Nguyen Thanh Trung, whose real name was Dinh Khac Chung, was born in Ben Tre province on October 9, 1947 into a family with a rich revolutionary heritage. After his father’s death, Trung took a pseudonym and infiltrated the ARVN air force. In 1969, Trung was sent to the US for pilot training. He returned three years later and was stationed at Bien Hoa air force base, Air Corp III, 540 Flying Tigers Squadron.
On April 8, 1975, after receiving orders to bomb liberated areas, Lieutenant Nguyen Thanh Trung instead evaded detection by the local control tower and flew his F5E aircraft over the Independence Palace, successfully dropping two bombs on it. Portions of “Three hours with the man who bombed the Independence Palace” were published in the newspaper Event and Eyewitness:
“Although the bombing of the palace was carefully planned, I received the order suddenly. On April 8, 1975, an ARVN air force squadron was ordered to bomb a liberated area in Phan Thiet. As it turned out, a member of the squad was missing. I became his replacement. My crew was the last to take off. And I decided to proceed with the plan. What worried me most was how would I break away from the formation without causing suspicion. The flight regulations were extremely strict. But I found a loophole in the flight regulations. Among the crews, only one member was permitted to use communication equipment, the rest had to use body language to communicate with each other.
So when aircrafts No.1 and No. 3 fired their engines, I raised my finger indicate that my aircraft’s electrical system had a problem. No.1 signaled to me to stay put and then took off. About 5 seconds later No. 3 took off as well. The control tower seeing my plane on the runway assumed my plane had a minor problem but would take off shortly thereafter. I waited ten more seconds and then took off. I flew from Bien Hoa city to Cho Lon market, and then suddenly turned straight for the Independence Palace. At this point what most concerned me was not being hunted down by ARVN planes or shot down by ground fire but that I would accidentally bomb Saigon market.
“The intention was I would drop two bombs on the Palace and the remaining two bombs on the US Embassy. I dropped down to an altitude of 1000 meters and released a bomb. When I pulled up, I realized the two bombs had exploded in the palace’s garden. I had missed my target. I decided to try again. This time the bomb hit the roof, detonating on the palace’s helicopter landing pad. Pulling up again, I saw the smoke billowing out of the windows. I came back a third time to make sure I had succeeded. Unfortunately, I had no bombs left to attack the US Embassy.”
After the bombing, Nguyen Thanh Trung flew his aircraft to a liberated area, landing safely at an improvised airstrip prepared by the Liberation Forces. As he made for the liberation zone, he attempted to destroy several oil depots in Nha Be with his 20mm guns. However, this effort was to no avail.