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Dec 22, 2023 / 17:06

"Hanoi - Dien Bien Phu in the Air" in memories of survivors

For 12 days and nights from December 18 to 30, 1972, the army and people of North Vietnam, including Hanoi, fought tenaciously against the strategic air attack by the US Army.

Operation Linebacker II was a strategic bombing campaign conducted by the US Air Force and Navy against Hanoi and the port city of Haiphong. Military positions, transportation hubs, factories, mines, and even social facilities such as hospitals, schools, train stations, and densely populated neighborhoods became targets for American air strikes. As a result of the carpet bombing, hundreds of innocent civilians were killed and thousands of homes and public buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Ruins of houses on Kham Thien Street after the deadly US Air Force B-52 bomb hit Hanoi in December 1972. File Photo

Under the rain of bombs and shells, the Vietnam Air Defense - Air Force Service fought bravely alongside the people of the capital. Holding the line, the brave soldiers remained steadfast and determined to shoot down enemy aircraft. And they achieved the glorious ‘Dien Bien Phu in the Air’ victory by crushing the largest strategic air attack by the US Army.

On the occasion of the 51st Anniversary of the Victory (December 1972 - December 2023) and the 50th Anniversary of the Repatriation of American Pilots (1973-2023), witnesses of the feat who personally fought during the 12 days and nights of fire and smoke, as well as Thomas Eugene Wilber - son of an American pilot who was imprisoned in Hoa Lo Prison - shared their thoughts and feelings with the Quan Doi Nhan Dan or Vietnam People's Army Online Newspaper.

 Hanoi's soldiers and people bravely defended the capital in the winter of 1972. File Photo​

Colonel Nghiem Dinh Tich

Hero of the People's Armed Forces, former P-35 Radar Section Chief

Company 45, Regiment 291, Division 365, Air Defense - Air Force Service

"This year, I am almost 80 years old. Having fought in the defense of Hanoi in the past, I'm extremely proud of the victory of the great 'Hanoi - Dien Bien Phu in the Air' battle won by the capital's army and people, as well as the entire nation, in which the Air Defense - Air Force Service was at the forefront. The world had to admire the wise strategies and tactics of the Vietnamese army and people.

During the bombing, not only the people of Hanoi, but also the entire Vietnamese people at that time were united into a solid block that overcame all difficulties and challenges to focus their efforts on defeating the American invaders.

Now that the country is no longer at war and its people are enjoying happiness in peace, they must carry on the nation's honorable tradition and forever remember the tremendous contributions of our revolutionary predecessors in preserving and protecting the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Colonel Nghiem Dinh Tich poses with his old photo on display at The Sounds of War exhibition at the Hoa Lo Prison Relic Site in Hanoi. Photo: Quan Doi Nhan Dan

Nguyen Van Hung

Gunner No. 1, Luong Yen Mechanical Factory Self-Defense Platoon

"In the last days of 1972, the citizens of Hanoi couldn't sleep, and even their meals were rushed between American bombing raids. At the battlefield set up on the street, we hurriedly ate bowls of steamed rice provided by our compatriots and then returned to our duties.

At that time, the love of the people of the capital for their comrades and compatriots was truly precious. Those who had noodles or rice offered them to the soldiers, and together, they fought against the invaders.

With the theme "Scale of War," the exhibition held by the Hoa Lo Prison Relics Management Board in the early days of December 2023 is very meaningful, as it helps today's generation look back at the nation's heroic past. This is the third time I've visited this monument, and I feel very honored to be one of the historical witnesses who can tell the stories of the past to today's young people. Even though more than 50 years have passed, when I come here and look at my pictures, the memories of those days come flooding back.

Now that I can live in peace and think back to those years of hard fighting, I can truly understand the value of independence and freedom.

When Hanoi won the battle, I and the entire Vietnamese rejoiced because the war had been so long and arduous.

 Gunner No. 1, Luong Yen Mechanical Factory Self-Defense Platoon, looks at a photo of the past when he fought to defend Hanoi.

Thomas Eugene Wilber

Son of a former American pilot incarcerated in Hoa Lo Prison

"I am the son of US Navy Captain Walter Eugene Wilber. On June 16, 1968, my father and another pilot flew a bomber to drop bombs on North Vietnam. The plane was shot down in the central province of Nghe An; he parachuted and luckily survived, then was arrested and taken to Hoa Lo Prison in December 1972.

The war is over, and I love traveling to Hanoi, Vietnam. I've visited the Hoa Lo Prison Relic 43 times and come here every time I travel to Vietnam. These days, in December, I returned to Hanoi, and I feel that my steps in Hoa Lo Prison are also the steps my father took over 50 years ago. So I feel very familiar with Hanoi, like my second home. My father was sent here in 1968 and released in 1973, so the relic of Hoa Lo Prison is closely connected to my family's life.

I came here for the first time in 2014, and I felt the warmth of this land and the hospitality of the Vietnamese people, who are always tolerant and friendly.

"Hanoi is a city of peace. The people of Hanoi and Vietnam have always fought for peace, and we've always been treated with the word 'peace' by the Vietnamese people, from my father's time to my generation. This also shows that Hanoi is a 'city of peace.

 Thomas Eugene Wilber, the son of a former American pilot, is talking to a narrator at the Hoa Lo Prison Relic Site, with a picture of his father on the right.