Memorie.al/ publishes the story of the former Commander of the Army Anti-Aircraft Artillery, Fadil Toçi, one of the nine officers of the Ministry of Defense, who in 1973 were sent on a top-secret mission to South Vietnam, disguised as workers of Metallurgists going to China for specialization. The whole adventure in the Asian jungles of the Albanian military Moisi Elezi, Fadil Toçi, Filip Meksi, Islam Kapaj, Alo Nanaj, etc., who after being received by the Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, for three months “gained experience” in the jungles of Vietnam, and on the war front where American aviation bombs fell like hail, and their return home in December ’73 after a journey with many problems and incidents like the one at the Moscow airport, where he took them under protection Chinese embassy …
It was early October 1973, when a Hungarian plane of “Malev”, one of the few airlines flying in the Albanian sky at that time, took off from the runway of Rinas where there was a large group of workers and engineers from the Metallurgical Plant of Elbasan , who went for specialization in faraway China. “In the middle of that group of 32 people, we were also disguised, the nine senior military personnel from the Ministry of Defense, who were going on a secret mission to Vietnam, where the Americans were still bombing.” Testifies exclusively for Memorie.al. Fadil Toçi, a former senior military officer with several leading positions in the Albanian Army, as commander of the Anti-Aircraft Artillery at the Ministry of Defense, commander of the Group and lecturer at the Military Academy “Mehmet Shehu” with the scientific degree of Doctor of Military Sciences, who reveals the secret of that mission and long-distance itinerary: Rinas-Budapest-Moscow-Irkutsk-Beijing, to end up in the Asian jungles of South Vietnam, very close to the US bombings where they were initially met by Prime Minister Pham Van Dong .
Beqir Balluku’s order for the secret mission
As he left behind his hometown, Peshkopi, to continue his military school in Tirana, Fadil Toçi had never thought that one day he would leave for the distant Asian continent “to gain experience”. And even less so, there in the jungles of Vietnam, face to face with the Americans, where his military colleagues from Moscow, Beijing and Hanoi tested their skills. “Since 1971, when I was the Commander of the Army Anti-Aircraft Artillery, I was told as an idea: that I, together with a group of students from the Artillery branch, should go to China, where we would get the technique of necessary military, and then to Vietnam, where we would gain experience “, Fadili recalls that distant time, adding that even today he does not know the real reasons, because it was postponed for two or three years later . “Maybe that was the culmination of the bombings,” he hypothesizes, adding: “Where is it known”, sticking again to the first version. By the end of September 1973, by order of Beqir Balluku, nine senior military personnel of the Ministry of Defense, representing some of the main branches and weapons of the Albanian Army, were informed of the concrete tasks, in the framework of the mission they would carry out in Vietnam. distant. “Our visit to Vietnam was conditional, because there was the same military arsenal in use that we had in use in our army: The Soviet and Chinese,” said Toçi, a former senior military official. the truths as to why that mission was undertaken. “We were not the first to go to the Hanoi army to gain experience, many soldiers from different parts of the world had gone before us, including Syrians, Cubans, Hungarians, etc., who saw everything being played there. “, Recalls Toçi.
On Malev’s plane, as “Metallurgical specialists”
On October 6, 1973, the group of nine senior military men, led by Mojsi Elezi (Corps Commander) and Fadil Toçi, Islam Kapaj, (artilleryman) Alo Nanaj, (army engineer) Filip Meksi, (infantry) and four other officers, aboard the Malev, were traveling to the Far East. All members of the group were disguised and camouflaged as Metallurgical workers, who would specialize in China. “I was registered as a mechanical engineer,” recalls Toçi of the machinations used since the beginning of their mission. At the airport in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, “Metallurgical workers” were picked up by a large Russian plane, which immediately left for Moscow. After a short stop at the premises of Moscow’s main airport, the Russian plane, after passing over Siberia, stopped in Irkutsk (near Lake Baikal), where a Chinese plane, after accommodating distant friends from Albania, immediately took off in direction of Beijing. Two or three days of staying there were enough for the Albanian military to rest and relax a bit from that long journey, and also to be separated from their Metallurgical “colleagues”, who were heading to Shanghai. After that vacation, their journey continued in the direction of Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam, where the destination of the secret mission was.
Reception with great honors in Hanoi
In Hanoi we were received with all due respect, senior Vietnamese military. I was personally received by the first colonel, the Commander of the Anti-Aircraft Artillery of the Vietnamese Army and all the other members of our group, their respective colleagues “, recalls Toçi on their arrival in the capital of one of the poorest countries in Asia, which their communist wanted to inject them and their brothers in South Vietnam, which had begun the rise of capitalism under the leadership of leader Nguyen Du To stop the spread of communism in South Vietnam, which was also stimulated by the help and intervention of the North Vietnamese government, which had begun with Ho Chi Minh (the communist president, who had then died and was kept refrigerated pending the construction of the mausoleum), the U.S. government had started the war and continued bombing Vietnamese soldiers, who stood with shoe to imitate their communist President.
Getting Vietnamese experience
Regarding the systematization and treatment that was initially given to 9 senior Albanian soldiers in Hanoi, at the time when the Americans had stopped bombing in the north, after talks on the cessation of hostilities had begun in Paris, Fadil Toçi recalls: “We were housed in a building , near the center of Hano, which was adapted just for us. Compared to the conditions of great poverty, where the whole of Vietnam lived, the reception and treatment we received was quite good. “We are really poor, but as far as we are concerned,” they often told us. In the building where we had decided to live, we also took lectures, which were given to us by the relevant specialists, according to all types of weapons. In addition to taking lectures and theoretical lessons in the classroom, we also went out to training grounds, fields and facilities, where there had been bombings by the Americans. Since the beginning of the war, the Vietnamese had set up an Institute of Military Sciences, which studied all the new weapons used against them and how to protect themselves from them. Thus, they had invented a kind of hat made of straw and wood, which was not pierced by shells and bullets, and was more effective than iron helmets. There were many Soviet soldiers in Vietnam, but we never had contact with them. The Vietnamese knew our relationship with them and strictly respected them. Although we did not see any Chinese soldiers in Vietnam, they greatly appreciated official Beijing’s assistance, with the new military arsenal technique it occasionally offered, in addition to the old Soviet one they received from Moscow. In the lectures we started at 05:30 in the morning and ended at 17:30 in the afternoon (after a three-hour lunch break), the senior Vietnamese military gave us in detail all the balance sheets they had made. with the Americans. On Sundays we had a break and often took us to tourist places to see their beauties, which were truly amazing. During these walks and whenever we went out, we never saw children begging, even though the poverty was very great. In that extremely miserable condition, they treated us very well. As much as the car of the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Pham Van Dong, does not differ at all from the ones they had given us to move. We saw this during the reception given to us by the Vietnamese Prime Minister, who had just returned from a visit to Albania. He had a very simple office and received us very well. The Vietnamese Prime Minister lived like this following the example of Ho Chi Minh, who had lived among poor and orphaned children. We often went out and only through the city, but the Vietnamese were watching us with a soldier, who followed us at every step. Our surgeon took off his jacket to look civilian, telling us it was made for our security. In the apartment where we were staying, they had eavesdropped, recording everything we talked about. We learned this when one of us complained about having run out of bananas and running out of pens. Although this conversation took place only between us, the next day we saw them in abundance at our tables. “Our behavior was very correct, but even a small complaint that could be made between us, it was immediately completed.”
In the south, close to American bombs
In addition to staying in Hanoi, the Albanian military group, led by Mojsi Elezi (formerly accompanying Enver Hoxha during the war) undertook the dangerous adventure, going for 17 days to South Vietnam, where the American bombing was still going on. In this regard, Toçi recalls: “During those 17 days we stayed in the south, we were accompanied at every step by North Vietnamese officers. We went through some cities like: Hai Fong, Dong Ha, Vinu Lin, Kuan Tri, which they considered as liberated areas. From north to south we traveled in military vehicles, dressed sometimes as civilians and sometimes as military in their Vietnamese uniforms. During those days we had the opportunity to see the “McNamara Belt”, which was named in honor of the US Secretary of State for Defense. That belt, which stretched for endless miles, consisted of tropical iron trees, which did not differ at all from the real ones, which the Americans had parachuted into the ground. Each tree had a camera, which tracked to the American intelligence location all the noises and movements that took place near them. There were so many of these iron trees that the Vietnamese could not uproot them. This was one of the most sophisticated techniques in existence at the time. “Despite the many vicissitudes we encountered during the trip to the south, our mission achieved its goal”, recalls Toçi about his adventure in South Vietnam.
Incident in Moscow: We were protected by the Chinese
Regarding the end of the secret mission in Vietnam and the adventure of their return to their homeland, Fadil Toçi recalls: “After we returned to the North, we stayed there for a while to take the road back. Our secret mission and “experience” had come to an end. It was the end of December 1973. From Hanoi to Beijing we traveled by plane and from there we continued further in the direction of Moscow. There we slept one night in the hotel located inside the airport, from where we were forbidden to leave. The checks on us were numerous, especially if we had some literature with us, which constituted heresy and raised considerable problems. Since we did not have a transit visa to Moscow, we were protected and escorted by the Chinese embassy accredited in the Russian capital, which paid some cash to prevent us from returning to Albania. After a short break in Moscow, we traveled to Budapest, where we stayed a few days to wait for “Malev”. With that line we returned to Tirana, considering our mission closed and successful “, concludes his story, Fadil Toçi, one of the senior Albanian military who participated in the” Asian adventure “who adds:” “All that experience was in vain, because with the conviction of Beqir Balluku and the so-called high military caste, that literature was called revisionist and was burned or thrown in the trash.”
“He thought we were Americans and tried to hit us with an ax”
The three-month adventure of the nine senior Albanian soldiers of the Ministry of Defense did not all go well. In this regard, Fadil Toçi, one of the leading leaders of that mission, recalls: “The only incident that happened to us during those days of our stay in Vietnam, was that with an old woman, who during the bombing, American forces had killed all members of the family. As we were passing near her house in a field, she was pointed at me, wielding a small ax in her hand, or as we call it, kosore. I did not understand what she was looking for and, avoiding her a little, I asked the translator, a young Vietnamese boy who had graduated from the University of Tirana. He explained to me that she wanted to kill us, as she remembered that we were captured American pilots. After that, our translator approached her to explain, saying, “These are our friends.” After that she calmed down somewhat, but did not lower the ax from her hand. Years later, I met our Vietnamese translator at the VII Congress of the ALP in Tirana, where I was the delegate, but he pretended not to know me and left me tactfully “.
“Out of great hunger, Vietnamese soldiers eat elephants”
In his exclusive story for Memorie.al, among others, the former senior military, Fadil Toçi, testifies about the extremely miserable situation in which the Vietnamese army was. In this regard, he recalls: “In South Vietnam, during those days we had no problems, although we went up to 10 km. near the bombings in Quan Tri, where no standing buildings could be seen. Everything there was ruined. At that time, in South Vietnam, the war was taking place in the city of Hue, the Americans had prepared a kind of chemical substance, which they threw in the jungle, where the North Vietnamese divisions, which went to the aid of the south, hid. This kind of substance, which was thrown in the form of spraying by planes, had the property of drying all kinds of trees, causing the leaves to fall and unmasking the Vietnamese military forces, who from time to time ate from hunger and elephants, which killed them through jungles. In the south they showed us such an area, which looked as if it had caught fire “./ Memorie.al