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People’s Public Security Forces in cooperation with other forces ensured political security and social stability during Air Defence Operation late 1972

In the Air Defence Operation in late December 1972, People’s Public Security Forces, in close cooperation with other forces, ensured local security and stability as well as safety of our Party’s and Government’s organizations as well as life and properties of people, contributing to the overall victory of the Operation.

In late 1972, due to successive defeats in all political, military and diplomatic fronts, the U.S. “Vietnamized war” strategy was on the verge of complete failure. To save the campaign, then U.S. President, Richard Nixon, decided to launched a strategic air raid called Operation Linebacker II, started from 18th to 29th December 1972 to blitz Hanoi, Hai Phong and some other Northern places with the aim of draining our people’s fighting will and creating favourable conditions for them in negotiations. Therefore, besides shooting down the enemy’s warplanes and defeating their operation, it was critical to guarantee political security, social stability and safety as well as minimize damages caused by the U.S. Air Forces.

Earlier, in late 1971 when the signs of U.S. escalations in bombing the North became continuously clearer, the Secretariat of our Party’s Central Committee released Instruction No. 193-CT/TW on strengthening readiness for combating and defeating any air raid by the U.S. against the North. Accordingly, at the request of the Secretariat, armed forces needed to be intensively ready for fighting and prepared to proactively and opportunely take action against the enemy’s air and commando raids, thus protecting lives and properties of people, national properties and Party’s and Government’s organizations. Following the directions, at the 26th Public Security Forces’ National Meeting, leaderships of our Party, Government and Ministry of Public Security determined that the most important mission in 1972 was: “to firmly defend lasting political security and social stability in the way more intensive and urgent […] The focus is placed in Hanoi, Hai Phong…” As a result, as soon as the U.S. Operation started in late 1972, the Ministry of Public Security directed the local units to closely coordinate with the Military, Civil Defence forces, relevant ministries, departments, commissions, services and organizations at both central and local levels to formulate elaborate and comprehensive combat plans and courageously fight against the brutal enemy. Being willing to devote their lives to the Homeland, they accomplished their missions excellently. During those days and nights, the security forces were focused on seeking and suppressing reactionary individuals and groups to defend bodies of our Party and Government, lives and properties of our people, and also participated in our battles and protected transportation systems, making valuable contributions to the general victory of our operation as follows.

First, the People’s Public Security Forces, in close coordination with other relevant forces, conducted “reactionary clearance” in the local, and also joined other forces in fighting at different fronts of our operation. These missions were exceptionally important to national security since the theatre of operations was Hanoi Capital city, where head bodies of our Party and Government located. As soon as our Air Defence Operation begun, our security forces, in coordination with local Party’s committees, authorities and other forces, undertook an intensive security operation, in which their efforts focused on seeking for and suppressing dangerous reactionary individuals and groups, especially commandos, spies and those who stayed in our zones to pinpoint targets for the U.S. air strikes. The Ministry of Public Security instructed its subordinate units to identify every individual and suppress all of those who were able to endanger our social security and safety, and at the same time, put known ringleaders under house arrest or moved them to other locations. During this security operation, Ba Che District (Quang Ninh Province) forces discovered and arrested Ly Tien Lam, as he was on the very first stage to form a counter-revolutionary group. Most notably, Hanoi security forces investigated and busted Ho Van Chanh, an official working in the Department of Press and Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs for espionage. Also in this time, 152 groups of scoundrels were broken; 576 unruly individuals were arrested; and 395 naughty youths were gathered in juvenile detention centers. Security units, local authorities and people together well maintained the security of their areas, especially the key ones. Notably, many local authorities were proactive and successful in guarding secrets related to our Air Defence Operation, creating a popular movement with the theme “Three Don’ts, One Take” (Don’t know, Don’t listen, Don’t tell; and Take strangers to police offices). As a result, domestic hostile activities were prevented; social evils were eliminated; political stability and the security of Operation-relevant areas were ensured; and those locals were free from spies and commandos, facilitating the victory of our Air Defence Operation.

Moreover, with the initiative, creativity, regular area observation and offensive orientation, local security forces stood side by side with military units, particularly the three-category air defence forces, in fighting enemy’s warplanes and captured their pilots in various battlefields. As a contribution to the general victory, the armed security force of the Post No. 34 in Hai Phong shot down one A6 plane, which was the 21st U.S. aircraft taken down by Hai Phong security forces since the beginning of the U.S. air strike campaign against the North (April 1972).

Second, together with other units, the Public Security Forces also conducted preventive activities, evacuations, patrols, guard, live-saving from building collapses, fire-fighting and protection for people during the Air Defence Operation. Following President Ho Chi Minh’s instruction, which was that “evacuation is an essential part of an air defence operation”, in late November and early December 1972, local security forces, in collaboration with People’s Air Defence Councils and Transport bodies, persuaded elder people, children and those who were not to engage in our Air Defence Operation to evacuate to safe locations. With the help of people, they also moved many machines and properties of the Government and people to determined places. This was not an easy mission as the number of people and things to be evacuated was enormous, and the life of evacuees in new residential areas was difficult. In addition, some reactionary disseminated distorted information, provoking anxiety among people. Against this backdrop, police and civil defence groups actively promoted their activities to explain to people the truth of the situation, the destructive power of B-52 bomber and the need of evacuation for the safety of their lives and properties. Thanks to the propagation, 600,000 people in Hanoi and 90% of the population of Hai Phong city and centres of Nam Dinh, Hai Duong, Thai Nguyen, Bac Giang provinces were evacuated right before the start of the U.S. air strike operation, making important contributions to the reduction of losses caused by the enemy.

Being absolutely vigilant, utterly determined and highly responsible, local security forces closely collaborated with civil defence groups to patrol and guard important locations all days and nights as well as studied enemy’s attacks to localize their target places for the good protection of Government’s and people’s properties. In addition, local security forces, departments, bodies and unions organized rescue many teams; fortified available trenches and dug new ones in roadside and houses for people’s shelters; and provided ambulance services, road clearance, traffic guide, etc. Remarkably, firefighters proved to be brave and ingenious when they overcame all bombings to rescue people, equipment, ammunition boxes from collapses and fires. There were days when Phan Chu Trinh firefighter team (Hanoi) was deployed 5 to 6 times and they rescued a lot of people and properties. Hai Phong firefighter teams once moved 40km under air raids to extinguish fires. In Hanoi particularly, firefighters succeeded in dealing with 33 out of 38 fires, saving 700 tons of artillery shells, 10 tons of chemicals, 1,000 tons of goods, etc.

Third, Public Security Forces proactively collaborated with others to assure traffic safety in the theatre of operations. During our Air Defence Operation in late 1972, to reduce our resistance power and destroy critical targets, U.S. Air Force focused their due fire on key parts of our traffic systems. With full awareness of the enemy’s intention, our Public Security Forces utilize maximum resources and, together with traffic staff, maintained their resilient presence at commanding posts for controlling traffic lines to help our vehicles go through, especially, those areas which were under enemy’s fire focuses. Furthermore, our security forces also participated in demining several areas, paving new roads and ensure fast traffic flows in all conditions. In fact, although most of key intersections, gateways, bridges, ferries and populated residential quarters were put under massive bombings, our Public Security Forces were present and played their role well. Despite the fact that Hanoi was heavily bombed, with 39 streets, 3 suburb towns and communes were devastated, the traffic in our systems, especially on key roads, still flowed seamlessly, thereby ensuring adequate and timely supplies of ammunition, arms, food, medicine, etc. for units combating at the front.

It has been 45 years since the Air Defence Operation December 1972, yet the values of its lessons still remain. The experience in practicing three-category air defence posture in combination with people’s security one, basing on people’s war strategy, should be further made use of and broadened. This is the basis for Vietnam People’s Army and Public Security Forces to closely collaborate in fighting and defending Vietnam Socialist Nation as core forces.

Snr. Col., Dr. Nguyen Van Viet, Deputy Director of the Institute for Public Security History

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