Most of the South Vietnamese people are always grateful to the Vietnam War veterans from America and other allied countries who were fighting for the freedom and democracy of the Republic of Vietnam.
We would like to express our most respectful thanks to all Vietnam War veterans from the USA, the Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines, for your priceless contributions to the noble cause of our country and the better lives of our compatriots. Despite all controversies, the U.S governments were right in their principal objective of sending brave soldiers to Vietnam - to protect South Vietnam from the Communist aggressors - although they might have been wrong in how to conduct the war.
Without your heroic assistance, we might have lost the last part of our Fatherland years before April 30, 1975.
When the Vietnam War is mentioned, American people might be unaware of the fact that not only the American soldiers fought the War, but millions of the RVN military servicemen were combating the enemy and suffering longer and harder than the Americans. During the war the insufficient information was presented, their role in the conflict was misinterpreted and not fully recognized.
Today, a large number of those Vietnamese veterans have immigrated to the USA as former political prisoners and refugees. They probably form the largest community of foreign veterans in America.
Since early 1990, more Vietnamese political prisoners have been admitted into the USA. They are former South Vietnamese military and police officers, civil servants, non-communist politicians and notables who were imprisoned in the so-called re-education camps for several years after Saigon collapsed on April 30, 1975.
A number of them fled Vietnam by boat or immigrated to the USA and other countries in the Orderly Departure Program after they were released from the Communist prisons. But only since January 1990 have these former political prisoners been accepted into the USA on a larger scale.
The later arriving former political prisoners represent the greatest part of the RVN Armed Forces officers corps which consisted of about 50 thousand. More than half of the officers were drafted and graduated from Thu Duc Reserve Officer School (similar to the Officer Candidates School in the USA). A smaller number were volunteers who graduated from the RVN Military Academy in Dalat.
They have been eager to emigrate from Vietnam to avoid oppression and danger of being persecuted. But that is not the only reason that drives them out of their beloved country which they had been fighting for in a long bloody war before April 1975. If they are asked about their most important objective in this new land - the promised land as some of them may say - the majority of them will answer that they come here primarily for the better education of their children. Though they encounter much difficulty rebuilding their lives in a new country, most of them are trying their best to help their sons and daughters continue their education.
For a thousand years, the Vietnamese people have preferred education to weath. The King elected mandarins by exams given every three years to students of almost any origin, (except for children of criminals, prostitutes, and of actors, actresses and singers who were considered having loose moral). No candidate was given any privilege based on his family background or accomplishments that he or his family had contributed to the King.
In today's Vietnam, children of the former political prisoners suffer not only political discrimination but also road-block on their way to higher education, because of their family's political background.
One of the unrelinquishable aims of the Vietnamese Communist regime is "to strengthen the Party's leadership". To achieve this goal, admission of students into different schools, especially colleges and universities, is conducted under strict political criteria.
In fact, however, the admission system went much farther than what the authority publicly admitted. At least in recent years, the system worked as described below in Saigon:
Some politically important institutions, one of which is the Foreign Trade School, until 1991 enrolled only students who were children of Communist cadres. Students who applied for other schools were actually classified into at least 14 categories.
At the bottom, category 14, were children of former South Vietnamese servicemen still in prisons or those who had fled abroad. Category 13 were children of former South Vietnamese servicemen released from prison, no more under probation and already granted citizenship. Category 12 were children of South Vietnamese civilians who had no close relation with the former Saigon regime or the Americans. Category 11 were those from South Vietnamese families who had helped the Communists a little in the war or were serving the new regime at low ranks. Categories 10 to 9 were for offspring of low ranking communist cadres, soldiers and Public Security members who achieved brilliant feats in their work or were awarded medals of merits and similar rewards. Children of higher Party cadres were classified in category 7 and above.
In admission exams for colleges and universities, three subjects are given. Maximum points are 10 for each, total 30. To be admitted into the most favorite universities such as the Polytechnic and the Medical School, students of categories 12 and 13 have to achieve 24 points and higher. Candidates from category 14 are rejected, regardless of their score. Moreover, students of the last two categories - 13 and 14 - will never be granted a scholarship for schooling outside Vietnam, even in Communist countries.
In 1987, only after many complaints, was a student admitted to the polytechnic while her father a South Vietnamese Colonel was still in a prison camp. She got 28 points - the highest ever - in all of the three consecutive annual admission exams to this school.
Students of categories 11 and higher need much lower points to be admitted. Children of a Party district committee member, or a Public Security cadre having been awarded a medal of Merit, or a private with a Cross of Gallantry, are admitted at about 15 to 17 points, though in some cases they have not graduated ninth grade. In 1982, the daughter of an Under-Secretary failed an admission exam to the Medical School in Saigon with 2 points. Unable to scoff at public opinion to enroll her at such a low grade, the faculty let her attend a special preparatory course for one year before admitting her to the regular medical course without exam.
Children of the former South Vietnamese government servicemen could be admitted more easily into some colleges and universities such as the Language Departments of the Teachers' School and the HCM City University, and others such as the Economics and Finance. Children of Communist cadres do not favor these schools; on one hand, they do not lead to lucrative jobs, and on the other hand, those children are mostly incapable of studying languages.
It is also worth mentioning that students of Catholic families are sometimes were not admitted into some schools, especially the Teachers' School. And in some cities outside of Saigon, the discrimination is much worse. Students of the lowest 3 categories are not admitted even to automobile driving schools.
The results could be foreseen. In most classes of the Polytechnic University and Medical School, as many as one-fourth of the students are incapable of studying because of their lack of basic knowledge and even low IQ. However, teachers have to graduate them to get a 99% passing rate as required by most schools. Besides, these students are officially given bonus points to pass end-of-year tests and final exams.
In 1987, some teachers who were also Party members wrote articles in different publications severely criticizing such a system of admission. They argued that "In a class where the bottom students are admitted at 3 points lower than the top ones, teaching them is rather difficult. Between two students admitted at a difference of 5 points, their relation is not of two classmates, but of a pupil and his teacher." This argument drew strong objection from hard-liners. They complained that if their children were not given such privileges, why they should have served the Party so faithfully.
This situation might answer the question why the specialists and technicians graduated from the Vietnamese Communist schools during the last 36 years were so incapable. The Communist leaders must have been well aware of the situation a long time ago, but they can not change. A Communist high ranking cadre once told the writer of this article and many others in a meeting that "the leadership well apprehends the dilemma. However, if we conducted the admission exams without any preference and priority for the ruling Communist Party members, the present Communist government would be overthrown by the former Saigon regime in the next 20 years or sooner."
Since 1986, the Vietnamese Communist Party has introduced its perestroika. The school admission system has changed but not much. Discrimination is still there, only performed less overtly and less crudely than before. Anyway, since the Communist regime still exists in Vietnam, the children of former South Vietnamese government officers, public officials and anti-Communist notables are still hindered from the higher education that they deserve.
Recently however, as the Communist government in Ha Noi suffered growing deficits, many joint state-private schools were established to admit students of all categories, providing that they pay high tuition fees. Many classes in state colleges are doing the same to collect cash for the money-hungry government. Nevertheless, finding jobs after graduating is a much different matter.
It should not be forgotten that before 1975, the South Vietnamese anti-Communist regimes had never barred the children of Communist cadres who were serving their Party in North Vietnam or in the Viet Cong controlled areas from education at any level including schooling in some foreign countries. They were also admitted into the Military Academy and other military schools to become officers of all ranks and all branches. They were only excluded from jobs that dealt with secret documents if the security clearance found reasons other than their family background.
From the above-mentioned situation, it is not far from the truth to refer to the Vietnamese Communist regime as "neo-feudalism", and to the former political prisoners leaving Vietnam for other countries not only as political refugees but also as "cultural refugees".
There are two apparent outcomes of the emigration of the great number of former political prisoners from Vietnam. In Vietnam, these former officers and public servants represent a large part of the country's intellectuals. Their immigration drains Vietnam of much prospective talent and of a middle class that is economically necessary for the progress and stability of any country.
The Communist Party and its government, however, are more concerned for the safety of the regime than for the interests of the country. Taking advantage of the resettlement program of the former political prisoners, the Communist government tries its best to oust, as many RVN veterans and disfavored persons as possible in order to clear the country of the prospective dissidents and to head off potential ompetition against their children for lucrative jobs in foreign businesses in Vietnam.
In the USA, it is just the opposite. Growing up in middle class families and in traditional preference to better education than being rich, most of the children and even grandchildren of these political prisoners are usually apt at scientific study. They would certainly contribute a considerable part to the progress of their new homeland, especially in science and technology.
Former Vietnamese political prisoners resettled in the USA and other Western countries are mostly former RVN officers. However, the larger body of RVN veterans also deserved assistance. Though they were not locked up in re-education camps, millions of former enlisted men suffer similar discrimination, particularly the disabled veterans, hundreds of them lost one or more limbs or were paralyzed. Actually, no country could resettle such a large number, but they should not be forgotten by charitable organizations outside Vietnam.
Moreover, many former RVN officers were refused political assylum by the American interviewers in Vietnam as well as in refugees camps only because they had been incarcerated less than 3 years, despite how much they had contributed to the efforts of the American Armed Forces and government during the Vietam War. Actually, imprisonment time does not mean that a man is more or less in disfavor of the Communist regime.
The most typical case is of former RVN Air Force Major Nguyen Quy An, a brave pilot who risked his life to rescue 4 Americans in a downed chopper while he was on a different misson. He lost both arms in a later mission. The bureaucracy was incredible when Major An was denied immigration to America only because he spent only 9 months in prison. What he had done for the American comrades-in-arm was flatly ignored. Only after staggering amount of paperwork and unbelievable effort of a U.S Congressman di d Major An get to America.
After a special law was enacted, Major An was granted legal residency and citizenship on October 31, 1996. His daughter, who takes care of him, was treated as if she were not related to him. Her father has to complete paperwork to sponsor her to stay in the USA as a permanent resident.
Among the freedom fighters serving in the Vietnam War, the Australian soldiers gained the highest respects and the best admiration from the South Vietnamese common citizens and military servicemen.
In many books about the Vietnam War, the presence of the Australian regiment was ignored. Though the Australian troops in Vietnam never exceeded 8,000 men, they were considered the most skillful in combat.
Their combat discipline was perfect, opening fire only "when you see the enemy nostrils" as one of their mottoes. They were equipped lightly, without heavy helmets and bulletproof jackets.
Their best tactic for counter-ambush is terrific. The words was "When you fall into an ambush, everyone must charge at the enemy machine-guns as quickly as possible, don't wait for any order." And they did.
On August 18, 1966, the Australians won the famous battle at Long Tan (near Vung Tau, east of Saigon). D Company of the 6th Battalion in the Royal Australian Regiment was attacked by a Communist regiment. The company suffered 18 KIA's and 21 WIA's, but the Australians killed 245 enemy troops of the Vietnamese Communist unit.
Later, the Communist Eastern Zone Command (Vung Tau area) issued an order forbidding its units from "ambushing the Australians without its permission," as reported by several Communist POW's and Chieu Hoi, including the late NVA Lt Colonel Le Xuan Chuyen, who had served the Communist side in that zone.
The first Australian combat troops arrived in May 1965. In 1968-1970, the Australian forces reached a peak at 8,000 soldiers. Until the last combat units left Vietnam in December 1971, the Australians lost 423 KIA's, 2,398 WIA's, 2 MIA's.
Based on an estimate from the RVN Armed Forces Headquarters, the Australians ground forces killed at least 5,000 Vietnamese Communist soldiers during the same period.
The victory had been great, but not so great as what the Australian veterans did 30 years later, on August 18, 1996. With much help from Canberra government and strong pressure on the Hanoi Communist government, a group of veterans from the D Company returned to Long Tan rubber plantation to hold a ceremony memorizing their fighting fellows who had fallen on the fierce battle and to visit the place on which they had proved their extreme courage and perfect combat skills.
On November 11, 1996, American officials in Cambodia have inaugurated a plate set at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, to memorize 18 American servicemen killed in action from May 12 to 15, 1975 when they were sent to an island of Cambodia to rescue the crew of the Mayaguez, arrested by Khmer Rouge.
A big question is, when do we expect the US Government would do something similar to that of the Australians, in Khe Sanh, or Hue, or Loc Ninh ?