Young volunteers of Dien Bien Phu Campaign

Posted at: MONday - 14/04/2014 12:20 - post name: Nguyễn Thị Thùy

Young volunteers of Dien Bien Phu Campaign

Sixty years have passed, heroism and resilience of of young volunteers and conscripted labourers who build roads, transported food and weapons for the Dien Bien Phu campaign are still in minds of different generations of Vietnamese people.

As the country is celebrating the Dien Bien Phu victory, we have had the chance to talk with some of the former volunteers and conscripted labourers who have greatly contributed to bulding the road and transporting food and weapons to the front through Yen Bai, Lao Cai and Dien Bien.

Hardship at Lung Lo Mountain Pass

Accroding to the history of the Son La provincial Party Committee, to ensure necessary provision of weapons, food, and human forces for the Dien Bien Phu campaign, the Central Party Committee decided to gather all forces at Yen Bai town.

The 13th road from Yen Bai through Lung Lo Mountain Pass, Ta Khoa Ferry Port, Chen Mountain Pass and to 41st road is animportant path, which needed to be protected at any price. Engineering forces, voluntary youths, and conscripted labourers were gathered to ensure transportation.

The Lung Lo Mountain Pass, which is 15 kilometers in length, connects Van Chan district of Yen Bai province and Phu Yen district of Son La province. During the struggle against the French colonialism, especially the Dien Bien Phu Campaign, it is one of the main paths for transporting weapons and food to the front.

In response to the Central Party Committee’s decision to upgrade all roads to the North-western region to ensure food and weapons for the campaign, Engineering Corps and conscripted workers of the Yen Bai and Son la provinces joined efforts to expand and upgrade the Lung Lo Mountain Pass. Thousands of ethnic workers volunteered to join.

94-year-old Tran Van Xe, a Muong ethnic person in Coi village, Muong Coi commune, Phu Yen district, Son La province recalled the days when he and other young volunteers had to use very rudimentary tools to expand the road.

“We never flinched from any difficulties and dangers,” he said.

The sound of explosions to clear the ground could be heard all day long. With great enthusiasm of all forces, the construction of the main road connecting Yen Bai and Son La province was completed after only two months.

The lack of food was not the only thing hindering the work. When the French army discovered that the Vietnamese side was building roads, they mobilised huge numbers of fighter bombers to attack the construction sites. Workers had to find a cliff to shelter and waited until all bombers were gone. They even had to work at night to ensure safety.

However, building roads was not so dangerous and hard as transporting food and weapons to the front, especially during the rainy season when the roads were all wet. Transporters had to go at night to avoid the enemy’s attacks. They were not allowed to use torch so the work became more and more difficult.

Protecting the Ta Khoa ferry

Located on the 13th road, Ta Khoa Ferry Port was also known as a “hot spot” of the campaign. Ta Khoa Ferry Port was considered one of the most important from Yen Bai to Dien Bien as it was the only way to cross Da River.

Ha Xuan Chien, 84 years old, President of the Phu Yen district Volunteer Youth Association, recalled the day when the C261 Volunteer Youth Company was established.

“170 young people from Phu Yen, Bac Yen, and Yen Chau districts of Son La province were very eager to contribute to ensuring safety for 13th road,” Mr Chien said.

At the early stage, we were requested to ensure safe transportation at the Chen Mountain Pass in Bac Yen district, and then at the Ta Khoa Ferry Port, he said. The engine-driven ferry was simply made of boards of wood and could carry only one truck. The deep and swift-flowing Da River made the transportation harder and more dangerous.

As this is one of the most important path for Vietnam to transport food and weapons, the French army often send fighter bombers to attack the port. So, we have to hide the ferry in the river-bed during day time.

The ferry was used to transport good at night, and when the sun start to rise, workers had to put baskets of rocks on the ferry to shrink it into the river.

In winter, people still had to swim in the cold water to ensure the safety for the trip, which was no easy task.

Thanks to the resilience and heroism of the volunteer youth, the Ta Khoa Ferry Port was never bombed.

Mr Chien said, the lack of food posed another challenge for the volunteers. There were times they, even injured people, had to eat yam for month.

Despite all difficulties, all volunteers spared no effort to ensure the safety of the transportation of weapons and food to the front.

With enthusiasm of the youth, conscripted workers and young volunteers who joined efforts to build 13th road, greatly contributed to the world-shaking Dien Bien Phu victory.

These people are now at their old age, but the memory about a glorious time in their life, will be in minds forever. They will be good examples to the younger generations.

Translated by Dic


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