Repression under the French and Diem

SR 2016
Beep tone
Roll 16, Vietnam Project, 7860
129, Take 1
Interview with Major General Hoang Anh Tuan
I want you to talk a little bit about your memory of Hue as a student. What it was like under the French?
Hoang Anh Tuan:
I was born in Hue and went to schools there as a child and as a young man. Under the French colonial administration our French teachers made us learn by heart the fact that our forefathers were Gauls. One day, when I was walking along the street I happened to look at a French doctor who stopped and slapped me on the face, heaping insults on me in the meantime, because I was a native of a colonized country.
Under the French we did not have any freedom at all. This is not to mention the ever deteriorating conditions of the general population. It was for all these reasons that when I grew up I followed the revolution with the hope of regaining independence and happiness for my people.
130 Take 1
For the Resistance fighters who went up North, what happened to their families which remained in the South under the Diem regime?
Hoang Anh Tuan:
The Geneva Agreements of 1954 recognized the complete liberation of one half of Vietnam, from the 17th parallel up north, and temporarily placed the southern half under the control of the French. The Agreements stipulated that a general election would be held in two years in order to reunify the country.
In strictly carrying out the Geneva Agreements, all the administrative personnel and all the armed forces of the Vietnamese Revolution moved from the southern half to the northern half of the country. But all the families of these people remained behind. It can be stated that most of the families in the South had one or more members who had followed the revolution and who, after the signing of the Geneva Agreements, went up North.
But in violation of the stipulations of the Agreements, the Diem regime, a puppet regime of the United States, opposed the carrying out of the Agreements. They began to repress the southern population, depriving the latter of all democratic rights and freedom.
They were especially harsh in their treatment against the families whose members or relatives had moved up north. They regarded these families as families which opposed their regime and they used every means at their disposal to repress these families. They forced wives to reject their husbands who had gone to the North. And the parents and other family members were not regarded as ordinary citizens.
The regime was also very repressive against the general population of the South. For many years after the signing of the Geneva Agreements, the southern population, out of their desire for national reunification and independence, struggled to demand that the regime in the South carry out the Agreements and allow the general elections to come about in order reunify the country.
In answering all of this, however, the Diem regime started a unilateral war against the population by using large scale armed units to smash the popular struggles. They also issued their 10/59 Law Code, a really fascistic law code, and used that to legalize the execution by guillotines of patriotic people who demanded peace and national unification.
131, Take 1
General, the elections were annulled in 1956. But armed struggles in the South only started three or four years after that. Why so late?
Hoang Anh Tuan:
The Geneva Agreements on Indochina stipulated that the two regions of Vietnam should hold consultative meetings to organize the general election in order to achieve peaceful unification of the country. The Vietnamese people, both in the North and in the South, and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, in strictly carrying out the Agreements, patiently struggled to have the consultative meetings and the general elections come about.
But in answering to all our initiatives, the Diem regime, in following the American neocolonial policies, only stepped up its suppression of all those Vietnamese who demanded that the Agreements be carried out. When the south could not stand the repression against them any more, they rose up in struggle, combining armed activities with political activities, in order to liberate themselves.
This struggle of the southern population began with the general uprisings in the final months of 1960. This was at the same time as the creation of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam. In brief, after the people in the South realized that they had failed to get the southern regime to carry out the Agreements through political struggles, they were forced to take up arms to liberate themselves.

Objective of the Tet Offensive

132 Take 1
Could you talk a little bit about the 1968 Tet Offensive? What were the objectives of the Tet Offensive? Was the capture of the cities one of the objectives? And why, for example, did you fight for forty days in a city like Hue?
Hoang Anh Tuan:
After her Special War against the Vietnamese revolution in the South, the United States still did not abandon its objective of dominating the South. Instead, the United States poured troops into the South to start a direct war against the people in the South, a war that became increasingly large scale from 1965 on. At the height of the war there were more than half a million American troops in Vietnam.
Although the United States mounted ever increasingly large and destructive military offensives, it was never able to smash the Vietnamese revolution in the South. On the contrary, the war escalations by the United States only invited further defeats at the hands of the Vietnamese people.
Realizing the inevitable American failures, in the spring of 1968, which was during the occasion of the lunar New Year of Mau Than, the armed forces and population in southern Vietnam mounted a large scale offensive. This offensive combined armed attacks and popular uprisings and aimed mainly at the towns and cities of southern Vietnam. That is to say, at the nerve centers of the enemy, at their political and military command centers, in order to deal the enemy severe blows and thereby force the enemy to deescalate the war in stages and to eventually end their aggressive war against South Vietnam.
The objective of the strategic offensive in the spring of 1968 was to create severe losses to the enemy in their very nerve centers. It can be stated that virtually all towns and cities under the enemy's control were attacked.
In some places the various revolutionary armed forces fought for only a short period and then left. But in many places the fighting was prolonged in order to inflict heavier losses to the enemy.
The fighting in Hue was a case in point. The revolutionary armed forces remained there for more than twenty-four days with the objective of inflicting as many losses to the enemy as possible. But when the objective was considered accomplished, the armed units were withdrawn.
Some people have thought that the objective of the Spring Offensive of 1968 was to occupy the southern towns and cities and to liberate them. But they are quite mistaken. But this was only an offensive aimed at creating heavy strategic losses to the enemy, thereby contributing to step by step victories that would eventually lead to the complete liberation of the South.

The P.R.G. in Saigon

SR 2017
Beep tone
Roll 17, Vietnam Project
133, Take 1
General, could you tell us of your impressions of Saigon when you saw it for the first time. What effects did it have on you?
Hoang Anh Tuan:
I went to Saigon as a member of the military delegation of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam to the Joint Military Commission. When I arrived in Saigon from base area of the Resistance, they took me straight to the headquarters of the Joint Military Commission which was located inside the military compound at Tan Son Nhut airport.
Strictly speaking, the headquarters of the Joint Military Commission should have been located in downtown Saigon, which was the administrative center for the southern part of Vietnam. But the Americans and the Nguyen Van Thieu regime were afraid that the revolutionary delegation would be able to extend their influence among the Saigon population. So they made the arbitrary arrangement to place our delegation and the headquarters of the Joint Military Commission inside the military compound in Tan Son Nhut.
And they did not extend to us any of the rights and privileges, even the minimum diplomatic privileges, which had been clearly spelled out in the accords signed in Paris. But now and then, as a result of our consistent demands that the Agreements be implemented and that we should be allowed to perform our duties with regard to the accords, the Saigon regime let us go to downtown Saigon in order to work with the International Commission of Control and Supervision [sic]. Whenever this happened, they arranged it in such a way that we would be taken to downtown Saigon in a motorcade which ran at top speed and which was well surrounded by their military police so that we would not have any opportunity of meeting with the inhabitants of Saigon or even enjoying the street scenes.
However, these few trips to downtown Saigon did leave certain impressions in my mind. This was one of the largest and most populous cities in Vietnam. And Saigon had a tradition of indomitable struggles. But under the American neocolonial system and the rule of the Saigon regime, the way of life of the people in Saigon had been infected in many ways by the luxury loving American way of life. Saigon had become a city of conspicuous consumers, an American city.
Even so, and with the motorcade speeding down the streets as I have just said, I sometimes caught sight of the smiles and endearing looks of the pedestrians who recognized us by chance. This showed that although they were living under the tight control of the American neocolonialists and the American puppet regime, the inhabitants of Saigon still had their minds turned toward the revolution and those who struggled for their liberation.

American deception of the Paris Agreement and the Communist retaliation

134 Take 1
Could you talk a little bit about the cease-fire? What really happened during the cease fire? Who began violating the cease fire? And what were the reactions of your own troops to the violations?
Hoang Anh Tuan:
The Paris Agreements on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam represented a significant victory by the Vietnamese people. With the signing of the Agreements, the United States had to officially agree to respect the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam, to withdraw all American and satellite troops from South Vietnam and to cease all military ties and all interventions in the internal affairs of the southern part of Vietnam.
Because of American interests and because it did not want to get bogged down in the war, the United States did implement the provisions on troop withdrawal. All American and satellite forces withdrew from Vietnam in 60 days. At the same time, we returned to the United States all captured civilian and military personnel.
But these were the only provisions of the Agreements that were implemented. Otherwise, the United States did not end its military ties and its intervention in the internal affairs of the South. The United States and the Nguyen Van Thieu regime refused to strictly carry out the provisions of the Paris agreements which included, first of all, a cease fire. It can be stated that after the withdrawal of the American troops, there was never really a cease fire on the battlefields.
After a very brief period of consolidating its forces, the Saigon regime continued with its military operations into the areas under the control of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Vietnam with the aim of narrowing down those areas. At the same time, in the areas under its control, the Thieu regime stepped up repression and smothered all democratic freedoms. The southern inhabitants and the Vietnamese people as a whole, while pointing out to the whole world the violations committed by the Thieu regime, patiently demanded that negotiations should be held in order to implement the provisions of the cease-fire.
But the Saigon regime, with the support and connivance of the United States, still held on to the illusion that it could roll back the Vietnamese revolution within the context of the new situation by violating the Paris Agreement unilaterally. They tried everything possible to regain the things which the combined US and Saigon forces had been unable to take previously. The armed forces and the population of the South, when realizing that they could no longer use peaceful means in order to protect the gains of their revolution, were forced to fight back militarily.
But it was not until the Spring Offensive of 1975, with the collapse and total disintegration of the Saigon armed forces and the Saigon regime – cheered by friends and progressive elements from all around the world – that the armed forces and the people of South Vietnam achieved the basic objective of their revolution. This was the objective which was inscribed fully in the first article of the Paris Agreement. And this was independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam.
135, Take 1
What were your experiences during the final phrase of the Ho Chi Minh campaign when you were in Tan Son Nhut, with all the shells falling around you, and so on?
Hoang Anh Tuan:
For two years after the signing of the Paris Agreements, the Vietnamese people and the delegates of the Provisional Revolutionary Government to the Joint Military Commission had patiently demanded that the United States and the Thieu regime implement the provisions of the Agreements. But in face of their adamant attitude and their ever increasing war activities, the armed forces and the people of South Vietnam had to strike back.
The struggle inevitably led to the Spring Offensive of 1975 which aimed at making the Thieu regime and its armed forces disintegrate. During our stay at Tan Son Nhut, our delegation had the job of pointing out the violations of the Agreements by the Thieu regime at the Joint Military Commission. For this reason, we followed very closely the struggles of our people and our armed forces against the violations committed by the Thieu regime.
From where we were, we also realized that all these struggles had to lead eventually to a general offensive like the one which occurred in the spring of 1975 before the objectives recognized in the Paris Agreement could be achieved. This was because two years after the signing of the Paris Agreement, there was one proven constant. And that was the United States and its puppets would never abide by the Agreements by abandoning their colonial interests and by respecting the sacred rights of the Vietnamese people.
So during the last days of the Ho Chi Minh Campaign, which meant during the attack mounted on Saigon, our delegation witnessed the fierce battle for the liberation of Saigon. Sitting there under the showers of shells and bullets from both sides, we realized that victory was close at hand. On April 30, 1975, when we climbed out of our bomb shelter we were met with one of the many contingents of our liberation forces and were glad that our job at the Joint Military Commission was now ended, ended with the liberation of Saigon and of all of South Vietnam – a goal for which we had been fighting for years.
[Question put to translator] He didn't talk about the shells falling? I asked him to talk about that.