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USSR ‘secret' Vietnam soldiers speak out

Published time: December 20, 2009 04:05
Edited time: December 20, 2009 04:05

Russian veterans have gathered to mark the anniversary of America’s withdrawal from the Vietnam War. More than 3,000 Soviet soldiers fought in the conflict despite years of government denials that they were ever involved.

It was America’s longest and most divisive war, with almost 60,000 young men dead in a conflict that killed more than five million on all sides. 

Most still think of Vietnam as a war the U.S. and its South Vietnamese allies fought against the North. 

But Soviet Union’s men were there, too, doing their part to advance the spread of communism. They are some of the Soviet Union’s forgotten soldiers, veterans of a war their government denied involvement in for almost twenty years.

It was only after the regime collapsed in 1991 that officials admitted more than 3,000 Soviet troops fought against the Americans in Vietnam.

Now, some of these old soldiers are together again to mark the 35th anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal.

“Officially we were known as a group of Russian military experts. The commander was referred to simply as the senior expert. Thus, technically, there were no Russian units in Vietnam.  The only thing we knew was that we were Soviet people, Soviet soldiers, and that we had to do whatever it took to stop air raids, which is what we did,” Nikolay Kolesnik, Vietnam veteran, remembers.

Soviet expertise played a vital part in training Vietnamese forces and Soviet anti-aircraft missiles to inflict heavy damage on American planes.

Those who fought alongside the Russians say it’s difficult to overestimate the impact they had.

“The Soviet Union was a huge help in the war. We have a lot of respect for Russian equipment and Russian experts. Their equipment was better than what the Americans had. That’s why we were able to win,” Lee Cong Niem, Vietnam veteran, said.

Saturday's ceremony was a chance for the next generation of soldiers to meet the men who have done it all before and for a grateful nation to thank the veterans who were its unsung allies for so long. 

For years, those were the men who ‘weren’t there’, veterans of a war their government said they never fought in. Now, thirty-five years after the last of them left the jungles of Vietnam they can properly commemorate their part in one of the 20th century’s most significant conflicts.

Comments (3)


R.J. Thoms 16.01.2014 11:37

Adams you are mistaken you make it sound like we started the war, first of all ho chi Minh was battling the French for his independent right to rule and on sept 2 1945 is when he declared his independence from French Indochina, the Japanese were already cleared from his land he turned to Stalin and then later to khrushchev for help because we certainly were not going to help him fight one of our allies now are we?duh, I suggest you go back to history class because all we were doing was cleaning up the mess The French made, you didn't see that major power in that war now did you? No because they were cowards


Avalon Adam 02.11.2013 17:20

To all you so called Vietnam vets. You were used as porns by the military industrial complex and American paranoia. Ho Chi Minh wanted to base his country on the American constitution in 1940s. It was US governments obsession with communism that led them to withdraw their previous support for his anti Japanese forces. The US Vietnam war was a war thta didn't need to be faoght and only cemented Ho Chi Minh into the soveit sphere of influence.


De Teodoru 08.06.2013 15:50

In the end, the crooks won out. In Russia some apparatchiks, as their last official act when USSR officials, signed over to themselves the nation's assets, oligarks of today. In the US, the VietVets were abandoned by the nation that sent them and-- with the demise of the anti-capitalist Red Empire-- the Wall Street brokers went on to do exactly what Marx warned us they would do, destroying our nation's economy as Lenin could never have dared hope to do. Those who don't fight never learn and devastate the service of those who fought. I'm so sorry VietVets & Iraq, Afghan & whatever necons get our kids into dying for.

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