General Le Duc Anh and his unparalleled decision at the Northern border
According to General Pham Van Tra, late General Le Duc Anh once made a strategic, judicious and “unparalleled” decision in the Northern border defense struggle.
The General whose life was tied with battlefields
Former State President - General Le Duc Anh was one of the two people, together with late Lieutenant General Dong Sy Nguyen, who were promoted directly from Colonel to Lieutenant General in 1974.
General Pham Van Tra, former member of the Politburo, former Minister of National Defense, said that late General Le Duc Anh dedicated his entire life to military career and battlefields, especially to the most brutal ones.
His whole life was filled audacious and firm decisions which clearly presented his strategic vision.
General Pham Van Tra recalled that General Le Duc Anh, after acting as the Commander of Vietnamese volunteer soldiers in Cambodia, was appointed as Chief of the General Staff of Vietnam People’s Army, and then Minister of National Defense.
In 1987, General Le Duc Anh started off his new role by going on a field trip along the border areas in six Northern provinces where our battle against China was raging.
General Le Duc Anh stayed in Ha Giang for half a month, during which he directly checked through and grasped the situation in critical areas, including Vi Xuyen front (Ha Giang).
“After the field trip, General Le Duc Anh called upon Commanders of Military Regions, including me as the Commander of Military Region 3. He said that we could not fight up that way any more. We fired once, they fired twice. That made no changes to the situations, but led to more casualties in the long run. So, he asked us to reconsider”, said General Pham Van Tra.
General Pham Van Tra added, at that time, General Le Duc Anh expressed his viewpoint clearly that China was a superpower, and they had aided us in the wars against France and the U.S; therefore, Vietnam should think twice on our moves to stabilize the situation.
“He proposed firing propaganda shells which stated the favors that Chinese people and the Chinese Communist Party had given to Vietnam in the wars against France and the U.S., in order to ease the situation.
Despite some hesitation, his initiative was carried out and apparently it worked well, as after some firings, the other side stopped firing shells and the situation settled down.
Subsequently, General Le Duc Anh continued to direct the retreats from critical bases and the return of the residents to their living areas.
After a while in the wake of military withdrawal, the two countries progressively reconciled and sat down to resolve the border issues.
Only after looking back on it did we realize that his decision was so strategic, audacious, unparalleled and right. General Le Duc Anh made a huge contribution to the Northern border defense fight”, commented General Pham Van Tra.
The Firm decision of the seasoned commander
According to Lieutenant General Nguyen Huu Kham, former Deputy Chief of the General Staff of Vietnam’s People Army, only after summarizing the warfare did he find that the decision of General Le Duc Anh in his 1987 field survey to withdraw the main soldiers was so judicious in such a tense situation of the Northern border.
He recounted that General Le Duc Anh was going on a field trip in Military Region 2 in 1987 when the situation between China and Vietnam was intense. The fighting was particularly fierce in Vi Xuyen, Ha Giang.
At that time, Lieutenant General Kham was acting as the Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of Division 316 (Army corps 29, Military Region 2).
Army corps 29 was tasked with the defense of Hoang Lien Son (now separated into 2 provinces which are Lao Cai and Yen Bai; the major focus of the defense was in Lao Cai).
The defense at this position was extremely tense.
“After directly checking through the frontline which was the first combat trench between us and the enemy, General Le Duc Anh said that the tension would persist if both sides kept approaching the border.
He proposed taking a step backward and insisted that was the right move which would be reported to the Central Military Commission, Ministry of National Defense.
Facing our hesitation, General Le Duc Anh did not explain much but instead pledged his own honor and responsibility to the judiciousness of that decision. Afterwards, he also outlined some other issues on combat re-organization”, Lieutenant General Nguyen Huu Kham remembered.
According to Lieutenant General Kham, coupled with the withdrawal, General Le Duc Anh proposed that Military Region 2 and Army corps 29 worked with local authorities to encourage the residents to return their homes in the border areas. Furthermore, the creation of military blocks (mine laying) should be stopped; mines should be detected and destructed.
As stated by Lieutenant General Kham, when Army corps 29 retreated, the situation gradually settled down and the tension eased off. Being aware of that, the residents returned home and came back to their normal life.
“Only later did we realize that retaining the soldiers at the frontline would keep heating up the situation and make the soldiers stressed and tired. Besides, the army was not sufficiently trained or regularly consolidated; the soldiers’ morale and living standards would not be maintained as well.
General Le Duc Anh’s decision on the retreat of the main soldiers enabled the army to reorganize itself”, emphasized Lieutenant General Kham. Such a judicious decision was made from the acumen and bravery of a seasoned commander based on the battlefield survey and examination of combat units.