By December 1972, artist Nguyễn Thế Vinh had been a member of Party V for seven years. His membership of the party and involvement in the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) would span Operation Linebacker II.
Nguyễn Thế Vinh in Military Zone 5
During this time, Vinh had spent a large amount of his time in Military Zone 5, which inspired most of his artwork exhibited around 1979. He used watercolour and ink to portray the area’s ethnic minorities in vivid detail. As part of this series, Vinh often depicted female guerrilla soldiers armed with rifles and battle ready. However, Vinh was heavily influenced by highland scenes and the minority cultures found there.
Vinh used an ink wash to render a portrait of
A History of Quảng Ngãi
It was in Quảng Ngãi and neighbouring regions that minority groups suffered from as early as 1954 under direct persecution, first from the colonial French government and later under the US-advised resettlement program implemented by the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam (PRG), famously chastised by journalist Wilfred Burchett in 1964 as well as many other correspondents. Also, in 1968, Quảng Ngãi contained the infamous Mỹ Lai Massacre, in which American troops slaughtered 500 civilian villagers.
Given Quảng Ngãi’s strategic and historical importance, the very fact that Vinh was able to infiltrate the province to sketch civilians puts into perspective the danger artists were often under during the war, not to mention the risks they were willing to expose themselves to in order to do their jobs effectively.
Operation Linebacker II
To the north, on Christmas Eve, artist Nguyễn Ðức Thọ had travelled to Hanoi, at a time when the northern capital was at its most vulnerable. From 18 to 29 December 1972, for 12 days and nights, the US Air Force conducted an “Air Strategic Offensive” with B-52 bombers over Hanoi. Surface-to-Air-Missile (SAM) defence units used their skills and courage to fight back with great results, downing 34 B-52 bombers above Hanoi’s airspace. The US military claimed shooting down only 16 B-52 bombers; four heavily damaged, with five suffering medium damage during that period.
Thọ described missile launcher trucks as dispersed on boulevards using large trees for cover. Immediately after the missiles left their launcher, these trucks rushed on to reload with other missiles to ensure their continuous operation for 12 days and nights.
Thọ’s artwork (fig. 2) depicts Soviet-built S-75 Surface-to-Air-Missiles (Russian: С-75; NATO reporting name SA-2 Guideline). These were part of a highly successful high-altitude air defence system with command guidance. North Vietnamese used these missiles extensively for the protection of Hanoi and Hải Phòng. During the 12