Virginia, September 26, 1999.

{a bric a brac from telephone conversations with General Lu Mong Lan}

The first time I met Hieu was at Cam Ly airport when we both joined the Army. He came from Hanoi and I came from Hue. At that period, due to limited availability of means in communication, people from the North, the Center and the South did not have opportunities to interact with one another. Therefore the establishment of the Military Academy in Dalat allowed young men from the three regions of the country to come together. I noticed Hieu when I heard him speak with a strange accent as if he was a foreigner. I liked him right at the moment of our first encounter, because he appeared very congenial and humble.

Hieu did very well academically. In the final exam, there were 80 difficult questions in math. Everybody bit his pencil, except Hieu who sailed through the mathematic huddles with ease. He also excelled in track and field, especially in sprint meets. On the weekend which preceded the graduation day, we cadets were drenched by a sudden rain while strolling the streets of Dalat city. Afterwards, Hieu caught a cold and coughed incessantly. Nevertheless, he still participated in the 100m dash meet. He collapsed at the finishing line and had to be carried out on stretch into the hospital. That was how he was struck by tuberculosis.

After the graduation, I was assigned to a unit garrisoned in Quang Tri and participated continuously in many big operations. After being promoted to the rank of Captain, I was sent to Hanoi to attend a General Staff training class. I immediately sought out Hieu, who was convalescing at Lanessan hospital. We went to a diner on Hang Dao street to talk. Hieu listened to my passionate narration of my military exploits with envy then lamented: "I am now disabled. I am doomed for the rest of my life."

For a long while we did not see each other. When we met again, Hieu was already a Colonel and 2nd Corps Chief of Staff in Pleiku. I was already a Major General who had just been relieved of a divisional command by General Do Cao Tri and reassigned to the post of 2nd Corps Deputy Commander. Every Monday, the 2nd Corps held the flag raising ceremony. Every military personnel must ceremoniously line up in participation. Therefore on my first Monday in Pleiku, I stood in attention with the General Staff group. General Do Cao Tri used to let his Chief of Staff preside over this ceremony in his place. I saw Hieu solemnly walk toward the presiding podium. Suddenly he raised his hand to interrupt the ceremony, then walk straight toward me and said: "This does not look right. Mon General, please allow me to relinquish the presiding role to you."

The next time we met again was when I was assigned 2nd Corps Commander in replacement of General Vinh Loc in March 1968. At that time Hieu was the 22nd Division Commanding General.

In September 1968, Hieu was asked by General Do Cao Tri to take over the command of the 5th Division. Afterwards, we totally lost contact. It was not until a few days prior to his death that I had the opportunity to see him again, he was then the 3rd Corps Deputy Commander, when I came to the 3rd Corps as a member of a high-ranking officers' delegation to attend a briefing of the military situation. Around that time, I was commandant of the National Defense College.

Lu Mong Lan