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Thứ Hai, ngày 05 tháng 8 năm 2013

Tư liệu: phỏng vấn Tướng Trần Độ( Interview with Tran Do, 1981) v/v Cuộc chiến tranh giải phóng Miền Nam


Interview with Tran Do, 1981


Summary
Major General Tran Do describes the organization and location of the Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN), which helped direct Viet Cong and People’s Army of Vietnam efforts in South Vietnam. He recalls the American Operation Junction City, which failed to destroy the COSVN and the Viet Cong’s successful strategy of close combat fighting. Finally, he discusses the objectives and outcomes of the Tet Offensive in 1968.


“Interview with Tran Do, 1981.” , 02/17/1981, WGBH Media Library & Archives, (accessed 06 Aug 2013) http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/vietnam-8915b6-interview-with-tran-do-1981

Transcript


Characteristics of C.O.S.V.N.

SR 2040
Beep tone.
Roll 40 of Vietnam Project, 7860 328. Interview with MAJ. GEN. TRAN DO
Clapstick
Interviewer:
Could you tell us how you went South in 1965? When in 1965 did you join COSVN? And could you describe COSVN, what it was like, where it was located and how life was?
Tran Do:
As I have just told you, by 1964 the Americans already carried out an extremely fierce Special War in the South. The population in the South suffered heavy casualties as they themselves had to organize armed units in order to resist the American aggressors. In face of this situation, the Central Committee of our Party decided that it was necessary to give support to the people in the South and help them to organize their armed struggles against the Americans.
To this end, it was necessary to have cadres experienced in organizing armed forces and commanding large combat units go to the South and live with them to help them organize their armed struggles. I was then sent to the South by the Central Committee under these circumstances. In the South there was an organization of the Central Committee of the Labor Party of Vietnam called the Central Office (Trung Uong Cuc) which was responsible for directing the struggle in the South. But this was an organization in charge of overall policies and strategies.
Side by side with this organization was the Command Office of the South Vietnam 1967Liberation Army (COSVN). This organization was directly in charge of the struggle in the South. These two organizations were composed of individuals living in thatched huts in the jungle just like all the guerrillas, and so there was no physical structure of any kind. The apparatus of the CO and COSVN had to move around all the time in order to avoid bombing and search and destroy operations conducted by the Americans. Therefore, it can be stated that the CO and COSVN never had any kind of physical form. We were constantly on the move in the jungle. If you imagined that we had something comparable to the Pentagon in the jungle, then you are thinking of something which was nonexistent.

329 Take 1
Clapstick
Tran Do:
At that time there were two separate responsibilities for our people in Vietnam: In the North, the task was to build socialism. In the South, the responsibility was to drive the Americans out in order to regain independence for the entire country. These two responsibilities were under the direction of the same organization, the same Party. And the leading organ of this Party was the Central Committee which was located in Hanoi.
Therefore, the general orders and guidelines for all activities going on in the South came from the Central Committee. The Central Office in the South only a part of the Central Committee of the Party which was responsible for carrying out the tasks for the South. The Peoples Army of the North began to participate in the fighting in the South in 1965. Some large units went south only after the United States had bombed the North and had introduced a massive military force into the South in 1965.
Therefore the responsibility of the Vietnam Peoples Army was to defend the country in both regions, North and South. And these units were fighting in their own country, their own native places. At first, the cadres and soldiers were sent from the North only in order to help organize the local armed groups into larger units. There were some southern technical cadres trained in the North participating in these units. Therefore, you cannot say for sure when the first large and consolidated units were really sent from the North to the South.

330, on the end
Clapstick
(translation)
331 Take 1
Clapstick
Interviewer:
Please tell us of the two attempted attacks on COSVN, the operation in 1965 and the Junction City Operation.
Tran Do:
The American Army and the puppet army tried in every way to eliminate our command apparatus in the South, i.e., the Central Office and the Command Office of the South. Therefore, they tried their best to locate the Central Office in order to bomb it or to conduct a search and destroy mission to arrest its members. In 1965, they concentrated over 400 airplanes in one day in bombing the headquarters of the Central Office.
ut the result was nil for them because the Central Office was no longer there. In 1967 they conducted a very big mopping up operation called the Junction City Operation. They surrounded the areas where they suspected that the Central Office might have been located. But they were still unable to find the Central Office. On the contrary, they got soundly trounced, having up to about 1,000 tanks and armored vehicles destroyed. In the end, they had to withdraw their forces from these areas, reaping no success at all.

Morale of the N.L.F.

332 Take 1
Clapstick
Interviewer:
Please tell us how you could escape these operations and also how the Americans conducted their operations.
Tran Do:
The Americans employed huge forces and large amounts of weapons in the effort to eliminate the Liberation Armed Forces of the South and their various command apparatus. But the Americans failed to do this. This was because NLF Military Command quickly grasped the fighting methods and combat routines of the Americans.
And our policy was to force the Americans to fight our fight, but the Liberation Forces never fought the American fight. The Americans relied heavily on airplanes, tanks and artillery. The NLF forces, on the other hand, relied on their quick movement, their courage and the support of the people. The NLF forces had a slogan: "Grasp the Americans by their belts and slug them."
This meant that the Liberation Forces should shadow the Americans and engage them in close combat, making it impossible for the Americans to exploit the full capacity of their airplanes, artillery and tanks. And precisely because of such close combat the Liberation Forces were able to destroy many tanks. This method of fighting could also be employed by the local guerrillas and the local inhabitants, even elderly people and children. This was why the United States were defeated in South Vietnam.

333 Take 1
Clapstick
Interviewer:
When the American military became directly involved in Vietnam, they brought in with them a huge amount of weapons – large numbers of airplanes, helicopters, tanks and artillery pieces. Were you surprised by this? And what were your evaluations?
Tran Do:
It was true that when the Americans began to introduce their forces en masse they brought with them a large number of airplanes, helicopters, tanks and artillery pieces. This caused some people in the Liberation Army to think that it would be difficult to fight the Americans. But the Central Office and the COSVN told our military commanders that they should find the methods for fighting the Americans in the actual battles themselves. For this reason, all the military units eagerly went around looking for the Americans to engage them in battles so as to be able to find the correct methods for fighting them.
And it was only after a short period that the soldiers and the commanding officers of the Liberation Army found the appropriate methods for fighting the Americans. You must certainly remember the first battles such as the one at Van Tuong and Bau Bang where the Liberation Forces, though lightly armed, destroyed whole American companies and battalions. In many other large battles, scores, a couple of hundred, and sometimes even about a thousand American armored vehicles and tanks were destroyed. In these battles we employed that "grasp the belt" method.
Aside from the method just mentioned, the local guerrilla units and the local inhabitants all had their own ways of fighting the Americans. At that time, around the American bases we had organizations called the Vanh Dai Diet My (the belts which strangle the Americans). This is to say that the local inhabitants and local guerrillas around the bases lay there in wait for the Americans to come and attacked them. It was said that the Americans could be attacked in any place, at any time, by anybody and with anything.
There was an emulation program in which people competed in order to be honored as "heroes by virtue of killing the Americans" (dung si diet My). For example, a person who killed five American soldiers would be called "outstanding hero," a person who killed three American soldiers would be honored as "first class hero," and so on. Therefore, wherever the American troops went they always met with people who opposed them.

SR 2041
MAJ. GEN. TRAN DO
Beep tone
Roll 41, Vietnam Project
334 Take 1
Clapstick
Interviewer:
When did the decision to mount the Tet Offensive take place? And why was the decision made?
Tran Do:
As I have said, from 1965 to 1967 the Americans brought into Vietnam several hundred thousand troops and a huge amount of weapons in the hope of smashing the Liberation Forces. But they failed to do this. On the contrary, the Liberation Forces grew larger and gained more experience. In face of this situation, the Central Committee decided that an offensive should be mounted to strike a blow at the aggressive ambition of the Americans.
This decision was made in 1967, after the Americans had been defeated many times during their large operations and after the Liberation Forces had become stronger. I don't remember exactly at what hour, on what day and in what month this decision was made. But I know that it was made in 1967 under the conditions just described.

Appraisal of Tet 1968

335 Take 1
Clapstick
Interviewer:
What was the objective of the Tet Offensive? Was it for a general uprising? Was it going to be the final liberation of the South? What were its aims?
Tran Do:
It was indeed called a General Offensive and Uprising. The aims were as follows: First of all, if it were possible to occupy the enemy's nerve centers and produce the disintegration of the American and puppet forces and a popular uprising, then the aim would be to liberate the South during Tet of 1968. Second, if this was not possible, then the aim was to weaken the American puppet command structures and to inflict heavy casualties to the American and puppet forces, producing more favorable conditions for the struggles later on.

336 Take 1
Clapstick
Interviewer:
In terms of the first objective, which was, as I understand it, to stage a general uprising and liberate the South, is it considered that the Tet Offensive was not as successful as they hoped it would have been?
Tran Do:
Looking back at it now, it is clear that the first objective was not accomplished. But at that time all the attacks were aimed at the nerve centers of the American forces and the puppet regime in the urban areas as well as in the provinces. We attacked the provincial headquarters, the Saigon Presidential Palace, the various secret police headquarters and the radio stations. And in Saigon we fought our way into the American Embassy, which was the most important command headquarters of the Americans in the South. We were able to occupy all these places, but we could not maintain them. Therefore, we did not gain enough time for the people to stage their general uprising. Hence, the decision was to inflict as much damage as possible to the American and puppet command structures and to cause the American and puppet troops to lose their morale.

337 Take 1
Clapstick
Second clap
Interviewer:
In attacking those nerve centers, was the intention only to deal the enemy with a psychological blow?
Tran Do:
Not just a psychological blow. The main aim was to get rid of the nerve centers and cause the command machinery and the administrative machinery of the Americans and the puppet regime to disintegrate.

338 Take 1
Clapstick
Interviewer:
Please repeat what you have just said again.
Tran Do:
Not just a psychological blow. The main aim was to destroy the entire command and administrative machinery of the Americans and the puppet regime. Because if we were able to eliminate all the nerve centers and caused the enemy to become paralyzed for three days to a week, then there would be total disintegration everywhere. At the same time, with the Provisional Revolutionary Government and the Liberation Army, it was quite possible to liberate the country in a relatively short time.

Interviewer:
Was it the intention of the Tet Offensive also to occupy cities like Saigon and Hue? And why did you fight in Hue for such a long time?
Tran Do:
The aim was to occupy all those cities. But when we could not maintain our occupation of all the other cities, then we decided to remain in Hue to suck in the American and puppet troops in order to destroy them and to allow the population of Hue to have enough time to organize an uprising.

339 Take 1
Clapstick
Interviewer:
As you look back at the Battle of Hue, how do you assess it? Success or failure, or what?
Tran Do:
In order to re evaluate the Battle of Hue, you have to put it in the perspective of the overall offensive at that time. Scores of cities and towns had been occupied. To be able to hold on to these cities for an extended period of nearly a month is an achievement, a partial victory.

340 Take 1
Clapstick
Interviewer:
There are films and other evidences that civilians were killed during the period when the NLF was holding Hue, allegedly by the NLF. Would you care to comment on this?
Tran Do:
This was a false accusation on the part of the American government and the Thieu regime. The NLF forces did not murder the civilians as alleged. The pictures and films you mentioned can always be doctored.

341 Take 1
Clapstick
Interviewer:
Could you tell us how heavy the losses were among the NLF forces and how do they effect, afterwards, the NLF military and political structures in the South?
Tran Do:
I just can't remember the statistics on the losses of the NLF forces as well as those of the American and puppet troops. But after 1968, that is to say during the period from 1969 to 1971, the American and the puppet troops mounted extremely fierce counter offensives into populated areas, committing very frightening massacres.
As a result, they created certain problems for the NLF forces in their activities. But the large military units of the NLF continued to exist and continued to get reinforced. It was precisely this that allowed the NLF to mount a widespread offensive in 1972 which covered the whole area from Quang tri province to north of Saigon itself, forcing the Americans to accept an end to the war at the Paris negotiating table.

Psychological aspects of later activities in the war

342 Take 1
Clapstick
Interviewer:
Please tell us about the Phoenix Program and its impacts on revolutionary cadres in the South. What was the extent of the damage caused by this program?
Tran Do:
The American Phoenix Program was a very destructive program. It caused many revolutionary infrastructures, that is to say, local cadres in the villages, to be arrested and killed. A very large number of guerrillas in the South was arrested and killed as a result of the program. But, as history has shown, every time the United States created difficulties for the NLF forces then the NLF created new conditions to develop itself.
For example, in 1970 the Americans mounted a coup in Kampuchea and then invaded Kampuchea. But this created an opportunity for the NLF to promote solidarity with the Kampuchean people, thereby making it possible for large NLF units to have the necessary conditions for training themselves and for preparing for the 1972 Spring Offensive.

343 Take 1
Clapstick

Interviewer:
It has often been said that one of the objectives of the 1968 Tet Offensive was to create a psychological impact in the United States. Did you have this objective in mind?

Tran Do:
Yes, we did have this objective in mind and we did achieve this. After the Tet Offensive the American military and the American administration realized clearly that they would never be able to win in Vietnam. On the other hand, the people and revolutionary forces in southern Vietnam became even more convinced of their eventual victory.

344 Take 1
Clapstick

Tran Do:
A great success of the Tet Offensive was impressed upon the American military and the American administration that they would never be able to win in Vietnam. On the contrary, the Offensive made the people and the revolutionary forces in the South become even more convinced of their eventual victory.

345 Take 1
Clapstick
Tran Do: That's not correct. The objective, as I've mentioned, was to destroy the nerve centers of the Americans and the puppet regime so as to create the conditions necessary for victory at that time. And the psychological impact which caused the American military and the American administration to realize that they could not win was a necessary outcome of the success of the Offensive.


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