On April 8, 1975, around 8 a.m. General Hieu flew to Go Dau Ha by helicopter to meet Brigadier General Tran Quang Khoi, III Corps Armored Assault Task Force Commander on military affair. At that moment in time, the President Palace was bombarded. By 9:30 a.m. he flew back to Bien Hoa. By 10:00 a.m. he held a short meeting with Colonel Nguyen Khuyen, Chief of III Corps Military Security. After the meeting, by 10:30 a.m., he was killed in his office.
General Toan issued a gag order forbidding every personnel and officers present at the corps headquarters that morning to discuss the incident and arranged for a cover-up that it was a suicide, subsentquently changed to a death caused by a self-inflicted wound while cleaning a pistol P.38 in the late afternoon. The death certificate puts the time of death at 7 p.m.
The family living in Saigon was only notified in the evening. Madame General Hieu and Dung, the eldest son, were taken by car to Bien Hoa. Upon returning home, she told her father-in-law: "They killed my husband somewhere else then brought his body back into his office: I did not notice any blood, just a red tiny peck of blood at his left chin".
In the following day press conference, the military spokesman confirmed a news report according to General Toan’s version.
In the morning of April 9, Mr. Huong, Tri and Tin, General Hieu’s father and young brothers, went to the III Corps headquarters. They were greeted by LTC Quyen, III Corps Military Police Commander, who was assigned to host the family. The family took a tour, visiting the morgue, the office and the trailer of General Hieu.
While the family lingered where General Hieu's body was laid, an investigating team dispatched by the General Police Headquarters walked in. A police Major opened a metal box containing investigative tools, took out a bottle of black powder, using a brush to cover General Hieu's hands with black powder. The purpose was to determine if the pistol was shot in the victim's own hand; in that case there would be residue of gunpowder on it. After performing his duty, the police Major approached General Hieu’s father and let him know that he was one of his former students at the Police Training Center and promised to let him know the results of his testing soon.
As for me, Tin, I approached my brother’s body and noticed a red dot at the left-hand side, and the skull was still in one piece; upon discarding the hair at the top head area, a little bit toward the right-hand side, I noticed a red dot, but no hole, which means the bullet did not exit the head. The fact I was fortunate to have a first hand observation as such, allowed me to discern between who is telling lie and who is telling the truth when that person asserted knowing exactly what had happened: i.e, it could be a suicide or self-inflicted wound, because the bullet entered the victim’s left-hand side chin, while General Hieu was left-handed; it coul not be a P.38 mm since the skull remained intact.
It was until 1998 only that I commenced to search and contact those who were present at III Corps headquarters on the day of General Hieu’s death. I was able to contact the following witnesses: (1) Brigadier General Ly Tong Ba, 25th Division, (2) Colonel Nguyen Khuyen, Chief of III Corps Military Security Bureau, (3) Lieutenant Colonel, Nguyen Khuyen, III Corps Military Police Commander, (4) Military Doctor Luong Khanh Chi, III Corps Medical Unit Chief, (5) Colonel Ta Thanh Long, Head of Vietnamese Delegation, member of the 4-Party and 2-Side Combined Military Committee, (6) Colonel LeVan Trang, III Corps Artillery Unit Commander, (7) Major General Dao Duy An, III Corps Deputy Commander/Territory, (8) Colonel Phan Huy Luong, Assistant to III Corps Deputy Commander/Operations, (9) Captain Do Duc, General Toan’s Attaché, (10) General Nguyen Van Toan, (11) Brigadier General Le Trung Tuong, III Corps Chief of Staff, (12) Colonel Le Trong Dam, II Corps Police Force Commander, and (13) Lieutenant Colonel Ly Ngoc Duong, M.D., General Toan’s Chief of Cabinet.
Although it was two decades ago, there are two strange point in their testimonies. One is, except in the case of Colonel Khuyen, who said General Hieu died before noon; the rest still complied to General Toan’s order and stated the death occurred in the evening. Two is every resort to fiction instead of sticking to the truth in their testimony.
Brigadier General Ly Tong Ba
Brigadier General Ly Tong Ba said he heard that General Hieu died in the evening. In June 1998, after I had read the book entitled Memoir of 25 year War authored by Brigadier General Ly Tong Ba (Commander of 25th Division), I telephoned him to inquire about my brother. I was told: he met with General Toan that afternoon; after the meeting, on his way to the helipad, he passed by General Hieu's office and heard soldiers talking about General Hieu's being killed in his office; he did not linger for more information because he had to hurry back to his units.
Colonel Nguyen Khuyen
The first person who revealed to me that General Hieu had died at noon time was Colonel Nguyen Khuyen (Head of 3 Corps Military Security) in his letter dated July 18, 1998, when he responded to my letter inquiring about my brother's death. He still remembered vividly the scenario as follows: he met with General Hieu in his office at the 3rd Corps Headquarters from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.; he drove back to his office which was located at approximately a 10 minute drive; he was about to go out for lunch with some friends who had come from Saigon to visit him, when he got the news of General Hieu's suicide.
It appears that the news of General Hieu’s death was leaking out by those present nearby the crime scene before General Toan issued the gag order. Like Colonel Khuyen states as he reached his office “his Military Security personnel reported to him a telephone call just announced that General Hieu just committed suicide.”
Besides, at the end of August 1998, while I was in Virginia researching documents about General Hieu at the National Archives, I paid a visit to Brigadier General Tran Dinh Tho (Chief of Staff, Joint General Staff). He confirmed with me that General Hieu had died at noon time, because he still recalled that day, he was about to have a late lunch due to a busy schedule when Colonel Luong called to report General Hieu's tragic death.
Nguyen Van Y (Director of Central Intelligence Agency) told me in 1986 that General Hieu had died with an empty stomach for not having the chance to eat lunch.
In May 1999, I got the opportunity to meet Brigadier General Tran Quang Khoi (Commander of 3 Corps Assault Task Force) in Virginia, and in a subsequent telephone conversation in June 1999, he placed General Hieu's death at noon time, because that morning he met with General Hieu in Go Dau Ha at 8:30 a.m.; around 9:30 a.m. General Hieu flew back to Bien Hoa; a few hours later, he received the news of General Hieu's death.
Except the time issue, all other details given by Colonel Khuyen in his letter are in the domaine of fiction:
Colonel Ta Thanh Long
In his letter dated January 4, 1999, Colonel Ta Thanh Long (Head of Vietnamese Delegation, member of 4-Party and 2-Side Combined Military Committee) confirmed that General Hieu had died in the evening. He recounted the event as follows: he participated in a meeting presided by General Hieu at 5:30 p.m.; also present were Brigadier General An, Colonel Luong and the American Consul General of Bien Hoa; after the meeting, when Colonel Luong invited General Hieu to go to supper, he went to meet with the chairman of the International Committee Monitoring the Paris Agreement; that meeting lasted 20 minutes; afterwards he returned to his office and got the news of General Hieu's death upon his arrival.
Lieutenant Nguyen Quyen
On January 23, 1999, Lieutenant Colonel Quyen, Commander of 3 Corps Military Police, stated to me that General Hieu died sometimes after 6:30 p.m. He recalled that day, the Military Police guards under his command was chased away from the 3 Corps Headquarters by Brigadier General Le Trung Tuong accompanied by a group of soldiers in combat outfit. That evening, after taking a 6:30 p.m. shower, he passed by the Headquarters and saw General Hieu still sitting at his desk in his office. He added that when he had to assume the investigation of the crime, he was afraid for the life of the investigators under his command and had to resort to a scheme to bring in the Police group of Captain Thinh Van Phuc, and the POLWAR group of Colonel Nguyen Hung Khanh, to alleviate the responsibilities of his investigation team and the pressure coming from higher authority.
Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Toan
In the March 10, 1999 letter, General Nguyen Van Toan made mention about General Hieu’s death:
Besides, it is rather strange that General Toan forgot that he had ordered everybody to said General Hieu died in the evening. He stated throughtColonel Le Khac Ly (II Corps Chief of Staff) as an intermediary, General Hieu died at noon time, while he was airborne during a military inspection.
Captain Do Duc
Through the intermediary of a friend, I was able to make contact with Captain Do Duc. In the telephone conversation, his main effort seemed to make excuse for his boss, General Toan:
It is quite unexpected that Captain Do Duc turns out to be the trigger man in General Hieu’s death. He did not lie though in asserting that General Toan did not pull the trigger!
Colonel Le Van Trang
n May 1999, I was introduced to Colonel Le Van Trang (Commander of 3 Corps Artillery Unit) in Virginia. He told me that General Hieu had died in the evening. He recalled the event as follows: at 5:30 p.m., he had a brief meeting with General Hieu; Brigadier General An and Colonel Luong were also present; they planned for the next day's activities; after approximately 20 minutes, General Hieu ended the meeting; he and Brigadier General An returned to their home to have supper; General Hieu and Colonel Luong were making arrangements to have supper at the Officers' canteen when he departed; while he was taking a shower, he was told that Colonel Luong called him on the phone; when he returned the phone call, Colonel Luong announced the news of General Hieu's death.
Major General Dao Duy An
In June 1999, I was able to contact Brigadier General Dao Duy An (3 Corps Deputy Commander in charge of Territory) by phone. He told me that General Hieu had died in the evening. His recollection of the event was as follows: at 5:30 p.m. of that day, he spoke privately with General Hieu in an unofficial meeting (with no other people present); afterwards, he returned to his family for supper, and was aware that General Hieu was about to head back - on his own (without Colonel Luong 's invitation) to his "trailer" where he was supposed to have his supper; not long afterwards, while supper was not ready yet, he received a phone call from Colonel Luong advising him General Hieu was just been shot; upon arriving at the Headquarters he saw General Toan was already there and General Hieu was dead sitting at his desk. That night, the Headquarters was plunged into total darkness, with all lights out. General Toan gave order to a Major to transport General Hieu's body on a red cross jeep to the hospital, without the benefit of the care and concern of any other officers.
Colonel Phan Huy Luong
Colonel Phan Huy Luong
In the beginning of July 1999, after several months of inquiring, I was finally given Colonel Phan Huy Luong's (Deputy Chief of Staff in charge of Operations) phone number. In our phone conversation, he provided the following details: around 5 or 5:30 p.m., General Hieu, Brigadier General Le Trung Tuong (3 Corps Chief Of Staff) and Colonel Luong, as a daily routine, chatted unofficially in the Chief Of Staff's office while awaiting for supper time; Colonel Luong invited General Hieu to go to supper; General Hieu went back to this office to pick up something; a moment later, a gun shot was heard in the Deputy Commander's Office; some Military Police soldiers ran in and came out to announce the news of General Hieu being shot; a moment later General Toan appeared; Colonel Luong said he was too upset by the tragic event to pay attention to what happened afterwards. He stated that he did not make any phone calls to anybody to communicate the news. He also added that to these days, he still did not know the results of the investigation, nor if the bullet had been found or not. He also let me know that Doctor Chi, the medical examiner, had died...
Brigadier General Le Trung Tuong
On May 26, 2002, I received the following letter from Brigadier General Le Trung Tuong. The letter was sent from Saigon:
Colonel Le Trong Dam
Around August 2004, Colonel Le Trong Dam told me by phone: Khoảng tháng 8, năm 204, Đại Tá Lê Trọng Đàm nói qua điện thoại: on the day General Hieu died he was present at III Corps Headquarters and returned to Saigon the same morning. That evening, Lieutenant Colonel Duong, MD phoned him to break the news of General Hieu’s death. When I mentioned that Colonel Khuyen placed General Hieu’s death at noon time, he categorically stated that Colonel Khuyen was wrong for he still lingered at III Corps Headquarters until 2:00 p.m.
The phone conversation lasted quite long, about 45 minutes; however he only alluded to General Hieu’s briefly as such. He recounted knowing General Hieu the days he was still a captain working under General Nguyen Van Manh who was a mayor holding the position of G3 Chief at the Joint General Staff in Cho Quan, and he happened to be General Manh’s brother-in-law. He revealed further that the day he escaped out of Nha Trang, he paid a visit to General Toan at III Corps Headquarters, and General Hieu hugged him warmly and exclaimed: “Glad you made out.” He spent the remaining time of our conversation talking about what he knew about General Toan and the close relationship he enjoyed with General Toan since childhood.
Lieutenant Colonel Ly Ngoc Duong
On August 31, 2004, LTC Ly Ngoc Duong, M.D., General Toan’s chief of staff, told me by phone:
Military Doctor Luong Khanh Chi
In August 2004, when I was able to contact Doctor Chi, the physician who examined General Hieu’s body and who officially declared his death, I was told by his family members that he was suffering from a stroke that occurred a few years ago and it had affected his memory. That was why when I introduced myself to him on the phone as a brother of General Hieu, he sounded puzzled and asked, “Who is General Hieu?” Therefore I was unable to get any information from regarding General Hieu’s death. However, a family member told me that prior to his medical predicament, when asked, he responded that he had submitted a forensic report to the Joint General Staff in which, based on the bullet’s path, he had concluded that the death was caused by an accidental self-inflicted wounded.
The thirteen fictional testimonies were faught of contradictions and so lead to more confusion. It was only by May 2015 that General Hieu’s death was clarified with a revelation coming from an American intelligence source.
Around February 1975, Richard Peters, American Consul General at Bien Hoa, gave to General Hieu a Cross pen equipped wit an electronic sensor listening device for protection.
General Hieu always carried this pen on his chest pocket shirt.
On April 8, 1975, the permanent monitor of signal emitted by this electronic device pen, the American intelligence team was able to know that around 10:30 a.m., General Hieu entered his office at the III Corps headquarters, followed by Captain Do Duc, General Toan’s attache with a third-degree black-belt Taekwondo. Suddenly Do Duc got closed to the back and delivered a chopping blow at the back of neck causing a temporary immobilization, then used a small Browning P6.35 mm caliber pistol to shoot at the left hand side of the chin. Not long afterwards, the monitoring team of the hotline between III Corps headquarters and the Presidential Palace intercepted a telephone call made by General Toan to President Thieu. Toan reported in French: “Mission accomplie.”
The American intelligence source was also able to identify the P6.35 mm as belonging to General Toan who lent it to Do Duc to carry out the assassination. Furthermore, the American intelligence source learned later on that Thieu’s secret service swapped Toan’s pistol with another similar one when Toan went to the President Palace for a meeting and had to leave his weapon outside the meeting room. Thieu’s secret service did not trust that Toan’s ability in terms of keeping the secret. Toan’s was unaware of the switching of pistols.
The motive for killing General Hieu does not lie in General Toan who might have shoot General Hieu after a heated dispute on tactical matter, or in corrupt gang wanting to get rid of an obstacle, but in President Thieu suspecting General Hieu of colluding with the Americans to foment a coup against him.
When announcing the news of General Hieu’s death, some press media wondered: “It was not known whether Hieu's death was connected with the Tuesday morning bombing of the Presidential palace of Nguyen Van Thieu.” (UPI) When the Presidential Palace was bombed, Thieu initially panicked into thinking it was the starting signal of a coup. At that moment, General Hieu happened to be present at Go Dau Ha with III Corps Armored Assault Task Force of Brigadier General Hieu. It seems President Thieu wa s afraid that General Hieu was about to instigate a coup and ordered General Toan to assassinate General Hieu.
Nguyen Van Tin
- Cựu Tổng Thống Thiệu Trả Lời Về Cái Chết Của Tướng Hiếu