A COMB MADE FROM THE WRECKAGE OF AN AMERICAN A3J AIRCRAFT SHOT DOWN IN HANOI
On a hot summer day in 2020, we returned to Phu Tho Province to meet and collect memorabilia of veterans who fought on the battlefields of the resistance war against the US. One of the veterans was Mr. Ngo Van Dung (born in 1940), a native of Phu Nham Commune, Phu Ninh District, Phu Tho Province - he was part of the generation of veterans who believed - “Putting the pen down to take the gun up”. He personally crafted and kept a special memento, a comb made from the wreckage of an American A3J (RA5C) aircraft shot down on Le Truc Street in Hanoi in 1967.
On April 12th, 1963, young Ngo Van Dung enlisted to join the army to defend the fatherland when he was in grade 7. He told us that when he was posted to the 3rd Company, Regiment 600 and continued his schooling to finish grade 10 before he entered the first course of the Central Public Security School (now People's Security Academy). He then became a People's Armed Policeman who was tasked to protect embassies and consulates of 12 socialist countries in Hanoi.
Between 1964 and 1965, the US expanded a destructive air war to the North to prevent the support of the large socialist rear to the South. On August 5th, 1964, by manipulating the “Gulf of Tonkin Incident”, the US launched a war to destroy the North using its air force and navy to crush the fighting will the Vietnamese people. At the end of September 1967, the US aircraft began to return to attack Hanoi. During the “Rolling Thunder 55” and “Rolling Thunder 56” Operations, the US mobilized hundreds of aircraft to directly hit key targets such as transportation systems, warehouses, industrial facilities, residential clusters, including Long Bien Bridge and Yen Phu Power Plant to cripple socio-economic activities in the capital. In that context, the Party Central Committee advocated the establishment of Hanoi Air Defense Command, now Hanoi Air Defense Division. On the afternoon of May 19th, 1967, the US aircraft attacked Yen Phu Power Plant to cut off power supplies to Hanoi and some neighboring provinces.
At that time, Dung and his comrades were on duty in Thu Le Park when they received information on the radio that US aircraft were flying into Hanoi. Immediately, they rushed into battle positions. “At about 15.00, we saw in the sky that an A3J suddenly attacked the power plant but was hit by the anti - aircraft fire of the anti - aircraft artillery, causing the aircraft to catch fire and break into two parts. The first part of the aircraft crashed in the area of Tien Bo Printing Factory (Kim Ma Ward, Ba Dinh District), while the tail fell down onto Le Truc Street (Dien Bien Ward, Ba Dinh District). The two pilots were captured alive. One fell on the roof of the chicken coop of a house in No.71 Thuy Khe Street and the other fell into Lane 124 on the same street. After that, the 3rd Company took on the task of moving from Thu Le Park to Hung Vuong Street (Ba Dinh District). On the way, as we passed Le Truc Street and saw many fragments of US aircraft lying on the road, we picked up some to make personal items”, said Mr. Dung. He and his comrades used hacksaws to make combs, rings and daggers to keep as souvenirs. The silver - gray comb, 14.5 cm in length, is in the shape of an American aircraft and engraved with the letters “USA” and the number 2300, representing the sequence number of American aircraft shot down in the North. During his years of fighting, the comb was always carried by him and carefully preserved as a soulmate.
The scene of the downing of the A3J (RA5C) on Le Truc Street on May 19th, 1967
© Vietnam News Agency
Being asked about the deep memories of the soldier's life, Mr. Dung remembers the time he was on guard duty at the Romanian Embassy in Hanoi when he received an announcement of enemy aircraft flying over. When he went down to the fortification pit, to ensure the observation and performance of the task of protecting the embassy, he did not close the lid. At that time, enemy aircraft fired missiles at the embassy, causing rocks to explode and fall on his head. Thankfully, he was safe as he was wearing a helmet. Waiting for the enemy aircraft to leave, he came up from the fortification pit. Despite being covered in dust, he still found the comb in his pocket.
His most poignant memory was when he met Uncle Ho, on the day that his unit organized the Emulation Warrior Congress in 1965. He was one of the honored soldiers who met Uncle Ho on that day.
Mr. Ngo Van Dung’s comb made from a fragment of A3J (RA5C) aircraft.
In 1984, Mr. Dung was discharged with the rank of lieutenant. He carefully kept the comb at his home. In May 2020, veteran Ngo Van Dung donated the comb to the Hanoi Museum with the desire to spread his memory to the public when visiting the museum.
Mr. Nguyen Tien Da - Director of Hanoi Museum received the memorabilia from veteran Ngo Van Dung
Regarding the A3J aircraft, in the archives of the Hanoi Museum, there are currently 2 artifacts of the wreckage of the A3J aircraft shot down on Le Truc Street. The comb, A3J wreckage, and related story will be featured in the Hanoi Museum's permanent display to tell the story of a heroic city.
A fragment of the wreckage of the A3J (RA5C) shot down on Le Truc Street on May 19th, 1967
Kiều Tuấn Đạt