The one and only southern man joining Dien Bien Phu Campaign (Part 3)
PANO - A tense day had passed.
As the night had felt, a comrade from the Command of Phu Thong Battalion met with Viet. He asked Viet to command the attack on French paratroopers and Viet agreed.
However, some minutes later, there was an order to cancel the attack.
That night, our artillery kept shelling the enemy’s airport and artillery locations and French fighters sometimes flew high in circles while our antiaircraft guns opened fire. There was no clear combat on the whole battle-field.
French troops tried to reinforce their remaining posts. Our troops both reinforced and secured heights we occupied during the first evening of the second attack.
Company 245, with Viet as a commissar, took an order to withdraw from Hill E. On their way, the Company met the cooks waiting for them in a communication trench and, that night, the Company had enjoyed rice balls, water and other foodstuff.
On the following nights, they dug combat trenches.
30 days had passed since the day they launched the attack. There was only one platoon left in the Company. However, the combat trenches to Muong Thanh Airport were extended longer and longer.
Near the end of the Campaign, Company 245 was reinforced with a platoon from a Company in charge of defending the Headquarters of Brigade 312, yet, the Company had only 50 men.
In the daytime, the Company sniped at the enemy and marked the landing field of parachute supplies. At around 10pm, several of our troops went there to cut parachutes and carry kegs of foodstuff including sugar, meat, fish, coffee and tobacco.
At night, recon soldiers crept to the parachuting field to steal 105mm cannon shells for our artillery to later open fire on French troops.
During these days, Viet had a high fever. One day, the Commissar of the Battalion visited and directly assigned Company 245 as a back-up unit for Regiment 165 (Brigade 312) to hit hard Entrenched Fortification 105 in the north of Muong Thanh Airfield.
The Commissar asked if Viet was fit to command the Company. Viet immediately answered that “I will try but my fever must go first”.
Despite his tiredness, Viet still commanded the Company to head for the Airfield. The mission was also commanded by comrade Tieu who was later elected as the Company’s commander.
Reaching a spring near the Airfield, the Company was ordered to prevent the enemy from launching a counter-attack at the Airfield, paving the way for Regiment 165 to attack on entrenched fortification 105. Fire was set at 10pm.
Unfortunately, one of our reinforcing battalions was overwhelmed by French troops. Thus, the Company was instructed to take control of Entrenched Fortification 105.
Viet and Tieu, the Company’s commander, talked with commanders of two platoons how to make advantage of the daylight to approach the airfield and lay telephone lines. As the night started falling, they would contact with the Company on telephone to lead to control the battlefield and dig defensive fortifications.
Tieu, like other officers matured as a soldier in Phu Thong Battalion with acquired experiences in fierce battles and campaigns, agreed with Viet on leading the two platoons’ commanders to reconnoitre the battlefield.
The Company took a short rest by the spring, in preparation to approach the airfield. Viet told his troops that French tanks would move to our battlefield. The Company had two 90mm bazookas. If a tank could be destroyed in the deep entrenched fortification, it meant that an enemy Company would be wiped out. That was a chance for the Company to revenge their dead comrades.
Viet looked at each soldier. They were calm and self-confident. They were brave, experienced troops. Viet believed in the unit’s treasure.
Viet said to himself that if French troops conducted a counter-attack like the battle last night, with an Airborne Battalion led by tanks and covered by strong artillery, while our troops had two platoons, two 90mm bazookas, two 60mm mortars, it would be an uneven battle. However, our advantage was the combat spirit.
He encouraged two soldiers with bazookas that “a 20-ton tank of French troops, the biggest in the Indochinese battlefield, could be defeated by our 90mm bazooka”.
He also reminded snipers of doing their best to revenge dead comrades because in Dien Bien Phu, French troops had only ten 20-ton tanks. Such a tank could be compared with a Company”.
As instructed through a liaison man, the Company went across the empty field and head for the Airfield. It was their first time in Dien Bien Phu that the Company launched an attack without using a communications entrench.
French artillery started shelling sporadically. Viet asked the troops to move forwards.
The Company quickly followed telephone lines towards the Airfield.
At a dried stream, Viet commanded Huan, the Deputy-Commissar, to stay with a nurse and some soldiers there to timely give treatment to wounded soldiers.
The remaining troops advanced to the barbwire fence in the Airfield. There, they arranged bazookas and mortars and two platoons in the shape of L.
(to be continued)
Translated by Mai Huong
One and only southern man joining Dien Bien Phu Campaign (Part 1)
One and only southern man joining Dien Bien Phu Campaign (Part 2)