Question Concerning General Nguyen Van Hieu's Death

I wrote the article "A Story Told by an ARVN Soldier" in 2006, mentioning about President Nixon's commitment letter to President Thieu; nevertheless, there are many other stories I do not wish to touch upon at this moment in time. Following a telephone conversation with a colleagues of the Dalat Military Academy, whom I found to be very intelligent and knowledgeable, I feel the need to write something to offer some data to historians, strategists and scholars for them to assess.

General Hieu confided to me in 1974 that in order to temporarily save the Republic of South Vietnam, our government needed only to use a tactic of delay by notifying the US Congress of its intention to establish a diplomatic relationship with Red China. I had doubt about this idea, because I reasoned that Red China was support the North Vietnamese Communist's invasion of South Vietnam. He responded to me in his mild voice that Red China's policy aimed at a domination by partitioning; she would not want a unified Viet Nam. Therefore, we would gain by establishing diplomatic relationship with Red China while maintaining diplomatic relationship with the United States; this dual relationship would prevent Red China to invade our country; it was solely a delay tactic for the moment. To be honest, I was still not convince by such a national strategic concept of General Hieu for that time.

About twenty years ago, while reading the memoire of Hoang Van Hoan and the book "Sự Thật Về Quan Hệ Việt Nam-Trung Quốc Trong 30 Năm Qua" (The Truth Concerning the Chinese-Vietnamese Relationship in the Last 30 Years), I came to admire General Hieu's strategic acumen that could have saved the country.

Who is Hoang Van Hoan? He was an inveterate member of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Vice Chairman of the Communist Congress, and was condemned to death in absentia by the Vietnamese Communist Regime and was also not a friend of the South Vietnamese nationalists.

It was Le Duan, Nong Duc Manh and many other members of the Vietnamese Communist Party that did not understand Red China's wicked mind, and heeded Russian Communist's advice to speed up the invasion of South Vietnam, to allow them the use of Cam Ranh Bay. It was these Vietnamese Communist thugs that had incarcerated the South Vietnamese soldiers and provoked Red China resulting in the Chino-Vietnam conflict leading to the loss of territories and the soldiers of the PAVN slaughtered because of the wrong policy adopted by the Vietnamese Communist Party at that time.

My colleague has formulated a plausible opinion about the theory proponent of thinking that a corrupt group close to President Nguyen Van Thieu assassinated General Hieu. He does not agree with this theory because the date of the assassination was April 4, 1975, which was too close to the demise of the country by merely 22 days, for someone to mull over assassination. He also pointed out the fact that General Hieu was born in China, spoke fluently Chinese and therefore could have came up with the plan using Red China as a delaying tactic to temporarily save the country at that moment. It was for that reason that the North Vietnamese Communists were the culprit of General Hieu's assassination.

I agree with this theory, based on the two books I have read and the analysis of my colleague.

As related to this theory of establishing diplomatic relationship with Red China, Phan Nhat Nam had also made allusion of it at the presentation of General Hieu's book in Little Saigon in May 2005.

He expressed at the end of his presentation as following:

To back up this line of thoughts, I can advance concrete and objective elements that have been proven during the dark days of South Vietnam in April some thirty years ago. They were: If Major General Nguyen Van Hieu were not killed, it is certain after Nguyen Van Thieu stepped down as President, President Tran Van Huong would select Major General Nguyen Van Hieu to be Chief of Joint General Staff of the ARVN. This is not a hypothesis because the political front revealed a solution with France and Red China (principal members of 1954 Genera Accord) with members sympathizers of France such as former Prime Minister Tran Van Huu, of Red China such as the Chairman of South Vietnam Liberation Front Nguyen Huu Tho whom Red China introduced as The President of the Republic of South Vietnam to the people and the government of African nations all along the primary phase of Paris Agreement signed on January 27, 1973. This political solution did not please Hanoi nor the United States because the only political trend these two countries would want (or solve the situation in Vietnam around April 1975-pnn) was to collaborate with Moscow (Kissinger ibid p 542). And if Major General Nguyen Van Hieu was Chief of Joint General Staff, it was certain that the military situation would unfold in another direction, leading to a different political outcome. And individuals like Nguyen Van Thieu and Tran Thien Khiem would not be able to peacefully leave the country even if the American Embassy would have provided maximum security. Therefore, Nguyen Van Hieu was not allowed to survive.

To conclude, we can summarize the following elements: He was born in Tsiensin and grew up in Shanghai, living in a French Concession. When he came back to Vietnam (in 1949), he still spoke Vietnamese with a French accent; former student of Aurore University; after graduation at Dalat Military School, Lieutenant Nguyen Van Hieu worked at the office of Chief of Staff Tran Van Don (a graduate from a French Military School). And his father, Mr. Nguyen Van Huong was Director of Police and Security Bureau in the North before 1954. These elements certainly were not ignored by the French Embassy in Saigon with a high degree of interest. Major General Nguyen Van Hieu interviewed directly in Chinese businessmen implicated in the Military Pension Fund affair.

Also related to the establishment of diplomatic relationship with Red China, Pham Le Hiep, General Pham Van Dong's son, attributed the assassination to Prime Minister Tran Thien Khiem:

"Vanuxem advised Thieu to strike a deal with France. During that period, Vietnamese embassies in Asia and Australia were approached by Chinese Communist operatives with a proposition to enter into a diplomatic understanding with China. If Thieu agreed, China would cut aid to North Vietnam and cut the North Vietnamese 5,000 km fuel pipe line reaching all the way to Loc Ninh.

(...)

He could also ask Chinese Communist to intervene after the establishment of diplomatic relation between the two countries. If that could be accomplished, Thieu would last a few more years. Khiem would not stand for that eventuality. Therefore, General Hieu with his general counter offensive plan in the 3rd Military Region ought to be eliminated. Who gave that order? Could it be Khiem (who was very friendly with the Americans)?"

In summary, General Hieu could be assassinated by the CIA for initiating the finding of Nixon's commitment letter (see Một Ít Dữ Kiện Lịch Sử VN) or by North Vietnamese Communists for his delaying tactic with the establishment of diplomatic relationship with Red China.

Tran Van Thuong
16 July 21010

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