April 29, This day during the Vietnam War

April 29, 1975 – East Sea Campaign was a naval operation which took place during the closing days of the Vietnam War in April 1975. Even though it had no significant impact on the final outcome of the war, the capture of certain South Vietnamese-held Spratly Islands Islands (Truong Sa) in the South China Sea (referred to by the Vietnamese as the East Sea), and other islands on the southeastern coast of Vietnam by the Vietnam People’s Navy and the Viet Cong helped the Socialist Republic of Vietnam assert its sovereignty over the various groups of islands after the reunification of the country in 1975. The North Vietnamese objective was to capture all the islands under the occupation of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), and it eventually ended in complete victory for the North Vietnamese military and their Viet Cong allies. Con Dao  archipelago is located in the southwestern area of the South China Sea, nearly 180 kilometers (110 mi) from the city of Vung Tau. The Con Dao Island is the largest island with an area of 52 square kilometers, accounting for about 75% of the entire Con Dao archipelago. Con Son is the largest township on the island and was also the seat of the local government. By the end of the Vietnam War, about 7,000 political and military prisoners, of whom 500 were female, were serving their time on Con Dao. On April 29, 1975, the airfield at Con Son became a staging post where South Vietnamese government officials and U.S. advisers from Tan Son Nhat were assembled, to be evacuated to the U.S warships of the 7th Fleet which anchored nearby. During the last days of the war, about 2,000 regular South Vietnamese soldiers were defending the island. During the early hours of May 1, 1975, all the political prisoners at Prison VII staged an uprising and they quickly overpowered what was left of the South Vietnamese prison authorities. They set up a Provisional Committee to govern the island, and organised three platoon-sized units using captured weapons to march on the remnants of the South Vietnamese army. The political prisoners attacked the ARVN barracks at Binh Dinh Vuong, Camp IV and Camp V. The South Vietnamese Army were easily defeated as they chose to run away instead of fighting back, whilst leaving large quantities of weapons and ammunition behind. Encouraged by the news of South Vietnam’s political and military capitulation, the prisoners continued their march towards the local police station which had already been abandoned by the defeated South Vietnamese. By 8am the prisoners had captured all former South Vietnamese infrastructure and assets, including 27 aircraft, as the remaining South Vietnamese Army soldiers at the Con Son airport also surrendered. On the evening of May 2, 1975, the rebel prisoners on Con Dao Island successfully establish communications with North Vietnamese military units. To prepare for the arrival of the North Vietnamese, the Provisional Committee moved to set up a trench system around the island to defend against a possible South Vietnamese or U.S counter-attack. On the morning of May 5, 1975, the North Vietnamese 171st and 172nd Naval Regiments landed on Con Dao Island with elements of the North Vietnamese 3rd Golden Star Division. Throughout the day regular North Vietnamese military units and the rebel prisoners coordinated their forces, to establish control over the rest of the Con Dao Archipelago. After more than two months of planning and combat operations, the Vietnam People’s Navy successfully captured the Spratly, Phu Quy and Con Dao groups of islands from the South Vietnamese. In the days following their victory the North Vietnamese also went on to raise their flag over the smaller cays and reefs of An Bang (Amboyna Cay), Sin Cowe East and Pearson Reef (Hon Sap). In 1976, following the unification of Vietnam, some Spratly islands became a part of Khanh Hoa Province. To assert Vietnam’s political sovereignty, the North Vietnamese military initially deployed four battalions of the 2nd Division from Military Region 5 to defend the islands. In September 1975 the North Vietnamese Ministry of Defense transferred the 46th Infantry Regiment from the Army’s 325th Division to the Vietnam People’s Navy, to form a brigade with the 126th Naval Regiment with the purpose of defending the Spratlys and other groups of islands. Following the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1976, additional units were transferred to 126th Naval Infantry Brigade to bolster the defenses of Vietnam’s outlying islands.

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