Ly Tong dying, on Saturday in San Diego. He was 74.
Ly Tong, a South Vietnamese Air Drive veteran who dropped anti-Communist leaflets over Vietnam from hijacked planes lengthy after the warfare’s finish, enjoying out the fantasies of many defeated troopers of the south, died on Saturday in San Diego. He was 74.
The trigger was lung illness, his household mentioned.
A person who by no means accepted defeat, Mr. Ly Tong thought-about it his private mission to take again his nation from the Communists, who’ve dominated it since successful the Vietnam Struggle in 1975.
“I’ve the obligation to liberate my nation!” he mentioned in an interview greater than 30 years later. “You can not take pleasure in your self when your entire nation is in ache, in torture.”
Mr. Ly Tong turned a hero to many Vietnamese refugees in 1992, when he hijacked a industrial airliner after takeoff from Bangkok, ordered the pilot to fly low over Ho Chi Minh Metropolis — referred to as Saigon, South Vietnam’s capital, earlier than the Communist victory — and dumped 1000’s of leaflets calling for a well-liked rebellion.
He then strapped on a parachute and adopted the leaflets all the way down to sure seize. He was launched six years later in an amnesty and returned to the US, the place he had develop into a citizen after the warfare.
In 2000, below the guise of taking flying classes in Thailand, Mr. Ly Tong made a second journey over Ho Chi Minh Metropolis, sending down a brand new cascade of leaflets, which he had signed “International Alliance for the Complete Rebellion In opposition to Communists.”
He was arrested on his return to Thailand and spent six years in jail for hijacking. He was not armed, and nobody was damage on both of his flights.
“The one factor that issues is the Communists nonetheless management my nation,” he shouted by means of a double display of wire mesh throughout an interview at Bangkok’s central jail. “I’m a pilot. That is what I can do.”
He timed his second flight to coincide with President Invoice Clinton’s go to to Vietnam, the primary by an American president because the finish of the warfare. Quickly after Mr. Ly Tong scattered his leaflets, Mr. Clinton was in Hanoi, the capital, the place he delivered a really completely different message: “The historical past we depart behind is painful and exhausting. We should not overlook it, however we should not be managed by it.”
Because the years handed and a brand new technology of Vietnamese-People accepted the unsentimental information of historical past, the veterans’ fantasies of liberation turned relics of that distant warfare.
However on the finish of his life, it turned clear that the legend of Mr. Ly Tong — who proved again and again his loyalty to a rustic that now not existed — nonetheless compelled devotion.
As phrase unfold that his well being was failing, guests converged on his hospital room in San Diego — as many as 200 folks on one current weekend.
His most devoted followers have been former troopers like himself, liberated from years in Communist labor camps below an settlement with the US and arriving by the tens of 1000’s within the 1990s, the final and saddest wave of refugees.
“They’ve come ready to point out the braveness of the previous troopers of South Vietnam, however they’re displaying themselves solely as a bunch of misfit folks,” Yen Ngoc Do, who was then the editor of the Vietnamese-language newspaper Nguoi Viet, mentioned in an interview. “Their political and navy previous has been completely forgotten.”
Damaged in well being and spirit, too previous or drained to begin over once more, lots of the veterans lapsed into listlessness and despair.