Truth of Binh Gia Battle
(LTS: Xin xem thêm văn bản tiếng Việt " Những Sự Thật về Trận Bình Giả", trang 8 và "Hồi Ức Trận Bình Giả", trang 9 trong cùng mục Bài Viết)
a former soldier of my unit:
forty-four years since December 31, 1964, when I suddenly received a long
letter from a former soldier of an old unit who was a Reserve Non-Commissioned
Officer serving in the Marine Corps, from May 6 in 1963 to the end of 1966. I'm
surprised and very moved when reading the true heart of his bitterness. The
following are excerpts from the letter from a former soldier of my unit that I
think will cause us to reflect:
Dear Mr Toan,
Happened to read
your address in “Dac San Da Hieu” issue at a friend's house, I would like to
contact you, also my commander in the past (6/1963), am getting old and wanting
to look back at a few memories of the past and I wonder if you accept it?
Dear Sir, I'm Sgt. Tran Van Cua, serial
number 62A/701.458 - 4th. Marine
Battalion, Vietnamese Marine Corps (TD4/TQLC) (1). Upon graduating I was
transferred to the battalion and was in your unit for a few months, Captain
Tran Van Hoan was the Company Commander, you were the XO, then Lt. Don, Lt. Chi, Lt. Long ... I
remember and rewrite all battalion commanders at the time for your to see if it
is correct? Battalion Commanders: Capt. Le Hang Minh Battalion Commander, Capt.
Ton That Soan Battalion XO, Lt. Dang Van Hoc – S1 (Sgt. Tan), Lt. Nguyen Van
Thinh – S2-Security (Sgt. Nhung), Lt. Nguyen Van Truc – S3, 1st Lt.
Nguyen Van Thuan – S4 (Sgt. Cua), Lt. Le Van Hieu Supplies (Sgt. De), S5. (Sgt.
Luong), Company Commanders (as follows): 2nd Lt. Roanh, Capt. Nguyen
Thanh Tri, Lt. Song, somewhat porous on his face, Lt. Hung (hard headed
individual). Capt. Hoan, 2nd Lt. Toan, Lt. Don, Lt. Chi, Lt. Long
... Capt. Truong Van Nhut, 2nd Lt. Tung, Lt. Lich ... (not remember
before my time) Capt. Vuong, 2nd Lt. Tong, Lt. Nghiem, Lt. TX Quang,
Transportation Sgt. Bup.
I was a NCO
serving his country during war time, I had served three and a half years in the
Marine Corps, discharged in end of 1966, no promotion, no medals, (although
injured twice), was single out because commanders did not like the “hard
headed” soldiers. Therefore, I
was sent to train 13 students, Marines to be trained at RNSL school (3) that
was for Rangers, it was very strange. Major Nguyen Van Kien as Head of
Trainning School, Discipline and Guide Officer is Lt. Giao, Van.
I was transferred to Battalion 5th. Marines of Capt Nha, then 2nd Company
5th Battalion, Commander, 1st Lt Phan, been single-out
the entire time was there until discharged, 2 months later after the time of
military service period (4 years 2 months). Because many sad memories of the
soldier life, though not long, but remember the nostalgic picture of soldiers
with the camo uniform and solid green hat. At any rank or any position in which
we accomplished the task then we should be very proud, not ashamed of that. But
I could not do that on my own, holding military record with 64 days penalty
(discipline) to any commanders of your unit did not like the undisciplined
soldiers. Mistakes were sometime made by myself, sometime many errors were made
by my own commanders led me to become undisciplined. I am older now and lie
sleepless nights to think about those old stories that made me ashamed of
myself, but it is also funny sometimes...
Wishing on April 30,1975 all commanders that
their disobedience of superior orders and not following the orders of the
President, then the South might not fall into enemy hands. Even if we lost then
we could have prolong for some time. Still have gun and ammunition, then we should shoot. Unfortunately, at
the end only a few Generals retained their morale and heroism,and did not
surrender to the enemy. Also I don’t understand those generals that were not
there but had left their soldiers and escaped. Those who gave up and surrendered, accepted humiliation and
prison camps. I guess those who also
think that government would have three or four elements that would be able to
keep their money and fame. Generals
who do not die with the loss of our country. The country was no longer there,
but they are still alive. I
don’t know in military school for tactics, is there a tactic lesson for
commanders to surrender? For me,
I don’t think there is one. I found there is not one in Japanese Army. So
therefore as Japanese Emperor surrendered, the lesson of “seppuku” (4) to
preserve morale and honor. Is it wrong of me, the focal concern of the old
soldier after many years of still hurt?. Why do I write this long letter since you have not
recognized your old soldier. I don’t know if you remember when looking at the
pictures again? If I have said anything wrong please forgive me.
The purpose of
contacting you is to remember the images on the old soldier with camouflague
fatigue (uniform) which I
cherish and burdened those soldiers, with a heavy backpack on his back,
carrying heavy gun, stock so old from World War II. Supplied unit firepower, not enough ammunition
to fight the big battle s Binh Gia . Where there's heavy pressure on the enemy
is to be deployed Let all the Province Chief or used and sarcrified, if win
they earn credit, treated as step-child, if loss the Marines are to be blamed.
How the battle of Binh Gia turned to be until now I will never forget. Just
because to look for the only one American helicopter crashed, the high command
ordered the troops to the rescue, the military tactics became an urgency, lack
of preparation, lack of research, did not know the enemy strength, lack of
preparation and artillery support, so Battalion of 4th.Marines must fight alone.
Resulting in combat with enemy forces
three or four times, the image of Do Huu Tung – Company Commander of 2nd.
Company siege to retreat to the village of Binh Gia. At that time, as S4, I'd
go with Battalion Commander Nho to support, I heard people blame the lack of
judgement of senior officers, then ordered Tung to gather his troops for the
village of Binh Gia defense. If
the battalion commander trusted Tung about the enemy situation reports that he
clashed with them in the morning, a new tactic was planning to rethink before
entering the target. Nho called
to retreat the same route as Tung for all the companies, felt right on the
reached of the ambush same as the morning. There is time that you were in the
same unit with Hoan but do you know that Hoan can read the future or destiny?
Leaving the area, I followed, he counted on his hands, counting each fingers
and then said today's is December 31, 1964 not good for number four, something
bad is about to happen! Listening to it we didn’t think anything about it. We
didn’t believe because since from the day of its establishment of the units, we
won every battle that we fought, looked down on the enemy. From the red dirt
road leading to the target, a distance of about three kilometers, the two sides
was banana trees in front of a large rubber plantation. You led 1st Company
Tong led 4th Company on the left wing, Hue led 3rd Company
on the right wing. The battalion commanders were behind you...The next day, we
collected “the remains of all the dead, we then discovered not too far from the
left wing, VC puts some mortars If Company 4 extended its patrol a little bit
and then they would meet and the battle would have been different.. At the
time, I saw the helicopter with four crew members bodies, There were bodies of a number of soldiers of 2nd
Company, and the VC stripped all their uniforms. Battalion commander ordered us
to move forward. Company started moving to surrounded the target then Capt.
Hoan brought maps and presented them to the battalion commander, pointing to the next higher level and said:
“Major should move forward a little bit more to capture the top high hill”,
which Nho rejected, with some profound languages. “You only get in to get all
the corps then get out and no need to sleep the night here so must account for
the high terrain. It was then that I knew the “family meal is not healthy, soup
is not sweet”, Battalion commanders and XO do not agree with each other so they
didn’t talk to each other before the operation. Since then, Capt. Hoan didn’t come close to the battalion commander for
collaboration to mobilize the company, that he went alone with his bodyguard.
Battalion commanders moved deeper into the rubber plantation. Company Command
still located on the red dirt road. Outside the ring, the companies reported in
that the VC appeared everywhere,
pressure all units. I heard Nho ordered r all companies to command each soldier
occupy one rubber tree and waited until the enemy reached 50 meters to fire.
A bold order that looked down on VC,
very confident. I thought, so and everyone in all units also thought so. I lay
there and thought that they could only bring themselve closer to us as prey for
large fish and was not worried much for sure. Around 3-4PM, the first fire
from the sound of combat of the company
outside but from company command, he went into a large banana grove. Company
Commander was reassured so they took off the helmet liners to sit on the long
red dirt road, thought it is the fighting company outside the perimeter would
fight first, while the enemy VC is tightening the blockade outside, the report
found the soldier scouting saw
VC all over, he shouted VC, VC! With a gun available in his hand, he then fired
away. That is the key force of VC, they were waiting for company to enter the
rubber plantation then they came behind. The rear company Thus, when the
gunfire exploded, because VC couldn’t block behind, on the banks of the red earth and road to
fight back so they moved to attack the left side of Tong. Company 4 fought
against VC front and were attacked on the side. The VC dead outside were so
many. Company 1 and Company 3 were enduring, holding the perimeter, slowly
winning by the death of each enemy. Small guns big guns are so loud deafening
explosion. Their 82mm mortars gun shot at us. SKZ- 57 mm cannon gunners fired.
Large VC forces as expected, many are dying then they kept flowing in. I
remember fighting until sundown, the enemy cut company command in half. Those
are outside the perimeter circle retreated to the village of Binh Gia. Battalion
was shelled so much that fallen rubber trees sticked to all over themselves.
U.S. advisers called the two gunships to back up close because the two sides
were so close, so they flew away. Advisor was injured, battalion commander held
the telephone walked back and forth to communicate. The company fighting outside reporting out of
amunitions but I do not know what to do. Laid there stand-by without firing a
shot and the patch was out cutting off the arm. Tong ran into the battalion
commander didn’t find any soldiers. About 30 meters from me, Capt. Hoan held a
carbine shooting a very majestic image. No gunfire after more than two hours of
fighting. I guess they have run out of bullets and melee for survival. 4th.
Company is broken. From there they attacked battalion commanders. I saw Capt.
Hoan turn and then collapse. The bodyguard soldier carried him and then running
toward the woods. Maj Nho took battalion commander to retreat to the red dirt
road, the VC located across the road cut down both battalion and military
doctor of battalion. I and the
advisor headed to the forest to retreat close to the village of Binh Gia. You
with Company 1 and Company 3 still heard the gunfire and still held out to 9
pm. The next day, battalion gathering troops back to battlefield to locate
bodies, I found out how the people of village Binh Gia treated our troop. They
carried stretchers hammocks and gave white wine instead of alcohol to help the
wounded. The helicopter crew landed didn’t want to transport the dead bodies,
Colonel Nguyen Thanh Yen with drawn revolver demanded, so they did once and did
not return. After that we then transported by GMC vehicles to Ba Ria. I do not
hold back when family of our soldiers cry bitterly when we reached. Well please
stop and thank you for taking the time to read my clumsy words recalled.
Wish you and your family peace, good
Tran Van Cua
Binh Gia pain is still with me til now.
According to members of a VC in the district, I heard of a “Chieu Hoi” (5) in
1969, and his memoir, "Two thousand days in the Cu Chi Tunnels" by
Duong Dinh Loi. Hanoi was known
for gathering crowd VC in 1954 the communist North Vietnamese soldiers entering
the South since 1958. In late 1964, the 9th. VC Division established by Tran
Dinh Xu as commander in the Southeast with Regiment 261, 262 and 263. They
brought the Regiment to occupy the village of Binh Gia suppose on December 20,
1964. After this battle, VC Regiment 261 was very heavy damage and wiped out on
the battlefield. Still, some general do not mind, so ARVN Airborne Division's
was in the same battle with Division 9 of VC at Dong Xoai (battle), Phuoc Long
Province. While some generals are worried about power struggles after President
Diem coup 01/11/1963, assigned full rights of soldiers to the low cloud of
incompetence and irresponsibility. After, have the 2 battalions of Rangers with
the Armored Battalion attacked the village of Binh Gia and failed, they jumped
into a helicopter carrier battalion 4/ Marines to the battlefield. Battalion 4/
Marines, the last reserve unit of the corps III. Marines and Army Rangers were
knocked VC out of the village in December 30, 1964. That night, the VC tried to
retake by military forces but do not and
have to withdraw. A helicopter of the United States Army, stationed at Vung Tau
was notified by US Advisor of the U.S. Marines, under VC fire chase. Due to
lack of experience and despite the enemy, the helicopter was shot down by VC
and crashed in the abandoned rubber plantation, near the village Xuyen Son
about 4 miles from the village Binh Gia.
Dawn on December 31, 1964,
while some generals was busy organizing dance in Saigon, the ordered of Corps
III forced battalion 4/Marines to march into the area to find wreckage of U.S.
helicopter was shot down. Battalion Commander of battalion 4/Marines declined
drastically, with news from Binh Gia Parish Father who said to VC army up to
Regiment, both regular Communist Army with uniforms and armed with AK47, SKS,
K50, B40( rockets) ... While Marines still holding old weapons, M1 Garand, M1
Carbine, US guns from World War II. Furthermore, no battalion 4th.Marines
Artillery (located in Phuoc Tuy) and air support were available.
According to the testimony of two U.S.
advisors of the surviving unit, Colonel Franz Pete Eller of Solana Beach, CA,
and former Captain Phil O. Brady of San Francisco, CA, before the fierce
reaction of the Maj Nho, the United States Military Command in Saigon, MACV
pressured the ARVN General Staff to ordered Battalion 4th.Marines to get on
with the operation of collecting four dead people of U.S. helicopter crew,
though without artillery and air support . Company 1/ Battalion 4th.Marines found dead bodies when the helicopter
with four crew, The Marines saw dead bodies laying in row of Company 2 as VC
stripped off all the clothes. Lieutenant Nguyen Van Hung in the middle of
military troop. U.S. helicopters were flying in to pick up the four U.S. aircrew
lost. There were 12 VN Marines bodies waiting for Vietnam helicopters. Finally,
units must arranged load after 2, 3 hours of waiting, when it was too
late.Summing up the loss in the battle of Binh Gia on the battalion of 4th.
Marines including 122 deaths and nearly 300 wounded in the battle. Of the 122
Marines and soldiers have sacrificed Battalion Commander, Battalion XO,
Battalion Military doctor, a Company Commander, 2nd Lieutenant Trinh
Van Hue came from Dalat Military Academy School 17. Specials include two new
graduates 2nd Lieutenant from Military Academy School 19 joined the
units on 15/12/1964 is the 1st graduate Vo Thanh Khang and Nguyen
Van Hung. When the class 19 at the Dalat Military Academy matriculated in 1962,
three 1st Lieutenant, Nguyen Dang Tong, Do Huu Tung and Tran Ngoc
Toan were Class 16. The new officers from Class 19 present Battalion
4th.Marines included: Lieutenant Vo Thanh Khang, Tran Ve, Do Huu Ai, Thai Van Bong, Nguyen Van Hung. No
one had received the first paid promptly as Lieutenant. Look at the damage, one
could see that not only have 100 non-commissioned officers and soldiers who
sacrificed for the country that have killed up to 22 officers. Because of
severe pain in my heart restless brought from the battlefield back to Binh Gia,
for more than 40 years, so in June 2006, I voluntarily to Vietnam Center of
Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX to discuss the Battle of Binh Gia before the
Americans. I've come to pay the last respect to all the commanders, my comrades
and friends, as a former Battalion Commander of Battalion 4th.Marines. I also
became, as a U.S. citizen, when every day sees U.S. soldiers fall on the Iraq
battlefield, the U.S. television networks, including the children of Vietnam
refugees. Apparently, Americans have not learned "valuable lessons"
from the Vietnam War with more than 58 thousand soldiers who died ...
Tran Ngoc Toan: Former Battalion Commander/Battalion 4th VN
1. the 4th Battalion,
South Vietnam Marine Corps
S3 operations & training,
S4 supply & logistics,
S5 civillian affairs & military police.
3. RNSL, Ranger training
course at Duc My training center near Nha Trang.
4. seppuku- Japanese
5. Chieu-Hoi- surrendered VC
or NVA soldier.