Sunday, December 18, 2022, 11:53 (GMT+7)
“Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu in the air” Victory – its stature and historical lessons for the cause of Fatherland construction and defence

Half a century ago, under the Party’s leadership, our Military and people bravely defeated the U.S Operation Linebacker II using B-52 strategic bombers in North Vietnam, making the victory of “Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu in the air”. Together with significant victories in the strategic offensive of 1972 on the South battlefield, the victory of “Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu in the air” deprived Washington of an advantage on the negotiating table and forced the U.S to sign the Paris Accords on ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam.

“Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu in the air” was the victory of the people’s warfare guideline and the people’s air defence posture; it was the victory of the political power and spirit of Vietnamese people; the country’s will and determination to fight and defeat U.S invaders. The victory brought us a basic strategic change in our resistance war against the U.S, for national salvation, while making contributions to liberating the South, unifying the country, and cementing the faith of forces fighting for peace, national independence, democracy, and social progress on a global scale. “Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu in the air” is amongst the most brilliant feats of arms as a great epic in the 20th century. It has become the symbol of Vietnam’s will, wisdom, and courage and provided our Military and people with valuable lessons for the cause of Fatherland construction and protection today.

First, regularly maintaining and enhancing the Party’s leadership over the cause of Fatherland construction and protection

At the very onset of the resistance war against the U.S for national salvation, objectively, scientifically assessing the situation on domestic and global scales, being fully aware of the opponent of the Vietnamese revolution and the balance of power, the Party Central Committee and President Ho Chi Minh opportunely formulated sound guidelines and policies and focused their leadership and direction on making preparations for responding to all war situations. To fight against the U.S B-52 bombers, under directions given by the Politburo and the Central Military Commission (CMC), the Ministry of National Defence (MND) decided to establish several air defence units, quickly adjust air defence force disposition and air defence posture in the North, while directing the Air Defence – Air Force Service to develop and complete plans for fighting B-52s, organising training, exercises, diversion, and evacuation, ensuring technical support, and combing prevention with counter-attack.

Sticking to the developments in the Paris Conference, the combat situation, and major events of the U.S, the Politburo and the CMC soon ascertained the time when the U.S would use B-52s against our cities and major economic hubs, particularly Hanoi, Hai Phong, and Thai Nguyen iron and steel zone. On November 27th, 1972, the General Command directed forces to quickly organise a three-category air defence force posture and implement the people’s air defence plan so as to bring into play the strength of the people’s war and maintain readiness for thwarting all plots and schemes of the enemy. During 12 days and nights of combat, our Party and especially CMC remained courageous, knowledgeable, calm, and united to issue correct and timely decisions and commands as the decisive factor in the victory of the air defence campaign of 1972.

In the current revolutionary period, in order to firmly protect the Fatherland and create a peaceful, stable environment for national construction and development, it is vital to regularly “maintain and enhance the Party’s absolute, direct leadership over and the State’s uniform management of the Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) and the national defence cause”. To that end, apart from improving its leadership capacity, the Party should better its capacity to formulate guidelines on revolutionary and military-defence tasks in the new period. It is important to grasp, flexibly apply, and successfully implement resolutions, directives, strategies, and projects, particularly the Strategy for Fatherland Protection in the New Situation, the National Defence Strategy, the Military Strategy of Vietnam, the Strategy to Defend the Fatherland in Cyberspace, and the National Border Protection Strategy. It is essential to promote the role of party committees and heads of ministries, sectors, and localities as well as party committees and commands of offices and units of the armed forces in grasping and effectively executing guidelines, policies, and strategies. Moreover, it is necessary to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of state management and strictly implement the Party’s guidelines and the State’s laws and policies on Fatherland protection and military-defence tasks in the new situation. Due regard should be paid to both qualitatively and quantitatively strengthening a contingent of cadres in charge of military-defence work within ministries, ministerial-level offices, and the Government’s offices on a par with their tasks. Consideration should be given to completing defence-related laws, policies, and mechanisms as well as regulations on coordination between committees, ministries, and central and local sectors in order to better the efficiency and effectiveness of state management of defence by laws.

Second, attaching great value to strategic study and forecast, proactively protecting the Fatherland from afar, avoiding falling into passivity in any situations

In the process of leading our resistance war, the Party Central Committee and President Ho Chi Minh always focused on studying and forecasting the situation to make all necessary situations for readily defeating all plots and schemes of the U.S in the North. With his strategic vision, President Ho Chi Minh predicted that sooner or later, the U.S imperialists would carry out B-52 strikes on Hanoi and only accept to lose the war as long as the strikes failed.

Realising the enemy’s plots and schemes and correctly anticipating the situation, under the sound leadership and direction by the Party Central Committee, the CMC, and the MND, the Air Defence – Air Force Service proactively and opportunely developed combat plans and projects and actively made all preparations for fighting the enemy with the highest determination. From June 1966, Missile Regiment 238 and many experienced commanding officers were deployed to Vinh Linh to study how to fight B-52s. After many years of fighting, with lessons learnt from battles in Tri Thien, Route 9 – Southern Laos and combat to protect the traffic system within Military Region 4, the “How to fight B-52s” manual was completed and put into training for air defence and air force units. In February 1968, while the general offensive and uprising was taking place, the CMC predicted that the U.S would use B-52s to destroy Hanoi and Hai Phong; therefore, it assigned the Air Defence – Air Force Service to design a plan to safeguard the North. In January 1969, the draft Plan was completed and continued to be supplemented. On November 24th, 1972, the plan to fight B-52s and protect Hanoi was approved, which was 20 days before the U.S President decided to carry out OOperation Linebacker II against Hanoi. Thanks to proactively conducting research and developing projects, we succeeded in taking the initiative at all strategic, campaign, and tactical levels against the enemy.

Currently, the situation on global and regional scales continues to witness rapid, complex, unpredictable developments. Major powers are adjusting their strategies, both competing against and containing one another, intensifying intervention in independent, sovereign countries’ internal affairs. Violations of sovereignty, disputes over territories, seas, islands, and natural resources, armed conflicts, local wars, interventions, conversions, terrorist attacks, and separatism are seriously taking place in many regions. Domestically, hostile forces are stepping up “peaceful evolution”, “self-evolution”, and “self-transformation” against our Party, State, and Military. Thus, conducting strategic researches and forecasts, correctly assessing the situation, and being fully aware of opponents and partners are of special importance to formulating sound, effective, timely guidelines and strategies to well manage international relations, ensure national benefits, and firmly protect national independence, sovereignty, unification, and territorial integrity. To that end, it is necessary to concentrate on the following points. First, we should enhance the leadership and direction of all-level party committees and organisations, particularly at strategic and campaign levels towards strategic research, staff, and forecast work. Second, we should give strategic advice to our Party and State on military-defence tasks and successfully deal with situations to avoid falling into passivity, prevent disagreements from developing into armed conflicts or wars, and safeguard the Socialist Vietnamese Fatherland. Research and forecasts should be comprehensive but focalised, accurate, opportune, scientific, while theoretical research should be attached with practical activities. Great value should be attached to giving advice on dealing with defence situations, on opponents and partners, on long-term, fundamental guidelines and measures for defence international relations and diplomacy to prevent risks of war and conflict from afar, on measures to thwart “peaceful evolution”, “self-evolution”, and “self-transformation” by hostile forces. Third, we should focus on building “adept, compact, strong” strategic-level staff offices capable of meeting their task requirements in the new situation.

General Vo Nguyen Giap together with the Air Defence and Air Force Service prepared the plan to fight B-52s in 1972

Third, building strong three-category armed forces, with the VPA playing a core role in defending the Fatherland

In order to confront an imperialist nation with great economic, military potential and advanced materiel, in February 1957, the Politburo held a meeting and approved the Plan on building the VPA and consolidating national defence. Our Party advocated building a revolutionary, regular, modern VPA; the people’s air defence force would be strongly, extensively developed; special importance would be attached to building air defence and fighter forces. In October 1963, the CMC decided to establish and consolidate the Air Defence – Air Force Service. The Politburo demanded to formulate the “People’s Air Defence Plan” and deploy cadres to attend training courses on air defence – air force work and prepare human resources for newly-established corps and services, including anti-aircraft gun, missile, and radar units. Consequently, when the U.S conducted the war of destruction against North Vietnam, our VPA had developed a contingent of air defence cadres with great political zeal and professional competence, particularly within radar, missile, and air force units. We took advantage of support and weapon aid from friendly countries, quickly held training courses to master new materiel, and effectively organised battles at the very onset of the war.

Apart from the main air defence force, the CMC and the General Command attached significance to building an extensive militia and self-defence force to evacuate people and property, carry out first aid, construct tunnels and trenches, and directly coordinate with the main air defence force in fighting the enemy. During 12 days and nights of combat, anti-aircraft gun units were mainly undertaken by the militia and self-defence force to shoot low-flying enemy aircraft. We organised 356 militia and self-defence detachments with 1,428 artillery pieces and anti-aircraft guns, while constructing over 100 anti-aircraft artillery battlefields and nearly 500 observation posts to create an extensive people’s air defence posture across our regions. During 12 days and nights in late 1972, our Military and people, especially air defence – air force units and citizens of the North and Hanoi capital city bravely, creatively fought to shoot down 34 B-52s and many other modern aircraft of the U.S, thus making contributions to effectuating a turning point in our resistance war.

New task requirements are imposed on today’s Fatherland construction and protection; in this regard, great weight must be added to building comprehensively strong three-category armed forces, particularly in terms of politics, ideology, morality, organisation, and personnel, with the absolute loyalty to the Fatherland, the Party, the State, and the people as well as great synergy and combat power to satisfy their task requirements in all situations. To that end, it is vital to grasp and seriously, effectively execute guidelines, policies, strategies, resolutions, and directives by the Party, the CMC, and the MND on military-defence tasks, Military build-up, and Fatherland protection.

In the short term, it is necessary to continue building a revolutionary, regular, elite, gradually modern VPA, with a number of services, corps, and forces moving straight to modernity. Importance should be attached to developing a modern, dual-purpose defence industry, acquiring state-of-the-art materiel, upgrading the existing weapons, and bringing into play advantages created by science and technology to accelerate the modernisation of the VPA for the Fatherland construction and protection cause.

We should continue seriously, effectively implementing the Politburo’s Resolution 05-NQ/TW, dated January 17th, 2022 on “organising the VPA in the period of 2021-2030 and beyond”. By 2025, we shall basically accomplish adjustments in the VPA’s organisational structure in an “adept, lean, strong” manner as a solid foundation for building a modern VPA from 2030, with a balance between components and forces. Due attention should be paid to identifying functions and tasks of forces, reducing intermediate units, and achieving the synchronicity between weapons, equipment, human resources, and logistics support. Significance should be attached to maintaining military standard order building, abiding by the State’s law and the VPA’s discipline, strictly implementing regulations on combat readiness duty, closely managing airspace, seas, islands, borders, strategic areas, and cyberspace. In addition to ensuring the quality of training and combat readiness, the VPA should well perform its function as an army ready for work and for production in peacetime, readily help the people with natural disaster prevention and control, search and rescue, and response to non-traditional security challenges, keep bringing into play the noble virtues of “Uncle Ho’s soldiers” in the new period. Consideration should be given to building a politically strong VPA and improving the quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of party and political work within the Military. Due attention should be paid to building and closely managing a powerful reserve force for all possible situations, while the militia and self-defence force should be made strong and extensive across all regions and at sea.

Fourth, attaching importance to building strong all-people national defence and defensive zones to meet the requirements of Fatherland protection in the new situation

During 12 days and nights of combat, we managed to build a three-category air defence posture, established three campaign-level air defence clusters, proactively adjusted the combat formation of several anti-aircraft missile units, and changed take-off positions of our aircraft, thereby putting the enemy into passivity. Air defence – air force units developed coordination plans on combat areas, altitude, and time to create a multi-layer, multi-tier, inter-connected, in-depth, focalised, smooth posture. As a result, we could fight the enemy constantly, from near to far, at all altitudes, from all directions, day and night in order to create an anti-aircraft network where the enemy was unable to avoid.

The power of our Military and people in the strategic battle of late 1972 constitutes the strength of the people’s war developed at a high level under the Party’s leadership, with the participation of all citizens in shooting enemy aircraft, seizing enemy pilots, and organising air defence. Northern citizens upgraded and constructed dozens of airbases and hundreds of anti-aircraft battlefields to protect Hanoi, while spending hundreds of millions of working days on building air defence works, bomb shelters, and trenches to hide property, evacuate the people, and minimise casualties.

Applying this lesson to the Fatherland construction and protection, our Party has advocated building strong all-people national defence, all-people national defence posture, and defensive zones at all levels. It has attached importance to closely combining socio-economic, cultural development with defence-security consolidation in each region, strategic, border, sea, and island area, economic zone, and industrial zone, bringing into play all resources and advantages to improve defence-security potential in line with socio-economic, cultural development, and building provinces and municipalities into solid defensive zones to meet the requirements of Fatherland protection in the new situation.

To fulfil all above-mentioned goals, the VPA should play a core role in cooperating with ministries, committees, and sectors at both central and local levels to effectively execute the Politburo’s Resolution 28-NQ/TW, dated September 22nd, 2008 on “continuing to build provinces and municipalities into solid defensive zones in the new situation”, the Politburo’s Conclusion 64-KL/TW, dated October 30th, 2019 on “enhancing the implementation of Resolution 28-NQ/TW and the Government’s Decree 21/2019/NĐ-CP, dated February 22nd, 2019 on defensive zones” in tandem with the National Defence Law and military, defence, Fatherland protection strategies. Significance should be attached to building and organising forces properly to guarantee defence, offensive, and counter-attack against enemies in various directions, in cyberspace, in the air, at sea, and on the ground simultaneously. Emphasis should be placed on building defensive zone potential, closely combining economic development with defence and security, and actively making a general plan on the disposition of services, corps, and forces across the country and in each region and area. Priority should be given to sufficiently staffing units tasked with combat readiness and units performing their tasks in strategic, border, sea, and island areas so as to build a firm posture of all-people national defence in the Fatherland’s frontier areas.

Furthermore, it is necessary to construct defence works within defensive zones on a par with localities’ economic growth and potential. More investments should be made in combat bases, rear bases, logistics-technical bases, key defensive areas, and headquarters at all levels. Civil defence should be associated with establishing a solid inter-connected posture between defensive zones, military region defence, and strategic directions. Due attention should be paid to readily dealing with non-traditional security challenges and preparing projects to safeguard the country’s independence, sovereignty, unification, and territorial integrity, political security, and social order and safety.

Fifth, combining the strength of the country with the strength of the times, enhancing defence diplomacy and cooperation, bringing into play internal strength, and taking advantage of external strength in the Fatherland construction and protection cause

The victory of the Air Defence Campaign of late 1972 was the result of the process of combining the strength of our nation with the strength of the times. That was valuable support from socialist countries and people, especially the Soviet Union and China as well as from the national liberation movement, revolutionary forces, and progressive people all over the world. Immediately after the U.S President had ordered B-52s to attack Hanoi, a protest wave broke out across continents. Governments of 50 countries, 15 international organisations, and Secretary-General of the United Nations all voiced their opposition to U.S bombings.

Currently, amidst the trend of globalisation and international integration, Vietnam is consistent with its diplomatic line of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation, and development; it always multilateralises and diversifies international relations under the motto of “being a friend, reliable partner, and active, responsible member of the international community”. According to our Party, we should bring into play the synergy of the entire people and political system and take advantage of support from the international community to firmly protect national independence, sovereignty, unification, and territorial integrity, the Party, the State, the people, the socialist regime, and the country’s culture and benefits. In the upcoming time, in order to be flexible in defence diplomacy for building the VPA and protecting the Fatherland from afar, the entire Military should grasp the Party’s foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, friendship, cooperation, and development, actively, proactively take part in multilateral mechanisms relating to defence and security, and effectively perform the work of defence diplomacy and international integration under the Resolutions of the 13th National Party Congress and the 11th Military Party Congress.

Due to the intertwined relationship between opponents and partners, the work of defence diplomacy must be carried out under the guidelines on maintaining both cooperation and struggle and the motto of “pitting the unchangeable against the changeable”. It is essential to enhance bilateral cooperation, multilateral diplomacy, and relations with our neighbours and ASEAN member states, maintain the balance in our relations with major powers, and expand our relations with potential countries. Importance should be attached to participating in multilateral defence cooperation mechanisms within the ASEAN framework and led by ASEAN and actively taking part in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Moreover, it is vital to maintain political orientation, proactively give advice on diplomatic struggle, avoid confrontation, isolation, and dependence, and take advantage of all resources to develop the country, build the VPA, firmly protect the Fatherland, and raise the status and prestige of our country and Military.

Although 50 years have elapsed, the spirit of the “Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu in the air” victory remains a great epic of the Vietnamese people’s will, courage, and wisdom under the Party’s leadership. Lessons learnt from this victory will continue to be researched, applied, and developed in the cause of building and protecting the Socialist Vietnamese Fatherland.

Gen., Dr. PHAN VAN GIANG, Member of the Politburo, Deputy Secretary of the CMC, Minister of National Defence    

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General Chu Huy Man: A talented militarist and politician
Man lived to nearly 100 years old and spent two thirds of his life working and contributing to the Party and revolution. Over the course of 76 years in service of the Party and 61 years in the military, having undergone the two holly resistance wars of the country, regardless of working in the mountainous or lowland areas, in Viet Nam or Laos, advantages or disadvantages, he used to stick to communist ideal; be an excellent pupil of President Ho Chi Minh; set a shining example of a great man, a talented righteous general, a good militarist and, politician of the heroic Viet Nam People’s Army.