Monday, November 01, 2021, 07:38 (GMT+7)
Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail and its lessons for today’s national construction and protection

After the historic victory of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the U.S. and its lackeys blatantly broke the Geneva Accords, with a view to permanently dismembering our country, transforming South Vietnam into a new-style colony and a military base, and inhibiting the spread of Communism down to Southeast Asia. Against that backdrop, in Hanoi, the 2nd Party Central Committee’s 15th Plenum advocated that there must be revolutionary violence to liberate the South, while determining to quickly provide human and material resources and weapons from the North to the South battlefield. Under the direction of the Politburo and the Central Military Commission (CMC), in addition to organising Group 559 in charge of opening the land transport line along Truong Son mountain range, after undertaking researches and making all necessary preparations, on October 23rd, 1961, the General Command decided to establish Military Transport Group 759 tasked with transporting personnel, weapons, and equipment to the regions that the Truong Son transport line had not been able to reach in the South. The Decision to found Group 759, which was then renamed Group 125 on January 29th, 1964, demonstrated the strategic vision of the Politburo, the CMC, and the General Command, marking an important historic milestone in the development of a new strategic sea transport line.

A “No Number Naval Ship” on the sea (file photo)

To realise the Party’s strategic determination, Group 759 promptly prepared personnel, vessels, and wharves. At the same time, greater importance was attached to promoting the politico-spiritual factor and organising political activities to build up cadres and soldiers’ political zeal and combat morale and introduce combat projects in the event. Thanks to elaborate preparations and fighting resolve, our rudimentary ships full of weapons secretly, surprisingly overcame high waves and heavy storms at sea as well as mop-up operations of the navy and the air force provided with modern observation and early warning systems by the U.S. and the Saigon puppet regime to arrive at the South’s battlefields. During each cruise by a “no number naval ship,” cadres and soldiers had to calmly, wisely, courageously trick the enemy to reach destinations safely; they also had to maintain combat readiness, make sacrifices, and even destroy their ship to protect the secrecy of the transport line. When the enemy blocked inward routes, we travelled outer ones; when the enemy blocked waters near the coast, we would travelled on the high seas; when the enemy blocked a long sea route, we travelled different shorter ones; when the enemy destroyed our wharves, we established other ones; when the enemy discovered our transport method, we sought another one. Amidst hardships and dangers, cadres and soldiers of the “No Number Naval Ships” received and innovated means and equipment properly, effectively, maintained discipline on the battlefield, combined secret and public operations, aligned guerrilla warfare with regular warfare, and associated traditional approaches with modern ones to create unique tactics of transport. At the same time, they cleverly combined camouflaging and diversionary tactics with daring, secret, surprising methods to arrive at wharves safely and increase the number of cruises effectively.

In the development progress of the resistance war against the U.S., for national salvation, in its early days, the military sea transport force included only 4 wooden-hulled boats from the South and 38 crew members. After a short period of time, it became a transport brigade in charge of the strategic sea transport line together with the increasingly modern equipment. From wooden-hulled boats operating near the coast, it developed steel-hulled ships operating far from the coast, taking advantage of the international shipping lanes and other countries’ waters, mingling with fishing vessels to provide weapons, ammunition, cadres, and soldiers for the battlefield opportunely in an extremely difficult, fierce condition.

In spite of facing the enemy with their superiority in the air and at sea, thanks to the bravery and expertise, cadres and soldiers of the “No Number Naval Ships” always well carried out the work of organisation, command, and coordination, combined tactics with techniques, and ensured the smooth signal system between headquarters and vessels and between vessels and wharves. From 1961 to 1975, cadres and soldiers of Group 759 (Group 125) under the Navy achieved heroic miracles. Hundreds of vessels supplied hundreds of thousands of tons of weapons, equipment, goods, and medicine as well as thousands of cadres and soldiers from the big rear to the big front, thereby opportunely meeting the demands of the South battlefield in the fierce years of war. The sea transport trail became a miracle and a legend that had made contributions to defeating the U.S. “special war,” “local war,” and “Vietnamisation” strategies and making up the victory in the historic Ho Chi Minh Campaign as the basis for completely liberating the South and unifying the country (1975).

Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail has gone down in the Vietnamese people’s history of fighting invaders as an immortal epic and a brilliant feat of arms on the strategic supply front during the resistance war against the U.S., for national salvation, while demonstrating the unique features of the Vietnamese military art in the Ho Chi Minh era. That tradition has always been preserved, built up, and brought into play so that the revolutionary heroism of cadres and soldiers of the “No Number Naval Ships” would forever shine in today’s Homeland construction and protection.

In the upcoming years, the situation in the world and the region will continue to have complex, unpredictable developments. Peace, cooperation, and development will still be the mainstream. Major powers will continue dominating international relations. Local wars, armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, and political upheavals will keep occurring in many places. Disputes over territories, seas, and islands will be more intense. Despite a lot of challenges and difficulties, ASEAN will continue playing an important role in the Asia-Pacific Region and on a global scale. Achievements in the national renewal have created new strengths and position for our country. However, Vietnam will be confronted with numerous difficulties and challenges as the hostile forces are stepping up their sabotage scheme against our Party and State via extremely malicious artifices. Meanwhile, non-traditional security challenges, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic with their complicated, unpredictable developments will pose new threats to our national construction and protection. Moreover, to defend national sovereignty over seas, islands, and continental shelf, the entire Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) shall keep grasping and effectively implementing the guidelines on “resolutely, persistently firmly protecting national independence, sovereignty, unification, territorial integrity, airspace, and waters; maintaining peace and stability for development” set by the 13th National Party Congress, while preserving and promoting the tradition of the “No Number Naval Ships,” with a focus on several measures and tasks as follows.

First of all, raise the awareness and responsibility of the whole Party, VPA, and people for the defence of national sovereignty over seas and islands in today’s Homeland construction and protection. It is necessary to be fully aware that national sovereignty over seas and islands and territorial integrity are sacred, inexorable, and not to be violated, traded, or replaced; maintaining peace at sea allows the country’s stability and development. Besides, to safeguard seas and islands, it is important to be “steadfast in strategic principles, flexible in strategies.” In other words, we shall stay resolute in struggle but flexible in dealing with situations, and we shall take the defence of national sovereignty and benefits and a peaceful, stable environment for the country’s development as the prime goal. That is responsibility and duty of the entire Party, VPA, and people, with the armed forces playing a core role in defending seas and islands (the Navy, the Air Defence - Air Force Service, the Border Guard Force, the Vietnam Coast Guard, the Fisheries Resources Surveillance, and the Coastal Militia and Self-Defence Force). To that end, party committees, commands, and heads of offices, units, and localities, particularly the coastal ones shall well conduct the work of propagation to raise public awareness and responsibility for the defence of seas and islands and to render cadres, party members, citizens, and forces at sea fully aware of the Party’s guidelines and the State’s law and policy on seas and islands, with a focus on the Strategy to Defend the Homeland in the New Situation, the Law of the Sea of Vietnam, and the Strategy for the Sustainable Development of Vietnam’s marine economy towards 2030, with a vision towards 2045 as the basis for turning Vietnam into a maritime powerhouse, maintaining peace and stability at sea, and firmly protecting the Vietnamese Socialist Homeland. At the same time, they shall be educated on the complex developments in disputes over seas and islands to cement their faith, arouse national pride and tradition, and uphold the noble virtues of “Uncle Ho’s soldiers” and the courage of soldiers of the “No Number Naval Ships” for the defence of seas and islands. Forces at sea shall heighten their combat determination, show no fear of hardships and dangers, keep conducting patrols to assert and protect national sovereignty over seas and islands, and provide active, reliable support for fishermen to work at sea for economic development. Due regard should be paid to upholding national independence and self-reliance, ensuring troops’ material and mental life, and mastering weapons and technical equipment, especially the state-of-the-art ones to create the synergy for firmly protecting the Homeland’s sovereignty over seas and islands.

Second, focus on making forces in charge of defending seas and islands strong and capable of fulfilling their assigned mission. In this regard, greater importance should be attached to building a “revolutionary, regular, elite, modern” Navy, Air Defence - Air Force Service, and Vietnam Coast Guard, a comprehensively strong Border Guard Force, an elite Frogman Commando Force, a strong Fisheries Resources Surveillance Force, and a strong, extensive Coastal Militia and Self-Defence Force with a high level of synergy and combat readiness so that they will be capable of managing and protecting seas and islands in any situation. Cadres and soldiers at sea must show their political zeal and absolute loyalty to the Party, the Homeland, and the people, enhance combat readiness, patrols, and law enforcement at sea, surmount all difficulties, and readily sacrifice themselves to firmly protect seas, islands, and continental shelf and maintain peace and stability at sea. Besides, due attention should be paid to consolidating forces’ organisational structure in a balanced, proper, compact, strong, and highly manoeuvrable manner together with sufficient on-the-spot combat and mobile units at sea. At the same time, it is important to undertake researches into adjustments in force deployment in accordance with the defence of seas and islands, the tasks and requirements set by the Strategy for the Development of Vietnam’s Marine Economy, and the climate condition of each region. Consideration should be given to generally disposing national defence forces at sea and on islands in peacetime and developing projects for wartime. Furthermore, weapons and equipment for each force must be sufficiently ensured. In addition to mastering the existing weapons and technical equipment, it is necessary to acquire several modern weapons in accordance with the country’s practical condition and the task requirements. Great value should be attached to enhancing training and exercises, developing combat methods and arts, particularly joint operations, and unceasingly raising the capability in managing and protecting national sovereignty over seas and islands. At the same time, forces must actively take part in economic development at sea and on islands, with priority to the seas and islands far from the coast in order to make contributions to creating a favourable condition for the country to defend and exploit marine natural resources. 

Third, enhance the posture of all-people national defence at sea. The posture of all-people national defence at sea is part of the whole country’s all-people national defence posture; it is also an important component of the country’s general defensive posture. Therefore, the building and strengthening of this type of posture is a matter of urgency. To do so, it is essential to focus on disposing national defence forces and means at sea and on islands under a uniformed strategy so as to bring into play Vietnam’s national defence strength at sea, prevent violations of our national sovereignty, and readily defeat all invasions of our country from the sea. In the process, it is important to identify strategic, central zones and the importance of each socio-economic, defence, and security zone in order to formulate plans for deploying forces, means, equipment, and national defence constructions in accordance with the geographical condition, objects of combat, and task requirements. The deployment of forces and means must ensure a balance in order that each force could promote their strengths and they could maintain close coordination to manage and protect seas and islands. At the same time, significance should be attached to building defensive zones within coastal provinces and municipalities, especially islands, archipelagos, and island districts into solid, inter-connected, multi-layer, multi-line strongholds from the sea to the coast. Being fully aware that marine economic development will facilitate national defence consolidation at sea, offices, units, and localities shall closely combine economy with defence and vice versa at sea, while considering it as a central strategy for building the all-people national defence at sea. Due regard should be paid to investing in the army rear and logistics-technical bases and enhancing the effectiveness and capacity of maritime transport in order to sufficiently, opportunely provide facilities, logistics support, weapons, and technical equipment for the forces performing their task at sea. Notably, significance should be attached to building the politico-spiritual element and a firm “posture of people’s hearts and minds” and consolidating the posture of all-people national defence at sea to encourage the strength of all people in managing and defending seas islands.

Fourth, well carry out the work of diplomacy. The strength for defending national sovereignty over seas and islands represents the synergy and a close combination of defence, security, economic, political, diplomatic, and legal spheres, with military diplomacy playing a role of utmost importance. Amidst the international globalisation, in addition to bringing into play the country’s self-reliance, it is necessary to combine the strength of the nation with that of the times, heighten justice, take advantage of the international community’s support, remain resolute in our struggle, and step up international cooperation to defend seas and islands. In order to well conduct the work of military diplomacy, forces shall grasp and seriously execute the guidelines and policies on military diplomacy by the Party, the State, the CMC, and the Ministry of National Defence, particularly the 11th Politburo’s Resolution 22-NQ/TW, dated April 10th, 2013 on “international integration” and the CMC’s Resolution 806-NQ/QUTW, dated December 31st, 2013 on “military international integration and diplomacy towards 2020 and beyond.” It is vital to adhere to the motto of both cooperation and struggle, remain steadfastness in strategic principles, and act flexibly in strategies to turn military diplomacy into an effective, important diplomatic channel for the State’s diplomacy and ensure relevance to the country’s practical condition, the capacity of each force in charge of defending seas and islands, and the particularities of each partner. Bilateral and multilateral military diplomatic activities must be aimed at the goal of safeguarding national sovereignty, sovereign rights, jurisdiction, and interests at sea, preventing wars and conflicts from afar, and maintaining a peaceful, stable environment for the country’s development and international integration. At the same time, due attention should be paid to proactively grasping the situation, especially the strategic adjustments made by navies of major powers and regional countries, and proposing initiatives to maintain maritime security, safety, peace, and stability as well as coordination for the handling of non-traditional security challenges, humanitarian relief, and protection of marine environment. Great value should be attached to advising the Party, the State, the CMC, and the Ministry of National Defence on strategies to carry out the work of military diplomacy, deal with situations at sea, take advantage of the international community, and avoid falling into passivity when we settle issues relating to seas and islands, particularly in the East Sea.

Celebrating the 60th founding anniversary of Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail is also a chance for us to look back on the heroic tradition of the VPA in general, the Vietnam People’s Navy in particular in the cause of national liberation and unification. Doing so will contribute to enabling cadres and soldiers of the VPA to keep devoting effort to raising the synergy and the combat power to deserve their core role in safeguarding national sovereignty over seas, islands, and continental shelf nowadays.

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

Minister of National Defence

Your Comment (0)