Pham Hung Ca
“We marched down from our home in Haiphong in the north to Cu Chi west of Saigon. We had many troops around Saigon. My unit, Cat Bi, was based a few kilometers from the tunnels at Cu Chi. I fought as an infantry officer but I was also responsible for speaking to the troops to keep their morale up and encourage bravery. At the same time I spoke to them of tactics and analyzed the outcome of previous battles in order to improve our chances in the next one.
Just two days after we arrived in Cu Chi, we joined the fighting. Our forces attacked an American tank unit on Road Number 22 that runs from Tay Ninh to Saigon. We expected the tanks to move towards Saigon but they changed direction. One of the lessons we learned right away was the need to have fallback plans for every battle. In this case we weren’t prepared for the American tanks to change direction.
We left our base at 6 p.m. and arrived in the area by 3 a.m. It was the dry season so the soil was very hard-you had to be strong to dig a foxhole deep enough so that only your head was above ground. The weaker soldiers were unable to dig deep enough to completely shield themselves but weak or strong, we all had strong determination to fight.
About 8 a.m. on May 6, 1968, the fight began. It was our first battle. We destroyed seven American tanks with B-40 Rocket Propelled Grenades. An eighth tank was destroyed with a Chinese-made hand grenade-we had to approach very close, about two meters. In addition to the eight tanks, we shot down three helicopters. Cat Bi suffered 23 casualties, dead and wounded.
We withdrew in the night and returned the next morning with local villagers to collect the bodies. We buried the dead in a field. After the war, burial units returned to the area to dig up the remains for a proper burial.
I was wounded twice. The first time was September 1968, when Cat Bi attacked an American base. As we cut the fence a bullet grazed my head. The second time was more serious. We surrounded the Americans but they called in artillery. I was hit in the back by shrapnel. One large and several small pieces of metal are still lodged in my chest.”