Story about my Brother, General Hieu

Chapter IX
I Corps

After my brother was relieved of the 5th Division command following the retreat of Snoul in June 1971, he was "promoted" to the position of I Corps Deputy Commander/Operations, assistant to General Hoang Xuan Lam. Upon arriving in Da Nang, he felt right away that he was assigned to a sinecure position. The proof was that when General Lam was asked on 1/2/1999 by Colonel Ta Thanh Long, he did not recall my ever had served as his deputy commander.

I apologize to Ta Thanh Long for not remembering this transfer in our January 2, 1999 reunion. (letter dated 3/1/1999)

Colonel Vu Ngoc Huong, 2nd Regiment/3rd Division Commander, wrote:

When General Hieu left the command of the 5th Infantry Division to assume the position of I Corps Deputy Commander, he visited Hieu Nhon District in Quang Nam after it was attacked by the VC the night before. During the next morning search, a dead VC was discovered carrying a P38 pistol with a shattered butt. He took it as a souvenir, I guessed.

An American advisor named Gary recounted having met my brother in the 1st Military Region:

I was fortunate enough to have met the General. I was assigned to the ARVN Division at Chu Lai in 1972. They later went to Quang Tri after the Easter invasion of 1972. They then went to Phu Cat in August for the siege there. I happened to attend a few meetings where the General attended. These were meetings for strategy (not at Chu Lai).

Another American soldier by the name of Lee wrote:

I did get to meet MG Hieu in 1972. I was in charge of the MACV I Corps message center in Danang. We were located next to his headquarters. He was an impressive man.

In his sinecure position, my brother spent his time accompanying Colonel Nguyen Dinh Vinh, I Corps Deputy Commander/Territories on a visit to units disseminated at various locations in the Ist Military Region.

Nguyễn Đình Vinh

When the operation Lam Son 719 occurred, my brother was still in Lai Khe. However, he got to participate in the awards ceremony of the combatants that had contributed to this operation.

LTC Le Quy Ky, Group I Transport Commander, who had participated in the Lam Son 719 - Route 9 Low Laos Operation was awarded a Corps citation and a Gold Star Medal of Valor by Major General Nguyen Van Hieu.

The Biographic Data on MG Hieu writes:

Hieu did not remain in the I Corps long for in January he went to Taiwan to inspect the Chinese army political warfare organization. Prior to leaving Vietnam, Hieu told an Embassy officer that upon his return to Vietnam on January 25, 1972, he would have to choose between two positions: the head of the Dalat Military Academy; or as a Special Assistant to the Vice President in charge of the Government’s new anti-corruption campaign.

My brother chose to work for Vice President Tran Van Huong.

An incongruent incident occurred when my brother left the position of Deputy Commander of the I Corps to become Minister of Anti-Corruption under the aegis of Vice President Tran Van Huong in February 1972. Before the announcement of that date, he had been invited by the Commander of the American 7th Fleet to visit the American armada. Brigadier General Phan Dinh Soan was assigned to replace him. After consultation with his soothsayer to select a good day, he requested my brother to switch the date to an earlier day, before the 7th Fleet's visit date. My brother reluctantly consented to the request, not wanting to miss the much-coveted visit to the 7th Fleet. So, the newly installed Deputy Commander of the 1st Corps had that honor on February 25, 1972. Unfortunately, after the visit, the helicopter carrying the Deputy Commander collided with the ship command tower and plunged to the sea, causing the death of General Soan along with Colonel Ngo Han Dong, Soan’s aid de camp, and the four American crewmen. A search of the victims’ bodies took place immediately after the accident, but only the remains of three American crewmen were found. It was not until more than a month later, exactly 36 days, a team of Navy Seals succeeded in finding the helicopter wreckage and brought it back to the Navy Headquarters of the 1st Coastal Region. It was not indicated if the remains of the four victims had been recuperated or not.

Phan Đình Soạn

Ngô Hán Đồng

On August 1, 2005, Colonel Ngo Han Dong’s spouse, I Corps Artillery Commander who died while accompanying Brigadier General Phan Dinh Soan told me by phone that the helicopter did not explode in the air, but rather crashed inland after being heavily damaged due to a collision with an antenna pole when it took off from the American battleship deck. The families were able to recover the bodies of both Major General Soan and Brigadier General Dong (posthumously promoted).

Nguyen Van Tin
23 January 2015