The Tet Offensive and the Media
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Tran Do

Commander of Viet Cong (VC) forces in South Vietnam and prominent Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) official. Born in 1923 in Thai Binh Province in the Red River Delta, Tran Do's real name is Ta Ngoc Phach. Do joined the Revolutionary Youth Movement at age 18 and later joined the Vietnamese Communist Party. Soon he was arrested by the French and held in Hoa Lo prison, later known as the "Hanoi Hilton." He was then sent to the notorious Son La Prison, in a remote mountainous area northeast of Hanoi near the Laos border. There Do met, and was trained by, Nguyen Luong Bang, a Communist leader who later became vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and the reunited Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV). Do escaped from Son La Prison in 1944.

Once out of prison, Do rejoined the party and worked in a special task force to protect party leaders in 1945. In 1946 Do joined the army and in 1952 became the political commissar of Division 312, commanded by General Le Trong Tan, who later was chief of staff of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN). Do also reportedly served as political commissar of the Right Bank Military Region (Nam Dinh Province) in the North. From 1945 to 1955 Do held high party and military posts in the Viet Minh. He also played an important part in the Battle of Dienbienphu. In 1958 Do was a major general of the PAVN. He was one of the high-ranking officers to be elected an alternate member of the VCP Central Committee in September 1960.

Do was sent south at the beginning of the Vietnam War. In 1963 he was identified as a member of the Military Committee, and head of the Political Department of the Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN), the office through which Hanoi controlled and directed all military and political activities under the name of the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NFLSV) and its military arm, the People's Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF). Do was one of five deputy commanders of the PLAF during the war.

Do was believed to be one of the DRV's principal field commanders in the South in charge of political affairs in a triumvirate with Generals Nguyen Chi Thanh and Tran Van Trà. Do wrote a number of important articles and drafted COSVN directives under the pseudonym of Chin Vinh. During his years in the South, he lived with his fellow soldiers in jungle camps and underground bunkers, constantly confusing and evading American forces. Although many South Vietnamese resented the leadership of northerners in the South, Do was a capable leader who prevented factionalism from disrupting the VC war effort.

Do also helped plan and execute the Tet Offensive in January 1968. Although the attacks resulted in tens of thousands of casualties for the VC and North Vietnamese, he admitted later that the results worked in their favor. He stated that "In all honesty, we didn't achieve our main objective. . . . As for making an impact in the United States, it had not been our intention-but it turned out to be a fortunate result." During the Offensive there were rumors about Do's death, but intelligence sources confirmed that Do had been only slightly wounded in a February 1968 B-52 strike.

In December 1976 Do was elected a member of the VCP Central Committee and a National Assembly deputy. In the 1980s he was named chairman of the National Assembly's Committee of Cultural and Educational Affairs. Do was also once identified as vice-minister of Culture and Information. In 1987 he was elected vice-chairman of the National Assembly and vice-chairman of the State Council (equivalent to vice-president) of the SRV.

Reportedly, Do's demands for reform in the midst of the collapse of the USSR and the end of communism in Eastern Europe led in 1991 to his removal from all party and government posts. He is now under close surveillance, especially as he had written several petitions for political reforms and democracy in Vietnam.

Michael R. Nichols and Ngo N. Trung


Further Reading
Biographical Files, Indo-China Archives, University of California-Berkeley.; Davidson, Phillip B. Vietnam at War, the History: 1946-1975. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1988.; Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. Rev. ed. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.; Olson, James S., ed. Dictionary of the Vietnam War. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1987.; Smith, R. B. An International History of the Vietnam War. London: Macmillan, 1983.
 

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