April 30th: Black April Day
A Day of National Acrimony


Vietnamese nationalists have chosen April 30 as Ngày Quốc Hận, which – for lack of an appropriate, corresponding English terminology – has been christened in English by the Vietnamese diaspora as Black April Day.

On April 30, 1975, the communist North Vietnamese invaded South Vietnam, an internationally recognized free and democratic country, forcing millions of freedom-loving people to flee from the dictatorship and authoritarianism of the communist regime, under conditions of duress and catastrophic hardships. These freedom-loving people recollect that day as Ngày Quốc Hận. To facilitate understanding for non-readers of Vietnamese, a literal translation into English is hereby provided: “Ngày” means “Day”; “Quốc”, National; and “Hận”, Acrimony.

“A Day of National Acrimony”, instead of “Black April Day”, might not be strikingly evocative; however, the phrase captures the essential meaning contained in the Vietnamese words. The semantic features endogenous to the Vietnamese term “Hận” are “giận: anger” and “oán: resentment and bitterness”, which are best represented by those that make up the term “acrimony.” The issue here, however, is why Vietnamese nationalists are amenable to calling it a day of anger, resentment, and bitterness.

They are angry because they lost to the communists and they feel resentful and bitter because they were betrayed by their ally, the United States of America. But to lose is to lose. They have to accept that as a fact. Why should they be angry? And how did their ally betray them?

The Vietnamese nationalists lost the war to the communists, but it was an unreasonable loss because democracy lost to communism, dictatorship and righteousness to evil. More importantly, from a military standpoint, the defeats of the communist General Offensive/General Uprising of 1968 and the Easter Offensive by the entire People’s Army of North Vietnam in the “fiery red summer” of 1972, on the one hand, and the heroic resiliency and persistence of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in holding on to their beloved, free South Vietnam from 1972 to 1975, on the other hand, are irrefutable proofs of the ARVN’s fighting spirit and superior strategic skills.

The communist North, in defiance of the 36-hour armistice devised to allow the people to celebrate Tet (i.e., the lunar new year), launched a massive attack on South Vietnam during the 1968 General Offensive/General Uprising. Nevertheless, the ARVN, even with the number of troops reduced to one-sixth1 of its size, due to their on-leave interval for the Tet celebration, could still stave off the entire communist People’s Army’s offensive.

From the military viewpoint, The Tet Offensive of 1968 was a catastrophic defeat for the hawkish warmonger Lê Duẩn. It revealed horrific scenes of dead under-aged youngsters chained together at the ankle to machine guns2 and inside tanks3; snipers lashed to trees4 so they could not run away and had to fight to their death. These youngsters died a miserable death. Furthermore, propagandistic reports from the North unashamedly twisted facts in their vivid description of the 1968 attack on the American Embassy in Saigon with scenes of communist fighters storming onto the third floor to kill the American ambassador. The fact, however, is in Saigon, everyone could watch the attack on television. Just as about a score of communist fighters had barely crossed over the fence of the embassy, they were all mown down by a hail of machine gun bullets from the embassy guards.

The communists killed 5,327 civilians in Huế during their retreat after being defeated in the 1968 Tet Offensive, including four German professors serving a stint as assistants to the Faculty of Medicine of Hue University. They either shot them to death on the spot or buried them alive in common graves scattered all over the place in the periphery of Huế City and at Đá Mài Creek after striking them over the head with a hoe while their arms were tied by the elbows behind their backs. In addition to the 5,327 massacred innocent people, they also took away with them another 1,200 people, whose fate remains unknown today.

From the point of view of the Psychology of the Masses, the 1968 Offensive was a heavy loss for the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP). The Year of the Monkey Campaign (1968) was euphemistically labeled “General Offensive/General Uprising” because the VCP had the illusionary belief that the people of the South would stand up and fight to overthrow the Southern Government when their troops were moving in. The Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) lost the 1968 Offensive because the people of the South abhorred them and always fled to the ARVN side for protection whenever they heard of their whereabouts. Even people from the North loathed them. In 1954, more than a million people migrated from the North to the South to shun the scourge of communism. Had it not been for the difficulties in transportation and the pre-planned deterrents by force by the cruel CVP, the number of people moving South would have increased manifold.

During the “fiery red” summer of 1972, after almost all the US armed forces had withdrawn from Vietnam, leaving behind only scanty support from the US Air Force, the ARVN could still manage to avert over 200,000 troops of the North regular army swarming into all the cities of South Vietnam.

The US armed forces completely withdrew from Vietnam after 1972. US air support ceased while the North continued to have all the needed supplies shipped from Russia and China. China provided 300,000 Chinese troops to protect the North, freeing the Vietnamese communist regular army to invade the South. Nonetheless, the ARVN were still able to defend South Vietnam until April 30, 1975, while coping with historical, fierce battles at Xuân Lộc and An Lộc, in the face of a catastrophic shortage of ammunition and gas for armored vehicles, tanks, and fighter planes.

People felt angry because the Northern communists had illegally taken South Vietnam by force and had sent hundreds of thousands of southern government cadres, civil servants, military people, and the police into exile in concentration camps in remote, isolated areas or forests where inclement weather, toxic water, mosquitoes, and poisonous insects could kill them. Their main cause of death, however, was starvation. Meanwhile, the latter’s personal properties were looted, houses confiscated, and, in many cases, wives taken by communist cadres.

Another reason for Vietnamese nationalists to be angry is over two million people risked their lives escaping the northern communists’ extreme ruthlessness and brutality. On their escape by the sea – most often on small boats not fit for sea travel or sometimes, desperately, on tire tubes tied together – hundreds of thousands of people were either buried under the ocean or captured by Thai pirates; their valuables robbed, their wives raped, and husbands killed. Rape of young girls sometimes happened in front of their parents, wives in front of their husbands. Similar heart-wrenching incidents also occurred frequently for people who encountered the Khmer Rouge guerrillas while escaping via hazardous mountainous routes across Kampuchea. These painful experiences have left indelible marks on the hearts of the Vietnamese nationalists who were lucky enough to evade communist prisons and attain freedom in welcoming democratic countries.

In addition to anger, Vietnamese nationalists also felt bitterness and resentment against the American ally, who betrayed them.

First of all, the American ally’s intervention in South Vietnam had been grudgingly accepted.

Worthy of note is at the beginning of the Republic of Vietnam, Mr. Ngô Đình Diệm was not supported by the Americans as most people tend to believe. It was Emperor Bảo Đại who appointed him as Prime Minister of Vietnam upon his arrival in France after his failed lobbying in the United States.

Before 1955, Vietnam was in name independent, but in reality, was still under French administration and control. Therefore, Mr. Ngô Đình Diệm resigned as Minister of Interior of the Nguyễn dynasty government, of which the king was only a figurehead. He went abroad to find ways to save his country. He first contacted Prince Cường Để, who was granted asylum in Japan, to establish a government of constitutional monarchy but failed in his attempt. During this occasion, he met an American professor of politics, working for the CIA, by the name of Wesley Fisher, who connected him with several American politicians like Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Cardinal Francis Spellman, Representative Mike Mansfield of Montana State, Representative John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts State. However, Mr. Ngô Đình Diệm could not obtain the official support of the United States. The main reason for his failure was he was a Catholic and the Americans believed he would not be able to govern a country in which they thought the majority of the people were Buddhists.

Nevertheless, Mr. Ngô Đình Diệm returned to Vietnam from France on July 7, 1954, in the capacity of Prime Minister, appointed by Emperor Bảo Đại – who was at that time residing in France – for the entire territory of Vietnam. On July 21, 1954, the Geneva Accords were signed, dividing Vietnam into two parts at the 17th parallel. The geographical area north of parallel 17 was under Hồ Chí Minh’s administration. Mr. Ngô Đình Diệm blamed the French for giving up the North to the communists. Meanwhile, in the South, he secured the support of anti-communist political parties, the Cao Đài and Hoà Hảo religious sects. He quelled the Bình Xuyên rebellion, headed by Bảy Viễn; nullified the opposition by General Nguyễn Văn Hinh, whom the French had abetted for a coup d’état. With the armed forces returned by the French, based on the mandate of the 1954 Geneva Accords, and the support of anti-communist political parties and Cao Đào and Hoà Hảo, he eradicated almost the entire infrastructure left behind by the communists after their regrouping to the North under the mandate of the Geneva Accords. Mr. Ngô Đình Diệm was able to establish a solid foundation for The First Republic.

However, a nascent republic expected to replace the old-fashioned, mandarinal administration of the Nguyễn Dynasty would need financial, economic, technical, and managerial support. This is the time when Mr. Ngô Đình Diệm needed the assistance of the Americans, who arrived in Vietnam as advisors during the 50’s and 60’s. The number of advisors increased with time. The crux of the matter, however, was that Mr. Ngô Đình Diệm’s political viewpoint did not coincide with that of the Americans. Mr. Ngô focused much more – due to the cultural tradition of a royal centralist and authoritarian government – on the prosperity and independence of his country than on complete freedom as was normally practiced in democratic countries in the West. The American viewpoint, on the other hand, centered on the global struggle for hegemony and the possible influences of democracy versus Marxism.

From the viewpoint of hegemony and influence, the Americans determined that boots on the ground in Vietnam were necessary to nip the expansion of international communism to Vietnam and ultimately, per their domino theory, to the entire South East Asia, including Laos, Kampuchea, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Australia. However, this is where the difference in viewpoints between Mr. Ngô Đình Diệm and the American government originated. To Mr. Ngô, the presence of the American armed forces in Vietnam’s territory would (1) violate the country’s sovereignty and (2) refute the just cause of Vietnamese national identity, offering the communist leadership of the North the opportunity to accuse the Americans of invasion, the southerners of being mercenaries for the Americans, and to claim the legitimacy of their liberation of South Vietnam from American imperialism. Additionally, the communist North would have every reason to request support from its allies like Russia and China. However, from the American perspective, the sovereignty of a small, underdeveloped country like Vietnam cannot counterbalance the interests of the United States, whose power is supposedly able to safeguard its national security.

Unable to convince Mr. Ngô Đình Diệm, the American intelligence created opportune occasions for the Vietnamese generals to overthrow the Diệm government by exploiting its missing essential elements of democracy and the latent animosity between Catholics and Buddhists, of whom several influential leaders had been proselytized by the communists. The resulting November 1963 coup d’état ended with the savage assassination of President Ngô Đình Diệm and his brother, Ngô Đình Nhu.

In March 1965, the American armed forces moved in on Đà Nẵng without any official consultation with the government of the Republic of Vietnam. In 1967, there were over 500,000 American troops and a smaller number of Filipino, South Korean, and Thai soldiers, etc., in South Vietnam. Paradoxically, hardly any Vietnamese knew the exact reason for the dispatch of the American troops to Vietnam, but their presence was generally believed to be a shield to hold back the expansion of international communism to the entire South East Asia, and as a corollary, to protect the freedom and independence of South Vietnam. Some other people, however, believed it was only a pretext for the American plutocracy to collaborate with the military-industrial complex in a conspiracy to dispose of the weaponry and military equipment left over from the Second World War and to try out newly invented ones. The ARVN, in 1967-1968, still used the M1 Garand, the rifle the Americans used during WWII and the Korean War. The ARVN was not provided with the M-16 until the communists were using the AK-47 (the Kalashnikov).

The war was prolonged apparently with no decisive victory in sight for either side until the losses in financial resources and human lives were too heavy for the American people to endure, impacting the presidential election. The United States tried to find a way out by way of a peace agreement: The 1973 Paris Peace Accords or officially, the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam. This Agreement stipulates that North Vietnam was not permitted to use force to invade South Vietnam. Should North Vietnam violate this requirement, the United States would retaliate in kind. President Nixon sent a letter to President Nguyễn VănThiệu to confirm this. The United States was expected to continue economic and military assistance in that there would be an immediate piece-by-piece replacement for out-of-commission ammunition and equipment.

In a flagrant violation of the Agreement, North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam. Not only did The United States not retaliate, but also cut off economic support to South Vietnam. Out-of-operation ammunition and military equipment were not replaced. There was a drastic shortage of gasoline for armored vehicles, tanks, and fighter planes to operate. In the meantime, North Vietnam was supported by a hefty supply of over 300,000 Chinese troops to protect the North while the Vietnamese communist regular army was moving south; they were provided by China and Russia with abundant ammunition, rifles, tanks, fighter planes, and gasoline. The Vietnamese nationalists lost the South, not because of their cowardice or inability to defend their country but because of their ally friend’s betrayal. The Americans arrived, without even giving the courtesy of asking for consent, and then left, throwing their friend to the wolves when their interests had been satisfied by colluding with communist China.

South Vietnam was lost, and hundreds of thousands of government workers were put into exile in remote, desolate areas in distant forests where they had to do hard labor and suffer from all kinds of diseases and physical torture, the worst of which was extreme hunger, and to die a slow death. Furthermore, it has been estimated that approximately 500,000 to 700,000 people perished at sea due to inclement weather, to small fisherman boats not fit for sea travel, and to sea pirates, who pillaged their personal belongings and raped their daughters and wives. It also happened that the Khmer Rouge fighters killed them on their escape routes or the mines blew them up somewhere in the Kampuchean territory. All these woeful incidents occurred because the Vietnamese nationalists were left high and dry by their American ally friend. How can one not feel acrimonious?

April 30 is a day of national acrimony for Vietnamese nationalists, who feel angry about their absurd loss to the communists and about the extreme cruelty and savagery of the Vietnamese Communist Party towards their compatriots; it is also a day when Vietnamese nationalists feel bitterness and resentment against their American ally friend for their betrayal.

However, we cannot hold the grudge forever. Regardless of all the undeserved pain and suffering, over three million freedom-loving Vietnamese were able to escape the communist yoke and were warmly welcomed in the United States of America and other democratic countries in the world. Our children have the opportunity for a good education and the development of their professional careers and personalities as individuals in an open and free atmosphere. When the first flight carrying the Vietnamese orphans from Vietnam arrived in the United States, it was President Gerald R. Ford who welcomed them. It was President Jimmy Carter who allowed hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees to enter the United States. Furthermore, we should be able to differentiate between the American people and the United States government leadership. The majority of the American people are good-hearted and compassionate people. Of those in the American political leadership, some people are compassionate, others function based more on national interests, which vary very often with time. The former Prime Minister of Great Britain Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, declared in front of the British Parliament on March 1, 1948, that “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests, it is our duty to follow.” It was, therefore, the Vietnamese political leadership’s responsibility for the failure to realize this truth to plan for their country’s future accordingly.

Realizing this important point, leaders of small, underdeveloped countries simply cannot afford to just trust good-heartedness, a promise, a moral tenet, or a political theory in assessing the political position of another country much more powerful and in making decisions vital to the survival of their countries. A small, developing country needs support from wealthier and more powerful countries. However, first and foremost, this country should prove to be viable with the support of the majority of its people for the establishment of a solid foundation for a democratic government before it can build alliances with other countries based on equitable economic and political exchanges.

Tiểu Thạch Nguyễn văn Thái, Ph.D.

North Wales, Pennsylvania

March 26, 2024




1 According to correspondent Dan Southerland, UPI, in an interview by Hoà Ái, RFA correspondent, March 12, 2018.

2 In the following articles:

– 2/503d VIETNAM Newsletter
Excerpt from page 5: “The Vietnamese kept coming even when it was obvious they were losing – they didn’t have radios and couldn’t call off the assault. Afterward, one dead VC soldier was found chained to his machine gun
Tom Faley

-Interview Transcript: Daniel Edward Burress: Veterans History …

Excerpt:…the most gruesome sight I thought I would ever see was a Vietnamese, Viet Cong soldier chained to a machine gun and burnt up to a crisp, because they chained him to that gun so he would sit there and just fire and fire and fire, and he’d better not stop firing because when he stopped firing, he’s dead, …

Excerpt: At the conclusion of the battle it was discovered the crews serving the 50-caliber machine had been chained to the weapon…

-Were there suicide bombers in Vietnam?
Excerpt: There are accounts of Viet Cong soldiers being chained with their machine guns to strategic positions. One hopes the unfortunate soldier had a say in this…”

-The Phantom Blooper: Travels With Charlie
Excerpt:The Viet Cong schoolhouse is a spacious building of handmade yellow bricks and …… about Marines finding dead Viet Cong children, chained to machine guns

-Vietnam War Bibliography: The Communists
Excerpt: Thomas Campbell, “Facing the Enemy.” Naval History, February 1996, pp. 42-45. Campbell became an adviser to RVN Marines late in 1965. Interesting items include an incident of a PAVN soldier who only appeared to be chained to his machine gun.


-The girl in the picture: the story of Kim Phuc, the photograph
http://books.google.com/books?id=Fn7… death&f=false

Excerpt:…They found three Viet Cong dead: one in the tunnel opening in the garden; two in the house, one of them in his machine gun nest, the leader having chained him at the ankle there to ensure that he fought to his death.”

3 In the following document:

-Red crew chained in tank
Excerpt: AN LOC, south Vietnam(UPI)- “There was a body outside the North Vietnamese tank, apparently of the tank commander. Down inside were two more bodies, dead from a direct hit by an antitank M72 rocket. I saw something glint in the darkness. I felt the man’s ankle, it was chained to the inside of the tank with quarter-inch thick chain links.

4 In the following document:


-U.S. Troops Find Viet Cong Chained
Excerpt: SAIGON (UPI)- American soldiers have reported seeing Viet Cong troops chained to their machine guns and communist snipers lashed to trees on several occasions during the past few months...

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