Vietnam News

Grateful nation pays incense tribute to Spratly reefs martyrs

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War veterans and relatives gathered in central Da Nang City Sunday to offer incense to 64 Vietnamese soldiers who died defending the Spratly Archipelago reefs against China 34 years ago.

The Liaison Committee for Truong Sa Veterans of Da Nang City (1984-1988) held an incense offering ceremony at the Nai Nam Village Communal House commemorating 64 Vietnamese soldiers who died defending reefs in the Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago on March 14, 1988, and lost Gac Ma (Johnson South) Reef.

A stele in the village is engraved with the names of nine soldiers from Hoa Cuong Bac Ward (Hai Chau District) who died in the Gac Ma battle when they were just in their twenties.

Martyred at sea, their remains have not been found.

Le Thi Lan, 79, resident of Cam Le District and mother of soldier Nguyen Huu Loc, said: “My son died when he was 21, a little more than a year after enlistment. I miss him so much. My longing for him has never faded.”

Nguyen Ba Hung, brother of soldier Nguyen Ba Cuong, trembled with grief as he looked at his brother’s name on the stele. He had left home in Quang Nam Province early in the morning to attend the memorial ceremony in Da Nang.

“On this day, my heart longs for my brother,” he said.

Colonel Hoang Duy Lap, former commander of the navy’s Engineer Regiment No. 83 who directly fought in the battle at Spratly Archipelago in 1988, said the soldiers are inspirational examples for future generations to defend and develop the nation. He said that today’s and future generations must not forget the martyrs.

Following the incense offering ceremony, the veterans, relatives and others released flower rafts on the Han River in memory of the martyrs.

Another memorial service for the fallen in Gac Ma Battle will be held Monday by their comrades-in-arms at the Man Quang Bridge in Da Nang’s Son Tra District.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh paid floral tributes and burned incense Saturday at the Gac Ma memorial in the central province of Khanh Hoa.

Early March 14, 1988, the Vietnamese Navy’s Brigade 125 sent three ships with nearly 100 officers and soldiers to the Gac Ma (Johnson South), Co Lin (Collins or Johnson North) and Len Dao (Lansdowne) reefs in the Spratly Archipelago.

The soldiers were transporting construction materials on to Gac Ma when four Chinese vessels arrived.

A second-lieutenant and two soldiers then used a small boat to rush to the island to protect the national flag, but the Chinese soldiers opened fire, killing the officer on the spot.

As the fight continued, one of the Vietnamese ships was damaged and sank. Another ship with 18 aboard was also attacked while defending Len Dao.

The third ship managed to plant a flag on Co Lin that morning and successfully defended the island.

Later the same day, three other Vietnamese naval ships arrived at the site to support the defense of Co Lin and Len Dao. But Chinese forces had occupied Gac Ma by then.

A total of 64 Vietnamese soldiers were killed in the battle, and they are remembered as the Gac Ma soldiers.

By Nguyen Dong – – March 13, 2022

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