Vietnam’s memorial to N. Korea

| March 8, 2019

north korea pilot's graves
War veteran Duong Van Dau walks between rows of headstones at a memorial for North Korean fallen pilots in Bac Giang province, Vietnam. (Hau Dinh/AP )

14 tombstones mark war deaths of pilots fighting against U.S.


Most have heard stories of Russian pilots in MiG 15’s dog-fighting Americans in their F-86 Saberjets south of the Yalu River, known as MiG Alley. Although the Soviet Union never acknowledged its participation in the conflict, many suspected it. Soviet pilots, though forbidden from communicating in any language other than basic Korean across their radios, often resorted to Russian when stressed or when swearing. This was picked up by American pilots. All reports of covert Soviet involvement were denied by the Soviet Union.


Enter Viet Nam.

By Hau Dinh and Grant Peck Associated Press
BAC GIANG, Vietnam — In a rice field in northern Vietnam, 14 headstones are an enduring symbol of the wartime friendship of Vietnam and North Korea. They mark the original burial ground of North Korean pilots who died while secretly fighting alongside Vietnamese comrades against U.S. Air Force and Navy planes in the Vietnam War.

The role of North Korea is a footnote in the sweeping history of that conflict, one that speaks mostly of the fraternal relations of two nations that separately fought bruising armed conflicts against the United States in the context of the Cold War.

“When they died, Vietnamese people treated them the same as Vietnamese martyrs who sacrificed for the country,” Duong Van Dau, the caretaker of the memorial, said last week. On the high ground where the fallen pilots were interred, their tombs all face northeast, toward their homeland.

South Korea’s role in the war is much better known. From 1964 to 1973, Seoul deployed more than 300,000 military personnel to help the U.S. effort in South Vietnam against the communists.

By contrast, the North Korean air force contingent deployed near Hanoi in what was then called North Vietnam — the communist half of the war-torn Southeast Asian nation — had 200 to 400 personnel, including about 90 pilots over more than two years, according to postwar Vietnamese accounts.


Only in 2000-2001 was the participation of the North Korean pilots officially acknowledged by Hanoi and Pyongyang. Since then, there has been a trickle of additional details about North Korea’s involvement in the Vietnam War, teased out mostly from Vietnamese memoirs and state press accounts and Eastern European diplomatic archives.

What has also emerged is a revisionist view of North Korea’s assistance, which suggests Pyongyang would have been happy to see Hanoi fight to the last Vietnamese.


Read the rest of the article here: Digital Edition Chicago Tribune

Hat tip to Poetrooper for the link. Thanks, Poe.

Category: Blue Skies, Guest Link, Historical, Korea

Comments (6)

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  1. The Other Whitey says:

    “Martyrs,” eh? Martyrs to mass murder, genocide of Khmer and Montagnards, general oppression and tyranny…okay.

    I always say that anybody who thinks we were the bad guys in Vietnam should watch the video footage of Operation Frequent Wind. Watch tens of thousands of people crowding Tan Son Nhut Air Base and the US Embassy in Saigon, desperate to get onto any outgoing aircraft. Watch ARVN helicopter pilots setting their families and neighbors onto any US ship in the South China Sea with open deck space, then ditching their birds in the water to make room for the next one. Watch USS Midway’s deck crew shoving dozens of faithful Hueys over the side to allow a plane full of children to land.

    Tens of thousands of people were that desperate to escape the communists. Close to a million more climbed onto anything even remotely buoyant after the evacuation ended. After the North Vietnamese navy, pirates, and the cruel sea took their toll, roughly 800,000 survived to reach a new land. Over half a million of them came to the United States. 170,000 more were so desperate they WALKED to Red China, of all places. Tens of thousands more made their way to Thailand, with many more dying along the way.

    Millions of people don’t flee in desperation when the good guys win.

  2. cc senor says:

    Some of us remember the ARVN Bien Hoa cemetery. Viet Nam did its best to forget about it, but are now finally cleaning it up. At least they’ve got the pulling down statues part done with.

  3. 5th/77th FA says:

    Older brother was a wing wiping crew chief on one of the aircraft that was flying orphans out to Guam. One of them was the plane that took an RPG that killed a number of the orphans and badly burned more. He don’t talk about much it at all.

    IMO, all war dead Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, or whatever should have a marked place of honor in which to rest their bones. We cannot hold the Warrior responsible for the actions of their political masters.

    That being said, people guilty of war crimes/crimes against humanity should have a special place in Hell.

  4. Messkit says:

    Served with a SPC4 Tran, in Iraq, 2004. He was killed by a VBIED outside the Green Zone in the spring of 2004. SPC4 Tran was carried as a baby, by his mother in a rickety “boat” across the Pacific to land in Guam, then transported to Texas, before arriving in California.

    Tran joined the US Army to pay back some of the debt he figured he owed to the US for taking him in as a refugee.

    Tran is memorialized in a fountain, dedicated to 40th INF Soldiers who died in Iraq, at Camp Roberts Ca.

  5. Docduracoat says:

    Vietnamese refugees who came to America have enriched our culture in so many ways.
    There are Vietnamese restaurants in every big city in the United states
    Let’s not forget how those little Vietnamese women have taken over every nail salon in the whole country!
    Some American servicemen married Vietnamese women.
    Of course, some criminals came in along with the majority of good people.
    Still, America has been enriched by the addition of these refugees.
    I am sorry I cannot say the same for the more recent refugees from Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
    Why is that?

    • The Other Whitey says:

      I have a Vietnamese Catholic sister-in-law. I also have four Vietnamese Buddhist adopted nieces, daughters of my wife’s close friend. We just celebrated one of those nieces’ 7th birthday (yes, I was the only white guy present). At my niece’s request, I got a ridiculous-looking blue & pink unicorn image painted on my face.

      As you probably all know, my wife is Khmer. Her father fought against the various Southeast Asian commies in the former Royal Cambodian Army. They suffered unspeakable horrors. To say I have no love for communists in general, southeast Asian communists in particular (Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, whoever) is a massive understatement.