Trần Văn Trà

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Trần Văn Trà (1918 – April 20, 1996) was a commander in the Vietcong; a member of the Central Committee of the Lao Dong Party (North Vietnamese communist party) from 1960 to 1982; a lieutenant general in the army of the North Vietnam; chairman of Military Affairs Committee of the Central Office of South Vietnam (COSVN) (1964–1976).

The son of a bricklayer, Trà was born in Quảng Ngãi Province in 1918. He joined the Indochinese Communist Party in 1938 and spent the years of the Second World War in a French prison. Between 1946 and 1954, Trà fought against the French in the Vietnam People's Army and became a general in 1961, commanding communist forces in the southern half of South Vietnam. During the Vietnam War against the Americans and South Vietnamese, he led the attack on Saigon during the Tet Offensive of 1968 and commanded the B-2 Front during the Easter Offensive.

During a 1974 meeting of North Vietnamese military leaders in Hanoi, Trà argued against a conservative strategy during the coming year and suggested that South Vietnam's Phước Long Province be attacked in order to test both South Vietnamese and American military reaction. The attack was successful and the U.S. did not respond militarily, prompting larger, more aggressive communist operations. In April 1975, Trà became deputy commander of the A75 headquarters under Senior General Văn Tiến Dũng during the Ho Chi Minh Campaign, the final assault on Saigon which led to the capitulation of the South Vietnamese government. He was vice minister of defense from 1978 to 1982.

In 1982, Trà published Vietnam: A History of the Bulwark B-2 Theater, which revealed how the Hanoi Politburo had overestimated its own military capabilities and underestimated those of the U.S. and South Vietnam prior to and during the Tet Offensive. This account offended and embarrassed the leaders of the newly-unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam and ultimately led to his purging from the party. He lived under house arrest until his death on April 20, 1996.


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