PANO - Colonel Bui Quang Than, who planted the flag of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF) on the roof of the Independence Palace on April 30th, 1975, passed away at home on Sunday at the age of 64.

Among his relatives, comrades, friends and local people mourning him, Lieutenant-General Pham Xuan The, former Commander of Army Corps 2 and Military Zone 1, has shared his deep sentiment and memories of his beloved comrade Bui Quang Than. Lieutenant-General Pham Xuan The used to be Than’s commander, comrade and dear friend.

Brave and ingenious cadre

Returning home from a trip to Dai Loc district, Quang Nam, with a delegation of Division 304’s veterans in preparation for activities towards the Day of War-Invalids and Martyrs (July 27th), General The had a high fever for a few days. On June 24th, he received bad news that Colonel Bui Quang Than unexpectedly died.

Bui Quang Than holds the flag of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam to plant on the roof of the Independence Palace on April 30th, 1975

At his house in Hanoi, General The confided that he was very mournful as learning the death of comrade Than. “I should have been in Thai Binh Province to pay homage to him but my high fever prevented me from doing so. I would like to ask you to take notes my thought as homage to him”, General The touchingly said.

Regarding his memories with his old comrade, the general said that he first knew Than when he eye-witnessed Than, commander of a Tank Company, bravely planting the NLF’s flag on the roof of the Independence Palace.

“Comrade Than’s talent, bravery and political views were featured at the time when the tank with the tail number 843 was slammed into the left gate of the Independence Palace, Than quickly took the NLF’s flag from the tank’s antenna, climbed over the main gun and then planted the flag on the Palace’s roof”, general The recalled.

“Than’s act was daring but decisive and brave. At that time, Than probably understood the need of planting the flag of the revoluntionary administration on the roof of the Independence Palace to assert the entire victory of Vietnam among local people and international friends”, he added.

Colonel Bui Quang Than (second from right) at a meeting with General Vo Nguyen Giap in 1976. File photo.

The then Lieutenant Bui Quang Than’s brave deed was highly appreciated by Command of Army Corps 2. Along with his feat of arms of planting the flag, comrade Than’s itinerary from the Saigon Bridge to the Independence Palace on the morning of April 30th, 1975 was also recognized.

According to General The, on the morning of that historic day, as part of a deep thrust into the opponent’s territory, Regiment 66 under Division 304, commanded by The, deputy-commander of the Regiment at that time, in cooperation with Battalion 1 (Tank Brigade 203), was fiercely intercepted by the enemy at the Sai Gon bridge.

In that battle, commander of Battalion 1 Ngo Xuan Nho sacrificed his life. However, our forces destroyed some tanks and broke the enemy’s defence line, forcing them to retreat.

At that time, on the Sai Gon bridge, though the enemy’s tanks were burnt with big explosions from ammunition inside the tanks, a tank of our army imposingly moved forward to pass the fire line to lead a group of tanks towards the inner Saigon. “The leading tank, with the tail number 843, was commanded by Lieutenant Bui Quang Than, commander of Company 4, Battalion 1”, general The stressed.

He added that comrade Than was very ingenious and flexibile in combat. His command of the tank driving across the Saigon bridge featured his decisiveness of a commander. “In my inner feeling, brother Than is always a brave and ingenious tankman”, general The said.

Skilled trainer

After the war, comrade Than returned to his home country in Thai Binh Province. Even though he had obtained a lot of achievements and special feats of arms, he rarely recalled them. Sometime, he, encouraged by senior officers, told his fighting to younger generations.

Attentively, comrade Than well fulfilled his assigned tasks at any positions. He was considered a good cadre on organizing combat training.

Colonel Bui Quang Than on the historic tank recalling the historic moment on April 30th, 1975 in the IndependencePalace (present Unification Palace)

With his experiences gained during his study in the Soviet Union in 1978-1983 and during the Vietnam War as a Tank and Armour Commander of Army Corps 2 since 1991, Colonel Than built creative and efficient training methods

Notably, in an experimental exercise conducted by Army Corps 2 as instructed by the Defence Ministry in 1995, comrade Than, the then Tank and Armour Commander, was asked by the Corps’ Commander Pham Xuan The to find solutions for an attack by armored vehicles on one side of the bridge in flat terrain without obstacles. He calmly said that “Commander has to use artillery. Thus, let use artillery to pave the way for our tanks”.

General The learnt much from comrade Than’s consultancy. General The shared that in training, comrade Than was skillful in combining technique with tactics, theory with practice and in equipping younger generations with combat experiences.

“My comrades and I always recognize that creative, efficient training method”, general The emphasized.

Hero in the normal life

While recalling his memories of his friend and comrade Than, general The felt sorry for him.

General The said that there was regulations in the military while on duty, but in normal life, they were close friends. General The and Colonel Than spent much time visiting their families and hometowns. Various photos capturing their unforgettable memories and important moments were being carefully kept.

Aware of difficulties that Than’s family had to cope with, General The would like to lend Than a hand. However, comrade Than often joked that he left home for a long time. Thus, difficulties created opportunities for him to assist his wife and children. “I think working is like making a revolution”, Colonel Than said to General The.

Colonel Than did what he had said. In 2000 after nearly 40 years in the army, he retired and led a normal life in his hometown as a true farmer. He also did other businesses to improve his family’s living standard.

Experiencing a very hard time during the war, pressures from business tempered his iron will as a soldier. Not only local people in Thuy Xuan Commune, Thai Thuy District, Thai Binh Province, but also those in other localities across Vietnam acknowleged that retired Than was a simple and close farmer.

“That is Bui Quang Than. Maybe, we all know the the Tank Company’s commander who planted the NLF’s flag on the roof of the Independence Palace at historic noon on April 30th, 1975. Yet, there has remained a lot of interesting things relating to that historic man, which not all people could understand and acknowledge. That is a simple but noble man!”, general The proudly and touchingly said.

Translated by Mai Huong