Escape from Saigon Headquarters

29 Tháng Mười 201312:00 SA(Xem: 397)
Escape from Saigon Headquarters

On September 9, Trần Văn Giàu ordered the blockade of the Hòa Hảo headquarters near the Rue Miche-Rue Sohier intersection in Saigon in order to apprehend Huỳnh Phú Sổ. However, though a number of Hòa Hảo activists, including the commander of the 4th Division, Lương Trọng Tường, were arrested, Huỳnh Phú Sổ broke through the lines of the Việt Minh police who had come to arrest him and escaped.

Huỳnh Phú Sổs breakout was arranged by his trusted aide, Lâm Ngọc Thạch, who was in charge of bringing Bảo An units from the Mekong Delta to Saigon in order to form the 4th Division. Thạch had studied Japanese language and had been previously engaged as a liaison officer with the Kempeitai. According to Lâm Ngọc Thạchs account, on the morning of September 10 the Hòa Hảo headquarters building was surrounded by the Việt Minh police and Avant-Guarde Youth under the command of Lý Huê Vinh. Then Lâm Ngọc Thạch rushed to the Rue Lefèbre compound, which was still under Kempeitai control hence inaccessible for the Việt Minh troops. At this compound a plan to liberate Huỳnh Phú Sổ was worked out.

Subsequently, Lâm Ngọc Thạch run to Rue Farinolles, where he sought a Hòa Hảo follower named Năm Cò. At her house, Lâm Ngọc Thạch met up with yet another co-religionist, Năm Tournier who owned the Rue Miche 38 house, which was situated next-door to Rue Sohier 8, the Hòa Hảo headquarters building. Năm Tournier told Lâm Ngọc Thạch that Huỳnh Phú Sổ had found a temporary refuge at her house yet urgent measures were needed to secure the Hòa Hảo leaders release out of the Việt Minhs encirclement.

Lâm Ngọc Thạch immediately rushed back to the Rue Lefèbre compound, where he approached his Kempeitai contact, warrant officer Yori. Lâm Ngọc Thạch solicited a Kempeitai car and Yori agreed. The idea was to use Japanese insignia to avoid Việt Minh scrutiny. However, Yoris chief, Lieutenant Hara, disapproved their plan and gave Thạch a car from the Mitsubishi representative office, which was still decorated with a Japanese flag. In order to complete the camouflage, Lâm Ngọc Thạch took on Japanese uniforms and a Samurai blade. Incidentally, the Japanese gear happened to be a present from Trần Văn Soái.

Lâm Ngọc Thạch also sent yet another Hòa Hảo follower, Hai Cống, to contact Ngô Văn Ký, head of the Hòa Hảo Buddhist congregation of Gia Định province. According to the plan, Ngô Văn Ký was supposed to prepare a shelter for Huỳnh Phú Sổ.

The car was driven by Năm Còs son. Lâm Ngọc Thạch wore the Japanese uniform and played the role of a Kempeitai officer. They were also accompanied by two young women and brought womans clothes to disguise Huỳnh Phú Sổ as a lady.

Lâm Ngọc Thạchs bold action came as a surprise for the Việt Minh police. Their car managed to reach Năm Tourniers Rue Miche 38 house, where Huỳnh Phú Sổ promptly joined them and the car sped towards Biên Hòa. The escape occurred in a matter of seconds and Huỳnh Phú Sổ did not have to take off the womans clothes. Subsequently, Ngô Văn Ký arranged a refuge for the Hòa Hảo leader in the Long Thành area.

In the immediate aftermath of his lucky escape, Huỳnh Phú Sổ attempted to reach a reconciliation with the Việt Minh. He sent Lâm Ngọc Thạch to Communist leader Ung Văn Khiêm with a personal message stating that troubles between the Hòa Hảo community and the Việt Minh had been caused by Trần Văn Giàus provocation. Huỳnh Phú Sổ also suggested avoiding a split between nationalist forces, which was particularly dangerous on the eve of the French return. However, the appeal of the Hòa Hảo leader presumably fell on deaf ears as Ung Văn Khiêm ignored the message and ordered the arrest of Lâm Ngọc Thạch.
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