In 1975 the South Vietnamese Navy was involuntarily discharged from the world’s naval community. The Officers and men never enjoyed a happy and victorious ending. They suffered loss and humiliation. In April 1975 their small fleet arrived in Subic Bay, Philippines without identity. The US Navy painted over the Vietnamese Navy (VNN) ships hull numbers. The fatherland’s flag was forced to be lowered from the masts. And by all accounts the South Vietnamese Navy ceased to exit.
On January 19, 1974 this proud Navy fought against the huge Chinese Navy in Hoang Sa (Paracel Islands) archipelagos without any help or support from the U.S. Seventh Fleet. Sailors who abandoned ships scattered to the sea. The U.S. Navy offered no assistance. U.S. Naval Historians have never mentioned a word about this sea battle.
The ill-equipped former DER Foster (VNN HQ 4), with torpedo tubes without torpedoes, long range radar that had been stripped off after changing hand from the US Navy, was all but useless. Former U.S. Coast Guard WHEC craft, with slow 5’’ guns, could not get the upper-hand on the high speed Chinese gunboats. The aftermath was VNN PCE (HQ 10) was sunk. Two Chinese gunboats were sunk and some were damaged. The Hoang Sa (Paracel Islands) were lost.
After 1973 the U.S. sharply reduced its support. The VNN had to use its ammunition sparingly. A victory at Tuyen Nhon changed the Viet Cong’s movements towards Saigon. The Viet Cong commander offered millions of dong for Lt. Commander Le Anh Tuan’s head.
On April 1975 Task Force 99 blocked a Viet Cong attack on Saigon from Tay Ninh and alerted a surveillance post for the VNN fleet to evacuate via the Long Tao waterway to safety.
On April 30, 1975, after Duong Van Minh called Republic of Vietnamese Armed forces to surrender, Lt. Commander Le Anh Tuan committed suicide when his river flotilla was ambushed by Russian made T-54 tanks. Many boats were abandoned in Vung Tau and in South Vietnams waterways. Officers and enlisted sailors felt betrayed by their comrades and allies. The only way they could save their miserable lives was to draw close to their families. Sadly, Commander Ha Ngoc Luong killed his wife, children and then committed suicide at the Nha Trang Naval Academy.
After April 30, 1975 some LST crewmen, with AK-47s held behind their backs, trained Viet Cong sailors to run those types of ships. They did so while watching dirty pigs and chickens feeding on the former proud ships decks.
Officers were separated from their families. They had to do duty in forced labor Re-education Camps for years. They tried to escape Vietnam by all possible ways. With their experiences as sea going sailors, many were successful. Some succeeded in reaching free countries and began rebuilding their lives.
The Viet Cong Navy updated the former DER Foster (HQ 4) and began using her as a training ship. They armed WHECs with missiles. Today they are still using some former VNN LST for cargo ships. Their fleet has dozens of gas turbine Petya gun boats with torpedo launchers. The Ukraine is planning on selling them some 2,000 ton Gepard frigates and Molniya missle boats equipped with Moskit supersonic anti-ship missiles under Ukrainian license. Vietnamese shipyards will build these type of ships for Viet Cong Navy.
Hai Tran, LT, Vietnamese Navy
In Memory of the Brave SVNN Sailors lost in the Paracel Islands
Ceremony – Silver Strand Beach, Coronado, California – January 19, 2007
Vietnamese Navy Veterans Association members