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Interview with Phung The Tai, 1981

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Summary
Phung The Tai was a General in the North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War. He recalls the Tonkin Gulf Incident – which he terms a fabrication of the United States National Security Council – and how he had prepared the air defenses for the inevitable attack from the American forces. After offering his version of the true Tonkin Gulf Incidents, General Tai notes that his defenses were able to down eight American planes and damaged three others.
Topics
Prisoners of war, Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Aerial operations, American, Pilots and pilotage, Escalation (Military science), Fishers, Kidnapping, Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Personal narratives, Vietnamese, Antiaircraft artillery, China--Foreign relations--Vietnam, Armed Forces--Mobilization, United States--History, Military--20th century
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Transcript

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident from a North Vietnamese perspective

SR 2052
GEN. PHUNG THE TAI
Beep tone
[The whole tape is hardly audible even at maximum volume]
Interview with General Phung The Tai.
Clapstick
403, Take 1
Phung The Tai:
In 1964, nearly seventeen years ago, the United States concocted a so called Gulf of Tonkin Incident so as to be able to use its air force to attack and destroy certain places in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
[Pause]
404 Take 1
Clapstick
Phung The Tai:
The air and naval bombardment of our country preceded a destructive war which now escalated now de escalated. The end result of this war was that we were able to destroy 4,181 American airplanes and captured 493 American pilots. After that, in 1972, the United States used B-52s to carry out a strategic bombing of Hanoi for eighteen days and nights. During this period, we were able to down 81 American planes, among them 34 B-52s and 11 F-111s. Forty four American pilots were also taken prisoner.
Why did the United States create this Gulf of Tonkin Incident? This was because the struggle of our compatriots in the South became stronger every day, making it impossible for the United States to squash them. Therefore, the United States devised three strategic plans called [incomprehensible]. We knew of all these plans and schemes by the United States. For example, the Alpha-34 plan was to direct commando raids in our rear areas, destroying communication lines, kidnapping people and creating problems for the fishermen along the coastal areas.
The Ellery (?) plan was to use the 2nd Air Reconnaissance Unit of the Seventh Fleet to take pictures of our coastal areas and our communication network in order to carry out the destructive war which I mentioned. And the [incomprehensible] plan was to conduct electronic surveillance and to drive away the fishermen. This was called a blockade of the Tonkin Gulf. The main purpose of the plan was to prevent our fishermen from going out to sea, to put our coastal and island defenses under surveillance and to snoop on our radar and antiaircraft positions along the coast. When the United States carried out these plans, it eventually met with failure. I remember that in 1964 the Chinese ambassador, named Chu Ky Van (Qou Qi Wen) [sic], advised us... (Pause)
405 Take 1
Clapstick
Phung The Tai:
From 1961 to 1963 all the American plans failed. By 1964, the United States put into practice a new plan called Alpha 34. While the Americans were concentrating their air and naval power for an attack on our country, the Chinese ambassador in Hanoi, named Chu Ky Van [sic], advised us that we should allow the Americans to do whatever they wanted and that we should not confront them in any way. But we did not take this advice.
Under this situation, our government and Party convened meetings to discuss the schemes of the United States with regard to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. After that, the order went out that the entire Party, the entire population and the entire armed forces should be prepared to deal with the new situation. On its part, the Defense Department ordered that there should be a state of preparedness on all fronts. And the Military High Command, through General Van Tien Dung, the present Defense Minister, ordered me to urgently prepare all the air defense forces and air forces to be ready for combat. In carrying out this order, I put the radar units, anti aircraft units, rocket units and the entire air force on alert. We were determined not to be taken by surprise at any time and were ready to deliver appropriate counter blows when attacked.
406 Take 1
Clapstick
Phung The Tai:
On August 1 the Maddox sailed from Da Nang to next to Hon Me Island which was within the territorial waters of Thanh Hoa province. We knew for sure that it was the Maddox because we had been following it since July 31. Therefore, when it arrived our radar picked it up very clearly. There was no mistake about it. On August 2 the ship continued to attack a number of our fishing boats. Our patrol boats were therefore forced to fight back. The Maddox was hit and fled southward. And our boats returned to port safely.
[Pause]
407, Take 1
Clapstick
Phung The Tai:
On August 4 and 5 the United States again sent two ships to near the Hon Me Island, well within the territorial waters of Thanh Hoa province. And then they concocted the so called Incident of the Gulf of Tonkin, totally without the participation of the Maddox. This was in order to fool the American people. On August 5, General Van Tien Dung, who was at that time the Chief of Staff, ordered me at around 12 noon that I should put my troops on alert so that they be ready for combat.
We received news that over 100 sorties had been launched from two American aircraft carriers, the USS Ticonderoga and the USS Constellation to attack targets in Lach Truong, Song Ranh, Vinh and Hon Gai. Since we had detected the enemy planes two hundred kilometers before arriving over the targets, the air defense forces were calm and fought valiantly from 1230 to 1600 hours. As a result, we were able to down eight airplanes and damaged three others as well as to capture a pilot named [incomprehensible].
408, TAKE 1
Clapstick
Phung The Tai:
When the (Maddox) ship was hit by our torpedo boats, it ran southward under the escort of another ship.
409, Take 1
Clapstick
Phung The Tai:
On the night of August 4, the United States concocted the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. While it was sending its boats into our territorial waters, its National Security Council met. It also sent its airplanes over our airspace in order to provoke us and to concoct that fake Gulf of Tonkin Incident so as to use the excuse to attack a number of targets in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
410, Take 1
Clapstick
Phung The Tai:
On the night of August 4, the United States made public the so called Gulf of Tonkin Incident. But this was a fake story created by the US National Security Council. And while the National Security Council met, they sent airplanes to destroy a number of areas in our country. In reality, there was no such thing as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident.
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