Bui Tin

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Bui Tin (1927-} , a Vietnamese born under French colonial rule, was an early Viet Minh revolutionary, rose to prominence in the People's Army of Viet Nam, but left Vietnam in 1990 in protest over Party policies. He actually took the surrender of South Vietnam from its last president, Duong Van Minh.

Personally close to Vo Nguyen Giap and Ho Chi Minh, he was both a soldier and political organizer, competent in both aspects of dau tranh. He respected Ngo Dinh Diem, saying thought Ho thought of Diem as a patriot, but in a different way, an "exceptional political figure with profound patriotism, courage, and integrity, and a simple way of life". [1]

While he said that the war was presented as nationalist and anticolonialist, he said that the elites saw it as protecting the "socialist camp" from U.S. imperialism. [2]

View of U.S. strategy

Asked how the U.S. could have won, he said "Johnson's incremental bombing was, to him, a major error. If Johnson had granted Westmoreland's requests to enter Laos and block the Ho Chi Minh trail, Hanoi could not have won the war... if all the bombing had been concentrated at one time, it would have hurt our efforts. But the bombing was expanded in slow stages under Johnson and it didn't worry us. We had plenty of time to prepare alternative routes and facilities." [3]

He also quoted Dong Sy Nguyen, commander of the 559th Transportation Group, which operated the Ho Chi Minh trail, as most fearing even a limited paratroop or heliborne ground attack.

Speaking of the U.S. antiwar movement, he said "It was essential to our strategy. Support of the war from our rear was completely secure while the American rear was vulnerable. Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the American antiwar movement."[4]


Assessing the situation in 1967, Gen.Nguyen Chi Thanh, the senior Politburo member in the south and commander of the overall effort, was concerned they were losing land, control of the population, and mobility for the main forces. Concerned that Westmoreland might receive permission to enter Laos and cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In January 1967, after discussions with Le Duan, Thanh proposed the Tet Offensive, arguing "America is wealthy but not resolute," and "squeeze tight to the American chest and attack."

Only in July was Thanh's plan adopted by the leadership, Johnson rejected Westmoreland's request for 200,000 more troops...."When more frustration set in, all the Americans could do would be to withdraw; they had no more troops to send over. Tet was designed to influence American public opinion. We would attack poorly defended parts of South Vietnam cities during a holiday and a truce when few South Vietnamese troops would be on duty. Before the main attack, we would entice American units to advance close to the borders, away from the cities. ... We used local forces nearby each target to frustrate discovery of our plans. Small teams, like the one which attacked the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, would be sufficient."

Referring to Tet, he quoted Giap, "Our loses were staggering and a complete surprise. Giap later told me that Tet had been a military defeat, though we had gained the planned political advantages when Johnson agreed to negotiate and did not run for reelection. The second and third waves in May and September were, in retrospect, mistakes. Our forces in the South were nearly wiped out by all the fighting in 1968. It took us until 1971 to reestablish our presence but we had to use North Vietnamese troops as local guerrillas."

Decisions on the final attack

"If the American forces had not begun to withdraw under Nixon in 1969, they could have punished us severely. We suffered badly in 1969 and 1970 as it was."

Bui Tin told the interviewer, "We tested Ford's resolve by attacking Phuoc Long in January 1975. When Ford kept American B-52's in their hangers, our leadership decided on a big offensive against South Vietnam." Apparently, he assumed Ford was free to take action; Bui Tin does not demonstrate a knowledge of the American political system.

Critic of the Party

After the war, he became editor of the Nhan Dan, or People's Daily, the official Party newspaper. In the 1980s, he became increasingly upset with the policies of his country, and exiled himself to France. Criticizing his friend Ho Chi Minh, for adopting a Stalinist system for Vietnam, which produced disaster that Ho acknowledged, for "the development of heavy industry, hasty collectivization, the elimination of the bourgeoisie, the starting of concentration camps and the mistreatment of intellectuals." Bui Tin respected Ho's leadership, and thinks that had he lived through the fall of South Vietnam, he was a sufficiently cautious leader to have prevented the re-education camps, the boat people, and the wars with China and Cambodia?

"In Hanoi these days the leadership is using Ho's name to justify its policies, as if he were still alive. What would Ho have thought of doi moi, Hanoi's half-baked economic reform plan? Would he have seen it as a forced marriage between socialism without soul and capitalism without backbone? Perhaps. The government should not use Uncle Ho, cold in his tomb, as a defense against the opposition.[5] According to Reuters, "The article by Bui Tin, a traitor, is not worth comment," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Phan Thuy Thanh.[6]

In 1990, Bui decided to leave Vietnam and live in exile in Paris, France, in order to express his growing dissatisfaction with Vietnam's Communist leadership and their political system.


  1. Moyar, Mark (2006), Triumph Forsaken, Cambridge University Press, p. 13
  2. Bui Tin, From Enemy to Friend: A North Vietnamese Perspective on the War, U.S. Naval Instutute Press (2002), pp. 4-9, quoted in Moyar, p. 425
  3. Bui Tin (2002), Following Ho Chi Minh: Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel, U.S. Naval Instutute Press
  4. "How North Vietnam Won The War", Wall Street Journal, August 3, 1995
  5. Bui Tin (August 23, 1999), "Vietnam's independence leader was a hero to his countrymen, a wise uncle to friends and a monster to enemies", Time
  6. "Hanoi indignant over article on Ho Chi Minh", Reuters, August 25, 1999