LÊ BÁ THÔNG
Commander Le Ba Thong attended the South Vietnamese Naval Academy as a class 10 naval officer in Nha Trang, graduating in 1962 as valedictorian of his class.
During the graduation ceremony of class 10, he received the Sword of Leadership personally presented by President Ngo Dinh Diem, witnessed by Captain Ho Tan Quyen, Chief Naval Officer (CNO) of the Republic of Vietnam Navy.
He was then sent to the United States to receive Landing Ship Mechanized (LSM)- Hai Van Ham Hau Giang HQ 406 - in Seattle, USA in 1963.
Back in Vietnam, he continued his naval career, serving as executive officer of Mine Sweeper Coastal (MSC)- HQ 116 in 1964, only two years after his graduation. This was an achievement that only a few naval officers could accomplish.
In 1965, he abandoned the safety of serving on a ship at sea and volunteered to join the Coastal Security Service (CSS), a covert special naval operations unit of the Strategic specialists conducting covert operations north of the 17th parallel. There, he was appointed as Captain of PTF-6 which was a new and modern Patrol Torpedo Fast (PTF) at the time.
He continued to serve in the Coastal Security Service until he was appointed Commander of Task Group "Sea Tiger" operating in the Cua Dai, Thu Bon river, Hoi An. It was a very heavy and dangerous task because they were required to use small gunboats to patrol and protect many waterways controlled by the enemy.
In 1970, he served as commanding officer of Da Nang naval base.
In 1972, he was appointed Deputy Commandant of the Military Instruction Directory of the National Military Academy in Dalat. This position was particularly important in the training of cadets to become great leaders of the nation in the future. As a naval officer, he held a military position normally assigned to army officers, at the military college known as Dalat Army Military Academy; he showed great talent and an especially high capacity for this job.
He then held many key positions such as Deputy Chief of Staff of Operations at the Sea Operations Command in Cam Ranh bay; Commanding Officer 32nd Coastal Assault Group in Hue ; Commanding Officer Cua Viet Naval Base; Commander Task Group 231.1 in Thuan An.
He fought until the last minutes in Nha Be Naval Support Base, his last unit at which he served as Deputy Commander. He escaped with his family to the United States on the afternoon of April 30, 1975.
Lt. Commander and Mrs Le Ba Thong
The Last Journey of The Old Sailor
by Thong Ba Le
... The old sailor takes a look around him; the sea is so immense, a vast stretch of color, the blue of the sea merging with the azure of the sky. He thinks that if there were no rosy clouds drifting on the far horizon, no one could recognize the boundary between the sea and the sky. Before him, nature appears as a blue carpet spreading endlessly into the horizon. The white lines decorating the carpet are white-capped waves that seem to have been drawn by an angel who has used a magic pen to magnify the beauty of the universe.
The wind blows in the old sailor's face and a strange vision suddenly comes to him. What he sees in front of his eyes and around him is a vast blue screen of water, far away is the horizon at the starboard of his boat and a little further are the pink clouds shaping strange pictures of unknown animals. In the furthest distance is the immense and boundless universe, from which the beginning and the existence of the cosmos and the world had taken place after the "BIG BANG," the universe's biggest and most forceful explosion. And over there, also the finish of the journeys of mankind, living creatures and things that had been created by this "BIG BANG".
All of a sudden, it seems that the old sailor has just found the answer to his life:
"After many years in the war and struggling for a living, he has often asked himself what is the origin of life; destiny and war had maneuvered him to many challenges and had affected his married life..."
The old sailor is so happy, he wants to yell very loudly; he wishes to cheer noisily for himself and to tell his dog, his old friend, about his wonderful discovery. All his life, all of the struggling, fighting, surviving and heartbreaking was to prepare for his journey to return to the beginning which had created him.
The universe that created all living creatures, the existence of the world, all beautiful things, mankind, was only a hypothesized calculated revolution. The commencement is the finish and the end is the beginning of the next period and so on without end because the conclusion of this period is the initiation of the following one.
He is so excited and wants to return home immediately so he can tell his beloved wife about the answer to his quest. He suspects that she will be delighted to hear about this discovery. A great emotion is rising up inside of him.
Unexpectedly, the old sailor feels an acute and sharp pain in the middle of his chest, then his left arm becomes very painful and his left cheek is gradually getting numb. The old golden retriever seems to realize something has happened to her master and she runs around him while the old sailor holds the arms of his pilot chair and slowly leans himself against the back and sits down.
The sun is already rising to its zenith at twelve o'clock high. The boat is undulating and surging, bobbing with the tide in the direction of the far shore and the white clouds are flowing in the azure sky; the old sailor slowly closes his eyes. He hears somewhere, in the air, the famous words of General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers in South East Asia who defeated the valiant military forces of Japan in Pacific. MacArthur, who also stopped the aggression of the Red Communist Army in Korea and was a graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point once said:
"Old Soldiers never die, they just fade away".
His soul is carried on the wind to infinity, to the other side of the universe, where his next life and the start of a new adventure await the old sailor.
Virginia, May 27th 2017
The Conclusion of my story "The Old Sailor"