Ly Tong, born on September 1, 1945 in Hue, South Vietnam, is a Vietnamese – American anti Communist activist. Fighter pilot Ly Tong is best known as the Leaflet Cowboy and James Bond for flying unauthorized flights over the airspace of Communist nations and dropping leaflets over their capitals.
- Early Life: He joined the Republic of Vietnam’s Air Force as an air cadet of Class ‘65A in 1965, and was trained as a pilot in the USA in 1966. After being discharged for disciplinary reasons concerning the punishment of a wicked cadre at Lackland Air Force Base, he worked for RMK and Pacific Architect & Engineer Company as a translator. He was elected as vice-director of the US Programmer Association’s Saigon Chapter thanks to improving a company’s major program. He joined Class 4/68 of Thu Duc Officer Training School under a new mobilization order. Upon graduation he was accepted back into the Air Force for Class 33/69 and became an observation pilot of Squadron 122 Hoa Mi (Nightingale), Tactical Wing 74, Air Division 4, stationed in Binh Thuy (Can Tho province). In 1973 he became a jet fighter pilot, belonging to Squadron 548 O Den (Black Eagle), Tactical Wing 92, Air Division 2, stationed in Phan Rang (Ninh-Thuan province). By nature, a man of the thousand year civilized ancient capital, Ly Tong is a combination of different characters. He is an adventurer, a vagrant, a businessman and a gallant pilot. As a “Top Gun” with many renowned feats of arms, one comment by his fellow pilots was, “ If four tactical regions had four Ly Tongs, Vietcong could not be able to raise their heads.”
- Missions Impossible: Six out of hundreds of Squadron 548’s “Missions Impossible” in which Ly Tong participated include:
1) Phuoc Long Mission: This mission helped disintegrate many Vietcong attack spearheads into Phuoc Long province. Besides a Cross of Gallantry, Ly Tong also received a prize for his poem about this battle.
2) Western Highlands: This mission destroyed the whole Vietcong convoy of a hundred supply lorries.
3) Phuong Hoang Pass: This mission blocked the massive movement of Vietcong troops from Ban Me Thuot province toward Phuong Hoang Pass. Seething with passion in grazing fire of Communist tanks, Ly Tong flew so low that his jet was hit by fragments of his own rockets and stones which were flung about due to an explosion and was later cast off because its cockpit and fuselage received 38 bullet and stone holes. Col. Le Van Thao, commander of the 92nd Tactical Wing complained, “If all the pilots flew with the tactic of great daring like you, our air force wouldn’t have any more airplanes to operate!”
4) Phu Cat Mission: BOBS, standing for Beacon Only Bombing System, is a kind of mission guided by a target director post’s radar. In this mission, the flight leader, when hearing beeps, did not drop bombs because what he detected through broken clouds was the belt of Phu Cat Air Base, and suspected the command post picked out the wrong target coordinates. Ly Tong, Wingman Number 2, pressed the firing button as an automatic reflex to the signal because he saw nothing but a stormy and overcast night. All remaining wingmen followed his lead. The flight leader fell into panic and charged Ly Tong with careless bombing which could cause heavy casualties to friendly troops. But good news came the next morning with a report that the Communists did launch a surprise attack and their whole yellow-star division was annihilated by that bombing salvo! The enemy dead was so numerous that it took one week to bury and the fetid odor of the decomposing corpses polluted the whole region.
5) Dzien Binh Bridge: This was a vital strategic beach head at the border crossing of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, protected by three most seasoned heavy anti-aircraft batteries of Regiment IV, used by Hanoi for wild movements of troops, weapons and supplies to Western Highlands. “At night, when air defense opened fire, Dzien Binh was ablaze as San Francisco lighted up!” one said. Ly Tong once sneaked down alone to 1,000 feet to strike the bridge but his bombs missed it a few meters away due to an overshoot while turning final and avoiding thick clouds. The Kamikaze group was composed of four pilots. Ly Tong was the first and only volunteer who mobilized and urged his close friends to join. Four A37 bombers took off at Pleiku Airport, flew to Kontum to head the enemy off, then turned around “flying over the grass and under tree tops,” skirting alongside of hillsides and canyons toward Dzien Binh. From the ground surface they blasted off when reaching the bridge and dived down to bomb and knock it down by a surprise attack. According to an assessment by the strategic intelligence service, “If the Dzien Binh mission had not taken place, South Vietnam would have collapsed in 1974 instead of 1975.” Major Ta Thuong Tu commented, “The pilot who hit the bridge first is really wonderful. But the one who volunteered first, mobilized his fellows for joining the mission and especially dared make a go-around over Dzien Binh like Ly Tong deserves to be greatly admired manifold.”
6) Ba Ngoi Bridge – The last Mission: At one near final agonizing moment of the South, Ly Tong’s last mission was to demolish Ba Ngoi Bridge on the National road Number 1, between Cam-Ranh and Phan-Rang, in order to stop the Northern Vietnamese Communist invading troops from using it to move farther to the southern provinces of the Republic of Vietnam. Witnessing crowds of people flocked together, shoving each other on the run to escape the enemy over the bridge, Ly Tong decided to skim over the ground to signal them avoiding the bridge, but streams of refugees still strived to pass before it became too late. Caused by his kind heart, always aware of the safety and lives of innocent compatriots, Ly Tong made three low passes for warning. At the time while gaining altitude to drop bombs, his jet was hit by a SA.7 heat-seeking missile at 100 meters altitude, exploded and shattered to pieces. He was saved, unharmed, by an automatic chain reaction of the bailout machine, when the detonator of the jump seat was ignited by the fire. On April 5, 1975, after a couple of hours of fleeing and hiding, he was captured by the aggressors. His whereabouts became known due to the passionate cheering of a group of kids running after him when he tried to get access to National Road Number 1. The Communists staged a show trial of People’s Court and encouraged people to stone him to death. The locals knew him well and threw apples, breads and food instead.
III. In Communist Prisons: Thus began nearly a decade of incarceration, tortures, escapes and rescues.
- Lam Son Prison: Ly Tong was transferred through many prisons but settled down at Lam Son Prison where he made his first attempt to escape and was arrested at Phuong Hoang Pass (where he had once been nearly killed by his own rocket shrapnel). Before the prison’s Peoples Court, this indomitable fighter refused the order to kneel and when guards pointed guns at him, shouted, “Shoot! This Ly Tong dies, there are still hundreds of thousands of other Ly Tongs!” He was sentenced to “conex’ imprisonment. For six months, he existed in an 8-foot-high by 4½ -foot-wide freight container. Interior daytime temperatures exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, plummeting temperatures stiffened Ly Tong’s limbs. Stones thrown against the conex boomed like bomb explosions and denied him sleep. Air, food—handfuls of rice and salt—and Ly Tong’s own wastes passed through the same small hole in a side of a box. The jailer used pincers to pull out three of his toenails. He laughed at them and said, “You can pull out my nails but not my iron will!” Every time the conex opened, Vietcong soldiers, living in barracks surrounding him, gathered in the front yard to watch him and discussed: “This pilot, for the ‘puppet’ government of South Vietnam, seems to be regarded as Hero Nguyen Van Troi of ours!” At this prison, his elder brother, a Communist French faculty chair, was denied a visit due to his declaration, “In the old days we were brothers of the same blood, but now, after having joined Communists, you became ‘khat/khac mau’ (blood thirsty/of different blood)!” (A play on words in Vietnamese with khat: thirsty and khac: different).
- Camp 52: As the story of his defiance became legend, Ly Tong’s captors tried to break him. When disciplining him at Camp 52 for insulting a jailer, they shackled his legs high and tied him up with his hands behind him while lying on his stomach so that his whole body could contact the ground only at a small point on his face. One night, six guards came and surrounded him. One of them rubbed a bayonet fixed to a gun along his neck and grumbled, “I have an itch for stabbing you now!” Another guard jeered, “Not on your knees here, on your face! How do you feel now?” “Honorable!” Ly Tong spat back, “Six men treat me like an animal, but who is the animal, who the man?” All of them suddenly kicked him at the same time, and ran away when he shouted, “Cowards!” His shouting resonated to his fellow prisoners’ sleeping rooms and they told him later that they thought they were hearing the last scream of his death pangs. The next day, in the director’s office, the prison chief told Ly Tong, “I heard news about your refusing to kneel. If I were you, I would do the same because to kneel in front of hundreds of comrades-in-arms is a disgrace, a dishonor. Now, there is nobody around here but you and me. If you agree to kneel before our national father’s picture, Uncle Ho, who is admired by the whole world, I will revoke the punishment order and let you out of the shackle room right away.” Ly Tong responded, “Nobody is around but there still remains you, me, Mr. Ho’s picture, heaven and earth, my conscience, my honor. I’d rather be put in the stocks than bear indignity, ignominy!” Surprisingly, due to his high respect for Ly Tong’s inflexible will, the director ordered his release from the discipline cell.
- Camp 53: The wicked group of seven were transferred to Camp 53 along with him and other prisoners. One day while in jungle, they called “skinny Thư” and “muscular Đề” to their rest place to have a talk. They asked them, “Do you know why we liked to beat you and call you guys ‘parasites?’” Thư replied, “Because we don’t learn political indoctrination well, don’t do the productive work well and don’t comply with the prison regulations well!” “Stop that parrot-like repeating!” One of them interrupted. “In the past you guys were officers at the field grade and general grade. You had the life-and-death authority in your hands. But now many of yours are so coward that some even volunteered to carry our sandals when passing the sloughs. You know pilot Ly Tong? We once had a bash at him and never messed up with him again due to our admiration of his indomitability.” But other fellow inmates were not as lucky as Ly Tong. Lieutenant Đại who steadfastly refused to give information about his security network to save his staffs was beaten and hanged to death by a torture expert sent from the Ministry of the Interior. Another prisoner was burnt in his cell by a fire and became maimed for life. Ly Tong once was a little shaken when he unexpectedly caught this expert’s “gloomy” eyes which was secretly spying on him as if ghost eyes radiating from the 9th stage of the Hades before he left Camp 53 with dead bodies behind! And at this camp, his brother could meet him the first time for 15 minutes after a long 5-day trip and a failed visit at Camp 52 before during the time he was shackled.
- A.30 Prison: The last prison was A.30 where he met again T.A., a student having studied abroad in America and being trapped in Vietnam while on her vacation back home because of the fall of the South. She visited her father, a POW, at Lam Son prison, and received 2 verses from him: “Miss Beauty! Are you the Muse? Or I’ve once in my dream seen you?” This time she was imprisoned here due to her failed escape for freedom. She looked for him when hearing rumor of his arrival and received his 2 more extempore verses : “Miss Beauty! Are you a prisoner also? How sorrowful felt my heart and soul!” She offered him a sandal and he always carried it on his shoulders instead of wearing it because he could not violate his swearing: “Between the earth and heaven I lived free” by walking hatless and barefoot. When prison charged those who stealthily ate what they grew to fill their empty stomaches as “theft,” he argued: “You jailers who ate our products without sweating in labor are thieves and exploiters, not prisoners.” Since then, the prison changed the charge as “crops destruction” without any humiliation. He even played a practical joke on the general director of the corrections department who praised the flower bed at the prison front gate “as beautiful as a fairy” by retorting: “When the cactus flowers are in full bloom, the barbed-wire fence will be more beautiful!” (The prison grew cactus to strengthen the fence to prevent escape). And when the boss commended highly the prison standard: “How can you prisoners eat up a washbasinful of rice?” Ly Tong mocked: “Oh sure! Sir! One man could not do it. But, unfortunately, it’s a ration for ten prisoners, not one!” It came the time when jailers decided to test Ly Tong’s will by beating senseless one prisoner a day in the jungle. On the way back to prison they asked loudly of each other, “When will come Ly Tong’s turn?” Knowing that sooner or later he would be offended, he decided to fulfill either one of his two declarations, “Anyone beats me, he will either be dead or crippled!” (Some rumored that he was a 7th degree black belt in karate.) Or, “You have the power to keep me in jail, but to free myself anytime from jail is my power to decide!” Ly Tong chose the second and succeeded in escaping A.30 Prison after almost 6 years in jail. Captain Ngoc, Political Welfare Officer of Division II, VNAF, his fellow inmate once related, “Ly Tong is an idol of Nha Trang youth!”
- In Saigon: After a successful escape, his big problem was a place to live and food to eat in Saigon because all people were poor and hungry under the communist policy of pauperization, “stomach ruling” and “tertiary formation control.” Only one person dared to hide him was an adopted daughter of his sister-in- law. She was a jobless single mom with 2 little kids, but she had many young and beautiful friends who were working for song and dance company. These girls admired the stormy life of a Top Gun on the run. Thanks to their helps and his strong instinct for survival, he escaped by a hair’s breadth the claws and teeth of many police searches during one year living in shadows. But the trouble began when each girl recognized that this amorous pilot was not her own partner, but a joint lover of theirs! In September 1981, he penetrated into Tan Son Nhat Airport twice to steal planes in order to bomb the prison headquarters to rescue his comrades-in-arms but could not operate them because all were cannibalized and especially empty of fuel. Communists only fill the tanks and load the bombs half an hour before missions to avoid either fuel or aircraft theft. Finally, he decided to escape overland since he had no money to do otherwise.
- Long Trek To Freedom
As September 1981 progressed, he walked, hitchhiked and rode buses to reach Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital. He traveled with a boy he had met at the Vietnam-Cambodian border. They were arrested at the train station. After he failed to escape from the detention room, they were both transferred to Prison 7708 and kept in different cells. After two weeks, he broke the window, squeezed out and fled alone. The fishing group’s boss in Dai Con refused his voluntary work-for-food due to his “noble” deportment, not suitable for hard work under water. On the next day, a serious accident happened that drowned one of four professional divers. No one dared jump in the water and swim deep to the river bed to find him but Ly Tong, due to their superstitious belief that the river ghost would revenge. Witnessing his dedication and occupational speciality (thanks to his swimming practice since a little boy), the boss decided to hire Ly Tong as a fisherman to replace a dead one. He worked 4 months to make money and then pedaled a bicycle to Sisophone, Cambodia’s last town where he was hunted by soldiers and villagers. He had to hide in a bush that was covering a large ant hill. He was forced to stay motionless for six hours as thousands of ants swarmed over him, repeatedly biting him. He finally got out in the late evening when all was quiet and the manhunt had stopped. He then had to side-step land mines, outfox security patrols, and crawl through the jungle to avoid border posts for two days and nights without food and water before reaching Thailand. As in Saigon, along his long trek, Ly Tong was helped by many ladies. That’s why he claimed his fate was protected by the guardian Goddess. In the first hour in Thailand, he met a lady on the street near Thai-Cambodian border. After knowing his flight, she took him back home, gave him food to eat and money, then asked her beautiful daughter to give him a ride on her motorbike to a pagoda near-by. He slept overnight there with the girl’s perfume lingered on and the pagoda bell and wooden fish sounded like a burial service to his past. On the next morning, he caught a taxi and surrendered himself to the United Nations’ Red Cross. He was transferred to Aran jail. Colonel Tong Den, the chief of Thai Border Intelligence wanted to know who had helped him when finding Thai new-issued baht (Thai money) in his pocket. To avoid trouble for the benefactress’s family, he asserted that he changed money in Cambodia. The colonel did not believe and threaten to secretly kill him during a quarrel in which Ly Tong said, “We are officers and former allies. If you don’t respect me, I don’t care who the f. you are!” To oppose the Colonel’s harsh treatment, Ly Tong began his Hunger Strike. Daniel, a Swiss girl working for UN High Commissioner for Refugees, took care of him by visiting him everyday. When she persuaded him that the outside world still had many beautiful things worth his being alive to enjoy, he responded, “The happiest time of my life is when I have you sitting nearby in the cell with me an hour each day. So how should I abandon it? ” She replied, “How amorous you are while on the brink of death! You’re not dead yet but I’ve already died of your romance!” He did not change his mind even after a group of seven Thai military prisoners brought him downstairs to beat under the boss’s order. He only stopped when Thai jailers threatened to continue beating unconcious all other Vietnamese refugees each night as long as he still persisted on his opposing plan. The first day when he began to eat again, a Thai prisoner in charge of distributing food tried to mess up with him. Ly Tong broke the man’s three front teeth with a punch and his friends jumped in to retaliate. Surprisingly, Thai imprisoned soldiers later admired him, called him “Big Boss,” treated him with respect and offered him foods and gifts. Although the US consulate confirmed his identity, the colonel still transferred him to Nong Samet, an abandoned refugee camp after having chained him over a year. With a curse, the colonel stated, “You will rot at this remote Cambodian border!” Ly Tong laughed back, “See you in Bangkok next month!” At the camp, to make friends with Esther, a female Philipino working as a Red Cross lab chief, he asked her for blood and then urine check. Both results were “negative.” He told her, “There must be some other kind of germs if not gonorrhea or syphilis. Each time I pass your lab, I got an infectious fever. Is it a love-germ?!” Love story began and she helped him with a ride on a jeep along the border to study and a map covering Thailand and Singapore. In his last days there, he unexpectedly met Daniel, who volunteered to work a second term in Thailand in order to meet him again. Daniel gave him some money and her photo. (By a quirk of fate, her name was mentioned in President Ronald Reagan’s letter for him. “With Daniel, you walked through the lions’ den, sustained by your faith in God, and emerged victorious.”) In the night when Communist Vietnamese were shelling the nearby area, he escaped and walked back through the jungle to Aranyapathet to meet Esther. He stayed overnight and then went to Bangkok with her for four days. That short love story gave birth to his third daughter and gave him, a bachelor, another title: International Father. Ly Tong had two other daughters, one with a French girl and another by a Chinese girlfriend. He next took a train to Hat Yai, crawled through the border jungle, and boarded a bus to Kuala Lampur. He enjoyed sightseeing the Malaysian capital as a tourist and left for Singapore. His odyssey stretched over 17 months and took him some 1,560 miles without documents through 5 countries. Three prisons couldn’t hold him. It ended within just nine days after he swam at night the sometimes treacherous Strait of Johore separating Malaysia andSingapore island. Ly Tong caught a taxi to the US embassy, arriving slightly damp but in style on February 10, 1983. Julian, chief of the counter-espionage bureau of Singapore, commented, “Ly Tong is the master of Papillon.” He was transferred to GalangRefugee Camp in Indonesia for a few months before leaving for Boston, Massachusetts, USA on his birthday, September 1, 1983 as a political refugee. Ly Tong’s daring escape was reported by world renowned media such as Reader’s Digest: “His flight has become one of the great escape sagas of our time.” (“Ly Tong’s Long Trek To Freedom,” Anthony Paul, June 1984); The Wall Street Journal: “Ly Tong is in a class by himself…Ly Tong’s overland trip from Vietnam to Singapore covered 2,500 kilometers, along which he negotiated mine-fields, escaped from three prisons, and swam Johore Strait” (“Ly Tong’s Odyssey,” Barry Wain, March 2, 1983); and Citypaper: “Harrowing escapes! Daring parachute jumps! Marathon swims! The wild misadventures of Ly Tong, the James Bond of Vietnam, bright hope of the Vietnamese community in Philadelphia and beyond”(The Last Action Hero,” Christopher McDougas). Ly Tong was also praised by US President Ronald Reagan, “Your courage is an example and inspiration to all who would know the price of freedom.” He was honored by the Council of the City of New Orleans, “The Council hereby commends Mr. Ly Tong for his bravery in escape and his commitment to the principle of freedom in the face of overwhelming odds.” (Resolution R-84-436); the Washington State Senate, “recognizes the valiant efforts of Freedom Fighter Aviator Ly Tong…Such efforts deserve the respect, admiration, and acknowledgement of all” (Resolution 8616); “He’ll probably be the mayor of Santa Ana inside ten years” (Dan Sullivan, US refugee coordinator for Indonesia and Singapore) and Professor Stephen E. Ambrose, author of the official biography of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon’s: “Like ‘Ike’ Eisenhower, fighter for freedom, a hero from another war;” Hanh Saigon, his former girlfriend: “You’re a man who can master his own destiny;” even Colonel Tong Den turned out to become one of his admirers: “I’ve never seen a great fighter like him in my life!”
- In America: Ly Tong enrolled in Harvard University but was refused due to lack of school records and financial aid qualifications. He had no other alternative but to ad-lib, “Today I asked to be a student, Harvard refuses. Tomorrow Harvard invites me to be a master, I’ll reject it too.” After having traveled around from New York to Washington, D.C. and from California to Texas, in 1984, he settled down in New Orleans, Louisiana, working as a club manager. He organized a crime fighting squad and enrolled at the University of New Orleans. Four months after the China Town’s grand opening, a robbery cleaned it out. One month later an armed gang of four came back and the confrontation resulted in the death of the ring leader. A few months later another armed gang came to challenge Ly Tong. With one smash of a gunstock to his head, the provocateur breathed his last. Ly Tong ordered the gang to remove the body from his dancing hall. Miraculously, after having stopped breathing for ten minutes, the dead man began to breathe again and survived the ordeal while being carried out with many tumbles due to the gang’s fear of being killed! After 9 years of hard studies, Ly Tong graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1988, and a Master of Arts in political science in 1990, with inclusion on the National Dean’s List. In 1992, Ly Tong’s schedule to defend his Ph.D. dissertation in political science on April 21 was delayed till after the day of his departure for a next mission due to a factional conflict and the chair of his examination committee had been displaced. He could not miss the golden opportunity after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Eastern European Countries to apply the “People’s Power” doctrine he had initiated since 1982 and peoples had used it to overthrow 23 dictatorial regimes around the world .
VII. Dropping Leaflets In Vietnam (I):
- Ubon Air Base: On August 20, 1992, Ly Tong left for Thailand with the “Motorcycle-Racing Revolution” plan for practical conditions of Vietnam. He succeeded in penetrating into Ubon, a military airbase, but due to the aircraft’s weak battery, he could not steal a jet plane to drop leaflets, bomb Khanh Hoi fuel depot in Saigon as a catalyst, and bail out to organize and lead uprising forces to overthrow the Hanoi regime. He intended to turn its forty-seventh “Birth Day” (September 2, 1992) into its “Death Day”.The commander of this airbase confirmed an unauthorized attempt to start the engine of an A-37B bomber at about 4 a.m. on September 1, 1992. On September 4, Ly Tong carried out the second plan, commandeered a Vietnamese Airlines Airbus 310-200 from Bangkok to Saigon (renamed Ho Chi Minh City) by bluffing that he had a bomb, and dropped 50,000 anti-Communist leaflets in order to lead the uprising as the insurgency’s “Commander in Chief” against Communism in his native land. He then was sucked out through the cockpit window, struggling with the parachute’s cords tangling his legs, from 7,000 to 2,000 feet. He luckily fell into a small pond where a thick layer of mud saved his life. After four hours of dodging a manhunt by all local forces, he swam across the Rach Ong River. A civilian who saw him suspected he was a sampan thief and mustered the area’s villagers to chase him by boat as he dived into a big lake scattered over with duckweed fern. After having been beaten three times with big sticks when he was found, he surrendered. He was handed over to the police and detained after the disclosure of his identity. Security investigators informed him, “We will treat you with due process in a civil manner, not as you used to condemn us.” Ly Tong laughed, “ Just go ahead and use any of your most sophisticated torture methods. I’ve been ready for the worst-case scenario since the arrest.” They added, “Don’t doubt our sincerity, since yours is a ‘revolutionary’ family!” Ly Tong retorted, “My family is not a VC-styled revolutionary family, but a ‘genuine’ revolutionary one! My father fought against French colonialism and was killed by French colonists. My brother was an aberrant patriot who fought against the United States of America. The majority of my family have fought against the Communists and were rated by them as the most reactionary and stubborn. If I could not preserve my dignity and honor before this court, in the future my offsprings would be against me!”
- Chi Hoa Jail: He was transferred to AB building of this jail which is reserved for the death penalty. Oddly enough, the dangerous criminals who defied jailers admired him. At night, from room after room, they shouted protocol statements such as, “We wish your Excellency Hijacker a good night with many dreams of beautiful girls and soon come back to become the president of Vietnam.” His brother once seeing him sitting cross-legged while conversing with the prison director as an equal in rank reprimanded, “You should not be so impolite.” Ly Tong retorted, “You were born under French slavery, have grown up under Communist slavery and experienced two trials of landlords and land reform. That’s why the slave spirit has ingrained in your blood and engraved in your brain. As for me, I was born and have grown up in freedom; therefore I am used to behaving in the manner of a free man, even in front of the head of state.” When the AB building chief mocked him: “You’re really crazy. No handsome man at the doctoral level and high social status can leave behind his enjoyable life and beautiful girls for prison like you!” his deputy retorted: “There is, fortunately, only one crazy Ly Tong. If there were ten crazy men like him, we now all would have been imprisoned taking over his place in jail.” Ly Tong went on a hunger strike for 48 days to object to the suppression of outside communication and the exclusion of political acts in his charge.
- VC Court: On February 24, 1993, before the Communist court he declared, “My nationality is that of the Republic of Vietnam, not Vietnamese Communist nationality;” “A ferocious tiger cannot resist a pack of Ho/wolves. (‘Ho’, in Vietnamese means wolf and Ho Chi Minh, too). Yet six children of Mr. Ho sitting up there have master’s and doctor’s degrees. They highly and mightily proclaim themselves ‘the pinnacle of human intellect, but persist in interrupting and gagging me and dare not let me speak freely to argue the whole problem out; “On behalf of justice, the Motherland and the people, I come back to overthrow the Communist regime. You, also on behalf of justice, the Motherland and the people indict me. At this court, you’re the judges and I’m the accused. But besides this, there is another court in which history and people are the final fair and impartial judges of our exploits and faults;” “The more severe the sentence I get, the higher my service merit toward the Motherland and the people and when this regime collapses, the longer your stay in prison in my place;” “If you condemn me to death, you help make me a martyr!” He was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment.
- Xuan Phuoc Prison: After being transferred to this prison, Ly Tong punished an “antenna” (an informer) and had a failed escape. A Vietnamese Communist captain there dared say, “All your feats of valor are praised by everyone!” After he had been transferred to the North following one week being shackled to prevent another escape, his prison inmates rose in rebellion, with the condonation of a few jailers, against the prison ploy to keep political prisoners from meeting the UN Human Rights group coming to investigate their claims. Therefore, all political as well as religious prisoners of Xuan Phuoc prison later were transferred to the North as a punishment.
- Ba Sao Prison: He came to this prison along with leaders of four other groups. After one-week class studying prison regulations as a procedure for newcomers, Ly Tong wrote, “I came back to Vietnam in order to change and improve its laws, not to obey them;” “I’ll strive hard to reeducate this regime. Whenever it makes progress, I’ll go home. If it does not, I’ll set myself free!” He then went on a hunger strike with four demands for political prisoners: 1. Living in different lodgements, 2. No labor, 3. Enjoying normal daily life activity, 4. Free access to books and magazines. A week later, he was transferred to Ba Sao B with an activist Doan Viet Hoat. There, the prison applied this rule, “No eat, then no drink.” The jailers brought in good foods to lure him and took photographs for evidence. He refuted their scam with the statement, “In America chicken like this even dogs don’t have an appetite for. Moreover, people might think you guys are plotting to kill me because a hunger striker can only eat soup and these tough meats would harm him!” After his declaration, they stopped playing games. Twice a day, a doctor was sent to check on his health. During 3 weeks, he violated this rule twice by drinking a dirty water in the WC. On the thirtieth day , due to the doctor’s warning that he was on the brink of death, the director came to see him and accept his four demands. A separate building was then reserved for political prisoners, and each had his own room. He and other Vietnamese Americans were allowed to receive visits from the United States consuls with the attendance of the prison director and officials from the Home Affairs department. Since they assumed an attitude of inferiority toward Communist officials, Ly Tong asked, “You, Mr. and Mrs. Consul, draw a salary from American tax-payers or receive your pay from Communist government? And why do you talk the similar tone as Communist officials? Have you ever read and studied the UN Convention on Human Rights and Prisoners’ Rights? You need to base on it to fight for our rights and interests;” “You’re a consul of the United States of America, a world superpower. Why do you talk in so timid and faint-hearted tone as officials of small and weak countries such as Laos and Cambodia?” Another time, to mock the Communists’ changed way of addressing, he said, “Mr. Consul! We should address to one another the title ‘Your Excellency.’ Formerly, Vietcong called everybody ‘thang’ (classifier for inferiors): Thang Lich, thang Tieu, thang Ky to indicate President Nixon, Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Cao Ky. At this time, no matter ‘long nose or pug nose,’ if people have some rank and function, they willingly address ‘Your Excellency’ superficially!” The prison officials also had a hard time with Ly Tong. He wore suits instead of the prison uniform with reason that, “If not better, at least I must be equal in appearance to you jailers.” When the director proposed, “If you belittle the prisoners’ haircut, let me be your barber.” Ly Tong blustered, “You can cut my head, but not my hair!” When he got mad, Captain Nam used to say, “Nobody’s done nothing! So why do you have a fit of temper again?” and Captain Chanh: “Calm down! Calm down! Everything can be solved step by step. Don’t be so hot tempered” before abandoning and going away. Major Thang, deputy chief, who was in charge of escorting his group from Xuan Phuoc to Ba Sao, once said half joking, half serious, “If you’re on hunger strike till death, there’s nobody left to fight against Communists. Don’t you know?” Ly Tong talked back, “Alive or dead, eating or hunger striking, staying or self freeing….each depends on the circumstances. If my death is more useful than my survival, I’ll go for my death!” Buddhist Venerable Tue Si once said, “You’re so formidable, Ly Tong. Every time you shout the jailers are beside themselves with fear, running like ducks!” They also had a headache each time he went out, passing work places of common criminals. He modified Vietcong slogans and songs and read loudly, making a laughing stock of them. “Emulate until death! Emulate!” or, “Go ahead and pride yourself upon your Hue! As long as my Hue stands up, you will surely be vomiting out blood!” He did not even spare a lady captain in charge of the prisoner canteen, “Hey, Mrs. Sam, at this hour, what’s the use of wasting for Colonel Prison Director a dozen of beer bottles everyday? This regime is going to collapse and fall soon! What you need to do is to serve me devotedly and when that bad time comes, I will cut down your prison sentence in half!” Feeling shame in front of criminal prisoners at this, all she could do was to mutter, “You, mister, always specialize in talking desultory nonsense!” His way of behaving made some jailors nervous as if the regime’s days were numbered. Some of them even asked him without hesitation as if their fates were in his hands to decide, “If this regime collapses, how will you treat us?” He uttered solemnly, “You guys are only the victims of this regime. We won’t blood bathe, or imprison all of you as you did to us. Only the chieftains in the politburo really deserve being hanged. If you fulfill your tasks rightly and humanely, I’ll not only assign you to the same duty but also upgrade the good ones.” Even the director general of the corrections department had to salute him in the mocking game. He met Ly Tong before he went abroad to make an inspection visit of Japanese prison system. Ly Tong told him, “You will learn the value of real freedom that people enjoy in the free nations!” After his trip, the director returned to Ba Sao and mocked Ly Tong, “You’ve praised the freedom people enjoy in the ‘free world.’ In Japan, when I requested to interview a Japanese worker, they dared not accept it. Is it your real freedom?” Ly Tong replied, “You know why? If they let you contact and talk to Japanese workers, they would learn that you are not only a Communist but also a general director of the Communist corrections department. You remember Karl Marx’s slogan, ‘Workers of the world, unite!’ They might kill you to avenge their Vietnamese fellow workers having been exploited and oppressed by Communists. So, the reason is to prevent diplomatic problems between two nations due to your death, not lack of freedom in Japan!” The last time he had a war of words with the director was in August 1998. Ly Tong was summoned to his office to receive a friendly presentation. “Mr. Ly Tong, I know that you’ve been in prison for many years and you’re not in good health at this old age. I really respect you and have a special sympathy for you. If you fill out this application, make a confession and beg for the President’s pardon to let you return to your family, I promise to sign it with favorable approval so you can be freed soon.” Ly Tong rolled his eyes with anger and shouted at him, “You Communists are guilty of betraying the motherland and people; therefore you are the ones to confess your guilt and beg people’s pardon! I came back to save country and people with great admirable exploits. Why and what should I confess and who has power to pardon me?” In fact, the Vietnamese government had already decided to release him as part of an amnesty program along with other democratic activists: Doan Viet Hoat, Nguyen Dan Que, and Venerable Thich Quang Do…in order to establish diplomatic normalization with the United States and to be on the US List of Most Favored Nations (MFN). On September 1, 1998, (his birthday) Ly Tong arrived at San Francisco airport and was welcomed by hundreds of his compatriots as a “man who came back from the dead.” He proclaimed, “We had strangled Communists strong enough that they had to spit out three of us today. We need to strangle them stronger so that they have to spit out all the remaining prisoners of conscience. And we need to continue to strangle them until the Communist tyrannical regime will completely breathe its last!” Ly Tong had written the most glorious page in his history and become the joint pride of the Vietnamese people. He slighted honor and wealth when becoming successful and famous in a foreign country. He had sacrificed his life for the nation’s just cause, spoken up human aspiration for freedom and lighted up millions of torches shining the sky of Vietnam. Ly Tong’s remarkable acts of bravery have been admired by the world. Poet Ha Huyen Chi has written, “A bravery above the peak of bravery, A sacrifice above the apex of sacrifice. When Ly Tong sets off for his missions, the world bows to pay its respect, saluting the just cause and the national hero.” And Poet Nguyen Lap Dong wrote, “Let roar the attack order ‘Sat Dat’ (To kill the Tartar enemies) and light up your own life as a torch to brighten the Nam sky.”
VIII. Dropping Leaflets In Cuba: Havana Mission
After 6 years in Communist prison, Ly Tong returned to the University of New Orleans, passing the five-year dead line to defend his dissertation. Therefore he had to write a new one. He also spared time traveling around the world to give speeches to Vietnamese communities and organizations about his experiences and future plans. He then decided to foment an uprising that would topple the Castro regime and restore the breath of freedom to Cuba. His anti-Castro vision clicked into focus when he was invited to speak to a group of Cuban-Americans in Miami, and learned that a dozen Cuban-Americans had died fighting for freedom of Vietnam against Communism and that many others were disabled in the Vietnam War. He intended to make a small contribution to pay them back. The payback was an adventurous flight on 1 January 2000, Cuba’s 41st National Day. It was the first day of the new millennium with the Y2K bug which could bring with it the potential disaster for computer and radar systems. He leased a small plane, left Key West, Florida, for Havana, to urge revolt against the Old Dinosaur Fidel Castro, and to declare the death of the four-decade inhuman and tyrannical regime. The luck of the game helped him when he took off later than planned and the control tower suspected him as a drug trafficker and requested to have three planes following him: one F-16, one Black Hawk and one AWACS. After having seen him drop 50,000 anti-Communist leaflets over Cuba’s capital, denouncing “the old dinosaur” Fidel Castro, with the slogan, “You bow your heads, Castro sits astride you necks. You stand up, Castro collapses,” Cuban MIG’s decided to shoot him down as they had done with two planes flown to the island by Brothers to the Rescue, a Miami based exile group, ending with the deaths of four pilots. American pilots, aware of the Communist MIGs, intercepted to save him and followed him on his return to Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport in Florida, where he was detained for almost 5 hours due to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement not being able to get in touch with the Attorney General who was on vacation. Finally, the White House had the last say and decided to release him without charges. He volunteered to surrender his pilot’s license to theFederal Aviation Administration. Ly Tong, the daredevil pilot, was once praised as the James Bond of Vietnam, and now was hailed in Miami’s Little Havana by half a million Cuban Americans as a true Hero, a binational Hero in Three King parade. Paul Brinkley-Rogers in the Herald newspaper wrote, “Vietnamese-American schoolchildren often write compositions lauding his daring exploits, and poetry idolizing his Don Quixote brand of tragic heroism which have appeared in Vietnamese language magazines.” The Honorable Joseph Dunn, 34th Senatorial District of California, took “this opportunity to recognize the heroic efforts of Freedom Fighter Ly Tong, and extended to him best wishes as he continues his brave fight for freedom, democracy and human rights for the Vietnamese people and all oppressed people world wide.” “Ly Tong be recognized by all the citizens of Sweetwater as a true patriot and freedom fighter fighting for a cause that is shared by all Cubans and other peoples of the world where Communism still exists.” (Resolution No. 2760 of the Mayor and Commission of the City of Sweetwater, Florida). Cuba’s request for Ly Tong’s extradition was denied by the United States and the United Nations.
- Dropping Leaflets In Vietnam (II):
When he accomplished the second dissertation and, during the time of waiting to defend it, he had another mission to fulfil. Ly Tong had a plan to knock down Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, a symbol of the regime’s dragon’s layer of earth (having a decisive influence on its fate). He tried to contact General Vang Pao and H’Mong resistance forces so that he could fly from Laos to Hanoito bomb it. The spy mission failed due to the General being in mourning and cutting off all communications. He changed to the second combat plan when he found out about President Bill Clinton’s visit to Vietnam. He would go to Cambodia to prepare the next mission. Due to a guide’s betrayal, an air sortie scheduled for November 14, 2000 was cancelled so he flew back to Thailand. On November 17th, the eve of President Clinton’s visit, he chartered a small plane and offered fifteen thousand U.S. dollars in cash (10 thousand paid in advance) and gifts of $5,000 value for Thai instructor pilot to fly from Thailand to Vietnam and drop fifty thousand anti-Communist leaflets over Saigon. Due to the lack of lights on a stormy night, Ly Tong could not land at a Thai border runway and escape as planned. Instead he agreed with Thira’s proposal to land at Utapao where a rescue operation had been launched after the loss of his plane radar signal.
- Banchang Police Station: Thanks to the instructor’s true testimony in two investigations at Utapao Air Base and the Banchang police station, Captain Pilot Leuchai confirmed that Ly Tong had violated no laws in this mission. The next morning, under Communist Vietnam’s threat to sue Thailand, the flight school’s director and a police lieutenant general came to Banchang Police Station. When Ly Tong had an interview on air with a Vietnamese-American radio program from San Jose, a Thai major commented: “Your’re abnormal!” Ly Tong replied, “Yes! Only the abnormal do what I did. Normal people like you occupy themselves mostly with eating, drinking, gambling, fucking, sleeping, shitting, making money!” They forced Thira to contradict his previous statement in order to charge him with hijacking under Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai’s personal instruction, “The national police chief carefully investigates the issue as if this kind of incident occurs repeatedly, it could create a misunderstanding with our neighbors.” Mrs. Suthathif, the translator, testified, “Ly Tong was very nice to Thira. He used no threat, no force, only begging for help. Afraid of losing his job and family, Thira had to change his testimony and was very sorry.” At this prison, a Thai Lieutenant General came to visit him 3 times. At the last one, he confirmed that Ly Tong was his classmate at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, USA, in 1966, 34 years ago. He ordered to make a new mosquito net system for the detention center according Ly Tong’s request. Since then, Thai jailers in different prisons thought that Ly Tong was a Lieutenant General, too, and call him “Nai Pon” without considering that South Vietnam had fallen in 1975 and Ly Tong’s class got Lieutenant Colonel as the highest rank at that time. (Thai Generals under 3 stars are called “Chum Pon” and 3 stars up “Nai Pon.”)
- Rayong Prison: When arriving at Rayong prison, the Deputy Director (the real authority in charge of running the prison while the Director is only a figure head with a short tenure) tested him by letting as assistant prisoner ordering Ly Tong to bow before the Boss. He refused to obey. Since then, this Boss treated him respectfully and friendly. When two prisoners’ attempt to escape was discovered and both beaten to death, Ly Tong filed a complaint to the United Nations and Thai Corrections Department. There was no feedback. He met the Boss who admitted that he did not like the culprit jailers, too, but could do nothing because “Beating prisoners to death commits no crime in Thailand!” The only measure he could do was to transfer them to other sections not responsible for applying discipline. Some of his roommates got death sentence but were acquitted after paying from 1 to 2 million baht ($25,000 to $50,000)! In Thai Justice System, “money talk” was the way of doing business. Buddhism is Thai national religion. That’s why at night, prisoners must say a Buddhist prayer and King praise. Normally, Buddhist monks used to give alms to prisoners, but Thai monks went to prison to beg for food! This was a chance for prisoners to meet their loved ones kept in different sections if they afforded to offer food. Ly Tong began a hunger strike to oppose the false and contradictory indictment. On one page the indictment said, “Later on 18 November 2000, the officer has arrested the defendant and held him on two documents, which the defendant used for threatening the disadvantageous person in the accusation under No. 1A.” On another, “One GPS,US$10,000.00 and one video camera, which the defendant used as reward to induce the disadvantageous person to join and cooperate in such offense with the defendant.” After two and a half months, Ly Tong decided to stop drinking, too, to quicken his collapse.
- Hospital: On the thirteenth day of his thirst strike, he was transferred to a hospital emergency room where the doctor told him, “You cannot die. Because, if you die, I’ll be replacing you in prison!” The General Director of the Corrections Department came to visit him. He tried to trap Ly Tong by inviting him to join in his lunch. Ly Tong replied, “It is a great honor to be invited by the General Director, but I am sorry to refuse it. I cannot violate my principal of hunger strike.” The Boss retorted, “If we give up to your hunger strike and release you without going through the legal procedures, we violate our principal, too. We can not do it!” After lunch, the doctor came back to say that the King’s chief of cabinet phoned him to check on Ly Tong’s state of health and added, “I will transfer you to an outside hospital. With better treatment and environment you might change your mind and stop your hunger strike.” The better hospital was, in fact, a psychiatric hospital and even its doctors wondered why the hell he should be there. He now lived among lunatics who yelled, caused disorder night and day and one of them even enjoyed cutting off his last toe! One of the therapies was to teach them how to masturbate to release mental pressures. He decided to drink juice to hold out and wait for news from America. No US officials seemed to care. At this hospital, he learned that his brother, who in his first mission in Vietnam, lost all his party’s seniority and his service bonus and in his second mission, was summoned to the security office to investigate his involvement. After three hours, his sister-in-law was summoned to bring his dead body back home!
- Rayong Court: After three months of drinking fruit juice and still in stable condition, he was transferred back to Rayong prison to attend court. Knowing that Thai attorneys were only legal dealers in the corrupt court business, he decided to defend himself. His request to screen his video footage before the court was accepted. This recorded the friendly and cooperative dialogue between them during the leaflet dropping mission, especially the part where Thira asked him when the leaflets were all dropped, “Okay! You are satisfied with the result?” But the judges did not pay attention to either the video evidence or Suthathif’s true testimony. EvenConsul Jeffery confessed, “I believe or not believe your innocence doesn’t make any difference!” Angry with the consul’s irresponsible behavior, he questioned, “So what’s the use of your attendance if not to legalize the wrongdoings of this corrupt court?” Before Rayong court, as he was cited for contempt, he retorted, “The contempt of court is not as serious as the contempt of justice, especially when the offenders are judges and prosecutors. Any day I cannot put you judges and prosecutors in jail yet, that day I will die without closing my eyes!” Later Ly Tong wrote in his testimony, “This country needs the Deluge to get rid of all the corrupt and decadent and Mrs, Suthathif should be on the Noah’s Ark to beget a new breed deserving the noble title of Thai Kingdom.” To mobilize the Vietnam Americans supporting Bush’s plan to liberate Iraq from Saddam’s oppressive government, he decided to go on another hunger strike. After 33 days he stopped when the first US missiles exploded in the dictator’s heartland. On Dec. 25, 2003 he was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison.
- Klong Premn Prison: He was transferred to Klong Premn prison to serve the remainder of his sentence. Thailand is notorious for its “Lady Boys.” Most of them have big bosoms inflated with silicone or by female hormone and a few have genitalia operation. At Klong Premn, all lady boys having had operation must sleep in different rooms. But on weekend or holiday, they are allowed to set up tents to have love making with their “husbands” at Dan/ Building 1. Prison is lady boys’s paradise because they can choose rich and handsome husbands at will. Many lady boys are more beautiful, more passionate and sexy than real girls. That’s why fighting between rivals happened regularly and some died of AIDS before being released. To have a chance to go around, he volunteered to be a soccer coach. Using new tactics and prize to encourage, he upgraded Dan 1 team from the last to top 2. OnJuly 26, 2005, Uong Chu Luu , the Communist Vietnam’s Minister of Justice, came to Thailand and requested Ly Tong’s extradition to Vietnam to be tried for violating Vietnam’s territorial and national security and having activities aiming to overthrow the people’s government. The sentence for these transgressions should be based on current Communist Vietnam’s law which would result in life imprisonment or death. In August, 2005, the Thai attorney general informed the American embassy in Bangkok that Thailand had accepted the request for Ly Tong’s extradition only for the charge of violation of Vietnam’s territorial and national security. Vietnam colluded with this offer. On March 28, 2006 Ly Tong again went on a hunger strike. He sent a testimony to the Thai justice minister and a hand written note to James Code, a US embassy senior political officer, “I will continue my hunger strike until I die to protest my extradition to Vietnam!”
- Bangkok Remand Prison: On May 17, 2006, Ly Tong was released after serving his full sentence but he enjoyed only a few minutes of freedom. The police were waiting at Klong Premn to handcuff him. At the police station he had his first beefsteak and a Heineken beer after one month without eating. The next day he went to the court and moved to Bangkok Remand Prison pending extradition hearings. This prison is one of the toughest in Thailand. After a one-week grace period expired, he was summoned to the deputy director’s office. Ly Tong pointed his finger at the boss and argued, “Thai laws do not compel foreign prisoners to work and to cut hair short. If you Mafia bosses don’t obey Thai laws, I don’t obey your jungle laws, too.” Then he stood up and banged his head against the wall and roared, “You can cut my head but not my hair! Don’t mess up with me!” Two hours later after having contacted the General Director, a jailer came to see him and implored, “The big boss agreed with all your requests. You can do whatever you want provided that you don’t cause any trouble to us.” The building chief recited this story while receiving a massage served by a robust Mafia prisoner, who, next day, wanted to win his boss’s favor by sneaking into Ly Tong’s study and using a small wooden seat to break his nose as a punishment for his impertinence and stubbornness. Ly Tong was hospitalized for a month and received apologies from both chiefs. He used to practice karate by punching and kicking against the prison concrete wall with bare hands, feet and head. Thai mafias used to solicit unmannerly. If rich foreign prisoners refused their request, they could concoct a story to beat them. But they paid due respect to ‘Big Boss’ (his title) due to his “hard head and hand” and “big heart.” During his time in Klong Premn and Remand prisons, Ly Tong helped to build two big water containers and to tile two toilet facilities. He also bought hundreds of large plastic bowls for prisoners’ bathing and washing and requested the prison authorities to allow prisoners to bathe and wash linens according to their needs, instead of a four-to-eight bowl of water limit. He offered food and other supplies to the poor and helped reduce prisoners’ ill treatment either by reporting incidents to high authorities or threatening to sue wicked jailers. A Thai doctor attested, “From the creation of the world till everlasting afterwards, you are the only prisoner and in your unique case having been visited by the Director General of Thai Corrections Department!”
- Coup d’Etat: On September 7, 2007, the extradition hearing decided that Ly Tong should be extradited to Vietnam. Ly Tong decided to lodge an appeal and requested to have Mrs. Suthathif Tuwasi, the Thai interpreter, Mr. Thira Sukying, the Thai instructor pilot, and Mr. Jeffery C. Schwenk, United States consul, to testify the truth before the US Congress to clarify his innocence so that the extradition would thereby be rejected. On April 3, 2007, thanks to the Coup d’Etat, the Appellate Court of the new Thai government in Bangkok showed due concern and made a serious review of his testimony (based on the false verdict of the hijack court, the Transfer Treaty, Thailand and International Cooperation, the Chicago Convention of 1948, International Laws, the Thai Extradition Act BE 1929 and the Extradition Aviation Security Order 1991). Thousands of Vietnamese from America, Canada, Australia and Europe took to the streets, united to show their support for their pro-democracy political activist. It was finally decided to overturn the Lower Court’s extradition decision. It was ruled that, “Ly Tong’s dumping leaflets to call for peoples’ uprising against Communist Vietnam’s government was deemed a political act, not a normal crime. The Thai Extradition Law of 1929 prohibits deporting people accused of political offenses to face punishment in other countries.” When asked by Thai reporters “Are you happy with the court decision?” he retorted: “What kind of happy should an innocent be after having been kept in prison 7 years illegally and unjustly? But I’m happy for Thai people because now you can trust this government and this justice system!” Ly Tong declared, “My return is an eloquent testimony that ‘justice triumphs over injustice’ and it has marked the glorious victory of Vietnam’s overseas struggle and the ignoble defeat of Communist Vietnam.”
Luc Huu Nguyen, an air force officer, declared, “We call him ‘The Impossible Man’. He can do everything!” The Orange Country Register wrote, “He made himself a torch for the whole world to exterminate the Communists;” A Bangkok-based official of IRA said, “He’s obviously a hell of a guy!” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R. Huntington Beach, called Ly Tong “a great American;” John Gittelsohn reported for the Orange County Register, “His exploits have made him a folk hero among many Vietnamese émigrés and other anti-Communists;” Seth Mydans reported for the International Herald Tribune, “Ly Tong is a symbol of courage and redemption, a tragic hero in the tradition of Vietnamese history. No one has a story as spectacular as Tong’s that helped make him an icon of resistance among his fellow refugees.” The owner of Living in America radio station broadcast, “He’s not likeJames Bond because James Bond is entertainment. Ly Tong is a real Freedom Fighter!” Ly Tong’s second Ph. D. Dissertation not only passed a 5-year deadline but also was lost in Katrina hurricane that had flooded the whole New Orleans, his residence.
- In San Jose: After returning to America, Ly Tong was booked to travel around the world the whole first year to speak about his ordeal and his plan of action to fight Communism. He settled down in San Jose for a little while and confronted another problem. The Mercury News reported, “Ly Tong, an international anti-Communist crusader with a string of swashbuckling campaigns under his belt, on Tuesday chalked off Day 5 of a hunger strike (February 20, 2008) that has drawn hundreds of adoring supporters and grown into a Santa Clara Street curiosity.” Ly Tong declared, “If they agree to change the name to ‘Little Saigon’ , I’ll stop. Otherwise, I’ll continue until I die.” His hunger strike, the seventh of his life, seemed to have goosed the demonstrators who have tried since November 2007 to sway the council on ‘Little Saigon’. “There is only one Ly Tong in the world and he’s a true hero,” said protester Tam Nguyen , a local attorney who said he would put his practice on hold to come there each day. On March 6, Mayor Chuck Reed came to visit him bringing a photo he kept as a souvenir and said, “I still keep your picture with me.” Ly Tong retorted, “You keep my picture but you don’t keep your promise!” The mayor handed Ly Tong a letter which said, “I ask today that you end your hunger strike. I pledge you that I will work together with both sides to resolve this issue. You and your supporters of Little Saigon can take pride in the fact that the City Council has reversed its original action. You can also take pride in the acknowledgement and tribute the Council paid at the meeting Tuesday when it passed a resolution saying: “The Council expressly resolves that it recognizes the widespread support for the name ‘Little Saigon’ in the broader Vietnamese-American community, and expresses its appreciation to the thousands of people who have spoken out and expressed their views on this subject.” Numb, exhausted and sleepless “Little Saigon” hunger-striker and war hero, Ly Tong said, “Democracy has to be restored in San Jose or I must die!” By Thursday, March 13, after 28 days of hunger, including 8 days of thirst strike, and the loss of 38 pounds,the word began to buzz through Ly Tong’s entourage who accompanied him to the Mayor’s 18th floor office. He signed a one pageagreement. Then he walked across the street to the Pho Lan Noodle House. His jubilant entourage signed his tent with a red marker to commemorate the victory. Just before six p.m. Ly Tong suffered what may have been a fainting spell and was taken by ambulance to San Jose Regional Medical Center. Tong’s hunger strike was clearly a strong catalyst in forcing the city to name the district “Little Saigon.” Mayor Jose S. Esteves, California, his ardent supporter, wrote, “The city of Miltipas bestows this Certificate of Commendation to Mr. Ly Tong for his brave actions in fighting for democracy and human rights in Vietnam, and for his continued burning spirit longing for justice and peace, and his courageous leadership in the Vietnamese American community.”
- In South Korea: In 2008, Ly Tong made a plan to fly over Beijing and drop fifty thousand 8-colored leaflets at the Olympics’ National Stadium at precisely 08:08:08 p.m. on 8/8/2008. He planned to thunder the Bird’s Nest with 8 knocks by aircraft landing gear and then to drop anti-Kim Jong il’s leaflets over Pyongyang. However, he couldn’t find a private airplane large enough to fly from South Korea to China. He then went to Taiwan’s Kinmen, 5 kilometers away from China’s Xiamen, to look for airplanes. He found nothing but a strong typhoon which had been ravaging the small islet. He therefore decided to dump half of his leaflets at the Olympics’ opening ceremony from Taipei’s Tower 101. The other half was dumped along the street to appeal to Taiwan’s government to defend not only Chinese in Taiwan but also in Red China for their freedom, democracy and human rights. The leaflets held a message for Tibetans, Uyghurs, Falun Gong, Burmese and peoples of Dafur.
Ly Tong returned to South Korea and chartered a small plane intending to drop anti-red China and anti-red Korea leaflets overSeoul on the occasion of China’s President Hu Jintao visit (August 26, 2008). In the air he made a move for a duffel bag with the leaflets , but the instructor, a large man, restrained him, suspecting Tong had a bomb. After a twenty minute struggle, the pilot landed at 8th Fighter Wing ROK Air Base where authorities were waiting with troops, tanks and anti-aircraft guns. Tong was detained, questioned by the airport authorities and then by the police. Ly Tong was finally released. Wonju police invited him to a restaurant, drank a toast to this courageous man and treated him to a free train ticket back his hotel in Gimpo, near Seoul.
XII. In Orange County: Southern California art gallery had drawn crowd of protesters for daring to mount an exhibition considered pro-communist. Among the works by 50 Vietnamese-American artists was a photo by Brian Doan, that captured a young woman in a tank top fashioned after the bloody flag of Communist Vietnam next to Ho Chi Minh Bust. On 17 Jan. 2009, Ly Tong sweettalked his way inside with a friend by pretending to want to take a look at Doan’s image, then splattered it with red paint. When learning that his assistant did not have enough time to take picture for souvenir, he returned in disguise and convinced the building owner to go inside again. At this time, he placed a tiny female underwear on Ho Chi Minh’s bust head and push the camera button by himself. Two girls in charge jumped in to shield the picture to prevent it being taken again. Next day, he showed up at the University of Southern California, which had garnered protests of its own for flying Communist Vietnam’s flag along with those of other nations at its Center for International Affairs. USC officials hung tough despite the demand to strike it. He searched the basement to find a tall ladder to climb up replacing the bloody flag with three-red-stripe yellow banner of the formerSouth Vietnam.
XIII. Pepper Spray Mission: Ly Tong, who galvanized much of San Jose’s Vietnamese community with his private war against communism – a war that became very public when he attacked singer Dam Vinh Hung from Vietnam while wearing a dress – was arrested again on 18 July 2010 at a concert in Santa Clara, California. After 2 years and 44 court hearings, on May 24, 2012, putting aside their deep-felt sympathy and high regard for Freedom Fighter Ly Tong, jurors found him guilty of two misdemeanors – simple assault and resisting arrest – and two felonies, including using tear gas and second-degree burglary with the intent to commit a felony for spraying a singer from Vietnam to protest communism. At the request of the prosecutor, Judge Bryan immediately had him jailed. While awaiting sentence, Ly Tong launched another trademark hunger strike and thirst strike of 28 days. On June 22, 2012, despite recommendations of leniency from the Probation Department and even prosecutors, including several prominent local politicians urging he be released immediattely and County Supervisor Dave Cortese’s letter suggesting to the judge that “additional incarceration is unnecessary,” Judge Andrea Y. Bryan took clear umbrage at Tong’s court appearance during the final arguments in the same dress he wore during the assault and cited a five-page letter he had written to the jurors in which, she said, Tong “showed no remorse for his actions, and has attempted to minimize his actions” and mentioned Tong’s attempt to “mock our system of justice” as she pronounced the sentence of 6 months in jail and 3 years probation, stripping the “Freedom Fighter” of his freedom for the next 54 days besides the time he’s already served. “Only people who suffered under communism will understand what he did and why he did it,” Said Mai Nguyen, one of more than 200 Tong supporters who showed up at the court – 36 of whom had driven all night on a chartered bus from Southern California. “We will never forget our history. The younger generation that was born here; they don’t understand. He’s a hero. Nobody else will do what he did.”
Titles: Ly Tong had more than 20 Titles designated by media and supporters such as:
- Black Eagle 2. Resistance Icon 3. Mr. Impossible 4. Leaflet Cowboy 5. James Bond 6. Legend 7. Crusader 8. Papillon9. Martyr 10. Daredevil 11. Patriot 12. Don Quixote 13. Top Gun 14. “Ike” Eisenhower 15. International Father 16.Freedom Fighter 17. Hero [The Last Action Hero, American Hero, Binational Hero, Folk Hero, War Hero, Tragic Hero] 18.Mr. Franklin (due to his donation habit with one-hundred-dollar bills) and even 19. Hijacker 20. Terrorist 21 Robin Hood.
XIV. Quotes: The War Of Words: A Fighting Technique In Communist Prison
* “I cannot enjoy myself when my whole country is in pain, in torture.” * “To become a master of all the masters, one should be a student of all the students. * “I believe in God, justice and my mission against Communism.” * “Please! Send me anywhere there aren’t any Communists!” * “On hunger strike, people only pay attention when you go into a coma.” * “Ly Tong proposed, compatriots disposed!” * “You feed prisoners with rice reserved only for animals to eat.” * “Show me which article of the prison regulations or state laws you used to discipline me so I can claim with the politburo. Or this is only the arbitrary will of toad-and-frog flocks at this prison who just shackle anybody for whatever reason at will?” * “I won’t obey any regulations incompatible with the UN Conventions on Human Rights and Prisoners’ Rights.” * “Good and progressive” in the Communist way means to be prepared and willing to stab in the back of fellow combatants and to betray the just cause!” * “You call down curses upon the prison regulation and policy of the “Americans and their puppets.” I assure that if you apply only 10% of that standard and regiment, all us prisoners will have happiest time!” * “I propose that we use the title “Your Excellency” with each other in our conversation, because some coming day, when times is going to change, you will have worry, uneasiness and fear about the appellation “Anh – Chu may” you’re using now with me! (Familiar form of address used by a superior to a young man or an inferior.)” * “I call you “Colonel” instead of “cadre” in order that someday you will call me “Lieutenant General,” a rank I would have been promoted to if we did not implicitly trust the International Conventions to sign Paris Agreement with Hanoi regime.” * “The present world situation is so complicated that just in a wink you, Colonel prison Director, can replace me in this prison anytime!” * “Regarding a regime which uses the declaration of a Logistics Commander: “Comrades! Keep shooting at will. Shoot until they stand in dread of us for three generations” as a slogan for overt propaganda, it is unsure that terms such as “brutal, immoral” have enough meaning to express its inhumanity yet? People of South Vietnam will stand in dread of Communists not only three generations but thousand lifetimes! That’s why they rather die on the sea than live under Communist regime!” * “The proposition that “Vietnam wants to make friends with all other countries, not distinguishing the political institutions …” should be corrected into “Us VC want to be a servant of all the big bosses, not distinguishing the dollar color!” * “In The USA, I ‘ve experienced strangling two mafias. Nevertheless, at this hour, a vile sort of guy dares trifling with Mr. Hijacker! Ah! Ah! Ah!” * “Look! Mr. guard! At this time, there is no more different ideology! In a few more years, this regime will surely collapse and you will have only one way to go: Following in our footsteps!” * “The question which school of thought: conservative or radical Secretary-General Le Kha Phieu belongs to is a stupid one! Vietnamese Communist Party has neither conservative nor radical political ideology. In the old days, there were two factions: Russian and Chinese. When its Russian master exercised greater influence over it, its traitorous henchmen in the politbureau leaned toward the Soviet Union. On the contrary, they served their Chinese master. After the USSR breathed its last, the party has two factions: CIA and dangling. The CIA faction was put out of influence after the Party Congress VIII. Now, there is only a “dangling” faction, the one with its standpoint “Free-market mechanism with State’s management and socialist orientation.” “Socialist orientation” is “a dangling lump” (male organ) the party has been hanged on to survive and prolong its totalitarianism. Because without this “dangling lump,” on behalf of what Vietnamese Communist Party continues to ride roughshod over the people?” * “The Saigon people who took in the street to welcome the aggressive army in the “Spring Great Victory” film can be classified into 4 categories: 1. The first category can use the folowing example as its model. An old woman joyfully jump in to embrace a Communist soldier while whining and saying in tear at the same time: “ My dear sons, my dear liberation troops! I’m glad you arrive in time. If you come a few days later, the blood-thirty VC will shell your mother and all others to death!” This category cannot distinguish between the liberation troops and VC! 2. The second category includes people who, in the past, learned propagation that “VC are group of blackened teeth with falchions and 8 guys swing a papaw-tree’s branch without braking it.” As a result of curiosity, they went out to see what the faces of jungle monkeys look like? 3. The third category ar people who enjoy a peaceful and happy life. Suddenly one day, aggressive troops blatantly invade the town with all the sophisticated killing means supplied by foreign countries. They felt struck with dread at this awful sight that they went to be on the look out and examination of the situation in order to decide the favorable timing to escape. 4. The fourth category includes undercover VC, who violated the regulation of withdrawing troops back to the North according to 1954 Geneva Treaty, and seized an opportunity jumping out to harangue a crowd with “hurrah and down with,” and people, in the state of panic and horror, folowed their lead to chant slogan for the sake of their own safety and security.”
- Ly Tong, The Breaker Of All World Records With 8 Claims:
1 A unique title winner: Twenty one (21) titles.
2 A unique Long Trek To Freedom: Overland from Vietnam to Singapore, including swimming across 4-kilometer-wide Johore Straits.
3 A unique parachute jumper: Through Airbus 310-200’s cocpit window.
4 A unique hunger striker: Seven (7) hunger strikes from 1 to 3 months/each.
5 A unique prison escaper: Six (6) escapes.
6 A unique religion: GOD and signature: “Lay Thuong De: I Pray To GOD.”
7 A unique mission achiever: (1) 8 missions while in USA (2) 3 airport intrusions. (3) 2 hijack charges. (4) Shooting one armed burglary to death. (5) Knocking one armed Mafia to pass out. (6) Honored by a hundred poems and songs for his missions.
8 A unique man protected by his guardian angel by saving him and punishing his harm-doers in 8 special cases. (1) The only pilot survived after being hit by heat-seeking SA-7 and by
his own anti-tank rocket shrapnels due to extreme low-altitude flight (2) Survived Cuban MIGs thanks to American pilots’ intervention. (3) Sucked out of Airbus cockpit window, entangled with parachute cords, but saved by falling in a pond at high speed. (4) A unique case to rejoin Air Force after being discharged of discipline. (5) Totally exhausted when swimming across Johore Strait but poles of fishing nets 200 meters away from Singapore shore saved him. (6) A Mafia passed out 10 minutes but breethed again due to tumbles while being carried away. (7) Thailand’s Coup d’Etat after 15 years in peace saved him from an extradition to Vietnam. (8) Those who harmed him or condoned injustice in his case were punished by his guardian angel: PM Chuan Leekpai lost his 2001 election, Thatsin Shinawatra was overthrown by a Coup and President Bush and his party lost 2008 election.
Photo 1: Replacing the communist flag with the Republc of Vietnam flag at The University of South California.
Photo 2. Motor-Racnig Jasmine Revolution in Vietnam.