Nguyen Cong Thanh:
On April 27th
my unit had marched through the provinces of
, Phuoc Long
and Loc Ninh
and had arrived at a
place about thirty kilometers from the base camp of Dong Du
. We were stationed to the northwest of
it and waiting for the order to open fire and to take over the base
camp. The Dong Du
base camp had
been known as the "Tropical Thunderbolt" base camp of the American 25th
After the Americans left, they turned the base over
to the 25th Army Division of the puppet regime. This division was
commanded by Lt. General Ly Tong Ba.
The assault on Dong
posed certain difficulties. First of all Dong Du
was "the iron gate of
" as the
Nguyen Van Thieu
regime had boasted. It was to the northwest of Saigon
and situated on
Highway One, right on the route from Tay Ninh province and the route
from Long Binh heading toward Saigon
This was therefore a well situated unit which had
been especially beefed up and which the Americans had bragged that no
NLF unit could attack
successfully. On the outside of the Dong Du
base, to the north and to the west, more than half
of the surroundings were marshland. In some places the marshland was up
to three kilometers in width. Therefore the attack on Dong Du
was somewhat difficult.
My unit had to march around to Highway One on our way
down from Tay Ninh by passing through Trung Hoa and around to the west
of the base camp to attack it. Lt. General Ly Tong Ba at that time did
not understand the real situation of the battlefield and was therefore
After our unit arrived just outside the base camp,
Lt. General Ly Tong Ba ordered the 135th Battalion which was composed of
security forces and civilian guards to come from Lam Son and Hoc Mon to
reinforce the base camp and to attack us from the rear. According to the
soldiers which we took prisoners, Ly Tong Ba ordered them to fight until
the end and not to abandon their position.
Therefore, it was not that easy to attack Dong Du
. In order to take over
the base camp we had to deploy three divisions of regular forces and a
regiment of Special Forces.
From the outside to the moat of the base camp there
were 50 meters of various layers of fences. Therefore, it was already
difficult to cut through this thick layer of fences let alone the spiked
But because of the enthusiasm of the soldiers and the
momentum of the campaign which was named after our beloved President Ho, each person,
each soldier, told the other that the base camp had to be taken. We knew
that we were only thirty-two kilometers from Saigon
and so we were
eager to wipe out Dong Du
order to get to Saigon
. So we were greatly determined.
On the enemy side, the generals were quite determined
to resist us. But their soldiers were in no mood to fight anymore. So as
soon as we lobbed artillery shells into the base, their soldiers began
In fact, the first thing that happened was that the
families of the soldiers had all left the base camp before our attack.
This was quite advantageous for us. So we were no longer afraid to hit
the civilian population as we had been.
Hence, when we opened fire and rushed in with tanks
and armored vehicles the soldiers fled. Some only put up a half-hearted
fight and then threw away their guns and fled. Some of them were killed
and some stripped off their uniforms, put on civilian clothes and fled.
When our tanks approached the Command bunker of Lt.
Ly Tong Ba we found out that he had taken off his uniform and had put on
a suit of white civilian clothes in the attempt to sneak out.
Therefore, from the time we opened fire in the
morning to about 2:00 p.m. we were able to overrun Dong Du
which was a base camp of six square
kilometers. It was a very large base camp and resembled a district or
provincial town in there.
It was a self sufficient place. It had two huge fuel
tanks which burnt from morning till night on April 29th. This is to say
that standing about thirty kilometers away we could still see the smoke
rising from these two fuel tanks.
When we came to attack Dong Du
our unit was told to divide itself into
two detachments. One was to come down on Highway 13, crossing through
Cau Sang and Hoc Mon and taking over Hoc Mon in order to stop any
reinforcement from Saigon
and Quang Trung to allow our unit the free hand to attack
. Therefore, when we
got through with Dong Du
detachment over there also completed the liberation of Hoc Mon.
So there was a pincer movement and when the enemy
tried to flee, they did not have any place to go to. We were attacking
from both ends and the fleeing troops were caught right in the middle.
After we had taken over Dong Du
, we advanced toward Ap
Cho and Tan Phu Trung to take them over.
Nguyen Cong Thanh:
We took over Dong Du
around 2:00 p.m. At about
that time, another detachment had already liberated Hoc Mon. So the
fleeing troops were in a very precarious situation. To the north Dong Du
had been taken over, to
the south Hoc Mon had been liberated. Therefore, they were caught in the
middle on the route from Dong
to Hoc Mon.
The enemy vehicles – M-48s, M-41s, M-113s and all
kinds of motor vehicles which had been employed in the escape – which
converged on Ap Cho in Tan Phu
Trung ran into
our unit there and had no place to go.
Faced with this situation, the tanks and the armored
vehicles all ran into the paddy fields in the effort to escape. And if
you had were here about three years ago, you would have seen all these
tanks and armored vehicles still lying in the paddy fields.
When we liberated the Dong Du
base camp, there were many armored vehicles and
motor vehicles there. And the prisoners of war we had who knew how to
drive these vehicles volunteered to drive them for us, enabling us to
chase after the enemy quickly. Therefore, our unit had an additional
group of about fifteen drivers who were POW’s.
Our own soldiers who knew how to drive the vehicles
jumped up on these vehicles and took our troops down the attack route.
Along the way, we saw a lot of vehicles which still had their engines on
and which were just parked by the roadside.
When the vehicles got stuck in the mud of the paddy
fields which were quite deep, they could not move anymore and so their
passengers had to get out and run. And so, they all had to surrender
even though we did not attack them at all.