PANO - After 41 years, Pham Van Hop, former Deputy-Commander and other members of battalion 200c had a chance to return to Ma Lam, the old battlefield in Ham Thuan Bac District, where a collective grave of 27 martyrs from the 200c found some time ago and while the remains of others were still missing. He recalled those fierce days of war…
Ma Lam battle
War veterans from 200c battalion arrived in Ma Lam one summer afternoon. Ma Lam is now a town, but a large enemy camp was located there during the war.
The enemy base of Ma Lam stood in a flat area and the enemy created a “no-man’s-land” belt around the base. Moreover, the enemy erected many blockhouses and multi-layer barbed wire fences, as well as placed minefields to protect the base. Late in 1968, battalion 200c got the order from the High Command of Military Zone 6 to attack the base. Both the High Command and the battalion knew that it was a tough task, but they were still determined to deploy.
The 200c battalion met many difficulties and losses in the first days of carrying out the task. As the enemy base was strictly guarded 24 hours a day and the terrain was exposed, it was difficult for our scouts to approach the base. During reconnaissance missions, a commander from a company of the 200c was discovered. He fought until his last breath. In another case, 5 scouts were killed by mines. Our scouts had to spend every night during those 5 months to collect enough reconnaissance and information about the Ma Lam base for the battalion command to draw up the operational plan. Fourteen soldiers sacrificed their lives during the 5 month reconnaissance mission.
On the night of March 21st, 1969, the battalion secretly marched and deployed forces at designated positions, waiting for the set time to fire off at the target. Five minutes before the set hour, all of our attack directions were ready to move forward, when, suddenly, there was a flash of light from the enemy base. The flashlights blinked three times - a signal. The battalion command was about to consult with each to discuss the situation and to make a further decision, but it was too late.
Enemy artillery, mortars and fire power fired at our soldiers’ positions. Flares shot by the enemy lit up the night sky and helicopters struck at our soldiers from the sky. The battalion had to quickly withdraw from the battle and was not able to bring the remains of more than 30 martyrs from the battlefield.
After the battle, all the remaining soldiers from the battalion shed tears and pain. Many could not eat and sleep for days. The battalion command asked the higher commanders to join it in investigating into the case. Later, Colonel Nam A of the Military Intelligence Agency, disclosed the traitor, a local district-level commander from our side, who had informed the enemy all of the battalion’s strategic plans. It wasn’t until 1975, that battalion 200c had another chance to attack the enemy base at Ma Lam and easily wiped it out in revenge for their comrades who had laid down their lives in the same battlefield years before.
Reported by Nguyen Van Minh
Translated by Thu Nguyen
1. The battalion going into battle
2. Smashing up the “Second Sai Gon” (second story)
3. 200c: Who are you? (third story)