Vietnam was one of the “hot” wars within the long period of struggle between the forces of democracy and those of communism that was euphemistically called the “Cold War,” which ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
American forces fought for ten years in Vietnam. During that war, they often fought alongside units of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), their South Vietnamese allies, against their common enemies the Viet Cong (VC) and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). For example, from my own experience, there was a unit of the ARVN who went through the siege at Khe Sanh during the Tet Offensive in 1968. Their part of the lines were probed often by the NVA forces who were surrounding us, as they looked for weakness in our perimeter. Those ARVN fought hard and courageously during the whole time of the siege.
This video is about an ARVN soldier who fought alongside American troops during that war. His name was Tran Van Bay. He was a Pvt. 1st Class in the 3rd Co., 3rd Bn., 51st Regiment of the ARVN. One day his unit was moving down a road near Hue Duc. At the same time a unit of United States Marines, G Co., 2nd Bn., 4th Marines, was moving down the same road when they both came under intense rifle and automatic weapons fire from and unknown number of Viet Cong enemy forces.
During this firefight, ARVN Pvt. 1st Class Tran became aware that one of the U.S. Marines who was nearby, Pvt. 1st Class Samuel R. Pattello, was about to trip a booby trap wire. Without hesitation and at great risk to his own life, Pvt. 1st Class Bay rushed forward and forcefully pushed Patello away from the blast of the booby trap.
Bay’s body took the brunt of the blast, killing him instantly. Marine Pvt. 1st Class Pattello was also wounded by the blast but survived it because of Pvt. 1st Class Tran’s action on his behalf that day.
Follow us on Instagram
Get deals on patriotic items from The Veterans Site store each week!
For his selfless act of courage on behalf of a Marine ally that day, Pvt. 1st Class Tran Van Bay was awarded the United States Marine Corps’ second highest award for valor, the Navy Cross.
It must be known that while the American military lost over 58,000 men and women during that war, the South Vietnamese military lost over 250,000 killed in action defending their country over that same period of time.
In that moment, during that firefight, Pvt. 1st Class Tran Van Bay honored the ancient tradition of comrades-in-arms by sacrificing his own life to save the life of an ally. Such courage and self-sacrifice must never be forgotten.
The Veterans Site honors the memory and the courage that Pvt. 1st Class Tran Van Bay showed on behalf of a fellow soldier that day. He did not know the name of that United States Marine. He had never seen him before that moment, yet he understood the brotherhood, the tradition of “having each other’s six” and gave his life for another warrior who was in the fight against the enemy.
We are humbled by such courage and proud to share his story.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.