(The reader is cautioned that this article is taken from a Viet Cong's propaganda media. Tin Nguyen)
Under the colonial rule, Dang Van Quang was once a 2nd Bureau Officer and in 1954 he was entrusted by the French with the important task of overseeing the regroupment of Viet Minh troops from south Viet Nam in the North. Then the French pulled out to give place to the Americans, and Dang Van Quang promptly offered his services to the US-Diem regime. The CIA was then closely following the activities of intelligence agents left by the French in south Viet Nam. Among these, some remained loyal to the French and were still working for them, others were double agents who continued to serve the French but at the same time were secretly selling documents to the Americans, while a number were ready to sever ties with the French and cooperate with the Americans.
Dang Van Quang, well aware of American "power and affluence", quickly placed himself at the disposal of the new masters. He was one of the puppet officers who were then endeavouring to endear themselves to Americans such as Colonel Lansdale, special political adviser to Diem, Lieutenant-Colonel Conein, military expert, Smith, captain of the information service... All these were top US strategic intelligence agents speaking French fluently. Dang Van Quang was telling everybody that he was very fond of "research work", that he greatly admired the US intelligence service and was "eager to learn" from it. He had been selling French secret documents to the Americans, and denouncing to them such puppet officers as were still collaborating with the French 2nd Bureau.
By putting Quang through a number of tests, the US intelligence service gradually gained a hold on him. Documents left behind by the Americans say that "the US military mission in Saigon is very pleased to find a close collaborator in Lieutenant Colonel Dang Van Quang who speaks French fluently, is eagerly learning English and has a good knowledge of political and military affairs in this country".
Until 1956, Dang Van Quang remained a lieutenant colonel, although he had efficiently served the French. But with the US neo-colonialist policy, and especially with zealous service to the new masters, Quang found the road to power and honours wide open to him. On the suggestion of special political adviser Colonel Lansdale, Ngo Dinh Diem sent Quang to Formosa to get further training in intelligence work, then to the United States where he visited military establishments and learnt more about "counter-guerilla warfare."
In the years of US "special war" in south Viet Nam, Quang was commander of the 21st Infantry Division of the puppet army stationed in the plain of Nam Bo. After Duong Van Minh had been toppled by Nguyen Khanh, Maxwell Taylor urged the latter "to promote a number of young officers to the rank of general, and Quang was made a sub-brigadier-general and deputy-chief of the General Staff. Then Khanh was overthrown. Quang was promoted brigadier general and placed in command of the 4th Tactical Zone, which made him the overlord of the rich Mekong delta region. In November 1965, he was given the rank of lieutenant general.
The puppet generals said that Dang Van Quang's promotion to the rank of sub-brigadier, brigadier, then lieutenant general, was done in record time: 15 months. The internal political situation in south Viet Nam was then in a mess: Duong Van Minh overthrew Ngo Dinh Diem only to be toppled soon after by Nguyen Khanh; then Nguyen Khanh was replaced by the Phan Quang Dan-Phan Khac Suu group who was soon kicked out by the Thieu-Ky clique. In those days, many officers belonging to one group or another were dismissed, even arrested or killed. But Dang Van Quang who was an efficient CIA agent met with no trouble and continued to rise to higher rank and position.
Adviser to the President
Defeated in their "special war", the Americans shifted to a "local war", with massive introduction of US combat troops into south Viet Nam, to take part directly in the fight against the revolutionary forces. In early 1965, US marines landed in Da Nang, then occupied the coastal areas in military regions I and II. The US "air cavalry" was stationed in the Central Highlands. In mid-1966, the Americans were preparing to send US troops to the plain of Nam Bo.
Westmoreland, Commander-in-Chief of the US expeditionary corps, accompanied by Nguyen Cao Ky, then "chairman of the executive committee", that is prime minister of the Saigon regime, made an inspection tour in the Mekong delta region, "to make an on-the-spot study of the situation and draw up a concrete plan for stationing US troops in the region". Nguyen Cao Ky took Westmoreland to Can Tho where the headquarters of the command of the 4th Military Region was located. There, Dang Van Quang in his capacity as local commander was in person to guide his superiors in their inspection tour. Puppet generals who were then officers under Quang's orders in the 4th Tactical Zone have related that their former commander "with his big belly", walked with difficulty, but loathed riding in a car, because he feared "accidents". Unfortunately for Quang, Westmoreland and Nguyen Cao Ky, availing themselves of a relatively calm situation, came from Saigon to Can Tho in a helicopter, and both of them got the idea of using a jeep for the inspection of a division stationed at some distance from Quang's headquarters. Of course, Quang had to accompany them. During the journey, Quang, who was very uneasy, could not find proper answers to the quick fire of questions from Westmoreland who later openly expressed displeasure at the results of the tour.
Westmoreland also told Ky that according to information obtained by DIA, Dang Van Quang, as the commander of the 4th Tactical Zone, had proved to be a most corrupt officer (a document left in the US embassy listed corrupt practices involving Quang when he was in the Mekong delta). And the US general further stressed: "In my own view, General Quang is a man who only likes good eating, a sluggard who knows little about the region in his charge..." So Westmoreland suggested to Nguyen Cao Ky that he "takes prompt action and sends to the 4th Tactical Zone a more enterprising commander who is more interested in the dispatch of US troops to the Mekong delta and can more effectively cooperate with the United States in the efforts to check communist expansion in that region."
In those days, DIA and CIA were continuously bickering, DIA accusing CIA of "wishful thinking, underestimating the adversary and overestimating the ARVN, thus causing serious setbacks in the special war." Quang was one of those puppet generals that DIA looked down upon and considered as having been "given too much support and jobs of too much importance."
Neither did Ky like Quang against whom he had been bearing a grudge since the years 1958-1959. Quang, then a lieutenant colonel in Military Region II, had flattered Ngo Dinh Diem with his conversion to Catholicism and his later adherence to the Can lao nhan vi party; he had also disclosed to Diem-Nhu that Nguyen Cao Ky, as an airman, had been smuggling opium from Laos, and that when carrying out this contraband, Ky had habitually avoided customs inspection at the Saigon airport, and, reporting that his plane was in trouble, would then make an emergency landing on the Tan Canh military airport where he handed the drug to his "comrades-in-arms" and accomplices who were in charge there.
Nguyen Cao Ky was elated at Westmoreland's suggestion, thinking he could at last take revenge on Quang. Back from Can Tho, he immediately invited Nguyen Huu Co, then puppet defence minister, to a meeting at the residence of Nguyen Van Thieu, then chairman of the Saigon National Leading Committee, where he proposed that Quang be dismissed, in compliance with the wishes of US Commander-in-chief William Westmoreland. Both Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Huu Co were taken aback and embarrassed by Nguyen Cao Ky's suggestion. Thieu, Co and Quang were chums, the three had together attended a partisan non-coms training course opened by the French in 1948 in Hue, and subsequently in 1952 had been sent to Pha Den (Hanoi) to continue military studies at the staff officers training course also organized by the French. If Thieu and Co, who had reached top positions, were now to kick out Quang, "people would talk". Besides, when the political situation in south Viet Nam was in a mess with bickering rival groups, Thieu and Co were keen to renew their ties of friendship with Quang in order to strengthen their position and prepare for any eventuality.
So Thieu and Co explained to Ky that the only way to dismiss Quang was to accuse him of corruption. But this would make all the three of them a laughing-stock, when they had only recently got to top positions. They added that it was dangerous for Ky to provoke Quang who would make no bones about denouncing Ky's smuggling operations. Finally, Ky agreed with Thieu that a new organ called Central Planning Agency should be created and put in Quang's charge. They would tell Westmoreland that the functions were purely nominal, and the US Commander-in-chief would anyway be satisfied to see Quang withdrawn from the 4th Corps Area.
Documents left behind by the Americans in south Viet Nam say that US ambassador Maxwell Taylor had "paid due attention to Nguyen Cao Ky" and that the US embassy wanted to "make Ky a strong man" to get the bickering puppets under control. However Ky soon proved to be swashbucker notorious for his rash, unpolitical statements. Cabot Lodge, Ellsworth Bunker and other US officials prefered Nguyen Van Thieu who showed "more circumspection and cleverness" than Ky. So after several years of bickering with Thieu, Ky was finally ousted, the US embassy in Saigon having opted for Thieu. When Ky was chairman of the Central Executive Coomitte, i.e. prime minister, he had placed his own men in the police, military police, secret police, and continuously strengthened his clique in the air force which he reckoned to rely upon for foiling a possible coup d'etat or for making one if necessary. In such a situation, one of the most important tasks for Thieu was to sucessively eliminate all supporters of Ky in the administration and the army, and to place his own men in the key positions.
Dang Van Quang was an intimate friend of Thieu for whom he once acted as "adviser". Puppet generals related that Quang had boasted that after his recall from the 4th Corps Area and his appointment as chairman of the General Planning Agency he was invited to dinner at Thieu's residence where he stayed a whole evening to talk with Thieu. Thieu told Quang about Ky's suggested scheme to kick him out, and explained that in the National Leading Committee, there were many people who disliked Quang, and that only he, Thieu, was defending him. Thieu also revealed that Ky had prepared a written order to demobilize Quang, but that he had refused to sign it.
Thieu, who was posing as Quang's benefactor, finally announced: "You and I have been friends since our days of hardship. I well know your abilities as a strategist and I believe you should be given a more important post than the command of an army corps. But people are finding fault with you, and in fact, your reputation was badly blemished when you were in the delta region. It would not be proper for me to give you now a very important post, people would say that I'm favouring my own men. So just stay at the General Planning Agency for some time and when the opportunity comes, I'll give you a position worthy of your talent."
Indeed, in September 1968, Quang was appointed the president's special adviser on military affairs, and in August 1969, he got one more appointment as Thieu's special adviser on national security and concurrently chairman of the National Security Council, which gave him control over the military police, police, secret service, internal and external intelligence services. Those functions gave Quang great power and perfectly suited his inclinations and relish for espionage work in which he had been trained by his French and American masters.
Most of Quang's former friends said that after his appointment as Thieu's special adviser on military and security matters, he gave a cold shoulder to and looked down upon everybody, except the Americans and Thieu and his wife. Puppet general Tran Van Khoi related that he was an old friend of Quang with whom he had once lived for quite a few years when Quang was a lieutenant and he himself, a 2nd lieutenant. When Quang was made presidential advisor, Khoi came to pay his respects but Quang was lukewarm as if they had never known each other.
Puppet general Nguyen Huu Co also complained that after he was kicked out by Thieu-Ky, he had to live in exile in Formosa and Hong Kong for several years. Back in Saigon, he was living under surveillance, with secret service agents posted around his house, on Quang's order. From time to time, Quang summoned Co to ask him whether he was "colluding with anybody to prepare a coup d'etat". In reality, Quang knew too well that Co was fed up with the pursuit of power, under the US magic wand, and only wanted to engage in business. But it was exactly because Co's business was prospering that Quang from time to time made veiled threats to Co in order to make a little money. Once, as Co had just left his house in a car, two secret agents on motorcycles immediately followed him and kept trailing him in a conspicuous manner until he returned to his home. Of course, that is not the way of keeping watch on somebody. But Quang only wanted to intimidate Co, and especially to help his wife extort money from Co's wife!
Many puppet generals have remarked that Quang's wife was a very wily and wicked woman. She went about playing cards with unscrupulous merchants in Cho Lon and the wives of officers under Quang's orders. She addressed officers of lower rank that her husband as "younger brothers" although many of them were older than she. "Just to be more intimate," she blandly explained. And in "intimate" talks with the wives of a lieutenant colonel, colonel or provincial chief, she would confide: "Quang has been telling me about some kind of irregularity on the part of your husband. Is my younger brother much worried? " or: "It seems that my younger brother is being sent to the front. Has he got the order? I wish him good luck!" The ladies were scared stiff on learning the news, so they could only beseech Mrs. Quang to urge her husband to ask President Thieu to keep their men "away from danger", or to "show leniency" toward them if they had done anything wrong. Thieu's drives to "clean up and strengthen the organization" were good oppotunities for Quang and his wife to collect a lot of money in this way as those who had received or might receive orders for transfer or dismissal, must grease the adviser's palms if they wanted to be spared. As a rule, any transfer of an army corps commander was followed by that of division commanders and province chiefs in the tactical zone, to ensure "smooth coordination between different levels", this was revealed by documents left behind in the puppet general staff headquarters. But this was not the case with Quang. Although the latter was now in charge of a "central government organ", he still had many of his men in the Mekong delta region for, in his capacity as Thieu's adviser on national security, he could of course make suggestions on the appointment of province chiefs and division commanders.
US documents have revealed that when Quang was commander of the 4th Tactical Zone, he promulgated the slogan "not to let a single grain of paddy fall into Viet Cong hands", and at harvest time, sent his troops to the countryside on sweeping-up operations. Following the troops were unscrupulous traders from Saigon with trucks to transport the paddy grabbed from the population to their Saigon rice mills. They thus made millions after offering Quang and his wife a rake off of some hundred thousand piastres.
Dang Van Quang had other tricks to make money. As Thieu's adviser on military and national security affairs, frequently sent to the US embassy to discuss "secret matters", Quang had many a good opportunity to show his devotion to the United States, to oppose the revolution, repress the people and bully his subordinates, and to make more money. Some puppet general in the re-education class have said that after Quang was made Thieu's special adviser, he and his wife continued to buy Western drugs in the 4th Tactical Zone in order to re-sell them in Saigon, seizing control of the drug market in the big city and extending their business to other areas. As Quang had under his sway the navy and the military police (he was in charge of security matters), contraband goods smuggled in by Quang's men easily passed through check-points, while goods (even in legal dealing) belonging to other groups were meeting with many difficulties in their movement: vegetables and fruit on the way from the Mekong delta to Saigon were unloaded and left to rot or cut up "to search for Viet Cong leaflets". So, nobody wanted to deal in vegetables and fruit, and Quang's men practically monopolized that business food, exacting exorbitant prices in Saigon when in the surrounding areas fruit and vegetables, found in large quantity, were being sold at dirt-cheap prices.
Unscrupulous traders in Saigon cleverly used Quang's protection to make big profits, while the puppet general and his wife in exchange obtained from them handsome sums of money. When giving them a tip or securing a permit, Quang's wife would blandly tell them: "I would like to take a share in these investment. But...I can't find the money now, how can you find immediately millions of piastres? So, let's do like this: let me contribute 25% of the capital (you can lend me the money) and I'll get one-fourth of the profits or bear one-fourth of the losses!" That sounded quite fair, and clear-cut! But under security adviser Dang Van Quang's protection, how could the enterprise suffer losses! And without stirring a finger, Mrs. Quang, with mere words, could thus make millions.
Quang once confide to high-ranking officers working under him: "In these troublous times, factories or plantations are no good, and the local banks are not safe. There remain only the dollars, get plenty of them and deposit them in a bank in neutral Switzerland, that's the best course!" His wife once frankly told lieutenant colonel Kien's wife who was seeking a contract for supply of military goods: "if you want to do something for me, just give me one thousand dollars. As to Mr. Thieu's money, it's only waste paper!"
Opposing the Revolution to the End
Being in the secret service and having access to secret information, Dang Van Quang was more than anyone else aware of the frailty and invevitable collapse of the Saigon puppet regime. So he took full advantage of his position as security adviser to get rich, tremendously rich, by every possible means, no lucre being too filthy for him, as many puppet generals have remarked.
Quang, who was a veteran secret agent, was adept at diversion manoeuvres. After his transfer from the 4th Corps Area to Saigon, he was bragging that "in opposing the introduction of US troops into the Mekong delta region, he had displeased Westmoreland", to show that he was a tough man, and anti-American!
When he was Thieu's special adviser, Quang circulated the rumour that US-supplied rice was mixed with grains of plastic which were "extremely toxic". The scared Saigon population dared not eat American rice, and had to buy local rice at an exorbitant price. Puppet generals who related this story remarked: "The production costs of plastic grains would be much higher than the price of genuine rice. Some people have mixed rice with sand or pebble, but nobody would be so foolish as to mix it with plastic grains!"
Thieu, when his position was weakening after so many defeats, eliminated many in his group whom he found no longer reliable. Among these was his political adviser Nguyen Van Ngan. But Quang remained at his post. A rumour was then circulating among the puppet generals that Quang was a CIA man placed by the US embassy beside Thieu to keep an eye on the dictator. Thieu's military intellignece service had got hold of a copy of a secret report of US ambassador Martin to Washington, on the "state of mind of the ARVN officers after the signing of the Paris Agreement". The report contained "quite accurate" details that only people like Nguyen Van Thieu, Cao Van Vien or Dang Van Quang who attended "top-secret" meetings could have known. Some people suspected that Quang had sold secret documents to the Americans. The suspicion increased when it was found that Martin trusted Quang more than Thieu, that US intelligence service reports on the Viet Cong, marked "top secret", were sent directly to Quang, without passing through Thieu's hands.
Sometimes, Quang confided to generals in charge of army establishments: "Mr. Martin just told me..." Of course, a man like Quang could not be expected to leak out secrets in an irresponsible manner. He only wanted to remind his colleagues that he was an "intimate" of Martin, and to intimidate the top brass, including Cao Van Vien. In the office fo the chief of the general staff a letter with Quang's signature, dated April 19, 1975 has been found, which began with these words: "I have just received from Mr. Martin these three documents, and I am putting one set at your disposal."
Until the last minute of the regime of traitor Nguyen Van Thieu, Dang Van Quang frantically opposed the revolution. Now "evacuated" to the United States, he is working at the CIA headquarters at Langley.
Vietnam Courier #49 (June 1976)
Nota Bene: Dang Van Quang is now living in Atlanta, Georgia.