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Peaceful aspiration from sacred land of Quang Tri: Part 1 - Peace is a shared desire

There are only a few days left until July, when the central province of Quang Tri will greet a stream of people across Vietnam to pay tribute to those who laid down their lives for the peace of the nation on the occasion of the War Invalids and Martyrs Day, which falls on July 27. The gratitude will become more noteworthy as Vietnam’s Festival for Peace will be organized for the first time in the province at the same time. From this historical point, the bells of gratitude and remembrance in July will carry the wish for peace to ring further, not only in Vietnam but also in parts of the world that are still engulfed in war bombs.

Peaceful aspiration from sacred land of Quang Tri: Part 1 - Peace is a shared desire

Nguyen Duy Chien (center) and Nguyen Xuan Lanh (right) recall their stories. Photo: H.N

After the Paris Peace Accords was signed on January 27, 1973, marking a victory for the Vietnamese people and the international solidarity movement that the country was involved in and an end of the war in Vietnam confirming the success of the nation’s resistance, Quang Tri formed two regions: the liberated area accounting for nearly 85% of the area and the rest is the temporarily enemy-occupied zones (Hai Lang district, Quang Tri township and five communes of Trieu Phong District). In the liberated area, people eagerly worked to rebuild their homeland. In contrast, in the temporarily enemy-occupied zones, the army and people of Quang Tri continued fighting against the army of the Republic of Vietnam (Saigon pupet administration) until totally liberating the area on March 19, 1975.

The last American pilot captured in Quang Tri

81-year-old Nguyen Duc Toan, who used to be the leader of the Anti-aircraft team of Trieu Phuoc Commune, Trieu Phong District, still vividly remembers the feeling of shooting down an American jet in the paddy field of Cao Hy Village, just a few hours before the Paris Peace Accords officially took effect, ceasing fire on all battlefields.

Memories took Toan back over 50 years ago to the fields of Co Village, which was covered by the muddy atmosphere in January. At 4 pm on January 27, 1973, a US Air Force F4J piloted by Major Phillip A. Kientzler attacked the DKB artillery battlefield at Viet Yen wharf South of Cua Viet, a coastal town in Gio Linh District.

"The position of the Jet fighter F4J was only 15 degrees to the left of my Anti-craft team. I immediately ordered all team members to shoot the Jet. The F4J was shot down in the first round, being covered with fire like a giant torch, and then staggered down into the dunes of Ha Tay Village in Trieu An Commune. The two pilots deployed their parachutes to escape from the Jet. One of the two pilots died, the other, Phillip Allen Kientzler, was injured in the thigh and raised his hands to surrender," said Toan.

Peaceful aspiration from sacred land of Quang Tri: Part 1 - Peace is a shared desire

Nguyen Duc Toan and his family at home in Trieu Phuoc Commune, Trieu Phong District. Photo: H.N

"My teammates and I approached him, cut the parachute rope and then took Phillip to our shelter for bandaging."

At that time, Toan was only 20 years old, while the American pilot was in his 30s, almost twice as tall as Toan. In his battlefield diary, he wrote: "Tonight is January 27, 1973 - New Year’s Eve was peaceful, but the guns and bombs were not quite yet."

In the cramped bunker, Toan recalled the anxious emotions shown on the face of the pilot when he stared at him holding the gun and asking: “You won’t shoot me, will you?”. We were almost awake. Phillip could not sleep because of his injuries and perhaps also because of fear. The language is different, but I understood he was talking about his wife and 2-year-old daughter looking forward to his return in far-off America."

Phillip hoped to end the war and return to reunite his wife and kid. As for me, I dreamt of peace so I can return to work on the paddy fields of Co Village," Toan said.

After that, Toan was ordered to bring Phillip to the rear. At dawn on January 28, 1973, Phillip was taken to Hanoi.

Toan told that before leaving, the pilot looked at him gratefully. Toan also smiled and said: "If there is peace in the future. If you have a chance to come back here, visit me." Then, Toan followed the boat back to his unit and received orders to march to the South to fight until the country was completely liberated.

"Later, I learned that Phillip A. Kientzler was one of the last soldiers captured in Vietnam and also the last to board the plane to return home. His name was added in pencil at the end of the list of American prisoners of war returned home under the Paris Peace Accords signed on January 27, 1973," Toan said.

In temporarily enemy-occupied zones

After the Paris Peace Accords were reached, the Trieu Trach Commune in Trieu Phong District remained a borderline between the two sides - this may be a representative piece of land for what happened in Quang Tri then. The Linh An Village and two-thirds of Long Quang Village were occupied by the Republic of Vietnam army, and the remaining part was the area of ​​the Liberation Army. As American soldiers had wholly withdrawn from Vietnam, in the moment of cessation of gunfire, the soldiers on both sides in the front line were no longer as tense as before. Everyone was waiting for the day of peace...

Nguyen Duy Chien, 70, a resident of Long Quang Village who used to be a guerrilla platoon leader of Trieu Trach Commune, said that in 1973, a few months after the Paris Peace Accords was signed, the troops of the Republic of Vietnam built a barbed wire fence as a boundary, stretching from Cua Viet to Trieu Van Commune crossing the sandy beaches from Trieu Trach to Trieu Thanh Commune.

Although the area was temporarily occupied by the enemy, there were no longer scenes of fierce fighting and struggle for every inch of land like in the period of 1972 and before in Trieu Trach Commune. During the period from 1973 - to 1975, the enemy occasionally violated some regulations of the Paris Peace Accords, local troops fought back and, at the same time, opened propaganda loudspeakers along the key lines to denounce actions that violated the Accords' regulations and leniency policy of the Party and State.

“We focused on propaganda work at this time, mainly mobilizing and analyzing the situation so that the enemy understands the unjust war they were pursuing, the fight to protect national independence, and the desire for the national reunification of the entire people,” said Chien.

He said that the Trieu Trach commune’s guerrilla platoon in coordination with the main force to guard the Long Quang commanding post, which was the frontline for both sides. Before 1973, this was a place of fierce fighting.

"After the Paris Peace Accords signing, this area was quite peaceful even though both sides still strictly defended. The enemy side built field bunkers and sandbags running along the fortifications. We jointly built a meeting house where we, the commanders of both sides, occasionally organized meetings to exchange some related contents," said Chien.

According to Nguyen Xuan Lanh, 72, a resident living in Le Xuyen Village who used to be a guerrilla squad leader in Trieu Trach Commune, the liberation army had the upper hand in politics and the military.

Many years have passed, but Lanh still remembers the image of singing and dancing performances serving soldiers and people at the commanding point in the commune after the Paris Peace Accords signed in 1973.

"As artists performed, we, the soldiers on both sides, sat together, everyone looking intently at the stage. Sometimes artists sing a song with content referring to violations of the enemy side, and their commander gets angry and orders the troops to withdraw, not daring to do anything against us," Lanh.

Peaceful aspiration from sacred land of Quang Tri: Part 1 - Peace is a shared desire

Truong Thi Chien, left, recalls her time at agitprop work on the battlefield. Photo: M.L

Truong Thi Chien, 69, who is living in Bich La Hau Village, Trieu Tai Commune, Trieu Phong District, said as one of the people directly involved in military operations at that time, she had contact with many soldiers on the enemy side. She felt the Republic of Vietnam’s soldiers' desire to return home and reunite with their family members.

Chien said she took on the task of going to Long Quang’s commanding post to convince the soldiers on the enemy side to give up their guns and join the national revolution.

"At around 5 p.m. every day, we guerrillas were assigned to give gifts, including Dien Bien cigarettes and Hai Ha candy, to the soldiers of the enemy side. Most of the soldiers of the Republic of Vietnam listened to what we said, some put down their guns and returned home, no longer participating in combat," Chien recalled.

Most soldiers of the Republic of Vietnam were from the South. Among them, many people joined the pupet administration’s army because they were forced to participate in an unjust war. "I always explained the revolution’s leniency policy, reminding them that back home, their parents and relatives were looking forward to the reunion day.

"We advised them to join the national revolution as soon as possible and comply with the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords so that the country would be reunified and peaceful. Some people burst into tears after listening, some remained silent, while others got angry and opened fire, making us face danger at that time," Chien said.

On March 19, 1975, Hai Lang District, the last area of Quang Tri Province, was completely liberated. The victory in this area caused the defense line of the army of the Republic of Vietnam to collapse, and nothing could be saved. True peace has returned to Quang Tri, ending years of painful war and loss.

Lam Thanh - Hoai Huong - Tu Linh - Ngan Ha

Tin liên quan:
  • Peaceful aspiration from sacred land of Quang Tri: Part 1 - Peace is a shared desire
    Peaceful aspiration from sacred land of Quang Tri: Part 2 - Talks full of deep ...

    After the war ended, the soldiers on both sides of the front line never thought that one day, they would set foot in each other’s country to tell the war story and heal the wounds it left behind. There are opportunities for them to do that to contribute to eradicating the hatred caused by the war. The tale of veteran Nguyen Duc Toan, the family of the last American pilot captured in Vietnam, and many American veterans have proved it.

  • Peaceful aspiration from sacred land of Quang Tri: Part 1 - Peace is a shared desire
    Peaceful aspiration from sacred land of Quang Tri: Part 3 - On the thriving

    The tales of war highlight the importance of peace. The narratives of revival in Quang Tri enhance the value of peace. The once war-torn and desolate Quang Tri is now a relic of the past, replaced by lush greenery shading fields and villages. Peace flourishes and thrives on this land.

Lam Thanh - Hoai Huong - Tu Linh - Ngan Ha

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