Meeting a fighter of the Armed Propaganda Unit for National Liberation

PANO – Under the instruction of General Phung Quang Thanh, Minister of National Defence, a delegation of the Military History Institute of Vietnam, led by its director, Lieu. Gen. Vu Quang Dao, visited To Van Cam, one among 34 fighters of the Armed Propaganda Unit for National Liberation, the predecessor of the Vietnam People’s Army.


Cam, 92, is now living with his family in Da Teh Town, Da Teh District, Lam Dong Province.

With a mixed accent of the Tay ethnic in the North of Vietnam and of the people living in the highlands, Cam told his guests about his life when he joined the revolution.

To Van Cam, given name To Dinh Cam and alias To Tien Luc, was born on October 16th, 1922 in Um Village, Tam Kim, Nguyen Binh, Cao Bang.

Cam recalled that after the 8th Party Central Committee Conference in May 1941, the Viet Minh movement in Cao Bang spread broadly. Especially, the mountain districts of Hoa An, Ha Quang and Nguyen Binh completely followed the Viet Minh. Under that circumstance, in late 1941, Cam, the Tay ethnic youth who was enlightened by the Viet Minh, decided to join the revolution.

In spring 1942, Cam and Thanh Uy, a cadre of De Tham movement, went to Thuong An commune to propagandise and mobilized more than 10 people to join the Peasants Association for National Salvation and Youth Association for National Salvation. In February 1944, Cam and some local cadres participated in a politic-military course which ended at the time the enemy was pressing so severely that Cam and hundreds of young people had to withdraw to the forest.

In winter 1944, Leader Ho Chi Minh returned to Vietnam and ordered to postpone the uprisings in Cao Bang, Bac Kan and Lang Son to wait for the opportunity to come. He then directed the establishment of the Armed Propaganda Unit for National Liberation as soon as possible. Thanks to his loyalty, enthusiasm and agility, Cam was chosen to join the unit.

In the afternoon of December 22nd, 1944, Cam was proud and honoured to be among 34 fighters to take an oath to establish the Armed Propaganda Unit for National Liberation.

Despite his age, Cam still remembers every name of the people in the unit and repeats Vo Nguyen Giap’s words on that day.

After being established, the unit fought and gained victories at battles of Phai Khat, Na Ngan and Dong Mu.

Also in this time, the Tieng sung reo (gun sounds cheer) newspaper, the first newspaper of the Vietnam People’s Army and founder of the People’s Army Newspaper, was set up. There was no printing machines, the newspaper was written by hand and translated into Tay and Nung languages. Cam was tasked to translate the newspaper into Tay language to disseminate to other organizations.

In August 1945, Cam joined the campaign to liberate Bac Kan. In September 1945, he joined an army to advance to the South and was stationed in Rach Gia. In June 1946, fighting against a French raid, he was seriously wounded and had to go back to the North for treatment. He was then discharged from the military.

However, in October 1947, when the French parachuted in to Bac Kan, Cam voluntarily re-enlisted in the army to fight in Bac Kan. In the border campaign in 1950, as chief of an anti-aircraft platoon, he participated to attack Dong Khe Military Post for the second time. In this battle, he was seriously wounded and had to “say good-bye” to his military career and returned to Um Village to live.

In July 1992, Cam and his family volunteered to go to Lam Dong highlands to resettle there.

Written by Nguyen Van Dien

Translated by Ngoc Hung