Thursday, December 15, 2022, 13:37 (GMT+7)
Victory of Ha Noi – Dien Bien Phu in the Air in 1972: Vietnamese spirit and wisdom

50 years ago, under the leadership of the Party Central Committee and Politburo, directly the Central Military Commission (CMC) and Ministry of National Defence (MND), our military and people defeated the U.S’s strategic air raid conducted mostly by the B-52s over Ha Noi, Hai Phong, and some other localities in the north. Together with great success of the strategic offensive of 1972 in the southern theatre of war, victory of the Ha Noi – Hai Phong Air Denfence Campaign in December 1972 over the north shocked the Americans and the puppets in Sai Gon. The victory inspired Vietnamese people, delighted our international friends, and contributed to creating a turning point in the cause of national liberation, forcing the Nixon administration to de-escalate the war, return to negotiation, and sign the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Viet Nam (the Paris Peace Accords for short).

Vietnamese spirit and wisdom, which had evolved throughout the history of national building and defence, continued to be greatly leveraged in the Ho Chi Minh era. This was vividly expressed in the art of leadership, organisation, and use of forces; establishment of people’s air defence posture; and planned fighting methods in association with flexible transformation to adapt to specific situations, non-stop coordination, combination of on-site powerful attacks and extensive fighting in many areas to achieve a decisive victory.

First, correctly analysing and assessing situations; anticipating the American imperialists’ plots and steps of military adventurism. Victory of our military and people in the Ha Noi – Hai Phong Air Defence Campaign in December 1972 demonstrated the deep, sharp, strategic vision of the Party Central Committee, Politburo, CMC, and strategic advisory bodies. On the basis of correctly analysing and assessing situations at home and abroad, clearly identifying the nature of the adversaries of Vietnamese revolution, and the balance of power, our Party and President Ho Chi Minh worked out sound political, military guidelines suitable to conditions of our country in each stage of the revolution, thereby gradually defeating American imperialists’ tactics and strategies of war in the theatre of Viet Nam in both the north and south. Prior to signing of the Geneva Agreements, the 6th Congress of the Party Central Committee (2nd tenure) convened in July 1954 judged that American imperialists were the major obstacle to restoring peace in Indochina and were becoming the main, direct adversary of Indochinese people. In early 1965, in his closing remarks at the 12th Congress of the Party Central Committee, President Ho Chi Minh made correct predictions about American imperialists’ scheme to escalate the war. “The enemy may launch bombing raids over Hai Phong, Ha Noi, and other localities in the north,” said Ho Chi Minh. Regarding the northern rear, our Party determined that while raising the slogans: “All are devoted to the big front line in the south, all are dedicated to triumphing over American aggressors,” it was necessary to build the north; closely combine economic development and strengthening of national defence; resolutely protect the north; defeat the enemy’s destructive war and naval and air blockade; be prepared to engage the enemy if they further escalated the war or turned it into a local war in both the north and the south.

In late 1967, President Ho Chi Minh judged that sooner or later the American imperialists would use the B-52s to bomb Ha Noi. His correct strategic prediction that American imperialists only conceded defeat over Ha Noi was an important guideline for our strategic advisory bodies to proactively put forth the most effective concepts of operations. On closely monitoring developments of situation, the Politburo and Party Central Committee decided to make every preparation for shooting the B-52s down on the spot. Force concentration was from the 200 latitude northwards, and Ha Noi was the key target for protection. In April 1972, the CMC ordered the Air Defence – Air Force and military regions to be prepared to deal with the possibility that the U.S Air Force would send its war planes, including the strategic ones, to resume air raids in the north.

Together with identifying strategic tasks of the north, the Party directed enhancement of all work in the rear, especially in the ideological and organisational aspects in the context of war escalation nationwide. Regarding the ideological work, the Party requested to arouse and make the most of the ardent love for the country and creativity of all forces in the Campaign. There was a need to make the entire Party, military, and people deeply aware of the American imperialists’ new plots and actions, strength and weaknesses as well as advantages and disadvantages of our forces and the enemy, our ongoing and ultimate definite victory, and the U.S’s ongoing and ultimate definite failure. This would provide a firm foundation for building up confidence, determination to fight, and determination to win; daring to fight and knowing how to defeat the U.S. aggressors; being ready to defeat any strategies of war of the enemy; overcoming all difficulties and hardships to develop our self-reliance while refraining from subjectivism and underestimating the enemy.

The strategic vision of our Party and President Ho Chi Minh was a vital premise and prerequisite for the entire Party, people, and military in general, the military and people in the north in particular to proactively and calmly cope with situation successfully, firmly maintaining and strengthening the offensive posture before and during the historic battle with the U.S’s Strategic Air Forces.

SAM 2 missile deployed in the Air Defence Campaign in 1972

Second, actively and proactively establishing and organising the core force while adopting synchronous measures to inspire people’s efforts with the aim of creating an interconnected, robust posture and seizing and maintaining operational initiative. Having grasped President Ho Chi Minh’s viewpoint: “We must actively make every preparation for being ready to defeat all plots to escalate the war of the American imperialists”, under the Party’s leadership, directly that of the CMC and MND, together with people nationwide, the military and people in the north confidently and proactively confronted fierce attacks launched by the U.S. Air Force and Navy. Willpower and belief in the ultimate victory were the source of our strength to defeat any plots and actions of the enemy. The northern rear not only withstood the enemy’s devastating attacks but also provided human and material resources for the southern theatre.

On the basis of correctly predicting the enemy’s plans and rules of engagement, basically, we completed adjustment of forces and battle formation, establishment of reserve headquarters at all levels, training of combat units, political and ideological education, development of operational plans, and preparation of weapons, equipment, and logistics as planned. After the operational plans had been approved, the General Staff quickly adjusted disposition of forces, established a three-element air defence posture, and implemented the people’s air defence plan, being prepared to respond to the enemy’s new plots.

Right after the U.S’s B-52s were involved in the war in the south, the Politburo and CMC advocated establishing and strengthening the Air Defence-Air Force; concentrated resources at home and from foreign assistance on establishing modern radar units, formations of fighters, air defence missiles, and anti-aircraft artillery, and some combat support units; consolidated the widespread local air defence force, being ready to respond to the enemy’s escalation of war. The Air Defence-Air Force and Navy were the core forces to engage the enemy aircraft and warships. The two forces had been strengthened in many aspects, especially in terms of weapon systems, equipment, and coordination plans with other forces to generate an interconnected posture of the people’s war. The number of anti-aircraft regiments and battalions grew from 12 and 14 in the early days to 21 and 41 respectively by 1972, including 8 mobile regiments, forming a robust short- and medium-range air defence network in key areas while creating clusters of anti-aircraft artillery to protect specific areas. On 1 July 1965, the 236th Regiment (also known as Song Da Regiment) – the first air defence missile unit of Viet Nam People’s Army (VPA) – was established. Technical training of the modern air defence force was conducted promptly and carefully under the instruction of Soviet Union’s experts. The number of air force regiments grew from one to three. The regiments were equipped with MiG-17s and MiG-21s. The number of radar regiment grew from two to four and under command of the Air Defence – Air Force.

Having been tested in battles, the VPA’s air defence units developed and became the backbone of the people’s air defence posture. The VPA’s newly established air defence units had to confront tough challenges posed by the U.S’s modern Air Force. To realise the motto of training, combating, and drawing experience concurrently, we gradually became mature in many aspects, particularly combat skills and operational coordination among forces. In the struggle against the war of destruction staged by U.S Air Force, on the basis of the guideline of people’s war and all-people national defence, a people’s air defence posture with the Air Defence-Air Force as the core force was set up and increasingly improved. The extensive people’s air defence network which combined rudimentary and modern weapon systems was established to be ready to cope with modern weapon systems and equipment. In Ha Noi Capital, the regular, mobile air defence force coordinated with on-site air defence force, military units, and militia and self-defence units to set up a multilayered air defence posture with dozens of missile sites and hundreds of anti-aircraft artillery sites deployed in critical areas and on the top of buildings.

Apart from organisation and provision of support for combat forces, the VPA worked with local authorities and people to successfully conduct air defence work and evacuation, ensuring safety of life and property. Many schools, kindergartens, hospitals, and factories were evacuated from key bombing areas to safe havens.

Given the participation of multiple forces, a complete posture, and good, flexible, effective coordination, together with the military and people of the north, the military and people of Ha Noi Capital with the Air Defence-Air Force playing the core role defeated the strategic air raid launched by U.S Air Force.

Third, proactively formulating operational plans to be prepared to confront the most advanced weapon systems of the adversary. One of the most prominent characteristics of the confrontation between our military and people and U.S. Air Force in December 1972 is the battle of wits with high science and technology content. In their final attempt, the American imperialists decided to use all types of advanced weapon systems, including the B-52s, precision-guided munitions, airborne EW jammer pods, etc., for the strategic air raid. Meanwhile, our military had only relatively modern weapon systems such MiG-17s, MiG-21s, SA-2 Surface-to-Air Missiles, 100 mm anti-aircraft guns, P-35 radars.

Being imbued with Uncle Ho’s teaching: “Regardless of peace or war, we must take initiative, foresee the situation, prepare in advance for every situation”, given his strategic vision, right from 1962, President Ho Chi Minh requested the air defence force to “closely monitor” the B-52s. In January 1963, the Air Defence-Air Force was founded on the basis of merging the Air Defence Command with the Directorate of Air Force, marking a new development of the VPA in terms of organisation and combat power. The service command continued to step up studies about the B-52s. Units in charge of operations and military intelligence actively gathered information and documents relating to the B-52s, most notably the technical specifications. Right after U.S. Air Force used the B-52s to bomb Ben Cat on 18 June 1965, Mu Gia Pass in Quang Binh Province on 12 April 1966, etc., President Ho Chi Minh directly assigned the Air Defence-Air Force to find the way to shoot the B-52s down. The Air Defence-Air Force demonstrated its offensive initiative when it timely mobilised forces, weapon systems, and equipment. The radar stations, electronic reconnaissance units, and Air Force worked with each other to study technical specifications and rules of engagement of the B-52s, laying the basis for proposing ways of shooting down the B-52s.

Under the leadership of the CMC and MND, the research and compilation of B-52 combat manual were conducted very early. The Air Defence-Air Force drafted the “How to beat the B-52s.” This was a meaningful document, which timely provided information about technical specifications and rules of engagement of the B-52s and the ways to beat the B-52s in normal conditions.

The research into the way to beat B-52s and development of plans to beat B-52s were promptly conducted and basically completed in early September 1972. After a great deal of supplementation and improvement, the manual about “How to beat the B-52s” was disseminated to each soldier directly involved in combat, contributing to enhancing soldiers’ training and combat effectiveness. The Soviet Union’s technical experts worked closely with engineers and technicians of the Air Defence-Air Force to accomplish the upgrade plan and check all technical standards of electronic equipment and the missiles. Missile, radar, and 100 mm anti-aircraft gun units entered a specialised training phase focusing on methods to engage the B-52s in five directions around Ha Noi. The Air Defence-Air Force stepped up research into upgrading and using our weapon systems and equipment, which aimed to combine optical and electronic equipment to maximise the sensitivity of missile warheads. The Air Defence-Air Force actively worked with the Signal Command, Naval Command, Directorate of Intelligence, and Directorate of Manpower to conduct technical reconnaissance to develop methods to shoot down the B-52s. Given their proactiveness and determination to defeat the U.S.’s plot to use the B-52s, our military and people were ready to take up the decisive duel. At 10.30 in the morning of 17 December 1972, the Commander of the Air Defence-Air Force directly ordered the 361st, 363rd, 365th, 375th divisions, the Radar, and Air Force, especially those stationed in the two key areas of Ha Noi and Hai Phong, to shift into the highest combat readiness.

Fourth, selecting appropriate tactics, using forces properly, finding many good fighting methods, focusing on destroying the major targets, forcing the American imperialists to end the air raids. Thanks to correct identification of the enemy’s plots, tricks, scope, scale, and time of attack, the military and people of Ha Noi Capital proactively set up a complete, robust, multilayered three-element air defence posture. It was an alternate combat posture, forming three clusters of operational air defence. The air defence-air force units closely divided areas of responsibility, height, and time of engagement, which served to create a multilayered, devilish, interconnected posture with both breadth and depth. This posture enabled us to continually engage the enemy’s aircraft from the distance, at any ranges, and from many directions, putting them at serious risk of being shot down in both daytime and night-time.

Victory of the Campaign illustrates the art of air defence in leveraging comprehensive strength of the three-element air defence force with the air defence as the core. The close leadership; coordination of operational activities between air defence units of the main force and those of localities, self-defence force, and other forces; combination of extensive and concentrated engagement as well as small-, medium-, and large-scale battles made the enemy extremely terrified when flying over Ha Noi. The three-element air defence force was closely organised according to a unified order, thus achieving high effectiveness and creating a multilayered posture capable of quickly maneuvering, engaging the enemy at multiple heights, and fighting continually in both daytime and night-time. The fire which was generated by the multilayered air defence system of the military and people in the north in the 12 days in late 1972 formed an interconnected posture and tool for destroying the U.S.’s strategic and tactical aircraft.

The new posture brought about new strength for the Capital armed forces to undermine U.S. Air Force’s prestige and power. The fire created by the air defence units of the Capital military and people is a unique creativity of people’s war in Ha Noi Capital, which was not large but densely populated in the centre. Given the high determination, wisdom of upgrading weapon systems, and capability to withstand the battlefield, we defeated the American imperialists’ plot to “bomb Ha Noi back to the stone age,” achieving victory in the decisive strategic battle.

Given their scientific, creative, rational posture, the Missile Force and Air Force concentrated on targeting the strategic air force operating at the high altitudes. Other forces annihilated the tactical aircraft. The fire created by the three-element force and people’s air defence posture made U.S. Air Force confused and passive. We also proactively transformed the posture when the enemy used a new tactic, making them surprised.

Fifth, unyielding, ingenious, brave fighting spirit, flexibility, and creativity of the Air Defence – Air Force, the military and people in the north, notably the military and people of Ha Noi, Hai Phong, and some provinces. The operation against U.S. Air Force’s strategic bombing raid in late December 1972 was a battle of wits and combat power for the two sides. The intelligence and spirit of Vietnamese people were once demonstrated through the strategy of war, operational art of air defence, mastery of modern weapon systems and equipment, invention of combat methods of each arm and element of forces, close combination between national power and power of the age as well as between military struggle and diplomatic struggle at the Paris Conference. This is a special rule of revolutionary warfare which provides that a small country wishing to defeat the war of aggression launched by a powerful imperialist country must know how to bring into play comprehensive power of the whole people, how to integrate force build-up, establishment of postures, exploitation of opportunities with use of stratagems in war, and how to use both willpower and wisdom. Ha Noi, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam (now the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam), the political, economic, cultural centre of the country, and the convergence of Vietnamese intelligence, takes pride in being a deadly battlefield for U.S. Air Force, a capital of conscience and human dignity, and a place for demonstrating the pinnacle of intelligence and spirit of Viet Nam in the Ho Chi Minh era. This is one of the factors that creates the indomitable strength of Dong Do – Thang Long – Ha Noi, a guarantee of victory of the Ha Noi – Dien Bien Phu in the Air in December 1972.

During the Campaign, weapons systems of our military and people were effectively used to target and destroy many U.S.’s modern warplanes, including 34 B-52 Stratofortress. Once again, the battle of life and death with the U.S. on 12 days in late 1972 proved the wisdom and spirit of Viet Nam in the Ho Chi Minh era. P-35 radar counteracted the effects produced by jamming devices to detect the enemy aircraft. The tiny MiGs shot down the B-52s. The SA-2 Surface-to-Air Missiles and even the rifles were capable of shooting down the F-4 Phantom II. Given their thirst for knowledge, bravery, wisdom, and creativity in not only the ways of leveraging weapon systems and equipment but also developing them into the art of coordinating weapon systems to produce a multilayered air defence network. They were the Vietnamese people, who had been trained and tested by the revolutionary warfare, educated about patriotism and hatred towards adversaries and comprehensive knowledge of natural and social sciences, had revolutionary ideals and spirits, and been ready to undertake and successfully accomplish all tasks assigned by the Party, State, and people. The triumph over the U.S’s strategic air raid in Ha Noi, Hai Phong, and some other provinces and cities in late 1972 was a significant milestone and symbol of indomitable spirit and wisdom of Vietnamese people. It was a victory of the people’s war and the people’s air defence posture to safeguard the socialist northern region; the pinnacle of the surface-to-air people’s war against the U.S. imperialists’ air raids; the inheritance and development of traditional military art of Viet Nam in the new era.

Today and in the coming years, the world and region are likely to witness rapid, complex, unforeseeable developments. Traditional and nontraditional security issues are on the rise, posing numerous challenges to each country. The sociopolitical situation is stable in the country. The economy continues to acquire a relatively high growth rate. National defence and security are ceaselessly strengthened. The position and prestige of Viet Nam in the international arena are greatly enhanced. Nevertheless, hostile forces and political opportunists continue to carry out acts of destruction against our revolution, especially the acts of “peaceful evolution,” riots and subversion, inciting “self-evolution” and “self-transformation” within the Party and depoliticisation of the VPA, and so forth.

Upholding the glorious tradition and bringing into play experience, spirit, and wisdom of Viet Nam, which were proved in the Ha Noi – Dien Bien Phu in the Air, in the cause of national building and defence, we need to further affirm that the leadership of the Party Central Committee and President Ho Chi Minh is key to all victories of Vietnamese revolution and the VPA’s development and victory. The absolute, direct leadership of the Party in every aspect is both a principle and firm foundation for cadres and soldiers in the entire military to cultivate political steadfastness, high resolution, and solid confidence in the revolutionary path chosen by the Party and Uncle Ho; to be absolutely faithful to the revolutionary cause of the Party; try the best to train and successfully complete all missions; firmly safeguard independence, sovereignty, unification, and territorial integrity of the Fatherland; and protect the Party, State, people, and socialist regime.

General Luong Cuong, Member of the Politburo, Member of the Central Military Commission’s Standing Committee, Chief of the General Political Department

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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.