After a two-day voyage, Ship 43 headed to the shore in Sa Huynh commune, Duc Pho district, Quang Ngai province. At night on March 1, as the ship was just five nautical miles off the shore, it was spotted by the enemy. The enemy mobilized their forces to envelop the ship, making it impossible to retreat to the sea. In that urgent situation, the crew-members were determined to fight the enemy. However, with unbalanced force and put in a disadvantaged position, the crew lost three members while 12 others got injured. A decision on destroying the ship and withdrawing the remaining force ashore was promptly made. Some minutes later, there was a pillar of water rising high, along with an explosion tearing through the night, burying all weapons on the ship in the deep sea to avoid them from falling into the hands of the enemy.

Luu Cong Hao and Ta Thi Linh (third and fourth from left) at Dang Thuy Tram Infirmary in 2012

When reaching the shore, the badly-injured crew-members found their health deteriorating quickly because they lacked food and medicines. Luckily, local people found them and took care of and protected them from the enemy. Ten days later, on March 10, they were taken to the infirmary run by Doctor Dang Thuy Tram in mountainous Ba To by local people and guerrillas.

In the book “There is a trail on the East Sea,” published by the Hanoi Publishing House in 1995, Naval Senior Captain Nguyen Dac Thang, a Hero of the People’s Armed Forces wrote that “At 2 p.m. that day, a dozen of sailors arrived at doctor Dang Thuy Tram’s infirmary. She didn’t say anything. However, when knowing that we were members of the no-number ships, she expressed her admiration for us and considered us heroes. She said to us that “You stay here to heal your wounds and regain your strength to be able to climb the Truong Son range.” Even though Tram and other staff of the infirmary did not have enough food to eat, they still took care of us very well.”

The sentiment between the crew of the no-number ship and doctor Dang Thuy Tram and other local people was deepened during the crew’s stay in the infirmary. Recalling his unforgettable memories of that time, Luu Cong Hao, former crew-member of Ship 43 movingly said, “While being treated at Dang Thuy Tram Infirmary, we joined combat against the enemy’s raids to defend the infirmary and wounded soldiers under the command of Doctor Dang Thuy Tram. There were battles where all combatants were wounded soldiers and they won over a big raid of the enemy, safeguarding the infirmary and severely-wounded soldiers.”

That day, Hao, the youngest of Ship 43’s crew-members, was severely wounded, and he received due attention from Doctor Tram. Apart from caring for his wound, Doctor Tram considered Hao her sworn brother and promised to marry her younger sister named Dang Phuong Tram to him after the national liberation day. After recovery, Hao and his comrades said good-bye to Doctor Tram and crossed the Truong Son (Annamite) range to return to the North to undertake new missions. Hao and Tram kept contact and encouraged each other until she sacrificed her life on June 22, 1970.

When the nation was unified, Hao came back the old land of Ba To, visited the tombs of his comrades and expressed gratitude to local people who wholeheartedly supported him and his comrades in the war. He also offered incense to martyr Dang Thuy Tram - his comrade who he had deep affection for, at her house and sent encouragement to her relatives. That was the good impression and affection of of a member of the no-number ship toward Doctor Tram.

For Doctor Dang Thuy Tram, her deep sentiment to troops was recorded in her diary. On the day troops of the no-number ship left the infirmary, she wrote, “This afternoon, you guys set out, leaving everyone a great sense of nostalgia in the middle of the deserted forest. You guys are gone, but these places still bear your silhouettes... See you one day in the beloved North.

We had a chance to join veterans of the no-number ship to return to the old battlefield and visit Dang Thuy Tram Infirmary in Quang Ngai province. We met Ta Thi Linh, who worked with Doctor Tram. Despite her old age, Linh for more than ten years now has volunteered to work at the hall-of-fame of the infirmary with a wish that she can offer incense to Dang Thuy Tram and other fallen troops everyday.

In a talk with historical witnesses of the no-number ships, Chief Nursing Officer  of Dang Thuy Tram Infirmary Nguyen Trung Tri said, deeply moved, “Intelligence, bravery, talent and dedication of the no-number ships’ crew-members and Ms. Tram's heart for the people and troops will be a driving force for us to strive for the better and to undertake and complete all assignments.

Translated by Mai Huong