Trưóng Hiếu in Mỹ Tho
In the end stages of the Easter Offensive, Trưóng Hiếu was based in Mỹ Tho Province, a little under 100 kilometres from his location at the beginning of the year in the Plain of Reeds (Đồng Tháp Mười). The town of Mỹ Tho, long regarded as a crucial entry point to the Mekong Delta, was high on the list of targets during the Easter Offensive. The US and South Vietnamese navy utilised the expansive inland waterways. An estimated 1,200 National Liberation Front (NLF) troops attacked the town at the start of the offensive. 1
One of Hiếu’s many ink sketches made in Mỹ Tho depicts a charging soldier (fig. 1). With sometimes adjoining battlelines in Mỹ Tho Province, opposing forces engaged in frequent, close-quarter skirmishes. Very often, fighting required hand-to-hand combat with fixed bayonets.
Together with fierce fighting on the ground, soldiers were under threat from constant bombing raids. Heavy bombing all but obliterated the natural environment in Mỹ Tho Province. Hiếu documented this destruction in sketches of the stark surroundings and split palm trees (fig 2). Bombing sorties by US B-52s left little cover for patroling communist troops.
In parts, however, the Mekong Delta continued to provide cover for People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), NLF and People’s Liberation Armed Forces of Vietnam (PLAF) soldiers looking to move silently and secretly throughout South Vietnam. On his excursions with different divisions, Hiếu had the opportunity to document their clandestine movements. He quickly sketched resistance soldiers crossing a monkey bridge (fig. 3) spanning one of the waterways so ubiquitous in the Mekong Delta’s mangrove forests.
Hiếu’s Close-Quarter Sketches
As well as sketches and paintings
REFERENCES AND FOOTNOTES:
- John Sherwood, “Defending the Mekong Delta: Tet and the Legacy of the Brown-Water Navy,” 31 January 2018, War on the Rocks
- Interview with Trưóng Hiếu by Witness Collection, 2004, Hanoi