A guard remembers first Independence Day as if it was yesterday

By Viet Tuan   September 1, 2019 | 06:11 am PT
A guard remembers first Independence Day as if it was yesterday
The Vietnamese Provisional Government presents itself to the public at Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi on September 2, 1945.
When Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam’s independence 74 long years ago, Pham Gia Doc, 95, was there, standing guard, tears in his eyes.

To this day, he remembers September 2, 1945, the first National Independence Day, in great detail.

Doc joined the revolution when he was 19 years old. He was a factory worker and he happened to be chosen to be on duty with elite officers to guard the podium for President Ho Chi Minh to read Vietnam’s declaration of independence.

"I started to sweat when I heard I was chosen for such an important task, partly because of the excitement for but also because of nervousness about doing my job well." 

He couldn’t eat and sleep properly in the following days because of the stress. The Viet Minh army at that time was limited, while the enemy was strong and active in Hanoi. Each of the guards had only one pistol with a few bullets. Weapons were then scarce, mostly seized from the enemy.

Pham Gia Doc is seen at his house on Hang Quat Street, Hanoi. Photo by VnExxpress/Viet Tuan.

Pham Gia Doc is seen at his house in Hang Quat Street, Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Tuan.

In August 1945, the Vietnamese forces led by Ho Chi Minh, called Viet Minh, launched a revolution against French colonial rule, seizing control of most localities within two weeks. The Vietnamese Provisional Government was established and was presented to the public on September 2, 1945.

In the afternoon on that historic day, Doc saw a large number of Vietnamese people, in their most presentable clothes, pouring into the Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, holding signs that said "Independence or death" or "Vietnam belongs to Vietnamese."

President Ho Chi Minh read the declaration of independence, in which words like "independence," "freedom," "equality" and "happiness" were used. Those were words that Doc had never dared to even think of before.

"When Ho Chi Minh asked the crowd if they could hear him speaking and they responded yes, tears came to my eyes, but I tried to stay still for the rest of the ceremony." 

When Ho Chi Minh had finished his speech and the crowd started shouting support for Vietnam and the temporary government, Doc knew his job was done.

"That was the biggest joy of my life."

Doc continued to join the two following wars against the French colonists and the American invaders. Last year, he was awarded the title Hero of the People’s Armed Forces, given to those with outstanding achievements in service for the cause of national liberation and defense.

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