Nguyen Cong Danh:
The Battle of Ap Bac started on January 2nd, 1963. The development of the
Ap Bac Battle was as
follows: At 6:30 a.m. a convoy of helicopters came roaring down along
Highway 4 to the My Phuoc Tay relocation area
and then directly to our place to pour down their troops.
We opened fire suddenly and downed a number of
helicopters just right in front of the battleground which we had
prepared. It was only about 200 to 300 meters from where we were. The
troops on the helicopters were killed and wounded and some managed to
jump out of the helicopters.
Subsequently, the enemy called in artillery fire from
four various locations, from their firebase in Long
Dinh, in Thuoc Nhieu,
in Cai Lay
and in the My Phuoc
Tay relocation area. They shelled from four different directions. It was
a ferocious battle; there was fire and smoke everywhere. But we were
ready to fight back all the waves of enemy troops which came pouring in.
After that the enemy sent in a company of security
forces from Cai Lay
attacked us at our first anchor of defense at the Ong Boi bridge. We
immediately destroyed this company, and its remnants had to flee at
around 8:00 a.m.
After that, they sent in another company from the west,
aiming at attacking us from behind. But we were ready for them and again
managed to destroy this company, and its remnants also retreated to a
distance and did not dare to move forward again.
At about the same time there was another battalion of
troops which was brought in by the helicopters. They landed at the road
intersection of Mieu Hoi, intending to attack us on the flank and from
the west. But this battalion was pushed back by only a small contingent
of our forces. They were unable to advance. The captain commander of the
battalion himself shot to pieces his radio in order to cut off
communication with his superiors who were then given orders from the
The battle continued until around 12:00 noon when
the enemy was forced to send in a convoy of armored vehicles which came
down on Highway 4, through the villages of Tan Hoi and Tan Phu, and
directly to the Battle of Ap
Bac. Along with this convoy of M-113s were infantrymen who helped
to protect them. When they arrived at the battle they deployed their
armored vehicles just about 200 to 300 meters from us.
Nguyen Cong Danh:
At 12:30 p.m. the enemy was
forced to send in a convoy of armored vehicles which came down on
Highway 9, through Tan hoi village, and into the battleground. They
deployed the convoy and, in coordination with the infantry, they
attacked us. The armored vehicles brought along infantrymen to protect
them and to fight against us.
At around 1300 hours the M-113s, the infantry, the
airplanes, the helicopter gunships and the fighter bombers opened fire
profusely and ferociously at us. This was in preparation for a
counterattack. After this softening up of the area with bombs and
artillery shells and other forms of firepower, the M-113s and the
infantrymen advanced directly into our battleground.
After about half an hour of combat, we destroyed and
damaged a number of M-113s and the infantry also broke up and ran to
different directions. They left the dead and the wounded on the ground.
At about the same time the enemy also sent in a convoy
of patrol boats down the Nguyen Tan Thanh River, heading toward the
battle about five to
seven kilometers to our backs. They intended to land their troops and
attack us from behind as well as to cut off our route for retreat.
But we had prepared for this convoy of boats by using
mines and bazookas, destroying and setting a number of boats on fire.
The rest of the boats backed up and were unable to advance. All the
other units which coordinated with the M-113s to attack us were all
Therefore, the first wave of counterattacks by the
M-113s was defeated. We believed then that we could maintain our ground
until that night, although a small number of our comrades had been
killed and injured. But we were determined to maintain our ground and to
fight to the last man.
During each subsequent attack, the M-113s expended a
lot of firepower into the area. And the bombers and artillery also
pounded our battleground. It was thick with smoke and we could not even
see each other when we were about five meters apart.
But we clung on to our foxholes and trenches and were
determined to fight to the end. There were many subsequent
counterattacks. Finally, we organized a cell which was commanded by
Brother Nguyen Van Dung (who sacrificed himself and was buried there)
who was assigned to carry grenades and explosives to crawl up to the
M-113s by taking advantage of the undulating terrain and the ditches to
attack them by lobbing grenades into the M-113s through the windows.
As a result, this cell managed to blow up two M-113s.
When the cell returned to their positions, other armored vehicles shot
after them and they were all killed. But the entire convoy of M-113s and
the infantrymen who accompanied them were all beaten back.
From around 1500 to 1600 hours, General Le Van Ty
who was at that time
the Chief of Staff, the Commander of F-7 and the Commander in chief of
Dinh Tuong province
inspected the battle from
the air. They realized that it would soon get dark and yet they were
still unable to finish with the battle. Therefore, the Saigon High Command decided to send
in the airborne division from Saigon to destroy our forces and to occupy
At that same time, the enemy brought domestic and
foreign reporters to the Thuoc Nhieu marketplace which was on Highway 9
to take pictures and make films of the confident announcements of the
puppet forces there. They declared that they would destroy all of our
forces in the Ap Bac
Battle before nightfall and that they would bring back the Viet Cong alive to show to the
reporters. So the reporters waited there to find out how the battle
would finally end.
At around 1600 hours a squadron of about sixteen
Dakotas circled above our position. We did not expect them to bring in
the paratroopers. But all of a sudden we saw the paratroopers came
pouring out. At the same time, four bombers poured bombs down on our
position in order to control our firing and to get the paratroopers to
land on the ground safely.
But we did not pay any attention to this firepower
and decided to fight and destroy the paratroopers at all costs to
maintain our position. For this reason, we started shooting at the
paratroopers while they were still in the air and just as they landed on
the ground. So the paratroopers suffered certain casualties in the air
and on the ground.
And the paratroopers started to pour down at the
elevation of about 1,000 meters. Their jumping skills were not so good
since they landed all over our battleground. At that time they became
mixed up with us like "cooked rice and beans" and so we were forced to
fight them in close combat.
After about half an hour, we wiped out all the
paratroopers who landed on our position. After that, we began to fight
the incoming forces. After that, the paratroopers began to deploy their
forces and began to attack the position of our Company 514 with the hope
of destroying the whole battle position which had shot down their
helicopters and damaged their M-113s.
But after waves and waves of attack which they
thought would squeeze us to death, but we were determined to fight to
the last man to maintain our battleground.
Therefore, finally with our courage and our simple
rifles we managed to destroy the paratroopers and cause heavy casualties
to them. After eight waves of attacks, which lasted until about 2000
hours, the paratroopers suffered so many casualties that they lost their
combat effectiveness and could not advance anymore.
Therefore, the paratroopers had to draw back to a
distance. By that time, they left the dead and wounded all over the
battlefield. The wounded were groaning, yelling and scolding President
Ngo Dinh Diem for
having sent the paratroopers to the burying ground. This further boosted
our morale and our spirit.
And, in my entire fighting
life, this was the time when we reaped the highest victory ever since
the General Uprisings. This was also the first battle in which we fought
all day against the enemy and against all their armed forces: the air
force, the navy, the armored units, the artillery and the infantry whose
combined strength was ten times larger than ours. But we were able to