War legend remained humble entire life
  • | dtinews.vn | May 02, 2010 08:13 PM

"The image I still hold of my father is not of a war hero figure for his famous battles, but of the many nights that he stayed up to carry water to our home and those precious moments when he would sit down on the floor playing with the kids," said the late famous general's son.

We found our way to the old military apartment located on Tran Phu Road to meet the family of the late Colonel General Nguyen Huu An, a legendary Vietnamese war hero. During the Vietnam War, he was well-known for commanding Vietnam's first battle against the U.S Army, and coming out victorious in the 1965 IaDrang - Playku Battle. According to many American generals, this was a battle that is widely considered to have brought a dramatic change to the face of the Vietnamese war at the time. The 2nd Corps Commander skillfully directed his army to attack the Independent Palace, successfully captured President Duong Van Minh, and gained freedom for the city of Sai Gon, on April 30, 1975, in the Ho Chi Minh Campaign.

Col.Gen. An's heroic military career lasted half a century (1945-1995) and is honoured in the simple, small apartment of his family on 34A Tran Phu Road.

Col.Gen. Nguyen Huu An and Col.Gen. Harold Moore returned to the old IaDrang Battlefield.
Play Me Battlefiled under the command of Col.Gen. Nguyen Huu An.
Photos taken from the book "We Were Soldiers" written about Col.Gen. Nguyen Huu An and Col.Gen. Harold Moore.

Col.Gen. Nguyen Huu An's son, Nguyen Tuan Hung gave us a warm welcome and greeted us eagerly as he showed us precious documents about his beloved father. The legendary General's important roles were obvious to us through the autographs of many strategies and targetting directions during his Ho Chi Minh Campaign.

In the letter, hand-written at midnight on April 29, 1975, Col.Gen. Nguyen Huu An demanded the availability of 7 tanks to progress towards Bien Hoa Highway, in coordination with specialised units, targetting Sai Gon's presidential palace, the naval radio station and the Central Intelligence Building. Col.Gen An's plans were arranged in careful detail.

Every member of his family remembers by heart the story of every battle that Col.Gen. An was in and all of his war stories. However, these details and stories were mostly told by the general's friends and war comrades or through the exchange of letters between the general and other leaders that have been kept until now.

According to Hung, the first time he met his father was when he was 6 or 7 years old. The first impression that he had of his father was a man with a head covered in bandages. Col.Gen. An was nearly killed by an enemy bomb. Hung spent very little time with his father as the campaign drew nearer to the country's liberation day.

Hung said that his father never spoke of his battles or victories in the letters that he wrote them, or during the little time that he was actually with them during the war. In the letters that the general wrote during his stay in the southwest regions border, he only described to his daughter Thu Huong and son Tuan Hung beautiful things that he had seen in the region, the Plain of Jars with many big stone jars, pear season, peach season, pine forests, green grass fields like carpets, about his comrades finding a lot of orchids, but never once did he mention anything about the war that he was in. In almost every letter, the general expressed his hopes that his children would study hard, love each other, and support their mother.

Even when the war had been over for many years, Col.Gen. Nguyen Huu An never told his children or grandchildren about his victories himself. "He was always very calm and composed. He thought of these things as if they were just things that he had done in his life," Hung said with a smile, showing the exact laugh lines his father once did.

The legendary general was known to be made of steel in the battlefileds, but at home and in the memories of his children, he is remembered as a loving father and devoted husband. Hung shared, "On each his home visit, he would do something for the house, be it manually guarding the wooden floor for the stairs, barring the balcony with wire fence, or staying up the whole night to carry water home for us."

As peace was brought back to Vietnam, the old general still lived with his family in the same tiny apartment that they had always lived in. The government wanted to give him a spacious villa, as a present for all he had done for the country, but he just smiled and politely rejected.

After a lifetime fighting for the country, the most luxurious car that the general owned was a UAZ car, during his time as the General Director of the Defence Institute (1991-1995). Only during the last two years of his life did the institute provide him with a new Nissan car. However, Hung said the family was never allowed to use the car, except when the general died and they used the car to bring his coffin to the cemetery.

Until the day that Col.Gen. Nguyen Huu An passed, the general never had his own suit, but one that he was provided with when he first visited Russia. He wore it all the time, and kept it all his life.

The old father never bought himself anything of value, but he was willing to pay 24 Russian Rubles (a substantial amount of money in 1974) to buy his beloved son a violin while he was in Moscow. The general is remembered as a kind and respected man, who always helped anyone in need, and a very strict father.

Colonel General Nguyen Huu An not only fulfilled his role as a husband and a father, but also made significant contributions to the country's victory in the spring of 1975, helping to reunify Vietnam 35 years ago.