“Fire is engulfing and blood shedding all over the border line. The magnanimity is still boiling in the country of thousands of military exploits.”
(“Fight for independence, freedom” – by Pham Tuyen)
Hanoi (VNA) – As Spring comes, Vietnamese people would be moved when they recall that February in 1979. Four decades have gone by, the whole nation has endured a long way full of pains and losses as well as glory and pride.
As February comes, it brings along both admirations for the sacred value of the days when our soldiers and people along the border bravely fought to defend every inch of the Motherland and expectation for the changes and progress of the nation.
For those who experienced the war, the haunting memory has not faded, and this is part of the results of compositions on the border that came to the public in the days full of smoke and fire of 1979.
In the small hours of February 17, 1979, our whole Party, people and army had to cope with an aggression war along the whole northern border line. At an order by the President, the Vietnamese people and army took up their arms and fought to defend every inch of the Motherland.
“Fight for independence and freedom” by composer Pham Tuyen is taken as one of the curtain raisers for the movement of compositions on the war.
In late 1978 and early 1979, the composer worked at the radio The Voice of Vietnam, and he was sent on field trips to get a better look of the situation in northern border provinces for his compositions.
He recalled that in fact, conflicts happened before February 17, 1979. During his trips, the composer was told by locals that their life was disturbed, their fields and crops nearing harvest were destroyed by those from the other side of the border.
“In the morning of February 17, 1979, hearing that the northern border was invaded by aggressors, I felt choked. After two long wars, the gunfire has not died down long, our nation again has to enter a new war. ‘The gunfire resounded in the air of the border…’ The lyrics flashed in my mind.”
With that prompt, the composition was completed right in the night of February 17, 1979 in the form of a march song with the words: “Chi Lang, Bach Dang, Dong Da are calling for more victories/The history has entrusted you with a sacred mission…”
The enemy mobilized 600,000 infantry troops with the coverage of tanks and artilleries (more than 500 tanks and other amoured vehicles, 1,200 mortars), forming human waves rushing to Vietnam in two directions. From the west, they targeted Lai Chau, Hoang Lien son and Ha Tuyen provinces while from the east, they attacked Cao Bang, Lang Son and Quang Ninh provinces. Our forces were only one-tenth of the enemy’s, and our weapons are outdated.
“Sitting at the table with the stave in my front, I could not hold my tears. Imagine, a country that had just endured years of war, with wounds remaining open, now has to continue fighting to defend the border. The hatred kept me sleepless,” said the composer.
Right after the completion of the song, it was recorded and aired by the radio The Voice of Vietnam. The spiritual mainstay of the soldiers and people is the national glorious history.
“After that, many friends of mine from every corner of the country sent messages to me, saying that listening to the song, they felt wanting to immediately shoulder their backpacks, pick up guns and join the armies marching to the northern border, without any further preparation.”
In that time, composer Duong Soai was a reporter of the Hoang Lien Son broadcasting station. He was sent to the battlefield to record images reflecting the realities and the combative spirit of our people and army right from the first days of the war.
“From the first days of the war, I was in Lao Cai, then part of Hoang Lien Son province, which was a target of attack of the enemy’s western wing. The atmosphere was filled with shell sound,” recalled the poet.
The composer’s memory of those days 40 years ago was still fresh with images of wounded soldiers, many of their body parts torn open, their blood mixed in mud and tainted their uniforms.
Still, they joked: “How can we die! We still have to drive back the enemy, go back to our home villages with our parents and get married!” To them, the houses and gardens could be destroyed but the even an inch of the Motherland must not be lost.
“Quite a few of those soldiers still nurtured the dream of lecture halls, coming back to their education when peace comes back. As they came to know that I was a reporter, they said: ‘Please tell our compatriots that they should firmly believe that the border line will not be lost as we are determined to stay here!’ With the words, they turn their eyesight full of determination to the blue sky, their fists wrenched,” recalled Soai.
After collecting sufficient materials, Soai made his way back to the broadcasting station in Lao Cai town for processing. He recalled: “At that time, the material infrastructure was very poor. Long-range telephone services were only for military information. In order to send mine, I had to go back to broadcasting station.”
Soldiers asked him to convey many letters to their relatives and family members back in their home villages. Most of the addresses were in the provinces of Ha Son Binh (later separated into Ha Tay and Hoa Binh), Vinh Phu (Vinh Phuc and Phu Tho), Thai Binh, Ha Nam Ninh (Ha Nam and Ninh Binh), and Hai Hung (Hai Duong and Hung Yen), and Hanoi.
“On February 20, 1979, while waiting for my train at Pho Lu (Bao Thang, Lao Cai), I wondered about the addresses with a special interest. Many letters were hastily written and without envelops. Soldiers asked me to help them with the writing of the addresses which are villages in the lower reaches of the Red River… An interesting coincident! They were places crossed by the Red River. This means we were at the upper reaches of the river, sending our heart along the flow to our relatives. The thought prompted me to write something,” Soai recalled.
So, the song “To my darling at lower reaching of the Red River” came into being about an hour after that, right in the first days of the war.
From the far-flung border, “where the Red River reaches the Vietnamese land”, the composer thought of the nostalgia of the soldiers who sent it along the flow to their home villages, where their beloved were waiting for them.
“I strongly believe that the power of love and faith is one of the important spiritual mainstays for the soldiers to hold firm their arms in the frontier. With the young soldiers, mostly aged 18-20, their love for their darlings had merged into the love for their Motherland. I used the red colour of the river to manifest the trust, the military exploits as well as the nostalgia of border soldiers sent back to their home villages,” said Soai.
Later, the poem was published on the magazine of the Hoang Lien Son Literature and Fine Arts Association and the Literature – Arts newspaper. In 1980, composer Thuan Yen set it to music. From a poem to a song, there are some changes and it did not take long for the song to become popular. It is the words from the hearts of soldiers stationed at the border.
“At first, I had it ‘I am in Lao Cai, where the Red River reaches the Vietnamese land.’ But when setting it to music, composer Thuan Yen changed the words ‘Lao Cai’ into ‘bien cuong’ (border). I am really grateful to him for this as thanks to that, the composition becomes more inclusive. The battlefield then was not only in Lao Cai but all the northern border provinces. The words ‘bien cuong’ help the song become more inclusive and broader. Besides, the words ‘where the Red River reaches the Vietnamese land’ is also a confirmation of the territorial sovereignty of the Vietnamese nations,” stressed Soai.-VNA