"Nhật Ký Hành Quân”
Diary Log Book of Operations
April 1, 1975, the Navy Fleet 802 was ordered from the Presidential Palace to stop at “Rach Dua” for landing Marines, evacuated troops from Cam Ranh to “Vung Tau”. The Marine Division was only about three thousand surviving troops including the headquarters. I was ordered to return to the Battalion 4th Marines at Camp “Hoang Hoa Tham” on “Le Loi” street, adjacent to the School of Enfants de Troupe, looking at the foot of the mountain “Nui Lon”. Not enough to form two new companies, drawn from 3rd and 4th Battalion of Marines to establish the 18th Marine Battalion as planned in 1974. I was ordered to establish the Battalion 4th Marines as my old unit (battalion) was handed over to Major Long Thanh Dinh, who came from Military Academy class promotion 19th, which was abandoned on the coast of Thuan An near Hue on March 23, 1975.
Since the headquarters was located at the dormitory of the Battalion commander, I and my entourage rolled into the shelter and the Club. Over a month long insomnia from Quang Tri, I wore the battlefield uniform from the war and lied down on the mattress without sheets, rested dead asleep.
Early morning of April 2, 1975, I was awaked by someone who tried to jerk my shoulders. After a while I finally awoke and realized the person who graduated same class with me at Military Academy, he wore the insignias Infantry ranked Lieutenant Colonel. Ho Van Hoa held tight my hand, said loudly: “Toan, Cowboy! I am Ho Van Hoa”. No wonder Marine guards let him to my bed. I was trying to remain calm, “Yes, I know. How did you get here?” Hoa said with a loud voice: “I came here from Nha Trang. Can you let me borrow a jeep to go to Saigon”? I sat straight up, replied, “The situation now changes constantly, you know that. I will order those command in the rear to let you borrow a jeep. But you must promise me to return the jeep back to “Vung Tau” in the same day. If you do not keep your words then do not see me again.” Hoa smile replied, “OK I hear you loud and clear 5 by 5.” Half an hour later, Hoa was very happy to shake my hand to say goodbye to get in the jeep heading to Saigon. Since then, I did not see Ho Van Hoa again until 1990 in southern California. Hoa was famous in the battles with VC in Cholon in 1968 Tet Offensive when 35th Battalion Commander of Rangers and then rose in rank rapidly.
Additional Marines were taken down to 4th Battalion Marine, each unit at company level to quickly re-established 4th Battalion Marines. Immediately the unit received orders to set up checkpoints at bridge “Cay Khe” to gather numerous soldiers evacuated from Central with a weapon, but no units.
April 3, 1975, the newly formed 4th Battalion Marines received military equipment & supply. Defensive coordinator; Vung Tau, Bai Dau to Ben Dinh. Security and order was restored after several waves of people came through from Central Vietnam who fled from the war.
April 4, 1975, 4th Battalion Marines continued to receive some additional troops, along with some soldiers and officers who strayed out from Da Nang.
April 5, 1975, combat troops of the 4th Battalion Marines were over 700 men with full equipment. While the news reported; Nha Trang to have been captured by the Communists.
April 6, 1975, received news from relatives in Saigon said that the U.S. is preparing to evacuate Vietnamese. A U.S. Marine officer ranked Colonel from the 7th Fleet flew in to meet the head of Marine Corps units for information about evacuation in Quang Tri and Da Nang. He focused on the behavior of “Cong San” [communists] with prisoners.
News from the Office of the U.S. Marine Advisors in Saigon: Lt. Col. Strickland handed over command and returned to America.
April 7, 1975, the 4th Battalion Marines was ordered to protect those anchored off ships at Can Gio when food was delivered by Logistics Division of Marines. Some news as the vessel was led by Father of Lieutenant Nguyen Ngoc Toan, Army Division.
April 8, 1975, news from Vung Tau Post Office that everyday the city as Qui Nhon, Nha Trang, Phan Rang fell to the Communists. The political situation in Saigon increasingly troubled. Except for Brigade 486, minus Battalion 14 and 16 of Marines were still destroying the enemy in Long An (province).
April 14, 1975, Battalion 14 Marines under command Lieutenant Colonel Canh Van Nguyen moved from Thu Duc to Vung Tau to hand over the defense at the 4th Battalion Marines.
April 15, 1975, 4th Battalion Marines were ordered on the bus to Bien Hoa placed under the command of 147 Brigade of Marines by Col. Bao Nang Nguyen. The brigade consisted of 2nd 4th and 6th VNMC battalions at this time.
The 4th Battalion Marines was coordinated on a village road from Highway I on the Dong Nai River, adjacent to the northwest and the 2nd Battalion Marines and 6th Battalion Marines on the southeast. Defending the lane highway I was the 6th Battalion Marines, under command of Lt. Colonel Le Ba Binh. The 2nd Battalion(1) Marine commander "Crazy Buffalo" was Major Tran Van Hop.
April 16, 1975, coordinator force along the defensive line, the horizontal coordinate with the 2nd Battalion of Marines at Dong Nai River, towards the meadow which is called Ho Nai. VC aimed artillery at Bien Hoa Airport and Brigade 147 Marines Commanding Headquarter. Enemy artillery missed the targets a few kilometers with dozens of them fell into the residential Catholic areas of immigrants from 1954.
April 17, 1975, the Battalion received four new Lieutenant graduated from the National Military School class 28 and 29 were evacuated from Da Lat to Long Thanh. As senior officer, Battalion Chief should be made clear the situation of fighting for junior officers and reminded them always stick to the unit under any circumstances... Four new officers were distributed to the four general combat companies.
April 18, 1975, some TOW missiles were given to strengthen anti-tank firepower against NVA/VC T54 tanks. Resupply from the rear of Vung Tau gave the news that the 18th Infantry Division that is under severe pressure of North Vietnamese 3rd Division from Highlands Plateau of Ban Me Thuot and Phan Rang, they were retreating to Phuoc Tuy.
April 19, 1975, news that Vietnam Air Force has dropped two American CBU left over bombs at Dau Giay defeat the entire regiment of NVA/VC.
April 20, 1975, the T54 Armored of VC nibbled down from Tuc Trung on Highway I were shot down by Battalion 6th Marines that made them turned around headed back to the north. There were no troops following them. Perhaps, VC heard the South Vietnam Republican Army was dissolved.
April 22, 1975, news was that Phnom Penh of Cambodia was surrendered to the Khmer Rough. When I went with Major Tran Van Hop to Tam Hiep, we stopped at a noodle shop and met war photographer Sean Flynn who told us that he had just escaped to Saigon. It was known that Sean Flynn, who is the son of Hollywood actor Errol Flynn, borrowed car to go to Dau Day to take some photos. According to Flynn, Khmer Rouge had massacred the people of Cambodia with shovels, when they took over Phnom Penh, but he did not believe that the “Cong San” [communists] Vietnamese would create a bloodbath in the South because of the treaty with the United States.
My family ran from Saigon asked me to leave the unit and evacuated to Saigon by the request of Colonel Strickland. Rather die than deserting the units and I asked my family to take care of themselves.
April 23, 1975, 3rd Cavalry Squadron and some battalions of 18th Division troops had retreated to Long Binh. The Marines defensive line from Long Thanh to Ho Nai was still intact with the Marine Headquartes of the Division with General Colonel Nguyen Thanh Tri as Deputy Division Commander who stationed at Long Binh.
Dates 24-25-26-27-28 of April 1975, the battalion put on alert, but by no VC in sight, except for the nightly fireworks.
April 29, 1975, at 4 pm I received orders to withdraw through the Highway I and form at the Korean bridge in Bien Hoa to wait for command. The unit stopped at the III Corps headquarters that was completely empty. Office of the Commanding General remain with lights on and the 3-star general flag with the name Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Toan. Across the street QLI, Lt. Col. Nguyen Lo, communications with the title " LoRiver" called horizontal intercom and said it would withdraw towards the Bien Hoa Bridge to Saigon. A full night of marching to the Korea Bridge.
April 30, 1975, Colonel Deputy Commander of the meeting the head unit to the other side to order the withdrawal to Can Cu-Song Than. With five units away from the active army is, the unit turns on the car of Thu Duc. The rest went on the road along Highway 1. At 1000 hours, Corporal Nguyen Van Son held a small radio to me and stammered: "Duong Van Minh called to put our guns down, Eagles" so mad, the Battalion Commander ignored the order and yelled: "Forget it. We’ll continue to Can Cu Song Than and figure out later”. The army continued to Can Cu-Song Than in Thu Duc.
Standing in front of the army, battalion commander said: "We no longer have commanders. All my brothers put your guns here and go home. Remember to bring sufficient food and clothes. Who live in the countryside do not rush home because the guerrillas are very dangerous. Who wants to carry your gun, remember to hide them well…” We looked at each other ... silently as the gunfire and artillery echoed from the direction of Lai Thieu. Some close soldiers had quickly found some civilian outfit for "Eagle” to change into. “Eagle” hid a Colt 45 pistol in his back to prevent uncertainty.