Bùi Tín died last week. He was a 90 year old former Việt Minh and later disillusioned dissident who fled to France. He participated in the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ as a political officer. After the Geneva Accords during Operation Passage to Freedom he continued as a political cadre working to convince North Vietnamese Catholics to remain in the north. Next he helped to bring northerners and repatriated southerners below the 17th parallel to join the NLF aka the Việt Cộng. But he found his true calling as a journalist working for both an NVA Army newspaper and then the People's Daily (Nhân Dân), the official newspaper of the Vietnamese Communist Party, formerly famously known as the Việt Pravda.
Tín came to international attention in 1973 when a member of the NVA contingent of the Four Party Commission at Saigons Tân Sơn Nhứt Airbase. As a journalist himself he became a darling of the Western press and their first meeting with one of their own profession who was from the north. He understood PR and milked the situation by shaking hands with the last U.S. servicemen boarding a plane to leave country. And he gave to one of the last, Sgt Max Bielke USAF, a gift package of Ho Chi Minh postcards and a bamboo scroll painting of a pagoda while American TV cameras were rolling.
Tín defected to Paris in 1990 after becoming embittered by many of the policies of those that followed Ho into power in Hanoi, e.g. Đồng, Duẩn, Chinh, & Thọ. - especially their intrigues and infighting and repressive methods in land reform and military/political purges. He continued as a journalist in France and became an author. His memoir "Following Ho Chi Minh" published in Vietnamese, French and English. A good read if you can find a copy. He testified in front of the US Congress about American MIAs and helped to put to bed the "live-POWs-still-imprisoned" conspiracy theory pushed by many activists and a congresscritter or two at the time. Following his PR savvy, he took the opportunity while in Congress to greet and embrace former POW John McCain, again while the cameras were rolling.
Back in 1954 at Điện Biên Phủ he was reportedly wounded during a French airstrike. He was with the 304th Division, which had responsibility for 'Isabelle' the southernmost of the eight French striong points. Isabelle held the reserve airstrip and was defended by a battalion of Foreign Legionnaires from the 3e REI, plus a battalion of North African tirailleurs from the 1st Algerian Rifle Regiment, two French artillery batteries, and a tank platoon (Chaffee M-24s). Plus there were about 1500 auxiliaries many of them White Tai highlanders, some of them light infantry, others logistics personnel. The 304th started light operations against Isabelle in mid February. It was invested by trenches and isolated in late March and held out until early May before falling. Tín's unit the 304th was line infantry but they were supported by a bountiful gift of 105mm howitzers that were left behind in Red China when Chiang's Nationalist Army deployed for Taiwan.
Fitting, or perhaps just a coincidence, that he died just a few days prior to the 73rd anniversary of the August Revolution, which is when he first joined the Việt Minh as a young 17 year old.