On the 37th Anniversary of Liberation and National Reunification (1975-2012), the Independence Palace together with the Vietnam News Agency and An Giang Plant Protection Company held an exhibition and exchange program between university students in Ho Chi Minh City and Lieutenant Vũ Đăng Toàn, commander of Tank 390, the tank that smashed the Palace’s main gate on April 30, 1975. During the event, he shared his memories of that day:
“Prior to the Ho Chi Minh Campaign, cadre and soldiers had to study city diagrams and models. The political commissar Bui Van Tung gave us directions to the Independence Palace: cross the Saigon bridge and turn left at Hang Xanh street, then drive through seven more intersections before turning left again at the Independence Palace. My tank went first. At the Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai intersection, we continued for another 15 to 30 meters on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street, when I saw the palace to my left. I immediately had the tank turn around and head to the palace’s main gate. Tank 843 of Mr. Bui Quang Than reached the palace first because his tank had taken Le Duan street. Than’s tank crashed into the auxiliary gate but got stuck. Now my tank was also in front of the main gate. The driver, Nguyen Van Tap, asked me: ‘What should we do now, brother Toan?’ I ordered, ‘Crash through it’.
“When tank 390 smashed through the main gate of the Palace and entered the its grounds, I grabbed the flag of the National Liberation Front and ran into the palace. At that time, Le Van Phuong, second gunner of tank 390, tapped my shoulder and pointed out that Mr.Than was running inside the palace, so I stopped.”
With the war’s end, the media assumed that because Mr. Bui Quang Than had hoisted the NLF flag over the palace, his tank, tank 843, must have been the first one to crash through the main gate of the palace. This assumption persisted until 1995, when the French journalist Francoise Demulder introduced some photos she took at noon of April 30, 1975, revealing that tank 390 had been the first to enter the palace. We asked Mr.Vu Dang Toan, “How do you feel about this?” With a bright smile, he replied that history happens only once, and his soldiers and he were fortunate to be the chosen.