Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Vietnam still proud of Chinese skulls in the jungle

Vietnam heroically repulsed China’s attack 30 years ago. The enmity between the two states continued for over 2,000 years. Vietnam’s territory was spreading to the Yangtze River 2,500 years ago. The Vietnamese proved 30 years ago that they could still wage war.

The war broke out in 1979 because of the tense relations between the USSR and China. The two communist regimes were fighting for the influence on the countries of the socialist camp. Beijing could not boast of any success: the sphere of its influence included only Albania and Kampuchea.

Paul Pot attacked Vietnam’s border territories in 1978. Hanoi responded with deploying its troops in Kampuchea in December 1978. China obtained a reason to interfere on Pol Pot’s side and occupy Vietnam in order to weaken the Soviet influence in the world.

The United States stood behind the conflict: the country was struggling against communism. The USA was setting China against the USSR’s allies promising its support to Beijing.

The 600,000-strong Chinese army attacked Vietnam along its entire 1,460-kilometer border. Vietnam had only two divisions to oppose China’s 44. About 85 percent of Vietnam’s troops were stationed in Cambodia, thousands of kilometers away. However, China failed to have a blitzkrieg: Vietnam did very well without the basic part of its regular forces.

Border guards and local militia men showed fierce resistance to the aggressor. The Chinese troops moved only 15 kilometers inside Vietnam during the first three days of the war. Only several thousands of Vietnamese border guards deterred a whole army.

The Vietnamese militia joined the war on the third day only. The Chinese troops were moving along narrow paths in the jungle - the surroundings were very convenient for entrapments. The Vietnamese soldiers eventually dismembered the enemy’s army into several parts.

A group of Soviet counselors arrived in Vietnam on February 19. Moscow set its Eastern troops on high alert and threatened to invade China. The USSR’s Pacific Fleet was approaching China’s coast. Soviet warplanes transported a group of the Vietnamese army from Kampuchea, which made it possible to organize a 100,000-strong group of Vietnamese military men.

China began to pull back its troops on March 5. The country declared its victory but never explained why it had failed to defend Pol Pot, its bloody ally. Vietnam pulled back from Kampuchea only ten years afterwards, having defeated the Khmer Rouge.

The Vietnamese troops were following China’s retreat for two weeks and killed 62,500 Chinese soldiers. They also destroyed over 50 percent of China’s military hardware that was involved in the aggression.

The vestiges of that war still echo today. Not so long ago, each Vietnamese student studying at local medical schools was supposed to fetch a couple of Chinese skulls from the jungle for practical classes. The incursion of 1979 proved that Vietnam has one of the best soldiers in the world, who definitely know how to defend their native land.

Sergei Balmasov

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