Eternal glory the guardians of the sea

Update: 19:23 | 14/03/2022

Thirty-four years ago on March 14, 1988, Vietnamese naval soldiers valiantly fought a battle to defend Co Lin (Collins Reef), Gac Ma (Johnson Reef), and Len Dao (Lansdowne Reef) in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago, in which 64 Vietnamese naval soldiers and officers, bravely sacrificed their lives to protect the nation’s sea and island sovereignty.

Some of those who directly participated in that battle to defend the national sovereignty of the sea and islands, continued their work serving in the army, while others returned to their homeland. However, all of them shared the pride of being Uncle Ho’s soldiers, who braved every hardship and were willing to devote themselves to safeguard the Fatherland.

Eternal glory, guardians of the sea, Vietnamese naval soldiers, Collins Reef, Johnson Reef, sea and island sovereignty, Uncle Ho’s soldiers

The monument honouring Gac Ma soldiers at the Gac Ma memorial site in Cam Hai Dong commune, Cam Lam district, Khanh Hoa province.

At 16:00 on March 13, 1988, Vietnam’s two naval transport vessels HQ 604 and HQ 505 anchored at Co Lin and Gac Ma Reefs. On the early morning of March 14, officers and soldiers of HQ 604 landed on Gac Ma Reef to transport construction materials in order to reinforce infrastructure on the Reef. Immediately, three Chinese warships approached and used loudspeakers asking our officers and soldiers to vacate the Gac Ma area.

At 6 a.m. on the same day, the Chinese side sent three boats with an armed group of 40 sailors to attack the Vietnamese flagged Gac Ma Reef. The Chinese forces fired on Vietnamese second lieutenant Tran Van Phuong, Deputy Commander of Gac Ma Island, in an effort to seize the Vietnamese flag. His comrade, Nguyen Van Lanh, was stabbed by a bayonet in the shoulder, but continued holding onto the national flag, to protect the country’s sovereignty.

Failing in the fight against the unarmed defence of Vietnamese naval engineers, the Chinese forces withdrew from the reef and proceeded to launch an attack on Vietnam’s HQ 604 and the Vietnamese naval soldiers guarding the reef. The captain Vu Phi Tru quickly instructed and encouraged the spirit of his comrades to fix their ship. However, the ship was under heavy fire and sunk into the sea, claiming the lives of Tru and several naval soldiers.

Meanwhile in Co Lin Reef, Vietnamese ship HQ 505, commanded by Captain Major Vu Huy Le, brought Vietnamese soldiers to land on the reef and install two Vietnamese national flags, while being fired upon by the Chinese forces. Le decided to land the ship on the rear of Co Lin Reef, marking the country’s sovereignty over the reef.

Veteran Colonel Tong Xuan Quan, former Political Commissar of Brigade 162, Naval Region 4, who directly fought in the battle at Len Dao Reef, recalled that in the early morning of March 14, Vietnamese ship HQ 605 landed on Len Dao Island and erected two national flags there. At around 8 a.m. on the same day, a Chinese warship launched artillery fire on HQ 605. The captain ordered the soldiers to leave the ship and swim towards the island, in order to save wounded soldiers and protect Len Dao Island, then continue to transport the wounded to Sinh Ton Island.

The battle on March 14, 1988 by officers and soldiers of the Vietnam People's Navy, over the reefs of Gac Ma, Co Lin, and Len Dao, has gone into the nation's history as an unforgettable mark in the hearts of every Vietnamese citizen. During the fight, 64 officers and soldiers of the Vietnam People's Navy sacrificed themselves in the line of duty, to protect the sacred sovereignty of the Fatherland, making them shining examples of revolutionary heroism and the heroic tradition of the Vietnamese people.

The image of the fallen heroic soldier, Second Lieutenant Tran Van Phuong, Deputy Commander of Gac Ma Island, who before his death, proudly wrapped the country's flag around his body and encouraged his comrades not to step back and continue the fight against the invaders, has fuelled the energy of younger generations to continue defending the country's sovereignty over seas and islands.

Many children of the soldiers who joined the battle on that historic day, have upheld their fathers’ service to serve in the army, including Colonel Vu Anh Tuan - the son of hero Vu Huy Le, Captain Nguyen Tien Xuan – the son of fallen soldier Nguyen Mau Phong, and Lieutenant Tran Thi Thuy – the daughter of fallen soldier Tran Van Phuong.

Eternal glory, guardians of the sea, Vietnamese naval soldiers, Collins Reef, Johnson Reef, sea and island sovereignty, Uncle Ho’s soldiers

Visitors at the Gac Ma memorial site.

Following the example of their predecessors, officers and soldiers of the Vietnam People's Navy, stationed in any place or position, have exerted every effort in their practice and training to enhance their combat readiness, while closely coordinating with functional forces in performing tasks, in order to fulfil their assigned task of protecting the national sovereignty of the sea, islands and sacred continental shelf of the Fatherland.

Truong Sa (Spratly) and Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelagos have always been a sacred territorial part of the Fatherland. Each coral reef, grain of sand, tree branch and blade of grass, is imbued with the sweat and blood over generations of the Vietnamese people. The services of heroes and fallen soldiers who died in the line of duty on Truong Sa archipelago are forever remembered.

The entire army and people always look forward to Truong Sa, joining hands to make Truong Sa stronger in terms of defence, beautiful in terms of landscape, and exemplary in terms of the bond between the army and the people.

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Source: NDO

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