by Nguyen Thi Thuy Anh, Zhang Jianhua
HANOI, May 4 (Xinhua) -- "Dare to fight, dare to die for the victory of the Dien Bien Phu!" This was the battlecry of every Vietnamese soldier who participated in the campaign to liberate Dien Bien Phu from the French colonial forces some 60 years ago.
"The amazing morale of Vietnamese force was a major factor that contributed to the victory of Dien Bien Phu campaign. Even in extremely harsh conditions, every Vietnamese soldier was willing to die for the country," said veteran Do Anh Dung in an interview with Xinhua recently.
The battle for Dien Bien Phu led to the ignominious defeat of France which lorded over the whole of Indochina for years.
The 84-year-old former artillery man granted an exclusive interview to Xinhua on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Dien Bien Phu victory.
Even with his advanced age, Dung is still mentally and physically fit. He plays billiard every afternoon to keep his mind alert. During the interview, Dung narrated the events that transpired during the armed struggle to liberate Dien Bien province, some 300 kilometers from Hanoi.
"In November 1953, my unit started marching to the target place. We went to Yen Bai province, traveled by boat to cross a river, and then took the land route," Dung said.
Dung said that when they received their marching order, they were not told about their destination. "We all had no idea where we would go. The destination was a secret at that time," he said.
"But eventually we learned that we were heading to the northwestern region of the country. I then guessed that we would participate in the Tran Dinh campaign, which was the codename of the Dien Bien Phu operation," Dung said.
The distance from their starting point to their destination was 500 kilometers. "We had to carry the heavy mortars' parts through the steep mountains of Pha Din, Lung Lo among other key areas controlled by the enemy," he said.
But despite the tough terrain, Dung and his comrades arrived at the staging area for the campaign against the French after one and a half month of travel.
"People often say that safely getting to the destination was already 50 percent success of the operation. Our first mortar fire that started the Dien Bien Phu campaign was on March 13, 1954 where we targeted Hm Lam (which the French called Beatrice) to open the gateway for Vietnamese troops to enter the province."
His team's next mission was at Doc Lap, where they were ordered to support the infantry by clearing the barbed wire fences of the enemy and opening the way for them to destroy the enemy's artillery spots, bunkers and command posts.
"During the battle, we detected a mortar field of the enemy located right at Doc Lap, shelling toward our infantrymen and killing many of our forces. We concentrated our fire to destroy enemy's mortar field to facilitate the attack of our infantry and win the battle," Dung recalled.
At around 5 to 6 p.m. on May 7, the French troops started surrendering, and Dien Bien Phu was finally liberated.
"We climbed out of fortresses and saw white flags mushrooming all over the Muong Thanh area. We saw a long line of French soldiers who surrendered. I watched the defeated army walking calmly on the road at the foothill," Dung said.
Dung said that at that moment he felt so happy that he had contributed in driving away the colonizers and in gaining freedom for his country from foreign invaders.
According to Dung, the credit for the success of the operations in Dien Bien Phu should go to the leadership of the Vietnamese Communist Party headed by the late President Ho Chi Minh and the generals led by General Vo Nguyen Giap, who was known for the change in tactic from "speedy fight and victory" to "steady fight and advance" based on the assessment of the situation and the forces of both sides.
After the victory in 1957, Dung, together with the other members of his company, went back to Dien Bien Phu and stayed there for 10 years to help re-construct the province by building houses, roads, airports, and farms.
Dung expressed the hope that through his story, the younger generation would learn the difficulties and sacrifices that veterans like him have undergone in order to contribute to the achievement of peace, freedom, and development for the Vietnamese nation.