Trung grew up in the river byways of the Mekong
Delta, a fertile land home to many poor farmers,
many of whom saw the Viet Cong, guerilla fighters
who supported Communist North Vietnam as their
only hope for a better life - and a united Vietnam.
Like so many other children in Vietnam, he lost
a parent to the war being fought around him, when,
in 1963, his father, a Viet Cong guerilla, was
executed by South Vietnamese forces.
On the death of his father:
"That day, I could not
go back to my house. I didnt have anywhere
to go. So I sat on the ferry [I took to school
every day and went] back and forth, back and
forth on the river all night. I asked myself
the question, who is responsible for the death
of my father? I answer for myself. I said, President
Diem [the leader, handpicked by the Americans],
you are responsible for the death of my father.
And I told myself, when I am grown up, if I
have the opportunity, I will become a pilot.
And I will bomb the palace of the leader of
in Texas in 1969.
Trung joined the Viet Cong movement shortly after
his father's death. He would spend the next twelve
years working to fulfill his dramatic vow to bomb
the palace in Saigon. The Viet Cong encouraged
him to join the South Vietnamese Air Force, and
in 1969, he was sent for advanced training in
Texas. When he returned to his country, he began
flying regular bombing sorties. But stealing a
F-5, one of the American's most sophisticatd jets
from the tightly guarded military base was close
to impossible. It would take him three years to
perfect his plan to bomb the presidential palace.
Trung finally perfected a plan using the military's
own protocol against them. To cut down on radio
noise, the pilots were required to communicate
with each other by visual signals before they
took off. On April 5, 1975, Trung gave his squad
leader a hand signal that he was having electrical
trouble. The rest of his squadron took off without
him. According to military procedure, he had ten
seconds in which to abort his mission, or catch
up with the other planes. He waited out the ten
second countdown and took off. But instead of
joining his formation, he headed for the target
he had held in his mind - the presidential palace.
interrogate suspected Viet Cong agent.
Trung avenges his father's
Just after take-off, I fly
direct to Saigon. On that day, my aircraft was
loaded with four bombs, [Viet Cong leaders had
told him to use] two for the palace, two for
the U.S. embassy. But with the first two bombs,
I missed targeting the palace. Very quickly
I made the decision. With the last two bombs
I will bomb the palace and forget the embassy.
Trung's bombs set fire to only a small section
of the Presidential Palace roof, but the psychological
damage was done. He had brought the war to downtown
Saigon - and signaled South Vietnam's leaders
that their time was running out. When Trung landed
the American F-5 jet on a tiny airstrip in Northern
territory, he was greeted with a hero's welcome.
But he paid a hefty price for his actions - back
in Saigon his wife and children were thrown in
jail just hours after the bombs fell.
airport in flames.
In one of the final actions of the war, Trung
faced an even greater challenge than the bombing
of the Palace: training a ragtag group of North
Vietnamese fliers, who were used to Soviet-made
MiGs how to fly F-5s. The young captain was able
to teach them to fly the American planes in just
five days. On April 28, 1975, Trung led a formation
of five planes that bombed Saigon's main airport,
Tan Son Nhat, throwing the entire American evacuation
Trung lands in
NVA territory to a hero's welcome.
On his motivation for the bombing:
I did everything
I could to stop the war as soon as possible.
You stop the war one day earlier, you can save
a lot of people. One month earlier, you can
save thousands. One year earlier, a million.
The earlier you stop the war, the more people
you can save.
hopes to expand with the growing tourist industry.
Trung was one of a handful of Vietnamese pilots
trained by the Americans to remain in Vietnam
after the war ended. When Vietnam invaded Cambodia
in 1979, he took to the skies again and led bombing
raids over the border. In 1990, Trung joined the
national carrier, Vietnam Airlines, and has been
helping train a new generation of aviators ever
our pilots are very young, less than 35 years
old. Most of them have grown up in peace, and
were not involved in wartime. My generation
is always teaching them, letting them know what
happened in the past
and they are always