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Interview with Bui Tin [2], 1981

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Summary
Bui Tin, a Colonel in the People's Army of Vietnam, describes the liberation of Saigon by the North Vietnamese in 1975. He recalls being one of the first officers to enter Independence Palace where they demanded the surrender of members of the government of the Republic of Vietnam.
Topics
Strategy, Capitulations, Military, Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Personal narratives, North Vietnamese, Vietnamese reunification question (1954-1976), Vietnam--Politics and government
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Transcript

The 1975 General Offensive

SR 2005
COL. BUT TIN
Beep tone
Roll 5, Vietnam Project 7860, 2nd of 2nd, 1981.
24, Take 1
Interviewer:
Could you tell us of the final hours before the liberation of Saigon and your experience in that? How you went to Bien Hoa in your tank and so on?
Bui Tin:
I went along with a tank unit in the offensive. On the night of the 29th and the early morning of the 30th I was overjoyed because I felt that the war was coming to an end soon. We drove our tanks directly to the Independence Palace in Saigon. On the roof top of the Palace the flag of the Saigon puppet regime was still flying. When I ran up to the second floor I saw all the members of the Duong Van Minh administration sitting there.
By that time one of our officers told them that a high officer in the Liberation Forces would come to meet with them. So when they saw me walking into the room, they all stood up. Next to Duong Van Minh I recognized Vu Van Mau, prime minister, and Vu Van Huyen, deputy prime minister. Duong Van Minh then said to me: "I've been waiting for you since early this morning in order to turn the government over to you."
Fear appeared on all of their faces. I then said to them: "There is no need to go over the business of transferring the administration to us, because your entire administration has collapsed. Your only choice is to surrender because you just cannot turn over that which you don't have in your hand." Seeing that they all bowed their heads in total dejection and that some cowered in fear along the walls when they heard gunfire on the outside, I said to them gently: "There is no need to fear. You are perfectly safe here. The soldiers are only celebrating outside."
Seeing that fear and worry persisted on their faces, I tried to calm them down by adding: "Although the war is ended today, all Vietnamese are victors. Only the American imperialists are the vanquished. If you still have any feeling for the nation and the people, then you can consider this day your own happy day, your day of victory." Duong Van Minh and Vu Van Mau smiled after I finished saying this. Their faces brightened up. These are just a few sketches of April 30th, the happiest day of my entire career up to that time. After that, I sat down at Nguyen Van Thieu's desk to do some writing.
25, Take l
Clapstick
Bui Tin:
Regarding the 1975 Offensive, we knew after the fall of Da Nang things would progress very quickly. We therefore headed for Ban Me Thuot. When we arrived in Ban Me Thuot we went to the Command Headquarters of the Liberation Army at Dau Tieng. We learned then that the General Offensive was about to begin; and so we headed for Bien Hoa, arriving on the night of the 29th.
The advance from Bien Hoa to Saigon was very speedy, making everyone feel that the war was soon coming to an end. The soldiers were all very tired, but they were all happy to take part in an historic day. As we advanced with our tanks to the Saigon Bridge, a battle took place. Their F-5s attacked us from the air and their artillery shells came from the other side of the river. We had to charge across the river with many of our tanks.
After we reached the other side of the Saigon ridge we went straight down Hong Thap Tu Avenue turned to Thong Nhat, or Norodom, Avenue, and then headed straight for the Independence Palace. When we arrived at the Palace, I walked up to the second floor where members of the puppet administration were already gathering there. There were President Duong Van Minh, Prime Minister Vu Van Mau, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Huyen, and many ministers sitting in a large room there.
One of our officers went into the room and declared that a high officer of the Liberation Army was about to meet with them. I was then introduced into the room. As I entered, everybody stood up. Duong Van Minh then stepped out of the crowd and said: "I've been waiting for you since early this morning in order to turn over the government to you." To which I replied at once: "There is no need to talk of transferring the government to us. Your entire administration has collapsed. People cannot turn over what they don't have in their own hands.
Your only choice is to surrender." At that time all the people in the room bowed their heads in total dejection. Immediately after that there were artillery fires outside the Palace, causing all its windows and door to vibrate violently. The people in the room were frightened, and some cowered along the walls. I told them not to worry, saying that it was only the soldiers celebrating outside and that they were all safe where they were. When I saw that fear persisted on their faces, I said to Duong Van Minh, Vu Van Mau and their ministers who were sitting there that, "Although the war ends today, all Vietnamese are victors.
Only the American imperialists are the vanquished. If you still have any feeling for the nation and the people, you can consider today your happy day." Their faces brightened up at this. I would like to add that, as far as the advance on Saigon was concerned, we had five main targets. The first main target was the Independence Palace, the second was the Tan Son Nhut airport, the third was the ARVN Command Headquarters, the fourth was the Command Headquarters for Saigon, and the fifth was the National Police Headquarters.
As far as the American Embassy was concerned, we had orders that we should not attack and destroy it. It was alright to capture Americans. But the main thing was to allow the Americans to flee, thereby securing our victory. The American Embassy was never a target because we knew that the Americans had been fleeing from there and that the Embassy was not defended. If they had resisted us with arms, then we would have had to attack the place. But the important thing was to get them to surrender or to flee.
26 Take 1
Clapstick
Interviewer:
What was your feeling at the time?
Bui Tin:
I felt very happy although I was very tired that day, having had to sit in the tank all day without eating anything. I had only gulped down some water now and then from my canteen. But I felt very happy because I knew complete victory was at hand and that I was one of the participants of the historic event, an eyewitness as well as a person who helped in that historic event. That night, when I sprawled on the lawn of the Independence Palace with members of a communication unit, we all agreed that it was the happiest day of our lives because it was a day of complete victory for nation, because the war ended.
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