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“Hanoi - Dien Bien Phu in the air” Victory and the building of Air and Air Defence troops’ political will today

The Victory of “Hanoi - Dien Bien Phu in the air” of the Northern military and people, with the Air and Air Defence troops as the core force, forever represents the symbol of Vietnam’s brainpower and willpower as well as the great epic of revolutionary heroism in the new era. That victory also provides us with valuable lessons on building Air and Air Defence troops’ political will and combat morale at present.

Being heavily defeated in the battlefield in the South Vietnam and the two destruction wars against North Vietnam, Nixon’s Administration secretly planned a strategic aerial bombing campaign conducted by B-52 Stratofortress against Hanoi, Hai Phong and several important targets in the North, in order to destroy the Vietnamese people’s determination to fight and win, and force us to yield to their terms and conditions in the Paris Conference.

From 18th to 30th of December 1972, the U.S. deployed 193 B-52 strategic bombers, about 50 F-111 aircraft, 1,077 fighter aircraft, 6 aircraft carriers and 50 KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft to launch a large-scale aerial bombing campaign (also known as Operation Linebacker II) against Hanoi, Hai Phong and several targets in North Vietnam. Only in 12 days, the US mobilized 663 sorties by B-52 and 3,920 sorties by tactical aircraft and dropped over 100,000 tons of bombs on the targets set by them. In Hanoi alone, the U.S. launched 441 sorties by B-52 and many other tactical aircraft to blitz this city. That was an unequal war in terms of force and means. However, with the spirit of “daring to fight, determined to fight, determined to win”, after 12 days of fighting bravely, our military and people shot down 81 aircraft of various types, including 34 B-52 aircraft, 5 F-111 aircraft, and 42 other tactical aircraft. That victory completely knocked down the symbol of “US Air Force” and foiled US President Nixon’s “Vietnamization” strategy and his crazy ambition to bomb North Vietnam “back to the Stone Age”. At the same time, it marked a turning point in the complexion of the resistance war against the U.S., for national salvation, compelling the US administration to sign the Paris Peace Accords of January 27th 1973, ending the war, restoring peace in Vietnam, creating new advantage and strength to liberate the South and reunify the country.

Among the determinants to that great victory, the building of our troops and people’s political will against the fierceness of the war is of decisive significance, which is manifested in the following points.

First, we had made a correct strategic forecast, thereby being prepared in all aspects. On comprehending the objective rules, with his broad vision and clear-sighted, unique political, military thought, President Ho Chi Minh predicted: “Sooner or later the U.S. will use B-52 to attack Hanoi; only after being beaten, it will accept defeat. Therefore, we must be prepared for all the situations as soon as possible. Remember that prior to its defeat in North Korea, the U.S. had destroyed Pyongyang. In Vietnam, it will be doomed to failure but after being defeated in the sky of Hanoi”. Grounded in that strategic forecast, the Central Military Commission ordered the Air and Air Defence Service (Service for short) and military regions to “get prepared for the scenario in which the U.S. dispatches its air force, including its strategic air force, back to the North”. Our Party and beloved Uncle Ho’s forecasts and directions acted as a proclamation to our people and military: “we would rather sacrifice everything than lose our independence and be enslaved”.

Second, we aroused and promoted patriotic tradition of the nation and the strength of a just war. By diverse forms, political education contributed to arousing the national self-esteem and our ancestors’ tradition of fighting against foreign invaders, and upholding troops’ will and absolute loyalty in the Party’s goal as well as their faith in certain victory of our nation’s just war. Thanks to this work, soldiers’ political will of “calmness, confidence, no panic about the enemy’s modern weapons and equipment” was made up, while the strength of our people’s just war and the unjustness of the war launched by the US Imperialists were clarified.

Third, party executive committees and commanders at all levels focused their leadership on enhancing their troops’ combat strength. Facing the enemy equipped with modern weapons, military party organizations, ranging from the Central Military Commission to party cells, brought into play human factor in every battle, while building up troops’ fighting will, creativity, and capabilities of operation and mastery over the available weapons and equipment to readily deal with difficulties and defeat the enemy. Simultaneously, party executive committees and commanders organized “Dien Hong Conferences” to democratically discuss, study and seek for the way to engage B-52 as well as adjust force, supplement military hardware, build strong air defence posture and rectify the work of combat support.

Maj. Gen. Lam Quang Dai presents flowers to pilots after their flight

Nowadays, the task of protecting national airspace is witnessing both intertwined advantages and challenges. In the event of a war, that will be a very fierce hi-tech one. The Service has been invested to move forward to modernity. Besides equipping with weapons and hardware to meet the mission requirements, the building of troops’ political and spiritual will is of utmost importance. Learning from lessons on promoting the political and spiritual factor in the Victory of “Hanoi - Dien Bien Phu in the air” in late 1972, party executive committees and commanders within the Service should concentrate on the following points.

1. Regularly studying to grasp the enemy’s plots and tricks to launch hi-tech air attacks as a basis for conducting the work of political education, cultivating troops’ ideal and building up their combat motive. In a war, comprehending the enemy’ schemes, trickery, combat projects, force and means is of paramount significance as “if you know both yourself and your enemy, you can win numerous battles without jeopardy”. As a result, we could correctly assess the balance of power, make a thorough preparation, identify the tactics, and create the initiative in political will and determination to fight among our troops. Political education should focus on rendering troops fully aware of Marxism-Leninism, Ho Chi Minh’s thought, the Party’s guidelines, defence and security tasks in the new period, the Service’s tasks as well as the position, significance and importance of the unit’s objects of protection. Due attention should be paid to education about tradition of the national, military and unit as well as the Service’s combat experience, thereby building up the faith in tactics and victory in a hi-tech war. To that end, it is necessary to diversify forms and methods of education; to well promote the role of party executive committees, commanders, commissars and organizations; and to combine political education with propagation of the country’s socioeconomic achievements and defence strength. 

2. Improving the quality of training in the areas of air and air defence force, mastering weapons, equipment and tactics, being prepared to undertake the task when it comes to situations. Currently, the Service is one of the forces invested to move forward to modernity by the State and the military. This honour also imposes higher requirements for its leadership and commandants at all levels. To effectively use weapons and equipment, particularly modern ones, training must adhere to the direction “basic, practical, strong, safe, economical” in a procedural manner. Training should be in a meticulous, cautious fashion to make sure that troops would master modern weapons and equipment, grasp combat projects, and rely on the capability and strength of technical equipment during training process and battles (if occurred). It is important to educate troops on the consciousness of carefully preserving and sustainably using the existing weapons and equipment, and accelerate training according to combat projects, flying training, and the building of multi-tiered air and air defence posture to defend the Homeland’s airspace in all possible situations.

3. Enhancing Party Executive Committee’s leadership over bringing into play political - spiritual factor and resolve among troops. To that end, it is essential to build pure, strong party organizations and concretize their leadership into building troops’ will and determination to fulfil the task. It is also important to improve comprehensive leadership capacity and combat strength of the party executive committees to ensure that they are capable enough to lead the building of combat projects and determination as well as political and spiritual factor among troops. Each party executive committee member must be equipped with political and military knowledge and comprehend the art of air attack as well as the enemy’s tactics when they use hi-tech weapons.

4. Promoting the role of key cadres, political offices at all levels and mass organizations in building troops’ combat will. The role of key cadres at all levels must be promoted via their raised responsibility for performing their task and taking by example in will and determination. Cadres’ conduct has an important effect on troops as they are the first examples for troops to follow. Therefore, key cadres should have iron political will, strong fighting determination, good military professional competence, pure ethics, scientific leadership style and democratic working method. Political offices should develop proper plans, programs, forms and methods for political education; while assisting party executive committees and commanders at all levels in inspecting, instructing and directing political education and the work of enhancing troops’ political will. Relationships with party executive committees and authorities in the stationed areas shall be strengthened. Due regard should be paid to improving troops’ material and spiritual life. At the same time, the role of mass organizations in education and training to enhance troops’ political will shall be brought into play.

45 years have elapsed, but the lessons on promoting Air and Air Defence troops’ political and spiritual factor in the 12-day Air Defence Campaign of December 1972 remain valuable and should be further studied, inherited and developed to a new height. Those lessons will contribute to building Air and Air Defence troops' fighting will and resolve to readily fight to safeguard the Homeland’s airspace, seas and islands, thereby deserving to be the core force in the surface-to-air front in the people’s warfare for national protection.

Maj. Gen. Lam Quang Dai, Political Commissar of the Air and Air Defence Service

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