men. In stages, nylon hammocks replaced the canvas hammocks. Uniforms were sewn with nylon thread – thin and quick-drying, and replaced the cotton cloth that had been provided by the Province rear services. 167 * Immediately after its founding, the Battalion quickly determined its structure, and organised military and political training for its troops. This included technical aspects, tactics, and tasks – and the plots and schemes of the enemy, all in response to the requirements of the battlefield. In only a short period of time, the technical and tactical standards – and the political consciousness, of the Battalion’s cadre and soldiers had been clearly raised. 168 After a short period of basic training within the unit, the Battalion organised an ambush of the enemy at the Lng Ct strategic hamlet on Route 15. In this first engagement, the impetus and fighting resolve of the Battalion was very high – but the outcome of that attack on the enemy didn’t result as had been wished. At the end of the battle, we had only seized two weapons, and many of our comrades had been wounded. Following that battle, the Battalion headquarters was able to draw a number of experiences, including:

Number One: Our reconnaissance study did not fully appreciate that the enemy could hide among the people, and our troops were confused and unable to develop the thrust of the attack – thus creating opportunites for the enemy to organise a counter- attack.

Number Two: The troops advanced, but selecting the point of attack was too complicated, and it was difficult to “score a goal”. Number Three: A strong and basic point for the Battalion was that it achieved relatively good cooperation between the attacking thrusts.

In this period, the 2 nd Company was ordered by the Province Unit and the Battalion Headquarters to deploy to Cần Giờ to coordinate with the local District troops to attack the enemy and support the guerrilla movements – while at the same time destroying the enemy’s grip and setting up and expanding a revolutionary region there. As the commander of the 2 nd Company (Comrade Nguyễn Đức Thu) was absent on training, Comrade Trần Văn Chiến – the commander of the 1 st Company was given the task of leading the 2 nd Company to fight in Cần Giờ. In 40 days and nights of operations in Cần Giờ, the 2 nd Company fought three battles and liberated two villages. In the first battle, two platoons of the 2 nd Company coordinated with an element of the District troops to attack an enemy platoon stationed in the council offices of Đồng Hòa village. At that location, the enemy had built posts and fighting trenches to defend the village council. We used 57mm recoilless rifles (RCLs) placed at the jungle’s edge to fire on the enemy’s posts – creating the conditions for our infantry to assault and seize the post and take control of the village council. A large number of weapons and military

167 * In the middle of 1969, the enemy fiercely attacked 445 Battalion, and its ordnance organisation was transferred to the Province’s rear services. From that time, the Province rear services accepted and developed the military equipment function. 168 Translator’s Note: According to a principal Vietnamese history of the War: In May 1965, “the troops of Xuân Lộc District – together with 445 Provincial Battalion and Military Region main force elements, attacked and liberated Route 1 from Gia Ray to Rừng Lá ((Long Khánh Province)), and the hamlets of Trà Tân 1 and Trà Tân 2 on Route 3” - Nguyễn Văn Minh Colonel (ed), Lịch sử Kháng chiến …, Tập 3 (Vol 3), op.cit., 1999, footnote 16. Neither the 1991 nor the 2004 D445 Battalion Histories record any Battalion involvement in such engagements in Long Khánh Province in mid-1965.

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equipment were seized - enemy were wiped out, a number were wounded, and the remainder fled in terror. We completely liberated the village of Đồng Hòa. In the second battle – following the attacking tactics employed at the battle at Đồng Hòa, we used two platoons in conjunction with the District troops to strike an enemy platoon in Long Thành village. The 1 st Platoon of the 2 nd Company – together with District forces, attacked the village council. The 2 nd Platoon – together with a group of 60mm mortars and 57mm RCLs from the Rừng Sắc troops 169 fired upon and wiped out the enemy blockhouses and the strong points within the post. Our infantry assaulted and seized the objective. There, the enemy resisted resolutely, and it took an hour before they abandoned the position and fled. We took control and were able to liberate the village of Long Thành. In the third battle, our intention was to ambush a group of Popular Force troops ((“Dân Vệ”)) 170 that usually patrolled on the road from Cần Thạnh to Ven hamlet. Our ambush formation comprised two platoons. The 2 nd Platoon had the task of blocking the enemy’s leading elements, while the 1 st Platoon had the mission of attacking from the flank. Our organisation and preparations for the ambush were all completed before sunrise. At 6am (when the sun was up), we could see across to the other side of the fields – our ambush position was about 100 metres in length; and we saw many groups of the enemy wearing steel helmets and green uniforms advancing straight towards us. We realised that they were not Popular Forces, but the Company Headquarters was still determined to attack them. The enemy platoon opened fire first – and a number were killed on the spot. They withdrew - taking cover in the villagers’ houses and behind trees, and resisted resolutely. Our 1 st Platoon, hearing the sound of gunfire, quickly deployed and launched a flanking attack on the enemy’s position. The enemy was attacked by two pincers and, unable to resist, suddenly fled across the fields back to Cần Thạnh – but leaving behind the bodies of many who had been killed. We took control of the battlefield after an hour of decisive combat, protecting the village, and liberating Long Thành. After 40 days and nights of fighting on new grounds characterised by waterways and constricted terrain, 445 Battalion’s 2 nd Company doggedly overcame difficulties, took the initiative to successfully attack the enemy, supported the revolutionary struggle of the Party Chapters and the people of Cần Giờ, and outstandingly completed the tasks directed by the higher authorities. 171

169 Translator’s Note: The Rừng Sắc/Sác/Rừng Sát lies about 32 kilometres south-southeast of Sài Gòn and comprises about 1,250 square kilometres of tidal swamp – for detail, see footnote 10.

170 Translator’s Note: As noted earlier, the Dân Vệ (Self-Defence Corps) - together with the “Hamlet Combat Youth”, were replaced by the Popular Forces (PF – ie: Nghĩa Quân) in 1964. However, many communist writings continued to use the term “Dân Vệ” for the Popular Forces – ie forces that operated within a district.

171 Translator’s Note: These engagements in mid-1965 in Cần Giờ are not related in the 1991 D445 History. However, in July 1965, the Bà Rịa Province Unit reported that, during June, their forces in the Province were involved in 169 engagements in which 148 enemy were killed, 134 wounded - while suffering 15 killed and 34 wounded. Almost all activity involved district forces and village guerrillas. – CDEC Log 12- 2987-66. More specifically, two subsequently captured Letters of Appreciation signed by Lê Thành Ba - the 445 Battalion political officer, commended two personnel of the 4 th Company for their “outstanding combat exploits” in a successful attack on Bà Rịa on 16 (or 26) July 1965. – CDEC Log 12-2425-66. Morale problems were later discussed at a four-day political conference held by the Bà Rịa Province Unit in mid- September 1965, and it was reported that 44 personnel in the Province had deserted in the preceding two- month period (July, August) – including eight from 445 Battalion, 10 from the Long Đất District Unit, eight from the Châu Đức District Unit and four from the Bình Châu (Xuyên Mộc) guerrilla unit. The main reasons cited for desertion were: fear of death, shelling - particularly enemy aircraft attacks, hardship - and a preference for the “easy” life at home – CDEC Log 09-2601-66 (signed by Bá [sic] Liên – Head of the Political Section of the Bà Rịa Province Unit) – The signature is identical to that of Đổ Văn Liên - aka Ba Liên (Đỗ Văn Chương), who became the 445 Battalion political officer soon after (ie replacing Lê Thành

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After the battle at Lng Ct, the unit returned to the Lồ Ô base 172 (Long Tân) to consolidate. 173 Comrade Lê Thành Ba – the Battalion’s Political Officer, was posted for duty on the Province Committee. Comrade Đổ Văn Chương (Ba Liên) was appointed as the Political Officer of the Battalion. On 23 August 1965, the whole of the Battalion deployed for a second battle, with the determination to achieve victory and develop momentum. Our opponents this time were elements of the police in Long Điền Sub-District, stationed in the Five-Building Complex. 174 As this was a battle in a town, the Province Unit reinforced our unit with a sapper-reconnaissance team from Province. Having carefully studied the terrain, the Battalion Headquarters ordered a surprise attack using both firepower and an assault. Our forces used in the engagement comprised two companies - with comrades selected from our companies for their battle-experience, courage, technical expertise, skill and spirit. That force combined with the reconnaissance element from the Province Unit and the Battalion reconnaissance unit to form the main pillar. It was divided into three groups: two groups as the main thrust and a group to block any enemy reinforcements. The Headquarters was set up in Long Điền Town about 500 metres from the objective and under the command of Comrade Bùi Quang Chánh (Sáu Chánh) – the Battalion Commander, and Comrade Đổ Văn Chương – the Political Officer. 175 The battle unfurled favourably in the first period as the enemy was surprised from the time we moved to the assembly area, cut the fences, placed explosives, and opened fire – and we were able to seize the ground floor of the Five-Building Complex. The enemy retreated up to the higher floors to set up last-ditch defences, and hurled down grenades thick and fast. Losing the initiative, we suffered quite a large number of wounded. Two of our reconnaissance comrades were killed – including Comrade Ninh, a province sapper cadre. 176 * At the same time, our reinforcement blocking group wiped out more than 10 of the enemy who had tried to break through. After an hour of fighting, the Battalion withdrew to Long Phước, tended to the wounded, buried our martyrs, and carried rice and the wounded back to the base. The Battle of the Five-Building Complex (in Long Điền Town) was our first joint combat action at battalion-minus level in a town. High combat efficiency was achieved, much of the enemy’s vitality was destroyed, and a Sub-Sector’s police force was crippled. We intimidated and damaged the morale of the enemy officers and soldiers, and proved

Ba - ie Ba Bùi, who appears to have been posted to the Political Section of Bà Rịa Province Unit). – CDEC Log 09-1883-66, see footnote 175.

172 Translator’s Note: The Lồ Ô Streams – the “Large” and the “Small”, are north-east of Long Tân village.

173 Translator’s Note: As noted above, a report by the Bà Rịa Province Headquarters - following a conference on 15 September 1965, recorded that in July and August 44 personnel had “deserted to the enemy” including 18 from D445 Battalion. The main reasons for desertion were cited as: “fear of death, enemy aircraft, hardships, and personal disappointment with immediate commanders.”- CDEC Log 09-

2601-66.

174 Translator’s Note: The “Five-Building Complex” or “the Five-Storey Centre” – in Vietnamese: “Phố Năm Căn”. In the 1991 edition of the D445 History, it is termed the “Lầu Năm Căn”, and the attack was described in greater detail.

175 Translator’s Note: Ba Liên - ie Đỗ Văn Chương (also as Đổ Văn Liên), had been the Head of the Political Section of the Bà Rịa Province Unit up until at least late September 1965 – see footnote 171 and his biography in Annex A – Key Cadre. Ba Bùi (Lê Thành Ba) appears to have been posted to the Political Section of Bà Rịa Province Unit – CDEC Log 09-1883-66, and subsequently to Long Đất District. For a biography of Đỗ Văn Chương (Ba Liên) - also as Đổ Văn Liên (and incorrectly as Đồng Văn Chương), who became the political officer of 445 Battalion, see Annex A – Key Cadre.

176 * The unit had only just held a declaration ceremony (a wedding) for him and Ms Lê Thị Bich Thủy at the base less than a month previously.

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445 Battalion’s ability to infiltrate and conceal a large number of troops (two companies) in the base and lair of the enemy. However, the attack also revealed failures in tactical and technical aspects, and the selection of attack objectives. Our troops were not yet familiar with the tactics of storming defended positions - and consequently were confused and unable to exploit attacks on strong-points. These were valuable experiences and the lessons strengthened our instruction and the training of the unit’s personnel. 177 Not long after the battle at the Five-Building Complex, the Battalion 178 joined with troops of Long Đất District’s 25 th Local Force Company 179 to set an ambush and attack the enemy at Đá Giăng (Long Hải). 180 The Battalion’s opponents in this battle were the enemy’s Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) Battalion from the Phước Tuy NCO training school at Long Hải. Each day, the enemy troops moved from Long Hải to the edge of Cống Quỳnh – ĐGiăng, and their column stretched out over several kilometres. Their movement was poor – they shuffled along, and they were not very alert. Having confirmed their activities and routine, the Battalion resolved to attack the enemy and submitted a plan to the Province Unit for consideration. 181 On the night of 24 December 1965 [sic] 182 , 445 Battalion coordinated with the 25 th Company (Long Đất) to set a mobile ambush 183 on the enemy in the Đá Giăng area (Route 44 Upper). Our ambush configuration covered a stretch of the road for more than one kilometre – about 500 metres from the edge of Lò Vôi. The 2 nd Company had the task of blocking the head of the enemy column (near the base of the Minh Đạm Mountains) and was strengthened with a 75mm RCL. The 1 st Company had the mission of wiping out the enemy in the killing zone (in the central area) and was reinforced with two 57mm RCLs and a “fish-tail” heavy machinegun. The 3 rd Company had the task of sealing the rear of the ambush – together with Long Đất District’s 25 th Company, at the Long Hải end.

In the salt pans – opposite the killing zone, the Battalion deployed a platoon in the Rừng Sắc led by Comrade Đặng Công Quang (Quang Hổ) with the task of attacking the

177 Translator’s Note: Soon after the attack, on 28 August 1965 the Commanding Officer of 445 Battalion – Bùi Quang Chánh, promoted 16 junior personnel (named) to squad/section leader or assistant squad/section leaders in C4 Company. – CDEC Log 04-1397-66.

178 Translator’s Note: According to the 5 th Division History (2005), in mid-December 1965, a coordinating conference was held between the staffs of the 5 th Division, “the 445th Bà Rịa Battalion, the 25 th Long Đất Company and the 240 th Company” to plan future activity.

179 Translator’s Note: The involvement of the Long Đất District unit in this – and other, operations is described in the Long Đất District History (1986) ie Phan Ngọc Danh …, Lịch Sử … Huyện Long Đất, op.cit., 1986 – for translated extracts, see Annex L in Chamberlain, E.P., … D445 …, op.cit., 2011; and in the Đất Đỏ District History (2006) - ie Đặng Tấn Hương (ed), The History … Đất Đỏ District (1930-2005), op.cit., 2006.

180 Translator’s Note: Đá Giăng is sometimes misspelt in communist sources as “Đá Vắng” – and on some maps appears as Núi (Mount) ĐáDung. The ambush occurred in the vicinity of grid reference YS 432549.

181 Translator’s Note: On 11 November 1965, the 3 rd Battalion of the 275 th VC Regiment attempted to ambush a 52 nd Ranger Battalion convoy on Route 15 at Kim Hải hamlet (Phước Hòa – about 10 kilometres north-west of Bà Rịa Town) but suffered heavy casualties – for detail, see Annex O (The 275 th Regiment).

182 Translator’s Note: In the 1991 edition of the D445 Battalion history, the ĐáGiăng ambush is related more fully and as having occurred on 7/8 January 1966. The US MACV Military History Branch’s “Chronology of Significant Events during 1966”, 27 April 1967 - recorded: “8 January 1966, VC ambush RF convoy in Phuoc Tuy Province, 31 RF KIA, 3 US KIA, 30 RF WIA, 10 MIA.” - VCAT Item No. 13370149004. This 2004 D445 History - citing the date as “24 December 1965”, has probably confused the action with the D445 Battalion ambush on “24 December 1964” – see earlier footnotes 148 and 149, when it actually occurred on 8 January 1966. The authors of the 2004 edition may have been misled by the date in the Đồng Nai Monograph (2001), see footnote 186.

183 Translator’s Note: “phục kích vận động” – see a discussion of the “mobile ambush” tactic at footnotes 187 below and 267.