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Tuesday, December 19, 2017, 08:02 (GMT+7)
“Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu in the air” – a miracle from the strength and will of all people

This year, our capital of Hanoi celebrates the 45th Anniversary of “Ha Noi – Dien Bien Phu Victory in the air” – a glorious triumph in our history of national defense. In December 1972, during the course of 12 days, the U.S. Military used B-52 bombers to conduct a strategic bombing campaign against targets in Hanoi Capital. Under the leadership of our Party, our military and people completely defeated this act of aggression, forcing the U.S. leadership to sign Paris Peace Accords to end their war efforts and restore peace in Vietnam. This was a turning point in our resistance war against American Imperialism and a crucial step toward our national unification. This was a victory gained by blood, sacrifice, fighting spirit, gallantry in combat and adept strategies of our military and people, especially our Air Defense – Air Force. Notably, the people of Hanoi upheld the tradition of fighting courage and the spirit of “self-sacrifice for the motherland” in this campaign; and worked the miracle of “Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu in the air”. This victory will eternally be the pride of Hanoians, Hanoi city Party committee and authority; our capital indeed earned the title Heroic City, the City of Peace and was praised by progressive forces all over the world as “The capital of human dignity and conscience.”

Debris of a B-52 bomber shot down right on the night of December 18th, 1972 in the paddy field of Phu Lo, Dong Anh district, Hanoi (file photo)

Hanoi conducted proactive preparation for all scenarios.

Follow the strategic vision of the Party and President Ho Chi Minh, our people and armed forces in the North, especially in Hanoi, the heart of our resistance war, were always vigilant and able to avoid any surprise from the enemy’s bombing plans. On July 19, 1965, in a visit to an anti-air artillery company in Hanoi, President Ho Chi Minh said: “We don’t care how many weapons, how much money the U.S. has. We don’t care if it has B-57, B-52 or whatever “B”, we fight them anyway. That many troops and aircraft or even more won’t make us stop fighting, we fight, and we will win.” (1). On December 29, 1967, he told Air Defense – Air Force Commander: “Sooner or later, the U.S. will send B-52 to bomb Hanoi, if it fails, only then it will admit defeat. We should consider this scenario for planning and preparation… A U.S. failure in Vietnam is inevitable, but it will only admit it after being defeated in the sky of Hanoi”(2). Uncle Ho’s prophecies enabled our Air Defense – Air Force and the people of Hanoi to soon develop plans and preparation to counter B-52 when the enemy used this type of aircraft to bomb Hanoi.

In 1972, after numerous defeats in the South, the U.S. wildly escalated the war and resumed its bombing in the North. On December 14, 1972, President R.Nixon ratified “Operation Linebacker II”, initiated mass bombings against Hanoi, Hai Phong and many other Northern provinces with 193 B-52 strategic bombers and nearly 1000 tactical aircraft; dispatched an additional striking force including 2 aircraft carriers and 2 cruisers to Tonkin Gulf. With this bombing campaign, the U.S. sought to maximize pressure on our government, forcing us to accept their favorable terms on the peace talk.

Under the guidance of the Party Secretariat, Central Military Commission and General Staff, Air Defense – Air Force Command urgently complemented combat plans and completed unit deployment to respond to the enemy’s attacks. Hanoians, under the leadership of the city’s Party Committee, upheld the spirit of all-military all-people resistance war. Each citizen became a soldier himself. Indeed, the city managed to fully utilize every resource available for combat missions, combat support activities, maintaining order and security and supplying defense production. Besides, the city’s People’s Air Defense Council instructed neighborhoods, civil offices, factories, etc, to conduct emergency evacuation. This had been the largest evacuation of Hanoi since the early days of U.S. bombing campaigns against the North (3). In this evacuation, Party committees, local authorities and the people of suburban areas demonstrated great responsibility and unity with Hanoi’s people. As a result, civilian casualty was limited, providing favorable condition for our military and militias to defend the city.

At that time, Hanoi was a critical focal point which served as a transportation hub to receive supplies from our socialist allies and Northern provinces and allocate them to the battlefield in the South. Therefore, it was extremely important to ensure the traffic via the city undisrupted. To that end, Hanoi Transportation Department carried out evacuation of goods and materials from major depots such as Dong Anh, Yen Vien, Giap Bat to smaller depots. Also, thanks to prior preparation, when Long Bien bridge was destroyed at 2 main arches (May 1972), and Chuong Duong bridge was severely damaged by U.S. bombing (July 1972), transportation was diverted and remained undisrupted via alternate ferries such as Chuong Duong, Khuyen Luong and Dong Tru. Hanoi port was also suffered many bombings, but the port’s workers still managed to unload and dispatch 2000 tons of cargo per day. Similarly, Hanoi train station was destroyed but the supply line to the South still remained steady. In addition, many ferries crossing Red River such as Chuong Duong, Khuyen Luong, Chem and several pontoon bridges crossing Duong River were urgently enhanced. Besides, 2 strategic pipelines, Lang Son – Hanoi and Bai Chay, Quang Ninh – Hanoi were finished and put in to good use. These pipelines were connected to South Hanoi pipeline, stretched to Cam Lo and South Route 9 (3,278 km), responsible for receiving fuel supply from our ally nations and distributing the fuel to battlefields in the South and the theatre of operation of “Dien Bien Phu in the air”.

With respect to maintaining order and security in the city, Hanoi police conducted regular patrol and sentry duty and carried out assessments on overall condition in neighborhoods to prepare for relief activities. In addition, the city’s firefighter and relief forces, with hundreds of bulldozers, crane trucks and fire trucks, were able to rapidly carry out relief activities and minimize civilian casualties and property loss. Besides, medic teams were organized into different lines, and deployed at every area, from the frontline to immediate line and rear line (4). Commerce and catering services dispatched thousands of personnel to shops and mobile vendors to provide essential needs for civilians. They also followed combat units event at the height of a bombing. In addition, communications system was also very important; a network of sentry posts (including 414 posts in suburban districts and 36 posts in the city) and alarm sirens were set up to provide early warning about enemy strikes for civilians. During 12 days of the campaign, Voice of Vietnam radio station in Me Tri constantly broadcasted notifications, warnings, and instructions for civilians to avoid bombings; and reported on combat achievements in an hourly and daily basis. At the same time, the station carried out propaganda on the enemy crimes and promoted exemplary actions in relief and rescue activities. Additionally, the city leadership sent journalist envoys to bombing sites to report on the battle and release news to national mass media and the international community; and organized escort details for Party leaders and government officials to visit defending units and the people to boost their morale.

A unique air defense network with multiple layers.

Built on a narrow area with a high-density population, Hanoi air defense network was a unique feat of creativity and determination, made by the capital’s people and military units. It was in the sky of Hanoi, our forces shot down the most B-52s compared to other provinces and cities in the North, defeating the enemy’s plan to bomb the city back to the stone age. In combat and combat readiness, our forces in Hanoi actively worked with national air defense force and units in other provinces to establish a “triple army-type air defense network” with all available weapons, and encourage all people participating in support activities, air defense combat, and capturing enemy pilot. Under the leadership of the city Party Committee, the capital armed forces, including regional military units and self-defense contingents, demonstrated an excellent performance in combat and combat support activities. Each quarter in the city had an anti-air artillery company, which was carefully trained in air defense tactics (5), these units closely cooperated with anti-air missile batteries to create multiple layers of firepower to negate the enemy’s technological advantages. In suburban areas, each district organized a concentrated company to execute mobile air defense missions and provide support for units inside the capital. In addition, communal militia groups participated in air defense, searching for downed enemy pilots, assisting combat engineer in defusing unexploded ordnance and helping missile units in relocating batteries. In Ha Tay, after thoroughly studying enemy aircraft’s activities, with close coordination, militias formed a low-altitude air defense layer; and actively carried out many ambushes against U.S bombing squadrons from outer perimeters to inner areas and in every direction. That said, although our militia forces only had limited weaponry, they managed to undermine the enemy’s striking capabilities, promoting a shining example of our people and armed forces’ creativity and courage in combat.

The strategic bombing campaign of U.S. Imperialism in December 1972 was a brutal and savage act of aggression (6). However, the sheer will of our Hanoians and our armed forces was beyond their anticipation. The fighting spirit of our people and military overwhelmed enemy firepower. During the course of 12 days, inside “the circle of fire”, Hanoi and other provinces shot down 81 U.S. aircraft (including 34 B-52s, 05 F-111As, 21 F-4C/Es, etc.). This was a catastrophic loss for U.S. Air Force (7). In fact, many U.S. military commanders and politicians later admitted the loss of U.S. aircraft and crews were unacceptable and this was a heavy blow to Pentagon planmakers.

Being defeated in the sky of Hanoi, the U.S had to cancel its bombing campaign against targets in Hanoi, Hai Phong and north of 20th parallel, resume peace talks and eventually agreed to Paris Peace Accords, pulling its troops out of Vietnam. The agreement later became a crucial factor enabling our revolutionary force to liberate the South and complete the path of national reunification.

45 years have passed, but lessons from “Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu Victory in the air” remain invaluable for the work of mobilizing the overwhelming strength of the people, the military and Party organizations, and to the cause of building and defending our country.

A lesson of unity under the adept leadership of Central Party Committee and strategic genius of Central Military Commission.

“Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu Victory in the air” indeed proved that the political course and military doctrine of Vietnam Communist Party, inherited from Ho Chi Minh ideology, were true and faithful. Besides, the strategic genius of Central Military Commission allowed us to appreciate and anticipate correctly the balance of power between the two sides; in addition, it also enabled our leadership to have a precise estimation of domestic conditions and international situation in every aspect. Before and during the campaign, Central Military Commission placed heavy emphasis on Party and political work for military members and people in the North, enabling them to fully understand the enemy’s intentions and the difficulties and hardship may come in the upcoming confrontation to enhance their fighting spirit. Despite the inferiority in weaponry and technology, all people and military members, especially those who were responsible for defending Hanoi airspace, managed to overcome hardships; and demonstrated an outstanding creativity and unity in defeating the U.S.’s B-52 “flying fortress.”

Hanoi for the nation, the whole nation for Hanoi, it was this bound-by-blood bond an essential factor that led to the victory. The victory of Hanoi people and military units was also the result of assistance from our socialist allies; and close coordination with other provinces, which not only, together with the capital, bore the brunt of the U.S.’s brutal firepower, but also provided much needed help for evacuated Hanoians. Those were the foundation for boosting the fighting spirit of the people and air defense units in Hanoi in defiance against the enemy’s violent bombings.

A lesson in building defense areas, all-people combat environment, all-people defense network.

The capital of Hanoi is a densely populated city with many important infrastructures, depots, factories; it is also the place where supreme offices of the Party, the state and the military are located. Therefore, should a conflict occur, Hanoi will be a top priority for enemy’s aerial strikes. That said, unless air defense work is not properly prepared from peacetime, this will lead to severe consequences, major casualties and property losses for civilians, causing panic among the people. As a result, in making defense plan for the city, civil defense work must be properly implemented along with using regular troops in air defense missions. In 2008, Hanoi was expanded to mountainous areas in the West and many new northern districts with relatively flat terrain; so that presently, there are a lot of military units and offices stationing in the capital’s central districts and its suburban areas. The deployment of these units and offices must be appropriate to the general defense plan of the city to fully utilize their capabilities should a conflict occur. This is a profound principle underlined in Vietnam’s all-people warfare doctrine in general and all-people air defense in particular.

A lesson in building armed force.

To fulfill the task of building armed force, all units must fully grasp guidelines and directives issued by Central Party Committee in National Defense Strategy in the new era. The people’s military must be built with strong political awareness, appropriate size and structure, high quality training and really become a revolutionary, standardized, elite and gradually modernized armed force. Also, military organizational structure, the chain of command and leadership mechanisms must be completed; political education must serve as the foundation for progresses in training, combat and combat readiness capabilities, maintaining discipline, and studies in military science and art of war. In addition, along with regular forces, reservist and militia contingents must also be extensively and effectively developed.

A lesson in utilizing total strength.

“Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu Victory in the air” was achieved by the combination of our national power and the strength of the era; with the assistance and support from governments and people of our socialist allies, from national liberation movements, and from revolutionary, democratic and progressive forces all over the world. In any era, the work of strengthening the political will and fighting spirit for all people must be highly regarded, especially in peacetime to defeat adversary forces’ “peaceful evolution” strategy. Also, people’s warfare environment and people’s air defense network must be firmly built, in which the armed forces, especially Air Defense – Air Force units, serve as the core element. Besides, revolutionary vigilance must be regularly maintained, while the work of building local armed forces must be highly regarded to maintain combat readiness, ensure social order and security, and contribute to the cause of protecting our Party, our regime, our people and our Vietnam socialist motherland.

This historical victory of our people and military will eternally echo in the sky of our beloved capital and in the mind of every Vietnamese patriot. It was a glorious milestone and a shining example of revolutionary heroism and the wisdom of Vietnamese people, truly one of the greatest military feats of 20th Century. Commemorating this great event and the extraordinary sacrifice of our fathers, we strive for and value peace. This victory brings us the pride and the motivation to continue building our beloved capital of Hanoi – the heart of the whole country, make it more and more prosperous, beautiful, modernized and civilized, truly deserve the title “Heroic Capital”, “The City for Peace”, “The City of human dignity and conscience”.

Hoang Trung Hai, Politburo Member, Secretary of Hanoi City Party Committee


1- Completed works of Ho Chi Minh, Volume 14, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi 2011, page 574.

2 – Victory over B-52, People’s Army Publishing House, Hanoi 1997, page 49.

3 – The city commandeered 1,500 automobiles of all types to evacuate civilians. Until middle of 1972, about 500,000 civilians and 1,200 schools, offices and factories of central government and the city were evacuated to suburban districts such as Chuong My, Ung Hoa, My Duc, Thuong Tin, Quoc Oai, Thach That, Hoai Duc, Dan Phuong, etc.

4- In the city, 45,000 km of communication trench, 5,600 collective bomb shelters, and 630,000 foxholes were built, enough to provide protection for 900,000 people; 1,202 medical posts and teams, 266 emergency medical stations, 64 mobile emergency medical teams, and 11 mobile surgical teams were established.

5- In December 1972, the total number of militia and self-defense members were up to 54,000, equipped with 500 machine guns and deployed in 295 batteries; besides, there were also 4 100mm anti-air artillery batteries, 92 low-altitude anti-air artillery batteries deployed inside the city and in its suburban districts.

That said, at operational level, our forces were well prepared. Therefore, on the eve of December 18th, 1972, when the bombing campaign was commenced, we were not caught by surprised and responded actively.

6- During the course of 12 days, only in Hanoi, the U.S, Air Forces conducted 441 B-52 sorties and thousands of tactical aircraft sorties, using over 10,000 tons of ordnance to destroy many neighborhoods, demolishing 5,480 houses, nearly 100 factories, schools, hospitals, train stations, killing 2,368 civilians, injuring 1,355 people. The most devastated areas were: Kham Thien Street, Bach Mai Hospital; Yen Vien; Uy No Commune, Dong Anh District.

7- Normally, the loss of aircraft in major bombing campaign in the offensive side is about 1-2%; while in the sky of Hanoi, despite its overwhelming military power, the U.S.’s loss was terrible, B-52 loss alone was up to 17% (34/193 aircraft).

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Diplomatic affairs in the negotiation and signing of the Paris Agreement and lessons for defence diplomacy today
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