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Vietnam PM pays tribute to soldiers who died defending Spratly reefs

By Viet Tuan   March 12, 2022 | 08:55 am PT
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh paid tribute Saturday to soldiers who died defending reefs in the Spratly Archipelago against China 34 years ago.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh lays a wreath at Gac Ma memorial site in Khanh Hoa Province, March 12, 2021. Photo by Vietnam Government Portal

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh lays a wreath at Gac Ma memorial site in Khanh Hoa Province, March 12, 2022. Photo by Vietnam Government Portal

PM Chinh paid floral tributes and burned incense at the Gac Ma memorial site in the central province of Khanh Hoa, which commemorates 64 Vietnamese soldiers who died defending reefs in the Spratly Archipelago on March 14, 1988, and lost Gac Ma.

He wrote in the book at the site: "These are exemplary people who heroically sacrificed their lives to protect their country’s sacred sovereignty. These shiny examples are permanent evidence of heroism, of the heroic tradition of Vietnamese people."

Early on 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 Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago.

The soldiers were transporting construction materials onto 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 on 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.

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

On Saturday, PM Chinh also visited brigades at the 4th Regional Command under the Vietnam People's Navy, which protects the Spratly Islands and the south central coast.

He said the Navy needs to make accurate forecast of the situation at sea, timely advice on measures and take precise actions in dealing with different developments, in order to protect Vietnam's maritime economic activities and peace.

How Vietnam lost 64 soldiers in 1988 Spratlys battle. Video by VnExpress

 
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