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Monday, October 23, 2017, 10:30 (GMT+7)
Upholding the tradition of “Ho Chi Minh sea trail”, firmly safeguarding sea and island sovereignty nowadays

Time has fallen into oblivion, but the epic of “Ho Chi Minh sea trail” will still be resonant forever and increasingly burnish the tradition of fighting foreign aggressors and defending our Fatherland by the heroic Vietnamese peoples, the Vietnamese People’s Army, and Vietnam People’s Naval Service. That legend has empowered the Party, people and military in their entirety to successfully implement the cause of firmly defending the national sea and island sovereignty in the present situation.

Following days of thoughtful consideration and intensive drilling of combat plans, at 18.00 January 27th 1960, Battalion 603 made the sea crossing and transported 5 tonnes of weapons and medicines to the front of the 5th Military Region. The crossing ended in failure, and wreaked havoc on human life and material. Against this backdrop, the Central Military Commission decided to disband the battalion, and worked out a new combat plan. Between mid-1961 and mid-1962, after having been instructed to make across-the-board preparations, provinces of Bac Lieu, Tra Vinh, and Ba Ria alternately used 5 boats to successfully carry cadres to the North by sea, laying a solid foundation for the advent of the water transport group of supplying weapons to the South. On 23rd, October 1961(1), the VPA’s High Command issued Decision No.97/QP to set up Water Transport Group 759 (Group 759 for short) which was tasked with supplying the southern battlefield by sea. The birth of Group 759 exemplified strategic vision and creativity by our Party, particularly the Central Military Commission and Ministry of National Defence, marked a significant milestone in the history of the legendary route - strategic maritime transport one. Annually, the 23rd of October becomes both the traditional day of Group 759 (the present-day Brigade 125) and the inaugural day of  the Ho Chi Minh sea trail.

Veteran gathering on the 55th Founding Anniversary of Ho Chi Minh sea trail (photo: baokhanhhoa.com.vn)

Under the motto “daring, secret, and surprise” alongside high determination and thorough preparations, despite experiencing 10 years of its tenacious struggle against the rough sea and the enemy’s strict blockades, Group 759 managed to undertake some 600 sea voyages (by wooden and steel-hulled ships of different payload), and transported nearly 3,000 tonnes of wide-ranging weapons, thereby opportunely supporting the southern fronts. In the line of duty, in case the Group’s cadres and soldiers encountered the enemy, they would combat them, then destroy the ship on sufferance, and even make the final sacrifice. If the enemy interdicted this route, we would take another one at all costs. The sheer number of vessels met their doom en route, and countless soldiers lost their lives in the open sea. The legendary “ships with no numbers” on the eternal Ho Chi Minh sea trail made direct contributions to the Vietnamese people and Army’s defeat of the US strategies of “local war” and “war Vietnamization”.

Between 1973 and 1975, learning from traumatic experiences, the Group continued to transport goods, materiel, and soldiers on the main transport route from Hai Phong to Quang Binh. To meet the new task requirements, the Group constantly streamlined its organization and force, promoted training and fighting spirits for soldiers, making them on standby for every mission. In the face of hundreds of thousands of nautical miles under harsh weather conditions as well as a rain of bombs, ammunition and torpedoes from the US air and naval forces, the Group transported dozens of thousands of soldiers and staggering tonnes of materiel and fuels to fronts. In particular, during historic Ho Chi Minh Campaign, in addition to its main task, the Group also doubled as a contributor to the liberation of islands in the Spratly archipelago. Under the motto “lightning speed, daring, surprise, certain victory”, over the course of 80 days of assuming double duty, the Group undertook 143 sea voyages spanning 65,721 nautical miles, delivered 18,741 cadres and soldiers, 8,721 tonnes of weapons, 50 tanks, assorted guns and artillery; sank 1 PCF ship; severely damaged 3 ships; called one ship for a surrender; captured 42 prisoners, etc thereby contributing to steering the national anti-American resistance war to a complete victory.

Together with the Ho Chi Minh trail, the Ho Chi Minh sea trail represents a unique feature of Vietnam people’s warfare, demonstrates our Party’s strategic vision and creativity, and embodies the Vietnamese peoples’ will and aspirations for national independence, freedom and reunification. Besides, it represents brainpower, “determined to fight and win” spirit of the entire Party, people and military in the anti-US resistance war, including  the Vietnamese Navy’s cadres and soldiers in general and the Group 759 in particular. Serving as the core force in commencing the Ho Chi Minh sea trail, generations of the Group’s cadres and soldiers forged traditions: (i) absolute loyalty to the Party, the Homeland, socialism and people, upholding great courage and resilience, burning aspirations for independence and freedom, and faith in the final victory, willingly sacrificing lives to accomplish every assigned task; (ii) enhancing synergy, focalized and unified command, close cooperation with other relevant forces and local governments and people and international friends; (iii) upholding a sense of self sufficiency, self reliance, solidarity and stringent discipline, mastering science and technology, surmounting difficulties, thwarting the enemy’s blockade, flexibility, wisdom, creativity, ceaseless attack, being determined to fight and determined to win, exploring many effective means of transport to the southern revolution.

Following the national unification, the country advanced to socialism. This situation necessitated new requirements for Vietnamese Navy’s tasks with a focus on firmly defending the national sovereignty over seas, islands and continental shelf. Brigade 125 is primarily tasked with providing transport to a chain of newly-liberated outlying islands, especially to those in the Spratly archipelago as a top priority, and meeting transportation needs of people and soldiers. Since April 1975, the Brigade has undertaken thousands of sea voyages, and transported tens of thousands of cadres and soldiers, and millions of tonnes of commodities, weapons, equipment, and materials, etc for the mission of protecting national sea and island sovereignty and continental shelf sovereign rights and international affairs.

At present, the building of modernized Vietnam people’s Naval Service for the purpose of defending national sea and island sovereignty and continental shelf sovereign rights necessitates demanding requirements. Therefore, Vietnam people’s naval service need to continuously uphold the tradition of Ho Chi Minh sea trail, strictly observe leadership and direction of the Central Military Commission and Ministry of National Defence, and closely work with central and local agencies at all levels to take the following measures.

First, the Party’s guidelines, and the State’s policies and law on military and defence missions and protection of island and sea sovereignty should be properly introduced, propagated and grasped, especially Resolutions of 12th National Party Congress, Resolutions of the 8th Plenum of the Central Party Committee (the 9th and 11th tenures) on Strategy for defending Homeland in the new situation, Resolution of the 4th Plenum of the Central Party Committee (the 10th tenure) on Vietnam maritime strategy towards 2020, and higher authorities’ directives and resolutions, thereby rendering cadres and soldiers within the whole Naval Service fully aware of role and importance of sea and islands, territorial dispute in the East Sea and its repercussions for development of marine and island economy, and promotion of national defence and security whereby they need to promote their sense of responsibility, enhance knowledge of international maritime laws, and vigilance against artifice and sabotage stratagem by hostile forces, and firmly maintain national sovereignty as well as peaceful and stable environment in maritime and island regions and continental shelf. Besides, it is necessary to thoroughly grasp agreements on East Sea issues signed by Vietnam and other relevant states and the Party and State’s line, policies, viewpoints, and approach to the peaceful settlement of disputes and differences on the basis of respect for international laws and sovereignty and independence of every nation.

Second, actively strengthening the building of strong maritime and littoral defence, security and diplomacy. Units within the entire Naval Service continuously foster all-round strength, firmly maintain independence, sovereignty, sovereign rights, jurisdiction, and territorial integrity; tightly coordinate means of political, diplomatic, legal, economic, and defence struggle for governance and protection of national maritime and island regions and continental shelf while closely combining accelerated development of economy with the building of all-people defence and security postures in maritime and island regions. In addition, it is crucial to concentrate on building revolutionary, regular, elite, and modernized Naval Service which cooperates with other forces to become a tower of strength for fishermen and economic sectors to tap marine resources. Besides, units within the entire naval service attach great importance to working with higher echelons and the local party executive committees and governments to encourage people to settle permanently on islands and get actively involved in fishing grounds; boost solidarity and friendship relations with regional nations to facilitate development of marine economy and firm protection of the national sea and island sovereignty.

Third, building comprehensively strong units and pure and strong party organizations to satisfy the task requirements in the new situation. Attention is focused on Resolution of the 4th Plenum of the Central Party Committee (12th tenure) on “strengthening the Party building and rectification, forestalling and repelling deterioration in political ideology, morality, lifestyle, and manifestations of “self-evolution”, “self-transformation” from within in close alignment with Directive No.05 by the Politburo (12th tenure) on “accelerating the study and following of Uncle Ho’s thought, morality, and lifestyle” and the Campaign “Promoting tradition, devoting talent, deserving to be Uncle Ho’s soldiers - naval soldiers of the Naval Service”, thereby rendering cadres and soldiers fixed in political willpower, absolutely loyal to the Party, the State and people, ceaseless in enhanced cultural level, professional capability and determination to surmount difficulties and hardships, and strong in defending the national sea and island sovereignty and continental shelf sovereign rights. At the same time, units within the entire Naval Service needs to streamline its affiliates organizationally, logistically and technically, especially island-stationed ones with adequate strength and high mobility while ceaselessly improving training quality and combat readiness, having a command of assorted weapons, and technical equipment, properly acquiring modern scientific and technological knowledge, inheriting and upholding Vietnamese Navy’s tradition and military art. In addition, it is essential to constantly outline and improve combat plans and determination, to heighten transport efficiency and combat readiness capability in maritime and island regions and continental shelf as well as independently operational ability and close coordination with other forces, and to resolutely avoid being passive and unexpected. Great importance is attached to promoting leadership ability and combativeness of party organizations, especially party cells, and pioneering and exemplary role of cadres and party members.

Fourth, firmly grasping and properly implementing foreign policy, particularly defence diplomacy on the basis of respect for maritime sovereignty and legitimate interests of all nations in line with the Party’s viewpoints and the State’s laws. Accordingly, in the coming time, the Naval Service will continue to promote exchange and cooperative activities with regional nations’ navies concerning maritime patrol, drills, search and rescue operations, and anti-piracy, etc in order to maintain stable and peaceful environment as well as security and order for development of marine economy. It is necessary to proactively and actively cooperate with relevant forces on assisting people in relief efforts, search and rescue activities, production and improved living standards; to uphold sense of self-sufficiency, self-reliance and creativity in production so as to heighten soldiers’ material and spiritual life; to have a command of weapons and technical equipment in line with the Campaign “managing, exploiting weapons and technical equipment properly, durably, safely, economically, and traffic safety”. 

On the basis of long-standing tradition of the Ho Chi Minh sea trail, “naval soldiers- Uncle Ho’s soldiers” will continue to express their absolute loyalty to the Party, the Homeland and people, fostering solidarity, wisdom and courage in combat, actively promoting proactiveness and creativity in production and daily activities, successfully fulfilling every task, and contributing to firm protection of the Homeland’s sacred sea and island sovereignty and continental shelf sovereign rights in every situation.

Rear Admiral Pham Van Vung, Head of Political Division, Naval Service
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 (1) In August 1963, the Central Military Commission put Group 759 under direct authority of the Naval Service. In January 1964, its name was changed to the Brigade 125.

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