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200c: Who are you? (third story)
PANO - Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 20:50 (GMT+7)

PANO - Thousands of enemy troops, including American soldiers, military vehicles, artilleries, mortars, heavy powers and a large number of personal weapons and ammunitions were either annihilated or seized by a battalion with the code name 200c during operations which lasted for only 3 months. This shocked the enemy and forced them to find the answers to several questions: “What VC unit conducted the attacks?”; “How strong is it?”; and “What were its military tactics?” to name a few.  Not all the answers were found but he enemy gradually realized the presence of a VC special force unit that was very mobile and experienced in combat.

War veterans of 200c visits the old battlefield, present plantation

Training in the North operating in the South

As 200c was a special unit, operating with special military tactics in the special battlefield and inside the enemy’s rear, few historical documents ever mentioned it. Fortunately, the stories about battalion 200c were revived after nearly half a century by a few living witnesses, including Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Trong Xuyen, the ex-Commander of Military Zone 6 and members of the unit.

Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Trong Xuyen recalled: The uppermost area of the Southern Center next to the Central Highlands linking Dong Nai, Bien Hoa, and Sai Gon was close to the enemy but far from our rear bases. This was an area with many forests and mountains, therefore all supplies for our forces depended on the shoulders of young female volunteers. After the Mau Than Campaign of 1968, the enemy became frenzied. They reinforced and blocked our transportation routes, which led to shortages of food, weapons, ammunitions and equipment for our forces in the Southern Center. 

In a summer afternoon, inside the encampment of the High Command of Military Zone 6, there were neither shots nor the sounds of war, but the atmosphere at the commanders’ meeting was tense. They were thinking of and discussing the knotty questions of how to fight the enemy as they were extending their raids of our forces in the whole battlefield while our forces were of a modest size, poorly armed and poorly fed.  What military tactics should they utilize in combat against the enemy.

At that very moment, the phone rang. Commander Nam Nga quickly answered the phone. It was a call from Central Command. Central Command instructed forces of Military Zone 6 to intensify their attacks on the enemy’s rear and informed them that the North would send special forces to the military zone. 

The General continued: “During the war, our forces in the Southern Centre were stationed very close to the enemy forces. They were under the High Command of Military Zone 6. Although it was a military zone, its strength, arms, and forces were small and the units that were severely short of both numbers and arms had to find shelter and to live off of the forests and self-cultivated some crops. Now, to hear that the military zone was to be reinforced with a special battalion was unexpected good news.”  

Special tactics of the special force was in fact born out of the war resistance against the French. But the special force corps was formally founded on March 19th, 1967 based on the frame of division 305 and followed the slogans “The weaker force wins the stronger one” and “The smaller force wins the larger one”. In the early days, the special forces corps had only 9 battalions, including battalion 1 stationed in Quang Ning in charge of training. Every year, the unit trained 2-3 battalions, which were then sent to serve in battlefields in the South. 200c was the “second child” of that “training furnace”.

Pham Van Hop, one of the first founder-members of 200c recounted: “After receiving the order from commanders, 500 of the newly graduated soldiers were provided 500 bikes to quickly move to Road No9, Southern Laos and then were posted to different units in different fronts. From the gathering place, our unit went through the Truong Son forest to the Southern Center and it took them 5 months and 7 days to get to the La Nga River, Binh Thuan Province in July 1968. The entire battalion comprising of young men from the north, including Hanoians, took shelter at the deserted rocky mountain of Da Chat in the Southern Center, starting to  suffer lots of difficulties from the harsh weather and terrain, as well as the lack of food and other logistical difficulties.”    

Smaller and weaker force wins larger and stronger one

War prisoners arrested by 200c

Although battalion 200c met many geographical difficulties and lacked both logistics and arms, they achieved many landslide victories, from Hoa Da to Song Mao. Meanwhile, their adversaries, equipped with larger and more modern weapons, vehicles and logistics still suffered heavy losses. While the understanding of our forces, arms, and tactics remained vague, the question of how to respond to the 200c became the enemy’s real headache.

Our force was only one special force battalion and armed with only one DKZ75, a few B40s, B41s, explosives and AK47s. After the losses, the enemy launched a number of raids in an attempt to wipe out our forces or at least to find out the unit’s force and arms. But what they could only capture were some pots and pans that our soldiers concealed under the sand after cooking their food. Allthough they were trained in skills and tactics of the special force for only several months, they were very experienced, frequently moved from place to place and eradicated all traces of their presence. The enemy was not able to find any hints of the 200c. There were times when they thought that they were confronting a regiment-level unit that was well-trained and well-armed.

If the force and arms of battalion 200c was partially known by the enemy by time, then the ways it operated remained a mystery. They tried to understand why our forces were able to break through their entrenched fortifications and why they could be defeated in their very dens. After the war, the living adversaries now could more or less learn the tactics of our special forces.  But the one thing that they could never understand is our people’s heroism, creativeness, resourcefulness and resolve to fight and to win. The very patriotic flame in the hearts of all Vietnamese soldiers and people generated the source of their strength and helped them think of ways to achieve victories in single battles and the war as a whole.

This is true for the soldiers of battalion 200c, as well. They only wore shorts, carried modest weapons.  They often operated with empty stomachs and ran on bare feet but still went to battle and fight against the larger and stronger enemy force. But what they did have and that the enemy did not, was patriotism, will of steel, a vindictive hatred for the aggressors and traitors, and the readiness to sacrifice themselves for national independence and freedom. These factors were the origins of their victories. 

Reported by Nguyen Van Minh

Translated by Thu Nguyen
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