Woodland Hills 19 February 1999.
I am Dinh Van Chung, same 3rd Class Dalat Military Academy's Graduate as General Hieu. My last position in 1975 was Deputy Chief of Staff of Political War at Air Force Headquarters with the rank of Colonel.
After graduating the Dalat Military Academy, I was transferred to the 20th ARVN Infantry Battalion, and one year later, I applied to enter the Air Force and was selected to attend pilot training courses at Marrakech (Morocco) and Avord (France) - 1952.
In 1954, upon graduation, the country was divided into North-South by the Geneva Agreement. I started to serve in the Air Force and performed support tasks to the Infantry all over the 4 Tactical Zones. It was not until 1966 that I was transferred to the Air Force Headquarters to work in the general staff. However, in my leisure time, I continued to perform tasks with flying squadrons to maintain my flying skills.
Because we served in different units and armed forces, I seldom had opportunities to come into contacts with my former classmates. From time to time, I heard that this one had died and the other one was promoted. The only occasion I met General Hieu was when he and his entourage officers were waiting for an airplane at an airport in Highlands. I went up to meet him, happy to see a friend whom I had admired and loved. Because of my inferior ranking, I addressed him according to the protocol, "My General", he immediately stopped me and requested that we resorted to "I - you". I dared not appear that familiar in front of his entourage officers and kept on showing deference which made him burst out with laugh. After a few minutes of conversation, I excused myself to go to the airplane to attend to the passengers so that the airplane could take off on time. He looked much older than before, although jovial, but wrinkles on his face could not hide his preoccupations and worries related to important matters lying ahead of him.
Time went by so fast. I still remember like it was only yesterday, when we stepped into the gate of the Military Academy, we all looked so fragile, our skin not yet tanned, ignorant, awkward, exactly "new enlisted".
I and Hieu were assigned to different Brigades and thus had different activities. When one Brigade went away for combat exercises, other Brigades stayed home to study, to practice at the firing range or to do chores. It was only at night that we met each other. Hieu was the one I admired the most. He was very studious, whenever I looked through his window, I saw him at his desk studying and writing. He was very jovial and very pleasant. Whoever met him for the first time would like him immediately. He was very straightforward with his comrades and assumed his responsibilities with perfection. He had the appearance of a professor, Vietnamese and French instructors equally respected and liked him. When he assumed the duty of "Sergeant of the week", with the responsibilities of checking the foods preparation in the kitchen on behalf of the cadets, of distributing letters to the cadets, of accompanying instructors on quarters inspection tours, or of resolving multitude miscellaneous problems, he performed them all with the highest conscientious mind. The Military Academy had molded him into an officer, worthy of that name, both physically and mentally. Two months prior to the graduation date, the military situation out in the battlefields became hot, making every cadets worried. Where would I go, when I graduate? Then what must happen happened. At the graduation, he was rank first of his class. It was so fitting! first out of 145 cadets.
I can never forget that day when the whole cadets' Brigade was dressed in white uniform, discarding the "alpha" epaulet to be replaced by the brand-new First Lieutenant's epaulet and kneeling in front of the National Altar to be sworn in.
In Hieu's case, as the valedictorian, he represented his class in shooting four arrows to four different directions, symbolizing the liberated spirit of the youth that would engage us in all four avenues of life, then drew his sword high up to swear in. Up on the National Altar were inscribed these words: "Nation - Honor - Responsibility", that's the motto every officer of the Military Academy must follow faithfully.
The following day, with mixed emotions, the new officers bade farewell to one another, each departing to a different direction, bringing with him what he had learned from the Academy along with his own initiative to serve the country.
The Army of the Republic of Vietnam had many competent officers, but needed many Generals of Hieu's caliber. He had served and sacrificed himself to the country, with Honor and Responsibility as he had sworn on the graduation day.
Dinh Van Chung
A few days ago I sent you a short article on General Hieu. In that article I might have erred regarding Hieu being the valedictorian of Dalat 3rd Class. Please check and if their was an error I apologize, it had been already 50 years. The person that I
might have mistaken was Bui Dzinh who scored very close to Hieu. Again please forgive me if there was any mistake. Chung.