THE “LITTLE GUARDS” WHO WERE DETERMINED TO BRAVE DEATH IN 60 DAYS AND NIGHTS TO PROTECT THE CAPITAL
“Nearly two hundred teenagers refused to evacuate but stayed in Hanoi to do tasks such as communication, navigation, annunciation, command, and fighting side by side with the Capital Regiment from the very beginning of the resistance against the invaders. They were “Little Guards” - patriotic teenagers who were very worthy of the tradition of “young ages with big mind”, with the oath “Determined to Brave Death for the Survival of the Fatherland” in the resilient struggle of 60 days and nights to protect Hanoi Capital and open the resistance of our nation against the French colonialists”. Those are the words dedicated by General Vo Nguyen Giap to the “Little Guards” - “young capital boy who were determined to brave death”
We were lucky enough to meet Mr. Dang Van Tich, 84 years old, Lai Xa village, Kim Chung commune, Hoai Duc district, Hanoi, formerly a soldier of the “Capital Guard” and hear him talk about the young suicide fighters of that day, the deep impressions of 60 days and nights of “death for the Fatherland to decide”.
We were lucky enough to meet Mr. Dang Van Tich, 84 years old, from Lai Xa village, Kim Chung commune, Hoai Duc district, Hanoi, formerly a “Capital Little Guard” and heared him talking about the young suicide fighters of that day. These are deep impressions of 60 days and nights of “being determined to brave death for the survival of the Fatherland “.
Mr. Dang Van Tich, a former “Capital Little Guard”
“In Hanoi at that time, the army had only one company of national guards. In neighborhoods, there were only militias. There was also a special unit of teenagers like us. As we were the youngest, people called us the little guards - the little brothers of the national guards,” Mr. Tich explained.
Most of 175 little guards came from poor backgrounds. They were workers’ children, orphans, newspaper sellers, bread sellera, shoe shiners, or even homeless wanderers. There were also well-off children who were evacuated by their parents but fled to Hanoi to urgently ask for their brothers and sisters to join the resistance to live and die with the capital.
When the national resistance broke out and there was an order to evacuate, Hanoians quietly left the capital to the provinces behind the enemy such as Ha Nam, Nam Dinh and Ninh Binh. These children tried to stay in Hanoi and went to the fortifications to fight. 175 children who stayed in Hanoi became Little Guards.
Hanoi Museum staff are talking with Mr. Dang Van Tich
The boys crept across the battlefields, through the fallen walls of houses to every street corner, and between the bullets of ours and the enemy to transmit information and orders from platoons to companies and regiments and to lead soldiers to reinforce the battlefields.
Mr. Dang Van Tich said that, before December 19th, our troops had insidiously punched the walls to make connections from house to house, and the little guards were very familiar with these passages. When the resistance began, furniture, trees, poles, and railcars were thrown into the street to block the French. The national guards and self-defense militias could not move freely on the streets. At that time, the little guards were liaisons shuttled in front of the enemy's bullets to announce the news. They also transmitted orders from the commanders to combat units and led reinforcements, if needed. Many of them bravely died. Mr. Tich affirmed that in the 60 days and nights of brave death 70 years ago, the role of the little guards was very important. They were then the contact boys and living steles without fear of danger. It was the guards who devised and guided the safe withdrawal of over 1,200 troops from Hanoi.
In early February 1947, the Command decided to send the Capital Regiment to the outskirts of Hanoi to preserve its forces for long-term resistance. On February 17, 1947, together with the National Guards, the little guards of the Capital Regiment quietly withdrew from Hanoi. In the midst of cold winds, fog, and drizzle, thousands of people quietly walked together in the night, under Long Bien Bridge, along the banks of the Red River to Chem and boarded boats to Vinh Phuc and then went on to Viet Bac.
In early 1948, the Capital Regiment decided that the little guards over the age of 15 should be drafted into combat units to become soldiers. The remaining 30 under the age of 14 were retained to form a propaganda team, later the Capital Regiment’ Propaganda Team, the predecessor of the Propaganda Corps of the General Political Department, Vietnam People's Army. The little guards then participated in many campaigns such as Dien Bien Phu and Spring Campaign of 1975.
After peace was restored, the little guards of the past turned to different paths. Mr. Tich always missed his teammates and began his journey to find his them. After 10 years of going back and forth from north to south, from 1996 to 2006, Mr. Tich completed the historical documentary “The determined-to-brave-death little guards”. In the documentary, he wrote “Most of 175 little guards were orphans, poor children, fruit pickers, servant... There were also well-off children who were evacuated by their parents but fled to Hanoi to urgently ask for their brothers and sisters to join the resistance to live and die with the capital.” “We were the boys who crossed the fire, faced the enemy day by day and hour by hour, and rolled around to scout the enemy, to give orders, to provide ambulances... Well, why weren't we afraid of death then? Our childhood was honored to contribute to the “brave death” for the whole country to “survive”.
Then, he took several positions: a liaison, an art performer, a political secretary, and an assistant of the Capital Regiment. From June 1960, he worked at the Party Committee Office of the Council for Foreign Affair Cultural Liaison, the predecessor of the Department of Foreign Affair Culture under the Ministry of Culture. In 1970, he continued to join the army. In 1973, due to health conditions, he retired and returned to live in his homeland.
The stories of Hanoi in 60 days and nights of smoke and fire, including the story of the little guards, will be recreated in the exhibition space of Hanoi Museum to help the public at home and abroad better understand the long-term resistance of our nation and instill more love for the homeland for today and tomorrow’s young generations.
Department of Display and Education