End of April 1975: Nguyễn Thanh Châu Joins the March into Saigon

Towards the end of April 1975, forces from the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and the National Liberation Front (NLF) converged on Saigon from the north, the east and the west. From the east, communist forces marched towards Saigon after their costly victory at the Battle of Xuân Lộc. After which they effectively controlled two-thirds of the territory in South Vietnam.

Towards Saigon Across the Plain of Reeds

From the west and northwest of Saigon, PAVN and NLF troops crossed the Plain of Reeds and Mekong Delta mangrove forests to converge on the southern capital. Nguyễn Thanh Châu was able to paint scenes of the convoys making their way towards Saigon through these different environments. Painted on location at the Ba Rem Canal crossing the West Vàm Cỏ River on 24 April 1975 (fig. 1), Châu recorded soldiers and tanks coming ashore from the river bank. According to Châu, these troops were on the way to the assembly point where they were to wait for following orders. This is a very rare piece painted during the last days of the war, documenting the final assault before the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975.

Figure 1: Nguyễn Thanh Châu, 24 April 1975, crossing the West Vàm Cỏ river, heading to Long An Province. “Về Long An (Going to Long An Province).” Watercolour on machine-made paper.

Into Saigon

Another painting dominated by the purple hues of the setting sun shows the progression of a military column that Châu was part of (fig. 2). This time outside of Saigon, noticeable by the flat scenery and grassy plain. The watercolour and pastel painting shows soldiers marching on the southern capital. It was the last phase of the Spring Campaign of 1975. The soldiers are marching alongside Soviet-built T-54 tanks. Only days later, on 30 April 1975, this armoured column captured the city and ended the war.

Marching on Saigon
Figure 2: Nguyễn Thanh Châu, April 1975, outside Saigon (appears to be the northwest of Saigon due to the nature of the vegetation in the background). Watercolour and pastel on machine-made paper.

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