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Square in Paris named after Vietnamese pilot Do Huu Vi

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A small square in the 16th arrondissement of Paris has been named after Vietnamese pilot Do Huu Vi, one of the first pilots in the French military, who died at age 33 in a combat in France during World War I (1914-1918).

The naming was conducted at a ceremony held in the 16th arrondissement on Wednesday last week in the presence of Paris Deputy Mayor Laurence Patrice, Mayor of the 16th arrondissement of Paris Francis Szpiner, representatives of the Vietnamese Embassy in France, and relatives of Do Huu Vi, along with local authorities and residents.  

Do Huu Vi Square is located on the intersection between Versailles Avenue and Quai Louis-Blériot, overlooking the Radio France headquarters and Grenelle bridge.

Vi, born in 1883 in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), fought and died on July 9, 1916, in World War I, when he, a captain, led his company to attack a fort of German troops in Somme Bay in northern France.

In the archives kept at the French Military Museum, there is a note describing him as a brave officer who fell while commanding his company to launch an attack on German trenches.

Vi was first buried in Dompierre in Somme, and in 1921, his older brother brought back his remains to Saigon and conducted a funeral service for him.

He was awarded the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor and some other noble medals for his feats of arms as a courageous and spirited officer.

In commemoration of Do Huu Vi, the French government named many schools and streets after him, while the French Indochinese postal service issued a stamp featuring him in 1930. 

Vi was honored by France as one of more than 300 people of overseas origin with meritorious services to the European country. 

He was the only person of Asian origin to be included in the exhibition ‘Portraits de France’ at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris earlier this year. 

Commenting on Vi, historian Aurélie Clemente-Ruiz said the late captain is an irreplaceable monument in the history of France, as he and other expats contributed to the writing of French national history, and their names therefore deserve to be remembered.

There are currently about 200 streets and landmarks in France named after Vietnamese places or people.

Do Huu Christian, 79 years old, Vi’s great-grandson who is a senior civil servant of the French Ministry of Health, said his great-grandfather was a bright example for everyone as he had strived to be respected and honored by the whole of France during a period in which colored people were considered inferior to white people.

Born in a family of 11 children in Saigon, Do Huu Vi studied at local French schools in his childhood before being sent to France to attend Lycée Janson de Sailly in Paris.

He later entered the French Military Academy at St. Cyr in 1904 and graduated two years later as a second lieutenant. 

After a period serving in the French military, Vi learned to fly and gained a pilot’s license from Aéroclub de France in December 1911, when he was promoted to lieutenant.

In March 1914, he returned to Vietnam to study the use of hydroplanes on the Mekong and Red Rivers. Later the same year, Vi came back to France as World War I broke out.

In early 1915, he was shot and severely wounded, and after a long recovery felt he was no longer physically qualified to be a pilot.

He then asked for a return to the infantry, and was killed on July 9, 1916 while leading his company against German troops at Fort Dompierre in Somme.

By Vinh Tho & Vo Trung Dung & Quoc Viet – Tuoi Tre News – July 5, 2022

Square in Paris named after Vietnamese pilot Do Huu Vi
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